By the nature of the ground, Kenneth perceived that Macdonald could not bring all his forces to the attack at once, and he accordingly resolved to maintain his ground and try the effects of a stratagem which he correctly calculated would mislead his opponent and place him at a serious disadvantage. He acquainted his younger brother, Duncan, with his resolution and plans, and sent him off, before the struggle commenced, with a body of archers to be placed in ambush, while he determined to cross the peat-bog himself and attack Macdonald in front with the main body, intending to retreat as soon as his adversary returned the attack, and thus entice the Islesmen to pursue him. He informed Duncan of his own intention to retreat and commanded him to be in readiness with his archers to charge the enemy whenever they got fairly into the moss and entangled among the pits and bogs.
Having made these preliminary arrangements, he boldly advanced to meet the foe, leading his resolute band in the direction of the intervening moss. Macdonald, seeing him, cried in derision to Gillespic to see "Mackenzie's impudent madness, daring thus to face him at such disadvantage." Gillespic, being a more experienced leader than the youthful and impetuous Alexander, said that "such extraordinary boldness should be met by more extraordinary wariness in us, lest we fall into unexpected inconvenience." Macdonald, in a towering passion, replied to this wise counsel--"Go you also and join with them, and it will not need our care nor move the least fear in my followers; both of you will not be a breakfast to me and mine." Meanwhile Mackenzie advanced a little beyond the moss, avoiding, from his intimate knowledge of it, all the dangerous pits and bogs, when Maclean of Lochbuy, who led the van of the enemy's army, advanced and charged him with great fury. Mackenzie, according to his pre-arranged plan, at once retreated, but in so masterly a manner that, in doing so, he inflicted as much damage on the enemy as he received. The Islesmen speedily got entangled in the moss, and Duncan Mackenzie observing this, rushed forth from his ambush and furiously attacked them in flank and rear, killing most of those who had entered the bog. He then turned his attention to the main body of the Islesmen, who were quite unprepared for so sudden an onslaught. Kenneth, setting this, charged with his main body, who were all well instructed in their leader's design, and, before the enemy were able to form in order of battle, he fell on their right flank with such impetuosity and did such execution among them that they were compelled to fall back in confusion before the splendid onset of the small force which they had so recently sneered at and despised. Gillespic, stung by Alexander Macdonald's taunt before the engagement began, to prove to him that "though he was wary in council he was not fearful in action," sought out Kenneth Mackenzie, that he might engage him in single combat, and followed by some of his bravest followers he, with signal valour, did great execution among the Mackenzies in course of his approach to Kenneth, who was in the hottest of the fight, and who, seeing Gillespic coming in his direction, advanced to meet him, killing, wounding, or scattering any of the Macdonalds that came in his way. He made a signal to Gillespic to advance and meet him hand-to-hand, but, finding him hesitating, Kenneth, who far exceeded him in strength while he equalled him in courage, would brook no tedious debate but pressed on with fearful eagerness, at one blow cut off Gillespic's arm arid passed very far into his body so that he fell down dead on the spot.
