Coinneach Odhar “Kenneth the Sallow “ and “The Brahan Seer” 1577 A.D.
The Gaelic Coineach Odhar Fiosaiche, or Kenneth MacKenzie, the Brahan Seer or "Warlock of the Glen", was the most highly respected of the Scottish prophets. The one-eyed magician foresaw the future through a hole in a smooth pebble that he always carried with him. Most of this predictions concerned 17th century Scotland, but he also foretold the Industrial Revolution and developments such as gas and water mains: "Fire and water shall run in long streams through all the streets and lanes of Inverness" and locomotives: "Long strings of carriages without horses shall run between Dingwall and Inverness." The Brahan Seer forecast a gloomy future for Scotland 1
1. Taken from Prophecy: A History of the Future (Internet Edition) by Robert A. Nelson at http://www.rexresearch.com/prophist/phf3eu~1.htm#PHF39
The Brahan Seer
Taken from The Loch Ness Homepage at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/8287/seer2.html
He no doubt predicted many things which the unbeliever in his prophetic gifts may ascribe to great natural shrewdness. Among these may be placed his prophecy, 150 years before the Caledonian Canal was built, that ships would some day sail round the back of Tomnahurich Hill. A gentleman in Inverness sent for Coinneach to take down his prophecies. He wrote several of them, but when he heard this one, he thought it so utterly absurd and impossible, that he threw the manuscript of what he had already written in the fire, and gave up any further communication with the Seer. Mr Maclennan gives the following version of it: - "Strange as it may seem to you this day, time will come, and it is not far off, when full-rigged ships will be seen sailing eastward and westward by the back of Tomnahurich, near Inverness." Mr Macintyre supplies us with a version in the Seer's vernacular Gaelic: - "Thig an latha's am faicear laraichean Sasunnach air an tarruing le srianan corcaich seachad air cul Tom-na-hiuraich." (The day will come when English mares, with hempen bridles, shall be led round the back of Tomnahurich). It is quite possible that a man of penetration and great natural shrewdness might, from the appearance of the country, with its chain of great inland lakes, predict the future Caledonian Canal. Among others which might safely be predicted, without the aid of any supernatural gift, are "that the day will come when there will be a road through the hills of Ross-shire from sea to sea, and a bridge upon every stream." "That the people will degenerate as their country improves." "That the clans will become so effeminate as to flee from their native country before an army of sheep." Mr Macintyre supplies the following version of the latter: - Alluding possibly to the depopulation of the Highlands, Coinmeach said "that the day will come when the Big Sheep will overrun the country until they strike (meet) the northern sea." Big sheep here is commonly understood to mean deer, but whether the words signify sheep or deer, the prophecy has been very strikingly fulfilled. The other two have also been only too literally fulfilled.
Mr Macintyre supplies another version, as follows: - "The day will come when the hills of Ross will be strewed with ribbons." It is generally accepted that this prediction finds its fulfilment in the many good roads that now intersect the various districts of the country. Other versions are given, such as "a ribbon on every hill, and a bridge on every stream." (Raoban air gach abhainn agus tigh geal air gach cnocan); and "that the hills of the country will be crossed with shoulder-halts " (criosan guaille). Since Kennneth's day mills were very common, and among the most useful industrial institutions of the country, as may be evidenced by the fact that, even to this day, the proprietors of lands, where such establishment were once located, pay Crown and Bishop's rents for them. And may we not discover the fulfillment of "a white house on every hillock" in the many elegant shooting lodges, hotel, and school-houses now found in every corner of the Highlands.
Mr Maclennan supplies the following: - There is opposite the shore at Findon, Ferrintosh, two sand banks which were, in the time of the Seer, entirely covered over with the sea, even at the very lowest spring ebbs. Regarding these, Coinneach said, "that the day will come, however distant, when these banks will form the coast line; and when that happens, know for certainty that troublesome times are at hand." "These banks, " our correspondent continues, "have been visibly approaching, for many years back, nearer and nearer to the shore." This is another of the class of prediction which might be attributed to natural shrewdness. It is being gradually fulfilled and it may be well to watch for the "troublesome times, " and so test the powers of the Seer.
Other predictions of this class may occur as we proceed, but we have no hesitation in saying that, however much natural penetration and shrewdness might have aided Kenneth in predicting such as these, it would assist him little in prophesying "that the day will come when Tomnahurich, " or, as he called it, Tom-na-sithichean, or the Fairy Hill, "will be under lock and key, and the Fairies secured within." It would hardly assist him in foreseeing the beautiful and unique cemetery on the top of the hill, and the spirits (of the dead) chained within, as we now see it.
The following paragraph appeared in the Inverness Advertiser, in 1859; that is before Tomnahurich had been turned into a cemetery: - "Tomnahurich, the far-famed Fairies' Hill, has been sown with oats. According to tradition, the Brahan prophet who lived 200 years ago, predicted that ships with unfurled sails would pass and repass Tomnahurich; and further, that it would yet be placed under lock and key. The first part of the prediction was verified by the opening of the Caledonian Canal, and we seemed to be on the eve of seeing the realisation of the rest by the final closing up of the Fairies' Hill." This paragraph was in print before the prediction was fulfilled.
When a magpie (pitheid) shall have made a nest for three successive years in the gable of the Church of Ferrintosh, the church will fall when full of people, is one of those regarding which we find it difficult to decide whether it has been fulfilled or not. Mr Macintyre, who supplies this version, adds the following remarks: - The Church of Ferrintosh was known at an earlier period as the Parish Church of Urquhart and Loggie. Some maintain that this prediction refers to the Church of Urray. Whether this be so or not, there were circumstances connected with the Church of Ferrintosh in the time of the famous Rev. Dr Macdonald, which seemed to indicate the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy, and which led to very alarming consequences. A magpie actually did make her nest in the church gable, exactly as foretold. This, together with a rent between the church wall and the stone stairs which led up to the gallery, seemed to favour the opinion that the prophecy was on the eve of being accomplished, and people felt uneasy when they glanced upon the ominous nest, the rent in the wall, and the crowded congregation, and remembered Coinneach's prophecy, as they walked into the church to hear the Doctor. It so happened one day that the church was unusually full of people, insomuch that it was found necessary to connect the ends of the seats with planks, in order to accommodate them all. Unfortunately, one of those temporary seats was either too weak, or too heavily burdened: it snapped in two with a loud report and startled the audience. Coinneach Odhar's prophecy flashed across their minds, and a simultaneous rush was made by the panic-stricken congregation to the door. Many fell, and were trampled underfoot, while others fainted, being seriously crushed and bruised.
Among a rural population, sayings and doings, applicable to a particular parish, crop up, and, in after times, are applied to occurrences in neighbouring parishes. Having regard to this may not be suggested that, what is current locally in regard to Ferrintosh and Coinneach's sayings, may only be a transcript of an event now matter of history in a parish on the northern side of the Cromarty Firth. We refer to the destruction of the Abbey Church at Fearn by lightning, October 10, 1742. We have never seen a detailed account of this sad accident in print, and have no doubt the reader will be glad to have a graphic description of it from the pen of Bishop Forbes, the famous author of the "Jacobite Memoirs," who visited his diocese of Ross and Caithness in the summer of 1762. This account is taken from his unpublished MS Journal, now the property of the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and presently in the hands of the Rev. F. Smith, Arpafeelie, who has kindly permitted the following extract: - "The ruinous Church of Ferne was of old an Abbacy of White Friars. The roof of flagstones, with part of a side wall, was beat down in an instant by thunder and lightning on Sunday, October 10 1742, and so crushed and bruised forty persons, that they were scarcely to be discovered, who or what they were, and therefore, were buried promiscuously, without any manner of distinction. The gentry, having luckily their seats in the niches, were saved from the sudden crash, as was the preacher by the soundings boards falling upon the pulpit and his bowing down under it. Great numbers were wounded. But there is a most material circumstance not mentioned, which has been carefully concealed from the publishers, and it is this: By a Providential event, this was the first Sunday that the Rev. and often-mentioned Mr Stewart, had a congregation near Cadboll, in view of Ferne, whereby many lives were saved, as the kirk was far from being so throng as usual, and seeing the dismal falling-in just when it happened, hastened with all speed to the afflictive spot, and dragged many of the wounded out of the rubbish, whose cries would have pierced a heart of adamant. Had not this been the happy case, I speak within bounds when I say two, if not three, to one, would have perished. Some of the wounded died. This church has been a large and lofty building, as the walls are very high, and still standing. It has been suggested that the prediction was fulfilled by the falling pieces of the Church at the Disruption; but we would be loth to stake the reputation of our prophet on this assumption. Another, supposed by some to be fulfilled by the annual visits of the militia for their annual drill, is - "That when a wood on the Muir of Ord grows to a man's height, regiments of soldiers shall be seen there drawn up in battle order." In connection with the battle, or battles, at Cille-Chriosd and the Muir of Ord, Mr Macintyre says: - The Seer foretold that "Fear Ruadh and Uird (The Red Laird of Ord) would be carried home, wounded, on blankets." Whether this saying has reference to an event looming in the distant future, or is a fragment of a tradition regarding sanguinary events well known in the history of Cille-Chriosd, it is impossible to say.
