Alexander Macrae.

History of the clan Macrae with genealogies online

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to move to other places, as favourable opportunities
arose. Three of the sons of Macrae of Clunes are
said to have left home in this way, but the old man
himself remained in Clunes all his days, enjoying
the esteem and confidence of the Lords of Lovat,
four of whom were fostered in his house. Of these
three brothers, one settled at Brahan, near Dingwall/
where there was a piece of land in the time of the
Bev. John Macrae, called Cnoc Mhicrath (Macrae's
Hill), and the well which supplied Brahan Castle
with water at that time was called Tobair Mhicrath
(Macrae's Well). The descendants of this man were
then to be found in Strathgarve, Strathbran,
Strathconon, A.rdmeanach, and one of them, John
Macrae, was at that time a merchant at Inverness.

Another son went to Argyleshire, where he
married the heiress of Craignish. His successors after-
wards adopted the name Campbell, and maintained a
friendly intercourse with the Macraes of Kintail for
many generations. A contract of friendship, drawn
up between the Campbells of Craignish and the
Macraes of Kintail about two hundred years ago,
has been kept in the family of Macrae of Inverinate
ever since, and is now in the possession of Horatio
Ross Macrae, Esq. of Clunes. 1

Another of the sons of Macrae of Clunes is said
to have gone to Kintail. This was probably during
the first half of the fourteenth century, before the
family of Mackenzie was very firmly established
there. He might have been attracted to Kintail,

^Appendix C.


perhaps by family connections, but quite as likely
by the fact that, as the Chief of Kintail was still
struggling to establish his family there, the circum-
stances of the country might afford opportunities of
distinction and advancement for a man of enterprise.
It is a singular fact that each of the first five Barons
of Kintail had only one lawful son to succeed him.
Mackenzie being thus without any male kindred of
his own blood, earnestly urged Macrae to remain
with him in Kintail. Mackenzie's proposals were
/ accepted, and Macrae settled in Kintail, where he
married one Macbeolan or Gillanders, a kinswoman
of the Earls of Ross, by whom Kintail was held
before it came into the possession of the Mackenzies.
As the Macraes and Mackenzies were said to be of
common ancestry, the Baron of Kintail expected
loyal and faithful support from his newly arrived
kinsman, and he was not disappointed. The Macraes
were ever foremost in the cause of the chiefs of
Kintail, and by their prowess in battle, their in-
dustry in the arts of peace, and in many instances
by their scholarly culture and refinement, they were
mainly instrumental in raising the Barony of Kintail,
afterwards the Earldom of Seaforth, to the important
position it occupies in the annals of Scottish history.
There do not appear to have been any Macraes
settled in Kintail as landholders before this, but it
is more than probable that several of them had
already been in the service of Mackenzie. It is said
that Ellandonan Castle was garrisoned by Macraes
and Maclennans during the latter part of the
thirteenth century, when it was first taken possession


of by Kenneth, the founder of the House of Kintail. 1
The newly arrived Macrae of Clunes, however, took
precedence of the others, and he and his family
gradually assumed a position of great importance in
the affairs of Kintail. So loyal were the Macraes
in the service of Kintail that they became known as
Mackenzie's "shirt of mail." This term was generally
applied to the chosen body who attended a chief in
war and fought around him. It would thus appear
that the bodyguard of the Barons of Kintail was
usually composed of Macraes. But in addition to
the important services they rendered as mere
retainers of the House of Kintail, the Macraes were
for many generations Chamberlains of Kintail, Con-
stables of Ellandonan Castle, and sometimes Vicars
of Kintail, so that the leading members of the Clan
may be said to have taken, from time to time, a
much more prominent part in the affairs of Kintail
than the Barons themselves did. This continued to
be the case until Kintail passed out of the possession
of the Mackenzies in the early part of the present

It was always the privilege of the Macraes to
bear the dead bodies of the Barons of Kintail to
burial. At the funeral, in 1862, of the Honourable
Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, daughter and representa-
tive of the last Lord Seaforth, the coffin was
borne out of Brahan Castle by Macraes only. 2 The
scene was not without a pathetic and historic

lAppendix E.
2 On this occasion the coffin was first lifted by Donald John Macrae of
Inversheil, Donald Macrae of Achnagart, Peter Macrae of Morvich, and
Ewen Macrae of Leachachan.


interest. This lady was the last of Seaforth's race,
who was a Mackenzie by birth, and it is a remark-
able fact that at the funeral, in 1881, of her son,
Colonel Keith William Stewart Mackenzie, in whose
case the name Mackenzie was only an adopted
one, the Macraes, although they claimed their old
privilege, did not muster a sufficient number to
bear the coffin, and the vacant places had to be
supplied by the Brahan tenantry. With the funeral
of Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, then, may be said to
have ended for ever the intimate and loyal con-
nection which existed for five centuries between
the Macraes and the house of Kintail and Seaforth.

