Alexander Macrae.

History of the clan Macrae with genealogies online

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1. William Gordon, of whom next.

2. Alexander, a Captain in the First Royals.

3. James, in the Thirteenth Light Dragoons,
killed at Martinique in 1821.

4. Thomasine married the Rev. Mr Maddison.

WILLIAM GORDON McCRAE 1 was born near
Ayr in 1768. He married Margaret Morison, 2 who
was descended from the family of Lord Forbes of
Pitsligo, and by her had issue —

1. Mary Harvie, born 1797, married Dr Cob-
ham, Barbadoes, with issue —

a. Francis McCrae married, with issue.

b. Richard married, with issue.

1 He changed the spelling of the name from Macrae to McCrae.

2 Margaret Morison was connected with the Pitsligo family as follows : — •
Rev. John Forbes (horn 1643, died 1708), described on a marble slab on the
wall of the old church of Kincardine O'Neill, Aberdeenshire, as of the noble
family of Pit*liu r i> (ex nubile I >oiniii'>ru!n tie Pits]i'_ r " nriuiiilu- familia), married
Margaret Strachan, and had issue one daughter, Nichola Helen, who, on the
30th October, 1707, married John, youngest son of Sir John Forbes, Bart, of
Craigievar, and had a daughter, Margaret (baptised 17th October, 1710), who
married George Herdsman, factor to the Earl Marischal, and had a daughter,
Mary (born on the 28th of July, 1740), who married Andrew Morison, Clerk
to the Court of Session, and had, with other issue, the above-mentioned
Margaret, who married William Gordon McCrae.


c. Elizabeth married Hon. Mark Nicholson, with

d, Mary married Hon. James Graham, with issue.
2. Alexander, born in 1799, Captain in the

Eighty-Fourth Regiment, commanding the Grenadier
Company, and afterwards Postmaster-General of
Victoria, in Australia. He married Susanna Dan-
nay, with issue —

a. Alexander died unmarried.

b. George died unmarried.

c. Margaret married Edward Graham without

d. Sarah Agnes married Dr W. G. Howitt with
issue :— Sarah Muriel Susanna ; Phoebe ; Godfrey ;
William Godfrey ; Alexander McCrae ; John Bake-
well ; George Ward Cole ; Charles Hugh.

e. Katherine Susannah married Thomas W.
Palmer with issue :— Catherine Wrangham married
H. R. Anthony ; Ethel McCrae married George
Ogle Moore ; Agnes McCrae married Charlton
Howitt ; Margaret Annie.

/ Mary Harvie married W. F. Freeman with
i ssue : _ Susanna McCrae ; Clara Annie married
George Jennings ; Alfred William ; Marion Kate ;
Harry Randall.

g. William Gordon died unmarried.

/i,. John Morison, born 1848, now living at Perth,
West Australia, and by whom this information about
his own family was communicated to the author in
1898. He married, first, in 1870, Eleanor Harrison
Atkin, with issue— Alexander ; John Morison. He
married, secondly, in 1893, Bessie Fraser Brock,
widow of F. A. Brock.


i. Union Rose died in infancy.

j. Thomasanne Cole married Maurice Blackburn
with issue : — Maurice McCrae ; James ; Gertrude ;

h. Agnes Bruce married George Loughnan with
issue : — Marion ; Muriel ; John Hamilton ; George
Richmond ; Agnes ; Valory.

3. Andrew Murison, born in 1800. He was a
Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, and practised
for some time as a Parliamentary Agent in London.
He went to Australia in 1838. On arriving in
Melbourne (after staying some time in Sydney) he
was admitted a solicitor, and practised there for
several years. He was afterwards a Stipendiary
and Police Magistrate, and in that capacity served
on several stations. He was also a Warden of the
Gold Fields, a Commissioner of Crown Lands, and
Deputy Sheriff. He died in 1874. He married, in
1830, Georgina Huntly Gordon, and by her, who
died on the 24th of May, 1890, aged eighty-six
years, had issue —

a. Margaret Elizabeth Mary, born in 1831, died

b. George Gordon, born in Scotland in 1833, a
retired Civil Servant, now living at Hawthorn, near
Melbourne, and by whom most of the information
contained in this chapter was communicated to the
author in 1896. Mr George Gordon McCrae is a
poet of recognised merit and standing. He married
Augusta Helen Brown, with issue.

