Alexander Macrae.

History of the clan Macrae with genealogies online

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and prowess at the Battle of Park, and that he
afterwards became either the factor of Kintail or
perhaps the principal officer of the Baron's fighting
men. It is not at all unlikely that Duncan Mor
began his career as a page or personal servant,
that is as the sccdlag of Mackenzie, probably of Sir
Kenneth a Bhlair, but whatever the commencement
of his career may have been, it is quite certain that
a man around whose memory so many legends and
traditions of a heroic kind have gathered must have
been, in spite of possible eccentricities, an important
and leading man among his own countrymen. 1

The male succession of Duncan Mor na Tuagh
failed in the person of Duncan Boy Macrae, who
died at Conchraig of Tollie in 1G79.
4. Maurice, married and left issue.

"/ III. FIN LAY, eldest son of Christopher, was
the contemporary and chief counsellor of John of
Killin, ninth Baron of Kintail, who fought at
Flodden in 1513, and at Pinkie in 1547. John of
Killin was a minor at the time of the death of his
father, Sir Kenneth a Bhlair, in 1491. He was still
a minor when, in consequence of the death of his
eldest brother, Kenneth Og (Kenneth the younger),

in 1497, he became Baron of Kintail. Kenneth Og

1 Fur a more detailed account of the exploits of Duncan Mor na Tuagh,
see chapter on legends and traditions of the clan.


was the only child of Kenneth a Bhlair's first wife,
Lady Margaret Macdonald, of whom her husband
disposed in the ignominious manner already de-
scribed. A few days after sending Lady Margaret
away, Kenneth, at the head of a large body of his
followers, went to Lord Lovat to demand his
daughter, Agnes Fraser, in marriage. Lord Lovat,
having no friendly feeling towards the Macdonalds
at that time, delivered his daughter over to Kenneth,
and they lived together ever after as husband and
wife. John of Killin was the first issue of this
irregular marriage, and although the marriage is
said to have been legitimised by the Pope, Hector
Roy declared his nephew, John of Killin, illegitimate,
and seized the estates for himself. Hector being a
well known and a very popular man, appears to have
received all but the unanimous support of the people
of Kintail, and one of the Claim Ian Charrich Mac-
raes, called Malcolm, was made Constable of Ellan-
donan Castle. Finlay, however, took up the cause
of John of Killin, between whose supporters and
those of Hector IW there arose a feud which lasted
for some years.

In course of time, however, John of Killin,
young as he was, proved quite a match for his uncle,
Hector Roy, whom he surprised one night at
Fairburn, by a clever stratagem, and took prisoner.
It was agreed between them that night that Hector
should hold the estates until John attained the
age of twenty-one, after which Hector promised to
restore the estates, and to acknowledge John ever
afterwards as his chief. John's supporters insisted


that Ellandonan Castle, being the principal residence
of the family, should be given up to him at nce.
As Malcolm Mac Ian Charrich refused, however, to
surrender the Castle, John's supporters laid siege to
it. and had Malcolm's cattle brought down to the
seaside and there slaughtered to feed the besiegers.
Malcolm, however, would not surrender without
Hector's consent, and even when this was obtained,
Malcolm still refused to surrender until compensated
for the loss of his cattle. Hector eventually per-
suaded Malcolm to yield,- whereupon John of Killin
dismissed him from the Constableship, to which he
appointed Finlay's son, Christopher. It is said that
the Claim Ian Charrich family of Macraes did not
afterwards assume much importance in Kintail.
Finlay is said to have had four sons.

1. Christopher, of whom below.

2. John, called Ian Mor nan Cas (Big John of
the feet), a name which he is said to have received
under the following circumstances : Roderick, 1
brother of John of Killin, being charged with man-
slaughter, King James V. ordered him to be given
up to justice. John of Killin accordingly set out
with a party of men to apprehend him in Kintail,
but Roderick, being a very powerful man, " and un-
willing to be brought as a prisoner, while the party
were struggling to bring him, and could not, this
John took him by the feet, and so got him down,
when each man having a leg, an arm, or some other
hold of him, they carried him along until he con-
sented to walk on his feet with them to the presence

l Thig Roderick waa progenitor of the Mackenzie*, Achilty, Fairburn. &c.


of his injured brother." John Mor nan Cas left
sons, and his descendants appear to have settled in
Lochcarron and Kishorn, where several of them are
said to have been living in 1786.

