A MacLean tale Lady’s Rock and their only bad chief

Lachlan Cattanach has been titled as the ‘only bad chief of Clan MacLean‘. Just outside the south-east corner of Pennygown chapel, near Salen on the Isle of Mull, there are two carved slabs lying on the ground. Apparantly, these graves are of this chief and one of his wives. The two were reported to have taken part in witchcraft; burning live cats because their squalling was said to have summoned the devil, and he was obliged to follow their commands.For this reason Lachlan Cattanach and his wife were not allowed to be buried within the chapel’s grounds. However, the church, with it’s limitless compassion, allowed them to be buried at crossroads; with the cross design being the next best thing to Holy ground. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as a precaution, all witches were pinned down with a stake to heart to ensure that the community would never again be troubled by their evil. However, all of this is an aside.


Lachlan Cattanach was married to Katherine Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, the 2nd Earl of Argyll. This marriage was a political convenience as it cemented the alliance between the MacLeans and the Campbells, but it was not, however, a success with stories of Katherine trying to poison her husband. As time passed by and she did not provide him with a son and an heir, Lachlan decided to murder her. He came to the conclusion that it would be a lot easier, and a lot less trouble to make his wife’s death look like an accident, rather than carry out some conspicuous act around his estate, so he quietly arranged for his wife to be taken to a tidal reef just south of Lismore lighthouse, with the intention of her drowning at high tide.
Luckily for Katherine, before the water covered the rock some passing fishermen saw her and she was returned to land where she made her way to her family home. Meanwhile Lachlan, thinking his wife dead, had sorrowfully reported the “accident” to the Earl, and although lacking a body, he held a mock funeral, where he showed every sign of sorrow. He was shortly found out, and the Campbells soon took their revenge. In 1523 Lachlan was “dirked in bed” while on a visit to Edinburgh by Katherine’s brother, Sir John Campbell of Cawdor. The rock on which Lady Katherine was marooned can be seen at low tide from Duart and is known as The Lady’s Rock.

These are perhaps the graves of the one "bad" Duart chief and his wife.

These are perhaps the graves of the one “bad” Duart chief and his wife.

Lady Rock off Mull, originally uploaded by Amanda@ScotClans.


About Amanda Moffet

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

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2 thoughts on “A MacLean tale Lady’s Rock and their only bad chief

  1. Margaret

    I love this story! I’d like it to be made into a film.

    A great tale of treachery and deceit… brilliant!

  2. Adam Nicolson

    Dear Amanda
    A great story about the cats! I am just writing about Lady’s Rock. Can you tell me where that one came from?
    with many thanks

    Adam Nicolson


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