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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
Part I.—Records and Traditions of Gairloch
Chapter XIV.—The Baronets of Gairloch and some other Gairloch Mackenzies

SIR KENNETH MACKENZIE, eldest son of Alexander, seventh laird of Gairloch, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Queen Anne on 2d February 1703. These baronetcies were frequently conferred upon proprietors who assisted in peopling Nova Scotia, then an object of great solicitude with the crown, so that it is possible the first baronet of Gairloch, or his father, may have promoted emigration among the Gairloch people. He was educated at Oxford, and represented Ross-shire in the Scottish Parliament, where he strongly opposed the Union. When in Gairloch he lived at the Stankhouse. He had six children. He died in December 1703, aged only thirty-two, and was buried in Gairloch in the old chapel within the churchyard, which was the burial-place of the family. This old chapel was roofed in 1704. The sum of thirty merks was then expended in "harling, pinning, and thatching Garloch's burial place." At his death Sir Kenneth was deeply involved in debt.

Sir Alexander, eldest son of the first baronet, became the ninth laird of Gairloch when only three years of age. For want of means he and his sister Anne had to be brought up in tenants' houses. During his long minority some of the debts were paid off. In 1712 he was sent to the school at Chanonry, and after six years there he went to Edinburgh to complete his education. He afterwards made a foreign tour, and on his return in 1730 married his cousin Janet of Scatwell, by whom he had nine children. He was called by his people Seann Tighearna, and seems to have resided mostly in Gairloch, for latterly his lady lived alone at Kinkell. In 1738 he pulled down the Stankhouse, which stood in a low marshy situation on the site of the old Tigh Dige, and built the present Flowerdale House on a raised plateau surrounded by charming woods and rugged hills, and with a southern aspect. The glen here was a perfect jungle of wild flowers before the introduction, long after this time, of sheep farming, and so Sir Alexander appropriately gave the name of Flowerdale to his new chateau.

The attempt of the unfortunate Prince Charlie to regain the throne of his ancestors occurred in the time of Sir Alexander. This prudent cautious baronet kept out of the "Forty-five," though some of his people fought with their fellow Highlanders at the fatal battle of Culloden.

It was shortly after that battle, when Prince Charlie was hiding on the west coast, that two vessels came to Sgeir Bhoora, the small island rock near Poolewe at the head of Loch Ewe, and remained there a short time waiting for a messenger, who was expected to bring gold sent by the court of France for Prince Charlie's use. Whether afraid of being caught in a corner by an English man-of-war, or impatient of the delay in the arrival of the messenger, the two vessels sailed away a few days before" the occurrence of the incident about to be related.


There were at this time three brothers of the name of Cross, who were sons of one of the last of the Loch Maree ironworkers. One of them was a bard, who built a house at Kernsary, still called Innis a bhaird, or "the oasis of the bard." One of the bard's brothers, named Hector, who had become a crofter at Letterewe, was at a shieling at the Claonadh (or Slopes), at the back of Beinn Lair, above Letterewe, where he and other crofters grazed their cattle in summer. One day after the battle of Culloden a stranger, a young Highlander, with yellow hair and clad in tartan, came to Hector's bothie and asked for shelter and refreshment. When the girl gave him a bowl of cream, he drank it off, and returned it to her with a gold piece in it. The news quickly spread among the shieling bothies that the stranger had gold about him. Soon after his departure from Hector's hospitable roof next morning, a shot was heard, and on a search being made the dead body of the young man was found, robbed of all valuables. The murder and robbery were ascribed to a crofter, whose name is well remembered, and whose descendants are still at Letterewe, for from that time the family had money. It is almost superfluous to add that no steps were taken to bring the murderer to justice; the unsettled state of the Highlands at the time would alone account for t;he immunity of the offender. It afterwards transpired that the murdered stranger had been a valet or personal servant to Prince Charlie, and that he had gone by the name of the "Gille Buidhe," or "yellow-haired lad." He was conveying the gold to his master, which had been sent from France, and it was to meet him that the two vessels had come to Sgeir Bhoora, near Poolewe. It seems he carried the gold in one end of his plaid, which had been formed into a temporary bag, an expedient still often resorted to in the Highlands. A portion of the Gille Buidhe's plaid formed the lining of a coat belonging to an old man at Letterewe in the nineteenth century. Kenneth Mackenzie, an old man living at Cliff (now dead), told me he had seen it.

