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Clan Mackenzie

Clan Mackenzie

The first of this clan to stride into the centre of the stage of Highland history was named Alasdair. He did so as late as the 15th century, although in less than two centuries thereafter his descendants were to possess territories that stretched from the outer Hebrides in the west to the Black Isle in the east. Alasdair Mac Kenzie was one of those summoned to meet James I in 1427 and he lived until the murder of James III in 1488. In the interval he was perhaps the most significant chief to support the Crown against the Lord of the Isles, and for this he received the titles to his lands so often withheld from the ancient inhabitants of the Highlands. These lands included Kintail in Wester Ross, for long distinguished as Kintail Mackenzie to distinguish it from the other long salt-water inlet on the north coast, now called the Kyle of Tongue, but once known as Kintail Mac Kay. Alasdair's son Kenneth of Kintail continued the work of consolidation until he died in 1492 and was buried in Beauly Priory. There his stone effigy is still to be seen. Kenneth's son Iain was one of those who escaped with his life from the field of Flodden in 1513, when he brought a contingent of his clansmen to fight there under James IV. He again survived the defeat of Pinkie in 1547, and lived until after the return of Mary, Queen of Scots to her kingdom in 1561. His grandson Colin remained loyal to Queen Mary but evaded the hazards of James VI's minority, and it was during this king's reign that the Mac Kenzies repeated their tactics of joining the forces of the south against their Gaelic neighbours, with even more spectacular success. This time the victims were the Mac Leods of Lewis. They had survived James VI's orders to Gordon of Huntley to exterminate them: they beat off the Fife Adventurers. But these sold their interest in Lewis to Colin's son Kenneth of Kintail, and while Mac Leod of Lewis himself continued his ten years' imprisonment in Edinburgh, the Mac Kenzies moved into his island realm. Their chief was created Lord Mac Kenzie of Kintail, his son Earl of Seaforth. The Black Isle estates were erected into a separate county and earldom of Cromartie. Lochalsh was wrested from the Glengarry Mac Donnells. The 2nd Earl of Seaforth became Charles II's secretary of state for Scotland. It is an exceptional record for a dynasty of Gaelic chiefs of no particular consequence in ancient days. The clan's luck turned when the 4th Earl remained loyal to James VII at the Revolution of 1688, to die in exile. It is to his time that the traditional Gaelic prophecies attributed to the Brahan seer, Coinneach Odhar, are attributed. The greatest mystery concerning these is that some of the most intricate of them were actually in print before they were fulfilled. Another is that there is no historical record of the seer's execution in the period during which he is supposed to have lived. It was in 1578 that orders were issued for the apprehension of " Kennoch Owir, principal or leader in the art of magic". There was no Earl of Seaforth at that date. The 5th Earl was attained after the 1715 rebellion. It was then that the Mac Kenzies' last song of triumph was composed, one of the finest rants in the language. It is called Caber Feidh, which means Deer Antler, the badge of the Mac Kenzies; and the verses ridicule the surrounding clans which had fled before it.

Septs of Clan Mackenzie:
Kenneth, Kennethson, MacBeolain, MacConnach, MacIver, MacIvor, MacKerlich, MacMurchie, MacMurchy, MacVanish, MacVinish, Murchie, Murchison.

A mountain inflamed, proper.

Luceo non uro

I shine not burn

Holly, Deer-grass

Mac Coinnich

Gaelic Mac Coinnich
(son of the fair)

Tulach Ard

Caber Feidh

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