Alexander Macrae.

History of the clan Macrae with genealogies online

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Career and Death. — His Offers to Mr Farquhar. — Mr Farquhar
persuaded by the "Tutor of Kintail " to decline them. — Mr
Farquhar visits Lews. — Death of Lord Kintail. — Mr Farquhar
appointed Vicar of Kintail and Constable of Ellandonan
Castle. — Earl Colin's periodical visits to Kintail. — Wadsets to
Mr Farquhar and his Sons. — Earl Kenneth receives his Early
Education from Mr Farquhar. — Complaints made to the
Bishop of Mr Farquhar's worldliness. — Preaches before the
Bishop. — Complaints dismissed. — Leaves Ellandonan Castle.—
General Monk's Visit to Kintail. — The Rev. Donald Macrae
appointed to Kintail as Assistant to his Father. — Social cir-
cumstances of Kintail in Mr Farquhar's time. — His Marriage
and Family. — His Death.

son of Christopher (VI.), was born at Ellandonan
Castle in 1580. He was a delicate child, but grew
up to be a man of good physique and great bodily
strength. His father, perceiving that he possessed
good ability and a talent for learning, sent him to
school at Perth, where he remained for four or five
years, and became very proficient in Latin. Some


of his exercises and discourses in that language are
mentioned as being still preserved in the year 1704.
From Perth he proceeded to the University of
Edinburgh, where he studied under James Reid,
one of the Regents or Professors of the University,
and soon surpassed all his fellow students in the .
study both . of classics and of philosophy. His '
repute for learning and scholarship was so great at
the University that he was unanimously chosen in
1603 to succeed James ' Reid as Regent, but
Kenneth, Lord Kintail,' who was in Edinburgh at
the time, earnestly opposed the appointment, as he
was anxious to secure Mr Farquhar's services for his
own people in the Highlands. Mr Farquhar himself
was not anxious to accept the appointment either,
as his great desire was to become a preacher of the
Gospel, and ..with' a view to that calling he had.
already studied divinity at the University. He
therefore fell in readily with Lord Kintail's pro-
posal, and about. this time left the University to fill-
the post of headmaster of the Fort rose Grammar
School, which then enjoyed a great reputation in the
North, and where he remained for about fifteen
months. He appears to have passed his " trials " or
examinations for the Church while he was at Fort-
rose, and having been admitted to Holy Orders he
very soon acquired celebrity as a " sound, learned,
eloquent, and grave preacher."

About this time some ironworks 1 were commenced
at Letterewe, on Loch Maree, in the parish of Gair-

l For an interesting account of the historic ironworks, not only in
Gairloch but in other parts of the Highlands, see J. M. Dixon's Qairloch, (.age
75, &c. -■ - .-.


loch, by Sir George Hay, who afterwards figured
prominently in Scottish history as the Earl of Kin-
noull and High Chancellor of Scotland. Sir George
introduced a colony of Englishmen to carry on the .
works. It therefore became necessary to provide
for that parish a clergyman who could preach well
in English, and Bishop David Lindesay, who then
held the diocese of Ross, selected the young Mr
Farquhar as the most suitable man at his disposal.
He was accordingly appointed Vicar of Gairloch in
1608, and continued to hold that office until 1618.
We read, however, that another Vicar, the Rev.
Farquhar Mackenzie, was admitted to the parish of
Gairloch about the year 1614. The probability is
that the two clergymen shared the work of the
extensive parish between them, and that the Rev.
Farquhar Macrae restricted his ministrations to the
English-speaking ironworkers, and to the part of
the parish which lies to the north of Loch Maree,
and which was then regarded as part of the parish
of Lochbroom. Mr Farquhar's ministrations gave
great satisfaction, not only to the native people of
Gairloch, but also to the ironworkers, and more
especially to Sir George Hay himself, who found
great pleasure in his society, and became much
attached to him. Sir George was a learned lawyer
and a man of science, and probably did not find the
contemporary Laird of Gairloch — John Roy Mac-
kenzie 1 — such congenial company as the scholarly
and cultured Vicar. John Roy does not appear to

l John Roy Mackenzie was Laird of Gairloch from 1566 to 1628. He was
a warrior of renown, anrl among his bravest followers were some of the
Macraes of Kiutail. See chapter on the legends and traditions of the ckui.