The Gille Buidhe was not the only one to whom gold sent from France was entrusted in order that it might be taken to Prince Charlie. Duncan M'Rae, of Isle Ewe, who had been with the prince in his victorious days in Edinburgh, and had there composed a song entitled " Oran na Feannaige," received a small keg or cask of gold pieces for the use of the prince. It was soon after the date of the murder of the Gille Buidhe, that Duncan M'Rae and two other men brought the keg of gold across Loch Ewe from Mellon Charles to Cove, and then hid it in the Fedan Mor above Loch a Druing, where Duncan M'Rae, by means of the " sian," caused the cask to become invisible. In Part II., chap, xiv., the superstition illustrated by this incident will be described. They say the cask of gold still remains hidden in the Fedan Mor. Duncan M'Rae was one of the faithful Highlanders who did all that could be done to secure the prince's safety and serve his interests. It seems the incident must have occurred after the prince had fled to Skye.

About the same time as the murder of the Gille Buidhe, one of the men-of-war cruising in search of the prince came into the bay at Flowerdale, and the captain sent word to Sir Alexander Mackenzie to come on board. The latter thought he was quite as well ashore among his people, so he sent his compliments to the captain, regretting he could not accept his invitation, as he had friends to dine with him on the top of Craig a chait (the high rocky hill behind Flowerdale House), where he hoped the captain would join them. The reply was a broadside against the house as the ship sailed off. One of the cannon balls, "apparently about an 18 lb. shot," was sticking half out of the house gable next to the sea in the youth of Dr Mackenzie (a great-grandson, still living, of Sir Alexander's), who adds, that "had the cannon ball hit but a few feet lower, it might have broken into a recess in the thickness of the gable, the admittance to which was by raising the floor at a wall press in the room above, although this had been forgotten, till masons, cutting an opening for a gable door to the kitchen, broke into the recess, where were many swords and guns. Then it was recollected that Fraser of Foyers was long concealed by our ancestor, and, of course, in this black hole."

Sir Alexander consolidated the family Estates, and was a shrewd man of business. He was a kind landlord, and very popular with his people, though the conditions in the leases he granted would probably be considered oppressive in the present day. John Mackay, the celebrated "blind piper" (son of Rorie, who had been piper to John Roy Mackenzie and to his successors to the third generation), was piper and bard to Sir Alexander, who seems to have loved a quiet home life. He died in 1766, aged sixty-five, and was buried with his ancestors in the little chapel in the Gairloch churchyard.

He was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Alexander, tenth laird, who was called in Gairloch "An Tighearna Ruadh," or Alastair Roy, from the colour of his hair. He had also another soubriquet, viz., "An Tighearna Crubach," which had reference to a physical defect. Like his father, he travelled on the continent as a young man. Angus Mackay (son of the "blind piper") was his piper, and Sir Alexander left Angus in Edinburgh for tuition whilst he himself went abroad. This Sir Alexander built Conan House, about 1758, during his father's lifetime, and it still continues the principal residence of the baronets of Gairloch. He was twice married, and had six children.

His second son John raised a company, almost entirely in Gairloch, of the 78th regiment of Ross-shire Highlanders, when first embodied. He obtained the captaincy, and was rapidly promoted, becoming colonel of the regiment in 1795. He attained the rank of major-general in the army in 1813, and full general in 1837. He served with distinction, and without cessation, for thirty-five years, viz., from 1779 to 1814. From his personal daringxand valour he became known as "Fighting Jack," and was adored by his men. He often said that it gave him greater pleasure to see a dog from Gairloch than a gentleman from anywhere else. He died, the father of the British army, on 14th June i860, at the advanced age of ninety-six.

Sir Alexander (tenth laird) left his estates burdened with debt. He died on 15th April 1770 from the effects of a fall from his horse, and was buried with his forefathers at Gairloch.

