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The Prophecies of The Brahan Seer
Fulfillment of the Seaforth Prophecy


HAVING thus disposed of the seer himself, we next proceed to give in detail the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding the family of his cruel murderer. And we regret to say that the family of Seaforth will, in this connection, fall to be disposed of finally and for ever, and in the manner which Coinneach had unquestionably predicted. As already remarked, in due time the Earl returned to his home, after the fascinations of Paris had paled, and when he felt disposed to exchange frivolous or vicious enjoyment abroad for the exercise of despotic authority in the society of a jealous Countess at home. He was gathered to his fathers in 1678, and was succeeded by his eldest son, the fourth Earl. It is not our purpose to relate here the vicissitudes of the family which are unconnected with the curse of Coinneach Odhar, further than by giving a brief outline, though they are sufficiently remarkable to supply a strange chapter of domestic history.

The fourth Earl married a daughter of the illustrious family of Herbert, Marquis of Powis, and he himself was created a Marquis by the abdicated King of St. Germains, while his wife’s brother was created a Duke. His son, the fifth Earl, having engaged in the rebellion of 1715, forfeited his estate and titles to the Crown; but in 1726 his lands were restored to him, and he, and his son after him, lived in wealth and honour as great Highland chiefs. The latter, who was by courtesy styled Lord Fortrose, represented his native county of Ross in several Parliaments about the middle of last century. In 1766, the honours of the peerage were restored to his son, who was created Viscount Fortrose, and in 1771, Earl of Seaforth; but those titles, which were Irish, did not last long, and became extinct at his death, in 1781.

None of these vicissitudes were foretold in the seer’s prophecy; and, in spite of them all, the family continued to prosper. That ruin which the unsuccessful rising in 1715 had brought upon many other great houses, was retrieved in the case of Seaforth, by the exercise of sovereign favour; and restored possessions and renewed honours preserved the grandeur of the race. But on the death of the last Earl, his second cousin, descended from a younger son of the third Earl and his vindictive Countess, inherited the family estates and the chiefdom of the Mackenzies, which he held for two short years, but never actually enjoyed, being slain at sea by the Mahrattas, at Gheriah, in the south of India, in 1783, after a gallant resistance. He was succeeded by his brother, in whom, as the last of his race, the seer’s prophecy was accomplished.

Francis Humberston Mackenzie was a very remarkable man. He was born in 1794, and although deaf, and latterly dumb, he was, by the force of his natural abilities and the favour of fortune, able to fill an important position in the world. It would have been already observed that the “Last of the Seaforths” was born in full possession of all his faculties, and that he only became deaf from the effects of a severe attack of scarlet fever, while a boy in school, which we have previously noticed in connection with his remarkable dream. He continued to speak a little, and it was only towards the close of his life, and particularly during the last two years, that he was unable to articulate - or perhaps, unwilling to make the attempt, on finding himself the last male of his line. He may be said to have, prior to this, fairly recovered the use of speech, for he was able to converse pretty distinctly; but he was so totally deaf, that all communications were made to him by signs or in writing. Yet he raised a regiment at the beginning of the great European war; he was created a British peer in 1797, as Baron Seaforth of Kintail; in 1800 he went out to Barbadoes as Governor, and afterwards to Demerara and Berbice; and in 1808 he was made a Lieutenant-General. These were singular incidents in the life of a deaf and dumb man. He married a very amiable and excellent woman, Mary Proby, the daughter of a dignitary of the Church, and niece of the first Lord Carysfort, by whom he had a fine family of four sons and six daughters. When he considered his own position - deaf, and formerly dumb; when he saw his four sons, three of them rising to man’s estate; and when he looked around him, and observed the peculiar marks set upon the persons of the four contemporary great Highland lairds, all in strict accordance with Coinneach’s prophecy - he must have felt ill at ease, unless he was able, with the incredulous indifference of a man of the world, to spurn the idea from him as an old wife’s superstition.