Lave been a very loyal supporter of the Church, for
in 1612 we find Mr Farquhar raising an action,
against him for payment of the teiuds or tithes.
The action went on for several years, and was won
by Mr Farquhar, who, in 1616, let the tithes of
Gairloch to Alexander Mackenzie, Fiar of Gairloch,
for the yearly sum of £80 Scots. 1 Mr Farquhar
lived at Ardlair, which is only about four miles from
Letterewe, 2 where Sir George lived, and as there
were probably very few men of scholarly and scien-
tific tastes in Gairloch in those days, Sir George and
Mr Farquhar were, no doubt, a good deal in one
another's company. There is a large and prominent
rock of a peculiar shape at Ardlair called the
" Minister's stone," which is still pointed out as one
of the places where Mr Farquhar used to preach,
both in Gaelic and in English. 3

About 1616 Sir George Hay left Letterewe for
the south, in 1622 he was appointed High Chancel-
lor of Scotland, and was afterwards created Earl of
Kinuoull. His subsequent career was one of great
distinction and usefulness until his death in 1634,
at the age of sixty-two. So much was Sir George
attached to Mr Farquhar, that when he was leaving
Letterewe he strongly urged him to leave Gairloch
and seek a wider field for his talents in the south.
Sir George offered him a choice of several parishes
which were in his own patronage. He also promised

1 Mackenzie's History of the Maekenzies, New Edition, pages 415-416.

2 Both Ardlair and Letterewe are situated on the Nurth-East Coast of
Loch Maree.

3 There iR an illustration of this stone in Mr .1. H. Dixon's hook on Gair-
loch (page 81), which also contains several interesting and appreciative
references to Mr Farquhar. . .


him a yearly pension, and undertook to get him
ecclesiastical promotion. Mr Farquhar decided to
accept this liberal offer, and to accompany Sir George
to the south, and considering his own ability and the
great influence of his patron, it is quite possible that
if he had done so his career in the Church would
have been a very successful and distinguished one.
But Colin, Lord Kintail, or more probably his uncle
Roderick, the celebrated " Tutor of Kintail " — for
Colin was then a minor — interposed, as Lord Kenneth
had done in Edinburgh, being resolved at whatever
cost to retain Mr Farquhar's services for his own
people, and promising him the vicarage of Kintail
in succession to the occupying incumbent, the Rev.
Murdoch Murchison, Mr Farquhar's uncle, 1 who
at this time must have been well advanced in years.
Mr Farquhar once more sacrificed bright and
promising prospects out of a sense of loyalty to the
House of Kintail, and remained in Gairloch.

It was during Mr Farquhar's incumbency of Gair-
loch that Kenneth, Lord Kintail, finally brought the
island of Lews under his rule. In 1610 his lordship

1 It would appear from Fasti Ecclesue ScoticaruB that Mr Farquhar
succeeded his grandfather as Constable of Ellandonan and Vicar of Kintail,
as it is there stated that Christopher Macrae, that is Mr Farquhar's father,
married a daughter of Murdoch Murchison, Constable of Ellandonan and
Vicar of Kintail, Mr Farquhar's predecessor, who would thus be also his
grandfather; but according to the Rev. John Macrae, Mr Farquhar succeeded
his uncle in the Vicarage of Kintail. There are three men of the name
Murchison mentioned in connection witli Kintail during this period : — (1)
John Murchison, called John Mac Mhurchaidh Dhuibh (John, the son of Black
Murdoch), Priest of Kintail, who was made Constable of Ellandonan, in
succession to John Dubh Matheson, who was killed by Donald Gorm in 1539 ;
(2) John Murchison, who was Reader of Kintail from 1574 to 1614 (the
Reader was a man appointed to read the Scriptures and the new Protestant
Service Book of this period) ; (3) Murdoch Murchison, who was Yicar of


visited the island, and with a view to revive the
religious life of the people, which was then at a very
low ebb, he took Mr Farquhar along with him. The
state of matters in Lews may be imagined from the
fact that for forty years previous to Mr Farquhar's
visit no one appears to have been baptised or married
in the island. The people had practically lapsed into .
heathenism, but Mr Farquhar's visit worked a change
and his mission proved thoroughly successful. Large
numbers of the people were baptised, 1 some of them
being fifty years of age, and many men and women
were mairied who had already lived together for
years. The success of this mission went far to re-
concile the inhabitants of Lews to Lord Kintail's
rule, to which they all the more cheerfully and
readily submitted upon his promising that he would
provide for the permanent settling among them of
such another man as Mr Farquhar. Having suc-
ceeded in establishing good order and contentment
in the island, no doubt largely by the aid of Mr
Farquhar, who appears to have remained there for
some time, his lordship, who was seized by sudden
illness, returned to Fortrose, where he died shortly

