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Posted: 05-Jun-2004, 06:58 PM
Wanderer and Vagabond
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: Wytheville, Virginia
| CLAN: MACKAY
Origin of Name: Gaelic, MacAoidh (Mac Y) (Son of fire)
The surname MacKay takes its origins from the Gaelic "MacAoidh". This has been translated two ways:
"son of Aodh", which is thought to mean fire or one of hot temper. In ancient time the name appeared as Aed, Aedh, Y, Eth, or heth;
or "son of Hugh". The identity of this Hugh is uncertain but the name probably derives from a member of the ancient Celtic royal house, whose branches disputed the throne in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Today the name appears as Mackay, pronounced as mac-Eye, not Mack-Kay. Spelling the name as MacKay gives it another meaning. Originally, there should not be a capital "K" in Mackay.
Lands: Ross and Sutherland, Argyll
Pipe Music: Bratach Bhan Chlann Aoidh (The White Banner of MacKay)
Arms,-Asure. on . a chevron or, between three bears' heads coouped argent, muzzled gules, a roe- buck head erased, between two hands grasping daggers, the points turned towards the buck's head, all proper.
Crest,-A dexter arm erect couped at the elbow, the hand grasping a dagger also erect proper. Supporters Dexter, a pikeman armed at all points, Sinister, a musketeer, both proper
Plant Badge: Great Bulrush, Reedmace
Crest of Clansfolk of Clan MacKay
Badge: A hand holding a dagger.
"A dexter cubit arm, holding erect a dagger in pale, all proper, hilt and pommel, or".
Definition of Heraldic Terms:
Dexter: The right side, in arms, dexter is to the left side of the observer.
Cubit: A hand and arm couped (cut off in a straight line) at the elbow.
Pale: A vertical position in the center of the shield or design.
Proper: Figures shown in their natural colors.
Or: The color, Gold.
Mottos: Latin: Manu Forti - "With a strong (or firm) hand".
Gaelic: Bi Tren - Be True or Be Valiant
War Cry: Bratach Bhan Chlann Aoidh - The White Banner of MacKay
Tartan: There are two Mackay tartans, the one shown here is a "new" tartan. In ancient times most tartans quickly faded leading to the impression that the colors were a much lighter shade.
Tartan: There are two Mackay tartans, closely resembling the tartan of their near neighbors in the North, the Gunns, with the alteration of the center line in black instead of red.
Tartans: MacKay Tartan: Green/Blue checks
Septs of the Clan Mackay:
SEPT: A family not having the name of the clan, but associated with the clan and entitled to wear its tartan.
There are many septs of this clan and alternate spellings including:
Allan, Allanson, Aytho, Bain, Bayne, Baynes, Eason, Easson, Ison, Iye, Kay, Key, MacAllan, MacBain, MacCaa, MacCaw, MacCay, MacCrie, MacGaa, MacGaw, MacGee, MacGhee, MacGhie, MacIye, MacKay, MacKee, MacKie, Mackie, Macky, MacPhail, MacQue, MacQuey, MacQuoid, MacVail, Macvail, MacVain, MacVane, Makgie, Makky, Maky, McAy, McCei, McKye, McKeye, McKy, Morgan, Neilson, Nelson, Paul, Pole, Poleson, Pollard, Polson, Reay, Scibie, Scobie, Williamson, and Y.
Clan MacKay: Poem
"The sportsman now roams o'er the Sutherland hills
And down where the Naver runs clear;
And the land a brave race had for centuries owned
Is now trod by the sheep and the deer.
The halls, where our ancestors first saw the light,
Now blackened in ruins they lie.
And the moss-covered cairns are all that remain
Of the once pleasant homes of MacKay.
Happy homes by an alien's base mandate o'erthrown
Tender maidens and brave stalwart men
Were ruthlessly scattered like leaves in a gale
Far away from their dear native glen.
Brave clansmen who fought in fair liberty's cause
In the lowlands of Holland they lie.
For bravest in battle and second to none
Has aye been the Clan of MacKay
Not yet are they silenced through peaceful they lie,
And though far from the green mountain said,
They meet in the City of famous renown
On the banks of the dark flowing Clyde,
Where hearts still undaunted and beating as true
As when under a northern sky
They grasped their claymores when the slogan they heard
And followed the flag of MacKay.