3. Gilpatrick is also sai:l to have left issue.

4. Miles or Maolmuire. was killed at Kinloch-
ewe shortly before 1539 by the followers of Donald
Gorm Macdonald, of Sleat. Part of a monument
erected on the spot where Miles was killed is said
to have been standing about 1700. Miles left
numerous issue, some of whom appear to have lived
in Gairloch, and others in Tain.

IV. CHRISTOPHER, eldest son of Finlay,
was appointed Constable of Ellandonan Castle,
as already stated, probably about 1511. Very little
is known about him except that he held the office
with trustworthiness and success, until shortly
before Donald Gorm's invasion of Kintail in 1539.
His sons were —

1. Christopher, called Christopher Beg (Little
Christopher), whose male succession terminated in

2. Duncan, of whom below.

3. Farquhar, progenitor of the Torlysich
family, of whom hereafter. The descendants of this
Farquhar were called the Black Macraes, as dis-
tinguished from the descendants of his brother
Duncan, who were called the Fair Macraes.

4. Finlay, called Finlay Dubh. He married
Isabel, daughter of Sir Dougal Mackenzie, Priest
of Kintail, who is spoken of as a very beautiful
woman, but of doubtful character. Finlay lived


at iryugan, near Ardintoul. While his brother
Duncan, who married Sir Dougal's widow, was
living in Strathglass, as mentioned below, Finlay
went to see him, and his wife went along with him
to see her mother. During this visit Finlay's wife
made the acquaintance of a man called Alister
Dubh, a son of Chisholm of Comer. Alister Dubh
afterwards followed her to Kintail, and, taking
advantage one day of Finlay's absence from home,
eloped with her to Strathglass. She had a
young boy called Christopher, whom she took with
her. °This Christopher settled in Strathglass, where
he became a man of importance and means, and
from him the Macraes of Strathglass were
descended. Finlay, believing that his wife had
encouraged Alister Dubh's plot, did not attempt to
bring her back, and disowned her henceforth.

5. John.

6. Donald.

V. DUNCAN, second son of Christopher IV.,
was called Donnacha Mac Gillechriosd. He was in
his own day a prominent man in the affairs of
Kintail, and gained great renown for himself by
killing Donald Gorm Macdonald, of Sleat, at the
siege of Ellandonan Castle, in 1539. 1 The circum-
stances which led to that event were the following :
Some time before this, Donald Gorm, having
devastated the lands of Macleod of Dunvegan, who

1 There seems to be some doubt as to the date of this siege. 1539 is the
date usually given, but 1537 is also mentioned. As the feud aj>|>ears to have
continued for some time, and as Donald Gorm made more than one raid into
Kintail, it is possible that 1537 may have been the date of the first rai.l, and
1539 the date of the one which resulted in his death,


was an ally of John of Killin, passed over to the
mainland, laid waste the district of Kinlochewe, and
killed, among others, Miles, son of Finlay Macrae,
as already mentioned. John of Killin, naturally
exasperated by this unprovoked invasion of his
own territory, as well as by the raid against his
friend and ally, Macleod of Dunvegan, sent his son
Kenneth to Sleat with a large body of followers to
retaliate on the Macdonalds. Thereupon Donald
Gorm invaded Kintail with a strong party, carried
off a great deal of booty, and aggravated matters
further still by killing Sir Dougal Mackenzie, 1
Priest of Kintail, who was then living at Achyuran,
in Glensheil. It would appear that both parties
made more than one raid into each other's terri-
tories, and that the feud continued for some time.
At all events, on a subsequent occasion, Donald
Gorm, hearing that Ellandonan Castle was but very
weakly garrisoned, made a sudden raid upon it with
a number of birlins or galleys, full of his
followers, in the hope of being able to take it
by surprise. The Constable of the Castle at this
time was John Dubh Matheson, of Fernaig, who
had married Sir Dougal Mackenzie's widow,

1 Sir Dougal Mackenzie appears to have been a member of the House of
Kintail. A certain Sir ] >migal Mackenzie is said to have been one of the
Commissioners sent to the Pope in 1491 to procure the legitimisation of
Kenneth a Bhlair's marriage with Agnes Fraser of Lovat. It is not impossible
that this may have been the man who was killed by Donald Gorm nearly
fifty years afterwards, even though he left a young and marriageable widow.
The Sir Dougal who went to Rome is said to have been made a " Knight to
the boot of Pope Clement VIII." The title Sir, however, a-s formerly applied
to the Clergy, did not imply any superiority of rank. It simply meant that
the bearer of it had taken only the degree of Bachelor of Arts, whereas the
title Mr indicated the higher degree of Master of Arts.


