This is a list of important dates
in Clan Mackay history. (It is primarily from the original list compiled
in 1911 by the late Rev ANGUS MACKAY of Westerdale, and expanded by the
late Dr GEORGE MACKAY, FRCSE of Edinburgh.)
| 1160 -
||Expulsion of the Mackays from
||Iye Mor Mackay married
a daughter of Bishop Walter of Caithness.
| 1263 -
||Fight with King Haco's troops
at Loch Eriboll.
| 1371 -
||Murder of the Mackay
chieftains, father and son, at Dingwall.
||Battle of Tuiteam Tarbach,
in which the Macleods were overthrown by the Mackays.
| 1411 -
||Battle of Dingwall, where
Macdonald overcame Angus Du Mackay.
| 1425 -
||Angus Du spoils Moray.
| 1426 -
||Angus Du spoils Caithness.
| 1432 -
||Angus Du defeats Angus Moray
at Drum nan Coup, near Tongue.
| 1437 -
||The Caithness men overthrown
at Sandside Chase by Neil Mackay.
||Angus Roy Mackay overthrown
and slain at the Tarbet Church by the Rosses.
| 1487 -
||The Mackay's defeat the Rosses
at Aldicharrish, in revenge for the slaughter of Angus Roy.
| 1493 -
||The Mackay's invade the Rosses
again, and take much spoil.
| 1513 -
||John Mackay makes a bond of
friendship with Adam Gordon.
||The Mackay's are associated
with the Forbes in the feuds of the latter.
| 1542 -
||The Mackay's at Solway Moss,
where Iye Du Mackay is taken prisoner.
| 1544 -
||Mackay joins in the attack of
Arran at Glasgow.
| 1548 -
||Mackay joins in the attack
and capture of Haddington.
| 1562 -
||Mackay at the battle of Corrichie,
where Huntly fell.
| 1566 -
||Mackay and Macleod of Assint
| 1571 -
||Mackay and the Master of
Caithness burn Dornoch again.
| 1585 -
||Huistean Du Mackay at the
siege of Marle.
| 1588 -
||Huistean Du joins the Earl
of Sutherland, and marries his daughter the following year.
| 1612 -
||His son, Donald Mackay of
Farr, captures the coiner Smith at Thurso after some sharp fighting.
| 1616 -
(April) - Donald Mackay goes
to London with his uncle, Sir Robert Gordon, and is knighted by James VI, at Theobalds.
| 1626 -
Sir Donald Mackay embarks
3600 men at Cromarty for the Continental War under Count Mansfeld in the
service of Charles IV of Denmark and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.
| 1627 -
Sir Donald holds the Pass
of Oldenburgh, against overwhelming odds, with his regiment, and in the
same year, while abroad, is created a Baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles
| 1628 -
||(June 20) - Sir Donald Mackay
created Baron Reay of Reay in the Peerage of Scotland by Charles I.
| 1629 -
Christian IV of Denmark is
replaced by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden as Leader of the Protestant cause,
and Lord Reay having raised fresh troops in Scotland takes service under
| 1630 -
||Lord Reay accompanies his
Regiment to Germany, and is at the capture of Stettin, Damm and Colberg.
| 1631 -
Reay is empowered by Charles
I to raise another 2000 for service with Gustavus Adolphus. He quarrels
with David Ramsay at the English Court, and having challenged him to a
duel, both are imprisoned in the Tower of London to preserve the peace.
| 1632 -
Gustavus is killed at the
battle of Lutzen and Reay is not repaid large sums of money due to him
by Gustavus and by Charles I. He has also domestic troubles and has to
sell some of his estates, especially in Orkney.
| 1637 -
||He transfers his estates
to his eldest son, John the Master of Reay.
| 1638 -
The Marquis of Montrose,
Lords Home, Boyd and Loudoun invite Lord Reay to meet them and others to
consider the religious troubles of the time and sign the Covenant, which
he does, unwillingly because of his long attachment to Charles I.
| 1639 -
||1641 - Reay stays at home.
| 1642 -
||He goes to Denmark and commands
the Regiment of his son, Colonel Angus Mackay.
| 1644 -
Like Montrose, Reay espouses
again the cause of King Charles I, and brings arms and money by sea to
Newcastle. He aids Lord Crawford for several months in the defence of the
city against the Scots Army. When the town is captured by General Leslie,
Reay and Lord Crawford are sent as prisoners to Edinburgh Castle.
| 1645 -
||Following Montrose's victory
at Kilsyth, Reay is liberated.
| 1646 -
Montrose, having been instructed
by King Charles I, to disband his forces and seek his own safety, writes
to Reay advising him to do likewise. Montrose narrowly escapes from Angus
to Norway, and Reay from Thurso to Denmark.
| 1649 -
Charles I executed at Whitehall
on January 30th. Reay dies soon after at Bergen in Norway. His remains
are sent home in a Danish frigate, and buried in the family vault at Kirkibol,
Tongue. Neil Aberach falls at Thurso. John, 2nd Lord Reay, surprised and
captured at Balveny Castle on the Spey, and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle.