Unflinching they bore the proud ensign aloft
When their foemen the penalty paid;
And the same noble spirit inspires them to-day
Their poor broken clansmen to aid.
The aged and weak they have sworn to protect
By the "Strong Hand" and kind watchful eye.
For faithful in friendship and valiant in war
Has aye been the Clan of MacKay.
Then flock to the standard and join the roll call!
Once more the banner's unfurled
The slogan's been sounded, and kinship been claimed
By clansmen all over the world.
Exiled or at home, love of country and clan
Are feelings we'll never let die;
Defy and defend, stand true to the end,
And honour the name of MacKay."
- By Elizabeth MacKay
Bridge of Allan 1889
The Mackays were the most distant clan from the Scottish government, holding lands from Cape Wrath in the northwest to the Caithness border. However, their Gaelic was closer to that of southern Ireland than to the Scottish version, and the clan patronymic goes back to early Irish folktales.
The first records of the clan describe their opposition to Donald of the Isles, when the chief of the clan Mackay, Angus Dhu Mackay, led 4,000 men to defend his territories. Until the 17th century all the Mackay chiefs married into the Gaelic aristocracy of Scotland, including the Lord of the Isles' family. They won honor and glory, not so much in the clan skirmishes of Scotland, as on the battlegrounds of Europe. By 1626 Donald, chief of the Mackays, had raised 3,000 clansmen to fight in the European wars. At the same time as the Mackays were fighting in support of Charles I's sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia, they also became Barons of Nova Scotia.
By 1875 the direct line of Mackay chiefs had died out. The title passed to the Dutch branch, who had been ennobled in the 17th century. The present chief of the clan is Hugh, 14th Lord Reay, Baron Mackay can Ophemert, whose father became a naturalized British subject in 1938.
The Mackays claim descent from the Royal House of Moray through the line of
Morgund of Pluscarden and were originally known as Clan Morgan. The clansmen
were removed to Sutherland where they rose to a powerful position, at one time
owning lands from Drimholisten to Kylescue. Their later title of MacKay comes
from a chief so named living at the time of David II. The first record of the
name was in 1326 when Gilchrist M'ay, progenitor of the Mackays of Ugadale, made
a payment to the Constable of Tarbert. The Mackays supported Bruce and fought
with him at Bannockburn and by 1427 the chief, Angus Dubh Mackay was described
as leader of "4 000 Strathnaver men". Their fortunes fluctuated over the
centuries and many bitter feuds ensued with the Sutherlands and Rosses. In the
troubles of the 17th and 18th centuries the Mackays supported the Hanovarian
forces against the Jacobites and helped secure the far north for the government.
The Mackays of Strathnaver are especially remembered for the famous "Mackay
Regiment" raised for the service of the Dutch and Swedish crowns during the 17th
century. As a result of this many clansmen settled in Holland and Sweden and
gave rise to a number of noble families there. In 1628, Sir Donald Mackay was
raised to the peerage of Lord Reay by Charles I. His grandson, Colonel Aenean
Mackay of the Scotch-Dutch Brigade, married the heiress of the Baron van
Haefton. The Mackays suffered badly in the Strathnaver clearances between 1815
and 1818 and finally in 1829 the Reay estate was sold to the Sutherland family
and in 1875 the chiefship passed to Baron Mackay van Ophermett who became 10th
Lord Reay. His nephew Baron Aeneas Mackay, prime minister of the Netherlands was
the great grandfather of the present chief.
Here is a picture of the crest:
Attached Image. (Click thumbnail to expand)
Slàn agus beannachd,
Allen R. Alderman
'S i Alba tìr mo chridhe. 'S i Gàidhlig cànan m' anama.
Scotland is the land of my heart. Gaelic is the language of my soul.
Posted: 13-Mar-2005, 04:37 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: North Carolina
Thought I'd post this. It is the best short history of the Mackays that I've seen. The author, Dr. Gary McKay is a direct descendent of General Hugh Mackay.
The Correct History of Clann MacAoidgh (The Clan Mackay)
(by Dr. Gary Mckay)
This is a message posted at the Clan Mackay, USA discussion forum by Dr. Gary McKay on May 09 1999.
