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Fri 13 December 2019
Maurice was one of six 'pretty' sons of Alex MacRae (lived around 1688) and Margaret MacDonald of Glengarry. The Glengarry cousins shared a wadset for Glenquoich with these Torlysich MacRaes. 'Pretty' is a corruption of ‘prètee’, which aptly means lively / active.

While his brothers, Donald, Duncan and Farquahar, left Kintail to engage in mortal combat at Sherrifmuir in 1715 (they survived), Maurice apparently remained behind. He lived at Easter Achyuran, Glenshiel, close to Torlysich. The Kintail and Lochalsh rent lists of 1718 mention these details, including rent in kind, cash rent and vicarage rent, so it was after this date that Maurice’s misfortunes began. He was a moneylender, a man of means with his income derived from black cattle dealing.

'Kintail of the cows' are a hardy breed, known for their thick pile, good beef and short sturdy legs. Kintail drovers supplied around 500 cattle annually to the south markets and the Hanoverian army. They were driven via drovers' roads at a leisurely pace, grazing, drinking and resting on their way, so as not to lose weight. This was known as the 'black cattle economy'.

Maurice’s demise was not to be a peaceful one. As was their habit, Maurice and his wife, Christina, set off with a loaded packhorse to Inverness market through the Chisholm country of Strathglass via Glen Affric and passing Struy Inn. After selling their produce for cash in Inverness, purchasing provisions, they were returning by the same route past Struy Inn. The Strathglass men were around and invited Maurice to join them in the Inn, to which he readily agreed, being of a convivial nature.

Christina moved on (as women do!), eventually reaching Kintail without Maurice. A large party of Kintail men set off to search for him, but to no avail and they returned to Kintail. Meantime, a mimicking beggar, suspicious of Maurice’s disappearance, quietly set off to seek information on Maurice. He begged and listened from door to door as he reached Chisholm territory.

Fortunately, he overheard a conversation concerning a 'bradan tarragheal' (the white bellied salmon) tied to a bush in a river pool. Quick witted, the so-called beggar slipped off to the river pool to find the murdered Maurice concealed and tied underneath the bushed. The body was released and moved to another hiding place, whereupon the ‘beggar’ returned for assistance to Kintail.

There were said to be several probable factors causing friction and feuding between the Chisholm and MacRaes: debts owed to Maurice, jealousy of Kintail cattle grazing over their Affric territory, possible rent disputes, and new ready cash in Maurice’s pockets. It is possible that old scores were settled after a drinking spree? Maurice was defenseless amongst these men and suffered the consequences.

Presently an army of rescuers arrived to retrieve Maurice's body for burial in Kilduich, the Ancient Burial ground of the MacRaes. On their return from the Strathglass area, they were passing Comor Churchyard where a funeral was taking place of one of the principle men of Strathglass. As a stone slab was being placed on the ground, four Kintail men stepped forward and grabbed the slab, hoping to cause a quarrel and thereby avenge Maurice’s cruel death. The challenge was not taken up, so they carried the heavy stone slab securely the entire way to Kintail.

It was laid on Maurice's grave at the outside end of the Clachan Duich Church, where it has remained to this day. Known as 'the pleated stone', it is typical of those at Comor Churchyard, and is readily pointed out by locals.

The story goes that shortly after Maurice’s death, his cattle were stolen from their grazing territory by Chisholm’s men. Fortunately, Maurice and Christina had direct descendants, so all was not lost. ('Clan History' Page 199 and 'MacRaes to New Zealand' Page 24.)

Years later, an aged son of Maurice’s was on his death bed and a neighbour, Murdoch, called to visit him. The fire required refuelling and it was obtained from the break-up of a disused old settee. Murdoch discovered a hidden document within the settee. It was the 'parchment bond' on the grazing rights between Muireach Fial and the Chisholm.

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