The Conflict of Bealach-na-Broige


icon Back to all articles

A short account of the Battle of 'Bealach nam Broig' where the Munro and Dingwall Clans were said to have won a 'sorrowful victory' which resulted in the deaths of both their chiefs.

There are several accounts of the 15th-century battle of 'Bealach nam Broig' in which the dates and details vary widely depending on the source, but all the accounts written in the 17th-century, share a common thread;

The MacIver's and other Clans from the Wester Ross area raided Easter Ross, where they kidnapped at Balnagown, either the second son of the Earl of Ross or the Laird of Balnagown. The Munro and Dingwall Clans set off in pursuit and when they caught up with the raiders, a bloody battle was fought.  The two  Easter Ross Clans, although eventually victorious, suffered terrible losses during the battle, including both their chiefs. It is not clear who the victim of the kidnapping was but most historians now agree that the battle most likely occurred in the year 1452, close to the date of the building of the 15th-century tower house at Balnagown, which is the oldest part of the present castle. 

The following brief account is from the 18th-century book 'Conflicts of the Clans', which gives the date of the battle as the year 1299. The wide-ranging dates, from the different accounts, perhaps suggest that this was far from an isolated incident and that there were numerous clashes between the Western and Eastern Clans. 

Clash of the Clans

"ABOUT the year of God 1299, there was an insurrection made against the Earl of Ross by some of the people of that province, inhabiting the mountains, called Clan-Iver, Clan- tall-wigh, and Clan-Leawe.

The Earl of Ross made such diligence that he apprehended their captain, and imprisoned him at Dingwall; which so incensed the Highlanders, that they pursued the Earl of Ross's second son at Balnagown, took him, and carried him along prisoner with them; thinking thereby to get their captain relieved.

The Monroes and the Dingwalls, with some others of the Earl of Ross and his dependants, gathered their forces, and pursued the Highlanders with all diligence; so overtaking them at Beallegh-ne-broig, betwixt Ferrindonnell and Lochbroom, there ensued a cruel fight, well-fought on either side. The Clan-lver, Clan-tall-wigh, and Clan-Leawe were almost all utterly extinguished; the Monroes had a sorrowful victory, with great loss of their men, and carried back again the earl of Ross's his son.

The Laird of Kildun was there flain, with seven-score of the surname of Dingwall many of the Monroes were slain in this conflict; and among the rest, there were killed eleven of the house of Foulis that were to succeed one another; so that the succession of Foulis fell unto a child then lying in his cradle.

For which service the earl of Ross gave divers lands to the Monroes and the Dingwalls."