Dear All, As I have noted a general fallacy running through many of the supposed "histories" of the Clann MacAoidgh, I shall generate an abbreviated one for all. Please note that I am in the middle of a five year effort at annotating the "Book of Mackay" and currently have access to the papers of Dr. Ian Grimble, Historian of the Strathnaver and il D'uath M'hic Aoidh ("Land of the Mackays"), now deceased sadly. As a blood relative, and I do not refer to political associations or military alliances, the following is historically true and verifiable:
1) Around 710 A.D., three separate tribes leave Ireland from a region known as Dalriada and land in what is now known as Argyll and the southern Hebrides. One of the tribes is known as the C'nel Lorne, the progenitors of Clann MacAoidh. The C'nel Lorne are descended from Aedh, grand-son of the Irish king N'iall.
2) Around the year 1100 A.D., the C'nel Lorne move up the Great Glen (the Loch Ness divide) to the present day region of the Moray after centuries of battle with the C'nel Gabhrain. The Mac Aedh (then Gaelic spelling...) left in Argyll become a later war sept of the Clan Ranald of McDonald, later known as the "Lords of the Isles".
3) The Mac Aedh/Mac Aed/Mac Heths (all variations of the Gaelic pronunciation of the time) become a virtual separate kingdom around the Moray Firth on Scotland's middle north eastern coast, becoming known as the "Mormaers", or Great Rulers (of Men). However, in the 1200's their power was broken after the grandson of MacBeth, by virtue of Lulach (or Gormflaith) his wife, challenged one of the early Scottish kings. The Mormaers were banished over the far northwestern Munros (Mountains) into the region of the Strathnaver.
4) The Strathnaver at the height of the Clann MacAoidgh (modern Gaelic spelling) stretched from Assynt in the west to Loch Naver, to the borders of Ross-shire and just west of present day Thurso. From late 1200s until the middle 1400s, the power of the Aoidgh was unchallenged particularly after the battle of Drum na Cub in the shadow of Ben Loyal, when Iain Abrach Mackay led a party of 500 men into battle againt men of the Sutherland (Clann Suderland). Some 1500 Suderlands were killed, virtually the entire war group. These Suderlands were NOT related to the later infamous Sutherlands of the Clearances of the 1800's.
5) Throughout the 1500s and 1600s the Clann Aoidgh was under constant pressure from the Gordon-Huntly Clann (later assuming the name Sutherland by royal decree) throuch fractricidal policies. The Chiefs of Mackay always backed the Crown and WERE NOT at anytime Jacobites. ONLY those whom remained as septs of the Clan MacDonald were Jacobites. The famous Mackay's Regiment came into being in the middle 1600's, fighting as mercenaries in Holland and Germany for William the Orange. In 1688, the Chief of Mackay through his support behind William fully, thus ending the House of Stewarts reign as Kings of Scotland and England.
6) The Clann Mac Aoidgh declined throughout the 18th and 19th century due to the avarice of the Suitherland's, a failure of land reform policy of the newly united "Kingdom", and the lure of America.
7) In the year 1999 in Sutherland County, which comprises one-quarter of the original "Strathnaver", there are only 2,126 inhabitants. In 1825 at the beginning of the worst years of the "Clearances", there were 26,245 inhabitants. Some 76 percent were blood relation Mackay's and were Gaelic language speakers as their ancestors had been for 2000 years. While "mythical" historians relate a relation to the Clann Mhoirgunn (Morgan), it remains that and nothing more.
While certain portions of the Coat of Arms and later colors may have been adapted, they have nothing to do with the Aoidgh's actual history. Per political and military septs allied to the Clann Mac Aoidgh, they are as numerous throughout history as the colors of the rainbow, from Frasers to Mackenzie, to Grant and Blair. Thus, it is quite okay for one to "ally" himself to any modern "Clan" should they so desire. However, in doing so one is an anachronist (or one who portrays history) and not per se following the "modern" conventions of some form of "blood" relationship. (That is merely a commentary on the situation as I see it here in Scotland!)
Finally, on tartan. Tartan was not specific to Clann but to region--thus, the Gunn colors are similar to Mackay etc. There is a very specific regional sett called "Strathnaver Mackay" which is dyed in the actual known colors of that region (heather brown and grey-blue) in the same pattern. (I have them, much nicer than the "modern" Mackay I think, but only an opinion!) Should you desire to come to Scotland, travel to Edinburgh, thence to Thurso, thence to Bettyhill, where there is the Clan Mackay Museum at the Farr Bay Church in Sutherland County.
