History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name

Author: Alexander Mackenzie

V. Murdoch Mackenzie,

Known as "Murchadh na Drochaid," or Murdoch of the Bridge. The author of the Ardintoul MS. say’s that "he was called Murdo na Droit by reason of some bad treatment his lady met with at the Bridge of Scatwell, which happened on this occasion. He having lived for many years with his lady and getting no’ children, and so fearing that the direct line of his family might fail in his person, was a little concerned and troubled thereat, which being understood by some sycophants and flatterers that were about him and would fain curry his favour, they thought that they could not ingratiate themselves more on him than putting his lady out of the way, whereby he might marry another, and they waited an opportunity to put their design in execution (some say not without his connivance), and so on a certain evening or late at night as she was going to Achilty, where her laird lived, these wicked flatterers did presumptuously and barbarously cast her over the Bridge of Scatwell, and then their conscience accusing them for that horrid act they made off with themselves. But the wonderful providence of God carried the innocent lady (who was then with child) nowithstanding the impetuousness of the river, safe to the shore, and enabled her in the night-time to travel the length of Achilty, where her husband did impatiently wait her coming, that being the night she promised to be home, and entertained her very kindly, being greatly offended at the maltreatment she met with. The child she had then in the womb was afterwards called Alexander, and some say agnamed Inrick because by a miracle or Providence he escaped that danger and afterwards became heir to his father and inherited his estate." The author of the Applecross MS. says that this Baron was called "Murchadh no Droit" from "the circumstances that his mother being with child of him, had been saved after a fearful fall from the Bridge of Scattal into the Water of Conon." The writer of the "Ancient" MS. history of the Mackenzies, the oldest in existence, suggests that Mackenzie himself may have instigated the ruffians to do away with his wife. "They lived," he says, "a considerable time together childless, but men in those days (of whom he reason) preferred succession and manhood to wedlock. He caused to throw her under silence of night over the Bridge of Scatwell, but by Providence and by the course of the river she was cast ashore and escaped, went back immediately to his house, then at Achilty, and went to his bedside in a fond condition. But commiserating her case and repenting over the deed he gave her a hearty reception, learned from her that she expected soon to become a mother, and "so afterwards they lived together contentedly all their days."

During his earlier years Murdoch appears to have lived a peaceful life, following the example of loyalty to the Crown set him by his father, keeping the laws himself, and compelling those over whom his jurisdiction extended to do the same. Nor, if we believe the MS. historians of the family, was this dutiful and loyal conduct allowed to go unrewarded. All the successors of the Earl of Cromarty follow his lordship in saying that a charter was given by King Robert to Murdo, "filius Murdochi de Kintail," of Kintail and Laggan Achadrom, dated at Edinburgh, anno 1380, attested by "Willielmus de Douglas, et Archibaldo de Galloway, et Joanne, Cancellario Scotiae." As already stated, however, no such charter as this, or the one previously mentioned on the same authority as having been granted to Murdoch IV. of Kintail, in 1362, is on record.

Murdoch was one of the sixteen Highland chiefs who accompanied the Scots under James, second Earl of Douglas, in his famous march to England and defeated Sir Henry Percy, the renowned Hotspur, at the memorable battle of Otterburn, or Chevy Chase, in 1388.

The period immediately following this historical raid across the Border was more than usually turbulent even for those days in the Scottish Highlands, but Mackenzie managed to escape involving himself seriously with either party to the many quarrels which culminated in the final struggle for the earldom of Ross between the Duke of Albany and Donald, Lord of the Isles, in 1411, at the battle of Harlaw.

As soon as the news of the disaster to the Earl of Mar, who commanded at Harlaw, reached the ears of the Duke of Albany, at the time Regent for Scotland, he set about collecting an army with which, in the following autumn, he marched in person to the north determined to bring the Lord of the Isles to obedience. Having taken possession of the Castle of Dingwall, he appointed a governor to it, and from thence proceeded to recover the whole of Ross. Donald retreated before him, taking up his winter quarters in the Western Islands. Hostilities were renewed next summer, but the contest was not long or doubtful, notwithstanding some little advantages obtained by the Lord of the Isles. He was compelled for a time to give up his claim to the earldom of Ross, to become a vassal of the Scottish Crown, arid to deliver hostages for his good behaviour in the future.

Murdoch must have felt secure in his stronghold of Ellandonnan, and been a man of great prudence, sagacity, and force of character, when, in spite of the commands of his nominal superior—the Lord of the Isles—to support him in these unlawful and rebellious proceedings against the King and threats of punishment in case of refusal, he resolutely declined to join him in his desperate and treasonable adventures. He went the length of saying that even if his lordship’s claims were just in themselves, they would not justify a rebellion against the existing Government; and he further informed him that, altogether independently of that important consideration, he felt no great incentive to aid in the cause of the representative of his grandfather’s murderer. Mackenzie was in fact one of those prudent and loyal chiefs who kept at home in the Highlands, looking

after his own affairs, the comfort of his followers, and laying a solid foundation for the future prosperity of his house, "which was so characteristic of them that they always esteemed the authority of the magistrate as an inviolable obligation."

