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Posted: 28-Oct-2006, 06:28 PM
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Background: In Gaelic, this name is rendered as 'Macaoidh', 'son of Hugh'. 'Aoidh' was a Celtic personal name associated with a pagan god of fire sometimes rendered as Aed or Heth.

Variations: Allan, Allanson, Bain, Bayne, Kay, Key, MacAllan, MacBain, MacCaa, MacCaw, MacCay, MacGaa, MacGaw, MacGee, MacGhee, MacGhie, MacKay, MacKee, MacKie, MacPhail, MacQue, MacQuey, MacQuoid, MacVail, MacVain, MacVane, Morgan, Neilson, Nelson, Paul, Pole, Poleson, Pollard, Polson, Reay, Scobie, Williamson

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TheCarolinaScotsman 
Posted: 28-Oct-2006, 10:24 PM
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Have always found the following to be one of the best short histories of the clan.

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.)


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TheCarolinaScotsman 
Posted: 28-Jan-2009, 08:50 PM
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The following is the first part of a more thorough history of the Mackays that I am writing.

The Background


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. Duncan 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.

The Origins



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.

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* 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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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---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”.

The Clan Develops


Kenneth’s son, Aodh (also spelled Iye) MacEth, was born in 1210. His son was Aodh (Iye) Mor Mackay, the first to use the name Mackay. In 1263, Walter de Baltrodi became Bishop of Caithness and Iye Mor Mackay was his chamberlain and married his daughter. Iye Mor took twelve davochs of church land in Durness. Official title was eventually given to Iye Mor’s son, Donald.
(From Wikipedia-“Scottish land measurements tended to be based on how much livestock they could support. This was particularly important in a country where fertility would vary widely. In the east a davoch would be a portion of land that could support 60 cattle or oxen. MacBain reckoned the davoch to be “either one or four ploughgates, according to locality and land”. A ploughgate contains about 100 Scots acres (5.3 km²).”)
Donald was the head of Mackay during the Wars of Independence and is said to have been with Bruce at Bannockburn, but we have no details of his involvement, just the statement of his presence along with his men.
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