History of the Clan Macrae


Ironworks in Gairloch

(Previously: Rev. Farquhar Macrae)

About this time some ironworks (For an interesting account of the historic ironworks, not only in Gairloch but in other parts of the Highlands, see J. H. Dixon's Gairloch, page 75 &c.) were commenced at Letterewe, on Loch Maree, in the parish of Gairloch, by Sir George Hay, who afterwards figured prominently in Scottish history as the Earl of Kinnoull and High Chancellor of Scotland.

Sir George Hay and Mr. Farquhar

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 Mackenzie (John Roy Mackenzie was Laird of Gairloch from 1566 to 1628.  He was a warrior of renown, and among his bravest followers were some of the Macraes of Kintail.  See "Legends and Traditions") -- such congenial company as the scholarly and cultured Vicar.  John Roy does not appear to have been a very loyal supporter of the Church, for in 1612 we find Mr. Farquhar raising an action against him for payment of the teinds 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. (Mackenzie's History of the Mackenzies, New Edition, pages 415-416.)  Mr. Farquhar lived at Ardlair, which is only about four miles from Letterewe, (Both Ardlair and Letterewe are situated on the North-East coast of Loch Maree), where Sir George lived, and as there were probably very few men of scholarly and scientific 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. (There is an illustration of this stone in Mr. J. H. Dixon's book on Gairloch (page 81), which also contains several interesting and appreciative references to Mr. Farquhar.)

Sir George appointed High Chancellor of Scotland, and created Earl of Kinnoull

About 1616 Sir George Hay left Letterewe for the south, in 1622 he was appointed High Chancellor of Scotland, and was afterwards created Earl of Kinnoull.

His subsequent Career and Death

His subsequent career was one of great distinction and usefulness until his death in 1634, at the age of sixty-two.

His Offers to Mr. Farquhar

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 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.

Mr. Farquhar persuaded by the "Tutor of Kintail" to decline them

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, who at this time must have been well advanced in years.

(It would appear from Fasti Ecclesae Scotieance 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 with 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 1674 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 Vicar of 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 Mr. Farquhar's uncle, as he almost certainly was, Mr. Farquhar's mother would be a daughter, not of the Ref. Murdoch Murchison, as stated on this page, but of John Murchison, Priest of Kintail, who was made Constable of Ellandonan in 1539.)

Mr. Farquhar once more sacrificed bright and promising prospects out of a sense of loyalty to the House of Kintail, and remained in Gairloch.

Mr. Farquhar visits Lews

It was during Mr. Farquhar's incumbency of Gairloch that Kenneth, Lord Kintail finally brought the island of Lews under his rule.  In 1610 his lordship 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 baptized 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 baptized, some of them being fifty years of age, and many men and women were married who had already lived together for years.  The success of this mission went far to reconcile 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 successeded 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 afterwards, in 1611, and was succeeded by his son Colin, who was subsequently created first Earl of Seaforth.

Death of Lord Kintail

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.

Mr. Farquhar appointed Vicar of Kintail and Constable of Ellandonan Castle.

The deed by which those appointments were conferred upon him was drawn up at Fortrose in that year.  At Ellandonan Castle he lived for many years in "an opulent and flourishing condition, much given to hospitality and charity."

Earl Colin's periodical visits to Kintail

Colin, Earl of Seaforth, lived most of his time at Fortrose, but made periodical visits to Ellandonan in "great state and very magnificently," Referring to these visits, the Rev. John Macrae, of Dingwall, grandson of Mr. Farquhar, says-- "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 constable (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 neighborhood 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 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 Fortrose.

Wadsets to Mr. Farquhar and his Sons.

Earl Colin died at Fortrose in 1633, and was succeeded by his brother, Earl George, who confirmed Mr. Farquhar in his various appointments and offices, and renewed his wadset rights to the lands of Dornie, Inig, Aryugan, Drumbuie, 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 favor of his son, the Rev. John Macrae, of Dingwall, while the wadset rights of Inverinate, Dorisduan, and Letterimmer, which appear to have been already in the family for some generations, were confirmed in favor of his son Alexander on payment of a sum of six thousand marks Scots.

Earl Kenneth receives his Early Education from Mr. Farquhar

When Earl George's son and heir, Kenneth, who was born at Brahan Castle in 1635, was about six years of age his father placed him under the care of Mr. Farquhar of Ellandonan, where the sons of Neighboring gentlemen were brought to keep him company.  Here the young heir remained for several years without suffering any disadvantage, for we read that under teh 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 labor and fatigue, and so great in stature that he became known as Coinneach Mor--big Kenneth.  He also became so thoroughly acquainted with the language and circumstances of the people, that he was considered, in his own time, to be the best chief in the Highlands 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.

Complaints made to the Bishop of Mr. Farquhar's worldliness

But the influence and prosperity of Mr. Farquhar excited the envy and jealousy of some of his neighbors, who made complaint to Patrick Lindesay, Bishop of Ross, that he was becoming too worldly and was neglecting his ministerial duties.  Upon receiving these complaints the Bishop called upon Mr. Farquhar to preach before the next provincial Assembly of the Diocese or Synod.  The Bishop himself preached on the first day from the text, "Ye are the salt of the earth."

Preaches before the Bishop

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.

Complaints dismissed

Mr. Farquhar acquitted himself on this occasion with such eloquence and ability that it was "a question among his hearers whether the Highland salt or Lowland salt savored best," and the Bishop himself was so impressed with the sermon that he not only dismissed the complaints as groundless but received Mr. Farquhar into special favor.  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 clergymen were always greatly pleased with his performances 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 unfortunately 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 of 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 Gairloch, 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.

Leaves Ellandonan Castle

In 1651, Mr. Farquhar left Ellandonan Castle, after a residence of thirty-three years, under circumstances described as follows by the Rev. John Macrae in his history of the Mackenzies:--After 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 accompanied by his two uncles, Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine and Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin, 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,  4 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 -- goto page 63 --

General monk's Visit to Kintail

The Rev. Donald Macrae appointed to Kintail as Assistant to his Father

Social Circumstances of Kintail in Mr. Farquhar's time

His Marriage and Family

His Death



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

2. The Rev. John Macrae's history of the Macraes.

3. Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin was the father of Sir George Mackenzie of Rosebaugh, 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 "Bloody Mackenzie."

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