Lady Reay effects his escape.
| 1652 -
||The Mackays at the Battle
| 1654 -
||The Mackays spoil Sutherland,
in the rising under Middleton.
| 1680 -
||George, 3rd Lord Reay, succeeds
his grandfather, and has Sir George Munro of Culrain as his guardian.
| 1689 -
General Hugh Mackay of Scourie,
who had served with the Scots Brigade in Holland, is made Commander -in-Chief
in Scotland by William, Prince of Orange; is defeated at Killiecrankie
but wins the campaign against Claverhouse.
| 1692 -
||General Hugh Mackay having
returned to Holland to aid the Dutch in their confllict with the French
under Louis XIV, falls at Steinkirk.
| 1697 -
His nephew, Æneas Mackay,
a son of the 2nd Lord Reay, is now Commander of the Mackay Regiment in
the Dutch Service. Wounded and worn out with campaigning he dies at Bath
at the early age of 30 and is buried in the Chancel of Bath Abbey, where
there is a tablet to his memory. His widow, a Dutch lady, returns to Holland
with his only son, Donald, who grows up to command his father's regiment
and become the founder of the branch of the Clan to which the Reay title
passed in 1875.
| 1715 -
||The Mackays are anti-Jacobites,
and help to restrain Seaforth during the rising.
| 1745 -
||The Mackays are actively
| 1746 -
||The Mackays capture, at Tongue,
gold sent from France to the Prince, and also capture the Earl of Cromarty
| 1778 -
||Rob Donn, the Mackay poet,
| 1795 -
||The Reay Fencibles embodied.
| 1798 -
||The Reay Fencibles at the
Battle of Tara Hill, near Dublin.
| 1802 -
||The Reay Fencibles disbanded
| 1806 -
||"Mackay's Society" founded in
| 1815 -
||1818 - the Strathnaver Clearances,
by which the people were removed to make room for sheep.
| 1829 -
||The Reay estate sold to the
Countess of Sutherland by Eric, 7th Lord Reay.
| 1875 -
On the death of Eric, 9th
Lord Reay, who was unmarried, the title passed to the branch of the family
resident in Holland and descended from John, 2nd Lord Reay (see note under
1697). Æneas Mackay, a Baron of the Netherlands, Vice-President of
the Council of State and holder of the Cross of the Order of the Netherlands,
became 10th Lord Reay. He died in 1876. His son, Donald James Mackay, succeeded
as 11th Lord Reay, left Holland and was made a Peer of the United Kingdom
as Baron Reay of Durness (8th October, 1881) with a seat in the House of
Lords. Was appointed Governor of Bombay (1885-90) and Under-Secretary of
State for India (1894-95) and was Lord Lieutenant of Roxburghshire.
| 1886 -
||The passing of the Crofters
Act, by which the tenants secured fixity of tenure.
| 1888 -
||Reconstitution of the Clan
| 1898 -
||New holdings formed on Strathnaver,
and a considerable portion of the Strath re-peopled from Syre to Carnachy.
| 1900 -
||Durness and Strathy estates
sold to Mr Gilmour by the Duke of Sutherland.
| 1914 -
||18 - the Great War, in which
at least 1075 Mackays made the supreme sacrifice.
| 1921 -
||(August 1) - Death of Sir
Donald James Mackay, 11th Lord Reay. He was succeeded by his cousin, Baron
Eric Mackay, who resided at Arnhem, Holland.
| 1921 -
||(November 2) - Death of Eric
Mackay, 12th Lord Reay, who was succeeded by his son Æneas Alexander,
the past Chief of the Clan.
| 1924 -
(July 19) - Æneas Alexander
Mackay, 13th Lord Reay, invested as Chief of the Clan at Reay according
to ancient custom by the presentation of the parchment of investiture and
a silver box containing soil and pebbles from the ground of title.
| 1927 -
||Formation of the Clan Mackay
Society of London.
| 1931 -
Formation of a Centre of the
Clan Mackay Society in Melbourne for Victoria, and of a Centre in Sydney for
New South Wales.
| 1932 -
Formation by Prof. A. L.
