History of the Clan Macrae

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Barons of Kintail

See also Barons Mackenzie of Kintail

See also Chief Mackenzie of Kintail.

The Macraes were a small but important clan in the district of Kintail, in the south-west of the county of Ross, where they are said to have settled in the fourteenth century, under the chieftanship of the Barons Mackenzie of Kintail.

See The Connection of the Macraes with the House of Kintail:

One of the sons of Macrae of Clunes is said to have gone to Kintail.  This was probably during the first half of the fourteenth century, before the family of Mackenzie was very firmly established there.  He might have been attracted to Kintail, perhaps by family connections, but quite as likely by the fact that, as the Chief of Kintail was still struggling to establish his family there, the circumstances of the country might afford opportunities of distinction and advancement for a man of enterprise.  It is a singular fact that each of the first five Barons of Kintail had only one lawful son to succeed him.  Mackenzie being thus without any male kindred of his own blood, earnestly urged Macrae to remain with him in KintailMackenzie's proposals were accepted, and Macrae settled in Kintail, where he married one Macbeolan or Gillanders, a kinswoman of the Earls of Ross, by whom Kintail was held before it came into the possession of the Mackenzies.  As the Macraes and Mackenzies were said to be of common ancestry, the Baron of Kintail expected loyal and faithful support from his newly arrived kinsman, and he was not disappointed.  The Macraes were ever foremost in the cause of the chiefs of Kintail, and by their prowess in battle, their industry in the arts of peace, and in many instances by their scholarly culture and refinement, they were mainly instrumental in raising the Barony of Kintail, afterwards the Earldom of Seaforth, to the important position it occupies in the annals of Scottish history.

There do not appear to have been any Macraes settled in Kintail as landholders before this, but it is more than probable that several of them had already been in the service of Mackenzie.  It is said that Ellandonan Castle was garrisoned by Macraes and Maclennans during the latter part of the thirteenth century, when it was first taken possession of by Kenneth, the founder of the House of Kintail.   The newly arrived Macrae of Clunes, however, took precedence of the others, and he and his family gradually assumed a position of great importance in the affairs of Kintail.  So loyal were the Macraes in the service of Kintail that they became known as Mackenzie's "shirt of mail."  This term was generally applied to the chosen body who attended a chief in war and fought around him.  It would thus appear that the bodyguard of the barons of Kintail was usually compsed of Macraes.  But in addition to the important services they rendered as mere retainers of the House of Kintail, the Macraes were for many generations Chamberlains of Kintail, Constables of Ellandonan Castle, and sometimes Vicars of Kintail, so that the leading members of the Clan may be said to have taken, from time to time, a much more prominent part in the affairs of Kintail than the Barons themselves did.  This continued to be the case until Kintail passed out of the possession of the Mackenzies in the early part of the [nineteenth] century.

It was always the privilege of the Macraes to bear the dead bodies of the Barons of Kintail to burial.  At the funeral, in 1862, of the Honorable Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie, daughter and representative of the last Lord Seaforth, the coffin was borne out of Brahan Castle by Macraes only.  The scene was not without pathetic and historic interest.  This lady was the last of Seaforth's race, who was a Mackenzie by birth, and it is a remarkable fact that at the funeral, in 1881, of her son, Colonel Keith William Stewart Mackenzie, in whose case the name Mackenzie was only an adopted one, the Macraes, although they claimed their old privilege, did not muster a sufficient number to bear the coffin, and the vacant places had to be supplied by the Brahan tenantry.  With the funeral of Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie, then, may be said to have ended for ever the intimate and loyal connection which existed for five centuries between the Macraes and the house of Kintail and Seaforth.

See The Connection of the Macraes with the House of Gairloch

The Macraes were mainly instrumental in establishing the family of Gairloch.  About 1480 Allan Macleod, laird of Gairloch, with his two young sons, was barbarously murdered by his own two brothers.  His wife was a daughter of Alexander Ionraic (Alexander the Just), sixth Baron of Kintail, who died about 1490, and sister of Hector Roy Mackenzie, a younger son, who became progenitor of the lairds of GairlochHector Roy took up the cause of his sister, and obtained from the King a commission of fire and sword for the destruction of the Macleods of Gairloch.  In this task, which proved by no means easy, Hector received his main support from the Macraes, one of whom had meanwhile encountered the two murderers and killed them both single-handed in fair fight at a spot in Gairloch, which is still pointed out.  In 1494 Hector Roy received a grant of Gairloch by charter from the Crown, but it was not until the time of his grandson, John Roy (1566-1628) that the Macleods were finally expelled, and the supremacy of the Mackenzies fully established.

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

See Fionnla Dubh Mac Gillechriosd

Murdo Mackenzie, fifth chief of Kintail, died in 1416, leaving an only child to succeed him.  This child's name was Alexander, and is known as Alister Ionraic (Alexander the Upright).  Alexander being a minor at the time of his father's death, was sent as a ward of the King to the High School in Perth, probably after the Parliment which was held at Inverness by James I. in 1427.  During his absence at school, the Constable of Ellandonan Castle, whose name was Macaulay, appears to have been left in charge of affairs, but through the misconduct and oppression of certain illegitimate relatives of the young chief, serious troubles arose in Kintail.  The Constable's position becoming now somewhat difficult, he became anxious for the return of his young master, and as he was himself unable to leave his post he proposed Finlay Dubh as the most suitable person to go to Perth to bring the young chief home, "who was then there with the rest of the King's ward children."  This choice was approved by the people.  Finlay accordingly went to Perth, and prevailed upon Alexander to escape from school without the consent or knowledge of the master.  To avoid pursuit they went to Macdougal of Lorn instead of going straight home.  Macdougal recieved them kindly, and Alexander made the acquaintance of his daughter, and afterwards married her.   In due time they arrived in Kintail, and by Finlay's councel and help, the oppressors of the people were soon brought under subjection, and order established throughout Mackenzie's land.  The good counsel and judicious guidance of Finlay Dubh was not lost upon Alexander, who became a good, just and prosperous ruler, and greatly increased the power and influence of the House of Kintail.