History of the Clan Macrae


The Connection of the Macraes with the House of Kintail

(Previously: Migration to Kintail, in which Macrae of Clunes has three sons who leave home.  One settled in BrahanAnother went to Argyleshire where his successors became the Campbells of Craignish.)

Another 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.1   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.2  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.

But the loyal and valiant support which the Macraes gave the Mackenzies was not limited to the house of Kintail.

Next: Also with the House of Gairloch


1. Appendix E

2. On this occasion the coffin was first lifted by Donald John Macrae of Inversheil, Donald Macrae of Achnagart, Peter Macrae of Morvich, and Ewen Macrae of Leachachan.