Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Wee bit of a Feud in Caithness

Ackergill Tower
 
Ackergill Tower located in Caithness, Scotland, is now operated as a fancy hotel and reception center.


I started writing this with the idea that I would tell some tales about haunted castles in Scotland, as I am fascinated by tales of ghosts and also by castles (haunted or not). There's no shortage of haunted castles 'across the pond', so I had lots of material to choose from. 

While reading about Ackergill Tower/Castle, located in Wick, Caithness, in the extreme north eastern part of the land of Scotland, I was impressed by the creativity of the Keith Clan at a long ago fracas known as "The Battle of Champions", between their clan and the neighboring Gunn Clan. I was also surprised to find out that these clans had feuded for 500 long years and only in 1978 did they finally sign a friendship treaty with each other. The Hatfields and McCoys have nothing on these determined Scots!

The Tower at night.

 The story has it that beautiful Helen of Braemore (a member of the Gunn Clan) was kidnapped (woman-napped?) on the eve of her wedding to another man by the Chieftain of the Keith Clan. Helen was imprisoned in the highest room of the tower and rather than submit to the advances of her abductor she jumped to her death. Her ghost, with stylish black hair, and all dressed up for a party in a red ball gown is seen roaming around the tower.

The rude behavior of the Keith Chieftain started a feud between the two clans which went on and on, so the two clans decided to duke it out for good with each other near the Chapel of St. Tears.

"After long quarelling between the Keiths and Guns, it was agreed that riders on twelve horses each side should meet at the Chapel of St Tayr, near Ackergill, to adjust all their differences."

(Quote from Robert MacKay, who wrote an account of the battle in his book the History of the House and Clan of the Name MacKay (1829), wherein he quoted from historian Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656).



So...riders on twelve horses from each clan were to meet and put an end to the quarrel once and for all. The Gunns arrived first and as their rivals had not yet made an appearance at the appointed place, the twelve Gunn riders decided they would go into the chapel and say some humble prayers, (no doubt for divine intervention in their favor, of course). While they were in the chapel, the riders from the Keith Clan arrived, only instead of sending one man on each of the twelve horses (as assumed), they sent two men riding on each of the twelve horses and promptly made short work of the rival clan members in the chapel. (Those Keiths really knew how to think outside of the box.)

The 'creativity' of Clan Keith at the battle turned out to be a more interesting story to me than the one of Helen's sad ghost roaming the halls of Ackergill tower (nothing personal, Helen).


 





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