Alexander Macrae.

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is mentioned hereafter.

6. Farquhar, fourth son of Alexander of Inver-
inate and Mary Mackenzie of Dochmaluag, lived at
Morvich. He married with issue, one of whom —

a. Murdoch, who is mentioned as taking a pro-
minent part in the skirmish at Ath nam Muileach
(the ford of the men of Mull), in GlenafFric, on the
2nd October, 1721, when Donald Murchison of
Auchtertvre. with about three hundred followers,
met and repulsed William Ross of Easter Fearn,
near Tain, who was proceeding to Kintail under the
escort of a company of soldiers to collect rents on
the Seaforth Estates on behalf of the Forfeited
Estates Commissioners. 1 Murdoch married Mary,
daughter of Farquhar X., and left with other issue-
John, the celebrated Kintail poet, commonly
called Ian Mac Mhurachaidh, whose Gaelic songs are
i Appendix E.


still well known in Kintail and Lochalsh. These
songs are of very high poetical merit, and this,
together with the strong and effective local colour-
ing they possess, helps to account for the deep
and lasting impression which the poet made on
his countrymen, and the prominent place which
his name occupies among the traditions of Kintail.
The poems deal chiefly with the pursuits and de-
lights of such a country life as he himself led among
his native glens and mountains, many of which he
has invested with associations which must continue
classic and sacred to his countrymen so long as any
of them are left in Kintail to speak the Gaelic
tongue. Ahout 1770 a great many of the people
of Kintail emigrated to America, and the poet
resolved to seek his fortune there also. His friends
endeavoured to persuade him to remain at home,
but nothing could shake his resolution. It is said
he was so greatly esteemed in the Highlands that,
when his intention to leave the country became
known, several neighbouring lairds offered him valu-
able lands on their estates if he would only remain
in the country. But the spirit of adventure was
then abroad in Kintail, and, notwithstanding the
prospects held out to him at home, the poet was
as much as anyone under its influence. There are
various traditions as to the motives which induced
him to leave the country, but the chief motive was
undoubtedly the adventurous desire to seek fortune
in a new field beyond the Atlantic, as so many of
his countrymen did at this time. On the day of his
departure, many of his friends accompanied him to


the heights of Auchtertyre in Lochalsh, and the spot

is still' pointed out where he took his farewell of
them. But things went hard with him in America.
When the War of Independence broke out, he cast
in his lot with the Loyalists, whose cause soon
became the losing one, and, after sharing in the
hardships and defeat of the British armies, he at
last perished a fugitive among the primeval woods.
During the time of his adversity in America, he
composed several songs, which were brought back
to Kintail, and in which he expresses with much
beauty and pathos the yearning of his soul to return
to the scenes and the friends of happier days. 1 He
married before he left Kintail. It is doubtful who
his wife was, but the tradition in Kintail is that she
was Christina Macrae, daughter of Alexander Hoy
of the Torlysich family.'- He had three sons,
Charles, Murdoch, and Donald. He also had
a daughter whom he left behind him a child in
Kintail, and who afterwards married Finlay Mac-
rae, who was schoolmaster at Fadoch, in Kintail,
a grandson of the Rev. Finlay Macrae, with
issue, as already mentioned.

b. Farquhar, called Farquhar Og (Farquhar the
younger), had, with other issue, a son called Donald
Ban, who had a son Murdoch, who had a son, the
Rev. Donald Macrae, who was born in 1802,

1 Appendix J.

a In Sir J. D. Mackenzie's genealogical tables of the Mackenzie.?, it is
stated that about this time Winifred Mackenzie, of the Doehmaluag family
by her father and the Fairburn family by her mother, married John Macrae,
a poet of Kintail. At all events, the poet lived on terms of the closest
friendship with the Fairburn family.


ordained a minister of the Free Church by the
Presbytery of Lews in 1844, and died at Cross, in
Lews, on the 15th November, 1876, with issue, six

c Alexander is mentioned as taking part in the
affair of Atli nam Muileach. He appears to have
had a son John, who is also mentioned in connection
with the same affair.

d. Anne, married Alexander Mac Gillechriosd
Macrae, in Strathglass, and had issue — Christopher ;
Isabel, who married as his second wife Alexander
Macra of Ardintoul ; Margaret, who married Dun-
can MacAlister Mac Gillechriosd, and had a son a