Gordon Mackay of an Eastern Centre of Clan Mackay with headquarters at
Rangoon (This Centre is temporarily inactive).
| 1934 -
||Tragic death of Baron William
Mackay of the Hague by a motor accident near Brora, in Sutherland.
| 1935 -
||Gift of his Library to the
Society by his mother and sisters. Library established in Edinburgh.
| 1936 -
(April 14) - Marriage at
St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, of the Rt. Hon. Æneas Alexander Mackay,
13th Lord Reay and Baron Mackay of Ophemert in Guelderland, Chief of the
Clan Mackay to Miss Charlotte Younger, of Ravenswood, near Melrose, followed
by their World tour.
| 1937 -
||Formation of a Centre of Clan
Mackay Society in Wellington, New Zealand.
| 1937 -
(July 19) - Birth at Edinburgh
of a son and heir, thus reviving the title of "Master of Reay," Baptised
on October 7th, in St. Giles Cathedral, and received the names of Hugh
William. He is now “Morair Maghrath” Himself Current Clan Chief, 27th of
the line and the 14th Lord Reay.
| 1938 -
(June 21) - Birth at Langlee
House, Galashiels, of a daughter to Lord and Lady Reay and Received the
names of Elizabeth Mary, she is now, The Honourable Elizabeth Fairbairn
MBE, sister to the Clan Chief and “Life President Clan Mackay Society Scotland”.
| 1986 -
The Clan Mackay Society
(Australia) was founded in Victoria, and incorporated in 1987, again being
reincorporated in 1990.
| 1991 -
||The NSW Centre was re-founded
and incorporated in 1992
| 1997 -
||A Commissioner for Western
Australia was appointed to promote the Clan Mackay interests in WA.
| 1999 -
||The Western Australian Centre
was founded and incorporated.
of the Name Mackay :
Our Clan name Mackay is derived from
the Scots Gaelic “Chlann Mhic Aoidh” pronounced Clan Vic Aye [Iye],
ie., the clan, family or children of Aoidh. This has been anglicized to
Mackay [and some 53 acknowledged variations], as Gaelic speaking Highlanders
and others of various levels of literacy tried to record in writing [often phonetically],
through the distortions of disparate regional dialects. This was made even
worse when the non-Gaelic, Scots or English speaking Lowland Scots and
other Sassanachs attempted to phoneticize the spoken name into English
at various times and places. Many of these attempts were made more difficult
by dialect, bias, and degree of literacy of the scribe, et cetera !
The same problems apply to the associated
Sept names and their many variations [some 50 plus accepted]. Dr Ian Grimble
notes that phonetically, the inhabitants of Mackay country “Duthaich Mhic
Aoidh,”, especially in the heartland of Strathnaver, sound Mackay more
like the Irish Magee [ie., phoneticized as Mag or M(a)cEE].
It is worth noting that Mc is an older shorthand translation of the Gaelic
Mac (Mhic) and was gradually replaced in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
within Scotland by Mac.
home of Mackay was Strathnaver the north west portion of Scotland, also
known as Duthaich Mhic Aoidh, the land of the Mackays. Strathnaver was
described as "The Ord Mountain Range, which runs from Helmsdale on the
East Coast to Cape Wrath, cutting Strathnaver in half. On the East Coast
it ran from John O'Groats to Helmsdale and from Cape Wrath to Creich on
the West Side." This would include all of the present day Sutherland, most
of Caithness and south as far as Assant.
of Strathnaver is a green fold of earth, the richest in that part of the
country, a narrow twisting glen down which the black water of the River
Naver runs from south to north, from the loch of its name to the Atlantic
Ocean. Those who lived there in 1814 were Mackays, by name or allegiance and
mainly Gaelic speakers.
The Chiefs of Mackay
In 1415 Donald
(the Lord of the Isles) formally granted Strathnaver to Angus Dhu Macaoidh,
1380-1429 (d. 1433), hailed as the 1st historic chief of Clan Mackay. The
Lord also gave him his sister/daughter in marriage. King Charles 1, elevated
'Morair Maghrath' himself, Donald 'Domhnull Dubhaill' Mackay 14th Chief
from 1591 to 1649, (Donald Mackay 1591-1649), to the peerage, becoming
the 1st Lord Reay in 1628.
Charles 1st, elevated 'Morair Maghrath' himself, Donald 'Domhnull Dubhaill' Mackay
(1591 to 1649),14th Chief from, (Donald Mackay 1591 to 1649), to the peerage
Baron of Reay, becoming the 1st Lord Reay in 1628. Donald Mackay. The present
and 27th Clan Chief is the Rt Hon. Hugh William Mackay,
14th Lord Reay, Baronet of Nova Scotia, Baron Mackay of Ophemort, Holland
who succeeded to the title in 1963 on the death of his father Aeneas Alexander
Mackay. His son, Aeneas Simon Mackay, born in 1965, is the Master
of Reay and heir to the title (Tanist).
