The Ancestry of Overmire Tifft Richardson Bradford Reed

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  • ID: I52568
  • _UID: 6CA8AD0713B04F5DB53EDD4ECC6E6B625CF8
  • Name: SIR ALEXANDER (Laird of Luss) ** COLQUHOUN
  • Sex: M 1
  • Birth: 31 JAN 1573 in Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
  • Death: 23 MAY 1617 in Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
  • Note:

    aka Alasdair







    Sir Alexander Colquhoun succeeded his brother Humphrey as Laird of Luss when Humphrey was killed in 1592 by maurading Macgregors and Macfarlanes. The Macgregors and Colquhouns were embroiled in a clan feud which came to a head in 1603.

    After a terrible, bloody raid by the Macgregors at Glenfinlas, Sir Alexander appealed to King James VI for redress. The king granted him powers to prevent further crimes and apprehend the perpetrators. Acting on his royal commission, Alexander raised a force to deal with the invaders, who were led by Allaster Macgregor of Glenstrae. On 7th February 1603, the MacGregors trapped Colquhoun and his men at Glenfruin inflicting terrible losses. Alexander barely escaped with his life. King James (now James I, having assumed the throne of England) and his privy council took decisive action against the MacGregors, trying and executing Allaster and 34 other of his clansmen and forever abolishing the name of Gregor/Macgregor.

    Alexander's will was dated 17 May 1617.

    Sir Walter Scott addresses the conflict of the Colquhouns and Macgregors in Rob Roy.


    "Sir Alexander had a grant of a 1,000 acre plantation in County Donegal, Ireland, on which, by the terms of the grant, he was required to make a residence for a period in each year. This his son Adam did for him, and ultimately inherited the property, on which Adam's son Robert lived permanently. This marked the beginning of the Family in Ireland. Adam Colquhoun thus became the first progenitor of the cadet line through which our Calhoun family has descended.
    Through Sir Alexander, generation XIV, the Calhouns of South Carolina and Mississippi, with their descendants, are brought into line in an unbroken and proven lineage for them for the past seven hundred and seventy seven years, as of 1967.
    In 1616 Sir Alexander was appointed by the King as undertaker of 1000 acres in the Barony of Raphoe in County Donegal, Ireland" --notes from Cray Bauxmont-Flynn Database

