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The Scottish Nation

MACKAY, the name of a numerous and powerful clan in the north-west of the county of Sutherland, styled in Gaelic the Siol Mhorgan, or race of Morgan; badge, the bulrush. The accounts of its origin are various. In the Celtic MS of 1450, there is no reference to it, although mention is made of the Mackays of Kintyre, who were called of Ugadale. These, however, were vassals of the Isles, and had no connexion with the Mackays of Strathnaver. Pennant assigns to them a Celto-Irish descent, in the twelfth century, after King William the Lion had defeated Harald, earl of Orkney and Caithness, and taken possession of these districts. Mr. Skene Highlands of Scotland, p. 288) supposes that they were descended from the aboriginal Gaelic inhabitants of Caithness. The Norse Sagas state that about the beginning of the 12th century, “there lived in the Dölum of Katanesi (or Strathnaver) a man named Moddan, a noble and rich man,” and that his sons were Magnus Orfi and Ottar, the Iarl in Thurso. The title of iarl was the same as the Gaelic maormor, and Mr. Skene is of opinion that Moddan and his son Ottar were the Gaelic maormors of Caithness.

      Sir Robert Gordon, in his voluminous History of Sutherland (p. 302), from a similarity of badge and armorial bearings, accounts the clan Mackay a branch of the Forbeses, but this is by no means probable. Alexander, the first of the family, aided in driving the Danes from the north. His son Walter, chamberlain to Adam, bishop of Caithness, married that prelate’s daughter, and had a son, Martin, who received from his maternal grandfather certain church lands in Strathnaver, being the first of the family who obtained possessions there. Martin had a son, Magnus or Manus, who fought at Bannockburn under Bruce, and had two sons, Morgan and Farquhar. From Morgan the clan derived their Gaelic name of Clan-wic-Worgan, or Morgan, and from Farquhar were descended the Clan-wic-Farquhar in Strathnaver.

      Donald, Morgan’s son, married a daughter of Macneill of Gigha, who was named Iye, and had a son of the same name, in Gaelic Aodh, pronounced like Y. The common translation of Aodh is Hugh, but amid all the fanciful conjectures that have been thrown out as to the derivation of the name, it seems to have been forgotten that the Iye was borne primarily by an insular chief, and seems not unlikely to have originated in the Gaelic word I, an island. Aodh had a son, another Donald, called Donald Macaodh, or Mackaoi, and it is from this son that the clan has acquired the patronymic of Mackay. He and his son were killed in the castle of Dingwall, by William, earl of Sutherland, in 1395. It appears from Sir Robert Gordon’s History (p. 60), that the earl had a feud with him and his son, Donald Mackay, in which many lives were lost, and great depredations committed on both sides. To put an end to it, the earl proposed a meeting with them at Dingwall, in presence of the lord of the Isles, his father-in-law, and some of the neighbouring barons, the friends of both parties. This was acceded to, and in the castle of Dingwall a discussion took place between the earl and Mackay, regarding the points in dispute, when mutual reproaches passing between them, the earl became so incensed as to kill Mackay and his son with his own hands. With some difficulty he effected his escape, and, hastening home, prepared for his defence. The Mackays, however, were too weak to take revenge, and a reconciliation took place between Robert, the next earl, and Angus Mackay, the eldest of Donald’s surviving sons, of whom there were other two, viz. Houcheon Dubh, and Neill.

      Angus the eldest son, married a sister of Malcolm Macleod of the Lewis, and had by her two sons, Angus Dubh, that is, dark complexioned, and Roderick Gald, that is, Lowland. On their father’s death, their uncle, Houcheon Dubh, became their tutor, and entered upon the management of their lands. Understanding that his sister, the widow of Angus, was ill-treated by the uncle, Malcolm Macleod, with a large following, went to visit her, and on his return homewards, he laid waste Strathnaver and a great part of the Breachat in Sutherland, carrying off a large booty along with him. As soon as Houcheon Dubh and his brother Neill were informed of this, they acquainted Robert, earl of Sutherland, who immediately despatched a large party to assist the Mackays. Overtaking Macleod upon the marches between Ross and Sutherland, at a place called Tuttim-Tarwach, a desperate conflict ensued. It “was long, furious, cruel, and doubtful,” says Sir Robert Gordon, and “rather desperate than resolute.” Malcolm Macleod was slain with all his party, save one, and the goods and cattle were recovered.

      In 1411, when Donald, lord of the Isles, in prosecution of his claim to the earldom of Ross, burst into Sutherland, he was attacked at Dingwall, by Angus Dubh, or Black Angus Mackay. The latter, however, was defeated and taken prisoner, and his brother, Roriegald, and many of his men were slain. After a short confinement, Angus was released by the lord of the Isles, who, desirous of cultivating the alliance of so powerful a chief, gave him his daughter, Elizabeth, in marriage, and with her bestowed upon him many lands by charter in 1415. He was called Enneas-en-Imprissi, or “Angus the Absolute,” from his great power. At this time, we are told, Angus Dubh could bring into the field 4,000 fighting men.

      In 1426, Angus invaded Caithness, with all the forces he could collect, and spoiled and laid waste that district. The inhabitants met him at Harpisdell, where a battle was fought, in which both sides suffered severely, but the result was not decisive, and Mackay continued his depredations. To put a stop to the disturbances in the Highlands, James I., early in the following year, summoned the principal chiefs to meet him and his parliament at Inverness, and among the number arrested by the king on this occasion, about forty in all, was Angus Dubh, with his four sons. After a short confinement, Angus was pardoned and released with three of them, the eldest, Neill Mackay, being kept as a hostage for his good behaviour. Being confined in the Bass at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, he was ever after called Neill Wasse (or Bass) Mackay. During his imprisonment, his son, Thomas Macheill, proprietor of the lands of Creigh, Spanziedaill, and Pulrossie in Sutherland, had a quarrel with Mowat of Freshwick. To avoid his vengeance, Mowat took refuge, with his followers, in the chapel of St. Duffus near Tain, but they were followed thither by Thomas, who slew him and his people, and burnt the chapel to the ground. In consequence of this outrage the king issued a proclamation against Thomas Macneill, promising his lands as a reward to any one who would kill or apprehend him. Angus Murray, son of Alexander Murray of Cubin, with a view to his apprehension, offered his brothers, Morgan and Neill Macneill, for their assistance, his two daughters in marriage, besides promising to aid them in getting possession of the lands of Angus Dubh in Strathnaver. They accordingly apprehended their brother, Thomas, who was delivered up to the king, and executed at Inverness. Murray gave his daughters in marriage to Neill and Morgan Macneill, as he had promised, and thereafter made an incursion into Strathnaver, to seize the lands of Angus Dubh Mackay. The latter, being too old to lead his clan in person, gave the command of it to John Aberigh, his natural son, but to save the effusion of blood, he sent a message to his cousins, Neill and Morgan, offering to surrender to them all his lands in Strathnaver, if they would allow him to retain Kintail. This offer was rejected, and a desperate battle took place at Drumnacoub, near Tongue. Among the slain were the beginners of the strife, Angus Murray and his two sons-in-aw, Neill and Morgan Macneill. John Aberigh, the victor, lost an arm in the conflict. After the battle, Angus Dubh, the chief, caused himself to be carried to the field, to search for the bodies of his slain cousins, when he was killed by an arrow from a Sutherland man, who lay concealed near the spot.

      In 1437, Neill Wasse Mackay was released from confinement in the Bass, and on assuming the chiefship, he bestowed on John Aberigh, for his attention to his father, the lands of Lochnaver in fee simple, which were long possessed by his posterity, that particular branch of the Mackays, called the Sliochd-ean-Aberigh, or an-Abrach. Neill Wasse, soon after his accession, ravaged Caithness, but died the same year, leaving two sons, Angus, and John Roy Mackay, the latter founder of another branch, called the Sliochd-ean-Roy.

