Legends and Traditions

There are many legends and traditions associated with Clan MacKenzie,
the two most famous of which are given here (others may be added in due course)
Colin and the Cabarfeidh (Stag's Head)
As narrated by Alexander Mackenzie in his "History of the MacKenzies"
These heroics by Colin FitzGerald - who Mackenzie believed was an invented character - are woven around an elaborated account of a battle that happened and did result in the return of the Hebrides to Scots' sovereignty.

At this time Alexander was preparing to meet Haco, King of Norway, who, on the 2nd of October, 1262, landed with a large force on the coast of Ayrshire, where he was met by a gallant force of fifteen hundred knights ... the whole of this valiant force led by the King in person.... Among the most distinguished warriors who took part in this great and decisive victory for the Scots, under the immediate eye of their brave King, was, it is said, Colin Fitzgerald, who is referred to in a fragment of the Record of Icolmkill as ... "Colin, an Irish stranger and nobleman, of the family of the Geraldines who, in the previous year, had been driven from Ireland, and had been well received by the King, remained up to this time at Court, and fought bravely in the aforesaid battle".... 
        After the defeat of Haco the King sent detachments to secure the West Highlands and Isles, and to check the local chiefs. Among the leaders sent in charge of the Western garrisons was ... Colin Fitzgerald, who ... was settled in the Government of the Castle of Ellandonnan .... Sir George Mackenzie, first Earl of Cromartie ... says in a MS. history of the clan, that Colin "being left in Kintail, tradition records that he married the daughter of Mac Mhathoin, heritor of the half of Kintail. ... The other half of Kintail belonged to O'Beolan, one of whose chiefs, Ferchair, was created Earl of Ross, and his lands were given to Cailean Fitzgerald"....
        The main if not the only authority of any consequence in favour of this Irish origin is the charter alleged to have been granted by Alexander III. to Colin in 1266 .... "for the faithful service rendered to me by Colin of Ireland, in war as well as peace, therefore I have given, and by this my present charter I concede to the said Colin and his successors, the lands of Kintail to be held of us in free barony with ward to render foreign service and fidelity.... At Kincardine, 9th day of January, in the year of the reign of the Lord the King, the 16th." The Kincardine at which this charter is alleged to have been signed is supposed to be the place of that name situated on the River Dee; for about this time an incident is reported to have occurred in the Forest of Mar .... The legend is as follows:
        Alexander was on a hunting expedition in the forest, near Kincardine, when an infuriated stag, closely pursued by the hounds, made straight in the direction of the King, and Cailean Fitzgerald, who accompanied the Royal party, gallantly interposed his own person between the exasperated animal and his Majesty, and shot it with an arrow in the forehead. The King in acknowledgment of the Royal gratitude at once issued a diploma in favour of Colin granting him armorial bearings which were to be, a stags head puissant, bleeding at the forehead where the arrow pierced it, to be borne on a field azure .... 

Many old versions of the MacKenzie arms feature a star between the antlers of the stag, which is said to represent the wound on the forehead where Colin's arrow entered the beast - as shown in the picture below. 

Seaforth's Doom
as narrated by Alexander Mackenzie in "The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer"
Coinneach Odhar is said to have made many other prophecies that came true - see 

The Prophecy

Kenneth, the third Earl, had occasion to visit Paris on some business .... He left the Countess at Brahan Castle, unattended by her lord, and, as she thought, forgotten, while he was enjoying the dissipations and amusements of the French capital .... Lady Seaforth had become very uneasy concerning his prolonged absence .... Her anxiety became too strong for her power of endurance, and led her to have recourse to the services of the local prophet.... 
        Obeying the orders of Lady Seaforth, Kenneth arrived at the Castle, and presented himself to the Countess, who required him to give her information concerning her absent lord. Coinneach asked where Seaforth was supposed to be, and said, that he thought he would be able to find him if he was still alive. He applied the divination stone to his eye, and laughed loudly, saying to the Countess, "Fear not for your lord, he is safe and sound, well and hearty, merry and happy".... The Countess, finding that her lord was well and happy, began to fret that she had no share in his happiness and amusements, and to feel even the pangs of jealousy and wounded pride. She ... tried entreaties, bribes, and threats to induce Coinneach to give a true account of her husband, as he had seen him, to tell who was with him, and all about him. Kenneth ... proceeded to say - "As you will know that which will make you unhappy, I must tell you the truth. My lord seems to have little thought of you, or of his children, or of his Highland home. I saw him in a gay-gilded room, grandly decked out in velvets, with silks and cloth of gold, and on his knees before a fair lady, his arm round her waist, and her hand pressed to his lips." 
        At this unexpected and painful disclosure, the rage of the lady knew no bounds. It was natural and well merited, but its object was a mistake. All the anger which ought to have been directed against her husband, and which should have been concentrated in her breast, to be poured out upon him after his return, was spent upon poor Coinneach Odhar.... She determined to discredit the revelations of the seer, and to denounce him as a vile slanderer of her husband's character.... Turning to the seer, she said, "You have spoken evil of dignities, you have vilified the mighty of the land; you have defamed a mighty chief in the midst of his vassals, you have abused my hospitality and outraged my feelings, you have sullied the good name of my lord in the halls of his ancestors, and you shall suffer the most signal vengeance I can inflict - you shall suffer the death "....
        The doom of Coinneach was sealed. No time was to be allowed for remorseless compunction. No preparation was permitted to the wretched man. No opportunity was given for intercession in his favour. The miserable seer was led out for immediate execution....
        When Coinneach found that no mercy was to be expected either from the vindictive lady or her subservient vassals, he resigned himself to his fate. He drew forth his white stone, so long the instrument of his supernatural intelligence, and once more applying it to his eye, said -"I see into the far future, and I read the doom of the race of my oppressor. The long-descended line of Seaforth will, ere many generations have passed, end in extinction and in sorrow. I see a chief, the last of his house, both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four fair sons, all of whom he will follow to the tomb. He will live careworn and die mourning, knowing that the honours of his line are to be extinguished for ever, and that no future chief of the Mackenzies shall bear rule at Brahan or in Kintail. After lamenting over the last and most promising of his sons, he himself shall sink into the grave, and the remnant of his possessions shall be inherited by a white-coifed (or white-hooded) lassie from the East, and she is to kill her sister. And as a sign by which it may be known that these things are coming to pass, there shall be four great lairds in the days of the last deaf and dumb Seaforth - Gairloch, Chisholm, Grant, and Raasay - of whom one shall be buck-toothed, another hare-lipped, another half-witted, and the fourth a stammerer. Chiefs distinguished by these personal marks shall be the allies and neighbours of the last Seaforth; and when he looks around him and sees them, he may know that his sons are doomed to death, that his broad lands shall pass away to the stranger, and that his race shall come to an end."
        When the seer had ended this prediction, he threw his white stone into a small loch, and declared that whoever should find that stone would be similarly gifted. Then submitting to his fate, he was at once executed, and this wild and fearful doom ended his strange and uncanny life.