At this moment Kenneth noticed his standard-bearer close by, without his colours, and fighting desperately to his own hand. He turned round to him, and angrily asked what had become of his colours, when he was coolly answered--" I left Macdonald's standard-bearer, quite unashamed of himself, and without the slightest concern for those of his own chief, carefully guarding mine." Kenneth naturally demanded an explanation of such an extraordinary state of matters, when the man informed him that he had met Macdonald's standard-bearer in the conflict, and had been fortunate enough to slay him; that he had thrust the staff of his own standard through his opponent's body and as there appeared to be some good work to do among the enemy, he had left some of his companions to guard the standard, and devoted himself to do what little he could to aid his master, and protect him from his adversaries. Maclean of Lochbuy (Lachlainn MacThearlaich) was killed by "Duncan mor na Tuaighe," Mackenzie's "great scallag," of whom we have the following curious account:--
Shortly before the battle, a raw, ungainly, but powerful looking youth from Kintail was seen staring about, as the Mackenzies were starting to meet the enemy, in an apparently idiotic manner, as if looking for something. He ultimately came across an old rusty battle-axe, of great size, and, setting off after the others, he arrived at the scene of strife just as the combatants were closing with each other. Duncan Macrae (for such was his name), from his stupid and ungainly appearance, was taken little notice of, and was wandering about in an aimless, vacant, half-idiotic manner. Hector Roy, Alexander's third son, and progenitor of the Gairloch Mackenzies, observing him, asked why he was not taking part in the fight, and supporting his chief and clan. Duncan replied--"Mar a faigh mi miabh duine, cha dean mi gniomh duine." (Unless I get a man's esteem, I shall not perform a man's work.) This was in reference to his not having been provided with a proper weapon. Hector answered him--"Deansa gniomh duine `s gheibh thu miabh duine." (Perform a man's work and you will get a man's esteem.) Duncan at once rushed into the strife, exclaiming--"Buille mhor bho chul mo laimhe, `s ceum leatha, am fear nach teich rombam, teicheam roimhe." (A heavy stroke from the back of my hand [arm] and a step to [enforce] it He who does not get out of my way, let me get out of his.) Duncan soon killed a man, and, drawing the body aside, he coolly sat upon it. Hector Roy, noticing this peculiar proceeding as be was passing by in the heat of the contest, accosted Duncan, and asked him why he was not still engaged with his comrades. Duncan answered--"Mar a faigh mi ach miabh aon duine cha dean mi ach gniomh aon duine." (If I only get one man's due I shall only do one man's work). Hector told him to perform two men's work, and be would get two men's reward. Duncan returned again to the field of carnage, killed another, pulled his body away, placed it on the top of the first, and sat upon the two. The same question was again asked, and the answer given: --"I have killed two men, and earned two men's wages." Hector answered --"Do your best, and we shall not be reckoning with you." Duncan instantly replied--"Am fear nach biodh ag cunntadh rium cha bhithinn ag cunntadh ris"--(He that would not reckon with me, I would not reckon with him)--and rushed into the thickest of the battle, where he mowed down the enemy with his rusty battle-axe like grass; so much so that Lachlan Maclean of Lochbuy (Lachlainn MacThearlaich), a most redoubtable warrior, placed himself in Duncan's way to check him in his murderous career. The two met in mortal strife, but, Maclean being a very powerful man, clad in mail, and well versed in arms, Duncan could make no impression upon him but, being lighter and more active than his heavily mailed opponent, he managed to defend himself, watching his opportunity, and retreating backwards until he arrived at a ditch, where his opponent, thinking he had him fixed, made a desperate stroke at him, which Duncan parried, at the same time jumping backwards across the ditch. Maclean, to catch his enemy, made a furious lunge with his weapon, but, instead of entering Duncan's body, it got fixed in the opposite bank of the ditch. In withdrawing it, he bent his head forward, when the helmet, rising, exposed the back of his neck, upon which Duncan's battle-axe descended with the velocity of lightning, and with such terrific force as to sever Maclean's head from his body. This, it is said, was the turning-point of the struggle, for the Macdonalds, seeing the brave leader of their van falling, at once retreated, and gave up all for lost. The hero was ever afterwards known as "Donnchadh Mor na Tuaighe," or Big Duncan of the Axe, arid many a story is told in Kintail and Gairloch of the many other prodigies of valour which he performed in the after contests of the Mackenzies and the Macraes against their common enemies. "Such of Macdonald's men as escaped the battle fled together, and as they were going homeward began to spulzie Strathconan, which Mackenzie hearing, followed them with a party, overtakes them at Invercorran, kills shoals of them and the rest fled divers ways."