7. Murdoch, fifth son of Alexander of Inver-
inate and Mary Mackenzie of Dochmaluag, came to an
ultimely and tragic end. He was out hunting in
Glenlic one day in the early winter, and, according
to tradition, found a man stealing his goats. Hav-
ing captured the thief, Murdoch was leading him
along, but as they were passing the brink of a
precipice called the Carraig (Rock), the prisoner suc-
ceeded in pushing Murdoch over the rock, at the foot
of which his body was found after a search of fifteen
davs. The death of Murdoch was such a myster-
ious affair that there arose a belief in Kintail that
the dark deed was the work of an evil spirit,
and the spot where the body was found was
long believed to be haunted, but it is said that, many
years afterwards, an old man in Strathglass con-
fessed on Ids deathbed that he was the murderer,
and gave a full account of the event. Another


version of the same tradition says that the goat-
stealer was accompanied by his little grandson, who

was a witness of the murder, and who afterwards
went to America, where he lived to a very advanced
age, and related the circumstances of the murder on
his deathbed. The Glenlic hunt and the death of
Murdoch occupy a very prominent place in the tradi-
tions of Kintail. 1 Several elegies composed on the
occasion have been preserved, and some of them are
of a very high order. The traditions with regard to
those elegies are somewhat vague, and it is not
easy to arrive at definite facts, but some of them
are believed to have been composed by John Mac-
donald, Ian Lorn, 2 the Lochaber Bard, who was the
contemporary of the sons of Alexander of Inverinate.
It is said that Ian Lom's life being at one time in
danger in his own country, he fled for refuge to Kin-
tail, where he was living with the Inverinate family
at the time of Murdoch's death, and that on each of
the fifteen days during which the search lasted, he
composed an elegy. Another tradition says that
some of the elegies were composed by Murdoch's
brother, Duncan. In any case, the fragments that
have been preserved are of great merit, and not un-
worthy even of such poets as Ian Lorn and Donnacha
nam Pios. One of the elegies contains a verse in
which all Murdoch's brothers are mentioned, except

1 See chapter on legends and traditions of the clan.

2 John Macdonald, or Ian Lorn (Hare John), was a celebrated Gaelic poet
of the family of Keppoeh. He was a personal friend and a devoted supporter of
the Earl of Montrose. One of his chief productions is a descriptive poem on
the victory gained by Montrose over the Earl of Argyll at Inverlochy, in 1645.
Ian Lorn died at a very advanced age about 1710.


Alexander, who may possibly have died before :
'S tuirseaoh do sheachd braithrean graidh,
Am parson ge hard a leugh,
Thug e, ge tuigseach a cheaird,
Aona bharr-tuirs air each gu leir.
Bho thus dhiubh Donnachadh nam Pios.
Gillecriosda, 's an dithis de'n chleir,
Fearachar agus Ailean Donu,
Uisdean a bha trom 'n ad dheigh. 1

The parson mentioned in the first of these verses
was undoubtedly Murdoch's brother — the Rev.
Donald of Kintail, who, from the reference here made
to him, seems to have written an elegy on this
occasion, but the manner in which Donnacha nam
Pibs is mentioned would seem to imply that he
himself was not the author, at all events of the
poem from which these verses are quoted.

Murdoch left a young widow, and at least two
sons, who grew up and married with issue.

8. Allan, sixth son of Alexander of Inverinate
and Mary Mackenzie of Dochmaluag, left no male

9. Hugh, seventh son of Alexander of Inverinate
and Mary Mackenzie of Dochmaluag, will be men-
tioned hereafter.

10. Christina, daughter of Alexander of Inver-
inate by his first wife, Margaret Mackenzie of Red-
castle, married Alexander Matheson of Achtaytoralan,
in Lochalsh, an ancestor of the Ardross family.

1 Sad are thy seven beloved brothers,— the parson though profound is his
learning, — though his office is one of giving comfort, yet he surpassed the
others in his grief.

First among them is Duncan of the silver cups, then Christopher and the
two clergymen, Farquhar, Allan of the auburn hair, and Hugh, who was sa.d
after thee.



IX. Duncan, called Donnachadh nam Pios.— His Character and
Attainments.— Traditions about Him.— The Silver Herring.—
The Oak Trees at Inverinatc— Duncan as a Poet. — The
Fernaig Manuscript. — A Valuable Contribution to Gaelic
Literature.— Eeligion and Politics of the Poems contained in
it. — Professor Mackinnon's Estimate of Donnachadh nam Pios
and his Work.— His Tragic End.— His Marriage and Family.—
X. Farquhar.— His Marriage and Family.— XI. Duncan.— His
Marriage and Family.

