School of Divinity

The darker and lighter sides of Grey Colin

A calculating and ruthless noble fighting to expand his house, at other times Grey Colin could be a concerned family man and the 'good lord' who inspired respect and loyalty in his followers.

The darker side

The Letters tend to reveal the harsher, rather than the softer, side of Grey Colin. When he felt betrayed he could be vindictive, asserting the MacGregors and their chief should never have anything good from him (GD112/39/2/21).

Grey Colin's single-mindedness prevented him appreciating other points of view and convinced him he was right. He could adopt a high moral tone or lapse into self-pity (e.g. GD112/39/9/25; 10/11; 12/17).

He could also be a hard, grasping and bad-tempered man. His tenants, who had fled into mid-Argyll in the winter of 1563-4 after they had been burnt out of their lands in Glen Orchy by MacGregor’s raiding, believed the rumour that Grey Colin would still expect to receive full rents from them (GD112/39/3/4). When Grey Colin was ‘ewill content,’ he did not hesitate to berate his subordinates (e.g. GD112/39/10/1).

In 1570 Grey Colin retaliated against his enemy Gregor MacGregor of Glenstrae and, 'beheiddit the laird off McGregour himselff at Kandmoir in presens of the Erle of Atholl, the Justice Clerk, and sundrie uther nobillmen'.
Black Book of Taymouth 23 & 126

By taking the executioner's role himself, Grey Colin showed he was prepared to extract personal revenge upon MacGregor, and thereby vindicate his honour.

The lighter side

There are only occasional glimpses in the letters of Grey Colin as a caring husband, father, friend and laird. The fragments of his Letters to his wife Kate contain some personal touches amidst matters of business.

Grey Colin also showed genuine concern and generosity to Gregor MacAne after his MacGregor kinsmen's raid upon Kilchurn Castle (GD112/39/9/20). Gregor's reply was full of gratitude and expressions of undying loyalty and service (GD112/39/15/18).

In a less dramatic setting, Atholl's P.S. (GD112/39/6/7) revealed the earl valued Grey Colins friendship and his company.