    In Sir Alexander's time occurred the raid of Glenfinlas, and the bloody clan conflict of Glenfruin, between the Colquhouns and Macgregors, in December 1602 and February 1603, regarding which the popular accounts are much at variance with the historical facts. The Colquhouns had taken part in the execution of the letters of fire and sword issued by the crown against the Macgregors some years before, and the feud between them had been greatly aggravated by various acts of violence and aggression on both sides.
    In 1602, the Macgregors made a regular raid on the laird of Luss's lands in Glenfinlas, and carried off a number of sheep and cattle, as well as slew several of the tenants. Alexander Colquhoun, who had before complained to the privy council against Earl of Argyll for not repressing the clan Gregor, but who had failed in obtaining any redress, now adopted a tragic method in order to excite the sympathy of the king. He appeared before his majesty at Stirling, accompanied by a number of females, the relatives of those who had been killed or wounded at Glenfinlas, each carrying the bloody shirt of her killed or wounded relative, to implore his majesty to avenge the wrongs done them. The ruse had the desired effect upon the king, who, from a sensitiveness of constitutional temperament, which made him shudder even at the sight of blood, was extremely susceptible to impressions from scenes of this description , and he immediately granted a commission of lieutenancy to the laird of Luss, investing him the power to repress similar crimes, and to apprehend the perpetrators.
    "This commission granted to their enemy appears to have roused the lawless rage of the Macgregors, who rose in strong force to defy the laird of Luss; and Glenfruin, with its disasters and sanguinary defeat of the Colquhouns, and its ultimate terrible consequences to the victorious clan themselves, was the result".
    In the beginning of the year 1603, Allaster Macgregor of Glenstrae, followed by four hundred men chiefly of his own clan, but including also some of the clans Cameron and Anverich, armed with "halberschois, powaixes, twa-handit swordies, bowis and arrowis, andwith hagbutia and pistoletis", advanced into the territory of Luss. Colquhoun, acting under his royal commission, had raised a force which has been stated by some writers as having amounted to 300 horse and 500 foot. This is probably an exaggeration, but even if it is not, the disasters which befell them may be explained from the trap into which they fell, and from the nature of the ground on which they encountered the enemy. This divsted them of all the advantages which they might have derived from superiority of numbers and from their horse.
    On the 7th February 1603, the Macgregors were in Glenfruin "in two diviions", writes Mr Fraser \endash "One of them at the head of the glen, and the other in ambuscade near the farm of Strone, at a hollow or ravine called the Crate. The Colquhouns came into Glenfruin from the Luss side, which is opposite Strone \endash probably by Glen Luss and Glen Mackurn. Alexander Colquhoun pushed on his forces in order to get through the glen before encountering the Macgregors; but, aware of his approach, Allaster Macgregor also pushed forward one division of his forces and entered at the head of the glen in time to prevent his enemy from emerging from the upper end of the glen, whilst his brother, John Macgregor, with the division of his clan, which lay in ambuscade, by a detour, took the rear of the Colquhouns, which prevented their retreat down the glen without fighting their way through that section of the Macgregors who had got in their rear. The success of the stratagem by which the Colquhouns were thus placed between two fires seems to be the only way of accounting for the terrible slaughter of the Colquhouns and the much less loss of the Macgregors.
    "The Colquhouns soon became unable to maintain their ground, and, falling into a moss at the farm of Auchingaich, they were thrown into disorder, and made a hasty and disorderly retreat, which proved even more disastrous than the conflict, for they had to force their way through the men led by John Macgregor, whilst they were pressed behind by Allaster, who, reuniting the two divisions of his army, continued the pursuit".
    All who fell into the hands of the victors were at once put to death, and the chief of the Colquhouns barely escaped with his life after his horse had been killed under him. One hundred and forty of the Colquhouns were slaughtered, and many more were wounded, among whom were several women and children. When the pursuit ended, the work of spoliation and devastation commenced. Large numbers of horses, cattle, sheep, and goats were carried off, and many of the houses and steadings of the tenantry were burned to the ground. Their triumph the Macgregors were not allowed long to enjoy. The government took instant and severe measures against them. A price was put upon the heads of seventy or eighty of them by name, and upon a number of their confederates of other clans:- "Before any judicial inquiry was made", says Mr Fraser, "on 3d April 1603, only two days before James VI left Scotland for England to take possession of the English throne, an Act of Privy Council was passed, by which the name of Gregor or Macgregor was for ever abolished. All of this surname were commanded, under penalty of death, to change it for another; and the same penalty was denounced against those who should give food or shelter to any of the clan. All who had been at the conflict of Glenfruin, and at the spoliation and burning of the lands of the Laird of Luss, were prohibited, under the penalty of death, from carrying any weapon except a pointless knife to eat their meat". Thirty-five of the clan Gregor were executed after trial between the 20th May 1633 [sic, should be 1603] and the 2nd March 1604. Amongst these was Allaster Macgregor, who surrendered himself to the Earl of Argyll.
    By his wife Helen, daughter of Sir George Buchanan of that ilk, Alexander had one son and five daughters. He died in 1617.

    IF the battle of Glenfruin remains the most outstanding, triumphant, and disastrous landmark in the history of Clan Gregor, it remains also the most notable in that of their old enemies, the Colquhouns. Every day, all summer through, a great stream of tourists makes its way up the silver reaches of Loch Lomond, and strangely enough the two interests which most engross the attention of the pilgrims are the associations with Rob Roy on the eastern shore of the loch and the memories of the great battle which the Colquhouns fought with the MacGregors in Glenfruin on the western side. This wide "Glen of Sorrow," as its name means, opens away among the hills some three miles above Balloch, at the southern end of the loch, and, while its "water" has become famous among anglers within recent years, the interest of the glen to most passers-by must remain for all time that of the great clan conflict in which the Colquhouns suffered so severely at the hands of their invading enemies.

    Sir Walter Scott, who, it is said, had been treated with somewhat scant courtesy on the occasion of a visit which he paid to the residence of the Colquhoun chief, has put the triumph of the clan's old enemies into a nutshell in his famous MacGregor boat-song in Rob Roy:

    Proudly our pibrochs have thrilled in Glenfruin,
    And Bannochar's groans to our slogan replied;
    Glen Luss and Rossdhu they are smoking in ruin,
    And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side.
    Widow and Saxon maid
    Long shall lament our raid,
    Think of Clan Alpin with fear and with woe;
    Lennox and Leven glen
    Shake when they hear again
    Roderich vich Alpin dhu, Ho ieroe!