IX. DUNCAN, eldest son of Alexander of Inver-
inate (VIII.), by his first wife, Margaret Mackenzie
of Redcastle, was commonly known as Donnachadh
nam Pios, which means Duncan of the silver cups,
a name said to have been given to him probably be-
cause of the magnificence of his table service. He
was a man of high character, a poet, and a skilful
mechanician, and many anecdotes and traditions
illustrative of his attainments are still related about
him in Kintail and Lochalsh. It is said that when
he was a student in Edinburgh he assisted in
forming a plan for bringing the water into that
citv- There is a tradition that on one occasion a
strange ship had her mast broken in passing through
Kyle Kea. The captain, unable to proceed any
further, was advised to appeal to Duncan for help.


Duncan took the matter in hand himself, and spliced
the broken mast so skilfully that the joining could
hardly be seen, and in return for this service the
grateful captain gave him a silver herring, which
remained for a long time an heirloom in the family,
and which was commonly believed by the people of
Kintail to possess the magic power of attracting
herring into Loch Duich. It is also said that the
oak trees at Inverinate were reared by him from
acorns that he brought from France. There is
reason, however, to believe that Duncan's trees have
been cut down, and that the present trees are not
so old as his time.

It is, however, as a poet that Duncan achieved
his greatest distinction. Fragments of poetry
ascribed to him still survive orally among the people
of Kintail, and Professor Mackinnon of Edinburgh
University, has proved 1 beyond any reasonable
doubt that he was the compiler of the Ferndig
Manuscript and the author of many, if not of most,
of the poems contained in it. This manuscript,
which has recently been printed' 2 consists of two
small volumes of paper in pasteboard covers, about
eight inches long and three broad. The two
volumes together consist of one hundred and
twenty-eight pages, of which about one hundred
and five are closely and neatly written upon in
the handwriting of the period. It contains about

1 Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Volume XI.

2 Reliquue Celticte, left by the late Rev. Alexander Cameron, LL.D.,
edited l>y Alexander Macbain, M.A.. and the Rev. John Kennedy, and pub-
lished by the Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing
Company. Limited, Inverness, 1894.



tour thousand two hundred lines. It was com-
menced in the year 1(588. and the latest date
mentioned in it is the year 1G93. The spelling
is phonetic and very difficult, if not quite un-
readable, for one who is accustomed only to the
modern Gaelic spelling. In addition to poems by
Duncan himself, the manuscript contains poems also
by writers who can easily he identified as his
relatives and kinsmen, such as his great-grand-/^
father, Macculloch of Park ; his father-in-law, Mac-
leod of Raasay; his brother, the Rev. Donald
Macrae of Entail. There are poems also by Bishop
Carswell of the Isles ; Alexander Munro, teacher,
Strathnaver, and others. The history of the
manuscript from the time of the writer until the
present century is unknown. In the year 1807, it
was in the possession of Mr Matheson of Fernaig,
father of the late Sir Alexander Matheson of
Ardross. Hence the name by which it is now
known. We afterwards find it in the possession of
Dr Mackintosh Mackay, on whose death, in 1873,
it was handed over to Dr W. F. Skene. It is
now in the keeping of Mr Alexander Macbain, of

The Fernaig Manuscript is a valuable contribu-
tion to Gaelic literature, and next to the Dean of
Lismore's book it is said to be the most important
document we possess for the study of older Gaelic.
But it possesses more than mere philological value.
Its poetry, which is mainly religious and political,
affords an agreeable glimpse of the religion and the
politics of the remote Highlands at the time of the


Revolution. In Politics the authors of these poems
are Jacobites, in Religion they are ardent Episco-
palians, and they evidently had a clear, intelligent,
and comprehensive grasp of the great questions of
the day, not simply as those questions affected their
own local interests, but as they affected the
kingdom as a whole. Though the poems deal with
the state of the country in unsettled times of
warfare and revolution, they nevertheless breathe,
even against political and religious opponents, a
spirit of kindly toleration which must afford, at
all events to patriotic Highlanders, a pleasing
contrast with the narrow bigotry and religious
intolerance which formed so striking a feature of
this period in the south of Scotland.