      Angus Mackay, the elder son, assisted the Keiths in invading Caithness in 1464, when they defeated the inhabitants of that district in an engagement at Blaretannie. He was burnt to death in the church of Tarbet in 1475, by the men of Ross, whom he had often molested. With a daughter, married to Sutherland of Dilred, he had three sons, viz., John Reawigh, meaning yellowish red, the colour of his hair; Y-Roy Mackay; and Neill Naverigh Mackay.

      To revenge his father’s death, John Reawigh Mackay, the eldest son, raised a large force, and assisted by Robert Sutherland, uncle to the earl of Sutherland, invaded Strathoikell, and laid waste the lands of the Rosses in that district. A battle took place, 11th July 1487, at Aldy-Charrish, when the Rosses were defeated, and their chief, Alexander Ross of Balnagowan, and 17 other principal men of that clan were slain. The victims returned home with a large booty.

      It was by forays such as these that the great Highland chiefs, and even some of the lowland nobles, contrived, in former times, to increase their stores and add to their possessions, and the Mackays soon obtained a large accession to their lands by the following circumstance, which strongly marks the manners of the age. The nephew of the Mackay chief, Alexander Sutherland of Dilred, having failed to repay a sum of money he had borrowed from Sir James Dunbar of Cumnock, the latter took legal measures to secure his debt by appraising part of his lands. The affront was the more galling as the Dunbars had but recently settled in Sutherland, and the laird of Dilred “grudged, as it were,” (says Sir Robert Gordon) “that a stranger should brawe (brave) him at his owne doors.” Whilst in this humour he happened to meet Sir James Dunbar’s brother, Alexander, the husband of the countess dowager of Sutherland, and after some altercation, a combat ensued, when Alexander Dunbar was killed. Sir James immediately went to Edinburgh, and laid the matter before the king, who caused Alexander Sutherland to be proclaimed a rebel, and promised his lands to any one who should apprehend him. After some search, he was taken, with ten of his followers, by his uncle, Y-Roy Mackay, who had succeeded his brother, John Reawigh Mackay, as chief of the Mackays. Sutherland was executed, and his lands bestowed on Y-Roy Mackay. These were Armidall, Strathy, Golspietour, Kinnald, Kilcolmkill, and Dilred, the charter of which was dated at Inverness, 4th November 1449. “Avarice,” says Sir R. Gordon, “is a strange vyce, which respects neither blood nor friendship. This is the first infeftment that any of the familie of Macky had from the king, so far as I can perceave by the records of this kingdom; and they wer untill this tym possessors onlie of their lands in Strathnaver, not careing much for any charters or infeftments, as most pairts of the Highlanders have alwise done.” (Hist. p. 80). In February 1512, Sir James Dunbar obtained a decree before the court of session, setting aside the right of Y-Roy Mackay to that part of the lands of Alexander Sutherland, over which his security extended, and ordaining the earl of Sutherland, as superior of the lands, to receive Sir James as his vassal. In 1516, Y-Roy Mackay gave his bond of service to Adam Gordon of Aboyne, brother of the earl of Huntly, who had become earl of Sutherland, by marriage with Elizabeth, sister and heiress of the ninth earl, but died soon after. Donald, his youngest son, slain at Morinsh, was ancestor of a branch of the Mackays called the Sliochd-Donald-Mackay.

      John, the eldest son, had no sooner taken possession of his father’s lands, than his uncle, Neill Naverigh Mackay and his two sons, assisted by a force furnished them by the earl of Caithness, entered Strathnaver, and dispossessed him of his inheritance. John hastened to the clan Chattan and the clan Kenzie, to crave their aid, and, in his absence, his brother, Donald, with a small force, surprised at night Neill Naverigh’s party at Dalnaivigh in Strathnaver, and slew both his cousins and the greater part of their men. Their father, Neill Naverigh, threw himself upon the generosity of his nephews, but they ruthlessly ordered him to be beheaded by the hands of his own foster-brother.

      In 1517, in the absence of the earl of Sutherland, who had wrested from John Mackay a portion of his lands, he and his brother Donald invaded Sutherland with a large force. They were met at a place called Torran-Dubh, near Rogart in Strathfleet, by the Sutherland men, under Alexander Sutherland, natural brother of the countess, and, after a furious battle, defeated, with great slaughter. Sir Robert Gordon says that this “was the greatest conflict that hitherto hes been foughtin between the inhabitants of these countreyes, or within the diocy of Catteyness, to our knowledge.” (Page 92).

      After several reverses, John Mackay submitted to the earl in 1518, and granted him his bond of service. But such was his restless and turbulent disposition that he afterwards prevailed upon Alexander Sutherland, the bastard, who had married his sister and pretended a claim to the earldom, to raise the standard of insurrection against the earl. Alexander Sutherland was taken prisoner and beheaded on the spot, but John Mackay continued his hostile inroads into the earl’s country. On his way home from one of these excursions, with a large quantity of cattle, he was attacked and defeated by the master of Sutherland, and made his escape with great difficulty. After this he again submitted to the earl, and a second time gave him his bond of service and ‘manrent’ in 1522. He died in 1529, and was succeeded by his brother, Donald.

      In 1539, Donald Mackay obtained restitution of the greater part of the family estates, which had been seized by the Sutherland Gordons, and in 1542 he was present in the engagement at Solway Moss. Soon after, he committed various ravages in Sutherland. He began by burning the village of Knockartol and plundering Strathbrora, but although obliged to retreat by a body of the Sutherland men, under Sir Hugh Kennedy, he soon returned with a larger force. He was again, however, compelled to retreat, after a skirmish at Lochbuy, where he lost several of his men. Shortly thereafter he was apprehended, and committed a close prisoner to the castle of Foulis. After a considerable time he became reconciled to the earl of Sutherland, to whom he gave his bond of service and ‘manrent’ on 8th April 1549.

      In the absence of the bishop of Caithness in England, the earl of Caithness and Donald Mackay took possession of his lands, and levied the rents, as they pretended, for his behoof. When he returned, however, they refused to deliver up any part of his property, or to account for the rents which they had received in his name. The earls of Huntly and Sutherland summoned them, in consequence, to appear before them at Helmsdale, to answer for their intromissions with the bishop’s rents. The earl at once complied with the summons, and made a satisfactory arrangement. Mackay, on his part, was forced to appear with great reluctance, when he was once more committed a prisoner to the castle of Foulis, whence, however, he escaped. He died in 1550.

      In 1551, in the earl of Sutherland’s absence, the Mackays again proceeded to plunder and lay waste the country Y-Mackay, the son of Donald, with the Strathnaver men, entered Sutherland, but was forced back by the earl’s brother, Alexander Gordon, who, pushing into the district of the Mackays, wasted it, and carried off a large booty in goods and cattle. Y-Mackay, in his turn, retaliated, and this system of mutual aggression and spoliation continued for several years. In 1555, Y-Mackay was summoned to appear before the queen regent at Inverness, to answer for his depredations, but, disobeying the citation, a commission was granted to the earl of Sutherland, to bring him to justice. The earl accordingly entered Strathnaver with a great force, but Mackay contrived to elude him, and the earl laid siege to the castle of Borwe, the principal strength in Strathnaver, which he took and completely demolished. Mackay, on his part, entered Sutherland secretly, and burnt the church of Loth. He was, however, twice defeated by Mackenzie and his countrymen in Strathbrora, and seeing no chance of escape, he at last, in 1556, surrendered himself to the queen-regent, and was committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh.

