History of The Macrae Clan
The Independent Companies were recruited in the Highlands during the 1745 Rebellion by Lord Louden in an attempt to prevent the rebels from joining the Jacobite armies. Companies were offered to eight northern Clan chiefs, including Lord Fortrose, who raised the men from their estates.
In all, a large body of Highlanders were recruited, and spent much of their time marching through the Highlands on one pretext or another. It is not clear where the Independent Companies were on 16 April 1746, but none were present at Culloden. After the battle, they were used to round up the suspect rebels and brought many in to give up their arms. Before being disbanded in August / September 1746, lists of the men were made, presumably to claim payment for their keep. Not all of the lists survive, but those that do show many hundreds of men were involved.
It is recorded that the MacKenzie Company was at Shiramore in Badenoch in June 1746, and Captain Colin MacKenzie's Independent Company is listed with names and designations and includes more than sixty MacRaes, many of them from Kintail. It is often said that the MacRae clan were wiped out at Sheriffmuir and there were no men available to fight at Culloden. However the Independent Companies show that the MacRaes were not decimated at Sheriffmuir, but lived to fight another day.
On 10th June 1719, the only battle of the 'little rising' took place between a government army and the Jacobites under the 10th Earl Marischal, four years after the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.
Spain had sent five thousand men to support the Jacobite cause, but ferocious weather saw only around three hundred men reach Scotland at Kintail along with the Earl of Seaforth - chief of the Clan Mackenzie - the Earl Marischal and the Marquis of Tullibardine. They were joined by a few hundred Highlanders including Macraes, Rob Roy and a party of MagGregors.
Eilean Donan Castle, being used as their base, was attacked by the Hanovarians from the sea, destroying it with the cannon fire of three warships. General Wightman led his government army from Inverness and confronted the Jacobites at Glen Shiel, just a few miles from Loch Duich, on the 10th of June.
The battle continued for several hours, and despite being well matched, the expected Jacobite support from the Lowlanders failed to materialise in any number resulting in the Jacobites abaondoning the rising and retreating for their homes. The Spaniards surrendered to Wightman and were eventually sent home after a period of imprisonment.
A team from the University of Central London have analysed the origins of more than 500,000 surnames in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The result is the Surname Profiler available via the Spatial Literacy website which uses data from the 1881 census and the 1998 electoral roll.
The following is an interesting summary of the MacRae/McRae name and how corresponding attributes have changed over the 117 year period. Other variations of the name have been omitted for simplicity, but can be looked up on the website.
Rather unsurprisingly, the McRae/MacRae surname has its origins in Scotland, although only 8.8% of MacRaes and 3.4% of McRaes were given a forename that is considered to be of Scottish origin, the majority being from England. The total number of MacRaes in the UK increased from 2349 in 1881 to 3040 in 1998, whilst the number of McRaes dropped significantly from 4668 to 2058 over the same period.
The Inverness area was the place in 1881 with the most MacRaes and McRaes, but by 1998, the Harris area saw the most MacRaes and the Aberdeen area the most McRaes. Density of names can be seen in the maps at the bottom of the page.
Similarly around the world, the most MacRaes in Australia in 1998 were in the Northern Territory, Northland province in New Zealand and Massachussets in the United States. The most McRaes in Australia were in the Australian Capital Territory, Southland in New Zealand and North Carolina in the US.
Finally, an assessment of how 'rural' and how 'high-status' each surname is has uncovered that 21% of people have a more rural name than MacRae and 89% more rural than McRae, whilst only 4% of people have a higher-status name that MacRae and 37% higher-status than McRae.
The earliest record of whisky being distilled in Scotland was in 1494 when an entry in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls recorded eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aquavitae. However, it is probable that the spirit was being produced for hundreds of years before that, particularly in our remote western seaboard and islands. The early product varied greatly from area to area, often being made from unmalted grains such as oats and barley and was very different from the whisky that we know today.
We know that liquors were being distilled in India from rice and flowers as early as 800 BC. It is thought that the secrets of distillation were then brought to Ireland and Cornwall by the Phoenicians and from there by the Celts as they migrated to the westernmost fringes of Scotland. These settlers produced their whisky mostly for their own use as a part of a subsistence existence and was perhaps necessary to survive the deprivations of a Scottish winter! As agriculture developed the distilling of whisky from the farmers surplus grain provided not only liquid comfort but also came to be a commodity that could be exchanged for cash to help pay the rent. When Distilleries came to be licensed at the beginning of the 19th century, a number were actually built by the more progressive landlords to create a market for their tenants surplus grain.
It was around this time that illicit production of whisky reached its peak. Whether legally or not, the MacRaes seem to have had an involvement throughout!
he war cry of the Clan MacRae is Sgurr Uaran and is named after one of the tallest of the five mountains at the base of Loch Duich known as the Five Sisters of Kintail.
