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Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2012 with funding from

National Library of Scotland







(St. Andrews University) Minister at Westerdale, Caithness



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Work wisely and take heed to the end : Be valiant



William Rae, Wick


K\t\i and K»in at .Home and JIbroad







Preface ---------

Introductory - - - -

Memoirs of :

I. IveMacEth, b. 1210 c. - - -85 IL IyeMor, m. 1263 c. f

III. Donald, c. 1300-30 - - - - - - " *1

IV. lye, 1330-70 - - **

V. Donald, k. 1370 - - - "™

VI. Angus, 1370-1403 - ' ' ' ' ' I,

VII. Angus Du, H03-33 ------- oi

VIII. Neil Vass, 1433-50 - " »*

IX. Angus Eov, c. 1460-86 ------ 67

X. lye Roy, 1486-1517 ------- 'J*

XI. 1. John Mackav, 1517-29 - -

XI.2. Donald Mackay, 1529-50 - - " °»

XII. IyeDu, 1550-72 - - - - -9*

XIII. Huistean Du, 1572-1614 i„I

XIV. Donald, 1st Lord Eeay, 1614-49 - - - 125 XV. John, 2nd Lord Eeay, 1649-80 ----- 144

XVI. Donald, Master of Eeay, d. 1680 - - - 159

XVII. George, 3rd Lord Eeay, 1680-1748 - - - - 163

XVIII. Donald, 4th Lord Eeay, 1748-61 - - - 195

Addendum : Eob Donn ------ 20a

XIX.l. George, 5th Lord Eeay, 1761-68 - - - -211

XIX.2. Hugh, 6th Lord Eeay, 1768-97 - - - 216

XIX.3. Eric, 7th Lord Eeay, 1797-1847 - - 22o

XIX.4. Alexander, 8th Lord Eeay, 1847-63 - - - - 234

XX. Eric, 9th Lord Eeay, 1863-75 - - 236

Addendum : A closing chapter ----- -ao

Genealogical Accounts of the :

I. Aberach Mackays - -ji-'

Addendum : The Aberach-Mackay banner - - - - 269

II. Scoury Mackays ------- 286

III. Binhouse Mackays ------- 302

IV. Strathy Mackays - " 31° V. Melness Mackays - - - - 321



VI. Sand wood Mackays ------- 329

VII. Dutch Mackays ------- 339

VIII. Swedish Mackays, now von Key - 343

IX. Galloway Mackays 347

X. Argyle and Western Mackays ........ 360

XL Other branches of the family of Mackay - - - 363

Appendix of Documents :

