John, 2nd Lord Reay, at what date we cannot say, denuded himself of his landed estate in favour of his elder son, Donald, the Master. This was a common practise among families in the far north at that period and for some time previously. The object was twofold: to guard against the inconvenience of feudal wardships on the succession of minors, and to prevent the forfeiture of estates in times of political convulsion, when the head of a family might be bearing arms against the constituted government. The inheritance to which the Master of Reay succeeded was considerably embarrassed, as we saw. To the debts of Donald, 1st Lord Reay, incurred in the service of Gustavus Adolphus and in the service of Charles I at Newcastle, have to be added those of John, 2nd Lord Reay, incurred by his support of Charles II; and the losses of the latter were the more serious of the two, because bondholders took charters of apprising over his estate. In consequence, however, of the foresight of the first Lord Reay in making certain arrangements, his debts proved a blessing in disguise to his grandson.
On the 4th Sep 1637, the first Lord Reay consolidated his debts, when Robert Munro of Achness, in Strathoikel, a great friend of his Lordship, purchased all the floating bonds, and subsequently by arrangement took a bond of apprising over the whole estate. On 8th Mar 1644, this first bond was secured on behalf of the Reay family by William Mackay of Borely, grandson of Donald Balloch of Scoury. In the autumn of 1677, Donald, Master of Reay, married Ann, daughter of Sir George Munro of Culrain, Commander-in-Chief of the forces in North Britain, and shortly thereafter the first bond in question was assigned to Sir George, who immediately raised an action of reduction in the Court of Session against the Grays and Gordons, holders on charters of apprising of a large portion of the Reay property. Sir George raised his action, 29th Jun 1679, and after prolonged litigation was successful by the end of the summer of 1681.
The principal plea of the prosecution was, that the Grays and others, in 1649, unjustly extorted from John, then Master of Reay, ruinous bonds on pretended spoliation, while he was in prison and lying at their mercy, and that afterwards on the strength of these bonds they got themselves infeft in his lands. The verdict of the Court was, that as Reay committed the acts of spoliation complained of in the capacity of a soldier with the king's commission, and that as a few years thereafter his own lands were spoiled and his house at Tongue burnt while serving his Majesty, the extorted bonds and consequent charters of apprising were null and void. Further, that as Sir George was assignee of the bond of 1637 the first claim over the estate pertained to him. and that as the heritor raised no objection it was within his right to secure the estate by a charter of apprising. This Sir George did, and then handed the charter over to his grandson, George, 3rd Lord Reay, that is to the son of Ann Munro by Donald, Master of Reay, for both the Master and his father, Lord John, had died meantime.
[Footnote: For the above facts we are indebted to documents in the Reay charter chest. It may be of interest to point out that by the lawsuit, concluded in 1681, the lands comprised in the Reay estate were as follows: - "All and heall the tounes and lands of Ribigill miln and milnlands thereof, Kenlochmore, Kenlochbeg, Mussall, Delkeppach, Islandryre, Arnubill and salmon fishing upon the water of Drydarie, Hunlim miln and milnlands thereof, Eriboll, Strathbeg, Islandchorie, Hope, the lands of the forrest of Dirimore and salmond fishing thereof upon the waters of Garowrone, Ardbeg, Ardmore, Kenlochbervie, Alsleorbeg, Alsleormore, Carnamanach, Sandwatt, Kerrowag, Havish, Keoldeall and salmond fishing upon the water of Durines and crooves thereof, Crangilick, Borlie, Slaines, Balnakill, Farrett, Galwall, Crossiball, Balmulich, Sangnes, Islandhoan, Rispin, Froskill, Strathmellines, Melineish miln and milnlands thereof, Islandgyle, Scorlomie, Strathtoung, Caldaback, Toung miln and milnlands thereof, Kirkiboll, Scrabuster, Kinnisad, Releadan, Oldlongart, Torrantarrow, Lettermore, Mowdaill, Gnubmore, Gnubeg, Rossall, Shyre, Langwall miln and milnlands thereof, Skeall miln and milnlands thereof, Raigill, Carnachie miln and milnlands thereof, Invernaver, Skelpick. Rangivie miln and milnlands thereof, Farr miln and milnlands thereof, Kirtamie, Borgiebeg, Borgiemore, Torrisdaill, Skerray, Islandrone, Islandcolme with all and sundrie the houses etc." See Reay Papers.]
The reader is not to conclude that the judges in Edinburgh passed a wet sponge over the debts of the Reay family; they did nothing of the kind. All the legal debts of the family remained untouched and were honourably met every penny with interest by the 3rd Lord Reay, who is justly known in Strathnaver tradition as Am Morair Mor, the great lord. The judges simply sponged out the blank bonds extorted from the 2nd Lord Reay when a prisoner, and tore up the charters of apprising which enemies obtained by execution on the said cruel bonds. That the legal courts of the time were corrupt goes without saying, but we fail to see anything unjust in the judgment of 1681 - the injustice lay rather with those who brought such pressure to bear on Reay in 1649, when his head lay practically on the block.
In 1678 the Master finished the rebuilding of the House of Tongue, burnt in 1656 by the forces of the Commonwealth when the Mackays were in arms under Middleton for the king, and to the rebuilt house he brought his bride. By mutual arrangement, the Master took up his residence at Tongue while his father and mother continued to live in Balnakeil House, Durness, of which Lady Reay had a life-rent charter in virtue of her marriage contract. By the said contract, Barbara, Lady Reay, was seased for life in "the town and half davach land of Farret, the one and a half davach lands of Durness, the town and lands of Iddin and Bellmullich, the three davach lands of lie Manse of Duirnes called Bellachastell, Galdwell, and Iddinnahua etc." [Reay Papers]
In the autumn of 1680, the Master was killed hunting in the Reay forest by the accidental explosion of a barrel of gunpowder, and his father passed away not long thereafter. The grief at the Master's fall throughout Strathnaver, so graphically described in the House and Clan of Mackay, was accentuated by the critical lawsuit then pending; but in the providence of God his only son and child lived to succeed and to rule with growing prosperity in the House of Tongue. That, however, is another story.
The Master married (contract 22 Aug 1677) Ann, daughter of Sir George Munro of Culrain, and had issue by her one son,