But the loyal and valiant support which the
Macraes gave the Mackenzies was not limited to
the house of Kintail. They were mainly instru-
mental also in establishing the family of Gairloch.
About 1480 Allan Macleod, laird of Gairloch, with
his two young sons, was barbarously murdered by
his own two brothers. His wife was a daughter
of Alexander Ionraic (Alexander the Just), sixth
Baron of Kintail, who died about 1490, and sister
of Hector Roy Mackenzie, a younger son, who
became progenitor of the lairds of Gairloch. Hector
Roy took up the cause of his sister, and obtained
from the King a commission of fire and sword for
the destruction of the Macleods of Gairloch. In
this task, which proved by no means easy, Hector
received his main support from the Macraes, one
of whom had meanwhile encountered the two
murderers and killed them both single-handed in
fair fight at a spot in Gairloch, which is still pointed


out. 1 In 1494 Hector Roy received a grant of
Gairloch by charter from the Crown, but it was
not until the time of his grandson, John Roy
(1566-1628) that the Macleods were finally ex-
pelled, and the supremacy of the Mackenzies fully

It was in Gairloch that the Mackenzies obtained
their first important footing outside of Kintail. At
that time they were only a small clan, and the
struggle which led to the conquest of Gairloch
taxed all their strength, and was both fierce and
prolonged. Hence the great number of legends and
traditions connected with it. After the conquest of
Gairloch their power and influence rapidly increased,
and the other lands which they afterwards held
in the counties of Ross and Cromarty came into
their possession by easier and more peaceful means.
Consequently there are no such stirring traditions
in connection with the acquisition of those other
lands as we find in the case of Gairloch, but
wherever the Mackenzies settled some Macraes
accompanied them, and some of the descendants
of these Macraes are still to be found on all the
old Mackenzie estates. It is in Gairloch, however,
next to Kintail and Lochalsh, that we find the
best and most interesting Macrae traditions and
legends, and it may be mentioned that one of the
Gairloch Macraes, called Domhnull Odhar 2 (Sallow
Donald), who was a contemporary of John Roy, is
represented as the crest of the Gairloch coat-of-arms.
The Macraes were also very renowned archers, and

1 J. H. Dixon's Gairloch, p. 26. 2 Appendix K.


the scene and range of some of their famous shots
are still pointed out, both in Gairloch and Kintail. 1

During the long period of religious and civil
warfare which preceded and followed the Revolu-
tion of 1688, the Macraes supported the Episcopal
Church and the House of Stuart, and as a result
they suffered much, not only in property, but also
in life and limb. In the Rising of 1715 a great
many of them* fell at the battle af Sheriffmuir,
and tradition relates, as a proof of the loss they
then sustained, that in the parish of Kintail alone
fifty-eight women were made widows on that fatal
day. In 1745, notwithstanding the fact that Seaforth 2
remained loyal to the House of Hanover, a number
of young and resolute Macraes left Kintail to join
the army of Prince Charles, and it is said that
many more would have followed if they had not
been restrained by force. Of those who went no
one ever again returned, and thus ended for ever
their connection as a Clan with the fortunes of
the ancient Scottish House of Stuart.

During the closing decades of the last century,
when the Highland regiments were raised, the
Macraes entered loyally and readily into the mili-
tary service of their country. Two regiments (in
all four battalions) of Highlanders were raised on

1 Appendix K.
2 William, 5th Earl of Seaforth, having joined the Rising of 1715, his
estates were forfeited, and his title passed under attainder. The estates were
bought from the Crown in 1741 for the bene6t of his son, Kenneth, who was
known by the courtesy title of Lord Fortrose, which was the subordinate title
of the Earls of Seaforth. Lord Fortroso was the " Seaforth " of the time of
Prince Charles, but, notwithstanding his well-known Jacobite sympathies, he
considered it more prudent to remain loyal to the House of Hanover.


the Seaforth estates between 1778 and 1804, 1 and
the Macraes were numerous in both. Many of them
served also as officers, and frequently with distinction,
in other Highland regiments, and during the Indian
wars of that period, and the great European wars
which followed the French Revolution, the Macraes,
like so many of the other Highland Clans, added their
full share of lustre to the honour of British Arms.