1. Charter to Gilchrist M'Cav of lands in Kintyre, 1329 - - 370

2. Charter to Ferchard of Melness, 1379 - - - - - 370

3. Charter to do. ,1386 371

4. Gaelic charter to Brian Vicar Mackay of lands in Isla, 1408 - 372

5. Charter to Angus of Strathnaver, 1415 - 375

6. Instrument upon a Precept to lye Mackay, 1497 - - - 376

7. Charter to Odo Mackay of the lands of Diked, 1499 - - 379

8. Gift of non-entry to lye Mcky, 1504 ----- 380

9. Charter to lye Mcky of the lands of Melness, 1511 - - 381

10. A Bond of friendship, 1517 - - - - - - 384

11. A Bond of friendship, 1518 - ------ 385

12. A Bond of friendship, 1522 - ------ 387

13. Charter to Donald of Strathnaver, 1539 - 3SS

14. Sasine to do. ,1540 - - - - 391

15. Charter to Mackay's spouse, 1545 393

16. Charter to Ewir McCay of lands in Kintyre, 1542 - - 394

17. Substance of a letter, 1538 ...... 395

18. Substance of a letter, 1538 ------- 395

19. Substance of a charter, 1540 ------ 395

20. Gift of an escheat to Donald Mackay, 1542 - 396

21. A Bond of friendship, 1549 ----- - 3^7

22. Remission to lye Makky of Farr, 1562 ----- 3W

23. A Contract and Agreement, 1570- ----- 399

24. Charter by Huntly to Mackay, 1570 - - 406

25. Discharge by Hum ly to Mackay, 1571 - - 406

26. Sasine to lye Makky, 1571 - ' - - - - - - 408

27. Charter to Makghie of Balmagie, 1587- - - - - 411

28. Charter to Mackay Forbes of Farr, 1 60S - - - - 412

29. Remission to Donald McKy, 1614 413

30. Tack of teinds by the Bishop of Caithness, 1615 - - 414

31. Charter to M'Cay crowner of North Kintyre, 1615 - - 417

32. Charter of the Little Isles of Strathnaver, 1624 - - - 418

33. Substance of Charter of the lands of Roay, etc., 1628 - - 418

34. Patent of Nobility to Lord Keay, 1628- - - - - 419

35. Extract from a letter by the 1st Lord Reay, 1637 - - - 421

36. Extract from Sir R. Gordon's Farewell Letter, 1627 - 422

37. Marital contract by Munro of Fowlis, 1635 - - 425



38. Resignation by Seaforth of the wadset of Skelpick, 1637 - 428

39. Erection of the parish of Kintail (now Tongue), 1638 - - 429

40. A Bond of friendship, 1639 - - 431

41. Letter by John, 2nd Lord Reay, 1654 ----- 433

42. Articles of Agreement between Reay and Monck, 1655 - - 434

43. Tack of teinds by the Bishop of Caithness, 1665 - 436

44. A Bond of friendship, 1672 - ------ 439

45. Letters of Fire and Sword to Lord Reay, 1668 - - - 440

46. Disposition by Munlo Mcky in Carnach, 1681 - 441

47. Disposition to the Master of Reay, 1710 - - - - 442

48. Extract from letter by Reay on glebe of Fair, 1718 - - 443

49. Document regarding the new erections in Strathnaver, 1724 - 444

50. Letter of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, 1724 - 446

51. A Minute of the Presbytery of Tongue, 1731 - - - 447 51a.Letter by Lord Reay to the Sheriff of Caithness, 1733 - - 448

52. Letter by Lord Reay to the Earl of Sutherland, 1745 - - 450

53. A Bond of friendship, 1745 - - 451

54. Address of congratulation to the Duke of Cumberland, 1746 - 453

55. Letter by Lord Reay anetit the Highlands, 1746 - - - 456

56. Tack of the Reay estate to Mackay of Bighouse, 1756 - - 457

57. Description of the Reay estate, 1797 ----- 4G0

58. Survey of roads in the four northern counties, 1790-99 - - 463

59. Letter by Mrs. Mackay of Skerray, 1817 - - - 465

60. Extract from a letter by Mr. Pat. Sellar, 1819 - - - 466

61. Report regarding sub tenants on Kinloch, 1819 - 467

62. Disposition of sale of the Reay estate, 1829 - 469

63. Rent-roll of the Reay estate, 1678 - - - - - 471

64. Rent-roll of the Reay estate, 1789 - - 475

65. Rent roll of the Bighouse estate, 1819 480

Additions and Corrections- - 483

Index ------------ 485

List of Subscribers --------- 489

Plates :

Portrait of Donald James, 11th Lord Reay - - Frontispiece

Castle Varrich and Ben Loyal ----- to face 60

Coloured arms of Mackay in 1503 - ,,77

Coloured arms of the 1st Lord Reay - - - Portrait of General Hugh Mackay of Scoury - Portrait of Lieut.-General the Hon. Alexr. Mackay - Monument to Lieut. -Col. George Mackay of Bighouse Portrait of the 10th Lord Reay - Portrait of Donald Mackay, tacksman of Melness Portrait of the Rev. Jas. Abeiigh Mackay, D.I).

134 172 220 226 236 237 252



Portrait of John Mackay V. of Strathy - to face 312

Portrait of Andrew Mackay, LL.D. Portrait of Mrs. Louisa Mackay of Bighouse Portrait of Baron Aeneas Mackay, Hague Portrait of Alexr. McGhie of Airds - Portrait of Colonel John M'Kie of Bargaly

327 332 341 351


Illustrations :

Chapter seal of the church of Caithness 38

Aberach Mackay arms -------- 242

The Aberach Mackay banner ------- 275

Kirkton Stone, Strathhalladale ----.. 279

A Durness tombstone -...,.-. 281

Stone in Tongue House -------- 283

Arms of General Mackay of Scoury- - 286

Shield of Mackay of Bighouse ------- 302

Bookplate of Mackay of Strathy - - - - - - 310

Arms of Baron Barthold Mackay ------ 339

Arms of M'Ghie of Balmaghie- --.... 347

Arms of M'Kie of Larg - 352

The Minnigatf stone - ....... 354

Pedigree Tables :

Table A : The Mackays of Strathnaver 97

Table B : The Mackays of Strathnaver, now Barons Keay - 197

A Map of Caithness, Strathnaver, and Sutherland - - to face 488




Y 7" HE plan adopted in this work is to gather the general history in the 1 form of memoirs around the names of the various chieftains of Strathnaver. This is followed by genealogical accounts of the principal families of Mackay ; and these again are followed by an appendix of documents taken for the most part from the hitherto unpublished family papers of the Mackays of Strathnaver, later Lords of Reay. To those who take an interest in our northern history, social development, or place-names, the Reay Papers should prove of no little value. How I stumbled upon them is told at page 2.