      During his imprisonment, his kinsman, John Mor Mackay, who took charge of his estates, entered Sutherland, in the earl’s absence, with a large body of his clan, and spoiled and wasted that province, burning the chapel of St. Ninian. At the foot of the hill of Benmore in Berriedale, they were surprised by a Sutherland force, and, after an obstinate resistance, defeated with great slaughter. On his release from his confinement in Edinburgh castle, Y-Mackay fought for awhile, with great bravery, against the English on the borders, and on his return to Strathnaver, he submitted himself to the earl of Sutherland.

      In 1562, he joined queen Mary at Inverness, and received a remission of the crime of having, in 1548, conducted an English army to Haddington. On 21st December, 1566, the queen gifted his lands to Huntly at Stirling. On the deaths, by poison, in 1567, of the earl and countess of Sutherland, Y-Mackay, instigated by the earl of Caithness, taking advantage of the minority of the young earl, their son, then only 15 years of age, invaded the county of Sutherland, wasted the barony of Skibo, entered the town of Dornoch, and under pretence of a quarrel with the Murrays, by whom it was chiefly inhabited, set fire to it. so great was his power, and so extensive his spoliations at this time, that in the first parliament of James VI., 15th December 1567, the lords of the articles were required to report, “By what means might Mackay be dantoned?” In 1570, he was prevailed upon by Hugh Murray of Aberscors to accompany him to Strathbogie, where the young earl of Sutherland resided with his kinfolk the Gordons, when he entered into an engagement with the earls of Huntly and Sutherland, to assist the latter against the earl of Caithness, in consideration of which, and on payment of £3,000 Scots, he obtained from the earl of Huntly, the heritable right and title of the lands of Strathnaver. Influenced, however, by Barbara Sinclair, the sister of the earl of Caithness and wife of the young earl of Sutherland, with whom he publicly cohabited, he broke his engagement, and continued to oppress the tenants and dependents of the latter. He died in 1571, full of remorse, it is said, for the wickedness of his life.

      His son, Houcheon, or Hugh, succeeded him when only eleven years old. In 1587, he joined the earl of Caithness, when attacked by the earl of Sutherland, although the latter was his superior. He was excluded from the temporary truce agreed to by the two earls in March of that year, and in the following year they came to a resolution to attack him together. Having received secret notice of their intention from the earl of Caithness, he made his submission to the earl of Sutherland, and ever after remained faithful to him. Mr. Robert Mackay of Thurso, in his ‘History of the Mackays,’ (p. 157) says on this: “If Hugh Mackay was faulty in deserting and otherwise acting against Lord Caithness, who had never done him any injury, he made no profit by it, or by connecting himself with Sutherland. The Sinclairs, no doubt, had their faults, but the Gordons had theirs in no less degree. The policy and displeasure of the former were more easily discovered, and consequently more readily avoided; while those of the Gordons were more deep and abiding. Each had their wide grasp; but that of the Gordons was excessive and gigantic; to which it must be added, that the principal cause of the downfall of the Caithness family was their being forsaken by Mackay; and that he was the chief instrument in serving and exalting the sinking family of Sutherland, to the great detriment of his own, after his time.”

      In 1589, Sinclair of Murkie, brother of the earl of Caithness, marched into Strathully, with an army of 3,000 men, and having eluded the Sutherland sentinels, he passed forward to a place called Crissalligh, on the height of Strathbrora. Mackay, who was then at Dunrobin, was sent against him by the earl of Sutherland, with five or six hundred men. Finding, on coming up to them, that they were in great disorder, and that a party of them were skirmishing with some of the Sutherland retainers, he resolved, even with his inferior force, to attack them at once. Crossing, therefore, the water which was between them, he rushed, with his men, upon Sinclair’s army, and after a long and hotly contested battle, defeated them. In October 1590 archers, under the command of Donald Mackay of Scourie, who had, some time before, fled from Sutherland for having despoiled Assynt, and had placed himself under the protection of the earl of Caithness. A furious conflict ensued, which lasted for a considerable time, but on the approach of night the Caithness men were forced to retire from the field. Donald Mackay of Scourie being afterwards apprehended and imprisoned in Dunrobin castle, was, at the request of his brother, Hugh Mackay, released by the earl of Sutherland, to whom he ever afterwards remained faithful. While the Caithness men were engaged in their late excursion into Sutherland, Hugh Mackay entered into Caithness, and laid waste everything in his course, even to the gates of Thurso. He carried off a large quantity of booty without opposition, which he divided among his countrymen, according to custom.

      Of the army raised by the earl of Sutherland in 1601, to oppose the threatened invasion of his territories by the earl of Caithness, the advanced guard was commanded by Patrick Gordon of Gartay and Donald Mackay of Scourie, and the right wing by Hugh Mackay. On its approach, however, the Caithness men took to flight. In August 1602, Hugh Mackay accompanied the earl of Sutherland, and his brother, Sir Robert Gordon, on a visit to Patrick Stuart, earl of Orkney. In 1610 he and his son, Donald Mackay, afterwards Lord Reay, were summoned before the privy council at Edinburgh, by the earl of Caithness, for giving succour and protection to John Sutherland, an outlaw, the son of Hugh Mackay’s sister. He had lived in Berriedale, under the earl of Caithness, whose oppressions had driven him to acts of vengeance and spoliation, and having disregarded a citation to appear at Edinburgh, to answer certain charges against him, he had been proclaimed a rebel. In obedience to the summons Mackay hastened to the capital, where he met Sir Robert Gordon, who had arrived from England for the purpose of assisting him on the occasion. Lord Caithness, however, was easily induced to settle the matter, and, on his invitation subsequently, the Mackay chief and his brother William spent the following Christmas with him at Girnigo castle. His design in asking them was to separate the Mackays from the Sutherland interests, but in this he was unsuccessful. Hugh Mackay died at Tongue, 11th September 1614, in his 55th year. He was connected with both the rival houses by marriage; his first wife being Lady Elizabeth Sinclair, second daughter of George, fourth earl of Caithness, and relict of Alexander Sutherland of Duffus; and his second, Lady Jean Gordon, eldest daughter of Alexander, eleventh earl of Sutherland. The former lady was drowned, and left a daughter. By the latter he had two sons, Sir Donald Mackay of Far, first Lord Reay, and John, who married in 1619, a daughter of James Sinclair of Murkle, by whom he had Hugh Mackay and other children.

      Sir Donald Mackay of Far, the elder son, was, by Charles I., created a peer of Scotland, by the title of Lord Reay, by patent, dated 20th June, 1628, to him and his heirs male whatever. See REAY, Lord. From him the land of the Mackays in Sutherland acquired the name of “Lord Reay’s Country,” which it has ever since retained. It now belongs to the duke of Sutherland.

      The Mackays became very numerous in the northern counties, and the descent of their chiefs, in the male line, has continued unbroken from their first appearance in the north down to the present time. In the county of Sutherland, they multiplie greatly also, under other names, such as M’Phail, Polson, Bain, Nielson, &c. The names of Mackie and M’Ghie are also said to be derived from Mackay. The old family of M’Ghie of Balmaghie, which for about 600 years possessed estates in Galloway, used the same arms as the chief of the Mackays. They continued in possession of their lands till 1786. Balnaghie means Mackay town. The name M’Crie is supposed to be a corruption of M’GHIE.

      At the time of the rebellion of 1745, the Mackays were one of the clans that continued faithful to the government, at which time its effective force was estimated at 800 men by President Forbes. It is said that in the last Sutherland fencibles, raised in 1793 and disbanded in 1797, there were 33 John Mackays in one company alone. In 1794 the Reay fencibles, 800 strong, were raised in a few weeks, in “Lord Reay’s country,” the residence of the clan Mackay. The names of no fewer than 700 of them had the prefix of Mac. From 1795 to 1802, when it was disbanded, the regiment was employed in Ireland, where it soon acquired the confidence of Generals Lake and Nugent. The former was particularly attached to the Reay fencibles, and after the defeat of Castlebar, he frequently exclaimed, “If I had had my brave and honest Reays there, this would not have happened.” At Tara Hall, 26th May, 1798, three companies of the Reays distinguished themselves in an attack upon a large body of rebels, whom they drove from a strong position, with the loss of about 400 killed and wounded, they themselves having only 26 men killed and wounded.