To finish, Clann M'hic Aoidgh is one of the most famous and certainly oldest of the true Gaelic Clanns. If you are blood related, then you may count King Niall of Ireland, King David of Scotland, and Macbeth as your relations--not to mention a legion of Barons, Lords, and Knights and can be justifiably proud. I close with the words of the original Clann M'hic Aoidgh motto and inscribed on the tomb of The Scourie-Mackay at Balnakiel Church in Durness, "Bi Tren, Bi Treun!" Be True, Be Steadfast! Cheers, Dr. Gary Mckay Barra Suite Dept. of Archaeology and Geography Univ. of Edinburgh Edinburgh Scotland EH8 9XP Scotland, UK 011 44 131 650 2532
(ed. note: Dr. McKay also recommends reading the following books, "Chief of Mackay" and "The Trial of Patrick Sellar" by Ian Grimble. Both are now in soft copy reprint.)
Posted: 19-Jul-2008, 10:40 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: North Carolina
One of the greatest Mackay heroes was Iain Aberach Mackay. It has been said that the victory at Drum na Coup was as important for the Mackays as Bannockburn was for Scotland. This is Iain's story.
Around 1412, Angus Du and Margeret’s son, Neil, was born. This is the last we hear of Margaret. Then about 1415, Angus Du has another son by Margaret’s niece (daughter of Alasdair of Keppoch, grand daughter of John of the Isles and Margaret Stewart who was daughter of Robert Stewart [Robert II] and Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce). Some sources say she was Angus Du’s second wife while others claim that this son was illegitimate. We will probably never know for sure which version is correct, but it is noted that the main chronicler to claim Iain was a bastard was a historian of the Sutherlands and a bitter enemy of the Mackays. At worst, Angus married Iain's mother without getting a dispensation from the Roman church (Because this wife was a niece of his first wife, the church at that time considered it to be within the forbidden degree of kinship.). In any case, this second son, Iain, was sent to his relatives in Lochaber to be fostered.
In 1426, Angus Du, with his son Neil at his side, laid waste to Caithness, the lands of the Earl of Sutherland (these Sutherlands were no relation to the Sutherlands who later ruled in Sutherland). The men of Clans Murray and Sutherland quickly gathered to fight the Mackays. They met at what became known as the Battle of Harpasdal. There was “great slaughter on both sides”, but the Mackays left the field victorious. James I, hearing of this from the aggrieved parties, went to Inverness with the intention of pursuing Angus Du. However, when Angus Du heard that the king was in Inverness, he went there and presented himself to the king and threw himself on the king’s mercy. The king pardoned him on condition of Angus Du’s son, Neil, remaining as a hostage to insure Angus Du’s subsequent behavior. Neil was imprisoned in the Bass and was ever after called Neil Vass.
With Neil in prison, Iain was sent for and returned to Tongue from Lochaber. He was afterwards called Iain Abrach (Iain of Lochaber). When he first arrived, Angus Du , who had not seen his son since infancy, was unsure of his identity. He decided to test the boy (he could have been no older than eleven or twelve) by setting out food for him in a room in which he also put a ferocious hound. When Iain reached out for the food, the hound, growling, sprang to attack. Iain closed with the dog and deftly dirked it to death. Angus Du then rushed into the room and proclaimed “Dhearbh thu fuil do ehridhe” (You have proved the blood of your heart.) Iain later adopted as his war cry ”Abaraich dearbh do chridhe: bi treun”, “Abrach prove thy heart: be valiant”.
