BATTLE OF KNOCK-MARY - 1511
originally published in "Robertson’s Rant" May 1995 by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
In 1511, the old church of Monivaird was the scene of a dreadful tragedy. There had been a long-standing and bitter feud between the Murrays and the Drummonds; and the feud had of late been intensified by a party of Murrays exacting rents from some to the tenants of the Drummonds. Sir John Drummond, created the first Lord Drummond in 1487, was a feisty old gentleman who lived up to the family reputation in the old Perthshire litany "From the ire of the Drummonds, good Lord deliver us". The Drummonds lived on the northern edge of the valley of Strathearn near the River Tay and as Lord Drummond was the steward of the Earldom of Strathearn, he had considerable influence in the earldom. The Drummonds also held the lands of Coveraig, Auchterarder and Glenartney in Perthshire. William Murray, the feudal Baron of Tullibardine, was married to the daughter of the Seneschal of Strathearn. The Murray raid was the last straw as far as Lord Drummond was concerned and he encouraged his son David, Master of Drummond, to show the Murrays "the ire of the Drummonds".
In those days, the MacRobbies inhabited an area known as Balloch near Crieff and, although a sept of Clan Donnachaidh, appear to have followed the Drummonds in local events as they were tenants of the Drummonds. The Drummonds rallied the MacRobbies and other tenants and took off in pursuit of the Murrays. They met at length in deadly conflict at Knock-Mary, south of the Earn. The Drummonds were vanquished and the Murrays continued toward home with the spoils of their raid. The remaining Drummonds and their allies were joined by Duncan Campbell of Dunstaffnage with a large body of his clansmen. Campbell was on his way to avenge the death of his father-in-law, whom with his two sons, the Murrays had lately killed. Thus strengthened, the Drummonds again pursued the Murrays. The Murrays were afraid to risk a new engagement and took refuge in the church of Monivaird; into which they also brought their wives and children.
The Drummonds and Campbells did not know exactly where the Murrays had taken refuge and began searching the area. A Campbell having come within musket range of the church, a Murray, unable to restrain himself, fired at him and killed him. Unfortunately, this revealed their refuge, and of course increased the Campbell passion for revenge. They surrounded the church and summoned the Murrays to surrender. The Murrays answered with haughty defiance. The besiegers then called for fire and the church, having a heather thatched roof, quickly began to burn. One hundred and sixty men, with their wives and children were reputed to have been burned to death. Only one Murray escaped from within, and he only through the connivance of a Drummond to whom he had done a favor. Although the burning had been initiated by the Campbells, King James IV promptly brought the Drummonds to a strict reckoning for this outrage. The Master of Drummond and several of his followers were apprehended and brought to trial. Being found guilty, they were condemned and executed at Sterling Castle. In consideration for their help, the Drummonds granted the MacRobbies an aisle in Muthill Church for the burial of their slain.
Marshall, William, "Historic Scenes of Perthshire", 1880, p. 324.
McIan, R. R., "Clans of the Scottish Highlands", 1983 reprint, p. 46.
Reid, J. Robertson, "A Short History of the Clan Robertson", 1933, p. 95.