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Battle of Littleferry
Part of the Jacobite Rising of 1745
View of Littleferry battle site.jpg
View from Rhives above Golspie looking south across battlefield towards Littleferry & Loch Fleet.
Date15 April 1746
LocationLittleferry, Scotland
grid reference NH8198
Coordinates: 57°57′37″N 4°0′11″W / 57.96028°N 4.00306°W / 57.96028; -4.00306
Result Hanoverian victory

Kingdom of Great Britain Scottish Hanoverians, Independent Highland Companies, drawn from:

Clan Mackay[1][2]
Clan Sutherland[2][3]
Jacobites drawn from:
Clan Mackenzie[2][3]
Clan Gregor[2]
Clan Mackinnon[2]
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Ensign John Mackay of Moudale George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie
200 men.[4] 400-500
Casualties and losses
Unknown 100 killed.[4]
150[4] or 172 captured.[3][5]

The Battle of Littleferry (also known as the Skirmish at Golspie[6]) took place during the Jacobite rising in 1746, just before the Battle of Culloden. Scottish forces loyal to the British government defeated a Scottish Jacobite force.[7]


Following the Skirmish of Tongue where a significant amount of money and urgent supplies had been captured from the Jacobites by forces under Captain Hugh Mackay, a strong force of Jacobites was sent north in an attempt to recover the supplies.[2] This Jacobite force comprised some of their best fighting men; the MacGregors, Coll Macdonnell of Barrisdale, the Mackinnons and the Jacobite Mackenzies under George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie.[2] This force arrived too late to be of any assistance to their allies who had been captured at the Skirmish of Tongue.

William Sutherland, 17th Earl of Sutherland was loyal to the Hanoverian government, but he had not raised and armed his clan quickly enough to take action against Prince Charles Edward Stuart. This led to a suspicion in London that Sutherland might be disloyal. However, the Jacobites also questioned Sutherland's loyalty, and the Jacobite Earl of Cromartie was sent with 500 men against the Earl of Sutherland. Cromartie's force stormed Dunrobin Castle; the Earl of Sutherland narrowly escaped them through a back door of the castle.[7]

The battle

The Earl of Cromartie and his force decided to re-join the main Jacobite force under Prince Charles at Inverness.[2] However he and his men were attacked, with vigour at Little Ferry by two Highland Independent Companies, one from the Clan Sutherland and one from the Clan Mackay, led by Ensign John Mackay of Moudale.[2]

Believing that all of Sutherland's followers had dispersed, the Jacobite officers had allowed their men to march ahead of them, confident that they, the officers on horseback, could quickly catch up with the marching men. However, there were still some Sutherland men in the hills above Dunrobin. Led by Ensign Mackay, the Sutherland men came down from the hills near Golspie, attacking into the gap between the rebel officers and their soldiers. Most of the Jacobite officers were captured; many of the men were killed, and the rest were driven onto the beach, where several were drowned trying to swim Loch Fleet. Most of Cromartie's men were either killed or taken prisoner and thus denied the Prince much needed reinforcements.[2]

An account of the Battle of Littleferry was written by Angus Mackay in his book "The Book of Mackay":

A few days before Culloden, Cromartie got orders to rejoin the Prince at Inverness with all his forces, but as he was marching towards the Little Ferry, Ensign John Mackay with a handful of men intrepidly attacked him. Mackay's boldness encouraged others of the Sutherland militia, who were in the hills near at hand, to take part in the affray, with the result that Cromartie was defeated and all his troops were either killed or captured. Mackay pistol in hand forced his way into Dunrobin Castle, into which Cromartie fled, and notwithstanding the efforts of the Countess of Sutherland, who was suspected of favouring the rebels and especially Cromartie, made a prisoner of the earl whom he found hiding under a bed.[8]

Aftermath and significance

Cromartie, who had been captured and detained at Dunrobin Castle was put on a vessel that carried him to London. Cromartie, along with Lord Kilmarnock, Lord Lovat, and Lord Balmerino were all impeached of high treason, tried, and condemned. Cromartie was later pardoned, but the others were executed.[9]

Despite this victory, some in the government in London were still inclined to associate the Sutherlands with the Cromartie rebels that they had defeated. The Earl of Sutherland spent several years before his death in 1750 attempting to obtain compensation from the government for the damage done to his estates by the rebels.[7]

Angus Mackay writes of the significance of the Battle of Littleferry in the Book of Mackay as being more than is generally realized by the fact that Cromartie's Jacobite force would have provided much needed help to the Jacobites at Culloden and was prevented from doing so.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mackay, Angus, M.A. (St Andrews University). "The Book of Mackay". Page 190 - 191.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Simpson, Peter. "The Highland Independent Companies, 1603 - 1760". Page 135 - 136. ISBN 0-85976-432-X.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850” by Malcolm Sutherland. Page 32. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 MacLeod, Ruairi. Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. Volume LIII. Page 340. Published in 1984.
  5. Reid, Stuart (2002). "Culloden Moor 1746: The Death of the Jacobite Cause". Osprey Publishing. pp. 85–87. ISBN 1-84176-412-4. 
  6. Skirmish at Golspie. Retrieved on December 29, 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Clan Sutherland History
  8. Mackay, Angus, M.A. (St Andrews University). "The Book of Mackay". Page 191.
  9. The House and Clan of the Name MacKay. By Robert MacKay. P. 533 - 534.

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