For the full Genealogy of the
Chief's of Clan Mackay :
CLAN MACKAY CREST BADGES,
HIGHLAND SYMBOLS OF AUTHORITY AND PLANT BADGES
The Chief of Clan Mackay’s Crest Badge
The Chief’s Crest is within a plain circle with the Three Eagles
Feathers (the badge of his status & authority).
It may be surmounted by a
representation of the Head- dress of their entitlement, in this case a Coronet of Barony.
The Clansman’s Badge
This Badge belongs to the Clan Chief and is worn by Clansfolk to indicate their allegiance to the
Chief & Clan.
The Clansman’s Crest is within a Belted or Garter circle, This is the
symbol for the whole Clan of Mackay.
These are of great significant to many cult-ures over the ages. In
Highland Society the wearing is strictly limited to Clan
3 Feathers for a Clan Chief; 2 for the Tanist (next in line); a Sept Chieftain; or
a Clan Captain. 1 for an Armiger, (one personally entitled to a Coat of Arms, or a
Commissioner appointed by the Chief, but only when carrying
out the duties for which he is appointed.
The Plant Badge
the use of Clan Crest Badges, all Clansfolk wore a sprig of
their Clan's specific plant badge to identify each other in the
heat of battle or confusion of a melee In the case of Clan
Mackay that badge was originally Reed Grass or CUILC in
Gaelic (left), which is used in the manufacture of bagpipe
In more recent times it
is "LUACHAIR BHOG" / "BULRUSH" (right side)
The Clan’s Latin Motto is: "MANU FORTI" - meaning "with a Strong
The Clan’s Ancient Gaelic Motto is: "BI TREUN" - meaning "Be
Bratach Bhan Mhic Aoidh
Mackay's White Banner :
The Bratach Bhan Chlann Aoidh
is a replica of the Bratach Bana
[The White Banner],
which tradition in Strathnaver says was the battle flag of Ian Aberach,
when he led the Mackays at the Battle of Drum na Coup in 1433.
The custody of the
banner remained with Ian Aberach's descendants till 1897, when it was
handed over to the Clan Mackay Society who deposited it for preservation
in the Royal Scottish Museum. This was never the banner of the principal
family of Mackay, but of the
Aberach Mackays, its oldest cadet line.
armorial charge is a lion rampant surrounded by a shield traced out by a
double Tressure and Fleur de Lys. The heraldic significance of these
devices is Royal descent, and both Ian Aberach and his brother Neil Vass
were descended from Robert 11, King of Scots. The hand sinister which is
not a common crest in Highland coats of arms is characteristic of Mackay
Arms. It may have come from a charge borne by McNeil of Gigha, whose
daughter married Donald 3rd Chief of Mackay, The motto on the palm is
‘Bidh Treun’ 'Be valiant', the slogan of the Mackays, which was law
as ‘Manu Fort’, 'With a Strong
The ancient banner (Meirghe)
of Mackay is the “BRATACH BHAN MHIC AOIDH” “MACKAY'S
This is also the Clan's slogan (sluagh-ghaim)
or Ancient rallying call, “BRATACH BHAN MHIC AOIDIH” “MACKAY'S WHITE
Personal Heraldic Award Of Arms And Banner
Black & White of Lord
Reay’s full Heraldic Award of Coat of Arms
Colour representation of
Lord Reay’s Shield & Crest
Lord Reay’s official
Lord Reay’s full Heraldic Award of Coat of Arms includes the following items
shield with a roebuck's head between two hands holding daggers palmwise on a
white chevron, between three muzzled bear’s heads.
pikeman in armour tunic vert, breeches gules, in his exterior hand a pike
proper. Sinister: a musketeer, tunic vert, breeches gules, on his exterior
shoulder a musket proper.
A form of crest similar to the
These are not Mackay symbols
:they are personal Monomarks (Mono = One)
They are not Mackay or Clan
Mackay Arms & Regalia.
Coat of Arms or Crest
There is no such thing as a
Scots "Family" coat of arms or crest. Since a coat of arms is a monomark (mono =
one) ownership of an arms pertains to one individual and is the individual mark
identifying that individual, it is strictly not open to anyone else of the same
As noted above, the
Scottish King of Arms refers to Lord (Baron) Reay’s armorial crest on his Coat
of Arms “As a form similar to the Clan (Mackay) Crest”. This is because the Clan
Crest of the hand holding aloft a dirk or dagger, was used from ancient times,
possibly originating from the heraldic arms of early Mackays showing their Royal
descent, (both through the old Celtic House of Moray and directly from later
Kings of Scotland.). Although the creation of Donald, 14th chief of Mackay, as
Baron Reay by King Charles was for personal services to Him and the Crown, the
Lord Lyon acknowledged that the new Lord Reay was the heredity Chief of Mackay.