Although the idea of writing this book was not seriously entertained until after the discovery of the Reay Papers in 1900, I began to accumulate material, genealogical and otherwise, as early as 1878, when a student at St. Andrews University. After my settlement at Westerdale, the distance from a large library was felt, but I generally managed to get a fortnight's holiday to Edinburgh each year, and spent it working at the Advocates' Library ; while kind friends in the south very generously lent rue from time to time books of reference for study at home. In this fashion the pile of notes continued to grow year by year.

I am deeply indebted to Lord Reay, Chief of Mackay, and to the Rev. Dr. James Aberigh Mackay, Chieftain of the Aberach Mackays, for their encouragement generally, and particularly for their influential letters commending this work, which appeared in the prospectus issued soliciting subscribers. The list of subscribers printed at the end of the book owes not a little of its length to these two letters. At the same time, members of the Clan all over the world, as soon as they learned what I was about, vied with one another in backing me up, and did their utmost to secure subscribers to the Book of Mackay. To one and all I extend my warmest thanks.

To the following I am indebted for the loan of reference books and MSS., viz., Sheriff Aeneas Mackay, K.C., LL.D., Edinburgh ; Colonel



Forbes Mackay of Carskey ; Dr. George Mackay, Edinburgh ; James Macdonald, Esqr., W.S., Edinburgh ; Rev. W. Hall Telford, Reston ; Thomas Middlemore, Esqr. of Melsetter ; William Mackay, Esqr., solicitor, Inverness ; A. N. Macaulay, Esqr., solicitor, Golspie ; John Mackay, Esqr., editor of the Celtic Monthly, Glasgow ; and the Rev. J. Lunclie, Tongue.

Thanks are also due to the following for the use of portraits and illustrations, viz., Lord Reay ; Rev. Dr. J. Aberigh Mackay ; the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland ; Messrs J. Maxwell & Son, Dumfries; Dr. Norman J. M'Kie, Newton Stewart; Mrs. Webster, Helensburgh; Provost A. Y. Mackay, Grangemouth; James F. Mackay, Esqr., W.S., Edinburgh ; Donald Mackay, Esqr., solicitor, Thurso ; Duncan Mackay, Esqr., Cheltenham ; Miss Scobie, Durness ; Mrs. Geddie, Halkirk ; and Mrs. W .Brims, Thurso. The portraits facing pages 220 and 312 are from paintings by Reynolds, that facing page 332 is by Raeburn, while that facing 172 is by one of the Dutch masters.

I take this opportunity of thanking the officials in charge of the following Edinburgh libraries for their great courtesy to me, viz., The Advocates', Signet, University, and Public; nor must I forget to thank the keeper of the Sasine Register at the Register House. I also congratulate Mr. Rae, printer, Wick, on the work which he has turned out for me.

And last, but not least, I owe more to my wife than I care to say, for she laboriously corrected all the proof-sheets as they issued from the press. Notwithstanding our united pains, however, a few errors have crept into the text, but the more important are pointed out and corrected at page 483. As this is my first serious attempt at book writing, and as I had to work in a secluded northern valley, far away from libraries, I venture to crave the indulgence of my readers in view of any defects. If the perusal of these pages gives to some readers a little of the pleasure and the instruction which their preparation gave to me, then the book has not been written in vain.


United Fkee Church Manse, Westekdai.e, Caithness,





WE must at the outset express our great indebtedness to the indefatigable labours in this field of Mr. Robert MacKay, whose History of the House and Clan of MacKay was published in 1829. His genealogical account of the various branches of the MacKay family, though somewhat brief and lacking in dates, is wonderfully accurate so far as it goes. When he wrote the field of Highland family history was practically fallow, and he had to pick his way over the ground very much under the guidance of Sir Robert Gordon, whose partisan spirit often roused his ire. Since then things are very much altered. Various valuable books have been compiled, and many important old books in MS. have been published, shedding light upon our subject. National documents, which could then be only consulted in MS. either at Edinburgh or London, may now be studied fit any good public library in the printed form, and with most helpful indices. AVith the comparatively scanty material at his disposal, Mr. Robert MacKay produced a book which does him credit, and which has often helped us over a difficulty.

As we were collecting information for many years past regarding


our northern history, the theory growingly possessed us that Erie, "th Lord Iteay, who sold the lands of MacKay in 1829, must have left family documents of historical interest, and that, as he died unmarried, these papers might lie in the hands of his factors or lawyers. We brought this theory to the notice of ..Eneas MacKay, LL.D., lately Sheriff of Fife, who encouraged us to prosecute our search, and made some helpful suggestions. Acting upon his advice, we followed up certain clues without discovering anything of importance. In the spring of 1900, just as we were about to consult the Edinburgh Register House, in order to find out if possible who acted for Lord Reay about the time that he sold the estate, we chanced to discuss the matter with a member of our congregation, at one time a clerk in an Edinburgh lawyer's office. This gentleman, to our surprise and delight, straightway informed us that in the vaults of the office where he had served there were two large boxes with the painted inscrip- tion, " Lord Reay," containing documents bearing upon the north, as he had verified for himself during an idle hour.