Being Gaelic, its pronunciation needs conversion for those not familiar with the traditional Scottish language! For Sgurr, pronounce "scure", for Uaran, pronounce "ur-an" placing the accent on the first syllable and so that the "ur" rhymes with "tour."
By the end of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, the clan system in the Scottish Highlands was nearing the end of its span. Ironically, the deliberate dismantling of the clans, so cruelly started in the bloody years after Culloden, was completed not by the aftermath of glorious rebellion but by the decidedly unromantic process of civil eviction, much if it at the hands of the successors of those same Highland chiefs who had brought out their kin for the Jacobite cause in the first place.
Landowners, many of them ruined financially by the 1745 Rebellion, saw an opportunity to restore their finances by replacing their tenants with sheep, and so set about clearing their lands of the Highland families and communities who lived there. Not all landowners resorted to this heartless action, but many of those who did carried out their task with ruthless and barbarous efficiency, often through the agency of a factor.
One such individual was Macdonald, factor of the district of Boreraig and Suishnish on Skye, who was also a Sheriff Officer and - ironically - local Inspector of the Poor. In September 1853, with the Sheriff-Substitute and a body of police, Macdonald came to Boreraig and began the removals of the families living there. Most of the men were away working in Glasgow or on the railroads, but some who were attending their cattle in the hills heard the commotion. They came down in haste, and there was a short, brutal struggle, in consequence of which three men - John Macrae, Duncan Macrae and an Alexander MacInnes - were placed in irons and dragged thirty miles to Portree. In their absence, the evictions continued at Boreraig and elsewhere. One lawyer, writing at the time to a newspaper, reported:
At Portree, the two Macraes and MacInnes were released subject to their promise to appear before the Court of Justiciary sitting in Inverness. Without food or money, they walked to Inverness - a distance of one hundred miles - and there surrendered at the Tolbooth. Their accusers must have thought the outcome of their trial a foregone conclusion, but they were defended by a passionate advocate by the name of Rennie, who persuaded the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.
After the trial, the three returned to their families. They opened the houses, put back the roof timbers and briefly returned to some semblance of normal life, but their victory was shortlived. On 30 December, in the depths of a Highland winter, Macdonald came again when the Macrae men were away. The mother of John Macrae, who was eighty-one, refused to move from her bed and was dragged out on her blanket. The houses were boarded up and the people - children, women and old folk alike - were left outside in the snow to survive as best they could.
At this remove, it is difficult to imagine the inhumanity of the Clearances. The story told here of the evictions of the Macraes of Boreraig is just one among thousands. Of those evicted, many died of starvation and exposure, while others were reduced to living outside like animals, surviving on Parish Relief and the charity of others. Many Highlanders emigrated or took service with the British army, which in large measure accounts for the wide scattering of Scots around the world today.
In 1778, the Earl of Seaforth, the chief of the Mackenzies, raised a regiment of about 1,000 men from his estates. So great a proportion of this number were Macraes that the regiment - officially named the 78th Seaforth Highlanders - became commonly known as the Macraes.
In June 1778, the newly levied regiment came to Edinburgh and were quartered in the castle and elsewhere in the city. In August, they were moved to Leith for embarkation to Guernsey. Most men had enlisted for no more than three years and there was a written condition attaching to their enlistment that they would not serve their time outside Britain. The rumour, though, was that the whole regiment was to be sold to the East India Company for service in the East Indies. The Highlanders sought reassurances from their officers, but the explanations they received were far from convincing.
On Tuesday 22 September, the regiment were marched to Leith Links and ordered to board the boats assembled there. The rumblings of discontent spilled over and the men refused to obey. Some eventually did take to the boats, but some six hundred remained defiant. Fearing that other troops might be called against them, and after some hours of discussion, they then marched in regular order to Arthur’s Seat, with two plaids fixed on poles instead of colours and with the pipes playing at their head. Having ascended the former volcano, they took up position around the top of the crags and prepared to defend themselves against any assault, vowing to remain there until their just demands were satisfied or they were ejected by force of arms.
The sensation this caused among the citizenry of Edinburgh was considerable. A large crowd had turned out to witness their march across the city, and many now proceeded to keep the mutineers supplied with provisions. The sympathies of the ordinary people of Edinburgh plainly sided with the Highlanders.
The authorities, as can be imagined, did not view the mutiny in the same benevolent light. The senior generals of the army in Scotland immediately summoned more troops to Edinburgh and assembled a substantial force comprised of men of the 11th Dragoons, the Buccleugh Fencibles and the Glasgow Volunteers. Fortunately, the generals were disinclined to resort to force of arms and instead began negotiations. General Skene, the Earl of Dunmore and the Duke of Buccleugh were among those who visited the encampment over the next few days to conduct talks with the Macraes. To their credit, the Highlanders remained respectful and well disciplined throughout, but remained staunch in their demands: a pardon to all of their number for all past offences; that all levy money and arrears due to them should be paid before embarkation; and that they should not be sent to the East Indies.
