Bannachra Castle, Argyll and Bute
West of Arden, Loch Lomand
B road Off A818
Bannachra Castle is a 16th century three storey Tower House, built in a prominent position with commanding views.
Today it can be found in the grounds of an old mansion, nestled between overgrown formal gardens and derelict tennis courts.
A good example of a small, ruined tower house that itself is now overgrown, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up with the history of the Colquhoun's who built and lived in the castle.
~ History ~
1512 ~ After purchasing the land from the Galbraith's, the Colquhoun's build themselves a tower house on their newly acquired land.
1427 ~ Iain Colquhoun seizes Dumbarton Castle from the Earl of Lennox on behalf of King James II. He is awarded the position of Sheriff of Dumbarton and the Governor of the castle.
1439 ~ Iain is killed at Inchmurrin by the Macleans of Duart Castle.
1478 ~ Iain's heir Sir Iain Conquhoun, controller of the Royal Household, is killed by canon fire at the siege of Dunbar Castle.
1547 ~ King Henry VIII of England tries to secure an alliance with Scotland through the marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, to his young son, the future King Edward VI. When diplomacy fails, and Scotland is on the point of an alliance with France, he launches a war against Scotland that later becomes known as the Rough Wooing.
Following King Henry's death in the same year, Edward Seymour, maternal uncle of King Edward VI, becomes Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, and continues the policy of forcible alliance with Scotland by the marriage of Mary to Edward, and of imposing an Anglican Reformation on the Scottish Church.
He leads a well-equipped army into Scotland, supported by a large fleet.
Somerset's army is partly composed of the traditional county levies, but also has several hundred German mercenaries, a large and well-appointed artillery train, and 6,000 cavalry, including a contingent of Spanish and Italian mounted men, some 18,000 men in all.
Scottish Border Reivers harass his troops but are unable to impose any major check to their advances. To the west, a diversionary invasion force of another 5000 men are led by Thomas Wharton and the dissident Earl of Lennox.
To oppose the English south of Edinburgh, the Earl of Arran has levied a large army, consisting mainly of pikemen with contingents of Highland archers. He also has a large numbers of guns. His cavalry consist of only 2,000 lightly equipped riders under the Earl of Home, most of whom are potentially unreliable Borderers. His infantry and pikemen are commanded by the Earl of Angus, the Earl of Huntly and Arran himself, totalling some 22,000 men.
The Chief Colquhoun and his men of Bannachra Castle heed the call to arms in joining the Scottish forces to destroy this English threat once and for all.
~ The Battle of Pinkie ~
The Earl of Home leads 1,500 horsemen close to the English encampment and challenges an equal number of English cavalry to fight. With Somerset's reluctant approval, Lord Grey accepts the challenge and engages the Scots with 1,000 heavily armoured men-at-arms and 500 lighter-lancers. The Scottish horsemen are badly cut up and their retreat is rigoursly pursued until most of the Scottish cavalry is lost.
Arran decides to advance rapidly to meet the English. He knows he is outmatched by artillery and therefore tries to force close combat before the English artillery could be fully deployed. However, the Scots come under fire from English ships offshore and are thrown into disorder.
Somerset throws in his cavalry to delay the Scots' advance. The Scottish pikemen drive them off and inflict heavy casualties on the English horsemen. Lord Grey himself is wounded by a pike thrust through his throat and into his mouth.
The Scottish army are by now under heavy fire on three sides, from ships' cannon, artillery, mercenaries and archers, to which they have no reply and retreat. Many of the retreating Scots are slaughtered or drowned as they try to swim the fast-flowing River Esk or cross the bogs.
An English eye-witness William Patten describes the slaughter inflicted on the Scots;
" Soon after this notable strewing of their footmen's weapons, began a pitiful sight of the dead corpses lying dispersed abroad, some their legs off, some but houghed, and left lying half-dead, some thrust quite through the body, others the arms cut off, diverse their necks half asunder, many their heads cloven, of sundry the brains pasht out, some others again their heads quite off, with other many kinds of killing.
After that and further in chase, all for the most part killed either in the head or in the neck, for our horsemen could not well reach the lower with their swords. And thus with blood and slaughter of the enemy, this chase was continued five miles in length westward from the place of their standing, which was in the fallow fields of Inveresk until Edinburgh Park and well nigh to the gates of the town itself and unto Leith, and in breadth nigh 4 miles, from the Firth sands up toward Dalkeith southward.
In all which space, the dead bodies lay as thick as a man may note cattle grazing in a full replenished pasture. The river ran all red with blood, so that in the same chase were counted, as well by some of our men that somewhat diligently did mark it as by some of them taken prisoners, that very much did lament it, to have been slain about 14 thousand. In all this compass of ground what with weapons, arms, hands, legs, heads, blood and dead bodies, their flight might have been easily tracked to every of their three refuges. And for the smallness of our number and the shortness of the time the mortality was so great, as it was thought, the like aforetime not to have been seen. "
The Colquhoun chief of Bannachra Castle is counted among the dead.
1592 ~ Sir Humphrey Colquhoun is murdered at Bannachra Castle by the MacGregors. He is shot by an arrow through a window on his way to bed, having been betrayed by a treacherous servant. The castle is then sacked.
The Colquhoun's abandon the castle and are forced to move to nearby Rossdhu Castle on the banks of Loch Lomand.
It later transpires that Sir Humhrey's brother John, is in league with the MacGregor's and is responsible for his brother murder. He tried and later beheaded in Edinburgh.
1603 ~ The long running feud between the MacGregors and the Colquhouns culminates in an all out battle at Glen Fruin following two MacGregor clansmen, away from home, being forced to spend a night in Colquhoun lands. After being refused shelter, the two MacGregors find an abandoned outhouse and slaughter a sheep which they eat. When the two are discovered, they are seized and brought forward to the Colquhoun Chief, who has the men tried by summary trial then sentenced the men to death.
To avenge the two slain clansmen, the chief of Clan Gregor, Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, leads 300 men under his command with the help of MacFarlane's.
The Chief of the Colquhoun's, gaining early notice of the MacGregor's, gathers nearly twice the number of the invaders. Among them are Buchanan's, Graham's, and men from the surrounding Lennox district.
~ Battle of Glen Fruin ~
As the two sides converge, the MacGregor lead force is at first discouraged by the superior size of the Colquhoun contingent.
However, the main contingent of the MacGregor force attacks their enemies head on, whilst a force out flank the Colquhoun's, led by Iain Dubh MacGregor, brother of the chief. The Colquhoun's advantage of having a large number of cavalry present soon turn into a disadvantage by the boggy ground of the glen, and the MacGregor's press on to rout the Colqhoun's and their allies.
Whilst the MacGregors incur only very light casualties, including Iain Dubh, the Colquhoun lose some 200 men who are slaughtered.
A group of clerical students from the town of Dumbarton, who had assembled to watch the battle, are also caught up in the rout and are slaughtered by the MacGregors.
The MacGregors are later prosecuted by King James VI for their slaughter, and he has their chief executed, along with 35 of his clansmen.