      With regard to the term Siol Mhorgan applied to the clan Mackay, Mr. Robert Mackay of Thurso, the family historian, denies that as a clan they were ever known by that designation, which rests, he says, only on the affirmation of Sir Robert Gordon, without any authority. He adds: “There are, indeed, to this day, persons of the surname Morgan and Morganach, who are understood to be of the Mackays, but that the whole clan, at any period, went under that designation, is incorrect; and those of them who did so, were always few and of but small account. The name seems to be of Welsh origin; but how it obtained among the Mackays it is impossible now to say.”


      Of the branches of the clan Mackay, the family of Scourie is the most celebrated. They were descended from Donald Mackay of Scourie and Eriboll, elder son of Iye Mackay III., chief of the clan from 1550 to 1571, by his first wife, a daughter of Hugh Macleod of Assynt. With regard to the manner in which they became possessed of Scourie, and indeed of the whole parish of Edderachillis, an account is given by the Rev. Mr. Falconer in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland, which can only be reconciled with the family history by considering Iye Mackay and the “Sir Hugh Mackay” of his narrative as identical, and by rejecting the story about his son Donald’s mother. Donald and his full brother, John Beg Mackay, were considered illegitimate, because their patents were cousins. The chief of the clan, styled “Sir Hugh Mackay,” having occasion, in 1550, to remit some money to Edinburgh, was surprised to find his messenger return the following day without it, as he had been robbed on the way by a party of armed men, with blackened faces. The general suspicion of the country fell upon James Macleod of Edderachillis, who was of a turbulent and factious disposition, as the person who had employed them to commit the robbery. With the Morisons of Durness he had frequent quarrels, and Morison of Ashir, the principal man amongst them, having, at that time, in his house, Donald Mackay, a natural son of the Mackay chief, he proposed, both to the Mackays and his own friends, that he should be laird of Edderachillis, if Macleod could be made away with. A cousin of James Macleod, named Donald Macleod, undertook to put him to death, on being promised the half of Edderachilles and Donald Mackay’s mother for his wife. A party of the Morisons, with Donald Mackay at their head, marched, in a dark morning, towards the residence of James Macleod, and slew several of his kinsmen, he himself being killed by a bullet from the musket of his cousin, Donald Macleod. The latter, not receiving the reward promised him, raised his friends in Assynt, and with them returned to Edderachillis, where he found the Morisons prepared to meet and fight him, at a place called Maldy. An engagement, however, was prevented by “Sir Hugh Mackay” presenting himself on the top of a neighbouring hill, with 300 men, and proposing to Donald Macleod, to resign his pretensions to Edderachillis in favour of his son Donald, and he himself, on his doing so, would grant him other lands on his own estate, called the davoch of Hope. This proposal he acceded to. It was, however, from his brother Hugh, who gave him a charter of the lands, that Donald Mackay obtained Edderachillis, which afterwards formed part of the estate of the Reay family, and that branch of the Mackays which sprung from him adopted the designation of Scourie.

      Donald Mackay above mentioned, the son of Iye III., by his wife, Euphemia, daughter of Hugh Munro of Assynt in Ross, brother of the laird of Foulis, had three sons and four daughters. The sons were Hugh, Donald, and William. Hugh, the eldest, succeeded his father, and by the Scots Estates was appointed colonel of the Reay countrymen. He married a daughter of James Corbet of Rheims, by whom he had five sons, William, Hector, Hugh, the celebrated General Mackay, commander of the government forces at the battle of Killiecrankie, a memoir of whom is given below, James and Roderick. He had also three daughters, Barbara, married to John, Lord Reay; Elizabeth, to Hugh Munro of Eriboll, and Ann, to the Hon. Capt. William Mackay of Kinloch. William and Hector, the two eldest sons, both unmarried, met with untimely deaths. In February 1688, the earl of Caithness, whose wife was younger than himself, having conceived some jealousy against William, caused him to be seized at Dunnet, while on his way to Orkney, with a party of 30 persons. He was conveyed to Thurso, where he was immured in a dungeon, and after long confinement was sent home in an open boat, and died the day after. In August of the same year, his brother Hector, accompanied by a servant, having gone to Aberdeenshire, on his way to Edinburgh, was waylaid and murdered by William Sinclair of Dunbeath and John Sinclair of Murkle, and their two servants. A complaint was immediately raised before the justiciary, at the instance of John earl of Sutherland and the relatives of the deceased against the earl of Caithness and the two Sinclairs for these crimes. A counter complaint was brought by Caithness against the parties pursuers, for several alleged crimes from 1649 downwards, but it was fallen from, and a compromise took place between the parties.

      General Mackay’s only son, Hugh, major of his father’s regiment, died at Cambray, in 1708, aged about 28. He left two sons, Hugh and Gabriel, and a daughter. Hugh died at Breda, a lieutenant-general in the Dutch service, and colonel of the Mackay Dutch regiment, which took its name from his father. He had an only daughter, the wife of Lieutenant-general Provost, of the British service, who, on the death of his father-in-law, without male issue, obtained the king’s license to bear the name and arms of Mackay of Scourie in addition to his own, which his descendants in Holland still bear. Gabriel, the younger son, lieutenant-colonel of the Mackay regiment, died without issue. James, the next brother of General Mackay, a lieutenant-colonel in his regiment, was killed at Killiecrankie, and Roderick, the youngest, died in the East Indies, both unmarried.

      After General Hugh Mackay’s death, the Mackay regiment in the Dutch service was commanded by his nephew, Brigadier-general Æneas Mackay, who was wounded at Killiecrankie, and after him by his son, Colonel Donald Mackay, who was killed at the battle of Fontenoy, May 11, 1745.

      The representative of the family of Scourie, John Mackay, Esq. of Rockville, at one period one of the clerks to the commissioners for the affairs of India, which institution he resigned from loss of sight, had two brothers, Hugh and William. Their father was the Rev. Thomas Mackay, minister of the parish of Lairg in Sutherlandshire, son of the Rev. John Mackay, minister there from 1714 to 1753, having previously been minister of his native parish of Durness on the west coast of the same county. Hugh, the second son, entered the service of the East India Company in 1784, and served in the 4th Madras native cavalry, He held the lucrative staff appointment of agent for draught and carriage cattle to the army, under General Wellesley, afterwards duke of Wellington, but though exempt from regimental duty as a staff officer, he solicited permission to lead his company in the battle of Assaye, 23d September, 1803, and was refused. Rather, however, than remain idly with the baggage in the rear, when his brother officers were engaged with the enemy, he resolved to disobey, thereby risking his commission, and was killed at the muzzle of the enemy’s guns, in that desperate charge of the cavalry which decided the fate of the day. On the spot where he fell his brother officers erected a monument to his memory.