Prophecies, all or partly Fulfilled
Here are several additional predictions which have been wholly or partly fulfilled. "The day will come when the Mackenzies will lose all their possessions in Lochalsh, after which it will fall into the hands of an Englishman, who will be distinguished by great liberality to his people, and lavish expenditure of money. He will have one son and two daughters; and, after his death, the property will revert to the Mathesons, its original possessors, who will build a Castle on Druim-a-Dubh, at Balmacarra." The late Mr Lillingstone was an Englishman. He was truly distinguished for kindness and liberality to his tenants, and he had a son and two daughters, although, he had been married for seventeen years before he had any family. When he came into possession, old people thought they discerned the fulfilment of the a part of Kenneth's prediction in his person, until it was remarked that he had no family as foretold by the Seer. At last, a son and two daughters were successively born to Mr Lillingstone. After his death, the son sold the whole of Lochalsh to Alexander Matheson, MP for the Counties of Ross and Cromarty, and, so far, the prediction has been realised. A castle has been built and Duncraig, a considerable distance from the spot predicted by the Seer; but if Kenneth is to be depended upon, a castle will yet be built by one of the Mathesons on Druim-a-Dubh, at Balmacarra. Had his prophecy been got up after the event, the reputation of the Seer would certainly not have been staked on the erection of another castle in the remote future, when the Mathesons already possess such a magnificent mansion at Duncraig.
An old man from the Island of Raasay describes a prediction regarding the Macleods. He remembers seven proprietors of Raasay, and who sorely lamented the fulfilment of the prophecy, and the decline of the good stock, entirely in consequence of their own folly and extravagance. Since then, the prediction has been repeated by a Kintail man in identical terms; and it is hardly translatable: - "Dar a thig MacDhomhnuill Duibh bàn; MacShimidh ceann-dearg; Sisealach claon ruadh; Mac-Coinnich mor bodhar; agus Mac-Gille-challam cama-chasach, iar-ogha Ian bhig à Ruiga, se' sin a Mac-Gille-challam is miosa 'thainig na thig; cha bhi mi ann ri linn, 's cha'n fhearr leam air a bhith." (When we shall have a fair-haired Locheil; a red-haired Lovat; a squint-eyed, fair-haired Chisholm; a big deaf Mackenzie; and a bow-crooked-legged MacGille-challum, who shall be the great-grand-son of John Beg, or little John, of Ruiga: that Mac-Gille-challum will be the worst that ever came or ever will come; I shall not be in existence in his day, and I have no desire that I should). Ruiga is the name of a place in Skye. When the last Macleod of Raasay was born, an old sage in the district called upon his neighbour, and told him, with an expression of great sorrow, that Mac-Gille-challum of Raasay now had an heir, and his birth was a certain forerunner of the extinction of his house. Such an event as the birth of an heir had be hitherto, in this as in all other Highland families, universally considered an occasion for great rejoicing among the retainers. The old man was amazed, and asked the sage what he meant by unusual and disloyal remarks. "Oh!" answered he, "do you not know that this is the grand-grandson of John Beg of Ruiga whom Coinneach Odhar predicted would be the worst of his race." And so he undoubtedly proved himself to be, for he lost forever the ancient inheritance of his house, and acted generally in such a manner as to fully justify the Seer's prediction; and what is still more remarkable, the Highland lairds, with the peculiar characteristics and malformations foretold by Kenneth, preceded or were the contemporaries of the last MacGille-challum of Raasay.
Here is a prediction of the downfall of another distinguished Highland family - Clan Ranald of the Isles. "The day will come when the old wife with the footless stocking (caillleach nam mogan) will drive the Lady of Clan Ranald from Nunton House, in Benbecula." We are informed that this was fulfilled when the Macdonalds took the farm of Nunton, locally known as "Baile na Caillich." Old Mrs Macdonald was in the habit of wearing primitive articles of dress, and we generally known in the district as "Cailleach nam Morgan." Clan Ranlad and his lady, like many more of our Highland chiefs, ultimately went to the wall, and the descendants of the "old wife with the footless stocking" occupied, and, for anything we know, still occupy the ancient residence of the long-distinguished race of Clan Ranald of the Isles.
In the beginning of the seventeenth century, and during the Seer's lifetime, there lived in Kintail an old man - Duncan Macrae - who was curious to know by what means he should end his days. He applied to a local female Seer, who informed him that he "would die by the sword" (le bas a chlaidheamh). This appeared to be improbable in the case of such an old man, who had taken part in so many bloody frays and invariably escaped unhurt, that the matter was referred to the greater authority, Coinneach Odhar. He corroborated the woman, but still the matter was almost universally discredited in the district, and by none more so than by old Duncan himself. However , years after, conviction was forced upon them; for, according to the "Genealogy of the Macraes," written by the Rev. John Macrae, minister of Dingwall, who died in 1704 - "Duncan being an old man in the year 1654, when General Monk, afterwards the Duke of Albemarle, came to Kintail, retired from his house in Glenshiel to the hills, where, being found by some of the soldiers who had straggled from the body of the army in hopes of plunder, and who, speaking to him roughly, in a language he did not understand, he, like Old Orimanus, drew his sword and was immediately killed by them. This was all the blood that General Monk or his soldiers, amounting to 1500 men, had drawn, and all the opposition he met with, although the Earl of Middleton and Sir George Monro were within a miles of them, and advertised of their coming, Seaforth having been sent by middle ton to the Isle of Skye and parts adjoining, to treat with the Macdonalds and the Macleods."
Regarding the evictions which took place in the Parish of Petty, he said, "The day will come, and it is not far off, when farm-steadings will be so few and far between, that the crow of the cock shall not be heard from the one steading to the other." This prediction has certainly been fulfilled, for, in the days of the Seer there were no fewer than sixteen tenants on the farm of Morayston alone.
On the south of the bay, at Petty, is an immense stone, of at least eight tons weight, which formerly marked the boundary between the estates of Culloden and Moray. On the 20th of February, 1799, it was mysteriously removed from its former position, and carried about 260 yards into the sea. It is supposed by some that this was brought about by an earthquake; others think that the stone was carried off by the actions of ice, combined with the influence of a tremendous hurricane, which blew from the shore, during that fearful and stormy night. It was currently reported, and generally believed at the time, that his Satanic Majesty had a finger in this work. Be that as it may, there is no doubt whatever that the Brahan Seer predicted "that the day will come when the Stone of Petty, large though it is, and high and dry upon the land as it appears to people this day, will be suddenly found as far advanced into the sea as it now lies away from it inland, and no one will see it removed, or be able to account for its sudden and marvellous transportation."
The Seer was at one time in the Culloden district on some important business. While passing over what is now so well known as the Battlefield of Culloden, he exclaimed, "Oh! Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad am I that I will not see the day, for it will be a fearful period; heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy shall be shown or quarter given on either side." It is perhaps unnecessary to point out how literally this prophecy has been fulfilled on the occasion of the last battle fought on British soil. There are several other versions of this prophecy from different parts of the country almost in identical terms."The time will come when whisky or dram shops will be so plentiful that one may be met with almost at the head of every plough furrow." (Thig an latha 's am bi tighean-oil cho lionmhor's nach mor nach fhaicear tigh-osda aig ceann gach claise.) "Policemen will become so numerous in every town that they may be met with at the corner of every street." "Travelling merchants" [pedlars and hawkers] "will be so plentiful that a person can scarcely walk a mile on the public highway without meeting one of them."
The following is from "A Summer in Skye," by the late Alex Smith, author of "A Life Drama." Describing Dunvegan Castle and its surroundings, he says:- "Dun Kenneth's prophecy has come to pass - 'In the days of Norman, son of the third Norman, there will be a noise in the doors of the people, and wailing in the house of the widow; and Macleod will not have so many gentlemen of his name as will row a five-oared boat round the Maidens.' If the last trumpet had been sounded at the end of the French war, no one but a Macleod would have risen out of the churchyard of Dunvegan. If you want to see a chief (of the Macleods) now-a-days you must go to London for him." There can be no question as to these having been fulfilled to the letter. "The day will come when a fox will rear a litter of cubs on the hearthstone of Castle Downie." "The day will come when a wild deer will be caught alive at Chanonry Point, in the Black isle." All of these things have come to pass. With respect to the clearances in Lewis, he said - "Many a long waste feannag (rig, once arable) will yet be seen between Uig of the Mountains and Ness of the Plains." That this prediction has been fulfilled to the letter, no one aquainted with the country will deny. The following would appear to have been made solely on account of the unlikelihood of the occurrence: - "A Lochalsh woman shall weep over the grave of a Frenchman in the burying-place of Lochalsh." People imagined they could discern in this allusion to some battle on the West Coast, in which French troops would be engaged; but there was an occurrence which gave it a very different interpretation. A native of Lochalsh married a French footman, who died, shortly after this event, and was interred in the burying-ground of Lochalsh, thus leaving his widow to mourn over his grave. This may appear commonplace matter enough, but it must be remembered that a Frenchman in Lochalsh, and especially a Frenchman whom a Highland woman would mourn over, in Coinneach's day, was a very different phenomenon to what it is in our day and age. The Seer also predicted the formation of a railway through the Muir of Ord, handed down in the following stanza: -
Nuair a bhios da eaglais an Sgire na Toiseachd,
A's lamh da ordaig an I-Stian,'
Da dhrochaid aig Sguideal nan geocaire,
As fear da imleag an Dunean,
Thig Miltearan a carn a-chlarsair,
Air Carbad gun each gun srian,
A dh-fhagus am Blar-dubh na fhasach,
'Dortadh fuil le iomadh sgian;
A's olaidh am fitheach a thri saitheachd
De dh-fhuil nan Gaidheal, bho clach nam Fionn.