    The ultimate result of the battle was very different from what might have been expected. While the MacGregors were hunted and harried through all their fastnesses, the Colquhouns quietly settled again on their lovely loch shore, and their subsequent fortunes illustrated well the old saying, "Happy is the nation that has no history." From the foot of Glenfruin to the head of Loch Lomond, and over the hills along the whole side of the Gareloch and Loch Long to Arrochar, stretch the fair mountain possessions of the Chiefs of Colquhoun at the present hour. On Gareloch side the fair garden city of Helensburgh has risen on their estate; and their possessions include not only their ancient lands of the time of the battle of Glenfruin, but also the territories of the Macaulays at Ardencaple, and of the wild MacFarlanes at Arrochar. There is no lovelier avenue in the Highlands than that from the south gateway below Glenfruin, which winds along the silvan shores of the loch for a mile and a half, to Rossdhu, and thence for another mile northwards on the road to Luss. Rossdhu itself stands, a stately seat, on its promontory, with deer park and noble woods about it; and the Colquhoun village of Luss, at the foot of its own beautiful glen, remains, in spite of the streams of tourists who pass it by in steamers and motor cars, one of the most sequestered and unspoiled spots in all the Highlands

    Curiously enough the original seat of the family was not on Loch Lomond side at all. Dunglass Castle, just below Bowling on the opening Firth of Clyde, at the spot where the old Roman Wall is believed to have had its western end, was the early seat of the race, and the three-mile stretch down the western shore of the Firth thence to Dunbarton rock formed the old barony of Colquhoun from which the family took its name. Some five centuries ago, however, the laird of Colquhoun married the heiress of the older lairds of Luss, and thus by and by the headquarters of the family were removed to Loch Lomond side.

    Here the heads of the house seem to have steadily increased in prosperity, and the followers of their name to have grown in numbers. For the most part they appear to have been a peaceful race, and it was not until towards the end of the sixteenth century that they began to be mixed up in the distressful business of the making of history. Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, the chief of that time, in 1582 purchased the heritable crownership or coronership of Dunbartonshire, to be held blench of the Crown for the annual fee of one penny; and it was this Sir Humphrey who, ten years later, first came into conflict with Clan Gregor. In face of an assault by the MacGregor clansmen from the other side of the loch, he was forced to take refuge in his strong castle of Bannochra, of which the ruin is still to be seen in Glenfruin, and here, it is said, he fell a victim to the treachery of his servant. This man, in lighting the chief up the stair at night, so managed his torch as to throw the light upon his master, and make him a mark for the arrow of an enemy outside, by whom Sir Humphrey was shot at and slain.

    The story goes that the death of the chief was brought about by his second brother, John. At any rate an entry in the diary of Robert Birrell, burgess of Edinburgh, dated 30th November, 1592, mentions that "John Cachoune was beheidit at the Crosse at Edinburghe for murthering of his auen brother the Lairde of Lusse." Further confirmation of the tradition that John was the guilty man is to be found in the fact that Sir Humphrey was succeeded, not by his second but by his third brother, Sir Alexander Colquhoun.

    This chief, Sir Alexander, was the man who figures in the great contest with the MacGregors at Glenfruin. In his introduction to Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott lays the blame of beginning the feud upon the Colquhouns. His narrative runs, "Two of the MacGregors, being benighted, asked shelter in a house belonging to a dependent of the Colquhouns, and were refused. They then retired to an outhouse, took a wedder from the fold, killed it, and supped off the carcase, for which they offered payment to the owner. The Laird of Luss, however, unwilling to be propitiated by the offer made to his tenant, seized the offenders, and by the summmary process which feudal barons had at their command, caused them to be condemned and executed." Sir Walter adds that "the MacGregors verified this account of the feud by appealing to the proverb current among them, execrating the hour when the black wedder with the white tail was ever lambed." There is at the same time another and probably a truer account of the outbreak of the trouble. It would appear that the MacGregors were instigated to attack the Coiquhouns by Archibald, Earl of Argyll, who had his own ends to serve by bringing trouble on both clans. As a result of the constant raids by the MacGregors, thus brought about, Sir Alexander Colquhoun in 1602 obtained a licence from James VI. to arm his clan. On the 7th of the following February the two clans, each some three hundred strong, came face to face in battle array in Glenfruin. The battle was so much a set affair that Alastair MacGregor divided his force into two parties, he himself attacking the Colquhouns in front, while his brother John came upon them in the rear. The Colquhouns defended themselves bravely, killing among others this John MacGregor; but, assailed on two sides, they were at last forced to give way. They were pursued to the gates of Rossdhu itself, and 140 of them were slain, including several near kinsmen of the chief and a number of burgesses of Dunbarton who had taken arms in his cause.

