Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

EARLY GENEALOGY OF STRATHNAVER MACKAYS

As already stated, the early genealogy of Mackay given by Mr. MacKay of Blackcastle, in the Blk MS. Book, conflicts to some extent with that given by Sir Robert Gordon in the Earldom of Sutherland. Table I shows the genealogy according to Sir Robert, tracing the family back to Forbes. Table II shows that of the Blk. MS., tracing the family back to Malcolm MacEth, 1st Earl of Ross, who claimed Moray and got Ross, a portion of it, settled upon him by the King. The dates in square brackets are by us. It is well known that Sir Robert gives thanes and early earls to the house of Sutherland who never existed. He also inserted two earls in more modern times, John and Nicolas, the 8th and 9th respectively, who are discarded as non-existent by Sir William Fraser in the Sutherland Book. These mistakes, and perhaps they are not to be wondered at, in giving the genealogy of the house whose history he was specially recording, prepare us to expect even greater errors in recording the genealogy of a family which found scant grace in his eyes.

TABLE ITABLE II
I. Walter married a daughter of Bishop of Caithness
|
II. Martin, killed at Kinloch Eylk
|
III. Magnus died on StrathnaverI. Iye descended of Malcolm Earl of Ross, first to settle in Strathnaver. born 1210
||


|||||
MorganFarquharII. Iye Mor married daughter of Walter bishop of Caithness. 1263MorganMartin
||||
|a quo Clan Farquhar Mackay|a quo Galloway MacKay


|||
V. Donald married daughter of Y mac Neil of GighaIII. Donald born 1264Gilchrist
||


|||
VI. Iye killed at Dingwall 1395 by Nicolas Earl of SutherlandIV. Iye killed at Dingwall 1370 by Nicolas of MorayGilchrist
||


|||
VII. Donald killed at Dingwall 1395 along with his father IyeV. Donald killed at Dingwall 1370 along with his father IyeFarquhar
|||


(a quo Clan Farquhar)
||||||
VIII. Angus married daughter of Mac-Leod of LewisHutcheon DuNeilMartinVI. Angusand others
|||

(a quo Galloway MacKays)
||||
IX. Angus Du fought at Dingwall 1411Rorie Gald killed at Dingwall 1411VII. Angus Du fought at Dingwall 1411Rorie Gald killed at Dingwall 1411

But the question arises, what value are we to attach to the genealogy in the Blk. MS. ? It all depends upon the value of the old MS. family genealogy which he weaves into his biographical and genealogical account of the MacKays. That earlier MS. is not before us, and consequently we are at some disadvantage in discussing the matter. We can say this, however, that we have found the Blackcastle account, in as far as it is based on this older MS., invariably accurate as far as we could test it. Blackcastle states certain facts based upon the earlier MS., which happen to be confirmed on an examination of the public records by us. Of the battle of Druim nan coup, which Sir Robert Gordon dates 1427 or 1429, the Blk. MS. says, "in an old family manuscript the date of this engagement is stated as above in 1433" [Reg.Mag.Sig. Vol III No. 64]. It turns out that Neil Neilson MacKay, one of the leaders who fell in this battle, had lands conferred upon him by the King as late as 1430, so that clearly in this instance the old family manuscript is the more accurate of the two. It also records that Iye Du of Strathnaver joined the Macintoshes and others in support of Queen Mary in 1562, captured Inverness, and marched with her Majesty to Aberdeen [Reg.Sec.Sig. 33:10]. It turns out that at the very time Mary returned to Aberdeen, she granted a remission to the said Iye for certain offences committed by him at an earlier period. Other instances might be given here, and shall be given hereafter, but these will suffice meantime to show that there was something in this old family MS.

