The new concept of feudal landlords was not well received anywhere in the Highlands. Most responded to this “takeover” by ignoring the rent and taxes of the imposed lords.Instead of the feudal lords living off the toil of their crofters, as other lords were doing, the MacIains of Glencoe lived off their feudal lords.They were skillful cattlemen.They could navigate cattle over the moors and crags by moonlight better than the Lowlanders could in daylight. But the cattle they drove were not their own. Cattle raids were a major Celtic pastime for over a thousand years.Now theft became a way of declaring their independence from “the Kings Lairds”.The MacIains mountain raiding abilities were so respected that when Campbell of Persie had a quarrel with the Ogilvies he commissioned the MacIains to work his vengeance by "fire and sword". The MacIains' Celtic point of view made it more acceptable to go into battle for their Campbell lords than to pay them rent.They raided the Drummonds, Moray, Lennox, the Stewarts and others on assignment of their Campbell Lord.
Laws Intended to Punish Clan Chiefs
In 1587 King James VI had two acts passed to deal with the problem of clan feuds in the Highlands as well as the Lowlands. The first act held the Clan Chief accountable for the actions of his clansmen. This was true whether the crown acknowledged the Clan Chief as a land owner or not! The second act was termed "Slaughter Under Trust" and punishment was greater than capital punishment. Under the Slaughter Under Trust act if a Clan Chief was convicted of massacre of an opponent, under a feigned agreement to settle a dispute, it was punishable not just as treason by death, but the forfeiture of all land and rights of his heirs!
Highland Victory at Killecrankie
As the religious civil war gripped all Briton, the Episcopalian MacIains were called upon to guide Montrose’s Highlanders over the mountains they knew so well to attack their Covenanter Campbell lords.MacIain guides knew how to feed an army from Campbell cattle and contributed greatly to Montrose’s 1645 campaign. The Campbell lords suffered loss of many clansmen and property in that campaign and MacIain’s part was well known. "The Braes O' Killiecrankie" is a favorite song, especially in the Highlands. It tells of the decisive victory of Dundie over the government troops from the point of view of one of the government troops who ran from the devil & Dundee.