With this piece of information we set out for Edinburgh, and reported the matter to Sheriff MacKay, who consulted the firm in question, and discovered that our information was correct. Eventu- ally, through the sheriffs influence, the two boxes were entrusted to us for perusal, and but a little examination served to show that they were the Reay Charter Chests, or at least a portion of them. The documents include charters and copies of charters, bonds of friendship, records of transfers of lands, marriage settlements, wadsetts, rent-rolls, etc. There are unfortunately very few private letters among them. They are referred to in the following pages as Reay Papers.

Mr. Thomas Middlemore of Melsetter, in Orkney, and of Hawkes- ley, near Birmingham, very kindly put at our disposal for the purposes of this work an elaborate Search of Sasines, Deeds, Testaments, etc., pertaining to Sutherlandshire, and having special reference to such as bore the name MacKay in that county, executed for him by the


well-known antiquarian, the Rev. Walter Macleod, Edinburgh. To the genealogist this is an invaluable compilation, which we should gladly see published for the benefit of future writers of our northern history.

Through the influence of a Sandwood MaeKay Dr. George MacKay, F.R.C.S.E., Edinburgh— Colonel A. Forbes MaeKay of Carskcy very generously entrusted to us the Blackcastle MS. book, extending to 574 foolscap pages, compiled by the Colonel's grand- father, Mr. Alexander MacKay, F.S.A., of Blackcastle, near Edinburgh, and finished in 1832. In the following pages it is referred to as the Blk. MS. It gives a succinct historical and genealogical account of the Strathnavcr Mackays, together with a genealogical account of its cadet branches. Mr. MacKay of Black- castle had access to the family papers of Eric, 7th Lord Reay, the title deeds of the MacKays of Bighouse and the MacKays of Strathy, some papers in Dunrobin and Thurso Castles bearing on the history of the MacKays, from all of which he made voluminous extracts. By far the larger part of the book is taken up with these interesting extracts.

Mr. Mackay of Blackcastle had also an old family MS. history, which apparently belonged to the Reay family, and which he worked into his history of that family, but unfortunately it is not now among the Reay Papers. Its chief interest lay in that it gave a very different account of the early genealogy of the MacKays from that given by Sir Robert Gordon. Sir Robert says that a certain Walter Forbes was progenitor of the MacKays, but the Blk. MS. derives them from Malcolm mac Eth, Earl of Ross. Of this we shall have more to say. In the House and Clan of MacKay the early genealogy of Sir Robert is accepted, and no reference is made to this old MS. account ; but neither is there any reference made to, or use made of, the Reay Papers. It does not seem that Eric Lord Reay gave much, if any, assistance to the author of the House and Clan of MacKay by setting at his disposal family papers, and the reason


is not far to seek. MacKay's history appeared in 1829, the very year in which Lord Reay sold his Highland estates ; and as his Lordship was making arrangements some years previous to this for selling the same, all his family papers were in the hands of law agents. It was after his estate had been sold and MacKay's history had appeared that Lord Eric consulted Mr. MacKay of Blackcastle, and gave him the Reay Papers to peruse.

Mr. John MacKay of Herrisdale, commonly known as "Ben Reay," author of An Old Scots Brigade, etc., had a strong desire to write a history of MacKay, but old age and frail health prevented him from carrying out his purpose. His papers are also placed at our disposal, but they are for the most part mere scraps, with the exception of his genealogical account of the Mackays of Melness, to which branch he belonged himself. In our account of the said family we follow " Ben Reay " closely, but add a considerable amount of new matter discovered by ourselves in the Reay Papers. We have also been studying this subject for some years, and, however imperfect the following pages may be, we have made a careful search of the public records and read as widely as our limited opportunities and means permitted.


An examination of the public record shows that the name Mac- Kay was spelt in a great variety of ways. The Strathnaver or northern MacKays appear as Makky, Macky, Maky, Mckye, Mckeye, Maekie, Mckie, Mackey, but the commonest form was McKy. The Islay MacKays, whose Charter in Gaelic, of eleven and a half merk lands from Macdonald of the Isles in 1408, is well known, appear as McCei, McAy, etc. The MacKays of Garachty in Bute, one of whom, John McGe, witnessed a document, 10th Mar. 1540, as Sheriff of Bute, appear as Makkay, Makkee, and even Makcawe, but for oftenesfc they are represented, from 151.5 downwards, as Mackaw. The Mac- 7„ir, Kays of Ugadale, who were crowners of north Kintyre from time

Reg. Mag. Sig.


immemorial, held of the Lords of the Isles as is stated in a charter of confirmation by the King, given 11th Aug. 1542, and possessed of the four merk lands of Ugadale and Arnigill in virtue of their office, appear as McKey, MaKKay, MaKKaye, but most commonly as McCay. The Galloway MacKays, of whom there were various families holding a considerable amount of land in Wigton, Kirkcud- brightshire, etc., such as Camlodane, Balgarne, Craichlo, Mertoun, Balmagee, etc., appear as Makke, Makee, Makge, Makgee, Makgie, McGie, McGhie, and Mackghie, but towards the close of the 16th century they appear generally as McKie and McGhie.