When MacKay of Blackcastle endeavours to explain certain matters he sometimes, but not often, seriously blunders. He confounds Malcolm MacEth with Farquhar Macintaggart, who was of quite a different family, and no connection of Malcolm. This led him into a quagmire at the start. He constantly alters Iye into Hugh, because "Aodh is translated Hugh by O'Flaharty and all the Irish writers". He falls into an evident mistake when he makes it appear that Gilchrist was the son of Iye Mor II, and draws the line of descent through the said Gilchrist. We have no difficulty, however, in seeing how he fell into this mistake, and he is candid enough to tell us that it was a theory of his own. On 31st Mar 1329 King Robert II granted a Charter of Confirmation Appendix No 1 of Lands in Kintyre to "Gilchrist mac Ymar McAy", to be held by the said Gilchrist, and afterwards by his younger son Gilchrist and his heirs, whom failing by Ymar the elder son and his heirs. He concluded, through lack of an adequate knowledge of Gaelic, that Ymar was a mode of spelling Iye Mor, and that Ymar, the father of Gilchrist, was none other than Iye Mor II. He also concluded that as Gilchrist the younger was designated his father's heir in Kintyre, the elder Ymar must have been passed over because he succeeded his supposed uncle, Donald III; and that in Ymar, the son of Gilchrist, we have none other than Iye IV who was killed at Dingwall in 1370. This acknowledged theory is utterly wrong. Ymar is a mode of spelling Ivor, without a doubt. It is possible that the said Ivor was a son of Iye I, but we have no means of connecting them. If we blot out this interpolated and acknowledged theory, Donald III is succeeded by his son Iye IV, and the two tables in direct descent practically agree thenceforward.

Let us now compare the two tables a little more closely. Sir Robert Gordon, as Table I shows, says that a certain Walter married the daughter of a nameless bishop of Caithness, and that from this union the Strathnaver MacKays took their descent; whereas Table II says that an Iye Mor married the daughter of a Walter, Bishop of Caithness. Now, it so happens that a Walter de Baltrodi became 6th bishop of the see of Caithness in 1263.Theiner's Mon. Vetera. Here we have something definite to go upon. Table I leaves us in the clouds, but Table II gives us some foot-hold on facts. That the compiler of the earlier family account knew nothing of de Baltrodi is some confirmation of the accuracy of his genealogy.

There is a striking discrepancy between Tables I and II in the position which they respectively assign to Farquhar, the progenitor of the Clan vic Farquhar. In Table I Farquhar is represented as being the great-great-great-grand uncle of Angus Du; in Table II he is made to appear as the granduncle of the said Angus. Farquhar, as placed in Table I, was too far removed for Sir Robert to know much about him, but as placed in Table II lingering traditions of him might survive. Nay more, the Reay Papers show that Farquhar of Table II is correctly placed. Among these papers there is a Charter of Confirmation by King Robert II (4th Sep 1379) of a gift by his son Alexander, lord of Badenoch, of the lands of Hope and Melness, in the parish of Durness, to Farquhar, a physician, and another charter Appendix No 2 by the same king (31st Dec 1386) bestowing on the said Farquhar all the islands lying between the Stoirhead of Assiut and the Aird of Farr. The dates of these charters correspond with the position assigned to Farquhar in Table II, and prove that Table I is far astray on this particular point.

Donald MacCorrichie, "a descendant of Farquhar", sold these lands Appendix No 9 of Hope and Melness to Iye Roy and his son John (30th Sep 1511), but retained the islands. William McCallan, a descendant of McCorrichie, sold these islands to Sir Donald MacKay, afterwards 1st Lord Reay, on the 6th Oct 1624. The said William McCallan had a brother Angus, whose son William MacAngus McCallan had some rights over Strathan-Melness, as appears from a sasine of these lands dated 11th Apr 1670. The son and heir of the latter William had a precept of clare constat, on the 23rd Apr 1686, as "William mac-William mac-Angus alias McKy", in order to secure a legal title to the lands of Strathan-Melness. [Various documents in the Reay Papers show the facts to be as stated by us above.]

Thus we see that what appeared as simply Farquhar in 1379 blossoms, in his descendant of 1686, into the full-blown "alias McKay," proving amply that Farquhar was a MacKay, and that Table II is correct.

The descent from the Earl of Ross claimed in Table II is further corroborated by the fact that the MacKays had interests in Ross from a very early date. In 1430 King James I gave to Neil Neilson the lands of Creich in Sutherland, and those of Gairloch, etc., in Ross, as formerly possessed by his brother Thomas MacKay, a cousin of Angus Du. [Orig. Par. Scot.] Sir Robert informs us that Angus Du opposed the Lord of the Isles at Dingwall in 1411, because the said Lord had molested some of Angus' people in Ross. Both these facts clearly show that the MacKays of that period had some hold upon lands in Ross. And Hector Boece records that Angus Duff "tuk an gret prey of gudis out of Murray," which shows the length of his arm and his connection with that quarter. For the cumulative reasons given above, we consider the genealogy of Table II by far the more accurate of the two on the points in dispute between them, with the exception of the descent through Gilchrist as already explained, and consequently accept the Blk. MS. account of the early descent in preference to that of Sir Robert Gordon.

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com