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Clan MacKay


The information on this page was provided by Janet Mackay, late President of the Clan Mackay Society of Nova Scotia.

"The sportsman now roams o'er the Sutherland hills
And down where the Naver runs clear;
And the land a brave race had for centuries owned
Is now trod by the sheep and the deer.
The halls, where our ancestors first saw the light,
Now blackened in ruins they lie.
And the moss-covered cairns are all that remain
Of the once pleasant homes of MacKay.

Happy homes by an alien's base mandate o'erthrown
Tender maidens and brave stalwart men
Were ruthlessly scattered like leaves in a gale
Far away from their dear native glen.
Brave clansmen who fought in fair liberty's cause
In the lowlands of Holland they lie.
For bravest in battle and second to none
Has aye been the Clan of MacKay

Not yet are they silenced through peaceful they lie,
And though far from the green mountain said,
They meet in the City of famous renown
On the banks of the dark flowing Clyde,
Where hearts still undaunted and beating as true
As when under a northern sky
They grasped their claymores when the slogan they heard
And followed the flag of MacKay.

Unflinching they bore the proud ensign aloft
When their foemen the penalty paid;
And the same noble spirit inspires them to-day
Their poor broken clansmen to aid.
The aged and weak they have sworn to protect
By the "Strong Hand" and kind watchful eye.
For faithful in friendship and valiant in war
Has aye been the Clan of MacKay.

Then flock to the standard and join the roll call!
Once more the banner's unfurled
The slogan's been sounded, and kinship been claimed
By clansmen all over the world.
Exiled or at home, love of country and clan
Are feelings we'll never let die;
Defy and defend, stand true to the end,
And honour the name of MacKay."

By Elizabeth MacKay Bridge of Allan 1889

Forbes, MacKay, Urquhart Kinship
In 1652, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty wrote the "True Pedigree and Lineal Descent of the most Ancient and Honourable Family of Urquhart, in the House of Cromarty, from the Creation of the World until the year of God 1652."

He solemnly stated that in the 8th century of the Christian era Vocompos, head of the House of Cromarty, "had to his second brother one named Phorbas Urquhart, and Hugh to the third; of whom some few hundred years after that, the names of Forbes and Mackay had their beginning."

In his own genealogy, Sir Thomas Urquhart described himself as the 143rd in direct descent from Adam and Eve.

"We laugh at Sir Thomas's crazy genealogies," wrote Rev. Angus Mackay (1906), "but note the fact that he records the MacKays, the Urquharts and the Forbes were of the same stock."

Fifteen years later, in 1667, William Forbes edited and drew up a preface for the "House of Forbes," compiled by Matthew Lumsden in 1580. In this preface, he says Ochonochar, an Irish Lord who came over to Scotland, had a son Ochonochar, and that this second Ochonochar had three sons, who became the respective progenitors of the families of Forbes, Urquhart and MacKay.

Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston, son of Alexander, 11th Earl of Sutherland, wrote a history about the earldom of Sutherland about 1630 which includes much information about the MacKays and other clans. Sir Robert is notoriously unjust to any family not on friendly terms with the Sutherlands, and particularly so to the MacKays whom he bastardizes with great freedom and hostile spirit. However, he states that the Forbes and MacKays had a common origin.

Other writers also state that there was an original connection between the Strathnaver MacKays (extreme north of Scotland) and the Forbeses in the old provinces of Moray and Buchan. Sir Thomas Urquhart, says Rev. Angus Mackay, was on intimate terms with the MacKays who, like himself, were staunch supporters of the two kings Charles. Historical documents indicate a warm friendship existed between the clans Forbes, Urquhart and MacKay for centuries.

Documents written before 1715 give evidence of a close friendship between the families of Forbes and MacKay who lived far apart; hence, strongly confirm the common tradition that these clans are of kindred stock.

Origin of Mackay
The surname Mackay (McKay, Mackay) is the English equivalent of the Gaelic "MacAoidh" from Mac (son) and Aoidh (the genitive of the proper name Aodh). Aodh was a popular Celtic name and is said to be a form of Aed which is translated as "The fiery or impetuous one".