MacKay represents in English the Gaelic name MacAoidh, a compound of mac (son), and Aoidh the genitive of the proper name Aodh. Aodh frequently appears in the literature of the Gael as the name of Picts, Scots, and Irish ; but its present aspirated form indi- cates a harder formation, aed, which indeed is found in earlier Irish writings, and is supposed to mean " the fiery or impetuous one." Gaelic Err.

. . . Dictionary-.

Some authorities have equated Aodh with Hugh, but we do not accept that view, as Hugh, which stands for the Gaelic Huistean, is generally represented in Latin documents by Hugo, while Aodh is transformed into Odo or Odoneus. Nay more, there are various instances in which two brothers may be found, the one called Aodh and the other Hugh, as, for example, the family of Donald 1st Lord Reay, whose first and third sons were so named respectively. This shows that they were considered two different names then, just as is the case to-day among Strathnaver people. Probably the best English equivalent of Aodh is lye, if it can be called an equivalent ; and it is a pity that this name, as characteristic of the MacKays once as Rorie is of the Macleods or Ranald of the Macdonalds, is not more com- monly used nowadays.1 Like the name MacKay. Aodh also has been twisted into a great variety of forms to suit the fancy of different ■writers. In the Earldom of Sutherland, written about 1630 by Sir

1. Among Strathnaver people at the present day a person addressed as lye, in Gaelic, signs his name and is addressed, in English, as Isaac. . The surname Maelsaac, to be found in the West Highlands, may be a corrupt form of Mackay.


Robert Gordon, the name is spelt lye, and in some cases Y simply. In the 1415 charter by the Lord of the Isles to Angus Du of Strath- naver, it is spelt Eyg, and in the will of Sutherland of Dunbeath, dated 1456, it is spelt Aytho.1 " Mariota filia Athyn," the first wife of the " Wolf of Badeuoch " and the mother of his children, was a daughter of Athyn, another form of the name Aodh. In some of the Latin documents included in the Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, in Fordun's Annalia, etc., Malcolm MacEth or MacKay, who claimed the earldom of Moray, and became first Earl of Ross about 1157, is variously denominated MacEth, MacHeth, MaeEd, MacHead, etc. Dr. Macbain, who edits the second edition of Skene's Highlanders of Scotland, writes at page 414 " The name Heth is the most ill-used syllable I know of. It appears as Head, Ed, Etli ; the Gaelic form of all these monstrosities can easily be identified. It is the very favour- ite name of Aed or Aodh, later translated as Hugh. Macheth is an old form of MacKay."


There is a pretty general agreement that the MacKays and Forbeses sprang from the same stock, or were closely connected in the distant past. Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston, son of Alexander, 11th Earl of Sutherland, and tutor of John, 13th Earl, during his minority, wrote a history of the earldom of Sutherland about 1630, which gives a vast amount of information, not only about the Sutherland family, but about the MacKays, Sinclairs, and many other northern clans. Sir Robert, however, is notoriously unjust to every family who did not happen to be on friendly terms with his own, and particularly so to the MacKays, whom he bastardizes with great freedom. His hostile sjiirit towards this family is nakedly shown in the Farewell Letter of Advice, of which we give extracts in our

1. u Item.— I geve and assigns to my donchtir Marion al the lave of my lanilis that I have nndisponyt npone, and sa mony ky aid and zong as I have wyth Aytho Fanrcharsone, or wyth Mae- Kaj Benauch [Bernard and sa mony ky as scho aucht to have of William Polsony's ky." Miscellany of the Bunnatyne Chib. Vol. III.


Appendix Xo. 36. Sir Robert says that the MacKays sprang from " one called Walter, reported by some to have been the bastard sone of the Lord Forbese his predicessour, who at that time was not vet Earld. ok

SUTIIR. P. 302.

of the surname of Forbese." This Walter, he proceeds, became chamberlain to the Bishop of Caithness, married bis daughter, and obtained from the said bishop church lands in Strathnaver. From the long genealogical account which follows, Walter must have lived about 1150 a period sufficiently remote to preclude any knowledge of his legitimacy or otherwise, we should say. The only fact which interests us presently in this account is the statement that the Mac- Kays and Forbeses were supposed to have had a common origin.