Thus the use of the Clan Crest on the Reay Arms.
Clan Mackay Crest
Plain Belted Crest
Stylised Crest Badge
Clansfolk wish to have an Heraldic Plaque or Banner, Personalised Cards, Note
paper or Letterhead, the Plain Belted Crest Badge or the stylised Crest Badge ,
may be used, But Must be accompanied with the Words
“Our Clan Chief’s Crest”,
in Gaelic as
SHOWN, “An Ceann Cirean Cinnidh”
For a plaque the chosen crest
may be back grounded with the official Clan Mackay Tartan.
This is a law enforceable
by Lyon Court of Scotland
The correct way to wear a Bonnet badge and plant badge or a plaid and plant
Plaid and Plant Badge
The proper Mackay
tartan is a
blue sett. It is available in: "modern
shade" which is very dark, due to the use of deep non-fading aniline
dyes; also in the “Ancient shade” which is the same sett but uses
lighter shades to replicate the colours produced using the old
natural dyeing agents, such as herbs, lichens, bark etc, which
mellowed and faded with time. The similarity to the Black Watch or
General Service tartan developed by the British Government for
military use may not be coincidental. While many Clans closely
connected with that Regiment adopted tartans based on its tartan
with various coloured "over-stripes", Mackay’s Regiment was wearing
the original Clan tartan over a hundred years before the Independent
Companies, known as Am Freiceadan dubh (the Black Watch), was raised
in1725. Thus it seems likely that the British Military designed
their tartan based on the established clan and district military
tartan worn by the venerable and highly regarded private Highland
Clan and District, the historic Mackay’s Regiment.
The close territorial
neighbours of Mackay, the Clan Gunn, (many of whom served in Mackays
Regiment), also have their Clan Tartan based on the same Green,
Black and Blue Sett as the Mackays only, differenced by the
replacement of Mackay green 6 thread pivot with a red 6 thread
pivot! This tends to reinforce the claim that these tartans derive
from a “Traditional” District Tartan of the Mackay Sett.
There are three
recognized Mackay tartans, the Official Clan tartan, the Strathnaver,
and the Blue (also known as the Morgan).
is only one official Clan Mackay tartan and that is the
and Blue Sett,
(Scottish Tartan Society
no: TS703), a piece of which was affirmed and attested to in a
signed statement which was lodged with the Lord Lyon, King of
Heralds by the then
Clan Chief. Previously a “signed and sealed”
sample was presented to Highland Society of London in 1816 by the
Chief. It is preferred by the Clan Societies in the lighter shades
referred to as the “ancient” Mackay. This is considered to represent
the softer colours of the tartan woven from wool dyed with the old
plant dyes and mordents. The Clan tartan in the dark shades of the
early aniline dyes, referred to as the “modern” Mackay is the same sett with the same thread count.
Since the development
of Analine dyes, which enabled the commercial mills to produce
tartans with the threads dyed with stronger, richer, darker and
virtually fade-proof colour. The later discovery of colour fast
chemical dyes, provided a yet wider range of colours and shades, the
commercial mechanised mills were in a good position to exploit the
“Victorian Highland Romance” and produce an almost endless stream of
a variety of tartans. While some of these were authorized, many were
not; indeed many fanciful even spurious tartans were often
associated with various clans, highland names etc; This has lead to
much tartan myth and confusion.
Apart from the Green,
Black and Blue Sett of the Official Mackay Clan Tartan, there are a
number of tartans produced by various sources over time which are
associated with Mackay, all but three of which have no actual
relation to the Clan historically or otherwise. The three
“associated” tartans are the Strathnaver (ts2037), the new “Dutch”
(Mackay), and the Morgan, or so-called Blue Mackay (ts264). The
Morgan or Blue Mackay is not officially acknowledged, being loosely
associated with the name Morgan which is claimed to be a Clan Sept.
It is not however a recognized Clan Tartan. The Dutch MacKay is a
tartan designed in 1965 by the late John Cargill, for and registered
with the Scottish Tartan Authority, (formerly the Scottish Tartan
Society), in honour of the significant roll of the “Dutch Mackays”
in Clan and Dutch National History. There are in fact two Dutch
tartans, the standard and a dress tartan which switches the thin
orange line with an azure, a blue wide line with a white and a thin
white line with a red. These tartans are based on the official Clan
Mackay tartan and are in their National colours of orange, black,
azure and white, with the above changes in the “dress” version.