Here is a literal translation: -
When there shall be two churches in the Parish of Ferrintosh,
And a hand with two thumbs in "I-Stiana,"
Two bridges at "Sguideal" (Conan) of the gormandisers,
Soldiers will come from "Carr a Chlarsair" (Tarradale)
On a chariot without horse or bridle,
Which will leave the "Blar-dubh" (Muir of Ord) a wilderness,
Spilling blood with many knives;
And the raven shall drink his three fulls
Of the blood of the Gael from the Stone of Fionn.
We already have two churches in the Parish of Ferrintosh, two bridges at Conan, and we are told by an eyewitness, that there is actually at this very time a man with two thumbs on each hand in "I-Stiana," in the Black Isle, and a man in the neighbourhood of Dunean who has two navels. The "chariot without horse or bridle" is undoubtedly the "iron horse." What peculiar event the latter part of the prediction refers to, it is impossible to say; but if we are to have any faith in the Seer, something serious is looming not very remotely in the future. Mr Macintyre supplies the following, which is clearly a fragment of the one above given: - Coinneach Odhar foresaw the formation of a railway through the Muir of Ord which he said "would be a sign of calamitous times." The prophecy regarding this is handed down to us in the following form: - "I would not like to live when a black bridleless horse shall pass through the Muir of Ord." "Fearchair a Ghunna" (Farquhar of the Gun, an idiotic simpleton who lived during the latter part of his extraordinary life on the Muir of Tarradale) seems, in his own quaint way, to have entered into the spirit of his prophecy, when he compared the train, as it first passed through the district, to the funeral of "Old Nick." Tradition gives another version: - "that after four successive dry summers, a fiery chariot shall pass through the 'Blar Dubh,'" which has been very literally fulfilled. Coinneach Odhar was not the only person that had a view beforehand of his railway line, for it is commonly reported that a man residing in the neighbourhood of Beauly, gifted with second-sight, had a vision of the train moving along in all its headlong speed, when he was on his way home one dark autumn night, several years before the question of forming a railway in those parts was mooted.
Here are two other Gaelic stanzas having undoubted reference to the Mackenzies of Rosehaugh: -
Bheir Tanaistear Chlann Choinnich
Rocus bàn ás a choille;
'S bheir e ceile bho tigh-ciuil
Le a mhuinntir 'na aghaidh;
'S gum bi 'n Tanaistear mor
Ann an gniomh 's an ceann-labhairt,
'Nuair bhios am Pap' anns an Roimh
Air a thilgeadh dheth chaithair,
Thall fa chomhar Creag-a-Chodh
Comhnuichidh taillear caol odhar;
'S Seumas gorach mar thighearn,
'S Seumas glic mar fhear tomhais -
A mharcaicheas gun srian
Air loth fhaidhaich a roghainn;
Ach cuiridh mor-chuis gun chiall
'N aite siol nam fiadh siol nan gobhar;
'S tuitidh an t-Eilean-dubh briagha
Fuidh riaghladh iasgairean Auch.
Literal translation: -
The heir (or chief) of the Mackenzies will take
A white rook out of the wood,
And will take a wife from a music house (Dancing saloon),
With his people against him!
And the heir will be great
In deeds and as an orator,
When the Pope in Rome
Will be thrown off his throne.
Over opposite Creag-a-Chow
Will dwell a diminutive lean tailor,
Also Foolish James as the laird,
And Wise James as a measurer.
Who will ride without a bridle
The wild colt of his choice;
But foolish pride without sense
Will put in the place of the seed of the deer the seed of the goat,
And the beautiful Black Isle will fall
Under the management of the fishermen of Avoch.
We have not learnt that any of the Rosehaugh Mackenzies has yet taken a white rook from the woods; nor have we heard anything suggested as to what this part of the prophecy may refer to. We are, however, credibly informed that one of the late Mackenzies of Rosehaugh had taken his wife from a music saloon in one of our southern cities, and that his people were very much against him for so doing. One of them, Sir George, no doubt was "great in deeds and as an orator," but we fail to discover any connection between the time in which he lived and the time "when the Pope in Rome will be thrown off his throne." The first two line of the second stanza refers to a pious man who lived on the estate of Bennetsfield, opposite Craigiehow, when 'Seumas Gorach' (Foolish James referred to in the third line), was proprietor of Rosehaugh. This man, who was contemporary with Foolish James, often warned him of his end, and predicted his fate if he did not mend his ways; and as thus he cut his bounds for him, he is supposed to be the 'diminutive lean tailor.' The fourth line refers to James Maclaren, who lived at Rosehaugh most of the time during which the last two Mackenzies ruled over it. He was an odd but straightforward man and often rebuked 'Foolish James' for the reckless and fearless manner in which he rode about, and set bounds before the 'foolish laird,' which he was not allowed to pass. Maclaren was, on that account, believed to be the 'measurer' referred to by the Seer. The fifth and sixth lines are supposed to apply to the wife fancied by Mackenzie in a 'dancing saloon,' who was always considered the 'wild colt,' at whose instigation he rode so recklessly and foolishly.
Those in the seventh and eighth lines have been most literally fulfilled, for there can be no doubt that "foolish pride without sense" has brought about what the Seer predicted, and secured, for the present at least, the seed of the goat where the seed of the deer used to rule. The deer, and the deer's horns, as is well known, are the armorial bearings of the Mackenzies, while the goat is that of the Fletchers, who now rule in Rosehaugh, on the ruins of its once great and famous "Cabair-feidh."
Part of the Black Isle has already fallen under the management of the son of the fisherman of Avoch; and who knows but other fishermen from that humble village may yet amass sufficient wealth to buy the whole. The old proprietors are rapidly making way with their "foolish pride without sense," for some one to purchase it.
The present proprietor of Rosehaugh is the son of an Avoch fisherman - the son of a Mr Jack, who followed that honourable avocation in this humble village for many years; afterwards left the place and went to reside in Elgin, where he commenced business as a small general dealer, or "husker;" that some of the boys - his sons - exhibited a peculiar smartness while in school; that this was noticed by a lady relative of their mother, an aunt, of the name of Fletcher, who encouraged and helped on the education of the boys, and who took one or more of them to her home, and brought them up; afterwards they found their way south, and ultimately became successful merchants and landed proprietors.
While we are dealing with the "wonderful" in connection with the House of Rosehaugh, it may not be out of place to give a few instances of the somewhat extraordinary experiences of the famous Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh already referred to. He was one of the most distinguished members of the Scottish Bar, was Lord Advocate for Scotland in the reign of Charles the Second, and was, indeed, a contemporary of the Brahan Seer. His "Institutes" are still considered a standing authority by the legal profession: - On one occasion, while at Rosehaugh, a poor widow from a neighbouring estate called to consult him regarding her being repeatedly warned to remove from a small croft which she had held under a lease of several years; but as some time had yet to run before its expiry, and being threatened with summary ejection from the croft, she went to solicit his advice. Having examined the tenor of the lease, Sir George informed her that it contained a flaw, which, in the case of opposition, would render her success exceedingly doubtful; and although it was certainly an oppressive act to deprive her of her croft, he thought her best plan was to submit. However, seeing the distressed state of mind in which the poor woman was on hearing his opinion, he desired her to call upon him the following day, when he would consider her case more carefully. His clerk, who always slept in the same room as his lordship, was not a little surprised, about midnight, to discover him rising from his bed fast asleep, lighting a candle which stood on his table, drawing in his chair, and commencing to write very busily, as if he been all the time awake. The clerk saw how he was employed, but he never spoke a word, and, when he finished, he saw him place what he had written in his private desk, locking it, extinguishing the candle, and then retiring to bed as if nothing had happened. Next morning at breakfast, Sir George remarked that he had had a very strange dream about the poor widow's threatened ejectment, which, he could now remember, and he had now no doubt of making out a clear case in her favour. His clerk rose from the table, asked for the key of his desk, and brought therefrom several pages of manuscript; and, as he handed them to Sir George, enquired - "Is that like your dream?" On looking over it for a few seconds, Sir George said, "Dear me, this is singular; this is my very dream!" He was no less surprised when his clerk informed him of the manner in which he had acted; and, sending for the widow, he told what steps to adopt to frustrate the efforts of her oppressors. Acting on the counsel thus given, the poor widow was ultimately successful, and, with her young family, was allowed to remain in possession of her "wee bit croftie" without any more trouble.
Sir George principally resided at this time in Edinburgh, and, before dinner, invariably walked for half-an-hour. The place he selected for this was Leith Walk, then almost a solitary place. One day, while taking his accustomed exercise, he was met by a venerable-looking, grey-headed old gentleman, who accosted him, and, without introduction or apology, said - "There is a very important case to come off in London fourteen days hence, at which your presence will be required. It is a case of heirship to a very extensive estate in the neighbourhood of London, and a pretended claimant is doing his utmost to disinherit the real heir, on the ground of his inability to produce proper titles thereto. It is necessary that you be there on the day mentioned; and in one of the attics of the mansion-house on the estate there is an old oak chest with two bottoms; between these you will find the necessary titles, written on parchment." Having given this information, the old man disappeared, leaving Sir George quite bewildered; but the latter, resuming his walk, soon recovered his previous equanimity, and thought nothing further of the matter.
