On 7th February 1603 a force of some four hundred men of Clan Gregor, Clan Cameron and other “brokin Hieland men” came down to Glen Fruin, in Dumbartonshire, to raid and to pillage. Glen Fruin lay in the lands of Colquhoun of Luss and there was a long history of enmity between the MacGregors and the Colquhouns, as indeed there was between many residents on the borders of the Highlands and the notoriously lawless Clan Gregor.
Glen Fruin today
Alexander Colquhoun of Luss, being made aware of the invasion of his lands by the MacGregors, under Alastair MacGregor of Glenstrae, and being armed with a commission from the King to act against the MacGregors gathered together a strong force from his lands and the nearby burgh of Dumbarton and confronted the raiders at the north end of Glen Fruin. The battle was swift and bloody and resulted in the rout of the Colquhouns. Clan battles were, sadly, not unknown in Scotland, even in the seventeenth century. Although the Battle of Glen Fruin was perhaps bloodier than many, its consequences for the victors were to be more profound than MacGregor of Glenstrae could have imagined when he brought his raiders into the quiet farmlands of the Lennox.
The MacGregors, a clan once possessed of extensive lands, had by the end of the sixteenth century become a by-word for lawlessness and violence. In 1593 commissions of justiciary were granted to Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll and Robert Galbraith of Culcreuch to pursue Clan Gregor and its adherents with fire and sword and on 17th July 1596 Alastair MacGregor of Glenstrae appeared “in maist humble manner” before King James VI and his Privy Council and acknowledged his offences and disobedience in the past and bound himself as chief of the clan to keep good rule in the country and to be answerable to the King and to justice.
To ensure MacGregor kept his word the King gave the Earl of Argyll a commission of lieutenancy over Clan Gregor. In effect this meant that the MacGregors would be answerable to Argyll, the greatest and most powerful landowner in the Southern Highlands, for their behaviour and Argyll would be answerable to the King for their conduct.