    According to a well-known tradition, some forty students and other Dunbarton folk had come up to witness the battle. As a watch and guard MacGregor had set one of his clansmen, Dugald Ciar Mhor, over these spectators. On the Colquhouns being overthrown, MacGregor noticed Dugald join in the pursuit, and asked him what he had done with the young men, whereupon the clansman held up his bloody dirk, and answered, "Ask that!"

    The MacGregors followed up the defeat of the Colquhouns by plundering and destroying the whole estate. They drove off 600 cattle, 800 sheep and goats, and 14 score horses, and burned every house and barnyard and destroyed the "Haill plenishing, guids, and gear of the four-score pound land of Luss," while the unfortunate chief, Sir Alexander Colquhoun, looked on helpless from within the walls of the old castle of Rossdhu, the ruin of which still stands on its rising ground behind the modern mansion.
    Retribution, swift and terrible, however, was visited upon the MacGregors. Some sixty Colquhoun widows in deep mourning, carrying their husbands' bloody shirts on poles, appeared before James VI. at Stirling. It has been suggested that this parade was not all genuine, that these women were not all widows, and that the blood on the shirts had not been shed in Glenfruin. But the King was sufficiently moved, and forthwith letters of fire and sword were granted against the MacGregors. Their very name was proscribed and the sheltering of one of the clan was made a crime punishable with death. While his men were hunted with dogs along the hills, the chief, Alastair Gregor, was induced across the Border by the promise of his false friend, Argyll. The latter had given his word that he would see him safely into England, whither the King had by that time removed his court; but no sooner was MacGregor across the Border than Argyll had him arrested and carried back to Edinburgh, where on 20th January, with four of his henchmen, he was tried, condemned, and hanged at the Cross, while all his possessions were declared forfeited.

    The tragedy opened as a minor incident in the early winter of 1602. Two MacGregors, traveling from Glasgow to their home at Dunan near the head of Loch Rannoch, were benighted while passing through Colquhoun's land by Loch Lomond. Cold and hungry, they asked food and shelter at Luss and were refused. At this breach of Highland hospitality they took shelter in an empty hut, killed a sheep, and ate. Next day, Sir Alexander Colquhoun had them seized and executed, although they offered payment. No proscription against Clan Gregor was at that time in force.
    A report on the judicial murder went to the chief, Alasdair of Glenstrae, who lived on the north side of Loch Rannoch, where he held land under Menzies of Weem. He felt bound to act. It was a merit of the clan system that while every man gave his chief the respect due to a father by his family, and found there his first duty, the chief in turn was responsible for the life of every member. The mutual trust engendered was almost wholly good, but even Tacitus had noted a danger: 'The Celts adopted all enmities as well as friendships.' An injury to one was a hurt to all, and unless a chief understood how profoundly true that was it led him to feuding. The close-knit Clan Gregor were in present circumstances the least likely to let the Luss injury pass, and Colquhoun should have known it. Alasdair was a man of mettle and gave the punitive order.
    On 7 December 1602, a MacGregor raiding party of eighty men came down Glen Finlas in the hills above Colquhoun's old castle of Rossdhu by Loch Lomond. They killed two men and lifted three hundred cows and more than double that number of sheep, goats, and horses, which they drove into Argyll (MacCailein Mor was at feud with Colquhoun), and reset the stock at Kinlochgoil, Ardkinglas, Strachur, and Appin.
    A stratagem for revenge occurred to Colquhoun. He led a large party of Luss 'widows', mounted on palfreys, before King James VI at Stirling. James was known to be squeamish at the sight of blood, so to gain the desired effect each sham widow carried her man's 'bludie sark' aloft on a spear-point. The shirts had been dipped in sheep's blood to give a uniform exhibition. Horrified by the sight, James responded by granting Colquhoun Letters of Fire and Sword.
    The MacGregors were enraged by the deceit of the Stirling exhibition, by the exaggerated, one-sided report, and at royal condemnation without a hearing. Alasdair of Glenstrae now had MacCailein Mor's assurance of moral support and advice to take vengeance. Blinded by the moment's passion he failed to see that his clan were being hounded out against Campbell's enemy at the most ill-chosen moment. The king must feel it a personal affront. No one could profit except MacCailein Mor.
    Alasdair of Glenstrae gathered three hundred men and led them to Loch Longside, where he cut back south-east to the head of Glen Fruin, which ran down into Colquhoun's best farmland. Colquhoun had early warning and gathered in three hundred mounted men and five hundred foot. They met at the head of the glen on 7 February 1603. The MacGregors' courage in attacking such greatly superior force was justified by Alasdair's generalship. The Colquhoun force was routed. The Register of the Privy Council reported that eighty Colquhouns were cut down. Their chief escaped to his castle of Bannachra in the lower glen, while six hundred cows were lifted and still more sheep, goats, and horses. As before, these were reset in Argyll's land, by Loch Fyne and Loch Goil. An angry king gave his order to 'extirpate Clan Gregor and to ruit oot their posteritie and name'.
    On 3 April 1603, an Act of the Privy Council proscribed the use of the names Gregor or MacGregor, and prohibited those who had borne the names from carrying arms. The execution of the Act was entrusted to commissioners who were men of power, chiefly to Campbell in the west and Murray of Atholl in the east.
    The hunt was on and prosecuted with extraordinary venom. Hounds were used to track the Gregarach and no mercy was shown. Warrants for their extermination were put on public sale as though they were game to be killed for sport. Their women were branded on the cheek, their homes burned, their livestock and possessions carried off, their families left destitute.