and hail recently been appointed to the Constable-
ship in succession to Christopher Macrae. The
rumour that reached Donald Gorm with regard to
the unprotected state of Ellandonan was only too
true, for John Dubh and the watchman were the
only two in the Castle. The advance of the
boats was noticed by the watchman, who gave
the alarm; but there was no time to gather
men from the mainland before the enemy arrived.
It so happened, however, that Duncan Mac Gille-
chriosd was passing by on his way from Lochalsh,
and, hearing the cry of alarm, he made for
the. Castle with all speed. He arrived there before
the enemy, and thirsting for revenge against the
Macdonalds for having lately killed his uncle Miles
at Kinlochewe, he took his stand at the postern
gate of the tower and killed several of the crew of
the first galley as they were landing. As the
enemy crowded upon him in increasing numbers,
he made his way into the tower, and barricad-
ing the gate behind him, joined the Constable and
the watchman in defending the Castle.

Donald Gorm immediately began a furious
battering of the gate, but the dauntless three had
so strongly secured it with iron bars on the inside,
and they harassed the besiegers so much by throw-
ing stones among them from within, that he was
obliged to withdraw his men. Both sides now
began to use their bows and arrows. The Mac-
donalds, who were suffering heavily themselves,
aimed at the embrasures, and in this way they
unfortunately succeeded in killing the Constable.


Duncan was now left alone with the watchman and
his last arrow to defend the fort. This arrow he
resolved to save until a favourable opportunity
occurred for making effective use of it. The oppor-
tunity soon arrived, for at this stage Donald
Gorm had the masts of some of his galleys taken
down for the purpose of trying to make a
breach in the wall or to mount it, and as he
moved round the Castle to discover the weakest and
most suitable point of attack, Duncan, thinking the
opportunity a favourable one, took aim with his last
arrow, and struck him on the foot. The arrow was
a barbed one, and in pulling it out of the wound an
artery was severed. Every possible effort was
made to stop the bleeding, but without avail. The
wounded chief was then conveyed by his men some
distance away from the Castle to a reef, which
is still called Larach Ugh Mhic DhomhnuiU, or the
site of Macdonald's house, where he died.

For this service against the Macdonalds, James
V. gave John of Killin considerable additions of
land in the county of Ross, and the Macraes were
thus once more instrumental in increasing the
substance and the honours of the House of Kin-

Duncan now thought, with some reason, that he
had a good claim to succeed John Dubh Matheson
as Constable of EUandonan, but John of Killin
thought him too rash and passionate for the post.
He then put in a claim for his brother Farquhar,
but, to avoid quarrels and bitterness between
the Macraes and the Maclennans, who were also

The History of the CLAtf maorae. %%

claimants for the post, it was decided to give it to
John MacMhurchaidh Dhuihh (John, the son of
Black Murdoch), priest of Kintail. Duncan was
so much offended at the treatment he received
in return for the excellent service he had rendered
that he left Kintail in disgust, and went to the
country of Lord Lovat, by whom he was kindly and
hospitably received. Lord Lovat gave him the
lands of Culigeran, in Strathglass, but Duncan
killed so many deer in the neighbouring forest of
Ben Vachart that Lovat was soon obliged to move
him some miles away to a place called Crochel,
where he lived for several years. While living at
Crochel the Baron of Kintail paid him several visits,
and frequently invited him to return to Kintail.
Duncan, who had all along retained an affection for
his native place, at last decided to accept Kintail's
offers. 1 Lord Lovat, however, being anxious to
retain him, offered him for a small feu-duty the
lands of Clunes which Duncan's predecessors formerly
held. Duncan agreed to this proposal, and Lord
Lovat being about to proceed to the south, promised
him to have the necessary legal documents drawn
up there before his return. When Lovat departed

1 The year I'i'iT was probably the date of Duncan's return to Kintail. It
was not until after the siege of Ellamlonan Castle in 1539 that Duncan left
Kintail. and the first Lord Lovat, who died after that date, was Hugh, who
was killed at the battle of Blar-na-leine near Loch Lochy in 1544. The news
of his tragic end in such a famous ljattle could hardly have circulated as a
rumour that he died at Braemar. Hugh's successor, Alexander, the fifth Lord
Lovat, died at Aigas Island, in the Beauly River, in 15;i7. For some months
previous to his death he had been travelling for his health, and it is ipjite
possible that rumours of his death may have circulated during his travels, and
may have influenced Duncan's decision to remain in Kintail.