However, fatal conviction was forced upon him, and on all those who remembered the family tradition, by the lamentable events which filled his house with mourning. One after another his three promising sons (the fourth died young) were cut of by death. The last, who was the most distinguished of them all, for the finest qualities both of head and heart, was stricken by a sore and lingering disease, and had gone, with a part of the family, for his health, to the south of England. Lord Seaforth remained in the north, at Brahan Castle. A daily bulletin was sent to him from the sick chamber of his beloved son. One morning, the accounts being rather more favourable, the household began to rejoice, and a friend in the neighbourhood, who was visiting the chief, came down after breakfast full of the good news, and gladly imparted it to the old family piper, whom he met in front of the Castle. The aged retainer shook his head and sighed - “Na, na,” said he, “he’ll never recover. It’s decreed that Seaforth must outlive all his four sons.” This he said in allusion to the seer’s prophecy; thus his words were understood by the family; and thus members of the family have again and again repeated the strange tale. The words of the old piper proved too true. A few more posts brought to Seaforth the tidings of the death of the last of his four sons.

At length, on the 11th January, 1815, Lord Seaforth died, the last of his race. His modern title became extinct. The chiefdom of the Mackenzies, divested of its rank and honour, passed away to a very remote collateral, who succeeded to no portion of the property, and the great Seaforth estates were inherited by a whitehooded lassie from the East. Lord Seaforth’s eldest surviving daughter, the Honourable Mary Frederica Elizabeth Mackenzie, had married, in 1804, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, Bart., K.B., who was Admiral of the West India station while Seaforth himself was Governor in those islands. Sir Samuel afterwards had the chief command in the Indian seas, whither his lady accompanied him, and spent several years with him in different parts of the East Indies. He died while holding that high command, very nearly at the same time as Lord Seaforth, so that his youthful wife was a recent widow at the time, and returned home from India in her widow’s weeds, to take possession of her paternal inheritance. She was thus literally a white-coifed or white-hooded lassie (that is, a young woman in widow’s weeds, and a Hood by name) from the East. After some years of widowhood, Lady Hood Mackenzie married a second time, Mr. Stewart, a grandson of the sixth Earl of Galloway, who assumed the name of Mackenzie, and established himself on his lady’s extensive estates in the North. Thus, the possessions of Seaforth may be truly said to have passed from the male line of the ancient house of Mackenzie. And still more strikingly was this fulfilled as regarded a large portion of these estates, when Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie so1d the great Island of Lewis to Sir James Matheson.

After many years of happiness and prosperity, a frightful - accident threw the family into mourning. Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was one day driving her younger sister, the Hon. Caroline Mackenzie, in a pony carriage, among the woods in the vicinity of Brahan Castle. Suddenly, the ponies took fright, and started off at a furious pace. Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was quite unable to check them, and both she and her sister were thrown out of the carriage much bruised and hurt. She happily soon recovered from the accident, but the injury which her sister sustained proved fatal, and, after lingering for some time in a hopeless state, she died, to the inexpressible grief of all the members of her family. As Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was driving the carriage at the time of the accident, she may be said to have been the innocent cause of her sister’s death, and thus to have fulfilled the last portion of Coinneach’s prophecy which has yet been accomplished.

Thus we have seen that the last chief of Seaforth was deaf and dumb; that he had four sons; that he survived them all; that the four great Highland lairds who were his contemporaries were all distinguished by the peculiar personal marks the seer predicted; that his estates were inherited by a white-coifed or white-hooded lassie from the East; that his great possessions passed into the hands of other races; and that his eldest daughter and heiress was so unfortunate as to be the innocent cause of her sister’s death. In this very remarkable instance of family fate, the prophecy was not found out after the events occurred; it had been current for generations in the Highlands, and its tardy fulfilment was marked curiously and anxiously by an entire clan and a whole county. Seaforth was respected and beloved far and near, and strangers, as well as friends and clansmen, mourned along with him the sorrows of his later years. The gradual development of the doom was watched with sympathy and grief, and the fate of Seaforth has been, during the last half-century of his life, regarded as one of the most curious instances of that second-sight for which the inhabitants of the Highlands of Scotland have been so long celebrated. Mr. Stewart Mackenzie, the accomplished husband of the heiress of Seaforth, after being for many years a distinguished member of the House of Commons and a Privy Councillor, held several high appointments in the Colonial Dominions of the British Crown. He was successively Governor of Ceylon and Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and died, universally beloved and lamented, in the year 1842.