Next day, while taking his walk in the same place, he was again met by the same old gentleman, who earnestly urged him not to delay another day in repairing to London, assuring him that he would be handsomely rewarded for his trouble; but to this Sir George paid no particular attention. The third day he was again met by the same hoary-headed sire, who energetically pleaded with him not to lose a day in setting out, otherwise the case would be lost. His singular deportment, and his anxiety that Sir George should be present at the discussion of the case, in which he seemed so deeply interested induced Sir George to give in to his earnest importunities, and accordingly he started next morning on horseback, arriving in London on the day preceding that on which the case was to come on. In a few hours he was pacing in front of the mansion-house described by the old man at Leith Walk, where he met two gentlemen engaged in earnest conversation - one of the claimants to the property, and a celebrated London barrister - to whom he immediately introduced himself as the principle law-officer of the crown for Scotland. The barrister, no doubt supposing that Sir George was coming to take the bread out of his mouth, addressed him in a surly manner, and spoke disrespectful of his country; to which the latter replied, "that, lame and ignorant as his learned friend took the Scots to be, yet in law, as well as in other respects, they would effect what would defy him and all his London clique." This disagreeable dialogue was put an end to by the other gentleman - the claimant of the property - taking Sir George into the house. After sitting and conversing for some minutes, Sir George expressed a wish to be shown over the house. The drawing-room was hung all around with magnificent pictures and drawings, which Sir George greatly admired; but there was one which particularly attracted his attention; and after examining it very minutely he, with a surprised expression , inquired of his conductor whose picture it was ? and received answer - "It is my great-great-grandfather's." "My goodness!" exclaimed Sir George, "the very man who spoke to me three times on three successive days in Leith Walk, and at whose urgent request I came here!" Sir George, at his own request, was then conducted to the attics, in one of which there was a large mass of old papers, which was turned up and examined without discovering anything to assist them in prosecuting the claim to the heirship of the property. However, as they were about giving up the search, Sir George noticed an old trunk lying in a corner, which, his companion told him, had lain there for many a year as lumber, and contained nothing. The Leith Walk gentleman's information recurring to Sir George, he gave the old moth-eaten chest a good hearty kick, such as he could wish to have been received by his "learned friend" the barrister, who spoke so disrespectfully of his country. The bottom flew out of the trunk, with a quantity of chaff, among which the original titles to the property were discovered. Next morning, Sir George entered the court just as the case was about to be called and addressed the pretended claimant’s counsel - "Well, sir, what shall I offer you to abandon this action?" "No sum, or any consideration whatever, would induce me to give it up," answered his learned opponent. "Well, sir," said Sir George, at the same time pulling out his snuff-horn and taking a pinch, "I will not even hazard a pinch on it." The case was called. Sir George, in reply to the claimant's counsel, in an eloquent speech, addressed the bench; exposed most effectually the means which had been adopted to deprive his client of his birthright; concluded by producing the titles found in the old chest; and the case was at once decided in favour of his client. The decision being announced, Sir George took the young heir's arm, and bowing to his learned friend the barrister, remarked, "You see now what a Scotsman has done, and let me tell you that I wish a countryman of mine anything but a London barrister." Sir George immediately returned to Edinburgh, well paid for his trouble; but he never again, in his favourite walk, encountered the old grey-headed gentleman.
The following two stanzas refer to the Mackenzies of Kilcoy and their property: -
Nuair a ghlaodhas paisdean tigh Chulchallaidh,
'Tha slige ar mortairean dol thairis!'
Thig bho Chròidh madadh ruadh
Bhi's 'measg an t-sluaigh mar mhadadh-alluidh,
Rè da-fhichead bliadhna a's corr,
'S gumbi na chòta iomadh mallachd;
'N sin tilgear e gu falamh brònach
Mar shean sguab air cùl an doruis;
A's bithidh an tuath mhor mar eunlaith sporsail,
'S an tighearnan cho bochd ris na sporais -
Tha beannachd 'san onair bhoidhich,
A's mallachd an dortadh na fola.
Nuair bhitheas caisteal ciar Chulchallaidh
Na sheasaidh fuar, agus falamh,
'S na cathagan 's na rocuis
Gu seolta sgaithail thairis,
Gabhaidh duine graineal comhnuidh,
Ri thaobh, mi-bheusal a's salach,
Nach gleidh guidhe stal-phosaidh,
'S nach eisd ri cleireach no caraid,
Ach bho Chreag-a-chodh gu Sgire na Toiseachd
Gum bi muisean air toir gach caileag -
A's ochan! ochan! s' ma leon,
Sluigidh am balgaire suas moran talamh!
Literally translated: -
When the girls of Kilroy house cry out,
'The shell (cup) of our murderers is flowing over.'
A fox from Croy will come
Who shall be like a wolf among the people
During forty years and more,
And in his coat shall be many curses;
He shall then be thrown empty and sorrowful,
like an old besom behind the door;
The large farmers will be like sportfulbirds,
And the lairds as poor as the sparrows -
There's blessing in handsome honesty
And curses in the shedding of blood.
When the stern Castle of Kilroy
Shall stand cold and empty,
And the jackdaws and the rooks
Are artfully flying past it,
A loathsome man shall then dwell
Beside it, indecent and filthy,
Who will not keep the vow of the marriage coif,
Listen neither to cleric nor friend;
But from Creag-a-Chow to Ferrintosh
The dirty fellow will be after every girl -
Ochan! Ochan! ! woe's me,
The cunning dog will swallow up much land.
The history of the Kilcoy family has been an unfortunate one in late years, and the second and last lines of the first stanza clearly refer to a well known tragic incident in the recent history of this once highly favoured and popular Highland family.
Towards the latter end of the seventeenth century a large number of cattle, in the Black Isle, were attacked with a strange malady, which invariably ended in madness and death. The disease was particularly destructive on the Kilcoy and Redcastle estates, and the proprietors offered a large sum of money as a reward to any who should find a remedy. An old warlock belonging to the parish agreed to protect the cattle from the ravages of this unknown disease, for the sum offered, if they provided him with a human sacrifice. To this ghastly proposal the lairds agreed. A large barn at Parkton was, from its secluded position, selected as a suitable place for the horrid crime, where a poor friendless man, who lived at Linwood, close to the site of the present Free Church manse, was requested , under pretence, to appear on a certain day. The unsuspecting creature obeyed the summons of his superiors; he was instantly bound and disemboweled alive by the horrid wizard, who dried the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and reduced them to powder, of which he ordered a little to be given to the diseased animals in water. Before the unfortunate victim breathed his last, he ejaculated the following imprecation : - 'Gum b' ann nach tig an latha 'bhitheas teaghlach a Chaisteil Ruaidh gun oinseach, na teaghlach Chulchallaidh gun amadan. (Let the day never come when the family of Redcastle shall be without a female idiot, or the family of Kilcoy without a fool.) It appears, not only that this wild imprecation was to some extent realised, but also that the Brahan Seer, years before, knew and predicted that it would be made, and that its prayer would ultimately granted."
Who the "fox from Croy" is, we are at present unable to suggest; but taking the two stanzas as they stand, it would be difficult to describe the position of the family and the state of the castle, with our present knowledge of their history, and in their present position, more faithfully than Coinneach Odhar has done more than two centuries ago. What a faithful picture of the respective positions of the great farmers and the lairds of the present day. And what a contrast between their relative positions now and at the time when the Seer predicted the change.
In the appendix to the Life of the late Dr Norman Macleod, by his brother, the Rev Donald Macleod, D.D; a series of autobiographical reminiscences are given, which the famous Rev Norman, the Doctor's father, dictated in his old age to one of his daughters.
In the summer of 1799 he visited Dunvegan Castle, the stronghold of the Macleods, in the Isle of Skye. Those of the prophecies already given in verse are, undoubtedly, fragments of the long rhythmical productions of Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche's prophecies regarding most of our Highland families, to which the Rev Norman refers, and of which the prophecy given in his reminiscences is as follows: - "One circumstance took place at the Castle (Dunvegan) on this occasion which I think worth recording, especially as I am the only person now living who can attest the truth of it. There had been a traditionary prophecy, couched in Gaelic verse, regarding the family of Macleod, which on this occasion received a most extraordinary fulfilment. This prophecy I have heard repeated by several persons, and most deeply do I regret that I did not take a copy of it when I could have got it. The worthy Mr Campbell of Knock, in Mull, had a very beautiful version of it, as also had my father, and so, I think, had likewise Dr Campbell of Killinver. Such prophecies were current regarding almost all old families in the Highlands; the Argyll family were of the number; and there is a prophecy regarding the Breadalbane family as yet unfulfilled which I hope may remain so. The present Mrquis of Breadalbane is fully aware of it, as are many of the connections of the family. Of the Macleod family, it was prophesied at least a hundred years prior to the circumstance which I am about to relate.
