Battle of Aldy Charrish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Battle of Auldicharish)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Battle of Aldy Charrish
Part of the Scottish clan wars
Clan member crest badge - Clan Mackay.svgClan member crest badge - Clan Ross.svg
Clan crest badges of Clan Mackay (left) and Clan Ross (right)
Date11 July 1487, possibly 1486 or 1478
LocationNear Strathoykel, Sutherland
grid reference NH4897Coordinates: 57°56′30″N 4°33′35″W / 57.94167°N 4.55972°W / 57.94167; -4.55972
Result Mackay/Sutherland victory
Clan Mackay
Clan Sutherland (according to one source)
Clan Ross
Wasses and Wauses
Commanders and leaders
John Riabhach Mackay
Robert Sutherland
Alexander Ross of Balnagown
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown "a great number"

The Battle of Aldy Charrish (also known as the Battle of Auldicharish, Aldicharrish, Aldecharwis, Alt a'Charrais, Alt Charrais, Alt na Charrais) was a Scottish clan battle that took place on 11 July 1487. The Clan Mackay and possibly the Clan Sutherland defeated the Clan Ross and their allies in the Scottish Highlands, probably on the south side of Strathoykel.


The Battle of Auldicharish was part of an ongoing feud between the Clan Mackay and Clan Ross. Just one year before Angus Mackay of Strathnaver, chief of the Clan Mackay had been killed and defeated at the Battle of Tarbat by Alexander Ross of Balnagowan, chief of the Clan Ross. Angus Mackay's son John Mackay returned a year later to attack the Rosses in revenge for the death of his father.

According to 17th-century historian Sir Robert Gordon, who was a younger son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, the Clan Sutherland joined the side of the Clan Mackay at this battle.[1] However, 19th-century historian Angus Mackay disputes the Sutherland's presence at the battle stating that it would be unlikely that the Earl of Sutherland at the time would have assisted against the Rosses as he was married to a daughter of the Ross chief of Balnagowan, and also that the feudal superiority of the Sutherlands over the Mackays "nowhere existed save in his own fertile imagination".[2]

Location and date[edit]

Most sources follow Gordon in giving the date of the battle as 11 July 1487.[3] The Calendar of Fearn puts it in June 1486.[3] Mackay dates the Battle of Tarbat to 1475 and "Allta-charrish" to 1478 or "a few years after".[4]

The location of the battle remains elusive.[5] Most sources say that it took place in Strathoykel[6] or Strathcarron.[4] Whilst some interpret the latter as the River Carron in Wester Ross,[7] it is more likely to be the Carron in Sutherland, that lies immediately south of the Oykel. Mackinnon's map locates it on the banks of the lower Carron, between Braelangwell and Invercharron.[8] The most probable location is the Allt a'Charraigh (grid reference NH4897), a burn between Braelangwell and Rosehall that flows into the Kilmachalmack Burn on the Strathoykel side of Meall Dheirgidh.

Accounts of the Battle[edit]

Conflicts of the Clans[edit]

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 which was written by Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656):

The year of God 1487, this conflict was fought; upon this occasion Angus Mackay being slain at Tarbat by the surname of Ross, as I have shown already, John Riabhach Mackay (the son of this Angus), came to the Earl of Sutherland, upon whom he then depended, and desired his aid to revenge his father's death, whereupon the Earl of Sutherland yields, and sent his uncle, Robert Sutherland, with a company of men, to assist him. Thereupon Robert Sutherland and John Riabhach Mackay did invade Strathoyckel and Strathcarron with fire and sword; burnt, spoiled, and laid waste divers lands appertaining to the Rosses. The Laird of Balnagown (then chief of the Rosses in that shire) learning of his invasion, gathered all the forces of Ross and met Robert Sutherland and John Riabhach at a place called Aldicharrish. There ensued a cruel and furious conflict combat, which continued a long time, with incredible obstinacy; much blood was shed on either side. In the end, the inhabitants of Ross being unable to endure or resist the enemies' forces were utterly disbanded and put to flight. Alexander Ross, Laird of Balnagown, was slain with seventeen other landed gentlemen of the province of Ross, besides a great number of common soldiers. The manuscript of Fearn (by and attour Balnagown) names these following among those that were slain: Mr. William Ross, Angus Macculloch of Terrell, John Waus, William Waus, John Mitchell, Thomas Waus, Houcheon Waus. [9][10]

Robert Mackay[edit]

