Escaping prison in 1542, John of Moidart marshalled his men to further oppose Ranald, who not only had a solid claim by birthright, but the Frasers at his back. Moidart and his allies raided parts of Urquhart and Glenmorriston, belonging to Grants allied with Frasers. They then ruined Fraser properties at Strathglass and Abertarf. Aware of the turmoil in the north, the Earl of Arran--regent to the infant Mary Stewart-- appointed the Earl of Huntly as his lieutenant-general in the Highlands, hoping to circumvent trouble.


"A watery thicket of golden reeds"

As tensions escalated, Huntly gathered an army and marched north in May, 1544, accompanied by Frasers, Grants, and Macintoshes, to meet a faction of Clan Ranald and their allies, Clan Cameron. In mid-summer, 1544, John of Moidart and his men met and mediated with Huntly and his forces, and agreed to depart for the west.

In July, 1544, Lovat and the Frasers headed home through Glen Gloy, accompanied by Macintoshes and Grants. Fraser parted company with Huntly and the others, who headed across the Spean valley. Lovat took the direct and shortest route to Beauly through the Great Glen, by way of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. He dispatched some men under Iain Cleirich, who may have been a cleric, to scout for danger, knowing the MacDonalds had recently headed west. Although Iain and his men did not return, Lovat continued to head northeast for home.
John of Moidart, with a company of five hundred MacDonalds and Camerons, had rounded on his westward course to camp his men on the lower slopes of Ben Tigh, a secure vantage point over the northern side of the glen. On the 15th of July, a hot and sunny morning, they rested, and ate oatmeal mixed with water from a small lochan nearby. Perhaps the more hungry among them drew blood from nearby cattle to make their cold oats more hearty. Then each man drove a notched stick into the soft, peaty soil, a common practice among Highland warriors; afterward, the unclaimed sticks would leave a grim accounting of the dead. The MacDonalds then waited.

Lovat's company of Highlanders, which included at least three hundred Frasers and a respectable number of Grants, approached the north end of Loch Lochy in order to cross the swampy meadow there and turn northeast for Beauly. With them was Lovat's nephew, Ranald Gallda. Lovat had earlier instructed his own son, Hugh, the Master of Lovat, newly returned from his studies in Paris, to stay home. As Lovat and his men rounded the end of the loch, Moidart's men swept across the burn that cuts the brae at the foot of Ben Tigh.

© Susan King 2003