The chief written authority for the early history
of the Macraes is the MS. genealogy of the Clan,
which was written towards the close of the seven-
teenth century by the last Episcopalian minister
of Dingwall, the Rev. John Macrae, who died in
1704. The original MS., which appears to be now
lost, is believed, without any apparent evidence,
however, to have been at one time in the posses-
sion of the late Dr W. F. Skene. A copy of
it, with additions, was made by Farquhar Mac-
rae of Inverinate in 1786. This transcript copy
appears to have been taken to India by Farquhar's
son, Surgeon John Macrae, where a copy of it,
which is now in the possession of Captain John
MacRae Gilstrap of Ballimore, was made by Colonel
Sir John Macra of Ardintoul about 1816. Several
copies of Sir John's transcript appear to have been
made from time to time in Kintail and Lochalsh,
and are still occasionally met with. A copy of it
was printed at Camden, South Carolina, in 1874 ;
and another copy, which belonged to the late Miss
Flora Macra of Ardintoul, was published in The
Scottish Highlander- in 1887. The additions made

1 Appendix D.


by Farquhar of Inverinate appear to have been
limited to his own family, and there is some reason
to believe that the valuable additions now found in
some copies of this MS., with regard to other
families, were made by one of the Ardintoul family.
At all events, Archibald of Ardintoul says, in a
letter written in 1817 to his son, Sir John, then
in India, that he will endeavour to add to the
genealogy down to his own day. The oldest copy
now known to exist is in the possession of Horatio
Ross Macrae, Esq. of Chines, and bears on the fly-
leaf of it the date 1760, but this is probably the
transcript which was made by Farquhar of Inver-
inate, and which, though said to have been finished
only in 1786, may have been commenced much
earlier. It is certainly not the original copy. The
style of the MS., though somewhat quaint, is clear
and forcible, showing considerable literary power
and a perfect mastery of the English language, and
there is about it a sobriety of tone which gives an
impression that the writer was thoroughly ac-
quainted with his facts, and that his statements
may be accepted with confidence.



I. Fiormla Dubh Mac Gillechriosd. — His Family. — II. Christopher
and His Family. — Donnacha Mor na Tuagh.— Battles of Park,
Bealach Glasleathaid, and Druim a Chait. — III. Finlay —
Supports John of Killin against Hector Roy. — Finlay's son
made Constable of Ellandonan Castle. — Ian Mor nan Cas. —

• Miles, son of Finlay, killed at Kinlochewe. — IV. Christopher,
Constable of Ellandonan. — His Family. — Alister Dubh Chis-
holm. — The Macraes of Strathglass. — V. Duncan Mac Gille-
chriosd. — Donald Gorm Macdonald of Sleat besieges Ellandonan
Castle, and is killed. — Duncan goes to the Lovat Country. — •
Returns to Kintail and Settles at Inverinate. — Duncan's
Family. — General Monk in Kintail.


According to the Rev. John Macrae, the founder of
the Clan Macrae of Kintail was Fionnla Dubh Mac
Gillechriosd (Black Finlay, the son of Christopher), ^
who was removed by two or three generations from
the man who came from Clunes. Finlay Dubh was
a contemporary of Murdo Mackenzie, fifth chief of
Kintail, who died in 1416, leaving an only child to
succeed him. This child's name was Alexander, and
is known as Alister Ionraic (Alexander the Upright).
Alexander being a minor at the time of his father's
death, was sent as a ward of the King to the High


School in Perth, probably after the Parliament which
was held at Inverness by James I. in 1427. During
his absence at school, the Constable of Ellandonan
Castle, whose name was Macaulay, appears to have
been left in charge of affairs, but through the
misconduct and oppression of certain illegitimate
relatives of the young chief, serious troubles arose
in Kintail. The Constable's position becoming now
somewhat difficult, he became anxious for the return
of his young master, and as he was himself unable
to leave his post he proposed Finlay Dubh as the
most suitable person to go to Perth to bring the
young chief home, " who was then there with the
rest of the King's ward children." This choice was
approved by the people. Finlay accordingly went
to Perth, and prevailed upon Alexander to escape
from school without the consent or knowledge of the
master. To avoid pursuit they went to Macdougal
of Lorn instead of going straight home. Macdougal
received them kindly, and Alexander made the
acquaintance of his daughter, and afterwards married
her. In due time they arrived in Kintail, and by
Finlay's counsel and help, the oppressors of the
people were soon brought under subjection, and
order established throughout Mackenzie's land. The
good counsel and judicious guidance of Finlay Dubh
was not lost upon Alexander, who became a good,
just, and prosperous ruler, and greatly increased the
power and the influence of the House of Kintail.
Finlay Dubh had two sons—