Lochalsh from 1582 to 1614, when he became Vicar of Kintail, until his death
in 1618. These men were undoubtedly members of the same family, but it is
not clear what their relationship was to one another. From an examination of
the dates it would seem probable that the last two were brothers, and the sons
of the first. In that case, if Murdoch was Mi- Far juhir's uncle, as he almost
certainly was. Mr Farquhar's mother would be a daughter, not of the Rev.
Murdoch Murchison, as stated on page 38 of this book, but of John Murchison,
Priest of Kintail, who was made Constable of Ellandonan in 1539.

1 According to one of the traditions of Kintail, the number that came to
be baptised by Mr Fanjuhar was so great that, being unable to take them
individually, he was obliged to sprinkle the water at random on the crowd with
a heather besom.


afterwards, in 1611, and was succeeded by his son
Colin, who was subsequently created first Earl of

In 1618 the vicarage of Kintail became vacant
by the death of the Rev. Murdoch Murchison, who
was also Constable of Ellandonan Castle, and Mr
Farquhar was appointed to fill both offices. The
deed by which those appointments were conferred
upon him was drawn up at Fortrose in that year. 1
At Ellandonan Castle he lived for many years in
" an opulent and flourishing condition, much given
to hospitality and charity." Colin, Earl of Seaforth,
lived most of his time at Fortrose, but made period-
ical visits to Ellandonan in " great state and very
magnificently," Referring to these visits, the Rev.
John Macrae, of Dingwall, grandson of Mr Farquhar,
ga ys — " I have heard my grandfather say that Earl
Colin never came to his house with less than three
and sometimes with five hundred men. The Con-
stable (of Ellandonan) was bound to furnish them
victuals for the first two meals, till my lord's officers
were acquainted to bring in his own customs."
When Earl Colin visited his West Coast estates the
lairds and gentlemen of the neighbourhood and of
the Isles, including Maclean, Clanranald, Raasay,
and Mackinnon, used to come to pay him their
respects at Ellandonan Castle, where they feasted in
great state, and consumed "the wine and other
liquors" that were brought from Fortrose in the
Earl's train. When these lairds and gentlemen left
the castle Earl Colin called together all the principal

1 The Rev. John Macrae's history of the Macraes,


men of Kintail, Lochalsh, and Lochcarron, who went
with him to the forest of Monar, where they had a
great hunt, and from Monar he used to return to

Earl Colin died at Fortrose in 1633, and was
succeeded by his brother, Earl George, who con-
firmed Mr Farquhar in his various appointments
and offices, and renewed his wadset rights to the
lands of Uornie, Inig, Aryugan, Drambuie, and other
places in Kintail. Not only did Mr Farquhar secure
these rights during his own lifetime, but on payment
of a certain sum of money to the Earl he received
an extension of them for some years in favour of his
son, the Rev. John Macrae, of Dingwall, while the
wadset rights of Inverinate, Dorisduan, and Let-
terimmer, which appear to have been already in the
family for some generations, were confirmed in favour
of his son Alexander on payment of a sum of six
thousand merks Scots.

When Earl George's son and heir, Kenneth, who
was born at Brahan Castle in 1G35, was about six
years of age his father placed him under the care of
Mr Farquhar of Ellandonan, where the sons of
neighbouring gentlemen were brought to keep him
company. Here the young heir remained for several
years without suffering any disadvantage, for we
read that under the wholesome rather than delicate
diet prescribed by Mr Farquhar, he began to have
a " healthy complexion," and grew up so strong that
he was able to endure much labour and fatigue,
and so great in stature that he became known as
Coiuneach Mor— big Kenneth, He also became SO


thoroughly acquainted with the language and cir-
cumstances of the people, that he was considered,
in his own time, to he the best chief in the High-
lands and Islands of Scotland. Nor was his book
learning neglected, for when he was taken from
Ellandonan to be placed in a public school, he gave
every evidence, not only of ability, but of good
training also. He entered King's College, Aberdeen,
in 1651, but the troubles of the Civil War prevented
him from finishing his course, which, as far as it
went, did full credit to Mr Farquhar's tuition.

