The Bloody Island and The MacFarlane Chief

Glenfalloch, 1865

Glenfalloch, 1865

Glenfalloch, which bounds the barony of Arrochar to the north was always the pass for the people of Athole into Arrochar on their way to the lower grounds of Monteith and Stirling.  There are many stories that are still told to this day among the people living in Arrochar of the raids of the Athole men on their ancestors.

On one occasion the Athole men made a descent on Arrochar, and plundered the castle of the MacFarlanes on Elan-na-vow, in the absence of the chief and his retainers.  On the return of the MacFarlane chief, Duncan Dhu, or Black Duncan, his son, pursued and overtook the invaders in a shooting-lodge in Staduisk, which is a glen between Loch Sloy and the river Falloch.  While the men of Athole were enjoying themselves with their plunder, Duncan Dhu and his party fastened the door of the shooting lodge and set it on fire.  The fire consumed both the lodge and the invaders, and spreading, it reduced to ashes a large area of native Scottish fir-trees, with which the mountains were covered.  Along these mountains the roots of these ancient fir-trees can still be seen charred with the burning.

On hearing  about what had happened, the father of Black Duncan, who foresaw that the enemy would be avenged, said to his son,  “A bloody son you’ll be to me.”  As he had foreboded, three of the Athole men, friends of those who were burned returned to Arrocher to avenge their deaths.  Seeking out Duncan Dhu, although they did not know what he looked like, they unknowingly found him,  the chief he was splitting a log of wood with an axe.  This was on an island in the bay near Doune, in Loch Lomond called Eileau-a-Ghoar.  They asked whether he knew the whereabouts of Black Duncan.  “If you are very anxious,” he answered,  “to see him, I will go and point out where he is, if you will only wait a little and assist me with my work”.  He made them promise that they would never reveal that it was he that told of the Chief’s whereabouts.

Directing the Athole men to assist by grabbing hold of the log, which was partly split at one end, he told them he was going to made use of their strength by getting them to tear it apart, and while tightening the wedge, he suddenly struck out of the log causing it to clamp down upon their hands, and held them fast like a vice.   Having them now completely in his power, he shouted “Here is Duncan Dhu! What do you want with him?”  He then killed all the three men; and from this desperate deed the small island is still called Eilean-a-Ghoar (The Bloody Island).


Loch Lomond and the Islands

Loch Lomond and the Islands


About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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3 thoughts on “The Bloody Island and The MacFarlane Chief

  1. Debbie MacFarland Webb

    Thanks Amanda! Another interesting story to share with folk who stop by the clan tent. See you at Grandfather Mountain this July?

  2. Rev. John McFarland

    Wonderful story! I’ll bet Mel Gibson stole the burning story for that scene in Braveheart. I’m collecting stories and anecdotes to eventually write a “MacFarlane’s Lantern” book and screenplay, based on the implications of that saying, “The hills run red with blood when MacFarlane’s lantern is the moon.” Obviously a love story of Highland Romance… and Revenge!

  3. Jenny Hainsworth

    I am collating information and stories for my Bartholomew family that lived in Lithlingow and nearby areas. I wish to print my book so my family get to share in the information that I have gathered from many varied sources. I am writing for the purpose of requesting to include the bloody island and the map of Arrochar and surrounding clans. I am thinking of publishing 100 copies of the book which will predominantly be about our family that emigrated to Australia and then New Zealand. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards


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