The Duel

[Ed. What follows is the description of the famous duel between Rob Roy MacGregor and Alasdair Stewart over land that is held by the Chief of Clan MacLaren. The scene was told to Scott by Alasdair Stewart himself, though as Scott admits himself, it was not written down immediately by him, so some of the facts may be somewhat inaccurate. It is slightly at variance from the story told to me by Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, Chief of Clan MacLaren as we sat in his back garden overlooking the scene of the duel. But, in general, the stories are consistent. Perhaps the biggest variance would be ownership of the land (owned by MacLarens, not Stewarts) and the fact that there were a goodly number of MacLarens assembled as well as Stewarts. Also of interest here is that the author describes Alasdair Stewart as "of Invernahyle." Invernahyle lies just to the south of the town of Appin and on the coast. My family is from Glennahyle, which is just up the stream from Invernahyle. It may be a small extrapolation to imagine that one or more of my near relatives, if not a great grandfather, may have been present at on this occasion. Also noted in my conversation with the Chief on this topic was that if the fight between the clans had actually taken place, this would have been the last major clan battle in the Highlands by several decades! Update: In a more recent conversation with Chief Donald, I learned that Rob Roy actually died from his wounds suffered in this contest. This point is not made clear by Scott in his book.]

 In the last years of Rob Roy's life, his clan was involved in a dispute
with one more powerful than themselves. Stewart of Appin, a chief of the
tribe so named, was proprietor of a hill-farm in the Braes of
Balquhidder, called Invernenty. The MacGregors of Rob Roy's tribe claimed
a right to it by ancient occupancy, and declared they would oppose to the
uttermost the settlement of any person upon the farm not being of their
own name. The Stewarts came down with two hundred men, well armed, to do
themselves justice by main force. The MacGregors took the field, but were
unable to muster an equal strength. Rob Roy, finding himself the weaker
party, asked a parley, in which he represented that both clans were
friends to the King, and, that he was unwilling they should be weakened
by mutual conflict, and thus made a merit of surrendering to Appin the
disputed territory of Invernenty. Appin, accordingly, settled as tenants
there, at an easy quit-rent, the MacLarens, a family dependent on the
Stewarts, and from whose character for strength and bravery, it was
expected that they would make their right good if annoyed by the
MacGregors. When all this had been amicably adjusted, in presence of the
two clans drawn up in arms near the Kirk of Balquhidder, Rob Roy,
apparently fearing his tribe might be thought to have conceded too much
upon the occasion, stepped forward and said, that where so many gallant
men were met in arms, it would be shameful to part without it trial of
skill, and therefore he took the freedom to invite any gentleman of the
Stewarts present to exchange a few blows with him for the honour of their
respective clans. The brother-in-law of Appin, and second chieftain of
the clan, Alasdair Stewart of Invernahyle, accepted the challenge, and
they encountered with broadsword and target before their respective
kinsmen.*

* Some accounts state that Appin himself was Rob Roy's antagonist on this occasion. My recollection, from the account of Invernahyle himself, was as stated in the text. But the period when I received the information is now so distant, that it is possible I may be mistaken. Invernahyle was rather of low stature, but very well made, athletic, and an excellent swordsman.

The combat lasted till Rob received a slight wound in the arm, which was the usual termination of such a combat when fought for honour only, and not with a mortal purpose. Rob Roy dropped his point, and congratulated his adversary on having been the first man who ever drew blood from him. The victor generously acknowledged, that without the advantage of youth, and the agility accompanying it, he probably could not have come off with advantage. This was probably one of Rob Roy's last exploits in arms. [As noted from the "Update" above, McGregor apparently suffered more than a "slight" wound unless it festered as he apparenlt died from it several weeks later.