Best viewed in
Internet Explorer

Music (PDF)

Music (BMW)

Back to

Updated 12/21/2018


Lament for Donald MacRae (Balallan)

Donald Macrae (1851-1924) became headmaster of Balallan School from 1873-1874. Balallan, meaning "Allan's Town", is a crofting township on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. He was the son of Alexander Macrae and Catherine who came from Plockton, Ross-shire. He made a very strong impact in the community during his short stay of two years. He was a strong Land Leaguer and he helped the crofters in every possible way, including the measurement of their crofts following the Crofters Act of 1886. The penury of the crofter touched him very much - so much so that he organized the Park Deer Raid, 1887 at considerable risk to his professional standing.

In 1887, tenants of the Pairc Estate on Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland staged a raid on the laird’s land. The laird had devoted much of the land to deer- hunting, regarding the crofters as a hindrance to pleasure.

Led by the local schoolmaster in Balallan, Donald MacRae, the six men spent two days killing deer on the huge estate, distributing the carcasses to the locals left impoverished by the landowners, the Mathesons.

By night, however, MacRae was clever enough to get the Scottish press onside – a decision that reaped benefits when the group was sent for trial to Edinburgh after the authorities panicked and decided to come down hard on the deer-hunters.

Before the raid, villages on the estate had been systematically cleared, according to historical records, by the Mathesons – first of sheep, then of people – to ensure that the hunts by the laird’s guests for trophies were not stymied.

Despite a hostile summing-up from the judge in Edinburgh, the six, who had been charged with riot, were acquitted by the jury, while MacRae was carried shoulder-high to the Prince of Wales for a night’s merriment.

Today, a monument stands at the edge of Baile Ailein on the island “in fitting tribute to one of the most peaceful yet influential protests made in the history of the Crofters’ Wars”, according to the local literature.

In 1891, Macrae agreed to defend the men who had attempted to resettle Orinsay Farm, in the Orinsay Trials.