1. Christopher, of whom below.

2. John, who was educated at Beauly Priory,


took holy orders, and became priest of Kintail, 1 in
Sutherlandshire. He married, as priests in the
Highlands often did in those days, and had a
daughter Margaret, who was lady-in-waiting to
the Countess of Sutherland, and who appears to
have married John Gordon of Drummoy, son of
Adam Gordon, Dean of Caithness, son of Alexander,
1st Earl of Huntly. 2 From this marriage descended
the Gordons of Embo, and for that reason we are
told that " there was of old great friendship and
correspondence betwixt the Gordons of Sutherland,
come of this family, and the Macraes of Kintail."

II. CHKLSTOPHER, eldest son of Finlay Dubh,
of whom very little is known, had four sons —

1. Finlay, of whom below.

2. Donald, whose descendants lived at Fortrose,
where one of them, Alexander Macrae, was a well-
known writer whose name appears frequently in
legal documents from 1629 to 1673.

3. Duncan, who was the most noted of Chris-
topher's sons, is known in the traditions of Kintail
as Donnacha Mor na Tuagh (Big Duncan of the
Battle-axe). He was a man of great valour and
personal strength, and many legends have been
preserved of the brave deeds he performed in the

1 Kintail was the old name of a district iu the north- west of Sutherland-
shire, which was divided, about the middle of the last century, into the
parishes of Tongue and Durness. The name Kintail — Gaelic, CintaiUe, or
Ceanntaile — is said to mean the head of the two seas — a description which
applies to the Sutherland Kintail as well as to the Ross-shire one.

2 Reference is made at some length to this Margaret in The Earls of
Sutherland by Sir Robert Gordon, who speaks of her in the highest terms.
The Rev. John Macrae's account of the marriage does not agree with Sir
Robert's in every point, but there is no doubt that Margaret was related
to the Macraes of Kintail.


contests of the Mackenzies and the Macraes with
their common enemies. He greatly distinguished
himself with his battle-axe at the Battle of Park,
which was fought at StrathpefFer between the Mac-
donalds and the Mackenzies shortly before the death
of Alexander Ionraic, which took place in 1488. J
The circumstances which led to this famous fight
were the following : — Coinneach a Bhlair (Kenneth
of the Battle), the son and heir of Alexander Ionraic,
had married Margaret, daughter of John Macdonald
of Islay, who laid claim to the lordship of the Isles
and the earldom of Ross. One Christmas eve
Kenneth was insulted by Alexander Macdonald of
Lochalsh, the nephew and heir of John of Islay.
In revenge for the insult Kenneth sent his wife
back to her father. The lady, who was blind of
one eye, was sent away mounted on a one-eyed
horse, attended by a one-eyed servant, and followed
by a one-eyed dog. John of Islay and Alexander
of Lochalsh, roused to fury by this outrageous
insult, mustered all their followers, to the number
of more than fifteen hundred warriors, and set out
on an expedition to punish the Mackenzies. The
Macdonalds, plundering and destroying as they
went, directed their march to Kinellan, in Strath-
peffer, where the Baron of Kintail was then residing.
They arrived at Contin one Sunday morning and
burned the church, together with the priest and a

1 The exact date of the Battle of Park does not appear to be known, the
official records relating to the Highlands at this time being exceedingly
meagre. Sir Robert Gordon, in his History of the Earls of Sutherland, a booh
written about the close of the sixteenth century, says it was fought shortly
after 1476.


large congregation of aged men, women, and
children, who were worshipping in it at the time.