c. William Gordon, born in Scotland in 1835,
now living in West Australia.


d. Alexander Gordon, born in Scotland in 183G,
now living in New South Wales.

e. Farquhar Peregrine Gordon, born in England
in 1838, Inspector, Bank of Australasia, Sydney,
New South Wales. He married Emily Aphrasia
Brown, and has issue.

f. Georgina Lucia Gordon, born in Australia in
1841, married Robert Hyndman, with issue.

g. Margaret Martha, born in Australia, married
Nicholas Maine, with issue — Margaret Isabella.

h. Octavia Frances Gordon, born in Australia,
married George Watton Moore, with issue.
i. A.gnes Thomasina, died in infancy.

4. Agnes, born 1802.

5. John Morison, born in 1804, Lieutenant
Seventeenth Native Infantry, Bengal.

6. Farquhar, born in 180fi, Sui'geon in the
Enniskillen Dragoons. He afterwards went to
Australia, and died in Sydney. He married Agnes
Morison, with issue.

7. Agnes, born in 1808, married William Bruce,
and had issue.

8. Thomas Anne, born in 1810, married Com-
mander George Ward-Cole, R.N., with issue.

9. Margaret Forbes, born in 1812, married Dr
David John Thomas, with issue.



Legends and Traditions of the Clan Macrae. — How the Macraes
first came to Kintail. — How St Fillan became the Greatest of
Physicians and made the Inhabitants of Kintail Strong and
Healthy. — How Ellandonan Castle came to be built. — How
Donnacha Mor na Tuai.jh fought at the Battle of Park. —
How the Great Feud between Kintail and Glengarry began. —
How Ian Breac Mac Mhaighster Fearachar made Lochiel
retract a vow against the Men of Kintail. — Tradition about
Muireach Fial. — Tradition about Fearachar Mac Ian Oig. —
Tradition about the Glenlic Hunt. — Traditions about Donnacha
Mor Mac Alister. — Traditions about Eonachan Dubh. — How
Ian Mor Mac Mhaighster Fionnla killed the Soldiers. — A
Tradition of Sherift'muir. — How a Kintail Man was innocently
hanged by the Duke of Cumberland. — Some Macrae Traditions
from Gairloch.

Like every other clan, the Macraes of Kintail had
their own legends and traditions, and in olden time
their country was more than usually rich, even for
the Highlands, in poetry, legend, and historic lore.
It was formerly a well-known and universal custom
in the Highlands for the people of a township to
meet together in some central house in the long
winter evenings, and pass much of the time in
singing songs and reciting tales. This custom, which
has survived to a certain extent in some districts
down to our own times, was called the Ceilidh, a
word which means a meeting for social intercourse


and conversation, and it is needless to say that at
such meetings the Seanachaidh or reciter of ancient
lore, who could relate his tales in fluent, sonorous
language, and with a due admixture of homely,
dramatic dialogue, a thing to which the Gaelic
language so eftectively lends itself, was a man whose
company was always welcome. The Seanachaidh
has now given place very largely to the political
newspaper and other cheap forms of literature, and
it may be questioned if, in itself, the change is
altogether for the better. At all events, the reciter
of Highland folklore endeavoured to entertain his
listeners with tales of the courage, devotion, and
chivalry which go to make a true hero, and to young,
impressionable minds the effect of this could hardly
fail to be, at least, as wholesome as the ceaseless
appeal to human selfishness and covetousness which
too frequently forms the chief stock-in-trade of the
political newspaper.

In this chapter an effort is made to preserve a
few of the old legends and traditions of Kintail, and
they are given almost in the very words in which
they were communicated to the author by men who
know Kintail and its people, and who, in almost
every case, heard them related by old men at the
Ceilidh many years ago. 1 There is no attempt made

1 The author has great pleasure in acknowledging his indebtedness for
most of the information contained in this chapter to Mr Alexander Matheaon,
shipowner, Dornie (p. 48) ; Mr Farquhar Macrae, Dornie (p. 130) ; Mr Johu
Alexander Macrae, Avernish (p. 179) ; Mr Farquhar Matheson, Dornie (p. 49) ;
Mr Alexander Maclennan, Craig House, Lochcarron (p. 224) ; Mr Donald Mac-
rae, Gelantipy, Victoria (p. 258) ; Mr John Macrae, J.-lip, New Y,,,k (p. 212 :
and Mr Alexander Macmillan, an old man of Dornie, who died on the 13lh
Ma ? , 1896.