In 16.52 the eccentric Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty wrote the True Pedigree and Lineal Descent of the most Ancient and Honour- able Family of Urquhart, In the House of Cromarty, from the Creation of the World until the year of God 1652. He solemnly tells us that in the 8th century of the Christian era Vocompos, head of the House of Cromarty, " had to his second brother one named Phorbas Urquhart, and Hugh to the third ; of whom, some few hundred years after that, the names of Forbes and Mackay had their beginning." We laugh at Sir Thomas' crazy genealogies, but note the fact that he records the MacKays, Urquharts, and Forbeses were of the same stock.

In 1667 William Forbes edited and drew up a preface for the House of Forbes, compiled by Mathew Lumsden in 1580. In this preface he says Ochonochar, an Irish lord who came over to Scotland, had a son Ochonochar, and that this second Ochonochar had three sons, who became the respective progenitors of the families of Forbes, Urquhart, and MacKay. He proceeds :

" Ochonochar's third son, called Walter Forbes, went to Kaitness, and attended the Bishope thereof, and he being familiar with the Bishope's daughter, begate her with child, with whom, fearing the Bishop's wrath, he fled to Strathnaver, and possessed himself of the twelve davoch and land of Dromesos [Durness], then belonging to the Bishope ; whereupon the Bishope, raising a number of men, went to Strathnaver, and possessed


himself again of the said lands. Walter and the Bishopc's daughter being fled, left behind them their little sone ; and it being told the Bishope that the child was his daughter's, begotten by Walter Forbes, the Bishope caused immediatlie fenss the court in the name of the child, who was called John Forbes, of whom is descendid the house of MacKay who is

now Lord Rea This narratione of the originall of the

houss of MacKay, the first Lord Reay did relate to credable gentlemen who related the same to the writer hereof, etc."

These three writers others also might be quoted to the same effect1 agree in saying that there was an original connection between the Strathnaver Mackays, who live in the extreme north of Scotland, and the Forbeses, who live in the old provinces of Moray and Buchan. Sir Robert Gordon and Forbes expressly state that they had had their information from the MacKays themselves. Sir Thomas Urquhart, no doubt, obtained his from the same source, as he was on very intimate terms with the MacKays, who, like himself, were staunch supporters of the two kings Charles. They were associated in the northern campaign of 1640 when Inverness was captured by the royalists, and again at the battle of Worcester, in 1651, Captain Mac- Kay of Borley, at the head of some MacKays, fought alongside the Knight of Cromarty. But what these writers assert is borne out by the warm friendship existing between the , two families for some centuries. As shall be afterwards shown, Donald MacKay of Strath- naver helped the Forbeses in their Aberdeenshire feuds about 1534; his son lye Du MacKay lived in close amity with them up to his death in 1572, as various documents show, while the sons of lye Du went even the length of calling themselves " MacKay-Forbes." That is to say, Huistean MacKay of Strathnaver, Donald of Scourie, and William of Bighouse, are styled in various documents " Mackay- Forbes." Donald, afterwards, 1st Lord Reay, sometimes put this addition to his surname, and at least two of his sons were so styled. In the days of John, 2nd Lord Reay, Forbes bishop of Caithness, a

1. Fraser, in the Wardlaw MS., e.g., writes, "A pretty fellow called Alexander Buys, killing a boar by singular manhood, nruce called him Fear Buys, whence is the original of the Forbes, and his son Ihe gave origin to the McKyes."


cadet of the house of Forbes, befriended the MacKays with regard to church lands which the Sutherland family managed to get a hold of; and even in the days of Lord George, grandson of Lord John, the friendship of Mackay and Forbes was maintained. Thus from about 1500 down to the time of the Marr rebellion in 1/15, there is docu- mentary evidence of such a close friendship existing between these two families, living so far apart, as to strongly confirm the common tradition that they were of a kindred stock.

Skene, in his Highlanders of Scotland, suggests that the MacKays were descended of the ancient Caithness Maormors. He writes :

" It happens unfortunately for the solution of this question, that the Clan MacKay is not contained in the manuscript of 1450 [a Gaelic genealogical MS. in the Advocates' Library] ; and in the absence of direct testimony of any sort, the most probable supposition seems to be that they were descended from the ancient Gaelic inhabitants of the district of Caithness. If this conclusion be a just one, however, we can trace the early generations of the clan in the Sagas, for we are informed by thein that towards the beginning of the twelfth century ' there lived in the Dolum Katanesi (or Strathnaver) a man named Moddan, a noble and rich man,' and that his sons were Magnus Orfi, and Ottar, the Earl in Thurso. The absence of all mention of Moddan's father, the infallible mark of a Norwegian in the Sagas, sufficiently points out that he must have been a native ; but this appears still more strongly from his son being called an earl. No Norwegian under the Earl of Orkney could have borne such a title, but they indiscriminately termed all the Scottish maormors and great chiefs earls, and consequently Mocldan and his son Ottar must have been Gaelic Maormors of Caithness, and consequently the MacKays, if a part of the ancient inhabitants of Caithness, were probably descended from them."