      William, the youngest son, after being educated at the parish school of Lairg, went to sea at the age of 16. He made several voyages to the East and West Indies, and was esteemed one of the most skilful navigators in the Indian seas. In 1795, the ship Juno of Calcutta, of which he was second officer, was sent on a voyage to the coast of Pegu for a cargo of teakwood, and on its return was wrecked on the coast of Arracan. The ship sprang a leak, and filled so fast with water that but for the nature of her cargo, she must inevitably have gone to the bottom. When her hull was under water, she settled down, with her masts standing erect. To lighten her, the main mast was cut away, and the unfortunate crew, 72 in number, took refuge in the rigging of the two remaining masts. In this situation, without food or water to drink, save what the rain supplied, fourteen individuals, including the captain’s wife and her servant maid, lived 23 days, and, when at length the wreck took the ground, were saved. The rest perished. The principal survivor was William Mackay, who published a narrative of his sufferings and the escape of himself and his companions. From this narrative, Lord Byron borrowed some of the most graphic incidents and most touching passages in the description of a shipwreck in his poem of Don Juan. In reference to these passages, Mr. Moore, his biographer, says: “It will be felt, I think, by every reader, that this is one of the instances in which poetry must be content to yield the palm to prose. There is a pathos in the last sentence of the seaman’s recital (See Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Juno, page 26) which the artifices of metre and rhyme were sure to disturb, and which, indeed, no verses, however beautiful, could half so naturally and powerfully express.”

      In 1801, William Mackay, who had resumed his mariner’s life immediately after his wonderful preservation, was sent up the Red Sea in command of a brig, with stores and provisions for General Baird’s army, destined to co-operate with that of Sir Ralph Abercromby in Egypt. On the voyage he had another marvellous escape from shipwreck, and by superior seamanship not only saved his own but many other ships of the fleet, particularly, the Real Fidellissimo, with Colonel Ford and a detachment of the 86th regiment, an account of which is given in an appendix to a subsequent edition of his Narrative of the Loss of the Juno. He died at Calcutta in 1804, from an affection of the liver, contracted during the twenty-three dreadful days he passed on the wreck of the Juno. In the churchyard of Calcutta there is a monument to his memory, and in that of their native parish of Lairg in Sutherland a square monument, with a separate tablet for each, commemorates the characters of the Rev. John Mackay, and his son, and two grandsons.

      General Mackay’s cousin-german, Captain William Mackay of Borley, eldest son of Donald Mackay of Borley, second son of Donald, first of Scourie, led a company of the Mackays at the battle of Worcester in 1651, on the side of Charles II. He had three sons: Captain Hugh Mackay of Scourie; Donald; and the Rev. John Mackay, minister first of Durness, and afterwards of Lairg, above mentioned. Donald, the second son, was a member of the council of the Darien company in 1698, and was sent to Britain from the colony with an address to the king, and a pressing request to the directors to send out, with all expedition, supplies of provisions, ammunition, and men. On his return to the colony, he found it abandoned. His fate was a melancholy one. Being at sea in 1702, he harpooned a shark, and having got entangled with the rope, was dragged overboard and drowned.


      The eldest branch of the Mackays was that of the Clan-Abrach, descended from John Aberigh Mackay, second son of Angus Dubh, who received the lands of Achness, Breachat, and others, from his brother, Neill Wasse. Of this family was Robert Mackay, writer, Thurso, the historian of the clan Mackay. According to this gentleman, John Aberigh, the first of this branch, gave his name to the district of Strathnaver. In the Gaelic language, he says, the inhabitants of Strathnaver are called Naverigh, and that tribe the Sliochd-nan-Aberigh. John, their founder, some say, took his appellation of Aberigh from Lochaber, where he resided in his youth with some relatives, and from Strath-na-Aberich the transition is natural to Strath-n’-Averich. Neill Naverich, above mentioned, was so called from his having belonged to the Reay Country, that is, Strathnaver. The Clan-Abrach were the most numerous and powerful branch of the Mackays. They acted as wardens of their country, and never betrayed their trust.

      The Bighouse branch were descendants of William Mackay of Far, younger half brother of Donald Mackay of Scourie, by his second wife, Christian Sinclair, daughter of the laird of Dun.

      The Strathy branch sprung from John Mackay of Dilred and Strathy, brother of the first Lord Reay, and son of Hugh Mackay of Far, by his wife, Lady Jane Gordon, eldest daughter of Alexander, earl of Sutherland.

      The Melness branch came from the Hon. Colonel Æneas Mackay, second son of the first Lord Reay, by his first wife, the Hon. Barbara Mackenzie, daughter of Lord Kintail.

      The Kinloch branch descended from the Hon. Captain William Mackay, and the Sandwood branch from the Hon. Charles Mackay, sons of the first Lord Reay by his last wife, Marjory Sinclair, daughter of Francis Sinclair of Stircoke.

      The founder of the Holland branch of the Mackays, General Hugh Mackay, prior to 1680, when a colonel in the Dutch service, and having no prospect of leaving Holland, wrote for some of his near relatives to go over and settle in that country. Amongst those were his brother, James, and his nephews, Æneas and Robert, sons of the first Lord Reay. The former he took into his own regiment, in which, in a few years, he became lieutenant-colonel. The latter he sent to school at Utrecht for a short time, and afterwards obtained commissions for them in his own regiment. In the beginning of 1687, several British officers in the Dutch service were recalled to England by King James, and amongst others was Æneas Mackay, then a captain. On his arrival in London, the King made him some favourable propositions to enter his service, which he declined, and, in consequence, when he reached Scotland, he was ordered to be apprehended as a spy. He had been imprisoned nearly seven months in Edinburgh castle, when the prince of Orange landed at Torbay, and he was liberated upon granting his personal bond to appear before the privy council when called upon, under a penalty of £500 sterling. The Dutch Mackays married among the nobility of Holland, and one of the families of that branch held the title of baron.

MACKAY, HUGH, a distinguished military commander, the third son of Colonel Hugh Mackay of Scourie, was born about 1640. His two elder brothers having been murdered in the manner above shown, he early succeeded to the family estate. Soon after the Restoration in 1660, he obtained an ensign’s commission in the Royal Scots, then, from its commanding officer, termed Douglas’ or Dumbarton’s regiment, and accompanied it to France, on that corps being lent by Charles II. to the French king. It is now the first foot of the British line. Among his brother subalterns was a young Churchill, afterwards the great duke of Marlborough, with whom he kept up a friendly correspondence till his death. In 1669, with several other officers, he volunteered into the service of Venice, and so greatly distinguished himself in several engagements with the Turks in the island of Candia, that he received from the Republic a medal of great value, in acknowledgment of his services.

      In 1672 he had the rank conferred on him of captain in Dumbarton’s regiment, and was employed with it in the unprincipled expedition of Louis against the United Provinces. His regiment formed part of the division of the army which, under Marshal Turenne, overran the province of Gueldres, and captured most of the Dutch fortresses on the Meuse and Waal. At the small town of Bommel, in Guelderland, he was quartered in the house of a Dutch lady, the widow of the Chevalier Arnold de Bie, whose eldest daughter, Clara, he married in 1673.

      Previous to this event, not approving of the cause in which he was engaged, he had resigned his commission in the Royal Scots, and entered the service of the States General, being appointed captain in the Scottish Dutch brigade. In 1674 he was present at the battle of Seneff, when the army under the prince of Orange was defeated by the prince of Conde. He was afterwards promoted to the rank of major-commandant in the same service; and on the lieutenant-colonelcy of one of the regiments forming the Scots brigade becoming vacant, the prince bestowed it on Mackay, in preference to Graham of Claverhouse, who, in consequence, quitted the Dutch service in disgust.

      About 1680 Mackay was promoted to the command of the whole brigade, which, in 1685, was called over to England to assist in suppressing Monmouth’s rebellion; on which occasion, King James, on 4th June of that year, conferred on him the rank of major-general, and appointed him a member of his privy council in Scotland. He proceeded, in consequence, to Edinburgh, where he took the oaths, but his public duties did not admit of his visiting his estate and relations in Sutherland. In the following year, disapproving of the arbitrary proceedings of James’ government, and preferring the service of his son-in-law, the prince of Orange, he resigned his commission, and returned to Holland; and in 1688, having, along with most of the officers of the Scots brigade, refused to obey the order of James II. to return to England, he and five other persons were declared rebels, and specially exempted from pardon.