to harmonise them, even when possible to do so, with
the actual facts of the historic incidents to which
they refer, and the reader will readily recognise some
of them as local versions of legends which may be
found in other lands as well as in the Highlands,
but they are interesting as showing the light in
which the people of the country looked upon their
own history, and they serve to illustrate the whole-
some pride of the clan in its own heroes, as well as
their appreciation of the man of courage, presence of
mind, and prompt action, who was bold and fearless
in the face of a foe, loyal to his chief, true to every
trust, as well as humane and gentle to the weak and
helpless who wei'e in any sense dependent upon him.
It is not pretended for a single moment that such
traits of character were universal in the Highlands
any more than in other places, but they constituted
the standard of life and conduct at which the true
man was expected to aim, and it was only in as far
as he succeeded in reaching that standard that his
memory was held worthy of an honoured place in
the traditions of his clan and country.


Once upon a time, in Ireland, three young men of
the Fitzgerald family, called Colin Fitzgerald, 1
Gilleoin na Tuaigh,and Maurice Macrath were present
at a wedding, and partook somewhat freely of the

1 Colin Fitzgerald was the reputed founder of the Clan Mackenzie, and
Gilleoin na Tuaigh of the Clan Maclean.


good cheer which was provided for the guests. On
the way home they got so seriously implicated in a
quarrel that they thought it prudent to seek safety
in flight. While crossing a ferry they took violent
possession of the ferryman's boat, and putting out to
sea with it they sailed across to Scotland. They
landed at Ardnamurchan, and gradually made their
way across the country to the Aird of Lovat, On
arriving there late in the night, and very tired, they
lay down under a hedge to rest until the morning
before deciding what their next step was to be. But
in the early morning they were awakened from their
sleep by the clang of arms, and found two men
engaged in a fierce fight quite near them. It turned
out that one of these men was Bissett, the Lord of
Lovat, while his antagonist was a redoubtable bully
who, in consequence of some dispute, had challenged
him to mortal combat. Maurice, observing that
Bissett was on the point of being vanquished, pro-
posed to go to his aid, but the other two thought it
would be wiser and more prudent not to do so, as
they did not know the merits of the case, and had
already been obliged to leave their country through
thoughtless interference in a quarrel which did not
concern them. Maurice, however, would not be
persuaded, and going to Bissett's assistance he cut off
the bully's head with one blow. Bissett then invited
his unexpected deliverer to his house, and being
favourably impressed by him he offered him an
important post in his service, and gave him the lands
of Clunes to settle on. When the Frasers became
Lords of Lovat the Macrae family was still living at


Clunes, and the head of the family was appointed
Lord Lovat's chief forester. One day there hap-
pened to be a great hunting expedition in the Lovat
forest, and among those who took part in it was a
bastard son of Lovat, who began to abuse Macrae for
not giving his hounds a better chance. One of
Macrae's sons, called John, who happened to be
present at the time, took up the quarrel on behalf of
his father, who was an old man, and settled the
matter by killing the bastard. As the old man had
rendered him so much loyal and valuable service in
the past Lovat decided to overlook this unfortunate
mishap, but at the same time advised him to send his
sons out of the country, at all events for a time, for
fear of the vengeance of the Fraser family. The four
sons took the hint and quietly left the Lovat country.
They journeyed together as far as Glenmoriston, and
at a place called Ceann a Chnuic (the end of the
hillock) they parted. One of them, called Duncan,
went to Argyllshire, married the heiress of Craignish,
and became the ancestor of the Craignish Campbells.
Another, called Christopher, went to Easter Ross.
The third, who was called John, went to Kintail and
spent his first night there in the house of a man
called Macaulay, at Achnagart. He was such a
restless man that they called him Ian Carrach, which
means twisting or fidgety John. Macaulay's
daughter, however, fell in love with him and per-
suaded him to remain there. In course of time they
were married. Their first child was born at Achna-
gart, and he was the first Macrae born in Kintail.
The family of Ian Carrach was one of the chief families



of Kintail until Malcolm Mac Ian Charrich, Con-
stable of Ellandonan, lost his influence by supporting
Hector Roy's claim for the estates of Kintail against
John of Killin. 1 A fourth son of Macrae of Chines,
called Finlay, after wandering about for some time,
finally made his way to Kintail and settled them
near his brother John. He was called Fionnla Mor
nan Gad. 2 Fionnla Mor nan Gad was the ancestor
of Fionnla Dubh Mac Gillechriosd, with whom the
recorded genealogy of the Macraes of Kintail com-