As regards Moddan and his son Earl Ottar of Thurso, we venture to suggest that they were descended of an earlier Moddan, who fell at Thurso about 1040. In the Orkney inga Saga we read that King Karl Hundi (whom Dr. Skene identifies as King Duncan, son of Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld, by his wife, a daughter of King Malcolm MacKenneth) gifted Caithness to Moddan, his sister's son, conferring upon him at the same time the dignity of an carl. As Caithness was at this time under the sway of the Norsemen, to secure the royal gift


meant stern righting. Earl Moddan is reported to have marched

north with a large army, and taking up his quarters at Thurso, was

there surprised and slain. We hear no more of this Earl Moddan, but

it is not at all likely that his family would lightly relinquish their

claims to lands which the king gifted, and consequently we think that

" Moddan the noble man of Dolum Katanesi," who flourished about

1100, was the son or grandson of Moddan, nephew of Duncan, king

of Scots. Skene, in the extract quoted above, gives substantial

reasons for believing that the Moddan family was Celtic, and not

Norse. This view is further strengthened by the fact that the name

Moddan is purely Celtic. It is a compound of Mo-Aodh-an, and

means ''a votary of St. Aidan," while the name Aidan is a Gaelic

diminutive of Aodh. This we state upon the authority of Professor

Mackinnon, Celtic Chair, Edinburgh. From the account given in the

Sagas this family appears to have latterly lived on more friendly terms

with the Norse Earls of Orkney, who were overlords of Caithness,

than with the Scottish kings. But there is nothing surprising in this.

In course of time they may have found it better policy to court the

favour of the Norseman, rather than maintain a struggling allegiance

to the distant and unstable Scottish throne.

torf.evs. Moddan, who lived in the " Dales of Caithness," had two sons,

Earl Ottar of Thurso and Magnus " the generous ; " he had also two

daughters, Helga and Frakork. Helga married Earl Hakon,1 Paul's

sou, and bore to him Ingibiorg, who married Olave the Red, King of

OBK.SAGA. Man and the Isles, whose daughter Ragnhild became the wife of Introduction. .

Somerled regulus of Argyle. Frakork, the other daughter of Moddan,

married Liot, " a great man and chieftain in Sutherland," says Tor-

fasus. The two sons of Moddan may be the " da mac Matni " (the

two sons of Matan), who are said, in the Book of Deer, to have

witnessed at Ellon, along with the nobles of Buchan and others, the

I. On an island in Loch Hakon, a considerable sheet of water about three miles south of Tongue House, may be seen the ruins of a house called Orianan (sunny), which is traditionally reported to ha ve been the summer resort of a Hakon and his lady. Was this Earl Hakon and his wife, Helga, the daughter of Moddan V


solemn morfcmaiuing of offerings by Colban Mormaer of Buchan to the monastery of Deer, shortly after 1132. Distant though Caithness be from Buchan, there is nothing unreasonable in this surmise, for there was in ancient times a close ecclesiastical connection between the province of Caithness and the territories of Moray, Buchan, and Aberdeen, as Dr. Stuart, editor of the Book of Deer, observes.1 And if the Moddau family came originally from the north-east shoulder of Scotland, as we suspect, the surmise is all the more reasonable.

The Highlanders of Scotland, in which it is suggested that the MacKays are descended from the Moddan family, was written by Skene when a young man, in 1836 ; but before the conclusion of his great work, Celtic Scotland, in 1880, some of his earlier and immature views underwent considerable change. Dr. JEneas Mackay, lately lecturer on Constitutional Law and History in the University of Edinburgh, afterwards Sheriff of Fife, and the author of various learned historical works, informs us that Dr. Skene, in his later years, was inclined to believe that the MacKays, formerly called Clan Morgan, passed over from Moray and Buchan to Strathnaver when King Malcolm cleared that part of Scotland of its rebellious inhabi- tants, about 1160. This also seems to have been the view of the well-known Gaelic scholar, the late Rev. Dr. Maclauchlau, Edinburgh, who, when discussing the MacHeth claimants to the earldom of Moray, writes : " The race of Mac-Heth may appear among the Mae- Heths or Mac-Aoidhs, the Mackays of Sutherland, nor is this rendered less probable by the Morganich or sons of Morgan, the ancient name of the MacKays, appearing in the ' Book of Deer ' as owning posses- ^55"clfcoi: sions and power in Buchan." Curiously enough, this is exactly the position taken up by the Blk. MS., which claims that the MacKays of Strathnaver are descended from Malcolm MacEth, first Earl of Ross.