"In the prophecy to which I am about to allude, it was foretold that when Norman, the Third Norman ('Tormad nan 'tri Tormaid'), the son of the hard-boned English lady ('Mac na mnatha caoile cruaidhe Shassunaich') would perish by an accidental death; that when the 'Maidens' of Macleod (certain well known rocks on the coast of Macleod's country) became the property of a Campbell; when a fox had young ones in one of the turrets of the Castle; and particularly when the Fairy enchanted banner should be for the last time exhibited, then the glory of the Macleod family should depart; a great part of the estate should be sold to thers; so that a small 'curragh,' a boat, would carry all gentlemen of the name Macleod across Loch Dunvegan; but that in times far distant another John Breac should arise, who should redeem those estates, and raise the power and honours of the house to a higher pitch than ever. Such in general terms was the prophecy. And now as to the curious coincidence of its fulfilment.
"There was, at that time, at Dunvegan, an English smith, with whom I became a favourite, and who told me, on solemn secrecy, that the iron chest which contained the 'fairy flag' was to be forced open next morning; that he had arranged with Mr Hector Macdonald Buchanan to be there with his tools for that purpose. "I was most anxious to be present, and I asked permission to that effect of Mr Buchanan (Macleods man of business), who granted me leave on condition that I should not inform anyone of the name of Macleod that such was intended, and should keep it a profound secret from the chief. This I promised and most faithfully acted on. Next morning we proceeded to the chamber in the East Turret, where was the iron chest that contained the famous flg, about which there is an interesting tradition. "With great violence the smith tore open the lid of this iron chest; but, in doing so, a key was found under part of the covering, which would have opened the chest, had it been found in time. There was an inner case, in which was found the flag, enclosed in a wooden box of strongly scented wood. The flag consisted of a square piece of very rich silk, with crosses wrought with gold thread, and several elf-spots stitshed with great care on different parts of it. "On this occasion, the melancholy news of the death of the young, and promising heir of Macleod reached the Castle. 'Norman, the third Norman, was lieutenant of HMS, the Queen Charlotte, which was blown up at sea, and he and the rest perished. At the same time, the rocks called 'Macleods Maidens' were sold, in the course of that very week, to Angus Campbell of Ensay, and they are still in possession of his grandson. A fox in the possession of Lieutenant Maclean, residing in the West Turret of the Castle, had young ones, which I handled, and thus all that was said in the prophecy alluded to was so far fulfilled, although I am glad the family of my chief still enjoy their ancestral possessions, and the worse part of the prophecy accordingly remains unverified."
The estates are still, we are glad to say, in possession of the ancient family of Macleod, and the present chief is rapidly improving the prospects of his house. The probabilities are therefore at present against our prophet. The hold of the Macleods on their estates is getting stronger instead of weaker, and the John Breac who is to be the future deliverer has not only not yet appeared, but the undesirable position of affairs requiring his services is yet, we hope, in the distant future.
The Seer predicted that "when the big-thumbed Sheriff Officer and the blind man of the twenty-four fingers shall be together in Barra, Macneil of Barra may be making ready for the flitting" (Nuar a bhitheas maor nan ordagan mora agus dall nan ceithir-meoraibh-fichead comhla ann am Barraidh, faodaidh Macneill Bharraidh 'bhi deanamh deiseil na h-imirich.) This prediction, which was known in Barra for generations, has been most literally fulfilled. On a certain occasion, "the blind of the twenty-four fingers," so called from having six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, left Benbecula on a tour, to collect alms in South Uist. Being successful there, he decided upon visiting Barra, before returning home. Arriving at the Ferry - the isthmus which separates South Uist from Barra - he met "Maor nan Ordagan mora," and they crossed the kyle in the same boat. It was afterwards found that the officer was actually on his way to serve a summons of ejectment on the laird of Barra; and poor Macneil not only had to make ready for, but had indeed to make the flitting. The man who had acted as guide to the blind on the occasion is, we are informed, still living and in excellent health, though considerably over eighty years of age. The following is said to have been fulfilled by the conduct of the Duke of Cumberland at and after the battle of Culloden. The Seer was, on one occasion, passing Millburn, on his way from Inverness to Petty, and noticing the old mill, which was a very primitive building, thatched with divots, he said: - "The day will come when thy wheel shall be turned for three successive days by water red with human blood; for on the banks of thy lade a fierce battle shall be fought, at which much blood shall be spilt." Some say that this is as yet unfulfilled; and it has been suggested that the battle may yet be fought in connection with the new Barracks now building at the Hut of Health.
Coinneach also prophesied remarkable things regarding the Mackenzies of Fairburn and Fairburn Tower. "The day will come when the Mackenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions, and that branch of the clan shall disappear almost to a man from the face of the earth. Their Castle shall become uninhabited, desolate, and forsaken, and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber in Fairburn Tower." The first part of this prophecy has only too literally come to pass; and within the memory of hundreds now living, and who knew Coinneach's prophecy years before it was fulfilled, the latter part - that referring to the cow calving in the uppermost chamber - has also been undoubtedly realised. We are personally acquainted with people whose veracity is beyond question, who knew the prophecy, and who actually took the trouble at the time to go all the way from Inverness to see the cow-mother and her offspring in the Tower, before they were taken down. Mr Maclennan supplies the following version - Coinneach said, addressing a large concourse of people - "Strange as it may appear to all those who may hear me this day, yet what I am about to tell you is true and will come to pass at the appointed time. The day will come when a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber (seomar uachdarach) of Farburn Castle. The child now unborn will see it."
When the Seer uttered this prediction, the Castle of Fairburn was in the possession of, and occupied by, a very rich and powerful chieftain, to whom homage was paid by many of the neighbouring lairds. Its hall rang loud with sounds of music and of mirth, and happiness reigned within its portals. On its winding stone stairs trod and passed carelessly to and fro pages and liveried servants in their wigs and gold trimmings. Nothing in the world was more unlikely to happen, to all apearance, than what the Seer predicted, and Coinneach was universally ridiculed for having given utterance to what was apparently so non-sensical; but this abuse and ridicule the Seer bore with the patient self satisfied air of one who was fully convinced of the truth of what he uttered. Years passed by, but no sign of the fulfilment of the prophecy. The Seer, the Laird of Fairburn, and the whole of that generation were gathered to their fathers, and still no signs of the curious prediction being realised. The Laird of Fairburn's immediate successors also followed their predecessors, and the Seer, to all appearance, was fast losing his reputation as a prophet. The tower was latterly left uninhabited, and it soon fell into a dilapidated state of repair - its doors decayed and fell away from their hinges, one by one, until at last there was no door on the main stair from the floor to the roof. Some years after, and not long ago, the Firburn tenant-farmer stored away some straw in the uppermost chamber of the tower; in the process, some of the straw dropped , and was left strewn on the staircase. One of his cows on a certain day chanced to find her way to the main door of the tower, and finding it open, began to pick up the straw scattered along the stair. The animal proceeded thus, till she had actually arrived at the uppermost chamber, whence, being heavy in calf, she was unable to descend. She was consequently left in the tower until she gave birth to a fine healthy calf. They were allowed to remain there for several days, where many went to see them, after which the cow and her progeny were brought down; and Coinneach Odhar's prophecy was thus fulfilled to the letter.
The day will come when the Lewsmen shall go forth with their hosts to battle, but they will be turned back by the jaw-bone of an animal smaller than an ass," was a prediction accounted ridiculous and quite incomprehensible until it was fulfilled in a remarkable but very simple manner. Seaforth and the leading men of the Clan, as is well known, were "out in the '15 and '19," and had their estates forfeited; and it was only a few years before the '45 that their lands were again restored to Seaforth, and to Mackenzie, 11th Baron of Hilton. The Rev Colin Mackenzie, a brother of Hilton, minister of Fodderty and Laird of Glack, in Aberdeenshire, was the first in the neighbourhood of Brahan who received information of Prince Charlie's landing in 1745. Seaforth had still a warm feeling for the Prince. His reverend friend, though a thorough Jacobite himself, was an intimate friend of Lord President Forbes, with whom he kept up a regular correspondence. He decided, no doubt mainly through his influence, to remain neutral himself, and fearing that his friend of Brahan might be led to join the Prince, he instantly, on receipt of the news, started for Brahan Castle. Although it was very late at night, when he received the information, he crossed Knockfarrel, entered Seaforth's bedroom by the window - for he had already gone to rest for the night - and without awakening his lady, informed him of the landing of Charles. They decided upon getting out of the way, and both immediately disappeared. Seaforth was well known to have had previous correspondence with the Prince, and to have sent private orders to the Lews to have his men there in readiness; and Fodderty impressed upon him the prudence of getting out of sight altogether in the meantime. They started through the mountains in the direction of Poolewe, and some time afterwards, when there together in concealment near the shore, they saw two ships entering the bay, having on board a large number of armed men, whom they at once recognised as Seaforth's followers from the Lews, raised and commanded by Captain Colin Mackenzie, the great-grandfather of Major Thomas Mackenzie of the 78th Highlanders. Lord Seaforth had just been making a repast of a sheep's head, when he espied his retainers, and approaching the ships with the sheep's jaw-bone in his hand, he waved it towards them, and ordered them to return to their homes at once, which command they obeyed by making at once for Stornoway; and thus was fulfilled Coinneach Odhar's apparently ludicrous prediction, that the brave Lewsmen would be turned back from battle with the jaw-bone of an animal smaller than an ass.