" He (Donnachadh nam Pi5s) was undoubtedly,"
says Professor Mackinnon, " a remarkable man and
a character pleasant to contemplate. I have no
reason to doubt that there were many like-minded
Highland gentlemen living in those days — cultured,
liberal, and pious men ; but undoubtedly Duncan
Macrae, the engineer and mechanician, the ardent
ecclesiastic, the keen though liberal-minded
politician, the religious poet, and collector of the
literature of his countrymen, is as different from the
popular conception of a Highland Chief of the
Revolution as can well be conceived. We have
it on the testimony of Lord Macaulay that Sir
Ewen Cameron of Lochiel was not only a great
warrior, not only eminently wise in council, eloquent
in debate, but also a patron of literature. It is a
high character to attain in that rude age, and from


£.r.; r *



(5^ —

Fac-simile Page of Fernaig MS.


so severe a judge of Highlanders as Lord Macaulay
undoubtedly was. Duncan Macrae did not possess
the great gifts, mental and physical, of Eoghan
Dubh-. 1 With kindly exaggeration the English
historian calls Lochiel the Ulysses of the Highlands.
By no figure of speech would we be justified in
claiming such a high sounding title as this for
Donnachadh nam Pios. And yet, the Highland
chief who, among the distractions of Civil War and
in the scanty intervals of leisure wrested from a
useful, honoured, and industrious life, sat down
to compose Gaelic verse and to collect the poems
composed by his countrymen and neighbours, is
highly deserving of our affection and admiration.
Such a man was Duncan Macrae.

Altogether, the Fernaig Manuscript appears to
me to be an important contribution to our stock
of Gaelic literature ; the political and religious
intelligence, the devout and tolerant spirit, the
strong sense and literary power displayed by the
various writers in rude and turbulent times, are
creditable to our people, while the enlightened
compiler is a Highland Chief of whom not only the
Macraes, hut all his countrymen, may well be
proud." 2

But Duncan was not merely a mechanician and
a poet, he was also a practical man of the world,
and prospered in his affairs. His end, however, was

1 Eoghau Dubh (Black Ewen) is the name by which Sir Ewen Cameron of
Lochiel was usually known in Gaelic.

2 Professor Mackiunou, on the Fernaig Manuscript in the Transactions of
the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Volume XI.


tragic. Having gone on one occasion to the " Low
Country " to negotiate the purchase of the lands
of Affric from The Chisholm, he was returning home
accompanied bv a single attendant, who possessed
the fatal and involuntary power of causing anyone
whom he might happen to see in the act of fording
a river to be drowned. 1 The homeward journey was
accomplished by Duncan and his servant without
accident or mishap, until they reached Dorisduan in
the Heights of Kintail. Here it was necessary to
cross the River Conag, which happened to be in
flood. The servant forded the river in safety, and
then threw himself on his face on the ground lest he
might chance to see his master in the water. Hav-
ing remained in that attitude long enough, as he
thought, for his master to gain the bank, he turned
round and caught sight of his master, who was
still struggling in the water, and who immediately
lost his footing in the stream. Duncan succeeded,
however, in recovering himself, and in getting
sufficiently near the bank to seize hold of the
branch of a tree, but the unfortunate servant,
losing all presence of mind in his anxiety, still felt

1 This fatal power was called, at all events in some parts of the Highlands,
" Or na h'aoine " (the charm of the fast or of Friday), and was believed to be
possessed by some men in Kintail within very recent times. A man well
known to the author was, on one occasion about forty years ago, returning
home from church, with his wife, on a wet afternoon, in Strathcouon. They
were accompanied by a shepherd from Kintail, and on the way they had to
ford a stream which was in high flood. When they reached the stream the
shepherd plunged in, waded to the other side, and then stood still on the
opposite bank, with his back to the stream, until the other man and his wife,
who had great difficulty in crossing, came up to him. The man, struck by the
strange behaviour of the shepherd, said to him—" You were going to allow
my wife and myself to get drowned without offering to help us." " Perhaps,"


constrained to look at his master, who vainly
struggled for some time to gain the bank, but finally
lost his hold and was drowned. By this accident
the family is said to have lost " much property," 1 as
Duncan had valuable papers on his person at the
time, and among them the title deeds of Affric.
Many local traditions have grown round the death
of Donnachadh nam Pios, and the sad and tragic
event has been commemorated both by elegies and
pibrochs. The exact date of Duncan's death is not
known, but it was some time between 1693 and

Duncan married Janet, daughter of Alexander
Macleod, fifth laird of Raasay, and sister of John,
sixth laird, commonly called Ian Garbh. Ian Garbh,
who was drowned off the north coast of Skye while
returning from a visit to the Lews, left no issue,
and so the succession to the estates of Raasay came
to Janet and her sister, Giles, who were served heirs
in 1688. But Janet and her sister, being anxious
to maintain the dignity of their own clan, resigned
or sold their rights in 1692 to their cousin, Alex-
ander Macleod, who succeeded as the seventh chief

replied the shepherd, " it is a good thing for you and your wife that I did not
offer to help you." The shepherd believed that he possessed the same fatal
power as the servant who accompanied Donnachadh nam Pios, and that if he
saw the man and his wife in the stream they would both be drowned.

