History of the Clan Macrae

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The Connection of the Macraes with the House of Gairloch

(Previously: The Connection of the Macraes with the House of Kintail.)

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.1  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 Odhar2 (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.3

Next: The Macraes were Episcopalians and Jacobites

1. J. H. Dixon's Gairloch, p. 26

2 Appendix K.

3 Appendix K.