While St Fillan was travelling on a pilgrimage in
France with a hazel staff from Kintail in his hand,
he went one day into the house of an alchemist.
The alchemist told the Saint he would give him a
fortune if he would bring him to France what was
under the sod where the hazel staff grew. Upon
being questioned by St Fillan the alchemist explained
that & under that sod there was a white serpent, of
which he wished very much to get possession. St
Fillan then undertook to go in search of the serpent,
and the alchemist gave him the necessary instruc-
tions how to capture it. When St Fillan reached the

1 Pages 22, 23, and Footnote page 214.

•2 The meaning of Gad here is doubtful, it usually means a withe or switch,
but in this case it may possibly mean spear. See Macbaiu's Gaelic Dictionary.


spot where the hazel staff had been cut, at the north-
east end of Loch Long, he kindled a fire and placed
a pail of honey near it. The warmth of the fire soon
brought a large number of serpents out of their holes,
and among them the white serpent, which was their
King. Being attracted by the smell of the honey,
the white serpent crawled into the pail. Fillan then
seized the pail and ran away with it, followed by an
ever-increasing number of serpents, anxious to rescue
their King. The saint knew he would not be safe
from their pursuit until he had crossed seven running
streams of water. The river Elchaig was the seventh
stream on his way, and when he crossed it he felt
that he was now safe. When he reached the top of
a small hill called Tulloch nan deur (the hill of tears)
he paused for a short rest, and composed a Gaelic
hymn or song, of which the following verse is all
that appears to be known —

'S rni 'in sheasidh air Tulloch nan deur,

Gun chraicionn air meur na bonn,

Ochadan ! a rhigh nan rann,

'S fhada 'n Fhraing bho cheann Loch Long. 1

St Fillan then continued his journey, and when
he arrived at the end of it, the alchemist took the
pail containing the honey and the serpent, put it in a
cauldron to boil, and left the Saint alone for a little
to watch over it, giving him instructions at the same
time that if he saw any bubbles rising to the surface
he was on no account to touch them. The alchemist
was not long gone when a bubble rose, and Fillan

1 Standing on the hill of tears with skinless soles and toes,
Alas ! King of verses, far is France from the head of Loch Long.


thoughtlessly put his finger on it. As the bubble
burst it gave out such a burning heat that he
suddenly drew his finger hack and put it in Ins
mouth to allay the pain, but no sooner did he do so
than he felt himself becoming possessed of miraculous
healing powers. This was how St Fillan became
the greatest physician of his age. The alchemist
intended to get this power from the white serpent
for himself, but when he returned to his cauldron he
found that all the virtue had gone out of it. St
Fillan then returned to Kintail with his newly-
acquired power, which he used among the people in
such a way that in watching over their spiritual
health he remembered their bodily health also, and
so made them strong and well-favoured among their


In olden times there lived in Kintail a wealthy chief
of the same race as the Mathesons, who had an only
son. When the son was born he received his first
drink out of the skull of a raven, and this gave him
the power to understand the language of birds. He
was sent to Rome for his education, and became a
great linguist. When he returned to Kintail his
father asked him one day to explain what the birds
were saying. "They are saying," replied the son,
" that one day you will wait upon me as my servant."
The father was so annoyed at this explanation that
he turned bis son out of the house. The son then


joined a ship which was bound for France. Having
learned on his arrival in France that the King was
very greatly annoyed and disturbed by the chirping
of birds about the palace, he went and offered to help
the King to get rid of them. The King accepted
the offer, and the adventurer explained to him that
the birds had a quarrel among themselves, which
they wished the King to settle for them. By the
help of his visitor the King succeeded in settling the
dispute to the entire satisfaction of the birds, and was
troubled by them no more. In gratitude for this
relief the King gave his deliverer a fully-manned
ship for his own use, and with this ship he sailed to
far distant lands, but no land was so distant that he
could not understand and speak the language of the