Mr Maclennan supplies us also with the following: - "In the parish of Avoch is a well of beautiful clear water, out of which the Brahan Seer, upon one occasion, took a refreshing draught. So pleased was he with the water, that he looked at his Blue Stone, and said - ' Whoever he be that drinketh of thy water henceforth, if suffering from any disease, shall, by placing two pieces of straw or wood on thy surface, ascertain whether he will recover or not. If he is to recover, the straw will whirl round in opposite directions; if he is to die soon, they will remain stationary.' The writer (continues Mr Maclennan) knew people who went to the well and made the experiment. He was himself once unwell, and supposed to be at the point of death; he got of the water of the well, and he still lives. Whether it did him good or not, it is impossible to say, but this he does know, that the water pleased him uncommonly well."
With reference to Lady Hill, in the same parish, the Seer said - "Thy name has gone far and wide; but though thy owners were brave on the field of battle, they never decked thy brow. The day will come, however, when a white collar shall be put upon thee. The child that is unborn shall see it, but I shall not." This prediction has been fulfilled a few years ago, by the construction of a fine drive right round the hill.
The Seer said, speaking of Beauly - "The day will come however distant, when 'Cnoc na Rath' will be in the centre of the village." It certainly would appear incredible, and even absurd, to suggest such a thing in Coinneach's day, for the "village" then stood at a place south of the present railway station, called, in Gaelic, "Bealaidh-Achadh," or the Broom field, quite a mile from Cnoc na Rath. The prophecy has to some extent been fulfilled, for the last erection ar Beauly - the new public school - is within a few yards of Cnoc; and the increasing enterprise of the inhabitants is rapidly aiding, and indeed, will soon secure, the absolute realisation of the Seer's prediction. In connection with this prophecy we think that we have discovered a Celtic origin for the term Beauly. It is generally supposed to have been derived from the French word "Beaulieu." The village being originally at Bealaidh-Achadh, and so called when the present Beauly was nowhere, what can be more natural than the supposition that the inhabitants carried the original name of their original village along with them, and now present us with the Gaelic "Bealaidh," anglified into Beauly. This is not such a fine theory as the French one, but it is more likely to be the true one, and is more satisfactory to the student of Gaelic topography.
We have several versions of the prophecy regarding the carrying away of the Stone Bridge across the River Ness, which stood near the place where the present Suspension Bridge stands. Mr Macintyre supplies the following, and Mr Maclennan's version is very much the same: - "He foretold that the Ness Bridge would be swept away by a great flood, while crowded with people, and while a man riding a white horse and a woman 'enciente' were crossing it. Either the prophet's second-sight failed him on the occasion, or tradition has not preserved the correct version of the prediction, for it is well known that no human being was carried away by the bridge when it was swept away by the extraordinary flood of 1849." As a matter of fact, there was no man riding a white horse on the bridge at the time, but a man - Matthew Campbell - and a woman were crossing it, the arches tumbling one by one at their heels as they flew across; but they managed to reach the western shore in safety, just as the last arch was crumbling under their feet. Campbell, who was behind, coming up to the woman, caught her in his arms, and with a desperate bound cleared the crumbling structure.
The Seer also foretold that before the latter prediction was fulfilled "people shall pick gooseberries from a bush growing on the stone ledge of one of the arches." There are many now living who remember this gooseberry bush, and who have seen it in bloom and blossom, and with fruit upon it. It grew on the south side of the bridge, on the third or fourth pier, and near the iron grating which supplied a dismal light to the dungeon which in those days was the Inverness prison. Maclean "A nonagenarian," writing forty years ago, says nothing of the bush, but, while writing of the predicted fall of the bridge, states with regard to it that "an old tradition or prophecy is, that many lives will be lost at its fall, and that this shall take place when there are seven females on the bridge, in a state poetically described as that 'in which ladies wish to be who love their lords.' " This was written, as will be seen by comparing dates, several years before the bridge was carried away in 1849, showing unmistakably that the prophecy was not concocted after the event.
"The natural arch, or 'Clach tholl,' near Storehead in Assynt, will fall with a crash so loud as to cause the laird of Leadmore's cattle, twenty miles away, to break their tethers." This was fulfilled in 1841, Leadmore's cattle having one day strayed from home to within a few hundred yards of the arch, when it fell with such a crash as to send them home in a frantic fright, tearing everything before them. Hugh Miller refers to this prediction, as also to several others, in the works already alluded to - "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland."
About sixteen years ago, there lived in the village of "Baile mluilinn," in the West of Sutherlandshire, an old woman of about ninety five years of age, known as Baraball n'ic Coinnich (Annabella Mackenzie). From her position, history, and various personal peculiarities, it was univesally believed in the district that she was no other than the Baraball n'ic Coinnich of whom the Brahan Seer predicted that she would die of measles. She had, however, arrived at such an advanced age, without any appearance or likelihood of her ever having that disease, that the prophet was rapidly losing credit in the district. About this time the measles had just gone the round of the place, and had made considerable havoc among old and young; but when the district was, so to speak, convalescent, the measles paid Baraball a visit, and actually carried her away, when within a few years of five score, leaving no doubt whatever in the minds of the people that she had died as foretold centuries before by the famous Coinneach Odhar.
The Seer, one day, pointing to the now celebrated Strathpeffer mineral wells, said: - Uninviting and disagreeable as it now is, with its thick crusted surface and unpleasant smell, the day will come when it shall be under lock and key, and crowds of pleasure and health seekers shall be seen thronging its portals, in their eagerness to get a draught of its waters."
Regarding the "landgrasping" Urquharts of Cromarty he predicted "that, extensive though their possessions in the Black Isle now are, the day will come - and it is close at hand - when they will not own twenty acres in the district." This, like many of his other predictions, literally came to pass, although nothing could then have been more unlikely; for, at the time, the Urquharts possessed the estates of Kinbeachie, Braelangwell, Newhall and Monteagle, but at this moment their only possession in the Black Isle is a small piece of Braelangwell.
That "the day will come when fire and water shall run in streams, through all the streets and lanes of Inverness," was a prediction, the fulfilment of which was quite incomprehensible, until the introduction of gas and water through pipes into every corner of the town.
"The day will come when long strings of carriages without horses shall run between Dingwall and Inverness, and more wonderful still, between Dingwall and the Isle of Skye." It is hardly necessary to point out that this refers to the railway carriages now running in those districts.
That "a bald black girl will be born at the back of the Church of Gairloch" (Beirear nighean mhaol dubh air cul Eaglais Ghearrloch), has been fulfilled. During one of the usual large gatherings at the Sacramental Communion a well known young woman was taken in labour, and before she could be removed she gave birth to the "nighean mhaol dubh," whose descendants are well known and pointed out in the district to this day as the fulfilment of Coinneach's prophecy.
That "a white cow will give birth to a calf in the garden behind Gairloch House," has taken place within memory of people still living; that, Fowerdale, "a black hornless cow (Bo mhaol dubh) will give birth to a calf with two heads," happened within our own recollection. These predictions were well known to people before they came to pass.
The following are evidently fragments regarding the Lovat Estates. He said: -
Thig fear tagair bho dheas
Mar eun bho phreas
Fasaidh e mar luibh
'S sgaoilidh e mar shiol
'S cuiridh e teine ri Ardois.
(A Claimant will come from the South
Like a bird from a bush
He will grow like a herb
He will spread like seed
And set fire to Ardross.)
"Mhac Shimidh ball-dubh, a dh'fhagus an oighreachd gun an t-oighre dligheach." (Mac Shimidh (Lovat), the black spotted, who will leave the Estate without the rightful heir.) "An Sisealach claon ruadh, a dh'fhagus an oigreachd gun an t-oighre dligheach." (Chisholm, the squint-eyed, who will leave the estate without the rightful heir.) "An tighearna storach a dh'fhagus oighreachd Ghearrloch gun an t-oighre dligheach." (The buck toothed laird who will leave the estate of Gairloch without the rightful heir), are also fragments.
It was not known whether there has been any Lovat or Chisholm with the peculiar personal characteristics mention by the Seer but we came across the following in Andersons History of the Family of Fraser, - "Hugh, son of the 10th Lord Lovat, was born on the 28th of September 1666. From a large black spot on his upper lip he was familiarly called, Mac Shimidh Ball-dubh, black spotted Simpson or Lovat. Three chieftains were distinguished at this time by similar deformities - (1) MacCoinnich Glun-dubh, black kneed Mackenzie; (2) Macintoshich Claon, squint-eyed Mackintosh: (3) Sisealach Cam, crooked or one-eyed Chisholm."
Before proceeding to give such of the prophecies regarding the family of Seaforth as have been so literally fulfilled in the later annals of that once great and powerful house - the history of the family being so intimately interwoven with, and being itself really the fulfilment of the Seer's predictions - it may interest the reader to have a cursory glance at it from the earliest period in which the family appears in history.