      With the command of the English and Scots division of the invading army, General Mackay accompanied the prince of Orange to England at the Revolution. Soon after his landing he was seized with a severe illness, from which he had scarcely recovered when by a warrant, signed by William and Mary, dated from Kensington, 4th January, 1689, he was appointed major-general of all forces whatever, “within our ancient kingdom of Scotland,” and on the 25th March he arrived at Leith, with part of the Scots brigade, which had served in Holland. The assumption of the sovereign authority in the above warrant, as regarded Scotland, without waiting for the determination of the convention, was guarded against by the following entry in the records of that body: “Edinburgh, 28th March, 1689. The estates of this kingdom considering that the king of England, in pursuance of his acceptation of the administration of the public affairs of this kingdom, till the meeting of the estates, had sent down Major-general Mackay, with some Scots regiments under his command, for the security of the estates, and general peace of the kingdom; they do acknowledge the great kindness and care of the king of England; and do hereby warrant and authorise the said Major-general Mackay to command any forces, either standing or to be raised, with the militia within this kingdom,” &c.

      On Viscount Dundee proceeding to the north, to raise the clans for King James, Mackay was despatched from Edinburgh with a considerable body of troops in pursuit. He had previously attempted to open a correspondence with Cameron of Lochiel, with the view of inducing him to submit to King William’s government, but could obtain no answer, and Macdonnell of Glengary, to whom he also made a communication, advised him, in return, to imitate the conduct of General Monk, by restoring James. Appointing the town of Dundee as the rendezvous for his troops, with about 500 men, consisting of nearly an equal number of horse and foot, Mackay hastened north in quest of the viscount, and after in vain attempting to meet him, he marched first to Elgin, and afterwards to Inverness, where he was joined by 500 of the Mackays, Grants, and Rosses. Dundee having entered Badenoch with a large force, Mackay, not being joined by a detachment of Dutch troops under Colonel Ramsay, which he expected, retreated from Inverness through Strathspey. Here he at one time intended to give Dundee battle, but the latter showed no disposition to engage.

      In all probability there would have been a battle if Lieutenant-colonel Livingstone and several of his officers had not stationed two dragoons near the mansion-house of Edinglassie to give Dundee warning. The dragoons were found concealed in the woods, and their information led to discoveries which completely implicated Livingstone and others. General Mackay arrested them and sent them to Edinburgh. They confessed their guilt, but it is not ascertained in what manner they were disposed of. Having thus reason to distrust the fidelity of a portion of his force, Mackay continued his retreat till he was joined by some reinforcements upon whom he could rely, when he turned upon Dundee, and pursued him into Badenoch. He subsequently marched to Inverness, whence he wrote to the duke of Hamilton, president of the convention, urging the necessity of establishing “a formidable garrison” at Inverlochy, and small ones in other places in the north, without which he considered that it would be utterly impossible to subdue the Highlanders. He himself soon after repaired to Edinburgh, to hasten the preparations for carrying such a project into effect; but the plan he proposed, as he himself confesses, “considering the inability, ignorance, and little forwardness of the government to furnish the necessary ingredients for the advance of their service, was built upon a sandy foundation, and much like the building of castles in the air.” (Mackay’s Memoirs, p. 46.)

      After completing his arrangements at Edinburgh, Mackay went to Stirling, to inspect the castle. From that place he proceeded to Perth, and on the 26th July 1689, he began his march into Athol, at the head of an army, as generally stated, of 4,500 men, but he tells us himself, in his ‘Memoirs,’ that he had with him only “six battalions of foot, making at the most 3,000 men, with four troops of horse and as many dragoons.” Among the foot were two Scottish regiments, which, as stated in Mr. Mackay of Rockfield’s Life of General Mackay, “as well as the house, were not only new levies, but were also commanded by noblemen and gentlemen wholly destitute of military experience, and selected for their respective commands solely on account of their power of raising men; little more, therefore, than one half of the whole number could be said to be disciplined.” At night the general encamped opposite to Dunkeld. Here, at midnight, he received an express from the marquis of Tullibardine, (often styled Lord Murray,) announcing that Viscount Dundee had entered Athol, and in consequence he had retreated from before the castle of Blair, which he had for some time blockaded, and informing him that at the upper end of the pass of Killiecrankie, which lay between him and Lord Dundee, he had posted a guard to secure a free passage through it to his troops.   

      On receipt of this alarming intelligence, Mackay despatched orders to Perth, to hasten the arrival of six troops of cavalry which he had left there, and at daybreak next day, proceeded in direction of the pass. At ten o’clock in the morning he reached its lower extremity, when he halted his troops, and allowed them two hours to rest and refresh themselves. Receiving notice that the pass was clear, he again put his men in motion, and they effected their passage through this terrific defile, with the loss only of a single horseman. In that singularly wild and stupendous locality, a handful of men, with no other ammunition than stones, stationed at intervals on the summit of the precipices, could easily impede the progress of any troops. If even at the present time, with the advantages of the excellent road, formed nearly sixty years afterwards, its passage is difficult to the traveller, it must have been much more so in General Mackay’s time, when it was in a state of the most savage desolation. “When the pass of Killiecrankie,” says one authority, “is traversed, the country beyond is found to open suddenly up into a plain, which is expressively called the Blair or field of Athol. Immediately beyond the pass this plain is not very spacious, but is confined to that description of territory which in Scotland is called a haugh, or a strips of level alluvial soil by the brink of a river. The road debouches upon this narrow plain; the river runs along under the hills on the left; on the right rise other hills, but no of so bold a character. Mackay no sooner arrived at a space sufficiently wide for drawing up his army than he halted and began to intrench himself. He left his baggage at a blacksmith’s house near the termination of the pass, so as to have the protection of the army in front.”

      As it was Viscount Dundee’s object to prevent Mackay from establishing himself in Athol, he did not hesitate to meet him with an inferior force, amounting to little more than the half of that under Mackay. In making his dispositions, the latter divided every battalion into two parts, and, as he meant to fight three deep, he left a small distance between each of these sub-battalions. In the centre of his line, however, he left a greater interval of space, behind which he placed the two troops of horse. Hasting’s regiment, which arrived after he had taken up his ground, was stationed on the right, and, for greater security, a detachment of fire-locks from each battalion was added. On the extreme left, on a hillock covered with trees, Lieutenant-Colonel Lauder was posted, with 200 picked men. After his line had been fully formed, Mackay rode along the front, from the left wing, which he committed to the charge of Brigadier Balfour, to the right, and having ascertained that everything was in readiness to receive the enemy, he addressed the battalions nearest him in a short speech.

      Whilst he was occupied on the lower platform, his gallant rival was equally busy on the eminence above, ranging his men in battle array, in one line, and neither he nor Mackay placed any body of reserve behind their lines. As the evening advanced without any appearance on the part of Dundee of a desire to commence the action, the uneasiness of Mackay increased, as he supposed that the design of the Highlanders was to wait till nightfall, when, by descending suddenly, and setting up their customary loud shout, they expected to frighten his men, and throw them into disorder. He resolved however to remain in his position, whatever were the consequences, “although with impatience,” as he says in his Memoirs, till Dundee should either attack him or retire, which he had a better opportunity of doing. to provoke the Highlanders to engage, he ordered three small leather field-pieces to be discharged, but they proved of little use. Towards the close of the evening, some of Dundee’s sharpshooters took possession of some houses upon the ascent which lay between the two armies, to obtain a more certain aim. This induced the general to order his brother, colonel Mackay, to detach a captain with some musqueteers to dislodge them. The general’s nephew, the Hon. Robert Mackay, performed the duty with great gallantry, killing and wounding some, and chasing the rest back to their main body.

