The plan adopted in this work is to gather the general history in the form of memoirs around the names of the various chieftains of Strathnaver. This is followed by genealogical accounts of the principal families of Mackay; and these again are followed by an appendix of documents taken for the most part from the hitherto unpublished family papers of the Mackays of Strathnaver, later Lords of Reay. To those who take an interest in our northern history, social development, or place-names, the Reay Papers should prove of no little value. How I stumbled upon them is told here.
Although the idea of writing this book was not seriously entertained until after the discovery of the Reay Papers in 1900, I began to accumulate material, genealogical and otherwise, as early as 1878, when a student at St. Andrews University. After my settlement at Westerdale, the distance from a large library was felt, but I generally managed to get a fortnight's holiday to Edinburgh each year, and spent it working at the Advocates' Library; while kind friends in the south very generously lent me from time to time books of reference for study at home. In this fashion the pile of notes continued to grow year by year.
I am deeply indebted to Lord Reay, Chief of Mackay, and to the Rev. Dr. James Aberigh Mackay, Chieftain of the Aberach Mackays, for their encouragement generally, and particularly for their influential letters commending this work, which appeared in the prospectus issued soliciting subscribers. The list of subscribers printed at the end of the book owes not a little of its length to these two letters. At the same time, members of the Clan all over the world, as soon as they learned what I was about, vied with one another in backing me up, and did their utmost to secure subscribers to the Book of Mackay. To one and all I extend my warmest thanks.
To the following I am indebted for the loan of reference books and MSS., viz.,
I take this opportunity of thanking the officials in charge of the following Edinburgh libraries for their great courtesy to me, viz., The Advocates', Signet, University, and Public; nor must I forget to thank the keeper of the Sasine Register at the Register House. I also congratulate Mr. Rae, printer, Wick, on the work which he has turned out for me.
And last, but not least, I owe more to my wife than I care to say, for she laboriously corrected all the proof-sheets as they issued from the press. [In this version the corrections have been incorporated into the text]. As this is my first serious attempt at book writing, and as I had to work in a secluded northern valley, far away from libraries, I venture to crave the indulgence of my readers in view of any defects. If the perusal of these pages gives to some readers a little of the pleasure and the instruction which their preparation gave to me, then the book has not been written in vain.
United Free Church Manse,