    1) David Buchroder Database, 1 Dec 2004 &db=buchroeder&id=I509050572
    2) LDS Temple Codes, 10 Nov 2004 &db=temple_codes&id=I524097
    3) Diane Sholly Database, 24 Oct 2003
    4), 2007
    5) Electric Scotland, Website 2007
    6) Cray Bauxmont-Flynn Database, 6 May 2004
    7) The Battle of Glen Fruin, Extract from W. H. Murray's 'Rob Roy MacGregor', Clan Gregor Website 2007
    8) Diane Wolford Sheppard Database, 13 Apr 2007
    9) Burke's Peerage & Gentry - 2003, Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, Page: Colquhoun
    10) Complete Peerage, by Cokayne, Vol. 3, p. 104
  • OBJE:
  • FORM: gif
  • FILE: ~/Pictures/Genealogy Photos/Colquhoun Arms.gif
  • Title: Colquhoun Arms
  • _PRIM: Y
  • _SIZE: 82.000000 96.000000
  • Change Date: 10 JUL 2008

    Father: Sir John (of Luss) ** Colquhoun b: 1523 in Of Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
    Mother: Agnes ** Boyd b: 1543 in Luss, Dumbarton, Strathclyde, Scotland

    Marriage 1 Helen ** Buchanan b: 1 FEB 1576 in Buchanan, Stirling, Scotland
    • Married: 18 AUG 1595 in Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland (contract date)
    • Change Date: 10 JUL 2008
    • Note: 17:25
    1. Has Children Nancy ** Colquhoun b: Abt 1595-1607 in Dumbarton, Dunbarton, Scotland
    2. Has No Children Sir John (1st Baronet of Luss and Tilliquhoun) Colquhoun b: 1596 in Dumbarton, Scotland
    3. Has Children Adam ** Colquhoun b: 5 DEC 1601 in Luss, Dumbarton, Strathclyde, Scotland
    4. Has No Children Humphrey (of Balvie) Colquhoun b: in Scotland
    5. Has No Children Jean Colquhoun
    6. Has No Children Katherine Colquhoun b: in Scotland

    1. Media: Website
      Title: Genealogy of Fast, Shriver, Burns, Scott, McKibben, including descendants of Revolutionary War Hero Christian Fast
      Author: Larry Overmire
      Publication: RootsWeb World Connect Project, 2000-2009
      Date: 15 Dec 2009
      Date: 15 DEC 2009

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