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Loch Awe

The Fletchers

'Be mac an Fhleistear a cheud a thog smuid's a thug goil air uisge ann an Gleann Urchaidh'.
Fletcher was the first to raise smoke and boil water in Glen Orchy, says the old proverb. In fact this small clan, one of the group descended from the third son of King Kenneth McAlpin, seems to have settled first at Drimfearn in Glen Aray and then in Glen Orchy during the eleventh century. As the name suggests, they supplemented their subsistence farming by arrow making from the birch trees natural to the Glen. A poem, probably of the sixteenth century, lists other more exotic materials, such as silk and lacquer used in this specialised trade, which was superseded only in the seventeenth century as firearms became fashionable, though not yet necessarily more efficient.

With others bordering Rannoch, the Fletchers found the McIains of Glencoe difficult neighbours. They solved the problem by signing a bond of Manrent with the Stewarts of Appin - that is an agreement that offence to either would be defended by both. In 1587, during the great Campbell expansion, Black Duncan of the Cowl entrapped Iain Ruaidh Mac an Fhleistear into killing a non-Gaelic speaking henchman and thereafter kindly took charge of his castle and estates while he lay low. Black Duncan knew of the pilot Land Register, forerunner of the nationwide 1617 Register which we still use today. He was thus able to register his title and Mac an Fhleistear and his clansmen became tenants on their own land. The Earls of Breadalbane were careful to reinforce this title, for example by signing the order for the massacre of Glencoe "from my castle of Achallader".

In 1745 Archibald Fletcher of Crannach was assessed to provide one man for the militia to counter the Jacobite advance. Not only was he in his seventies but opposed in religion and politics to the House of Hanover. Happily, a substitute presented himself, the young poet Donnchaidh Ban, enthusiastic for King George and a life of adventure. Archibald provided him with kit and a family sword with instructions that he should take the greatest care of it. Donnchaidh's enthusiasm did not outlast the first engagement and he reappeared in Glen Orchy in his usual good humour to ask for his pay but without the precious sword. Archibald's fury prompted one of the poet's funniest works in which he describes the old man raging like a badger in his lair. By 1746 the Fletchers had gradually acquired land in Perthshire and Argyll. The chief migrated to Dunans in Glendaruel, taking with him the door of Achallader Castle.

There are 29 Fletcher graves in Glenorchy kirk's burial ground and many more in the graveyard of Achallader Castle.

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