There are no “dress”
or “hunting” Mackay tartans.
tartan is based on the remnant in the Duncan Ballard Collection, of
a plaid taken to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, during the savage
Strathnaver “Clearances” of the “Bad times”. While this tartan is
not an official or authorized Clan Tartan, in modern times, it has
become accepted by a small but growing number of Clansfolk as an
alternate “walking or hill tartan” or unofficial “hunting tartan”.
It has also been adopted as a “district tartan” for the “Strathnaver”,
the central heartland of “Mackay Country”. Some Mackays have adapted
the “Dutch Mackay” tartans as a quasi dress tartan.
Sett and Thread Count :
If we are
weaving, drawing, painting or discussing the use of colour, we think
of primary, secondary and tertiary colours such as red, orange,
yellow, green, blue, and violet together with black, white, grey
brown etc; with their intermediate colours. With the study of
tartans the use of a recognised universal shorthand of symbols is
required. The list below is basic, because this is based on key
letters, a standard is required using only 1 or sometimes 2 fixed
letters and to avoid confusion each letter is used only once and
coded to its one colour. For example B is for blue and K or bK for
black, G for Green so N for grey (neutral). In the same way a
indication of shade as to dark D+ colour code letter and for light
L+ code letter. Below then is the basic tartan colour code:-
A azure or
pale blue; B blue; C crimson or rose; D dark; G green; K black; L
light; Mn maroon; N grey (neutral);
P purple; R
red; T brown (tan); W white; and Y yellow.
Nb there are many
others less common and more specialized.
are fairly straight forward, it is in the area of shades where most
confusion occurs. When myth, fantasy, fiction, romance and sales
promotion abound, fact is harder to unravel! While a weaver has
little difficulty in choosing colour for a particular tartan, he is
dependent on what yarn is available and, like all knitters know, dye
lots vary. A slight variety between one piece of tartan and another
from the same weaver or another, is unavoidable and unless rigid
uniformity is required, (as in uniform tartans, particularly for
pipe bands), the slight variation is of little matter.
begin where tartan mythology and commercial economy / sales
promotion come together. Tourist and sales promotion, together with
the hangover of the Queen Victoria’s Highland romantic era,
generated a power house of tartan mania, where seemingly endless,
new, fanciful and indeed sometimes spurious tartan pattens were
churned out and sold under imaginative names to gullible purchasers.
promotions were many tartans of particular setts but in a wide range
of set shade pattens as “named” varieties. Such shade pattens called
variously Antique, Old, Ancient, Modern, Reproduction, Weathered
etc, lead people unfamiliar with real tartan tradition into
unnecessary confusion. Many experienced people often hear things
like “our clan has many tartans” when they in fact have in most
cases only one or perhaps two or three if there are official hunting
and or dress tartans. I was even told in good faith by one
gullible clansman that we Mackays were particularly fortunate in
having over 14 clan tartans! He assured he was right as he had found
them on the web. It was my sad duty to point out that we had only
One Official Clan Tartan which was sold in several shades called
modern, ancient, reproduction etc; and three unofficially associated
but not clan tartans called the Strathnaver, the Blue or Morgan, and
the Dutch tartans (which he didn’t know about), There are also
another seven or so tartans on record with the name MacKay attached
to them which are in the main spurious and have never been
authorised or accepted by the Clan.
The Sett and
Thread Counts :
The sett of a
tartan is the actual “colours” of the tartan, in the order and width
of the colour stripes that form the integral pattern.
In the case of
the Official Mackay Tartan the Sett is
Blue, the width of and precise position of are determined by
Thread Count. For the Mackay that is K6; G28; K28; G4; B28; G6.
This order of
threads is used by the weaver in a precise formula of Sett-Reverse-Repeat,
rotating on particular points of the Sett called Pivots. For the
Mackay Sett the pivots are the K6 and G6 thread stripes. So for the
full piece of Mackay Tartan to be woven the weaver sets up his loom
with all the long threads (the Warp) and cross threads (the Waft),
using the Sett and Pivot formula as follows From the Warp selvage
(left edge) :-
Reverse Repeat Sett
K28 G4 B28 G6 B28 G4 K28 G28 K6 G28 K28 G4
B28 G6 B28 G4 K28 G28 K6 etc
continues for the full width and length of the piece of tartan being
- Example 1
Clan Mackay “Green, Black, Blue Sett” Tartan [WR703] [‘modern’ shade]
The proper Mackay tartan is a blue,
black, and green sett. It is available in "Modern" which is very dark,
due to the use of deep non fading aniline dyes. The "Ancient", which is
the same sett, but uses lighter shades to replicate the colours produced
using the old natural dyeing agents, such as herbs, lichens, bark etc,
which mellowed and faded with time.
