Obscure clan battles: Battle of the Shirts

A re-enactment of a clan battle. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
A re-enactment of a clan battle. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
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AS BLOODY a battle as any, this fight had one unusual twist - according to legend the clansmen all stripped down to their shirts.

Blar na Léine - the Battle of the Shirts - is surrounded by myth and legend.

Loch Lochy near Achnacarry Inverness-shire. Picture: TSPL

Loch Lochy near Achnacarry Inverness-shire. Picture: TSPL

The blood-soaked battle was fought on July 15 1544, between rival clans in a dispute over the leadership of Clanranald, one of the most powerful branches of Clan Donald.

It was a time of much unrest in the Scottish Highlands and Clanranald, under its chief John of Moidart and along with MacDonald and Cameron allies, took on an army of 300 Frasers and Macintoshes.

The clash was fought in the Great Glen between Loch Lochy and Loch Oich and according to legend, the weather was so hot that the clansmen were forced to discard their plaids and fight only in long shirts under their chain-mail and armour.

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Clansmen prepare to fight.

Clansmen prepare to fight.

Volleys of arrows were exchanged, before chaotic and ferocious hand-to-hand fighting with battleaxes and claymores.

Fraser histories tell of clansmen eventually taking refuge from the heat in the cold waters of the loch.

A stream from the loch was said to have run red with blood for days after.

The MacDonalds triumphed and it is said that of the 800 fighters that day only a dozen survived.

One obscure account following the battle tells of 80 of the slaughtered Frasers leaving pregnant wives at home.

All the women later gave birth to baby boys who went on to help the clan to recover from its losses at Blar na Léine.

Today, Laggan is a scenic village close to the battlefield.

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