On one occasion, in the course of a very long
voyage, he met a native King, whom he greatly
pleased with his interesting conversation. The King
invited him to dine at the royal palace, but when he
got to the palace he found it was so infested with
rats that the servants had the very greatest difficulty
in keeping them away from the table. Next time
the adventurer visited the palace he brought a cat
from the ship with him, under his cloak, and when
the rats gathered round the table he let the cat
loose among them. The King was so pleased with
the way in which the cat drove the rats away, that
in exchange for the cat he gave his guest a hogshead
full of gold. With this gold the wanderer returned
to Kintail, after an absence of seven years, and
anchored his ship at Totaig. The arrival of such a


magnificent ship caused a considerable sensation,
and when the owner presented himself at his father's
house, as a man of rank from a distant country, he
was received with great hospitality. His father,
who failed to recognise him, waited upon him at
table, and thus fulfilled the prophecy of the birds.
The son then made himself known to his father, and
a birth mark he bore between his shoulders proved
his identity to the entire satisfaction of the people,
who received him with enthusiasm as the long lost
heir. His ability and knowledge of the world after-
wards brought him into the favour and confidence of
King Alexander II., who commissioned him to build
Ellandonan Castle to protect the King's subjects in
those parts against the encroachments of the Danes.


Shortly before the battle a raw but powerful looking
youth from Kintail was seen staring about among
the Mackenzies in a stupid 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. This
youth was Donnacha Mor na Tuaigh, and Hector
Roy, observing him, asked him why he was not
taking part in the right and supporting his chief
and clan. Duncan replied : " Mar a faigh mi miadh

1 Page 17.


duine, cha dean mi gniomh duine " (Unless I get a
man's esteem I will not perform a man's work).
This reply was meant as a hint that he had not
been provided with a proper weapon. Hector
answered him, " Dean sa gniomh duine 's
gheibh thu miadh duine " (Do a man's work
and you shall get a man's esteem). Duncan
at once rushed into the combat exclaiming,
" Buille mhor bho chul mo laimhe 's ceum leatha,
am fear nach teich romham teicheam roimhe " (A
heavy stroke from the back of my 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, coolly sat down on it.
Hector Roy, observing this strange proceeding,
asked Duncan why he was not still engaged along
with his comrades. Duncan answered: " Mar a faigh
mi ach miadh aon duine cha dean mi ach gniomh
aon duine " (If I get only one man's due, I will
do only one man's work). Hector told him to
do two men's work and he would get two men's
reward. Duncan, returning again to the combat,
soon killed another man, and pulling the body aside
placed it on the top of the first one, and again
sat down. Hector repeated his question once more,
and Duncan replied that he had killed two men,
and earned two men's reward. " Do your best,"
replied Hector, "and let us no longer dispute about
your reward." Duncan instantly replied : "Am fear
nach biodh a cunntadh rium cha bhithinn a 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 did so much execution among
the enemy that Lachlan Maclean of Lochbuy (Lach-
lainn Mac Thearlaich), the most redoubtable warrior
on the other side, placed himself in Duncan's way to
check him in his destructive career. The two met
in mortal strife, and Maclean being a very powerful
man, clad in mail, and well trained in the use of
arms, seemed likely to prove the victor ; but Dun-
can, being lighter and more active than his heavily
mailed opponent, managed, however, to defend
himself, watching his opportunity, and retreating
backwards until he arrived at a ditch. His op-
ponent, now thinking that lie had him in his power,
made a desperate stroke at him, which Duncan
parried, and at the same time jumped over the ditch.
Maclean then 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
his weapon Maclean bent his head forward, and thus
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 the head from
the body. This, it is said, was the turning-point of
the battle, for the Macdonalds, seeing the brave
leader of their van killed, gave up all for lost, and
began at once to retreat. Duncan was ever after-
wards known as " Donnacha Mor na Tuaigh " (Big
Duncan of the Battle Axe). That night as Mac-
kenzie sat at supper he inquired for Duncan, who
was missing and could nowhere be found. " My
sorrow," said Mackenzie, " for the loss of my scallag
mhor (big servant) is greater than my satisfaction for


the success of the battle." " I thought," replied one
of those present, " that as the Macdonalds fled I saw
him pursuing four or five of them up the burn."