But the influence and prosperity of Mr Farquhar
excited the envy and jealousy of some of his neigh-
bours, who made complaint to Patrick Lindesay,
Bishop of Ross, that he was becoming too worldly
and was neglecting his ministerial duties. Upon re-
ceiving these complaints the Bishop called upon Mr
Farquhar to preach before the next provincial
Assembly of the Diocese or Synod. The Bishop him-
self preached on the first day from the text, " Ye are
the salt of the earth." It was Mr Farquhar's turn
to preach the second day, and he had unfortunately
chosen the same text as the Bishop. Mr Farquhar
told some of his brother clergymen of this fact, and
it eventually came to the ears of the Bishop, who
sent for Mr Farquhar and told him on no account to
change his text. Mr Farquhar acquitted himself on
this occasion with such eloquence and ability that it
was " a question among his hearers whether the High-
land salt or Lowland salt savoured best," and the
Bishop himself was so impressed with the sermon
that he not only dismissed the complaints as ground-



less but received Mr Farquhar into special favour.
This must have occurred comparatively early in Mr
Farquhar's incumbency of Kintail, as Bishop Patrick
Lindesay's rule of the Diocese of Ross terminated in
1633 and it was probably some time before that
date , as we are told that he was " held in esteem by
the Bishop ever after "-a phrase which would seem
to imply that the Bishop's personal acquaintance
with him extended over several years. Bishop
Patrick Lindesay was succeeded by Bishop John
Maxwell, who invited Mr Farquhar on more occasions
than one to preach before him. His brother clergy-
men were always greatly pleased with his perform-
ances in the pulpit, and on one occasion when the
Bishop himself was asked for his opinion, he declared
Mr Farquhar to be " a man of great gifts, but un-
fortunately lost in the Highlands, and pity it were
his lot had been there." Had Mr Farquhar chosen
to carry his services to the more tempting fields ot
work afforded by the large towns of the South, no
doubt his career might have been very much greater
and more distinguished from a worldly point of view,
but the memories which he left behind him in Gair-
loch, and more especially in Lochalsh and Kintail,
where his name is still remembered with affection
and pride, clearly proves that his talents were not
lost even in the Highlands, and that his work among
the people bore rich fruit.

In 1651, Mr Farquhar left Ellandonan Castle

after a residence of thirty-three years, under cir-
cumstances described as follows by the Rev. John
Macrae in his history of the Mackenzie* :-Aiter


the defeat of the supporters of King Charles II. at
Dunbar, on the 3rd September, 1650, and while Earl
George was absent in Holland, we find his son,
Kenneth, then a lad of about sixteen, raising men in
Kintail for the Royalist service. He was accom-
panied by his two uncles, Thomas Mackenzie of
Pluscardine and Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin, 1
Roderick Mackenzie of Dochmaluag, and others.
For some reason or other, not explained, Mr
Farquhar incurred the displeasure of Lochslin, who
was acting as leader, and who would not march off
with the men until Mr Farquhar was removed from
Ellandonan Castle. Mr Farquhar, however, "refused
to go without violence, lest his going voluntarily
might be interpreted as an abdication of his right,
a yielding to the reason pretended against him, and
when all the gentlemen of my lord's friends there
refused to put hands on him, and the young laird
(Kenneth), his foster, refused to lay his commands
on them to remove him, Young Tarbat, 2 being vexed
for delaying the march of the men for the King's
service, and Lochslin himself, led him to the gates
of the Castle, and then Mr Farquhar told them he
would go without further trouble to them, for he
was well pleased to be rid of the Island, because it
was a bad habitation for a man of his age and
corpulency." It is said, also, that he found it too

1 Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin was the father of Sir George Mackenzie
of Rosehaugh, Lord-Advocate of Scotland, a well-known historian and lawyer,
and who, in consequence of his severe administration of the law against the
Covenanters, has sometimes been called the " Bloody Mackenzie."

