Battle of Carinish

The Battle of Carinish was a Scottish clan battle fought in North Uist in 1601. It was part of a year of feuding between Clan MacLeod of Dunvegan and the Clan MacDonald of Sleat, that ended with a MacDonald victory and an enforced peace.

Battle of Carinish
Part of Clan MacDonald - Clan MacLeod feud
The battle field at Carinish
Datesummer 1601
Locationgrid reference NF819605[1]
Result MacDonald victory
Clan MacDonald of Sleat Clan MacLeod
Commanders and leaders
Donald MacDonald Donald MacLeod
15 40
Casualties and losses
Unknown 38


In 1601, Donald Gorm Mor MacDonald (Dòmhnall Gorm Mor MacDhòmhnall) rejected his wife, a sister of Rory MacLeod (Ruaraidh MacLeòid) of Harris and Dunvegan. MacLeod responded to this slight by devastating the Trotternish peninsula in the north of Skye, which prompted MacDonald to attack MacLeod land in Harris.[2]

The battleEdit

In turn MacLeod raided North Uist, sending 40 men under his cousin Donald Glas MacLeod to seize goods that the locals had put for safety in the Trinity Temple at Carinish. On hearing this, Donald MacIain 'ic Sheumais (Donald, son of John, son of James) of Clan Ranald gathered his 12 gillemores and bound for Carinish. On his way, his force was augmented to 15. They arrived early in the forenoon and successfully surprised raiders as they feasted in the church.[3] Only two MacLeods survived; Donald MacLeod was among the dead. Donald MacIain 'ic Sheumais suffered a serious arrow wound, but soon recovered.[4] Tradition has it that the song 'Ic Iain 'Ic Sheumais was composed by his foster-mother to soothe his pain.[5][6]

The Battle of Carinish is said to be the last engagement fought with bows and arrows in the British Isles,[7] though such an engagement may have taken place in England in 1642.[8]


Three weeks later, on his way back to Skye to report his victory, a violent snow storm forced Donald MacIain 'ic Sheumais to seek shelter at Rodel in Harris. He told only his godson, who was at Rodel as page to Rory MacLeod. As Rory MacLeod looked out at the storm, he exclaimed to his page that "on such a night he would not refuse shelter even to his greatest enemy, even Donald MacIain 'ic Sheumais". The page immediately took Rory at his word and informed him that Donald was indeed requesting shelter. Donald and his men were given hospitality by the MacLeods. The tension at dinner was severe and violence was only avoided by Rory's firmness. Early in the night the page told the Macdonalds that the wind was fair for Skye and they wisely departed; before dawn, MacLeod clansmen set fire to their quarters without the knowledge of their chief. As the Macdonalds sailed away, their piper played the tune "The MacLeods are disgraced".[4]

After another MacLeod defeat at the Battle of Coire Na Creiche, the Privy Council of Scotland intervened to end the feud. The peace was celebrated with three weeks of feasting and festivities at Dunvegan Castle. Apart from a brief flare-up in 1603, that was the end of violence between the two clans.

In popular cultureEdit

The events are the subject of a comic folk song by Glasgow folk singer Matt McGinn. The song is called The One-Eyed Woman.



  1. ^ Site Record for North Uist, Carinish, Feith na Fala, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
  2. ^ Roberts, John Leonard (1999). Feuds, Forays and Rebellions: History of the Highland Clans, 1475-1625. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 140–1. ISBN 978-0-7486-6244-9.
  3. ^ Macdonald, Angus; Macdonald, Archibald (1900). The Clan Donald. 3. Inverness: The Northern Counties Publishing Company, Ltd. pp. 41–45.
  4. ^ a b Alexander Mackenzie. History of the Macdonalds and Lords of the Isles; with genealogies of the principal families of the name. p26. accessed 7 August 2012.
  5. ^ "At Carinish (Cairinis), North Uist". Am Baile. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  6. ^ Macdonald, Angus; Macdonald, Archibald (1911). The Macdonald collection of Gaelic poetry. Inverness: Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing Company, Ltd. pp. ix–x.
  7. ^ Robin Kent Architecture & Conservation, 2011. Teampull na Trionaid and Teampull Clan a'Phiocair, North Uist. Archived 6 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 7 August 2012
  8. ^ John Norton, letter dated 5 October 1642. As printed in The Garrisons of Shropshire during the Civil War, Leake and Evans publishers, Shrewsbury, 1867, page 32. "every man from 16 to 50 and upwards, gott himself into such armes as they could presently attaine, or could imagine be conduceable for the defence of the towne". "some companies of foote.. with their musketts... began to wade foarde, which being descried, we, with our bowes and arrows did so gaule them (being unarmed men) that with their utmost speed they did retreate" accessed 7 August 2012


Coordinates: 57°31′21″N 7°18′57″W / 57.5225°N 7.3158°W / 57.5225; -7.3158