Mackay “Green, Black, Blue Sett” Tartan [WR703] [‘antique’ shade]
[The shade preferred by the Clan Society]
information on tartans:
Many people are confused over
what a "sept" is, due largely to a deal of mixed myth and fanciful
thinking distorting the traditional fact. A Clan Sept is a recognized branch of
the Clan, descending from the Chiefly lineage, and bearing (a) the Clan
name by that spelling, or (b) a recognized variation of that spelling, or (c)
bearing the sub (or) nickname; given name; or territorial (or) granted honorific
name of such a person their family and their descendents; or (d) the family and
descendants of a recognized incomer to the Clan by marriage, or loyal ongoing
allegiance to the Chief and Clan and who became interrelated by marriage and
Septs are properly significant Cadet
branches from the Chiefly Lineage. They mainly retain the Clan Patronymic, eg.
[Mc/Mackay], although with possible spelling changes due to the period they
become recognized [eg. Mc/MacGee], or to dialectic variation due to settlement in
different regions [eg. Mc/MacGhie]. Some Septs add the name of the location of
settlement [eg. Melness Mackays], while others change the name altogether, often to
the by's-name of the founder of the Sept [eg. Aberach Mackays, named after Ean
“Aberach” Mackay or John “the Lochaber man”, having been fostered by his mothers
Clan Ranald relatives in Lochaber] or [Bain derived from John “Bain” Mackay,
John the “Fair”]. The last form to note takes the forename of the founder
directly, [eg. Paul – Paul/Polson/McPhail; Neil – Neilsons; William –
Williamsons/Macwilliams; Allens, Morgan etc], or surname of a man married into
the Clan and who is significant [eg. Scobie after the Rev William Scobie
Minister at Assynt etc].
Those bearing a sept name,
other than the Clan name or spelling variations thereof, believe themselves to
be descended from the same ancestor as the Chief's family, either by marriage or
other design. They are no less a member of the society than those with the Clan
name, as the cousinship bond is assumed for everyone who comes under the
protection of or whose name ties them to the family of the Clan. Considering
that this bond reaches across national boundaries, across all classes of people,
rich or poor, there is a compelling clansmanship that traverses all borders. The
old Highland bond of family for 40 generations, a foster brother for a thousand,
was a rule for sticking together through good times and bad, "let the blood
What's in a Name A
: Guide to Clan Mackay Names
Our Clan name is derived from the Scots Gaelic
“Chlann Mhic Aoidh” pronounced Clan Vic Aye, [Iye], i.e. the Clan, family or
children of “Aodh or Aoidh [the genitive case]” is a Gaelic proper name, [for an
“old Celtic God of Fire”,] which has been translated into English as "’EE, Y,
Iye or Ay”, hence ["Ma(ck) ay"], which means "son of Aodh" not “son of Kay”. The
Gaelic name thus being anglicized to Mackay [and some 53 acknowledged
variations], as Gaelic speaking Highlanders and others of various levels of
literacy tried to record, [often phonetically], through the distortions of
disparate regional dialects. This was made even worse when the non-Gaelic, Scots
or English speaking Lowland Scots and other Sassanachs, attempted to phoneticize
the spoken name into English, at various times and places. Many of these
attempts were made more difficult by dialect, bias, and degree of literacy of
the scribe et cetera! The same problems apply to the associated Sept names and
their many variations [some 40 plus variations accepted]. Dr Ian Grimble notes
that phonetically, the inhabitants of “Duthaich Mhic Aoidh,” Mackay country,
especially in the heartland of Strathnaver, sound Mackay more like the Irish
Magee [i.e., phoneticized as Mag or M(a)c EE]. It is worth noting that Mc is an
older shorthand translation of the Gaelic Mhic / Mac and was gradually replaced
in the late 18th and early 19th centuries within Scotland by Mac.
[A brief note on Mac/Nic/Mhic – Mac [MK] (son
of.), Nic [NK] (daughter of), Mhic [VK] (the genitive case for children of)]
And Thus the Confused
Collection of Clan Names Today :
Clan Mackay Society
Recognised Spelling Variations
Clan Name Variations
Sept Names and Variations
The Septs of Clan Mackay
in generational order of foundation :
McGees C 1260 Martin
MacAoidh 3rd son of Iye MacAoidh of Strathnaver, [the 1st Chief of Clan Mackay
of Strathnaver otherwise recorded as Iye McAeda/Maceth/Mac Eth], and [younger
brother of Iye Mor MacAoidh the 2nd Chief styled of Mackay], settled in
Galloway. The descendents of Martin and his supporters were referred to as M’Ees,
M’Ys and McGees by the local lowland Scots and Strathclyde Britons, as recorded
by early scribes. A jester to a Scots King and a Doctor to another are recorded
and BALMAGHIE, ie; Mc Gees town, parish and house was situated some 6 or
7 miles northeast of Gatehouse of Fleet, near Threve castle. C 1370 another
Martin, styled Mackay [brother of Angus the 5th Chief], is reported to have also
settled in Galloway.
