Clan Mackay WA - Clan Mackay Society - Western Australia - History, Heritage & Development
History, Heritage and Development

History :

Important Dates :

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 Moray.
c1260 - 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.
c1403 - 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.
c1486 - 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.
c1528 - 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 burn Dornoch.
  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 I.

  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 the latter.

  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 of Worcester.
  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 anti-Jacobite.
  1746 - The Mackays capture, at Tongue, gold sent from France to the Prince, and also capture the Earl of Cromarty at Dunrobin.
  1778 - Rob Donn, the Mackay poet, dies.
  1795 - The Reay Fencibles embodied.
  1798 - The Reay Fencibles at the Battle of Tara Hill, near Dublin.
  1802 - The Reay Fencibles disbanded to Stirling.
  1806 - "Mackay's Society" founded in Glasgow.
  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 Mackay Society.
  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, it was officially disbanded in December 2012
  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.


Origins 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.

Ancestral Lands :

The ancestral 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.

The valley 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.

King 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 Symbols :





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.

Eagles Feathers

These are of great significant to many cult-ures over the ages. In Highland Society the wearing is strictly limited to Clan Hierarchy.
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

Long before 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 reeds.
In more recent times it is "LUACHAIR BHOG" / "BULRUSH" (right side)

The Clan’s Latin Motto is: "MANU FORTI" - meaning "with a Strong Hand".

The Clan’s Ancient Gaelic Motto is: "BI TREUN" - meaning "Be Valiant".


Bratach Bhan Mhic Aoidh Mackay's White Banner :


The Bratach Bhan  Chlann Aoidh

This 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.



The 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 Latinised as ‘Manu Fort’, 'With a Strong Hand'.



Clan Banner and Slogan :


The ancient banner (Meirghe) of Mackay is the “BRATACH BHAN MHIC AOIDH” “MACKAY'S WHITE BANNER”.

This is also the Clan's slogan (sluagh-ghaim) or Ancient rallying call, “BRATACH BHAN MHIC AOIDIH” “MACKAY'S WHITE BANNER”.


Lord Reay's 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 heraldic banner.


Lord Reay’s full Heraldic Award of Coat of Arms includes the following items :

Shield :

A blue shield with a roebuck's head between two hands holding daggers palmwise on a white chevron, between three muzzled bear’s heads.

Supporters :

Dexter: a 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.

Crest :

A form of crest similar to the “Clan (Mackay )Crest”.

Monomarks :


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 surname!

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 Badge



Stylised Crest Badge




If 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 badge :


Plaid and Plant Badge

Tartans :

Mackay :

The proper Mackay tartan is a green, black and 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).

There is only one official Clan Mackay tartan and that is the Green, Black 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.

The Strathnaver 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.

Colour, Shade, Sett and Thread Count  :

Colours :

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.

Shades :

While “colours” 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.

The problems 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.

Among the 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 Green, Black and 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) :-

              Sett                           Reverse                     Repeat Sett                   Reverse

Pivot                           Pivot                         Pivot                         Pivot                                   Pivot

K6...G28   K28   G4   B28   G6   B28   G4   K28   G28   K6   G28   K28   G4   B28   G6   B28   G4   K28   G28   K6 etc

This pattern continues for the full width and length of the piece of tartan being woven.



"Modern" - Example 1

Official 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.

Official Clan Mackay “Green, Black, Blue Sett” Tartan [WR703] [‘antique’ shade]   [The shade preferred by the Clan Society]


For more information on tartans:

Septs :

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 blood!

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 tell".

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






















MacKIEWICZ (Polish)












MacKAAY (Dutch)


























































































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.

Pauls/Polsons/McPhails 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.

Some of the Septs of Clan Mackay :


Date from
 Aoidh    9th century
 Allen    14th century
 Bain/Bayne/McBain  Perth  14th century
 Kay  Aberdeen  14th century
 Kie  Kirkcudbright  16th century
 M’Akie    circa 1559
 M’Cay  Kintyre  circa 1662
 M’gy  King’s Jester   circa 1450
 M’Ky/McKie    circa 1663
 MacAi  Inverness  
 MacAllen  Kirkcudbright  14th century
 MacAoidh  Rinns  
 MacEth    10th century
 MacGaa  Galloway  
 MacGhee  Dumfries  13th century 
 MacIye    circa 1781
 MacQuey  Galloway  17th century
 MacVail from Paul, Poulson etc    14th century
 MacVanish from Bain    
 MaKe  Stirling  circa 1520
 MacCay  Lintyre  12th century
 McKee  Kirkcudbright  16th century
 Morgan  Aberdeen  
 Paul/Pole    12/14th century
 Scobbie  Perthshire  14th century
 Williamson  Fife  12th century

Gaelic :

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 :

Ceilidh: a social gathering
Haggis: a Highland delicacy in a sheep's stomach
Slainte Bha: Good Health
Mo chuid fhein: My own goods
Theid sinn dhachaidh: we will go home
Feasgar math: Good evening!
Ciamar a'h-ule guine: How are you today?
Ceud mile failte: One hundred thousand welcomes


Link to more detail on the Gaelic language : 

Song :

Now flock to the standard and join the roll call,
Once more the old banner’s unfurled,
The slogan’s been sounded and kinship been claimed,
By clansmen all over the world.

Abroad or at home love of country and clan,
Are feelings we’ll never let die,
Defy and defend, stand true to the end,
And honour the name of MACKAY !

Society Development :

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) was established.
1990 - the Clan Mackay Society (Australia) was incorporated.
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.
2012 -
the Clan Mackay Society (Australia) NSW Branch Inc was officially disbanded and responsibility for members space  property and Clan officially passed to the  Western Australian Branch.

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.

Clan Contact : Brian E McGee Davis Rank, 11/56 Sulman Road, Wembley Downs 6019, WA, Australia.
Telephone : +61 8 9341 3885 - or - Email :
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