In the years following, the Earl of Sutherland plotted against the Mackays, but did so behind the scenes, not wanting to risk a fight himself. It happened that Angus Du’s uncle, Neil Mackay had three sons. One of whom was named Thomas. Quoting now from the book “Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland”:
“Thomas MacNeil, that is the son of Niel, possessed the lands of Creich, Spanizedale, and Pulrossie in Sutherland. This Thomas had conceived some displeasure against the laird of Frewick, called Mowat, whom he had pursued and killed, with all his company, near the town of Tain, in Ross, within the chapel of St Duffus, and burnt also that chapel, unto which Mowat had retired himself as to a sanctuary. The king hearing of this cruel fact, proclaimed and denounced Thomas MacNiel to be a rebel; promised his lands and possessions for a reward to any that would kill or apprehend him. Angus Murray, the son of Alexander Murray of Cubin, understanding the king's proclamation, went about to effectuate this service; and to this purpose had secret conference with Morgan and Niel, the Brethen of Thomas. Angus Murray offered unto them, if they would assist to apprehend their brother Thomas, he would give them his own two daughters in marriage, and help them also to get the peaceable possession of such lands in Strathnaver as they made claim unto, which then they might easily obtain with little or no resistance, in regard that the cousin Angus-Dow MacKay was then unable, by reason of weakness of his body at that time, to withstand them, and that his son, Niel lay prisoner in the Bass; and farther he promised that he would deal with the Earl of Sutherland to favour and assist them. To this they easily yielded, pretending a title to Angus Dow his possessions in Strathnaver. So presently thereupon apprehending their brother Thomas MacNiel at Spanizedale in Sutherland, they delivered him up to Angus Murray, who was presented to the king. Then Thomas MacNiel was executed at Inverness, and the lands of Pulrossie and Spanizedale, which he did posses were given by the king to Angus Murray as a reward for his service.”
The machinations to get Morgan and Neil as allies to the Murrays and Sutherlands originated with the Earl of Sutherland. Morgan and Neil married the daughters of Angus Murray and then set about plotting to take the lands of Mackay away from Angus Du. The Earl of Sutherland ordered all his forces to support Neil and Morgan in obtaining Angus Du’s lands. Finally, sometime between 1431 and 1433 (the records differ as to the exact date) Neil and Morgan were acompanied by Angus Murray at the head of an army of Murrays and Sutherlands. They were marching to Tongue to force Angus Du to submit. In order to keep peace with his cousins, Angus Du sent word that he would give them all his lands except for those around Kintail. This the brothers refused.
Angus Du being aged and infirm could not lead his forces, so put his son Iain Abrach in charge. It was determined that the most likely route for the invaders was through the pass at Drum na Coup on the side of Ben Loyal. A scouting party was sent to the other side to watch for the enemy and confirm his path. Another small party of men was stationed on the slopes of Ben Loyal above the pass where they hid under cover waiting. Finally the rest of the Mackays, with Iain Abrach in charge, were stationed on a field opposite the exit from the pass. The scouting party saw the enemy approaching along the expected route and sent word back that they were coming. They then concealed themselves and waited for the enemy to pass. Neil and Morgan along with Angus Murray entered the pass. Although they had a sizeable army, they were forced by the narrowness of the pass to be strung out in a line that stretched nearly the entire length of the pass. Just as the leaders were exiting the pass, the scouting party attacked the rear of their line and the Mackay party on the slopes above attacked the flank Confusion soon reigned in the pass where the Murrays had no room to maneuver. Their leaders, unaware of the situation behind them rushed to attack the Mackays in front of them, thinking an easy victory was at hand. Although their army outnumbered the Mackays (estimates vary from four-to-one to ten-to-one depending on the chronicler) they had not counted on the valor of the Mackays or the strategy of Iain Abrach (who by the way was no more than eighteen at the time, perhaps as young as fifteen). About the time the leaders became fully engaged with Iain Abrach’s group the rest of the Murray army was exiting the pass in a crush of confusion with Mackays coming in behind them. Caught between the two, virtually every Murray was killed, including Neil and Morgan and Angus Murray. One man is said to have escaped and run all the way back to Caithness. Many Mackays were also killed, but they were victorious.
According to some croniclers, Iain Abrach was gravely wounded and left for dead. One account says that he was maimed for life by having his sword arm cut off. Other accounts say that he was slightly wounded or escaped injury. Considering his later life, I find it hard to believe that he was seriously injured or maimed. After the battle, Angus Du was brought to the field of battle to view the results. While looking for the bodies of his cousins, Neil and Morgan, a Murray archer who had been hiding behind some bushes, shot and killed Angus Du. With his older brother Neil still in prison, Iain Abrach took over the leadership of the clan.
In the years that followed, Iain Abrach administered his duties so well and became so popular with the people that many urged him to take the chiefship. This he refused to do. When Neil Vass returned in 1437, Iain Abrach was happy to turn everything over to him. In gratitude for all that Iain Abrach had done, Neil Vass granted to him and to his descendants in perpetuity the lands around Loch Naver from Mudale to Rossal. This they held for nearly four hundred years until the clearances removed them.