With the passing of time, the spelling of "MacAoidh" has taken many forms including Iye, Y, Aytho, MacIye, Makky, Macky, Maky, McKye, McKeye, Mackie, Mackey, McKy, McAy, McCei, MacCay, Mackee, Makgie, Ison, Eason, Easson, and many others. The name MacIsaac is said to be a corruption of MacIye.

Clan Morgan, the old name for Clan Mackay, may be derived from the Moray connection of the clan. Earliest reference to Clan Morgan is found in the "Book of Deer," where the toisheach of the clan is so described. Sir Robert Gordon tells us that the clan was termed Clan-Vic- Morgan from one Morgan who flourished in the fourteenth century.

Clan Mackay Genealogy
Is it true that the MacKays can trace their ancestry back to Adam? Alfred J. Lawrence, in his text "The Clan Bain with its Ancestral and Related Scottish Clans", puts forth a very convincing argument - complete with genealogical lines (generation by generation) back to Japeth, son of Noah. From Noah, we have only to refer to the Bible for the remainder of the names of the paternal line back to Adam and Eve!!

This is possible by tracing the ancestry of Lulach, whose daughter married Aed, Earl of Moray, and the earliest of the MacKay Chiefs on record. No records exist to provide the exact forebears of Aed, but it is known that he descends from a Norse-Pictish ancestry. However, Lulach's descent from the High-kings of Erin is considered to be accurate back to Conn "of the Hundred Battles" - as early as the second century A.D. Mr. Lawrence outlines the line of descent from Japeth, generation by generation, to Conn but cautions his readers that the accuracy of this genealogical line is questionable.

Before the Christian era in Erin, information was passed down from generation to generation by bards with especially trained memories. This system can not be depended upon to be accurate over a long period of time. Early writers, mostly monks, tried to record in Latin the information recited by these bards. Some of these monks, in a conscientious attempt to make their information agree with Biblical record, appear to have developed a list of names which extended the known pedigree backwards to show the line as descended from Japeth. "Caveat Emptor" !!!

An interesting account, told by Rev. Angus Mackay in the Book of Mackay, comes from William Forbes' preface to the "House of Forbes". He says that "Ochonochar, an Irish Lord who came over to Scotland, had a son Ochonochar, and that this second Ochonochar had three sons, who became the respective progenitors of the families of MacKays, Urquharts and Forbes.

A outline of the genealogical origin and branches of MacKays is well beyond the scope of this article. Interested readers are referred to "The Book of Mackay" by Rev. Angus Mackay (1906), and "The History of the House and Clan of Mackay", by Robert Mackay (1829). These texts can be found in the reference section of many libraries.

The branches of Mackays, as outlined in the "Book of Mackay", are as follows: Aberach Mackays, Scoury Mackays, Bighouse Mackays, Strathy Mackays, Melness Mackays, Sandwood Mackays, Dutch Mackays, Swedish Mackays - now von Key, Galloway Mackays, Argyle and Western Mackays, Erchar or Vic Farquhar, Polson, Achmonie Mackays, Mackie, Mack, and the three different forms of the name Iyeson or Mackay: Ison, Eason, and Esson.

The MacKays in Argyllshire and Galloway became a sept of the Lords of the Isles (MacDonald of the Isles). In these areas, the name MacKay is derived from Morgan's grandson, Aodh, whose mother was a MacNeil of Gigha. MacKays in the Western Isles of Scotland also form a sept of the Lords of the Isles. MacKays or MacAys of Clan Chattan, from Inverness-shire eastward, are really a sept of Clan MacDhai, or Davidson.

A number of Clan MacKay members in Nova Scotia can trace their ancestry back to The Book of Mackay. One MacKay family group is known to descend from the marriage of Aed, Earl of Moray, and his wife - the daughter of Lulach - which took place circa 1085. Then, if one chooses to follow the maternal line, back to Adam!!