On the Friday morning, the generals at last conceded and signed a bond confirming all the Highlanders’ demands, whereupon the Macraes formed themselves into marching order and left the hill, with the pipes playing and a large crowd walking behind. Thereafter, on the Tuesday morning, one week after the mutiny started, the regiment assembled in front of Holyrood Palace and marched to Leith with the Earl of Seaforth and General Skene at their head. There, they took ship to Guernsey, cheered by a large portion of the people of Edinburgh.
There now seems little doubt that the government had, indeed, determined to send the regiment to the East Indies in violation of their contacts. The view taken of the Highlanders was that they were ' ignorant, unable to comprehend the nature of their stipulations, and incapable of demanding redress for any breach of contract '. The Affair of the Wild Macraes, as it came to be known, showed that the Macraes were not so ignorant after all. One of the paths leading to the top of Arthur's Seat is still named Piper's Walk today in memory of the Macraes' ascent of the hill; it is a lasting reminder of their brave stand against injustice.
The postscript to this tale tends to confirm the government's intentions, for the 78th Seaforth Highlanders were posted to the East Indies anyway in 1781. It is said that they consented to it, which may or may not have been the case, but what is certainly true is that very few returned to Scotland, disease and other factors having contrived to exact a high toll upon their numbers.
The Macraes were the Constables of Eilean Donan Castle. Magnificently situated at the meeting of three lochs - Loch Long, Loch Alsh and Loch Duich - and enclosed by steep sided mountain shores, Eilean Donan today is one of the most romantic and easily recognised castles in Scotland. With its outline reflected in the waters of Loch Duich and the moody colours of the mountains and moorlands all around, it is to many people the idyll of a Scottish Highland castle.
Times past at Eilean Donan were not always peaceful. The castle as it stands today is, in fact, largely a restoration. In 1719, four years after the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, a Jacobite force sailed from Spain. Owing to a storm, only two ships landed at Eilean Donan, disembarking the Earl of Seaforth - chief of the Clan Mackenzie - the Earl Marischal and the Marquis of Tullibardine with some three hundred Spanish troops and some Irish officers. They were joined by a few hundred Highlanders including Macraes, Rob Roy and a party of MagGregors.
While they encamped by the castle, waiting vainly for reinforcements to arrive, three Royal Navy warships sailed into the loch and destroyed Eilean Donan by means of a naval bombardment and the exploding of powder kegs set within the castle. The old kirk of Kintail on Loch Duich was also destroyed and neighbouring homesteads were sacked. On 10 June 1719, just two months after the landing, the rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Glen Shiel, just a few miles from Loch Duich, when government forces overwhelmed the Jacobites, dispersing the Highlanders and enforcing the surrender of the luckless Spaniards.
A contemporary account of the destruction of Eilean Donan has survived in the form of the logs of two of the Royal Navy ships involved in the action.
Before the Old Pretender ever set foot on Scottish soil, the Earl of Mar raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar on 6 September 1715 in support of the restoration of the Stuart Kings.
The rising was doomed to fail from the start. Promise of lavish military aid from the French came to naught when Louis XIV died on 1 September. It was said that hopes for the Stuart cause ' sank as
he declined and died as he expired '. Even then, if Mar had proceeded resolutely, the rebellion might still have succeeded. The Jacobites captured Perth and might have taken Edinburgh too had Mar - known as Bobbin' John - not dallied for weeks, giving the Hanoverian forces vital time to prepare.
On 13 November 1715, the armies met at Sheriffmuir, five miles north of Stirling. The outcome ought to have been certain, for the government army of between 3,000 and 5,000 men was opposed by a Jacobite army of greater than twice that number. The threat faced by the Duke of Argyle, who commanded the government forces, was stark. A defeat would have left the way into England wide open. His task, then, was simply to bar the route south.
The Macraes fought that day, as ever, as ' Mackenzie's shirt of mail '. Assigned to the left wing of the Jacobite army, they formed the Kintail Company of the Lochalsh Highland Battallion under Lord Seaforth. Owing to the rising and uneven ground, the opposing armies outflanked each other, with the result that the right wing of each army overwhelmed the left wing of the other. The Highlanders on the Jacobites' left wing, the Macraes among them, fought bravely for some three hours, but were driven back by Argyle's dragoons to the Allan Water, from where further retreat was impossible. It is probable that many died from drowning.
The battle as a whole was indecisive. Mar simply withdrew his troops back to Perth. On the same day, the English Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Preston. The rebellion continued for some weeks more, but was effectively ended by Sheriffmuir. Even the late arrival of the Old Pretender on 22 December 1715 could not turn the Jacobites' fortunes around. He returned to France just six weeks later and never set foot in Scotland again.
As for the Macraes, the Battle of Sheriffmuir proved one of their blackest days. It is said that by nightfall on the day of the battle, there were fifty-eight new widows in Kintai