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OTHER BRANCHES OF THE FAMILY OF MACKAY

Clan Erchar or Vic Farquhar

The progenitor of this family was Farquhar, son of Iye IV of Strathnaver, and physician to King Robert II, as we have shown already in our Introductory chapter and in the memoir of his father. He had a gift from Alexander Stewart, Lord of Badenoch, of the lands of Melness and Hope, 4 Sep 1379, which the king confirmed by charter Appendix No 2 the same day. On the 31st Dec 1386, King Robert II bestowed by charter on "our beloved and faithful Farquhar the leech" (dilccto et fideli nostra Ferchardo leche) the islands lying around the Strathnaver coast.

[Footnote: Alexander Stewart, Lord of Badenoch, Earl of Buchan, and afterwards Earl of Ross, was a son of King Robert II. He quarrelled with the haughty and corrupt Church rulers of Moray, made a liberal application of the torch to some of their property, and came to be known at the hands of ecclesiastical writers as "The Wolf of Badenoch" in consquence. That he was ruthless in taking revenge goes without saying for that was the fashion of his time, but that he was so black as his name makes him does not follow. Romish writers are too prone to give evil names to those whom they do not love. As a case in point, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy is known at the Vatican as "The Wolf of Savoy" (Dr. Robertson's Roman Catholic Church in Italy p. 59), although a multitude of good Italians look upon him as the deliverer of their country.]

The fact that Sir Robert Gordon, who records from tradition, antedates Farquhar by about a century may indicate the comparative importance which tradition ascribed to this family in early times. As his father and elder brother were murdered at Dingwall in 1370, and as his nephew Angus VI of Strathnaver was not only left a minor but died a young man leaving a son Angus Du in boyhood, it may well be that Farquhar and his successor of Melness filled a foremost place among the Strathnaver Mackays towards the close of the 14th century. By the beginning of the 16th century, however, the family of Melness waned, for Iye Roy of Strathnaver obtained the nonentry of these lands in 1504, and seven years afterwards purchased Appendix No 8 from Donald M'Corrochy, "as discendit fra Farquhar Leiche", all rights over Melness and Hope.

In 1624 the 1st Lord Reay bought the remaining portion of the Melness estate, to wit, the Little Isles of Strathnaver, from William M'Callan, whose brother Angus M'Callan held the four pennylands of Strathmelness in wadset. Though in the early years of the 17th century the patronymic of the family was M'Callan the proper surname was Mackay, for a grandson of Angus, viz., "William Macwilliam MacAngus alias M'ky" had a Precept of clare constat as heir to his father in the wadset of Strathmelness, 23 Apr 1686, as we show in the Genealogy of the Aberach Mackays The old house of Strathmelness lay about three miles north west of what is known in more modern times as Melness House.

Polson

According to Sir Robert Gordon, the Polsons or Siol Phail are descended of Paul, son of Neil, son of Neil, son of Donald V of Strathnaver. Consequently the said Paul was a contemporary of Neil Vass VIII of Strathnaver. In 1430 Paul's father Neil obtained by charter from King James I the lands of Creichmore and others in the parish of Creich, and the Great Seal Register shows that the family resided in these quarters for at least a century and a half after that date.

Although Neil Neilson fell in battle fighting against the Mackays in 1433, yet during the subsequent scramble for the lands of Thomas Mackay of Creich between the Rosses and Mackays, the Polsons gravitated towards their Strathnaver kindred. Sir John Polson, presbyter and afterwards chanter of Caithness, acted for Iye Roy X of Strathnaver in 1497, in 1506, and in 1511. In document Appendix No 5 he appears as Mackay's procurator.
Again at the battle of Torran Du, as we showed already the Polsons assisted the Mackays against the Murrays.

In the Sutherland List of men capable of bearing arms in the '45 a number of Polsons appear in the parishes of Loth and Kildonan, but the sept is not strong now numerically for some of them have adopted the name Macphail and others sign themselves Mackay.

Achmonie Mackays

From early in the 16th century this family of Mackays held an important place in Glenurquhart, Invernessshire. In 1539 John Mac Gillies Mackay witnessed a sasine of Comarmore, Strathglass, to Chisholm of Chisholm, and in 1554 obtained a nineteen years' lease of Achmonie from the Bishop of Moray (Cartulary Moray). But John possessed Achmonie as early as 1545, when he suffered in a raid by the Macdonalds on Glenurquhart. His father-in-law, Euen Canychd, in that year was one of the tenants of Balmacaan; his own son Donald had a share of Balmacaan; his brother Bean Mac Gillies was principal tenant of Cartaly; and his nephew John Mac Donald Mac Gillies had a share of Inchbrine. Thus in 1545 the family had the great bulk of the glen in their possession, till in 1557 the bishop granted a perpetual charter of Achmonie to John Mac Gillies Mackay and his heirs by Catherine, daughter of Euen Canychd (Cartulary Moray).

His great-grandson Gillies lost the lands of Achmonie circa 1670 for slaying the laird of Grant's chamberlain at a rent collection feast in Glenurquhart, but John Mackay, son of Gillies, recovered the estate and got a written title in 1721. The said John was succeeded by his son Alexander who fought for Prince Charlie in the '45 and died without male issue. To Alexander succeeded his brother Donald, who was also out in the '45 and who was in consequence transported to Barbadoes. Donald, however, managed to make his escape, returned to Scotland and married. The great-grandchildren of the said Donald Mackay are as follows: -

  1. Duncan Mackay, now (1905) in the Argentine Republic
  2. Charles, a bailie of Inverness
  3. John died in Chicago
  4. Donald, died in California
  5. William, a solicitor in Inverness
  6. Mary (Mrs. Neil Smith)
  7. Elizabeth (Mrs. Alexander Forbes, deceased)
  8. Katherine (Mrs. William Macdonald)
  9. Ann, died unmarried
  10. Caroline (Mrs. James Davidson, deceased)
For further particulars the interested reader should consult Urquhart and Glenmoriston, by Wm, Mackay, solicitor, Inverness, 1893.

Ison, Eason, and Esson

These are three different forms of the name Iyeson or Mackay. In Ison and Esson Iye appears as a prefix while in Mackay it is a suffix; and as in various old documents Mackenzie is represented by Kennochson, so naturally enough Mackay got twisted into Ison when the name was handled by some English speaking people.

In the latter half of the 16th century reference is made in the Privy Council Register to Isons in and about Wick. For example, on 15th Apr 1566, the Sutherlands of Duffus are reported to have burnt the house of Andrew Bain in East Clyth, and to have at the same time killed Alexander Ison and his two sons. According to Sir Robert Gordon, the Bains were a Caithness branch of the Mackays, and these Isons were probably their kinsmen. This name also appears in various other entries, and was generally borne by people about Wick, the English speaking part of Caithness. We are not aware that Ison is now used as a surname, but Eason or Esson is not uncommon along the southern shore of the Moray Firth.

Mackie

Sir Donald of Strathnaver and his contemporary Sir Patrick of Larg signed themselves Mackie. The form Mackie was thus common to Strathnaver and Galloway, but probably the majority of those who bear the name now are descendants of the southern family.

Mack

This form, found in Berwickshire and the neighbourhood, is supposed to be a docked form of Mackie. Just as in Sweden Mac was dropped and Key only retained, so in the south of Scotland the suffix ie, which has a diminutive significance there, appears to have been thrown away by some folks to secure the more robust form Mack. According to our interpretation, such a form could only appear in a purely English speaking part of the country; and we have been in correspondence with some Macks who trace themselves back to Mackie as we have described.

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