Posted: 19-Jul-2008, 10:54 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: North Carolina
I have started writing a history of the Mackay Clan that pulls together all the sources I've been able to find and presents a cohesive story based on the most likely versions I've come across. The following is the very first part. It may be expanded and certainly a bibliography will be added later. But the main part of the story is covered.
Before we can begin the story of the Mackay Clan, we must first understand the politics in the north of Scotland in the eleventh century. And to do that, we need to recap some earlier events and customs.
The first king of a united Scots and Picts was Kenneth MacAlpin. The succession of Scottish kings did not follow the practice of primogeniture (oldest son inherits kingship) but rather followed the practice of tanistry. Under this practice, the monarchy would pass to the next oldest brother, then the next brother until all brothers had their time as king (unless of course, they died first). Then it would go to the eldest son of the first brother, then the eldest son of the second brother and so on down the line. That way, the kingship alternated between different branches of the royal family. Generally, the Tanist (next in line) was named at the time the former Tanist became King. Under this system, Kenneth MacAlpin was followed by his brother, Donald who was succeeded by Kenneth’s son Constantine, followed by his cousin Aed. For about the next hundred and fifty years the kingship alternated between the lines of Constantine and Aed. We move forward through Giric, Eochaid, Donald II, Constantine II, Malcolm I, Indulf, Dub, Cuilen,Amlaib, Kenneth II, Constantine III, Kenneth III and Malcolm II. Kenneth III had a son, Boedhe who would have been next in line, but he died so his son should have been next. Malcolm II had three daughters but wanted his own grandson to succeed him, so he had Boedhe’s son killed. Boedhe (Kenneth III’s son) also had a daughter named Gruoch. Malcolm II’s first daughter, Bethoc, had a son named Duncan; his second daughter, Donada, had a son named Macbeth and his third daughter, Plantula, had a son named Thorfin. On Malcom II’s death, Duncan became King of Scots.
Let us leave the line of kings for a moment and look at the Mormaer’s of Moray. A Mormaer was, in the Celtic system, roughly the same as an Earl in the Norman feudal system, but only roughly. A Mormaer had more power and was more like an under king ruling an almost independent province. A Mormaer’s support was important enough that it could make or break a king. Toward the end of the tenth century, the Mormaer of Moray was one Ruadri. Ruadri had three sons: Findlaech, Maelbrigte and Donald. Findlaech succeeded Ruadri as Mormaer of Moray and as such had a lot of power and influence. So much so that King Malcolm II married his second daughter, Donada, to him. In due time, they had a son, Macbeth. Maelbrigte, Findlaech’s brother, had two sons: Malcolm and Gillacomgain. These two killed Findlaech and Malcolm became Mormaer in 1020 but was killed in 1029. At that time, his brother, Gillacomgain became Mormaer. Gillacomgain married Gruoch, the granddaughter of Kennth III. Gillacomgain and Gruoch had a son named Lulach. Some say that Macbeth killed Gillacomgain, but most unbiased accounts do not blame Macbeth. However it happened, Gillacomgain and fifty of his men were burned to death in a massive fire. At this time, Macbeth became Mormaer of Moray. He also married Gillacomgain’s widow, Gruoch, and became step father to Lulach.
To sum up, in 1032, Duncan (who was the son of Bethoc and the grandson of Malcolm II) was King of Scots. His first cousin and also a grandson of Malcolm II, Macbeth, was Mormaer of Moray and Macbeth was married to Gruoch who was the granddaughter of Kenneth III and mother of Lulach. Thorfin, the other cousin of Duncan and Macbeth and also grandson of Malcolm II, was the Jarl of Orkney (under the King of Norway).