Lockhart in his Life of Scott, in reference to the Seaforth prediction, says: - “Mr. Morrit can testify thus far - that he heard the prophecy quoted in the Highlands at a time when Lord Seaforth had two sons alive, and in good health, and that it certainly was not made after the event”; and he goes on to tell us that Scott and Sir Humphrey Davy were most certainly convinced of its truth, as also many others who had watched the latter days of Seaforth in the light of those wonderful predictions.

The late Duncan Davidson of Tulloch, Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Ross, on reading our Second edition, wrote to the author, under date of May 21, 1878, as follows: - “Many of these prophecies I heard of upwards of 70 years ago, and when many of them were not fulfilled, such as the late Lord Seaforth surviving his sons, and Mrs. Stewart-Mackenzie’s accident, near Brahan, by which Miss Caroline Mackenzie was killed.” Tulloch was, he said, during the latter years of Lord Seaforth, a regular visitor at Brahan Castle, and often heard the predictions referred to among members of the family. The letter is in our possession, and it was published, during Tulloch’s life, and by his special permission, in Mackenzie’s History of the Mackenzies, p. 267.

An attempt was recently made to sell the remaining possessions of the family, but fortunately, for the present, this attempt has been defeated by the interposition of the Marchioness of Tweeddale and Mrs. Colonel Stanley, daughters of the present nominal possessor of the property. At the time a leading article appeared in the Edinburgh Daily Review giving an outline of the family history of the Seaforths. After describing how the fifth Earl, with the fidelity characteristic of his house, “true as the dial to the sun,” embraced the losing side in the “the Fifteen”; fought at the head of his clan at Sheriffmuir; how in 1719 he, along with the Marquis of Tullibardine, and the Earl Marischal, made a final attempt to bring the “auld Stewarts back again”; how he was dangerously wounded in an encounter with the Government forces at Glenshiel, and compelled to abandon the vain enterprise; how he was carried on board a vessel by his clansmen, conveyed to the Western Isles, and ultimately to France; how he was attainted by Parliament, and his estates forfeited to the Crown; how all the efforts of the Government failed to penetrate into Kintail, or to collect any rent from his faithful Macraes, whom the Seaforths had so often led victorious from many a bloody conflict, from the battle of Largs down to the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1719; and how the rents of that part of the estates were regularly collected and remitted to their exiled chief in France, with a devotion and faithfulness only to be equalled by their own countrymen when their beloved “bonnie Prince Charlie” was a wanderer, helpless and forlorn, at the mercy of his enemies, and with a reward of £30,000 at the disposal of many a poverty striken and starving Highlander, who would not betray his lawful Prince for all the gold in England; the article continues: - But their (the Seaforth’s) downfall came at last, and the failure of the male line of this great historical family was attended with circumstances as singular as they were painful. Francis, Lord Seaforth, the last Baron of Kintail, was, says Sir Walter Scott, “a nobleman of extraordinary talents, who must have made for himself a lasting reputation, had not his political exertions been checked by painful natural infirmity”. Though deaf from his sixteenth year, and inflicted also with a partial impediment of speech, he was distinguished for his attainments as well as for his intellectual activity. He took a lively interest in all questions of art and science, especially in natural history, and displayed at once his liberality and his love of art by his munificence to Sir Thomas Lawrence, in the youthful straits and struggles of that great artist, and by his patronage of other artists. Before his elevation to the peerage, Lord Seaforth represented Ross-shire in Parliament for a number of years, and was afterwards Lord-Lieutenant of the county. During the revolutionary war with France, he raised a splendid regiment of Ross-shire Highlanders (the 78th, the second which had been raised among his clan), of which he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant, and he ultimately attained the rank of Lieutenant-General in the Army. He held for six years the office of Governor of Barbadoes, and, by his firmness and even-handed justice, he succeeded in putting an end to the practice of slave-killing, which at that time was not unfrequent in the Island, and was deemed by the planters a venial offence, to be punished only by a small fine.

