Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Kilnave on Islay – the Macdonalds versus the Macleans - Battle of Gruinart Beach 1598

If you get to the shores of North Antrim and strike out beyond Rathlin Island you will soon reach the Scottish island of Islay, home to many world-famous distilleries. It is an ancient place and full of stories. Here's one which shows that you don't need a flag, or a nation, or competing religions, to have conflict. Just envy, ambition, wounded pride and bloodlust.  I've copied this from Instagram, having caught my eye when it was posted over a year ago...


Kilnave Chapel on Islay has a bloody history, being the site of an atrocity committed on 5 August 1598 during the Battle of Gruinart Beach. The background was the historical possession of Islay by Clan MacDonald, which in the 1590s made it the property of the MacDonald clan chief Sir James MacDonald.

Conflict arose because of the claim by Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean of Duart on Mull, who was Sir James MacDonald's uncle, that in the 1566 the Rhinns of Islay had been given to him by Sir James' father, Angus MacDonald, as a dowry on the occasion of Lachlan's marriage to Angus's sister and James' aunt.

Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean sought to claim what he believed rightfully belonged to him by landing in Loch Gruinart with some 800 men. Negotiations with Sir James MacDonald failed, and in the battle that followed, Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean and 280 of his followers were killed. MacDonald losses were fewer, but Sir James MacDonald was seriously wounded.

Most of the surviving Macleans returned to their boats, but a group of 30 was cut off and retreated instead to Kilnave Chapel. All but one were killed when the MacDonalds set fire to the chapel's thatched roof.