Brave Little John MacAndrew

John MacAndrew also known as Ian Beag Macandra was the most excellent archer that the Highlands or probably Scotland has ever produced. Though not tall in stature he was brave at heart, he was known as Little John MacAndrew.  There are many tales of heroic deeds, most of these about fighting off cattle thieves.  I have managed to collect two of these stories

The Killing of the chief of Clan MacKintosh

In the mid 17th century, John MacAndrew joined forces with the Rose of Kilravoch who was pursuing Mackintoshes who had plundered Rose‘s cattle. In the ensuing battle in Strathdearn, Macandrew killed the Chief of the reivers with an arrow. Macandrew knew that the reivers would want their revenge and follow him home. Later, when John saw strangers in the woods near Dalnahaitnach he guessed they had come to avenge their Chief’s death.

The strangers, thinking John was just an ignorant young lad, offered him a bribe to take them to Ian Beag Macandra’s house (his own). John took the bribe. When they reached his house, John’s wife was in and with great presence of mind, carried on the deception and told the strangers that her husband was out . She gave the strangers food and drink and sent John out to look for the master.

John climbed to the top of a tree near the door of his house. In the tree he kept a bow and a supply of arrows. He cried out that the master IAIN BEAG MACANDRA IAIN BEAG MACANDRA was coming. The strangers hurried out one by one and as they did, John shot each one down with an arrow.

A party of the Lochaber men laid watch, one winter’s night, unobserved and unexpected around John’s house, and when they thought they had bird in the cage, abruptly and unceremoniously walked in. One of the Lochaber men locked the door after him and hid the key under a turf bench, in the side of the house.

It was John’s wife, who saved her husband at this critical moment by the following stratagem.  She went to the pantry at the far end of the house, and took a small number of kebbocks of cheese in her arms, and pretended to slip over as she  came in through the entry door. The cheeses rolled all over the floor, and the Lochaber men flew after the spoil. The valiant John, who was all the time a spectator of what was going on, now rose from his seat, swept the light off the hearth, took the key from it’s hiding place, went out and locked the outer door after him. On doing this he placed the hide of a newly killed cow at the door, with the flesh side turned up. The Lochaber men guessing their mistake, forced open the door, and as they came out slipped on the newly flayed hide. John was now ready with his bow and arrows, as each man fell on the hide, the arrow from John’s bow prevented the possibility of his rising to tell the tale.

John managed to outwit the reivers for the rest of his life; his life was an ongoing tale of many hair-breath escapes, honest and brave little John MacAndrew ultimately died quiertly in his bed.

A Monument to Iain Beag Macandra was erected in memory of his great skill and cunning with the bow. It stands on the North side of the river Dulnain at Dalnahaitnach

A Monument to Iain Beag Macandra was erected in memory of his great skill and cunning with the bow. It stands on the North side of the river Dulnain at Dalnahaitnach

MacAndrews remains lie in a churchyard of Duthil, it is believed a stone marks his grave. There is supposedly no doubt about his buriel place. He lies amoungst his kith and kin where there is no chance if his foes now disturbing him.


About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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