Battle of Tuiteam Tarbhach

The Battle of Tuiteam Tarbhach also known as the Battle of Tuttim-Tawach was a Scottish clan battle fought between the Clan MacLeod of Lewis against the Clan MacKay in the year 1406.

This battle was fought at Tuiteam-tarbhach in the south west part of Sutherland where it meets Ross-shire. Angus MacKay of Strathnaver married the sister of MacLeod of Lewis by whom he had two sons; Angus Dow MacKay and Rory Gald MacKay. When Angus died he left the governing of his estate to his brother Uistean Dow Mackay. MacLeod of Lewis decided to visit his sister where he found that she was not well. On his way home, MacLeod he decided to spoil Strathnaver and Brae-Chat in Sutherland. Robert, Earl of Sutherland sends Alexander Murray and Uistean Dow MacKay to attack the MacLeods. The fight was long and furious. In the end the booty was recoverd and nearly all the MacLeod's were killed including the chief of the MacLeods of Lewis.

Accounts of the Battle

Conflicts of the Clans

The following 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 (1566 - 1625):

The year of God 1406, this conflict was fought at Tuiteam-tarbhach, in the south-west part of Sutherland, as it marches with Ross. Upon this occasion, Angus Mackay of Strathnaver married Macleod of Lews' sister, by whom he had two sons, Angus Dow and Rory Gald. Angus Mackay dying, he leaves the government of his estate to his brother Uistean Dow Mackay. Macleod of Lews, understanding that his sister was hardly dealt withal in Strathnaver by Uistean Dow, he takes journey thither to visit her, with the choicest men of his country. At his coming there, he finds that she is not well dealt withal, so he returned home malcontent, and in his way he spoiled Strathnaver and a great part of Brae-Chat in the height of Sutherland. Robert, Earl of Sutherland, being advertised thereof, he sent Alexander Murray of Cubin, with a company of men, to assist Uistean Dow in pursuing Macleod and to recover the prey. They overtake Macleod at Tuiteam-tarbhach, as he and his company were going to the west sea, where Alexander Murray and Uistean Dow invaded them with great courage. The fight was long and furious, rather desperate than resolute. In the end they recovered the booty, and killed Macleod with all his company. This conflict gave name to the place where it was fought, being then called Tuiteam-tarbhach, which signifieth a plentiful fall or slaughter, and is so called unto this day [1754].

Robert MacKay

Robert MacKay wrote an account of the battle in his book "History of the House and Clan of MacKay" in 1829. He quotes his source as the "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland" By Sir Robert Gordon (1580 - 1625):

Angus MacKay married a daughter of MacLeod of Lewis, by whom he had two sons, Angus Dow MacKay, so termed from his black hair, ad Roderick-Gald MacKay. Angus, the father must have died young, having left his sons and his country under the tutorage and government of his brother Hugh MacKay, who showed by his conduct that he was worthy of the trust. He was succeeded by his eldest son Angus-Dow MacKay.

Some dispute happened between Hugh MacKay, the tutor, and his sister-in-law, the widow of the late Angus, probably regarding the management of the estate and tutory, to which she claimed a preferable title, in right of her son, Angus-Dow; but Hugh declined coming into her terms. She complained to her brother, Malcolm MacLeod of Lewis, who, in consequence, came to the Reay country with a great company of chosen men, resolving to have his sister redressed, either by entreaty or by force. Finding however that Hugh was inflexible, he departed homeward in great displeasure, and on his way drove off a great spoil of cattle from the MacKay's lands. Hugh and his brother Niel, with their men, immediatley pursued the islanders, and having overtaken them at the border of Ross, a furious conflict ensued, which issued in the slaughter of MacLeod and all his men, except one, who only lived to carry home the dismal tidings. The place of the fight was thenceforward called Tuttim-Tarwach, which signifies "plentiful fall or slaughter".

Sir Robert Gordon

Sir Robert Gordon (1580 - 1625), in his book "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland" writes that Hugh and Neil MacKay were assisted by Alexander Murray of Cubin, and a company of Sutherland men, because part of the spoil had been taken from Breachat in the heights of Sutherland.

Aftermath of the Battle

The MacLeod chief who was killed became known as Gill-callum-beg-MacBhowan. Hugh MacKay died two years after this conflict. Neil his brother left three sons, Thomas, Neil and Morgan. Angus Dow MacKay, upon the death of his uncle became chief of the Clan MacKay. He became known as Enneas-en-Imprissi, which meant Angus the Absolute, from the great power in which he possessed, having 4000 men at his command.


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