On July 10th, 1644, Major General Alasdair MacColla and the force that was to become Montrose’s famous Irish Brigade arrived in front of Mingary Castle. Mingary lies on the south coast of the Ardnamuchan Peninsula which juts into the Western Isles from the mainland of Scotland. The expedition had finally left from near Waterford in Ireland on June 27th and had arrived in the Western Isles on July 4th.
They had traveled in three merchantmen escorted by an Irish frigate, The Harp, managing to avoid the Parliamentarian Navy as they tacked up the Irish Sea. Things so far had gone rather well, having taken a couple of English prizes off the coast and generally laying waste to the area controlled by the Marquis of Argyll – a strong supporter of the Scottish government. Probably of more importance, however, Argyll was a bitter enemy of the McDonalds (MacColla’s clan association), Lord Antrim (MacColla’s patron), and MacColla himself – since Argyll held his father and two of his brothers captive.
The picture shows the Irish Brigade formed up for MacColla well in front of the castle as detached Irish musketeers guard the approaches. One of MacColla’s ships can be seen in the far background as it unloads a portion of Manus O’Cahan’s regiment which has just completed taking the smaller castle of Kinlochaline. If MacColla now captures Mingary as well, he will not only have secured his beachhead in Scotland but will have a direct shot into the lands of Argyll’s Campbell kinsmen and allies. While Kinlochaline fell easily, Mingary will be a tougher nut to crack.
In the present day Mingary Castle is going through a detailed renovation with two or three websites documenting the process. My favorite is John Haylett’s which has not only many great pictures of the work but interesting and detailed maps of the castle itself. The close-up picture shows Mingary (the quick and dirty gaming version anyway) with its small Campbell garrison, undoubtedly watching in horror, as more and more of the “Irishes” appear before their gate! I wasn’t sure what to do for a flag but picked a logical representation from Argyll’s coat of arms and echoing the saltire flag of his foot regiment. The landing operations from the Irish merchantman can be seen just beyond.
More about the Irish Brigade shortly.