Battle of Torran Dubh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Battle of Torran Dubh
Part of the Scottish clan wars
Meall nan Ruadhag - - 804881.jpg
Torran Dubh
Date 1517
Location Torran Dubh, near Rogart and Strathfleet, county of Sutherland, Scotland
Result Clan Sutherland victory
Clan Sutherland supported by men from the
Clan Gordon
Clan Gunn[1]
Clan Mackay
Commanders and leaders
Alexander Sutherland
John Murray of Aberscross
William Mackames of Clan Gunn
John Mackay of Strathnaver
Donald Mackay
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
38[2] 216[2]

The Battle of Torran Dubh also known as the Battle of Torran-dow was a Scottish clan battle that was fought between the Clan Mackay and Clan Sutherland, and their allies. The battle was fought in 1517 in Strathfleet in the Scottish Highlands.


John de Moravia, 9th Earl of Sutherland (John Sutherland), chief of the Clan Sutherland died in 1514. He was succeeded by his sister, Elizabeth de Moravia, 10th Countess of Sutherland. Elizabeth de Moravia would go on to marry Adam Gordon, the second son of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly, chief of the powerful Clan Gordon in 1517. Adam and Elizabeth's son Alexander Gordon would become the heir to the Earldom of Sutherland and chieftainship of the Clan Sutherland.[3]

The Battle of Torran Dubh took place because John Mackay, chief of Clan Mackay and later the brother in law of Alexander Sutherland (Elizabeth's younger half-brother) was against the Gordon family taking over as Earls of Sutherland.[3] Alexander Sutherland led the Clan Sutherland against the Clan Mackay at the battle. According to historian Sir Robert Gordon, however, Elizabeth de Moravia 'persuaded her younger half-brother, Alexander Sutherland to resist Mackay, as this battle took place before Alexander had married Mackay's sister.[4]

The battle[edit]

According to the historian Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656) the during the "Battle of Torran-dow" in Strathfleet, Great slaughter was made of the Mackays but few on the Sutherlands side were killed.[5]

An account of the battle was written in the book Conflicts of the Clans published by the Foulis Press in 1764, written from a manuscript from the time of King James VI of Scotland.[2]

Adam Gordon, first of that surname, Earl of Sutherland having married Elizabeth Sutherland, heiress of that country, took journey to Edinburgh, the year of God 1517, to dispatch some affairs there, which did concern the settling of his estate, leaving the commandment of the country, in his absence, to Alexander Sutherland (base brother to his wife Elizabeth) and to John Murray of Abirscors; which John Mackay of Strathnaver, understanding (having now appeased his civil discords at home, by the death of his uncle Neil) this occasion, in the very change of surnames in Sutherland, to try if he could gain anything by spoiling that country; and thereupon assembling together all the forces of Strathnaver, Assynt and Eddrachillis, with all such as he could purchase out of the west and north-west isles of Scotland, invades the country of Sutherland with all hostility, burning and spoiling all before him.

The inhabitants of Sutherland do speedily convene together with all the parts of the country; and so, under the conduct of Alexander Sutherland, John Murray, and William Mackames, they rencounter with John Mackay and his company at a place called Torran Dubh, beside Rogart, in Strathfleet, where there ensued a fierce and cruel conflict.

The Sutherland men chased John Mackay's vanguard, and made them retire to himself where he stood in battle array, then did he select and chose a number of the ablest men in all his host, and, with these, he himself returned again to the conflict, leaving his brother Donald to conduct the rest, and to support him as necessity should require; whereupon they do begin a more cruel fight than before, well fought on either side.

In the end, after long resistance, the Sutherland men obtained the victory; few of these that came to renew the fight escaped, but only John Mackay himself, and that very hardly. Neil MacIan MacAngus of Assynt was there slain, with divers of his men. There were 216 of the Strathnaver men left dead in the field, besides those that died in the chase. There were slain of Sutherland men 38. Not long thereafter John Mackay sent William and Donald, two brethren, with a company of men, to invade John Murray, with whom they met at a place called Loch-Sallachie, in Sutherland. After a sharp skirmish, both the chieftains of the Strathnaver men were slain, with divers of their men, and the rest put to flight; neither was the victory pleasing to John Murray, for he lost there his brother, called John Roy-Murray.[2]


In the aftermarth of the Battle of Torran Dubh other people rose up against the Gordon family holding the Earldom of Sutherland. Elizabeth de Moravia's younger half-brother Alexander Sutherland married a sister of John Mackay. Alexander Sutherland then claimed the Earldom of Sutherland for himself and seized Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Earl of Sutherland. Adam Gordon with his family were then forced to flee to Strathbogie (home of the Gordons of Huntly) until he was reinforced by his father's and elder brother's forces from the Clan Gordon.[3] In 1518 the Battle of Alltachuilain took place where Alexander Sutherland was killed by forces loyal to his sister Elizabeth and her husband Adam Gordon.[3][6]

In 1522 Alexander Gordon, the Master of Sutherland overthrew John Mackay of Strathnaver at Lairg, and forced him to submit himself to the Earl of Sutherland; unto whom John Mackay gave a bond of manrent and service.[2]

After Alexander Sutherland's death the Sutherland Laird of Duffus who descended from Kenneth de Moravia, 4th Earl of Sutherland would claim the Earldom of Sutherland. However William Sutherland, 5th Laird of Duffus was killed by Andrew Stewart, Bishop of Caithness in 1529.[3]

Adam Gordon and Elizabeth de Moravia's eldest son, Alexander Gordon, Master of Sutherland died in 1530, five years before his mother. His son John Gordon succeeded as the 11th Earl of Sutherland.[3][7]

Historical accuracy[edit]

19th century historian Sir William Fraser casts doubt on the events concerning the Battle of Torran Dubh or Torrandow stating that Alexander Sutherland, who is alleged by Sir Robert Gordon to have been persuaded by his sister Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland to resist Mackay, was in prison for the whole year of 1517 when the battle is said to have taken place.[8]


  1. ^ Sinclair, Thomas. (1890). The Gunns. pp. 36.
  2. ^ a b c d e Foulis Press. (1764). The History of the Feuds and Conflicts Among the Clans in the Northern Parts of Scotland and in the Western Isles: from the year M.XX1 unto M.B.C.XIX, now first published from a manuscript wrote in the reign of King James VI." The only changes made is the modernising of the orthography to 1890 standards:-- . Retrieved on January 06, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of the Name Mackay. pp.100–106: Quoting from Gordon, Sir Robert. A Genealogical history of the Earldom of Sutherland.
  4. ^ Gordon, Sir Robert, A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630, published in 1813. pp. 91–97.
  5. ^ Gordon, Sir Robert. A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Re-published in 1813. pp. 96 – 97.
  6. ^ Gordon, Sir Robert. A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Re-published in 1813. pp. 95 - 97.
  7. ^ Sutherland Family Trees Retrieved 31 May, 2014.
  8. ^ Fraser, Sir William, K.C.B, L.L.D. (1892). The Sutherland Book, Volume 1. pp. 79.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°00′11″N 4°10′44″W / 58.003°N 4.179°W / 58.003; -4.179