Kenneth foretold "that, however unlikely it may now appear, the Island of Lews will be laid waste by a destructive war, which will continue till the contending armies, slaughtering each other as they proceed, shall reach Tarbert in Harris. In the Caws of Tarbert, the retreating host will suddenly halt; an onslaught, led by a left-handed Macleod, called Donald, son of Donald, son of Donald, will then be made upon the persuers. The only weapon in this champion's hands will be a black sooty cabar, taken off a neighbouring hut; but his intrepidity and courage will so inspirit the fugitives that they will fight like mighty men, and overpower their pursuers. The Lews will then enjoy a long period of repose." It has not hitherto been suggested that this prophecy has been fulfilled, and we here stake the reputation of our prophet upon its fulfillment, and that of the following predictions, which are still current throughout the Northern Counties of Scotland.
Another, by which the faith of future generations may be tested, is the one in which he predicted "that a Loch above Beauly will burst through its banks and destroy in its rush a village in its vicinity." We are not aware that such a calamity as is here foretold has yet occured, nor are we aware of the locality of the loch or village.
We have received various versions of the, as yet, unfulfilled prediction regarding "Clach an t-Seasaidh, " near the Muir of Ord. This is an angular stone, sharp at the top, which at onetime stood upright, and was of considerable height. It is now partly broken and lying on the ground. "The day will come when the raven will, from the top of it, drink their three fulls, for three successive days, of the blood of the Mackenzies."
Mr Maclennan's version is: - "The day will come when the ravens will drink their full of the Mackenzies' blood three times off the top of the 'Clach Mhor', and glad am I (continues the Seer) that I will not live to see that day, for a bloody and destructive battle will be fought on the Muir of Ord. A squint-eyed (cam), pox-pitted tailor will originate the battle; for men will become so scarce in those days that each of seven women will strive hard for the squint-eyed tailor's heart and hand, and out of this strife the conflict will originate."
Mr Macintyre write regarding these: - "The prophecies that 'the raven will drink from the top of 'Clach na t-Seasaidh, ' its full of blood of the Mackenzies for three successive days, ' and 'that the Mackenzies would be so reduced in numbers, that they would all be taken in an open fishing boat (scuta dubh) back to Ireland from whence they originally came, ' remain still unfulfilled."
In the Kintail versions of these predictions they are made to apply to the Macraes, who are to get so scarce that a cripple tailor of the name is to be in such request among the ladies as to cause a desperate battle in the district between themselves and the Maclennans, the result of which will be that a black fishing wherry of 'scuta dubh' will carry back to Ireland all that remains of the Clan Macrae, but no sooner do they arrive than they again return to Kintail. Before This was to take place, nine men of the name Macmillan would arrive at manhood (assume their bonnets) in the district; assemble at the funeral at Cnoc-a-Chlachain in Kilduich, and originate a quarrel. At this exact period, the Macraes, would be at the height of their prosperity in Kintail, and henceforth begin to lose their hold in the country of their ancestors. The Macmillans have actually met in this spot and originated a quarrel as predicted, although nothing could have been more unlikely, for in the Seer's day there was not a single one of the name in Kintail, nor for several generation after. It is somewhat remarkable to find that the Maclennans are at this very time actually supplanting the Macraes as foretold, for the last two of the ancient stock - the late tenants of Fernaig and Leachachan - who left the district have been succeeded in their holdings by Maclennans; and other instances of the same kind, within recent years, are well known.
At present, we are happy to say, there does not appear much probability of the Clan Mackenzie being reduced to such small dimensions as would justify us in expecting the fulfillment of the 'scuta dubh' part of the prophecy on a very early date. If the prediction, however, be confined in its application to the Mackenzies of Seaforth, it may be said to have been already almost fulfilled. We have, indeed, been told that this is a fragment of the unfulfilled prophecy uttered by Coinneach regarding the ultimate doom and total extinction of the Seaforths, and which have been as yet unable to procure in detail. It was, however, known to Bernard Burke, who makes the following reference to it: - "He (the Seer) uttered it in all its horrible length; but I at present suppress the last portion of it, which is as yet unfulfilled. Every other part of the prediction has most literally and most accurately come to pass, but let us earnestly hope that the course of future events may at length give the lie to the avenging curse of the Seer. The last clause of the prophecy is well-known to many of those versed in Highland family tradition, and I trust that it may remain unfulfilled."
One of our correspondents presumes that the mention of "Calch an t-Seasaidh" refers to the remains of a Druidical circle to be seen still on the right and left of the turnpike road at Windhill, near Beauly. As a sign whereby to know when the latter prophecy would be accomplished, Coinneach said, "that a mountain-ash tree will grow out of the walls of Fairburn Tower, and when it becomes large enough to form a cart axle, these things will come to pass." Not long ago, a party informed us that a mountain-ash, or rowan tree, was actually growing out of the tower walls, and was about the thickness of a man's thumb.
Various other unfulfilled predictions of the Seer remain to be noticed. One is regarding "Clach an Tiompain, " a well-known stone in the immediate vicinity of the far-famed Strathpeffer Wells. It is, like "Clach-an-t-Seasaidh, "an upright, pillar-looking stone, which, when struck, makes a great hollow sound or echo, and hence it designation, the literal meaning of which is the "stone of the hollow sound or echo." Coinneach said "that the day will come when ships will ride with their cables attached to 'Clach-an-Tiompain." It is perhaps superfluous to point out that this has not yet come to pass; and we could only imagine two ways in which it was possible to happen, either by a canal being made through the valley of Strathpeffer, passing in the neighbourhood of the Clach, or by the removal of the stone someday by the authorities of "Baile Chail" to Dingwall pier. They may feel disposed to thus aid the great prophet of their country to secure the position as a great man, which we now claim in his behalf.
In Knockfarrel, in the immediate vicinity of Loch Ussie, it is said that this prediction might be fulfilled in a very peculiar manner, mostly improbable. Enclosed in ruined fort, a curious part of which is named 'Fingal's Well'. It is this well which the inhabitants of the fortress used until a person named Fingal drove them all out and placed a large stone over the well, keeping the water from oozing up from within. It is said that if the stone was ever to be removed then the waters from Loch Ussie would ooze up through the well and flood the valley below to such an extent that ships could sail up to Strathpeffer and be fastened to 'Clach-an-Tiompain'; and this would happen after the stone had fallen three times. It has already fallen twice.
We can quite understand Kenneth prophecying that the sea would yet reach Strathpeffer; on the summit of Knockfarrel, the bottom of the valley appears much lower than the Cromarty Firth beyond Dingwall, and it looks as though any day it might break through the apparently slender natural embankment below Tulloch Castle.
Another prediction is that concerning the Canonry of Ross, which is still standing - "The day will come when, full of the Mackenzies, it will fall with a fearful crash." This may come to pass in several ways. The Canonry is the principle burying-place of the Clan, and it may fall when full of dead Mackenzies, or when a large concourse of the Clan is present at the funeral of a great chief.
"When two false teachers shall come across the seas who will revolutionise the religion of the land, and nine bridges shall span the River Ness, the Highlands will be overrun by ministers without grace and women without shame," is a prediction which some maintain has all the appearance of being rapidly fulfilled at this moment. It has bee suggested that the two false teachers were no other than the great evangelists, Messrs. Moody and Sankey, who, no doubt, from Coinneach Odhar's standpoint of orthodoxy, who must have been a Roman Catholic or an Episcopalian, attempted to revolutionise the religion of the Highlands. If this be so, the other portions of the prophecy are looming not far off in the immediate future.
It is possible the following to some great revolution which shall take place in the country, Coinneach Odhar said that, "before that event shall happen, the water of the river Beauly will thrice cease to run. On one of these occasions a salmon having shells instead of scales, will be found in the bed of the river." This prophecy has been in part fulfilled, for the Beauly has on two occasion ceased to run, and a salmon of the kind mentioned has been found in the bed of the river.
Mr Macintyre give another version: - "When the River Beauly is dried up three times, and a 'scaly salmon' or royal sturgeon, is caught in the river, that will be a time of great trial." (Nuair a thraoghas abhainn na Manachain tri uairean, agus a ghlacair Bradan Sligeach air grunnd na h-aibhne, 's ann an sin a bhitheas an deuchainn ghoirt.) The river has been already dried up twice, the last time in 1826 and a 'Bradan Sligeach,' or royal sturgeon, measuring nine feet in length, has been caught in the estuary of the Beauly several years ago.
The following is one which we trust may never be realised in all its details, though some may be disposed to think that signs are not wanting of its ultimate fulfillment: - "The day will come when the jaw-bone of the big sheep, or 'caoirich mhora,' will put the plough on the rafters (air an aradh); when sheep shall become so numerous that the bleating of the one shall be heard by the other from Conchra in Lochalsh to Bun-da-Loch in Kintail they shall be at their height in price, and henceforth will go back and deteriorate, until they disappear altogether, and be so thoroughly forgotten that a man finding the jaw-bone of a sheep in a cairn, will not recognise it, or be able to tell what animal it belonged to. The ancient proprietors of the soil shall give peace to strange merchant proprietors, and the whole Highlands will become one huge deer forest; the whole country will be so utterly desolated and depopulated that the crow of a cock shall not be heard north of Druim-Uachdair; the people will emigrate to Islands now unknown, but which shall yet be discovered in the boundless oceans, after which the deer and other wild animals in the huge wilderness shall be exterminated and drowned by horrid black rains (siantan dubha). The people will then return and take undisturbed possession of the lans of their ancestors."
