The Fletchers of Dunans


‘Be mac an Fhleistear a cheud a thog smuid’s a thug goil air uisge ann an Gleann Urchaidh’.

It is said that;

“Archibald Fletcher was the first man to raise smoke and boil water in Glen Orchy.”

A small clan, descended from the third son of King Kenneth McAlpin, they settled first at Drimfearn in Glen Aray and then in Glen Orchy during the eleventh century. As the name suggests, the ‘Fletchers’ supplemented their subsistence farming by arrow making from the birch trees natural to the Glen.

Living in a volatile area, the Fletchers became embroiled in neighbour disputes including the McIains of Glencoe. They solved the problem by signing a bond of Manrent with the Stewarts of Appin, i.e. an agreement that ‘an offence to either would be defended by both’. In 1587, during the great Campbell expansion, Black Duncan of Cowl entrapped Iain Ruaidh Mac an Fhleistear into killing a non-Gaelic speaking henchman and confiscated his estates while Iain went into hiding. Black Duncan used the pilot Land Registe (forerunner of the nationwide 1617 Register, still in use today), to register his title to the land and so Mac an Fhleistear and his clansmen became tenants on their own land. The Earls of Breadalbane were careful to reinforce this title, for example by signing the order for the massacre of Glencoe “from my castle of Achallader”.

In 1745 Archibald Fletcher of Crannach was assessed to provide one man for the militia to counter the Jacobite advance. Not only was he in his seventies but opposed in religion and politics to the House of Hanover, however the young poet Donnchaidh Ban, presented himself as substitute. Archibald provided him with kit and a family sword with instructions that he should take the greatest care of it. Donnchaidh’s enthusiasm did not outlast the first engagement and he reappeared in Glen Orchy in his usual good humour to ask for his pay but without the precious sword. Archibald’s fury prompted one of the poet’s funniest works in which he describes the old man raging like a badger in his lair.

By 1746 the Fletchers had gradually acquired land in Perthshire and Argyll and after the rebellions, the clan migrated to Dunans in Glendaruel, taking with them the door of Achallader Castle.

There are 29 Fletcher graves in Glenorchy kirk’s burial ground and many more in the graveyard of Achallader Castle.

In 2006 the last Clan chief Archibald died and is buried in the Fletcher Mausoleum in the curtledge of Dunans Castle.