Duncan made Macbeth the commanding general of his northern forces to keep a check on Thorfin. Shakespeare and others have accused Macbeth of murdering Duncan, but once again, there is no proof and the claim was not made until a couple hundred years afterwards. Someone killed Duncan, probably in battle and it may have been Macbeth or not. Duncan had wanted his son, Malcolm III to succeed him and the southern part of Scotland, the Strathclyde area, also supported Malcolm III. But Macbeth had a better claim of his own to the kingship, plus, he was married to the granddaughter of Kenneth III. Macbeth had the support of Moray and the rest of Scotland. So, in 1040, Macbeth became King of Scots and Malcolm III fled to the English court of Edward the Confessor to seek protection. (Malcolm eventually married Margaret, the niece of Edward the Confessor and the sister of the short lived English King Edgar Ætheling. Margaret proceeded to introduce English customs and language at court and to convert the Celtic church to English custom. This is why Macbeth and Lulach are often referred to as the last Gaelic kings of Scotland.)
Macbeth ruled for seventeen years as King. Although we are not so concerned with him, still it is noted that he was a good and well liked King. His rule was so peaceful, that in 1050, he and Thorfin traveled together to Rome on a pilgrimage. Macbeth is reputed to have spread gold coins “like seed” while in Rome. But all good things come to an end and in 1057, Malcolm III, backed by an English army, invaded. Malcolm succeeded in defeating Macbeth, but Lulach then was crowned king. After just seven months, Lulach was “killed by treachery”. Malcolm III, evermore known as Malcolm Canmor (Gaelic for Big Head), became King of Scots.
Lulach’s son, Maelsnectan, became Mormaer of Moray and also pushed his claim to the kingship. He was killed and the Mormaership passed to his sister’s husband, Aed, who inherited in his own right. This Aed was probably the great grand son of Donald who was son of Ruadri and the brother of Findlaech (Macbeth’s father). It is this Aed from whom the Mackays are descended and take their name. It was during Aed’s rule as Mormaer that the title was changed to the feudal title Earl. Aed continued to push the claim to kingship.
Aed and Lulach’s daughter had three sons. The first son, Oengus or Angus MacEth*, became Earl of Moray and was then killed in 1130. His brother Malcolm MacEth then became Earl. Malcolm did not stay long in Moray, but was forced to leave and fled to the western isles where he found shelter with and support from Somerled, the Lord of the Isles. Somerled gave Malcolm his sister in marriage.
About 1134, Malcolm began a hit and run campaign against David I’s forces. Three years later, he was captured and imprisoned in Roxburgh Tower. In 1153 David I was succeeded by Malcolm IV. At this time, Malcolm MacEth’s son Donald with the help of his uncle Somerled began a campaign against the Scottish crown. In 1156, Donald was captured and imprisoned with his father at Roxburgh Tower. Donald’s brothers and Somerled continued their rebellion until the next year when Malcolm IV found it prudent to release Malcolm MacEth and his son Donald. Furthermore, he made Malcolm MacEth the Earl of Ross. He thought that this would buy him the peace and it did for a while, but in the end, the rebellion resumed. In 1160, Malcolm was again captured and this time he was blinded. He spent his remaining days in a monastery. But Donald continued to wage war against the crown. Malcolm IV was so enraged by 1160 that he decided to remove the entire population of the province of Moray so that they could no longer make rebellion against him. A writer of the time said:
“At this time the rebel nation of the Moraymen, whose former lord, the Earl Angus, had been killed by the Scots [the Scots who were loyal to the crown that is---WRM], would, for neither prayers nor bribes, neither treaties nor oaths, leave off their disloyal ways, or their ravages among their fellow countrymen. So having gathered a large army, the king removed them all from the land of their birth, as of old Nebuechadnezzar, king of Babylon, had dealt with the Jews, and scattered them throughout the other districts of Scotland, both beyond the hills and this side thereof, so that even not one native of that land abode there, and he installed therein his own peaceful people.”
The majority of the MacEths went to Strathnaver where they would become the Mackays. In 1214 Alexander II became king and the next year, the MacEths along with their distant cousins the MacWilliams, gave a last gasp of rebellion. Kenneth MacEth, Donald’s son, was killed. This was the last of the MacEth rebellions. It was about this time that the clan system was developing in Scotland and the Clan Mackay grew strong and powerful. Or as one modern writer put it, “Once the hopeless dream of kingship was given up, though, the descendants of Aedh began to thrive in their new home of Strathnaver”.
* At this point, it should be mentioned that Aed, Eth, Heth, Aod, Y, Ay, Het, Et, Aodh, Aedh and a few others are all variations of spelling for the same name. They represent attempts to render the name in Latin, Gaelic and English. They are all pronounced the same. Aoidh is the genitive version of the name.
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