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How a bad case of flatulence saw the Macleans gain the lands of Ardgour

Donald Maclean and the Maclean seizure of Ardgour

In the 1430s, while residing at Ardtornish and ill with an upset stomach which caused him ‘not to smell well’, Alexander MacDonald, Lord of the Isles was visited by his barons. During the meeting, the barons were overcome and ‘were offended by a noisome smell’.

Believing that the dogs present in the room were the culprits the barons chased them out. However, MacMaster of Ardgour whispered to the others that ‘it is the man not the dog’.

MacDonald overheard him and was determined to avenge the insult.

MacDonald encouraged the landless Donald Maclean, son of Lachlan ‘Bronnach’ MacLean of Duart, to ‘leap the dyke where it was lowest’.

Taking the hint, Donald Maclean set sail from Mull with a group of followers and landed in  Ardgour where they set about massacring the inhabitants including MacMaster.

MacMaster’s eldest son escaped the carnage but was caught trying to cross Loch Linnhe at Corran Ferry and was killed. The ferryman had been out fishing on the loch and ignored the young MacMaster’s calls.

When the ferryman came ashore with his catch Maclean had him killed for disloyalty. Donald Maclean is reputed to have said that  ‘any man who is not loyal to his chief is not worthy of life’. The unfortunate ferryman was then hanged from his own oars.

Donald Maclean then took possession of Ardgour, which was granted by a Charter issued by Alexander MacDonald and later confirmed by King James I.

The estate of Ardgour sits on the southern shore of Locheil and extends from Garvan to Inversanda on the western shore of Loch Linnhe. Loch Linnhe is the sea loch that leads from the Firth of Lorn and the Sound of Mull into Lochaber. The narrowest point of the loch is at Corran.

It was just to the west of these strategically vital narrows that the Macleans of Ardgour had their residence and where they could control the shipping on the loch.

Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie is the founder and editor of and is also the editor of other online publications covering military history, defence and security. Neil has a keen interest in the military history of Scotland and in particular the military history of the Jacobite risings.

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