for the south, Duncan went to Kintail to inform
his friends of the offer he had received and his
intention of accepting it ; but while on this visit
a rumour reached him that Lord Lovat had died
at Braemar, and doubting whether Lovat's successor
would be willing to confirm the agreement, he
finally resolved to return to Kintail, where he
received the quarter land of Inverinate and Doris-
duan. At Inverinate, a romantic spot on the
north shore of Loch Duich, he lived for the rest
of his days, as did also his descendants after him for
more than two centuries. Duncan married the
widow of John Dubh Matheson, Constable of Ellan-
donan. She was a daughter of Duncan Ban of
Glenmoriston, and was first married to Sir Dougal
Mackenzie, as already stated. By her Duncan had
two sons and a daughter, who was carried away
from her father's sheiling in Affric, by John Macin-
taggart from Strathglass, who married her, and
by whom he had several sons and daughters.
Duncan lived to a good old age. His sons were —

( 1 ). Christopher, of whom below.

(2). John, who was " a resolute and warlike
man," and took a very active part in the great feud
which raged at this time between the Macdonalds of
Glengarry and the Mackenzies of Kintail. It is
said that " few parties were sent out on desperate
attempts to infest or annoy the enemy but John
was commander, and he seldom or never returned
without bloodshed. He might be called an Hazael
for speed of foot." His brother Christopher used
\,o tell him that his cruelty and bloodshed would


bring judgment upon himself or upon his family ;
and it is stated that, although he had three sons
who lived to old age, their progeny were of no great
consequence. His sons were —

a. Christopher.

b. Duncan, who was also a warrior like his
father, was an old man in 1654, when General
Monk visited Kintail. It is said that, some time
before this, Duncan consulted a local seer as to the
manner in which he should end his days, and was
informed that he would die by the sword. This
appeared so improbable in the case of an old warrior
who had taken part in so many blood}' frays, and
invariably escaped unhurt, that the question was
referred to " Coinneach Odhar," 1 the Brahan Seer,
who confirmed the first seer's prediction. Duncan,
however, gave the matter no credit, but one day,
while Monk and his army were in Kintail, the old
man left his house in Glensheil, and went up
among the hills, where he was met by some soldiers
who were wandering about in search of plunder,
and who spoke roughly to him in English, which he

1 Kenneth Mackenzie, better known as Coinneach Odhar (Dun Kenneth),
or the Brahan Seer, was one of those prophets of former times whose mystic
utterances have so frequently puzzled and startled people by their literal
fulfilment. He is said to have been born in Lews about the commencement of
the seventeenth century, and to have subsecpuently moved to the neighbour-
hood of Brahan, where he worked on a farm as a common labourer. Having
brought upon himself, by certain unguarded utterances, the resentment of
Lady Seaforth, he was by her orders apprehended, brought to trial as a
wizard, and sentenced by the ecclesiastical authority to lie burnt to death at
Fortrose. This is said to have happened while he was still a young man.
(For an interesting collection of the prophecies ascribed to him by the
traditions of Ross-shite, see The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, by Alexander
Mackenzie, Inverness.)


did not understand. Unable to brook such an
insult the old man drew his sword, but was
immediately overpowered and killed by the soldiers.
This, we are told, was all the bloodshed committed
by General Monk and his soldiers in Kintail.
c. Finlay.


i a^.-

• .20-/770



VI. Christopher. — Constable of Ellandonan Castle. — Origin of Fend
between Kintail and Glengarry. — Kenneth, Lord Kintail,
obtains Crown Charter for Glengarry's Possessions in Loch-
carron and Lochalsh. — Christopher and his Family contributed
to Kiutail's success. — Christopher an enterprising Cattle
Dealer. — His Convivial Habits. — His Friendship with Sir
Donald Macdonald of Sleat. — Christopher's Marriage and
Family. — Duncan called Donnacha Mac Gillechriosd. — One of
the Biggest Men in the Highlands. — Ian Mor a Chasteil. —
Duncan and a Companion take part in the Fight of Leac na
Falla, in Skye. — Angus Og of Glengarry invades Lochcarron.
— Lady Mackenzie and the Kintail Men prepare to intercept
Angus Og on his return. — Fight at the Cailleach Rock. — Death
of Angus Og. — His Burial at Kilduich. — Duncan robbed at
Elycht Fair. — The Rev. John, son of Christopher VI. — Tutor
or Governor to Colin, Earl Seaforth. — Other Descendants of
Christopher VI. — The Rev. Finlay Macrae of Lochalsh. — ■
Jacobite and Episcopalian. — Supports Rising of 1715. — De-
prived of his Living. — His Marriage. — His Descendants. —
Maurice, son of Christopher VI. — Christopher Og. — Domhnul
na Smurich, and Donald Beg.