Tradition has it that Coinneach Odhar was burnt in a spiked barrel of tar - burning was the usual fate of witches and wizards at this time - and he's remembered by a monument at Chanonry Point (pictured below).

The Fulfillment

Francis Humberston Mackenzie was a very remarkable man. He was born in 1794, and although deaf, and latterly dumb, he was, by the force of his natural abilities and the favour of fortune, able to fill an important position in the world .... He raised a regiment at the beginning of the great European war; he was created a British peer in 1797, as Baron Seaforth of Kintail; in 1800 he went out to Barbadoes as Governor, and afterwards to Demerara and Berbice; and in 1808 he was made a Lieutenant-General.... He married a very amiable and excellent woman ... by whom he had a fine family of four sons and six daughters. When he considered his own position - deaf, and formerly dumb; when he saw his four sons, three of them rising to man's estate; and when he looked around him, and observed the peculiar marks set upon the persons of the four contemporary great Highland lairds, all in strict accordance with Coinneach's prophecy - he must have felt ill at ease, unless he was able, with the incredulous indifference of a man of the world, to spurn the idea from him as an old wife's superstition.
        However, fatal conviction was forced upon him, and on all those who remembered the family tradition, by the lamentable events which filled his house with mourning. One after another his three promising sons (the fourth died young) were cut of by death.... At length, on the 11th January, 1815, Lord Seaforth died, the last of his race.... Lord Seaforth's eldest surviving daughter, the Honourable Mary Frederica Elizabeth Mackenzie, had married, in 1804, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, Bart., K.B., who was Admiral of the West India station .... Sir Samuel afterwards had the chief command in the Indian seas, whither his lady accompanied him .... He died while holding that high command, very nearly at the same time as Lord Seaforth, so that his youthful wife was a recent widow at the time, and returned home from India in her widow's weeds, to take possession of her paternal inheritance. She was thus literally a white-coifed or white-hooded lassie (that is, a young woman in widow's weeds, and a Hood by name) from the East. 
        After some years of widowhood, Lady Hood Mackenzie married a second time, Mr. Stewart, a grandson of the sixth Earl of Galloway, who assumed the name of Mackenzie, and established himself on his lady's extensive estates in the North.... After many years of happiness and prosperity, a frightful accident threw the family into mourning. Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was one day driving her younger sister, the Hon. Caroline Mackenzie, in a pony carriage, among the woods in the vicinity of Brahan Castle. Suddenly, the ponies took fright, and started off at a furious pace. Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was quite unable to check them, and both she and her sister were thrown out of the carriage much bruised and hurt. She happily soon recovered from the accident, but the injury which her sister sustained proved fatal .... As Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie was driving the carriage at the time of the accident, she may be said to have been the innocent cause of her sister's death, and thus to have fulfilled the last portion of Coinneach's prophecy which has yet been accomplished.
        Thus we have seen that the last chief of Seaforth was deaf and dumb; that he had four sons; that he survived them all; that the four great Highland lairds who were his contemporaries were all distinguished by the peculiar personal marks the seer predicted; that his estates were inherited by a white-coifed or white-hooded lassie from the East; that his great possessions passed into the hands of other races; and that his eldest daughter and heiress was so unfortunate as to be the innocent cause of her sister's death. In this very remarkable instance of family fate, the prophecy was not found out after the events occurred; it had been current for generations in the Highlands, and its tardy fulfilment was marked curiously and anxiously by an entire clan and a whole county. 

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