We have yet to see the realisation of the following: - "A dun, hornless, cow (supposed to mean a steamer) will appear in the Minch (off Carr Point, in Gairloch), and make a 'geum,' or bellow, which will knock six chimneys off Gairloch House." (Thig bo mhaol odhar a steach an t-Aitemor agus leigeas i geum aiste 'chuireas na se beannagan dheth an Tigh Dhige). Gairloch House, or the Tigh Dige of Coinneach's day, was the old house which stood in the park on the right, as you proceed from the bridge in the direction of the present mansion. The walls were of wattled twigs, wicker work, or plaited twig hurdles, thatched with turf or divots, and surrounded with a deep ditch, which could in time of approaching danger, be filled with water from the river, hence the name "Tigh Dige," House of the Ditch. It has been suggested that the Seer's prediction referred to this stronghold, but a strong objection to view appears in the circumstance that the ancient citadel had no chimneys to fall off. The present mansion is, however, also called the "Tigh Dige," and it has the exact number of chimneys - six.
"The day will come when a river in Wester Ross shall be dried up." "The day will come when there shall be such dire persecution and bloodshed in the county of Sutherland, that people can ford the River Oykel dryshod, over dead men's bodies." "The day will come when a raven, attired in plaid and bonnet, will drink his full human blood on 'Fionn-bheinn,' three times a day, for successive days."
"A battle will be fought at Ault-nan-torcan, in the Lewis, which will be a bloody one indeed. It will truly take place, though the time may be far hence, but woe to the mothers of sucklings that day. The defeated host will continue to be cut down till it reaches Ard-a-chaolais (a place nearly seven miles from Ault-nan-Torcan), and there the swords will make terrible havoc." This has not yet occurred.
Speaking of what should come to pass in the parish of Lochs, he said - "At bleak Runish in Lochs, they will spoil and devour at the foot of the crags, and will split heads by the score." He is also said to have predicted "that the day will come when the raven will drink its three fulls of the blood of the Clan Macdonald on the top of the Hills of Minaraidh in Parks, in the Parish of Lochs." This looks as if the one above predicted about the Mackenzies had been misapplied to the Macdonalds. "The day will come when there shall be a laird of Tulloch who will kill four wives in succession, but the fifth shall kill him."
Regarding the battle of Ard-nan-Ceann, at Benbecula, North Uist, he said - "Oh, Ard-nan-Ceann, Ard-nan-Ceann, glad am I that I will not be at the end of the South Clachan that day, when the young men will be weary and faint; for Ard-nan-Ceann will be the scene of terrible conflict."
"A severe conflict will be fought at the (present) Ardelve market stance, in Lochalsh, when the slaughter will be so great that the people can cross the ferry over dead men's bodies. The battle will be finally decided by a powerful man and his five sons, who will come across from the Strath (the Achamore district)."
Coinneach said - "When a holly bush (or tree) shall grow out of the face of the rock at Torr-a-Chuilinn (Kintail) to a size sufficiently large to make a shaft for a 'carn slaoid' (sledge-cart), a battle will be fought in the locality."
"When Loch Shiel, in Kintail, shall become so narrow that a man can leap across it, the salmon shall desert the Loch and the River Shiel." We are told that the Loch is rapidly getting narrower at a particular point, by the action of the water on the banks and bottom, and that if it goes on as it has done in recent years it can easily be leaped at no distant date. Prudence would suggest a short lease of these Salmon Fishings.
He also predicted that a large stone, standing on the hill opposite Scallisaig farm-house, Glenelg, "will fall and kill a man." This boulder is well known to people in the district, and the prophecy is of such a definite character, that there cannot possibly be any mistake about its meaning or its fulfillment should such a calamity ever unfortunately take place.
Other Mixed Prophecies
"Rome was; London is; Edinburgh will be…doom for the entire country of Scotland when …A dun, hornless, cow (supposed to mean a steamer) will appear in the Minch (off Carr Point, in Gairloch), and make a 'geum,' or bellow, which will knock six chimneys off Gairloch House."
"This bleak moor, ere many generations have passed, shall be stained with the best blood in Scotland. Glad I am that I will not see that day. (The battle of Culloden 1745)…The day will come when the Big Sheep will overrun the country to its northmost shore…the clans will become so effeminate as to flee from their native hills before an army of sheep (Highland Clearances)…the day will come when fire and water shall run in streams through all the streets and lanes of Inverness. (piped gas and water Installed in 1829)…that the day will come when there will be a road through the hills of Ross-shire from sea to sea, and a bridge upon every stream….The time will come when whisky or dram shops will be so plentiful that one may be met with almost at the head of every plough furrow…Policemen will become so numerous in every town that they may be met with at the corner of every street…Travelling merchant (pedlars and hawkers) will be so plentiful that a person can scarcely walk a mile on the public highway without meeting one of them."
"When two false teachers shall come across the seas who will revolutionise the religion of the land, and nine bridges shall span the River Ness, the Highlands will be overrun by ministers without grace and women without shame…the people will degenerate as their country improves."
" The day will come when a river in Wester Ross shall be dried up….a Loch above Beauly will burst through its banks and destroy in its rush a village in its vicinity…When Loch Shiel, in Kintail, shall become so narrow that a man can leap across it, the salmon shall desert the Loch and the River Shiel."
“The heir (or chief) of the Mackenzies will take A white rook out of the wood, And will take a wife from a music house (Dancing saloon), With his people against him!And the heir will be great In deeds and as an orator, When the Pope in Rome Will be thrown off his throne. Over opposite Creag-a-Chow Will dwell a diminutive lean tailor, Also Foolish James as the laird, And Wise James as a measurer. Who will ride without a bridle The wild colt of his choice; But foolish pride without sense Will put in the place of the seed of the deer the seed of the goat, And the beautiful Black Isle will fall Under the management of the fishermen of Avoch.”
"A battle will be fought at Ault-nan-torcan, in the Lewis, which will be a bloody one indeed. It will truly take place, though the time may be far hence, but woe to the mothers of sucklings that day. The defeated host will continue to be cut down till it reaches Ard-a-chaolais (a place nearly seven miles from Ault-nan-Torcan), and there the swords will make terrible havoc."
When there shall be two churches in the Parish of Ferrintosh, And a hand with two thumbs in "I-Stiana," Two bridges at "Sguideal" (Conan) of the gormandisers, Soldiers will come from "Carr a Chlarsair" (Tarradale) On a chariot without horse or bridle, Which will leave the "Blar-dubh" (Muir of Ord) a wilderness, Spilling blood with many knives; And the raven shall drink his three fulls Of the blood of the Gael from the Stone of Fionn.
" however unlikely it may now appear, the Island of Lews will be laid waste by a destructive war, which will continue till the contending armies, slaughtering each other as they proceed, shall reach Tarbert in Harris. In the Caws of Tarbert, the retreating host will suddenly halt; an onslaught, led by a left-handed Macleod, called Donald, son of Donald, son of Donald, will then be made upon the persuers. The only weapon in this champion's hands will be a black sooty cabar, taken off a neighbouring hut; but his intrepidity and courage will so inspirit the fugitives that they will fight like mighty men, and overpower their pursuers. The Lews will then enjoy a long period of repose."
"The day will come when there shall be such dire persecution and bloodshed in the county of Sutherland, that people can ford the River Oykel dryshod, over dead men's bodies."
"The day will come when a raven, attired in plaid and bonnet, will drink his full human blood on 'Fionn-bheinn,' three times a day, for successive days."
"Oh, Ard-nan-Ceann, Ard-nan-Ceann, glad am I that I will not be at the end of the South Clachan that day, when the young men will be weary and faint; for Ard-nan-Ceann will be the scene of terrible conflict."
"A severe conflict will be fought at the (present) Ardelve market stance, in Lochalsh, when the slaughter will be so great that the people can cross the ferry over dead men's bodies. The battle will be finally decided by a powerful man and his five sons, who will come across from the Strath (the Achamore district)."
"When a holly bush (or tree) shall grow out of the face of the rock at Torr-a-Chuilinn (Kintail) to a size sufficiently large to make a shaft for a 'carn slaoid' (sledge-cart), a battle will be fought in the locality."
"One day a black rain will fall on the City of Aberdeen".
"The day will come when the jaw-bone of the big sheep, or 'caoirich mhora,' will put the plough on the rafters (air an aradh); when sheep shall become so numerous that the bleating of the one shall be heard by the other from Conchra in Lochalsh to Bun-da-Loch in Kintail they shall be at their height in price, and henceforth will go back and deteriorate, until they disappear altogether, and be so thoroughly forgotten that a man finding the jaw-bone of a sheep in a cairn, will not recognise it, or be able to tell what animal it belonged to. The ancient proprietors of the soil shall give peace to strange merchant proprietors, and the whole Highlands will become one huge deer forest; the whole country will be so utterly desolated and depopulated that the crow of a cock shall not be heard north of Druim-Uachdair; the people will emigrate to Islands now unknown, but which shall yet be discovered in the boundless oceans, after which the deer and other wild animals in the huge wilderness shall be exterminated and drowned by horrid black rains (siantan dubha). The people will then return and take undisturbed possession of the lands of their ancestors."