Robert Mackay wrote an account of the battle in his book the "History of the House and Clan of the Name Mackay" (1829), quoting from the historian Sir Robert Gordon (1580 - 1656):

John Mackay, some time after he had succeeded to his father's lands, resolved to revenge his death; for which purpose, having assembled his men, and put half of them under command of William-Dow Mackay, son of John-Abrach; and being also accompanied by the men of Assint, and such friends as he had in Sutherland, he invaded Strathoikel in Ross with fire and sword, burnt, wasted and spoiled all the lands belongingto all of the name Ross and their allies. Ross of Balnagown immediately raised all of the power of the county to oppose the invaders, upon which a most severe conflict ensued, and for a considerable time it appeared doubtful which party would have the victory. At length, however, the Ross-men, after great slaughter was made among them, gave way, and fled. Ross of Balnagown, and seventeen other proprietors of land in Ross were slain, together with an immense number of their followers. "The manuscript of Fern" says Sir Robert Gordon "contains the following names of the principle persons who were killed, Alexander Tarrell, William Ross, John Waus, William Waus, John Mitchell, Thomas Waus, and Hugh Waus. A great spoil of cattle was driven off, and divided among the victors in the customary manner. Sir Robert states that the Assint-men insisted that the men of Sutherland should receive no share of the spoil, but that William-Dow, who detected such injustice, said, that he should be an enemy to any who would act such a fraudulent and base part. This conflict happened at a place called Auldicharish. [11]

Donald MacKinnon[edit]

Donald MacKinnon wrote an account in his book "The Clan Ross", again quoting from the historian Sir Robert Gordon (1580 – 1656):

The Mackays did not forget this wicked deed, and five years later invaded Ross to avenge the death of their chief. Alexander Ross of Balnagown hurriedly called together the “gentlemen” of his clan and their men, and met the invaders at a place called Alt a’Charrais in Strathcarron. There a fierce battle was fought, and the Rosses were disastrously defeated. Sir Robert Gordon, alluding to this sanguinary fight says: “Much blood was shed…. The inhabitants of Ross, being unable to endure the enemy’s forces, were disbanded and put to flight. Alexander Ross, laird of Balnagown, was there slain, with seventeen other landed gentlemen of the Province of Ross, besides a great number of common soldiers”. Among the “gentlemen of the Province of Ross”, who fell along with their chief, were Angus MacCulloch of Tarell, Alexander Tarell, William Ross of Little Allan, John Vass, Thomas Vass, Hugh Vass, John Mitchell and William Ross, whose designation is not given.’’ [8]


Within a few years the Mackays were at their old game again, and more blood was shed. David Ross, 6th of Balnagowan and Iye Roy Mackay of Strathnaver were summoned to appear before the Earl of Argyll, then the Lord High Chancellor of Scotland and on 4 October 1496 each of them extended his hand to the Chancellor, in the King’s name, to keep the peace , so that their “folks sal be harmless and skaithles”, under a penalty of 500 merks in case of failure. However the Mackays continued to raid the Rosses well into the 16th century and did not stop until they became caught up in quarrels with their neighbours the powerful Clan Sutherland.[8]


  1. ^ Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the Clan and House of the Name MacKay. pp. 86. Quoting: Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland.
  2. ^ Mackay, Angus. (1906). The Book of Mackay. (St Andrews University). Printed by William Rae, Wick. Pages 70 -71.
  3. ^ a b Ross, Alexander M. (1932), History of the clan Ross: with genealogies of the various families, A.M. Ross, p. 24
  4. ^ a b Mackay, John; Gunn, Adam (1897), Sutherland and the Reay country, J. Mackay, pp. 31–2
  5. ^ Adam, Robin J (1991), The calendar of Fearn: text and additions, 1471-1667, Scottish History Society, pp. 92–3. Has a reasonable overview of possible locations.
  6. ^ Site Record for Strath Oykel, Allta-Charrish, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
  7. ^ Site Record for Strathcarron, Aldy Charrish, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
  8. ^ a b c MacKinnon, Donald; Mackinnon, David (1957), The Clan Ross, W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon, pp. 17–18, ISBN 978-0-7179-4537-5 Account is largely based on that of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun A genealogical history of the earldom of Sutherland, from its origin to the year 1630, 1615–1630 - now available on CD (ISBN 1897955847)
  9. ^ Conflicts of the Clans
  10. ^ Conflicts of the Clans
  11. ^ Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the Clan and House of the Name Mackay. pp. 86. (Again relies heavily on Gordon's version).