Donald of the Isles never forgave Mackenzie for thus refusing to assist him in obtaining the Earldom of Ross, and he determined to ruin him if he could. On this subject the Earl of Cromartie says that at the battle of Harlaw Donald was assisted by almost "all the northern people, Mackenzie excepted, who because of the many injuries received by his predecessors from the Earls of Ross, and chiefly by the instigation and concurrence of Donald’s predecessors, he withdrew and refused concurrence. Donald resolved to ruin him, but deferred it till his return, which falling out more unfortunately than he expected, did not allow him power nor opportunity to use the vengeance he intended, for on his return to Ross he sent Mackenzie a friend with fair speeches desiring his friendship, thinking no enemy despicable as he then stood." Murdoch, at Donald’s request, proceeded to Dingwall, where the Island Lord urged him to join and promise him to support his interest. This Mackenzie firmly refused, "partly out of hatred to his family for old feuds, partly dissuaded by Donald’s declining fortunes" at that particular period ; whereupon the Lord of the Isles made Murdoch prisoner in an underground chamber in the Castle of Dingwall. He was not long here, however, when he found an opportunity of making his plight known to some of his friends, and he was soon after released in exchange for some of Donald’s immediate relatives who had been purposely captured by Mackenzie’s devoted vassals.

Here it may be appropriate to give the traditionary account of the origin of the Macraes and how they first found their way to Kintail and other places in the West; for their relationship with the Mackenzies has from the earliest times been of the closest and most loyal character. Indeed, from the aid they invariably afforded them they have been aptly described as "Mackenzie’s shirt of mail." According to the Rev. John Macrae, minister of Dingwall, who died in 1704, and wrote the only existing trustworthy history and genealogy of his own clan, the Macraes came originally from Clunes, in the Aird of Lovat, recently acquired from patriotic family reasons by Horatio Macrae, W.S., Edinburgh, the representative in this country of the Macraes of Inverinate, who were admittedly the chiefs of that brave and warlike race. The Rev. John Macrae, who was himself a member of the Inverinate family, says that the Macraes left the Aird under the following circumstances:—A dispute had arisen in the hunting field between Macrae of Clunes and a bastard son of Lovat, when a son of Macrae intervened to protect his father, and killed Fraser’s son in the scuffle. The victor "immediately ran oft; and calling himself John Carrach, that he might be less known, settled on the West Coast, and of him are descended the branch of the Macraes called Clann Ian Charraich. It was some time after this that his brethren and other relatives began seriously to consider that Lovat’s own kindred and friends became too numerous, and that the country could not accommodate them all, which was a motive for their removing to other places according as they had encouragement. One of the brothers went to Brae Ross and lived at Brahan, where there is a piece of land called Knock Vic Ra, and the spring well which affords water to the Castle is called Tober Vic Ra.

His succession spread westward to Strathgarve, Strathbraan, and Strathconan, where several of them live at this time. John Macrae, who was a merchant in Inverness, and some of his brethren, were of them, and some others in Ardmeanach. Other two of MacRa’s sons, elder than the above, went off from Clunes several ways; one is said to have gone to Argyleshire and another to Kintail. In the meantime their father remained at Clunes all his days, and bad four Lords Fraser of Lovat fostered in his house. He that went to Argyle, according to our tradition, married the heiress of Craignish, and on that account took the surname of Campbell. The other brother who went to Kintail, earnestly invited and encouraged by Mackenzie, who then had no kindred of his own blood, the first six Barons, or Lords of Kintail, having but one lawful son to succeed the father, hoping that the MacRas, by reason of their relation, as being originally descended from the same race of people in Ireland would prove more faithful than others, wherein he was not disappointed, for the MacRas of Kintail served him and his successors very faithfully in every quarrel they had with neighbouring clans, and by their industry, blood, and courage, have been instrumental in raising that family." The writer adds that he does not know Macrae’s christian name, but that he married "a daughter or grand-daughter of MacBeolan, who possessed a large part of Kintail before Mackenzie’s predecessors got a right of it from Alexander III." This marriage, and their common ancestry from a native Celtic source, and not from "the same race of people in Ireland" seems a much more probable explanation of the early and continued friendship which existed between the two families than that suggested by the rev. author of "The Genealogy of the Macraes," above quoted.

But the curious circumstance to which he directs attention regarding the first five Mackenzie chiefs is quite true. It is borne out by every genealogy of the House of Kintail which we have ever seen. There is not a trace of any legitimate male descendant from the first of the name down to Alexander, the sixth baron, except the immediately succeeding chief, so that their vassals and followers in the field and elsewhere must, for nearly two hundred years, have been men of different septs and tribes and names, except the progeny of their own illegitimate sons, such as "Sliochd Mhurcbaidh Riabhaich" and others of similar base origin. Murdoch married Finguala or Florence, daughter of Malcolm Macleod, III. of Harris and Dunvegan, by his wife, Martha, daughter of Donald Stewart, Earl of Mar, nephew of King Robert the Bruce. By this marriage the Royal blood of the Bruce was introduced for the first time into the family of Kintail, as also that of the ancient Kings of Man.

Tormod Macleod, II. of Harris, who was grandson of Olave the Black, last Norwegian King of Man, and who, as we have seen, had married Christina, daughter of Ferquhard O’Beolan, Earl of Ross, married Finguala Mac Crotan, the daughter of an ancient and powerful Irish chief. By this lady Malcolm Macleod, III. of Harris and Dunvegan, had issue, among others, Finguala, who now became the wife of Murdoch Mackenzie and mother of Alexander Ionraic, who carried on the succession of the ancient line of Kintail.

Murdoch died in 1416 when he was succeeded by his only son,


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Chicago: Alexander Mackenzie, "V. Murdoch Mackenzie,," History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Baines, William Peter in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed December 5, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49Y9Y85M46J16S5.

MLA: Mackenzie, Alexander. "V. Murdoch Mackenzie,." History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Baines, William Peter, in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49Y9Y85M46J16S5.

Harvard: Mackenzie, A, 'V. Murdoch Mackenzie,' in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49Y9Y85M46J16S5.