Sir Hector Mackenzie, eldest son of the tenth laird, became the fourth baronet and eleventh laird of Gairloch. He was known among his people as "An Tighearna Storach," or the buck-toothed laird. He succeeded to the estates when a minor only twelve years of age. During the minority some of the debts were paid off, and in 1789 Sir Hector sold several properties (not in Gairloch) to pay off the balance of the debts. He lived at home, and managed his estates himself; and though he kept open house throughout the year at Conan and Gairloch, he was able to leave or pay a considerable fortune to each of his sons. In 1815 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ross-shire. He only visited London once in his life, and appears to have divided his time nearly equally between Flowerdale House and Conan, which he enlarged. He was adored by his people, to whom he acted as father and friend. His character was distinguished by kindness, urbanity, and frankness, arid he was considered the most sagacious and intelligent man in the county.

Though not tall, he was very strong, almost rivalling in this respect his famous ancestor Hector Roy. (See the reference to his powerful grasp in the account of Alexander Grant, the big bard of Slaggan.) Sir Hector was a great angler. (See Appendix E.) A curious anecdote, shewing how Sir Hector befriended his hereditary foe, Macleod of Raasay, will be given in fart II., chap. xxv.

John Mackay (son of Angus), the last of the hereditary pipers of the Gairloch family, was piper to Sir Hector, and Alexander Campbell was his bard, in whose life (Part II., chap xx.) will be found an anecdote illustrating Sir Hector's kindly disposition.

Sir Hector gave a great impetus to the Gairloch cod-fishing, which he continued to encourage as long as he lived. Christian Lady Mackenzie (Sir Hector's wife), who was called in Gairloch "A Bhantighearna Ruadh," seems to have been as much beloved as her husband. Sir Hector's fourth son, Dr John Mackenzie of Eileanach,. still survives, and is well known as a thorough Highlander. A number of extracts from his MS. "Odd and End Stories" are included in these pages. Sir Hector died on 26th April 1826, aged sixty-nine, and was buried in Beauly Priory.

Sir Francis Alexander was the fifth baronet and twelfth laird of Gairloch. He followed the example of his father Sir Hector in his kindly treatment of his tenantry, for whose benefit he published in 1838 the book quoted further on, entitled "Hints for the Use of Highland Tenants and Cottagers, by a Proprietor." Sir Alexander was a great sportsman and practical farmer, and spent a considerable part of each year at Flowerdale House.

By his first wife Sir Francis had two sons, viz., Kenneth Smith, the present baronet; and Mr Francis Harford Mackenzie. By his second wife he had one son, Mr Osgood Hanbury Mackenzie of Inverewe, who has largely assisted in the preparation of this book. Sir Francis died on 2d June 1843, aged forty-four. His widow, the Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch, now resides at Tournaig, in the parish of Gairloch.

Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, the sixth baronet and thirteenth laird of Gairloch, succeeded to the estates when a minor. Following the example of his immediate ancestors, he takes the lead in all local and county matters. Like his grandfather he is lord-lieutenant of his native county. He deals personally with his tenantry. His principal residence is Conan House, but he spends a portion of every year at Flowerdale in Gairloch, He was a member of the Royal Commission appointed 22d March 1883 to inquire into the condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This is not the place to offer any encomium on the present baronet of Gairloch, but it may be mentioned, that the historian of the Mackenzies, himself a native of the parish, states that Sir Kenneth is " universally admitted to be one of the best landlords in the Highlands." Sir Kenneth married, in i860, Eila Frederica, daughter of the late Walter Frederick Campbell of Islay.

There have been several collateral families of Mackenzies in Gairloch, to whom some reference must be made.

The Mackenzies of Letterewe were descended from Charles, the eldest son of Kenneth Mackenzie, sixth laird of Gairloch, by his third wife. By his father's marriage-contract Charles Mackenzie got Logie Wester, which in 1696 he exchanged with his half-brother Alexander, the seventh laird of Gairloch, for the lands of Letterewe. Letterewe continued in thjs family until Hector Mackenzie, in 1835, sold the estate to the late Mr Meyrick Bankes of Winstanley Hall, Lancashire. The present representative of the Letterewe family is Mr Charles Mackenzie, a lawyer in the United States of America; their representative in this country is Mr John Munro Mackenzie, of Morinish and Calgary. The present Letterewe House is an •enlargement of the older residence of this family.