      It was nearly sunset when the Highlanders all at once began to move slowly down the hill, barefooted and stripped to their shirts and doublets. They advanced, according to their usual practice, with their bodies bent forward, so as to present as small a surface as possible to the fire of the enemy, the upper part of tyheir bodies being covered by their targets. They soon rushed forward with tremendous fury, uttering a terrific yell. They commenced the attack by a discharge of their firearms and pistols, which made little impression on Mackay’s men, who reserved their fire until within a few paces of the Highlanders, when they poured it into them. Discharging in platoons, they were enabled to take a steady aim, and their fire told with dreadful effect on the Highlander. At that time the present plan of fixing the bayonet was now known, and before the troops had time to screw their side-arms on to the end of their muskets, the Highlanders rushed in upon them sword-in-hand. It is said that General Mackay invented the present plan of firing with the bayonet fixed, from the complete defeat which he was not destined so briefly to experience, for the whole affair lasted only a few minutes. The shock of the Highlanders was too impetuous to be long resisted by soldiers, who, according to their own general, “behaved, with the exception of Hastings’ and Leven’s regiments, like the vilest cowards in nature.”

      While the work of death was thus going on towards the right, Dundee, at the head of the horse, made a furious charge on Mackay’s own battalion, and broke through it, on which the English horse, which were stationed behind, fled, without firing a single shot. When Mackay perceived that Dundee’s chief point of attack was near the centre of his line, he resolved to charge the Highlanders in flank with two troops of horse which he had placed in his rear; and he ordered Lord Belhaven to proceed round the left wing with his own troop, ant attack them on their right flank, ordering the other troop to proceed in the contrary direction, and assail their left. The general led Belhaven’s troop in person; but scarcely had he got in front of the line when it was thrown into disorder. This disorder was soon communicated to the right wing of Lord Kenmure’s battalion, which at once gave way.

      At this moment the general was surrounded by a crowd of Highlanders, and he called to his cavalry to follow him, that he might get them again formed, but only one person made the attempt, a servant, whose horse was shot under him. Putting spurs to his horse, he galloped through the Highlanders, and when he had got sufficiently out of immediate danger, he turned round to observe the appearance of the field. To his astonishment he saw none of his troops, but the dead, the wounded, and the dying. His army had disappeared. “In the twinkling of an eye, in a manner,” he says, “our men were out of sight, being got pell mell down to the river-side, where our baggage stood.” The flight of his men must have been truly rapid, for although his left wing, which had never been attacked, had taken to flight before he rode off, his right wing and centre had still kept their ground. But now the whole of his line had fled from the field, pursued by the Highlanders, till the latter were stopped by the baggage, and it was to their desire for plunder that those who escaped owed their safety, for had the Highlanders continued their pursuit, it is very probably that not an individual of Mackay’s army would have been left to relate the sad disaster of their discomfiture and death.

      When the general had recovered from his surprise, and the smoke had cleared away, he discovered on the right a small number of his troops. He subsequently came upon another portion of them. With these, he retired across the Garry, without molestation, and contrary to the opinion of several of his officers, who advised him to march through the pass of Killiecrankie to Perth, he proceeded several miles up Athol, with the intention of crossing over the hills to Stirling. About two miles from the field of battle, he came up with a party of about 150 fugitives, almost without arms, under the command of Colonel Ramsay, who was quite at a loss what direction to take. Continuing his march along the edge of a rivulet which falls into the Garry, he came to a little village, where he procured from the inhabitants such information as enabled him, with the assistance of his map, to decide upon his route. Early in the morning he reached Weem castle, the seat of his friend, the chief of the clan Menzies, whose son had been in the action at the head of a company of Highlanders, and here he obtained some sleep and refreshment after his fatigues and harassing march. On Sunday, the 28th July, the general continued his march with very little halting, and on Monday he arrived at Stirling with about 400 men. The viscount of Dundee fell in the battle, and thus rendered his victory a fruitless one to King James. On the side of Mackay no fewer than 2,000 men fell, and 500 were made prisoners. The loss on the side of Dundee could never be accurately ascertained. It is stated to have been considerable, and General Mackay says that “the enemy lost on the field six for our one.”

      Among the persons of rank and distinction slain were his brother Colonel Mackay and Brigadier Balfour. His nephew, the Hon. Captain Mackay, had been left for dead of the field of battle, and was found by Glengary and his men, who, perceiving him still alive, carried him on a barn door to the nearest hut, where he remained some days till he could be removed in safety to Dunkeld. He never completely recovered the effect of his wounds at Killiecrankie, and after serving, and being repeatedly wounded, in several of King William’s battles in Flanders, he died at Tongue, the seat of his family, in December 1696, in the 30th year of his age.

      After concentrating the troops at Stirling, General Mackay, within a few days after his arrival at that place, found himself again at the head of a considerable force. He then resolved to march direct to Perth, and place a garrison there. On coming within half-a-mile of the town, he observed a party of the enemy, consisting of about 300 Athol men, approaching from it. The latter, seeing from the dispositions made by General Mackay, that their retreat would be intercepted, threw themselves into the Tay, whither they were followed by Mackay’s cavalry, who cut them down in the water without mercy. He subsequently followed Colonel Cannan, who, on the death of Dundee, had assumed the command of James’ army, to the north, and stayed a night at Aberdeen. His arrival there gave great joy, he says, (Memoirs, p. 66,) to most of the inhabitants, as they were in dread of a visit from the Highlanders that very night.

      From Aberdeen Mackay proceeded up Deeside, having received intelligence that Cannan had taken up a position on the Braes of Mar; but learning, on his march, that the Highlanders had gone north to the duke of Gordon’s territory, he drew off his men towards Strathbogie. He reached Strathbogie castle before Cannan arrived at the castle of Auchindoun, where he intended to fix his head-quarters. Here the distance between the two armies was only about six miles, and both commanders made preparations for a battle, but the divisions and strifes among the officers and Highland chiefs in Cannan’s army prevented one from taking place; and that leader resolved to return to Athol. Mackay followed him in the direction of Cromar, and having ascertained that he had crossed the hills and entered the Mearns, he made a rapid movement down the Dee to Aberdeen. After the battle of Dunkeld he returned to Perth, and spent ten days at the castle of Blair, during which time many of the Athol people took advantage of an indemnity which he offered them, and delivered up their arms.

      From the jealousies and dissensions, and personal and selfish motives, which actuated all parties, and the indifference and neglect with which his plans for the subjugation of the Highlands had been treated by the government, General Mackay had, by this time, become heartily tired of his command. He was himself of a moderate and conciliatory disposition, and the different spirit that seemed to influence the conduct of mostly all others in power, made him, as he says himself, “look upon Scotsmen of those times in general, as void of zeal for their religion and natural affection, seeing all men hunt after their particular advantages, and none minding sincerely and self-deniedly the common good, which gave him a real distaste of the country and service; resolving from that time forward to disengage himself out of it as soon as possible he could get it done, and that the service would allow of.” (Memoirs, p. 77.) He failed, however, in obtaining even a temporary leave of absence, by the intrigues of Lord Melville and Viscount Tarbet, who, as he says, suspecting an interview with King William, who was then in Holland, to be the object of his proposed visit thither, were afraid that he would induce his majesty to adopt a system different from that which had been followed in the management of Scottish affairs.

      He now applied himself, with great perseverance, to accomplish his long cherished project of erecting a fort at Inverlochy, capable of containing ten or twelve hundred men, to keep the western Highlanders in check. As no notice was taken of a communication which he made to King William in reference thereto, notwithstanding its importance was urged in repeated letters from him, he grew quite impatient, and threatened to throw up his commission. At length the privy council having, at his request, written a letter to the king on the subject, his majesty ordered three frigates, which Mackay had written for, to be sent down, with some arms and ammunition and implements for commencing the work, but no money was forthcoming, without which nothing could be undertaken. In this emergency he applied to the city of Glasgow, the magistrates of which agreed to hire vessels for transporting a detachment of 600 men, which Mackay offered to take with him, and to furnish him with the necessary provisions, and such articles as he might require for completing the fort, in addition to those sent down from England.