1 Though there seems to be no documentary evidence of this loss, yet
Duncan undoubtedly held lands in the Chisholm country. There is a sasine on
charter of apprising under the Great Seal in favour of Duncan Macrae of
Inverinate, of the lands of Meikle Comer. Comerroy, aud others, in the parish
of Kilmorack and shire of Inverness. At Edinburgh, 10th July, 1674, and
sasine on 12th September, 1674. in presence of Christopher Macrae, in Beolak,
in Kintail, and others. Alexander Macrae, in Achachaik 'Achyark ?), as Sheriff
and Bailie in that part, gives sa-ine.


of the family. It is said that the words of the
satirical ditty known in the west of Ross-shire as
Cailleach Liath Rasaidh (the grey haired old woman
of Raasay) were composed, on hearing of this trans-
action, by a Kintail wit, who was probably zealous
for the dignity of the Inverinate family, and had
perhaps hoped that Raasay might come into their
possession. Janet herself appears to have possessed
poetic talent, and is said to have composed an elegy
on the death of her husband. By her Duncan had
issue —

1. Farquhar, mentioned below.

2. Kenneth, who was one of the ringleaders of
the riot at Dingwall Church in 1704, which has been
already referred to. He married and left issue.

3. John married and left issue. There is a John
Macrae of Inverinate mentioned as taking a pro-
minent part in the affair of Ath nam Muileach,
and this Avas probably the man.

4. Margaret, who married the Rev. Finlay
Macrae of Lochalsh, with issue, as already men-

5. Another daughter, whose name is not recorded.
X. FARQUHAR, eldest son of Duncan IX.,

about whom very little is known, married, in 1694,
Anne, daughter of Simon Mackenzie, first laird of
Torridon, and died in 1711, with issue —

1. Duncan, mentioned below.

2. Christopher, who married and had issue,
at least one son, Farquhar, called Ferachar Ban
(Fair Farquhar) of Fadoch. He married Mary, a
sister of Archibald Macra of Ardintoul. This Mary


died shortly before the 6th June, 1823, after a
married life of sixty-two years. Her husband was
alive at the time of her death, but he was com-
pletely blind and almost deaf with age. He died
before 1826. They left issue — Hector ; Duncan;
Alexander, who appears to have been educated at
at Aberdeen, and to have graduated M.A. in 1803 ;
John ; and several daughters, one of whom, Isabel,
was married to a Duncan Macrae, who was dead
in 1826.

3. John, who is said to have been a man of
great physical strength, and of whom it is related
"that on one occasion, at Loch Hourn, he carried away
from a boat, across the beach, a large barrel of salt
under each arm, one of which a man of ordinary
strength could, with difficulty, lift from the ground. 1
John is witness to a sasine by his brother, Duncan
Macrae of Inverinate, to Florence Mackenzie, his
spouse, at Coul, 10th August, 1725.

4. Janet, married Christopher Macrae, at Dru-
daig, a descendant of the Rev. Donald, son of the
Rev. Farquhar Macrae VII.

l The following extract from a letter written in Kintail in 1826 refers to
this incident, and is worth quoting as an instance of the usual tendency to
magnify the ' ; good old days " : "I have heard my father remark that the
people of his native country are much degenerated in strength, as many
anecdotes, still well known, will show. One trial of strength he often spoke of
as heiug particularly well authenticated. John Macrae, uncle to Farquh»r
Macrae, late Fadoch, was at Loch Hourn with Simon Murchison, brother of
Alexander of Auchtertyre, when they observed a man carrying up salt from
the seaside to the beach, a barrel at a time. ' Do you see,' says Macrae, ' that
man is boasting.' He then went and took up a barrel under his arm. ' Will
you, - .-ays he, ' help me to take up this other to my haunch ?' Simon did so
with very great difficulty, and Macrae swaggered away with both up to the
beach. This was related to my father by the above Simon Murchison."


Online LibraryAlexander MacraeHistory of the clan Macrae with genealogies → online text (page 7 of 35)