The Mackenzies of Lochend, or Kinloch (now Inverewe), sprang from John Mackenzie of Lochend, third son of Alexander, the seventh laird of Gairloch, by his second wife.' They were tacksmen of Lochend, which belonged to the Coul Mackenzies, by whom it was ultimately sold to Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie in 1863. The old Lochend House stood where the walled garden of the present Inverewe House is.

The Mackenzies of Gruinard sprang from John Mackenzie, a natural son of George, second earl of Seaforth and fourteenth laird of Kintail, who, with Captain Hector Mackenzie, conveyed the news of the defeat of the Royalists by Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Worcester, in 1651, to his father in Holland, where the latter was at that time living in exile. This family produced several distinguished soldiers, especially Alexander, a colonel in the army, who served with the 36th Regiment throughout the Peninsular War. John Mackenzie, the fifth laird of Gruinard, who was a captain in the 73d Regiment, sold the property, which included Little Gruinard, Udrigil, and Sand, all in the parish of Gairloch, to the late Henry Davidson of Tulloch, who resold it to Mr Meyrick Bankes. William Mackenzie, the sixth head of this family, was a captain in the 7 2d Regiment, and is said to have been the handsomest man in his day in the Highlands. The Gruinard family increased rapidly. The first laird had eight sons and eight daughters, who all married. George, the second laird of Gruinard, was twice married ; by his first wife he had fourteen sons and nine daughters, and by his second wife four sons and six daughters,—making the extraordinary total of thirty-three children, nineteen of whom at least are known to have married, and most of them into the best families of the north. The Gruinard family resided at Udrigil House, and subsequently at Aird House, both of which they built.

There was a family of Mackenzies settled at Kernsary who were descended from Murdo Mackenzie, fifth son of Colin Cam, the eleventh lord of Kintail. Murdo had a son and daughter. The son was killed in 1645 at tne battle of Auldearn, where he commanded the Lews Mackenzie regiment.

In the seventeenth century the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, from Bute, purchased the Kernsary estate from the Mackenzies of Coul, to whom it then belonged. He was an Episcopalian clergyman, and held services in the little Inverewe church at the place now called Londubh, on the Kernsary estate, close to which he lived in the house now occupied by James Mackenzie. He married a daughter of Mackenzie of Letterewe. They had a son Roderick, who succeeded to the Kernsary property; so did his son Roderick. This second Roderick married Mary, sister of Mackenzie of Ballone; she was a beauty, and was known as Mali Chruinn Donn. Their son Alexander sold Kernsary to the Seaforth family some fifty years ago; his son, the Rev. Hector Mackenzie, was minister of Moy, and died a few years back.

In bringing to a close this account of the Mackenzies of Gairloch, their history and present position may be summarised thus :—A strong offshoot of the family of the earls of Ross separated from the parent stock, and having taken root in Kintail, developed into the illustrious family of the Kintail or Seaforth Mackenzies. Again, a vigorous branch of the Kintail Mackenzies took root in Gairloch, and culminated in the present series of the baronets of Gairloch. The earls of Ross disappeared centuries ago, and the family of Seaforth has become extinct in the direct male line, whilst their estates have melted away. The Gairloch family remain, and their fine property has increased in value. Although the present baronet does not claim the chieftainship of the whole clan, which is believed to belong to a more remote offshoot of the Kintail family, that dignity is now but a name, and Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch is to-day the most influential and distinguished of the great Mackenzie race.

The crest of the Gairloch Mackenzies is the figure of Donald Odhar, though some lairds of Gairloch have used the general crest of the Mackenzies, viz., the Cabar Feidh, or stag's head and horns. The badge of the Mackenzies is the deer grass, or stag's horn moss. Their war-cry or slogan is "Tulloch-ard," the name of a mountain in Kintail. This mountain has sometimes been used as a crest with the "warning flame " on its summit, representing the beacon whence the clan was apprised of danger.

Of pipe music the following tunes have been stated to be specially appropriated to the Mackenzies:—

Marches: Cabar Feidh and Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor, usually called, "The high road to Gairloch."

Salute: Failte Uilleam Dhuibh (Black William's salute).

Gathering: Co-thional (Mackenzie's gathering).

Lament: Cumha Thighearna Ghearrloch (Laird of Gairloch's lament).

A list of the Mackenzie lairds of Gairloch is given in Table V.


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