      After the skirmish of Cromdale, Mackay proceeded into Lochaber, and thence to Inverlochy, and lost no time in commencing the fort at that place. The original fort built by General Monk, during the time of Cromwell, was chiefly of earth, and of a temporary character. Mackay erected the present one with stone and lime, on a smaller scale, and gave it the name of Fort William in honour of the king. It withstood a siege of three weeks in 1745. Leaving a thousand men in garrison there, he returned to the south, but shortly afterwards marched north, in all haste, in order to disperse the forces under Major-general Buchan, before any rising should take place in the northern counties. The earl of Seaforth having surrendered himself to him, was committed prisoner to the castle of Inverness, and afterwards sent to Edinburgh. Having at length succeeded, by the most energetic operations, in pacifying the northern counties, and fully establishing the authority of William and Mary in Scotland, in November 1690, he resigned the chief command of the army and retired to his family in Holland, his adopted country. Of his services in Scotland, he left an interesting account in his “Memoirs,” printed for the first time for the Bannatyne Club in 1833.

      In 1691, he was appointed second in command of King William’s forces, serving against the adherents of King James in Ireland. He arrived in that country in the beginning of May of that year, and signalised himself by his skill and gallantry at the capture of Athlone, having led his men on foot through a deep and rapid ford on the river Shannon, amid a continued shower of balls, bullets, and grenades. Smollett says, “Never was a more desperate service, nor was ever exploit performed with more valour and intrepidity.” At the battle of Aughrim, which followed, he commanded the right wing of King William’s army, and the victory, it was acknowledged, was gained chiefly by his foresight, good conduct, and courage.

      After the capitulation of Limerick, in the 3d of the ensuing October, he returned to Holland, and in the succeeding year, when King William took the field against Louis XIV. of France, Mackay, with the rank of lieutenant-general, was nominated to the command of the British division of the confederate army in Flanders. He was killed at the disastrous battle of Steinkirk, July 24, 1692. He had been ordered to a post which, he saw, could not be maintained, and sent back his opinion about it, but the former orders were confirmed, so he advanced to his death, saying only, “The will of the Lord be done.” It is stated that in the course of that evening, King William frequently mentioned with regret the death of one of his generals, but said nothing of General Mackay. One of the officers present took the liberty of expressing his surprise that his majesty had made no allusion to his old and faithful servant, Mackay. “No,” replied the king, “Mackay served a higher Master, but the other served me with his soul.” The king attended Mackay’s funeral, and when the body was laid in the grave, he said, “There he lies, and an honester man the world cannot produce.” He is still termed in his native country, “Shenlar mor,” the great general. He was to have been rewarded by King William, for his services, with the title of earl of Scourie, but the intrigues of his rival, Mackenzie of Coigach or Cromarty, prevented it.

      The eldest of his three daughters, Margaret, became the wife of George, third Lord Reay. The two others married Dutchmen, the one a minister of Nimeguen, the other, the burgomaster of that town.

      Bishop Burnet describes General Mackay as one of the most pious soldiers whom he had ever known, and highly commends him for the care which he took to enforce the observance of strict discipline, and attention to religious exercises, among both the officers and men under his command. It was commonly said of him by the Dutch soldiers, that he knew no fear but the fear of God. One of his ruling principles was never to aid what he considered a bad cause. His Life, by John Mackay, Esq. of Rockfield, the representative in the male line of the family of Scourie, was published in 1836, in one vol. 4to.

MACKAY, ROBERT, an eminent Gaelic bard, commonly called Rob Donn, that is, Brown Robert, the son of a herdsman, was born in 1714, at Durness, in Sutherlandshire. He says himself:

                        “I was born in the winter,
                        ‘Mongst the wild frowning mountains;
                        My first sight of the world
                        Was the snow-drift around me.”

His mother, a woman of vigorous understanding, was well versed in Highland poetry and music, with which she stored his mind in his childhood. He never learnt to read. Till he was seven years old he tended calves, but at that age he was taken into the service of Mr. John Mackay, of the family of Skerray, a gentleman who carried on an extensive business as a cattle-dealer. As he grew to years he was employed as a drover, and sometimes went with herds as far as to the English markets. He was afterwards engaged by Donald Lord Reay, the chief of his clan, as his cattle-steward or cow-keeper, called in some parts of the country a boman. He now married, and in course of time became the father of thirteen children.

      Unfortunately his fondness for deer-hunting, for which he was, on one occasion, summoned before the sheriff-substitute of the county, when he narrowly escaped transportation, according to the statute, and a satirical ballad which he composed on some transaction in his noble master’s household, caused his dismissal from Lord Reay’s service. One account, but it seems most unlikely, says that the reason of his leaving was his refusal to use the flail himself in thrashing out corn for fodder to the cattle, employing servants to perform this laborious duty. He was then taken into the employment of Colonel Mackay, son of the gentleman who had patronised him in his boyhood, when he removed, with his family, to the place of Achmore, in that part of the parish of Durness which borders upon Cape Wrath.

[woodcut of Cape Wrath]

      When the firs regiment of Sutherland fencibles was raised in 1759, he was prevailed upon by the country gentlemen holding commissions in it to accompany them. He enlisted as a private soldier, but was never called on to take any part in troublesome duty. On the reduction of the corps in May 1763, he returned to his home, when he was recalled to his former situation in the employment of Lord Reay. Although dreaded as a satirist, such was the excellence of his private character that he was elected a ruler elder of his native parish. His witty sayings and convivial qualities made him a welcome guest every where. In the sketch of his life inserted in ‘Mackenzie’s Beauties of Gaelic Poetry,’ (page 186,) we are told that his society was courted not only by his equals, but still more by his superiors; no social party almost was esteemed a party without him; no public meeting of the better and the best of the land was felt to be a full one without Rob Donn being there. The reason of his being thus in such universal requisition was, perhaps, that, as subsequently stated in the same sketch, if he was not invited to a feast or wedding, next day he composed a satire full of mirth and humour, on the offending party. He was proud, says his biographer, of his own powers of satire, and seemed to enjoy the dread of those who feared the exercise of his wit. He died 5th August, 1778, aged 64. A vast concourse of his clansmen attended his funeral, and a granite monument was erected in 1829, by public subscription, over his grave, in the parish buying ground of Durness, with inscriptions in Gaelic, in English, in Greek, and Latin. His poems consist of humorous, satirical, and descriptive pieces, with elegies and love songs. Many of them are of a local nature. A collection of them was published at Inverness in 1830, by the Rev. Dr. Mackay, then of Dunoon, author of ‘The Gaelic Dictionary,’ with a memoir. In the Quarterly Review for July 1831, translations are given of some of them. The memoir which accompanies them was written by Sir Walter Scott.

MACKAY, JOHN, an eminent botanist, was born at Kirkaldy, December 25, 1772. He early discovered a strong predilection for botanical pursuits, and even at the age of 14, he had formed a very considerable collection of the rarer kinds of garden and hothouse plants. In the beginning of 1791 he was placed in Dickson and Company’s nurseries at Edinburgh; of which, in 1793, he received the principal charge. Every summer he made a botanical excursion to the Highlands; he likewise traversed the Western Isles, and in most of these journeys he was successful in adding some new species to the British Flora. To the elegant work entitled ‘English Botany,’ then in course of publication, under the care of Dr. Smith and Mr. Sowerby of London, he contributed various valuable articles and figures of indigenous plants, and in February 1796, he was elected an associate of the Linnaean Society of London. In 1800, on the death of Mr. Menzies, he succeeded him as superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, where he died April 14, 1802.

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