That night, as Mackenzie sat at supper, he missed Duncan Mor, and said to the company--"I am more vexed for the want of my scallag mar (big servant) this night than any satisfaction I had of this day." One of those present said, "I thought, (as the people fled) I perceived him following four or five men that ran up the burn." He had not well spoken the word when Duncan Mor came in with four heads "bound on a woody" and threw them before his master, saying--"Tell me now if I have not deserved my supper," to which, it is said of him, he fell with great gusto.
This reminds me, continues the chronicler, "of a cheat he once played on an Irishman, being a traveller, withal a strong, lusty fellow, well-proportioned, but of an extraordinary stomach. He resorted into gentlemen's houses, and (was) very oft in Mackenzie's. Having come on a time to the same Mackenzie's house in Islandonain two or three years after this battle (of Park), he was cared for as usual, and when the laird went to dinner, he was set aside, at a side-table to himself, and a double proportion allowed him, which this Duncan Mor envying, went on a day and sat side for side with him, drew his skyn or short dagger and eats with him. `How now,' says the Irishman, `how comes it that you fall in eating in any manner of way.' ` I cannot tell,' says Duncan, `but I do think I have as good will to eat as you can have.' `Well,' says the other, `we shall try that when we have done.' So when the laird had done of his dinner, the Irishman went where he was and said, `Noble sir, I have travelled now almost among all the clans in Scotland, and was resorting their houses, as I have been several times here, where I cannot say but I was sufficiently cared for, but I never met with such an affront as I have this day.' The laird asked what he meant. So he tells him what injury Duncan had done him in eating a share of his proportion. `Well,' says the laird, `I hope M'ille Chruimb,' for so the Irishman was called, `you will take no notice of him that did that; for he is but a fool that plays the fool now and then.'
`I cannot tell,' says he, `but he is no idiot at eating, nor will I let my affront pass so; for I must have a turn or two of wrestling with him for it in your presence.' Whereupon a stander-by asks Duncan if he would wrestle with him. `I will,' says he, `for I think I was fit sides with him in eating and might be so with this.' They yocks, and Duncan threw him thrice on his back. The Irishman was so angry he wist not what to say. He invites him to put the stone, and at the second cast he worried him four feet, but could never reach him. Then he was like to burst himself. Finding this, he invites him to lop so that he outlopped him as far a length. The Irishman then said, `I have travelled as far as any of my equals, both in Scotland, England, and Ireland, and tried many hands, but I never met with my equal till this day, but comrade,' say's he `let us now go and swim a little in the laird's presence.' `With all my heart,' say's Duncan, `for I never sought better' (with this Duncan could swim not at all), but down to the shore they go to the next rock, and being full sea, was at least three fathoms deep, but before the Irishman had off half of his clothes Duncan was stark naked, lops over the rocks and ducks to the bottom and up again. Looking about him he calls to a boy that stood by, and said, `Lad, go where the Lady is, and bid her send me a butter and four cheese.'
The Irishman, hearing this, asks `what purpose.' `To what purpose,' says he, `yons the least we will need this night and to-morrow wherever we be,' `Do you intend a journey,' say's the Irishman. `Aye, that I do,' answered the other, `and am in hopes to cross the Kyle ere night.' Now, this Kyle was 20 leagues off with a very ill stream, as the Irishman very well knew, so that he said, with a very great oath, lie would not go with him that length, but if he liked to sport the laird with several sorts of swimming, he would give a trial. `Sport here, sport there, wherever I go you must go.' With this the cheese and butter come, and Duncan desires the Irishman to make ready, but all his persuasions (not against his will) would not prevail with Mac a Chruimb, whereupon all the company gave over with laughter, knowing the other could swim none at all, but the fellow thought they jeered him. The laird made Duncan forbear him; but Duncan swore a great oath he would make him swim or he left the town, otherwise he would want of his will. So it came to pass for the Irishman got away that same night, was seen on the morrow in Lochalsh, but none (was) found that ferried him over. But never after resorted Mackenzie's house." [Ancient MS. of the Mackenzies.]