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IYE MACETH

Born circa 1210

As the son of Iye MacEth married the daughter of Walter, Bishop of Caithness, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1263, it is reasonable to conclude that the father was over fifty years of age at the time of the son's marriage, especially seeing that the son was then old enough to act the part of chamberlain to the bishop. We have therefore fixed the date of Iye MacEth's birth as about 1210. But Kenneth, the leading representative of the MacEth family, fell in 1215, as already shown, so that as far as dates are concerned, Iye MacEth may have been his son or his nephew - from lack of evidence on the point, we cannot be more definite. This descent would make Iye MacEth the great-grandson of Malcolm MacEth, Earl of Ross, but whether through Kenneth or not remains uncertain. That he was a descendant of Malcolm, Earl of Ross, and the first of the family to settle permanently in Strathnaver, is all that the old family MS. account, on which the Blk. MS. bases its genealogy, seems to have recorded.

In our introductory chapter we briefly showed how Malcolm IV, King of Scots, his brother William the Lyon, and Alexander II, son of the latter, assailed the MacEths, until in 1215 Kenneth MacEth was slain by Farquhar Macintaggart, afterwards Earl of Ross; and we also showed how King Alexander pursued the rebellious ones to Strathnaver in 1223. The reign of Alexander II was marked by great vigour. Caithness, Galloway, Argyle, and even the western isles, the quarters in which his sovereignty was disputed, he repeatedly attacked with wisdom and energy [Fordun's Annalia]. Of some he took hostages, the lands of others he bestowed upon his own friends. In 1249 he made his last effort. With a large army he invaded Argyle, collected ships and prepared to sweep the Norseman from the western isles, vowing "that he would not desist until he had set his standards east on the cliffs of Thurso" [Chron. of Man]. Before he had practically begun operations, he was seized with illness and died, leaving his son and successor, Alexander III, a minor of only eight years of age. During the long minority of Alexander III, the reins of government naturally fell loose, and Iye MacEth managed to secure some foot-hold in Strathnaver.

The known issue of Iye MacEth was three sons.

  1. Iye Mor who succeeded, and of whom an account follows
  2. Morgan, of whom nothing further is recorded
  3. Martin, who is said to have settled in Galloway [Blk. MS.]. It is pertinent to observe that years before this date the MacEths are found fighting in Galloway, and that Donald the son of Earl Malcolm was captured there. Owing to Norse influence in Galloway, the Isles, and Caithness, the adherents of the various rulers in these quarters passed to and fro. In the MS. of Andrew Symson, preserved in the Advocates' Library, the Mackies are said to have been in Galloway in the time of King Robert Bruce, and to have supported his cause [Rotuli Scotiæ]. In 1339 Michael Mac-Ge, a land-holder in Galloway, submitted to Edward III of England. As evidence of the supposed connection between the Mackays of Strathnaver and the Mackies of Galloway, we may mention that Sir Patrick Mackie of Lairg in Galloway led a company of the regiment commanded by Sir Donald, afterwards Lord Reay, in the service of the King of Denmark.

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