1. According to the Aberdeen Breviary, St. Fergus, who came from Ireland, after founding three churches in Aberdeenshire, crossed over to Caithness, where he also reared some churches, one of which is at Wick. St. Drostan, one of the founders of the Deer monastery, has various dedica- tions in Caithness, at Canishay, Wesfcfield, and Westerdale, at which latter place there is a noted holy well, called Tobair Trostan (well of Trostan). St. Moddan, who also laboured in Aberdeen- shire, as many place-names show, has dedications in Caithness at Bower and Olrig.


The Strathnaver Mackays were known in ancient times as the Clan Morgan. In the Earldom of Sutherland, Sir Robert Gordon repeatedly applies this epithet to them. In one of the Clan Ranald MSS., commonly called Little Boole, the writer gives the names of various Highland chiefs who flourished during his youth, when " Charles, son of James sixth, was king ; " and among them mentions Skene mss. "Donald Duabhail MacKav, chief of the Clan Morgan." This was

XVI. 2. "

Donald, afterwards 1st Lord Reay, chief of the Strathnaver MacKays. He was and is still known to the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders of Strathnaver as Donald Dughall. To the old Highlanders the Danes were Du-Ghalls, " black strangers," and the Norwegians were Fion- Ghalls, " white strangers," for what reason we cannot say. It was because the first Lord Reay served for some time under the King of Denmark that he came to be nicknamed Dughall. That the Clan MacKay was once called Clan Morgan has never been disputed by competent authorities. The earliest reference to the Clan Morgan, of which we have any knowledge, is to be found in a Gaelic entry in the Booh of Deer, dated a few years later than 1132; and in this entry we find the toisheach of the clan, his two sons, and the two sons of Matan, witnessing a legal transaction at Ellon, the old capital of Buchan. We proceed to give a literal translation of the entry, and the entry itself we give in a foot-note :2

" Colhain, mormaer of Buchan, and Eva, daughter of Gartnait, his married wife, and Donnachadh son of Sithig, toisheach of Clan Morgan, immolated all the offerings given to God and to Droston and to Columkill and to Peter the Apostle, free from all the burdens for a share of four davachs of what would come on the chief monasteries (if Scotland generally and on the chief churches. Before these witnesses : Broecin, and Cormac abbot of Turbruaid, and Morgan son Donnachadh, and Gilli-Petair son of Donnachadh, and Malaechin, and the two sons of Matan, and all good ones of Buchan in witness hereof in Elon."

The name Morgan or Morcunn comes from the Gaelic word Mor,

1. Robaid Colbain mormaer Buchan 7 Eua ingen Gartnait abenphusta 7 Donnachac mc Sithig toesech clenni Morgain nahuli edbarta ri Dia 7 ri Drostan 7 ri Columcilli 7 ri Petar apstal onahulib dolaidib archuit cetri dabacb do ni thissad ar ardmandaidib Alban cucotchenn 7 ara hardcheliaib. Test, his : Brocein 7 Cormac abb Turbruaid 7 Morgunn mc Donncbaid 7 Gilli Petair mo Donncbaid 7 Malaechin 7 da mc Matni 7 mathe Buchan huli naididnaisse in Helain.— See Book of Deer.


" the sea," aud is said by the author of the Gaelic Etymological

Dictionary to mean " sea bright." The place-name Moray, which

appears in the older forms Murev, Murav, etc., comes also from the lc . Shaw's Moray.

root Mor, aud means " the sea side." As Catuv, the locative case of Cat, denotes Catland or Sutherland, aud Galluv, the locative case of Gall, denotes the Norseman's land or Caithness, so Moruv, the loca- tive case of Mor, denotes the sea-side land or Moray. And just as the inhabitants of Sutherland are called in Gaelic to this day Cattich, and those of Caithness Gallich, so probably did the name Morgan arise to denote Moraymen in general, or a certain section of that people. We are justified in concluding that there was some connec- tion between the names Morgan and Murray, as both sprang from the same old Gaelic root Mor, the sea.

The editor of the Book of Deer is perplexed over grants of land by Moraymen, such as Malcolm the son of Maelbrigte and Mael- snechte the son of Lulach, to a monastery in the rival province of Buchan. We fail to appreciate his difficulty, for the church was not a provincial institution. To us it seems most natural that officials in Moray should help a neighbouring monastery of such standing as that of Deer. As Toisheach, first or leader, is supposed to have been the official next in order after the Ri, petty king, or the Mormaer, over- lord, it may be that Duncan of Clan Morgan appeared at Ellon on this occasion to represent the Moraymen, seeing that they were with- out a Mormaer since Angus fell at Strathcathro in 1130. Indeed, this solemn assembly on the moot-hill of Ellon, where representatives from Caithness and Moray, as we believe, were present with the nobles of Buchan, may have been due to the anxiety of the Deer officials to secure their church-lands by as legal .and binding a title as possible, in view of the then distracted state of the country, owing, among other factors, to the growing feudalism of