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Many important consequences, affecting the character of the Highlanders, resulted from this division of the people into small tribes, each governed in the patriarchal manner already described. The authority of the sovereign, if nominally recognised, was nearly altogether unfelt and inoperative. His mandates could neither arrest the mutual depredations of the clans, nor allay their hereditary hostilities. Delinquents could not be pursued into the bosom of the clan which protected them, nor could the judges administer the laws, in opposition to the will or the interests of the chiefs. Sometimes the sovereign attempted to strengthen his hands by fomenting divisions between the different clans, and entering occasionally into the interests of one, in the hope of weakening another; he threw his weight into one scale that the other might kick the beam, and he withdrew it again, that, by the violence of the reaction, both parties might be equally damaged and enfeebled. Many instances of this artful policy occur in Scottish history, which, for a long period, was little else than a record of internal disturbances.
The general government, wanting the power to repress disorder, sought to destroy its elements by mutual collision; and the immediate consequence of its inefficiency was an almost perpetual system of aggression, warfare, depredation, and contention. Besides, the little principalities into which the Highlands were divided touched at so many points, yet they were so independent of one another; they approached so nearly in many respects, yet, in some others, were so completely separated; there were so many opportunities of encroachment on the one hand, and so little disposition to submit to it on the other; and the quarrel or dispute of one individual of the tribe so naturally involved the interest, the sympathies, and the hereditary feelings or animosities of the rest, that profound peace or perfect cordiality scarcely ever existed amongst them, and their ordinary condition was either a chronic or an active state of internal warfare. From opposing interests or wounded pride, deadly feuds frequently arose amongst the chiefs, and being warmly espoused by the clans, were often transmitted, with aggravated animosity, from one generation to another.
If it were profitable, it might be curious to trace the negotiations, treaties, and bonds of amity, or rnanrent as they were called, by which opposing clans strengthened themselves against the attacks and encroachments of their enemies or rivals, or to preserve what may be called the balance of power. Amongst the rudest communities of mankind may be discovered the elements of that science which has been applied to the government and diplomacy of the most civilised nations. By such bonds they came under an obligation to assist one another; and, in their treaties of mutual support and protection, smaller clans, unable to defend themselves, and those families or septs which had lost their chieftains, were also included. When such confederacies were formed, the smaller clans followed the fortunes, engaged in the quarrels, and fought under the chiefs, of the greater. Thus the MacRaes followed the Earl of Seaforth, the MacCoils the Stewarts of Appin, and the MacGillivrays and MacBeans the Laird of Mackintosh; but, nevertheless, their ranks were separately marshalled, and were led by their own subordinate chieftains and lairds, who owned submission only when necessary for the success of combined operations. The isles of Mull and Iona lie off the west coast of Scotland. With a population of just under 3000 on an island fifty miles from North to South, the Mull is one of the largest Hebridean islands, but like them all, sparsely populated. The main population centre is Tobermory, where nearly 1,000 people live and work. The Isle of Mull is deservedly well known as a holiday island, with superb walking, fishing and outdoor pursuits amid spectacular scenery. There is abundant wildlife on land, in the surrounding seas and in the air – elements of a rare natural environment that bring many people to visit and to live.