Neilsons C 1370 Neil
Mackay [brother to the 5th Chief and Martin] settled in the parish of Creich,
County Sutherland, his sons were styled Neilson Mackays. Some of Thomas Neilson
Mackay descendents called themselves Neilsons. His brother Morgan Neilson
Mackays gave rise to both Morgans and Neilsons.
Bains the third brother
Neil Neilson Mackay had 3 sons, the 1st, John Mackay known as John Bain or John
the Fair founded the Bain Sept C 1430.
Siol Angus C 1430 the
2nd. Son Angus Mackay is the ancestor of Soil Angus or the seed of Angus.
C 1430 the 3rd. son Paul Mackay was the founder of this Sept with names derived
from Gaelic and plain Scots/English.
Aberach Mackays C 1430,
Ian Aberach Mackay [son of Angus Du, the 6th Chief], ancestor of Slioc Ean
Aberach, the Aberach Mackays, they were the holders and guardians of Mackay’s
White Banner, the “Bratach Bhan”.
Mackay of Scoury C
1570, Donald Balloch Mackay [Donald of the spots, son of Iye Du, the 12th
Chief], founded this Sept.
Mackays of Bighouse
C1570, William Mackay of Strathhalladale and Bighouse, [son of Iye Du the 12th
Chief], the ancestor of this Sept.
Mackays of Strathy
C 1620, John Mackay of Strathy [son of Huistean Du na Tuaigh, Black Hugh of the
Battleaxe, 13th Chief], is founder of this Sept.
Mackay of Melness C
1620, Hon Angus Mackay, [son of Donald “Domhnull Dubhaill” (Donald the Stern)
Mackay 14th Chief and 1st Baron Reay], founded this Sept.
Mackays of Sandwood
C 1670, Hon Charles Mackay of Sandwood, [son of Donald “Domhnull Dubhaill”
(Donald the Stern) Mackay 14th Chief and 1st Baron Reay], founded this Sept.
Dutch Mackays C
1660, Aeneas Mackay, [son of John 15th Chief and 2nd Baron Reay], Brigadier
General and Colonel Proprietor of the Mackay Scottish Regiment, the Scots
Brigade in the service of Holland, is the ancestor of the Dutch Mackays.
the Septs of Clan Mackay :
|| 9th century
|| 14th century
|| 14th century
|| 14th century
|| 16th century
|| circa 1559
|| circa 1662
|| King’s Jester
|| circa 1450
|| circa 1663
|| 14th century
|| 10th century
|| 13th century
|| circa 1781
|| 17th century
| MacVail from Paul, Poulson
|| 14th century
| MacVanish from Bain
|| circa 1520
|| 12th century
|| 16th century
|| 12/14th century
|| 14th century
|| 12th century
One of the
several things that clan societies everywhere hold dear is an appreciation
of Scotland's original national language, Gaelic. So much of what societies
and clan associations do centres on many Gaelic words and phrases, that
to any uninformed newcomer, it can be quite disconcerting. Listed below
are some of the more commonly used expressions :
a social gathering
Link to more detail
on the Gaelic language :
Highland delicacy in a sheep's stomach
Mo chuid fhein:
My own goods
dhachaidh: we will go home
guine: How are you today?
failte: One hundred thousand welcomes
Now flock to the standard and join
the roll call,
Once more the old banner’s unfurled,
The slogan’s been sounded and kinship
By clansmen all over the world.
Abroad or at home love of country
Are feelings we’ll never let die,
Defy and defend, stand true to the
And honour the name of MACKAY !
1806 - the first Clan Mackay Society
was formed in Glasgow as a benevolent & funeral fund.
1888 - the Society was re-constituted
in its present form.
1986 - the Clan Mackay Society (Australia)
1990 - the Clan Mackay Society (Australia)
1991 - the NSW Branch of the Clan
Mackay Society (Australia) was established.
1992 - the Clan Mackay Society (Australia)
NSW Branch was incorporated.
1996 - the W A Branch of the Clan
Mackay Society (Australia) was established.
1999 - the Clan Mackay Society Western
Australia was incorporated.
2001 - the Clan Mackay Society (Australia)
NSW Branch Inc. 10th Anniversary celebrated.
The Clan Mackay Society in Scotland
is the oldest known society in existence. The society helps bind
together those who belong to the family (or clan) of Mackay. Ceilidhs
(or social gatherings), Clan Gatherings and the Clan’s representation at
events such as Kirking of the Tartan and Highland Games, develops that kinship
and support in modern times which our ancestors fostered and enjoyed.