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Clan MacPhee

Clan MacPhee

In modern Gaelic, this name is written as Maca'phi. It is usually rendered in English, Mac Fie, Mac Phee or Mac Afie, and sometimes shortened to Duffie in the Lowlands. The name appears to be derived from Mac Dhuibhshith, meaning "son of the dark fairy". The Dark Fairy is evocative of the dark stranger who must be the first to cross the threshold at the new year, bringing food and drink as symbols of good fortune as the leanest season of the year approaches. It is likely that Duibhshith is simply a personal name. Tradition asserts, however, that the Mac Fies are descended from a seal-woman who was prevented from returning to the sea. In many countries the most aboriginal stock, often a defeated remnant living in remote places, came to be looked upon as a fairy folk. It is hardly surprising that legend should have given the sons of the Dark Fairy, living in small islands, descent from a supernatural creature of the sea. In 1164 a Duibhshith was known to have been ferleighinn or "reader" at Iona when Malcolm IV was king. The Mac Phees of Colonsay were the hereditary keepers of the records of the Lords of the Isles and there is a tradition that one of the chiefs of Colonsay, serving in the retinue of the Lord of the Isles, fought and overcame Sir Gile de Argentine at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In the 15th century, the Stewart kings, and particularly James IV, were determined to bring the isles under direct royal control - a process naturally opposed by the Mac Donalds and their allies. In 1615 Malcolm Mac Phee of Colonsay joined Sir James Macdonald in his rebellion against the Earl of Argyll, who represented royal authority. Mac Phee and 18 other leading conspirators were betrayed to the Campbells and were forced to submit to royal authority. Colonsay was later murdered in 1623; the clan broke up and dispersed, and the Mac Phees became the classic type of the broken clan, landless and chiefless and finding protection wherever they might. Most went to the mainland where they found shelter in Lochaber. Many Mac Phees followed Cameron of Lochiel at the ill-fated Battle of Culloden in 1746. In the middle of the 19th century Ewan Mac Phee became famous as the last Scottish outlaw, when he settled with his band on Eilean Mhic Phee in Loch Quoich. He recognised no law and was an inveterate sheep stealer. Contemporary accounts describe him as a man of ferocious appearance and stature who was heavily armed at all times. He raised a family in atrocious conditions and in later years became a local, if eccentric, celebrity, supported in part by neighbours. Many of the clan became rootless, becoming itinerant tin-smaiths or tinkers. Since tinkers have occupied something like the position of Duibhshith of immemorial antiquity, an historical cycle has come full circle. Mac Fie of Dreghorn matriculated arms in the Lyon Register in 1864. He was a member of a powerful merchant family with considerable interests in the sugar-refining industry. The company was eventually to be taken over by the present sugar giants, Tate & Lyle. Hugh Mac Phee, born in Ballachulish, was the first BBC Gaelic broadcaster. There is an active Mac Fie Society worldwide and the Lord Lyon has recognized this by granting a commission for the appointment of a clan commander.

Septs of Clan MacPhee:
Cathie Duffie Duffy Fee MacCaffie MacCathie MacCooish MacCuish MacDuffie MacFee MacFie MacGuffie MacHaffie MacNicol MacPhee MacPhie MacVee MacVie

A demi lion rampant, proper

Pro rege

Gaelic Mac Dubh-shithe (dark of peace)

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