VI. CHRISTOPHER, eldest son of Duncan V., was
for some time Constable of Ellandonan Castle. He
is said to have been "prudent and solid in counsel
and advice, bold, forward and daring when need
required, yet remarkably merciful during the bloody
wars 'twixt Mackenzie and Glengarry." The circum-
stances which led to the great feud between Kintail



and Glengarry 1 appear to have been somewhat as
follows : — Donald Macdonald, who was Chief of
Glengarry about 1580, when the feud broke out,
inherited parts of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, and Loch-
broom from his grandmother, Margaret, one of the
sisters and co-heiresses of Sir Donald Macdonald of
Lochalsh, while Mackenzie of Kintail acquired the
portion of the other co-heiress, by purchase, in 1554.
With the territories of two such rival clans as the
Mackenzies and the Macdonalds, not only closely
adjoining, but in some instances mixed up together,
as those territories now were, trouble was bound to
arise. Men were constantly coming and going
between Lochcarron and Glengarry, and it appears
that in passing through Mackenzie's territories they
frequently committed acts of violence against the
people. In such circumstances it was not difficult
to find an excuse for a quarrel, and an incident soon
occurred which brought matters to a crisis. One of
Glengarry's men, having found it necessary for some
reason to leave his old home, settled, with his family
and cattle, in Glenaffric. Being a great hunter, he
frequently resorted to the neighbouring deer forest
of Glasletter, which then belonged to Mackenzie of
Gairloch. One day, while hunting there, accom-
panied by a servant, he was surprised by Gairloch's
forester, who called upon him to surrender. The
forester was a Macrae called Fionnla Dubh Mac Ian
Mhic Dhomh'uill Mhoir, or Fionla Dubh nam Fiadh

IFor an exhaustive account of this feud, see Mackenzie's History of the
Mackenzies, new edition, chapters on Colin Cam and Kenneth, first Lorc\



(Black Finlay of the Deer), 1 and he also was accom-
panied by a gillie or servant. The hunter refused to
surrender, whereupon Finlay Dubh and his companion
killed both the hunter and his servant, and buried
them under a bank. As soon as the murdered men
were missed, suspicion fell upon the forester and his
gillie, both of whom were brought to trial by Mac-
kenzie of Kintail, but nothing could be proved
against them. Shortly afterwards, however, the
bodies of the murdered men were found by their
friends, and, very little doubt being now left as to
who were the perpetrators of the dark deed, a party
of the Macdonalds set out to take vengeance.
Arriving at Glenstrathfarrar, which then belonged
to Mackenzie of Reclcastle, they plundered the place
and killed a brother of Finlay Dubh, the forester,
called Duncan Mac Ian Mhic Dbomh'uill Mhoir,
whom they found ploughing in his own field. When
tidings of this outrage reached Roderick Mor, who
was then the Laird of Redeastle, and who had old
grievances of a similar kind against the Macdonalds,
he resolved at whatever cost, and in spite of the
advice of more cautious friends, to take up the
quarrel. Such, then, was the commencement of this
feud, which lasted, with little intermission, for more
than a quarter of a century, and which ended in
favour of Mackenzie, who obtained a Crown charter
for Glengarry's possessions in Lochcarron and Loch-
alsh in 1607, and the superiority of all his other
possessions. To this result, which added still further

1 For the Kintail tradition of Fionnla Dubh nam Fiadh and his exploits on
this occasion, see chapter on the legends and traditions of the clan.


to the power and influence of the House of Kintail,
Christopher and his family greatly contributed, and
we read that Kenneth, Lord Kintail, " did always
ask his advice in any matter of consequence he had
to do in the Highlands."

Not only was Christopher a bold and stout
warrior, he was likewise an enterprising man of
business. He was the first man in that part of
the country whc sent cattle to the markets of the
South. For that purpose he bought cattle yearly
from the neighbouring estates, and made so much
money in his cattle-dealing that " if he was as
frugal in keeping as he was industrious in acquiring,
he had proven a very rich man in his own country."
But he appears to have been a man of decidedly
convivial habits, and to have spent his money very
freelv, for when he went to Inverness, or to Fortrose,

Online LibraryAlexander MacraeHistory of the clan Macrae with genealogies → online text (page 3 of 35)