Meantime, on the approach of the enemy, Kenneth
and his two brothers, Duncan and Hector Roy,
sent their aged father for safety to the Raven's
Rock, a prominent and precipitous hill overhanging
the Dingwall and Skye Railway between Strathpeflfer
and Garve. They then led their followers, who
numbered only six hundred men, against the Mac-
donalds, and the battle was fought on the moor
which is still known as Blar-na-Pairc, a well-known
spot about a mile west of the Strathpeffer wells.
The Mackenzies were led by Kenneth himself, and
Alexander of Lochalsh seems to have acted as leader
of the Macdonalds, while their chief warrior was
Lachlan Maclean of Lochbuy, called Lachlan Mac
Thearlaich (Lachlan, son of Charles). Duncan Mor,
who was one of the personal attendants of Kenneth,
thinking that he had been somewhat slighted in the
arrangements made for the battle, showed unmistak-
able signs of sulkiness. He was persuaded, however,
by Hector Roy to take up a battle-axe and join in
the fight. With his battle-axe he did so much havoc
that the Macdonalds began to give way before him.
Lachlan Mac Thearlaich, seeing this, put himself in
Duncan's way in order to check his murderous career.
The two champions met in deadly combat. Lachlan
being a powerful man, clad in mail and well trained
in the use of arms, seemed at first to be having the
best of the fight, but, iu an unguarded moment, he
exposed himself to his opponent's battle-axe, which
at one deadly stroke severed his head from his body.


The superior strategy of Kenneth was already telling
severely against the much larger army of the enemy,
and the Macdonalds, seeing their champion killed,
gave up the struggle as lost, and fled. Duncan Mor
took a foremost part in the pursuit, which was con-
tinued on the following day as far as Strathconon,
until most of the Macdonalds were either slain or
taken prisoners. Both John of Islay and his nephew,
Alexander of Lochalsh, were among the prisoners,
but within six months they were both magnanimously
released. This victory, to which Duncan Mor had
so greatly contributed, "put Kenneth in great respect
throughout the North," and he was afterwards
knighted by James IV. " for being highly instru-
mental in reducing his tierce countrymen to the
blessings of a civilised life."

Duncan Mor afterwards took a very prominent
and active part in the great feud between Hector
Roy and the Macleods of Gairloch. We are told
that " Duncan, with his son Dougal, who was a
strong, prudent, and courageous man, with ten or
twelve other Kintail men, were always, upon the
least notice, ready to go and assist Hector whenever,
wherever, and in whatever he had to do, for which
cause there was a friendly correspondence between
the family of Gairloch and the Macraes of Kintail."
The greatest defeat that Hector Hoy inflicted on the
Macleods was at the battle of Bealach Glasleathaid
near Kintail. Both Duncan and his son Dougal took
part in this fight, in the course of which Dougal was
attacked by four men at once. On being informed
that his son was in great danger, Duncan calmly


replied, "Leave him alone, if he is my son there is no
fear of him," and so it turned out, for Dougal killed
the four Macleods without receiving any serious hurt
himself. At the battle of Druim a Chait 1 (the
Cat's Back), which was fought on a subsequent
occasion at the place so called on the west side
of Knockfarrel, in Strathpeffer, between the Mac-
kenzies under Hector Roy, and the Munros, Ding-
walls, and Maccullochs, under Sir William Munro of
Foulis, Duncan once more distinguished himself
and largely contributed to the defeat of the Munros
and their allies, which was so complete that few of
them escaped alive. " It is said of this Duncan that
he was in many conflicts and combats, and always
came off victorious, but never without a wound.
He was a facetious and yet a bloody man."

Duncan Mor na Tuagh is sometimes spoken of
as Mackenzie's ploughman, but it is not at all likely
that a member of what appears at this time to have
been the leading family in Kintail next to the Baron
himself should occupy such a position. The Gaelic
term Scallag, which in this case has been translated
ploughman, formerly meant any servant or retainer.
In the MS. history of the Mackenzies, which was
written by Rev. John Macrae, author of the Macrae
Genealogy, it is stated that Duncan Mor happened
accidentally to be present the day of the Battle
of Park, on some other business, and that he was the

IThis battle is sometimes called the Battle of Tobair-nan-Ceann (the well
of heads). It is said that Hector and his men, being armed with battle-axes
and two-edged swords, did so much execution among their enemies that no fewer
than nineteen heads rolled down into a well in a hollow below a spot where
they overtook a party of the enemy during the pursuit— hence the name


principal officer of Kintail. Comparing the various
traditional and MS. accounts of this remarkable
man. perhaps the most natural conclusion to arrive
at is that at this time he may have been young and
untried ; that he first gave proof of his valour

Online LibraryAlexander MacraeHistory of the clan Macrae with genealogies → online text (page 2 of 35)