Lord Seaforth was the happy father of three (four) sons and six daughters, all of high promise; and it seemed as if he were destined to raise the illustrious house of which he was the head, to a height of honour and power greater than than it had ever yet attained. But the closing years of this nobleman were darkened by calamities of the severest kind. The mismanagement of his estates in the West Indies involved him in inextricable embarrassments, and compelled him to dispose of a part of his Kintail estates - “the gift-land” of the family, as it was termed - a step which his tenantry and clansmen in vain endeavoured to avert, by offering to buy in the land for him, that it might not pass from the family. He had previously been bereaved of two of his sons, and about the time that Kintail was sold, his only remaining son, a young man of talent and eloquence, the representative in parliament of his native county, suddenly died. The broken-hearted father lingered on for a few months, his fine intellect enfeebled by paralysis, and yet, as Sir Walter Scott says, “not so entirely obscured but that he perceived his deprivation as in a glass, darkly.” Sometimes he was anxious and fretful because he did not see his son; sometimes he expostulated and complained that his boy had been allowed to die without his seeing him; and sometimes, in a less clouded state of intellect, he was sensible of his loss in its full extent. The last “Cabarfeidh” followed his son to the grave in January, 1815, and then - Of the line of Fitzgerald remained not a male, To bear the proud name of the Chiefs of Kintail.

The most remarkable circumstance connected with this sorrowful tale, is the undoubted fact that, centuries ago, a Seer of the Clan Mackenzie, known as Kenneth Oag (Odhar), predicted that when there should be a deaf and dumb “Cabarfeidh” (Staghead, the Celtic designation of the chief of the clan, taken from the family crest), the “gift-land” of their territory (Kintail) would be sold, and the male line become extinct. This prophecy was well known in the north long before its fulfilment, and was certainly not made after the event. “It connected,” says Lockhart, “the fall of the house of Seaforth not only with the appearance of a deaf ‘Cabarfeidh,’ but with the contemporaneous appearance of various different physical misfortunes in several of the other great Highland chiefs, all of which are said to have actually occurred within the memory of the generation that has not yet passed away.”

On the death of his lordship, his estates, with all their burdens and responsibilities, devolved on his eldest daughter, Lady Hood, whose second husband was James Stewart Mackenzie, a member of the Galloway family, and whose son has just been prevented from selling all that remains of the Seaforth estates. “Our friend, Lady Hood,” wrote Sir Walter Scott to Mr. Morritt, “will now be ‘Cabarfeidh’ herself. She has the spirit of a chieftainess in every drop of her blood, but there are few situations in which the cleverest women are so apt to be imposed upon as in the management of landed property, more especially of a Highland estate. I do fear the accomplishment of the prophecy that, when there should be a deaf ‘Cabarfeidh,’ the house was to fall.” The writer concludes thus: - “Scott’s apprehensions proved only to well founded. One section after another of the estates had to be sold. The remaining portion of Kintail, the sunny braes of Ross, the church lands of Chanonry, the barony of Pluscarden, and the Island of Lews - a principality itself - were disposed of one after the other, till now nothing remains of the vast estates of this illustrious house except Brahan Castle, and a mere remnant of their ancient patrimony (and that in the hands of trustees), which the nonresident, nominal owner has just been prevented from alienating. Sic transit.”

Leaving these extraordinary prophecies with the reader, to believe, disbelieve, or explain away on any principle or theory which may satisfy his reason, his credulity, or scepticism, we conclude with the following:

THE PROPHECIES OF THE BRAHAN SEER
LAMENT FOR “THE LAST OF THE SEAFORTHS”.
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT.

In vain the bright course of thy talents to wrong
Fate deaden’d thine ear and imprison’d thy tongue,
For brighter o’er all her obstructions arose
The glow of the genius they could not oppose;
And who, in the land of the Saxon, or Gael,
Might match with Mackenzie, High Chief of Kintail?
Thy sons rose around thee in light and in love,
All a father could hope, all a friend could approve;
What ’vails it the tale of thy sorrows to tell?
In the spring time of youth and of promise they fell!
Of the line of MacKenneth remains not a male,
To bear the proud name of the Chief of Kintail.
And thou, gentle Dame, who must bear, to thy grief,
For thy clan and thy country the cares of a Chief,
Whom brief rolling moons in six changes have left,
Of thy husband and father and brethren bereft;
To thine ear of affection, how sad is the hail
That salutes thee - the heir of the line of Kintail!

Na ’m biodh an t’earball na bu ruighne bhiodh mo
sgialachd na b’fhaide.


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