2 Young Tarbat was George Mackenzie, afterwards first Earl of Cromartie,
and at this time about twenty years of age.


cold for his old age, which is not unlikely, consider-
ing the exposed nature of the site on which the
castle stood, nor is it unlikely either that the duties
of Constable were hecoming too heavy for a man
of his advanced years. The question of Mr
Farquhar's expulsion from Ellandonan Castle came
before the Preshytery of Dingwall on the 5th July,
1651, 1 when a letter was read from Mr Farquhar,
who excused himself from attending, " being unable
to travel so far" ; while Simon of Lochslin excused
his absence from the same meeting on the ground
that he was employed in the " present expedition "
—that is the expedition which ended in the defeat
of the Royalist Army at Worcester on the 3rd
September, 1651. The collapse of the Royalist
party at Worcester led to fresh ecclesiastical
developments in the Presbytery of Dingwall, and
this case does not appear to have come under
consideration again. On leaving the castle Mr
Farquhar took up his residence at a sheltered spot
in the neighbourhood, called Inchchruter, " where
he lived very plentifully for eleven years, some
of his grandchildren, after his wife's death,
alternately ruling his house, to which there was
a great resort of all sorts of people, he being very
generous, charitable, and free-hearted." When
General Monk's army visited Kintail in 1654, 2 they
took away three hundred and sixty of Mr Far-
quhar's cattle, for winch his friends strongly urged
him to put in a claim for compensation when King

1 Inverness and Dingwall Presbytery Records, edited by William Mackay.

2 For an account of General Monk's visit to Kintail, see Appendix E.


Charles II. was restored in 1660, but the old man
refused to do so, being so loyal to the House of
Stuart that he considered the successful restoration
of the King sufficient compensation for any loss he
might have suffered in the Royalist cause.

In 1656 Mr Farquhar, who was then seventy-six
years of age, is described as " being now aged and
infirm, and so unable to do duty as formerly, or as is
necessary to embrace or exercise the office and
function of the ministry at the said kirk (of Kintail)
as their lawful and actual minister." Accordingly
the Presbytery of Dingwall, at a meeting held on
the 14th February in that year, 1 granted an Act of
Transportation to Kintail on behalf of Mr Donald
Macrae of Urray (Mr Farquhar's son), who had
received a call from the congregation of Kintail with
the consent of Mr Farquhar himself and the
approval of the Earl of Seaforth. Mr Donald was
admitted to Kintail as fellow-labourer and " con-
junct" minister with his father, on the 20th July
following, by the Rev. Alexander Mackenzie of
Lochcarron. A lengthy document, drawn up on the
24th June by the Presbytery, after "long and
mature deliberation," and setting forth in great
detail the conditions of this "conjunct ministrie,"
is preserved in the Records of the Presbytery of
Dingwall. Notwithstanding the care with which
this document was drawn up, difficulties arose
between the father and the son with regard to the
possession of the vicarage, and the matter was
discussed, privately, by Mr Donald's request, at a

1 Inverness and Dingwall Presbytery Records, edited by William Mackay.


meeting of the Presbytery of Dingwall, held on the
29th of December, 1G57, when Mr Donald promised
to abide by the decision of the Presbytery. The
Presbytery gave its decision in favour of Mr Far-
qnhar, who appears to have spent the remainder of
his days in peace.

It is so frequently the custom to speak only of
what was wild and unsettled in the Highlands of
two or three centuries ago that, to anyone interested
in the social history of that part of the country, it
must be very pleasant to contemplate the life-long
work of such a man as Mr Farquhar in a parish so
Highland and so outlying as Kintail; but there were
many such men in those days — men whose scholarly
and cultured refinement was a source of sweetness
and light to the community among whom their lot
was cast ; and though the memory of many of them
may have passed away in the great social changes
which theHighlandshave been undergoing for the last
century and a half, yet they were the salt of the earth
to their own generation, ami the silent and hidden
influence of their lives and their labours may still lie
seen in the politeness and culture which is some-
times to be found even in the humble cottage of the
Highland crofter. In the days of Mr Farquhar,
Kintail was well peopled, and, being the ancestral
home of one of the most powerful noblemen in Scot-
land, it was a place of considerable importance.
The principal men of the district came into very
frequent personal contact with the Fail himself,
with the natural result that they also became
keenly interested in the great religious and political


movements with which the Chiefs of Kintail were
in various ways so intimately associated. Conse-
quently we find among the people of Kintail, in a
very marked degree, the high political and religious
tension which so frequently marks a period of civil
and revolutionary warfare. Perhaps in no other
district of the Highlands was the religious and
political feeling of the people more pronounced
at this time than in Kintail and the neigh-
bourhood. This fact is lully borne out by the
tone of the Female/ Manuscript, which is a
collection of Kintail poems of this period, and to
which reference is made elsewhere in this book.
Such, then, were the circumstances of the Highland
community of which Mr Farquhar was for nearly
half-a-century the central figure, and the chief guide

Online LibraryAlexander MacraeHistory of the clan Macrae with genealogies → online text (page 5 of 35)