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The Three Wives of the Clan Laird

Lachlan Cattenach Maclean of Duart

This community play with music and dance will give an account of the life at Castle Duart in the 16th century, as seen through the eyes of the three wives of the Laird of the Clan Maclean, who lived there.

Through it we will see what life felt like for the three women who chose (or were forced by their parents and other relatives) into the allegedly privileged position of being wife to the Laird.

The Laird was not an easy man, even though he and his castle would have been regarded as a good match by most of the lasses of Mull and Argyle.

He was also typical of his time so that in the way he treated his wives we can see something of the, by modern standards, appalling way that men treated their wives and womenfolk in those days.

Can we permit ourselves a small degree of congratulation that things are a little better in this respect today?

Using the traditional music of the area, the play will be interspersed by solos and choruses, accompanied by a small band of local musicians.

The sea/waves (small children holding over their heads blue and silver fabric) witness of all that comes to pass at Duart, may provide the chorus. At the start (or finish) of each act, each of the three wives may sing a solo outlining her predicament as she sees it.


The wedding of the young Laird Maclean of Duart Castle to the daughter of the Duke of Argyle is the occasion for huge festivities. But once they’re left alone together it soon becomes clear that they are not very compatible.

Instead of seeking a compromise in areas where they differ, the Laird becomes increasingly violent and finally dumps his bride on a lonely rock. The tide is coming in.


The waters are rising around her. Just in time she’s rescued by some fishermen. She staggers back to her father’s home at Inverary. Her father is appalled. Pretending to accept that his daughter has been drowned, he asks Maclean to a banquet. At the banquet, half way through, the Argyle lass appears. Maclean thinks he’s seen a ghost and collapses. After a moment when we think he’s going to kill him, Argyle tells him never to return to Inverary again.


Act Three shows us the disastrous second marriage to Catherine Haye. Catherine, wife number two, is at any rate not dumped on a rock. She bears one son, Patrick, and dies from (?) natural causes.


Maclean now has a reputation for having wives who die. You’d think that no other woman would ever agree to marry him. But a 17 year old lass from Treshnish, the remote and inaccessible castle, next chooses (or is forced?) to become the bride of this sixty year old man.

Maeve O’Donnell is too young and the castle is too distant for her to have heard of the horrific marriage scenarios of the previous wives. But Maclean is now long past his prime. After ferocious verbal battles and some violence, she comes to dominate him. She bears one son, Donald, and increasingly it is now she who is running the estate, to which she brings prosperity and a more liberal regime. He dies leaving her mistress of the castle and estate.

She finishes the play with an aria regretting that her husband is dead. The ferocious battles she has fought and won help her to look forward to more tolerant times and times when women will be better treated.


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