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- History Of The Mackenzies - 4/115 -


in North Argyle, a district which comprehended Kintail and several other large parishes in Ross (Acts of Parliament of Scotland, Vol. 1. p. 917). Between 1306 and 1329 King Robert Bruce confirmed to the Earl of Ross all his lands including North Argyle (Robertson's Index, p. 16, No. 7; Register of Moray, p. 342). In 1342, William, Earl of Ross, the son and heir of the deceased Hugh, Earl of Ross, granted to Reginald, the son of Roderick (Ranald Rorissoune or MacRuaraidh) of the Isles, the ten davochs (or pennylands) of Kintail in North Argyle (Robertson's Index, p. 48, No. 1; p. 99; p. 100, No. 1). The grant was afterwards confirmed by King David II. (Robertson's Index). About the year 1346 Ranald was succeeded by his sister Amie, the wife of John of Isla (Gregory p. 27). Between the years 1362 and 1372, William, Earl of Ross, exchanged with his brother Hugh of Ross, Lord of Phylorth, and his heirs, his lands of all Argyle, with the Castle of Ellandonnan, for Hugh's lands in Buchan (Balnagown Charters). In 1463 the lands of Kintail were held by Alexander Mackenzie (Gregory, p, 83)," when the Mackenzies obtained the first authentic charter on record as direct vassals from the Crown.

During the whole of this period - for two hundred years - there is no trace of Colin Fitzgerald or any of his descendants as superiors of the lands of Kintail in terms of Alexander III.'s reputed charter of 1266, the Mackenzies holding all that time from and as direct vassals of their relatives, the Earls of Ross, who really held the position of Crown vassals which, according to the upholders of the Fitzgerald theory, had that theory been true, would have been held by Colin and his posterity. But neither he nor any of his reputed descendants appear once on record in that capacity during the whole of these two centuries. On the contrary, it has now been proved from unquestionable authentic sources that Kintail was in possession of the Earls of Ross in, and for at least two generations before, 1296; that King Robert the Bruce confirmed him in these lands in 1306, and again in 1329; that in 1342 Earl William granted the ten davochs or pennylands of Kintail - which is its whole extent - to Reginald of the Isles; that this grant was afterwards confirmed by David II.; and that between the years 1362 and 1372 the Earl of Ross exchanged the lands of Kintail, including the Castle of Ellandonnan, with his brother Hugh for lands in Buchan.

These historical events could never have occurred had the Mackenzies occupied the position as immediate vassals of the Crown contended for by the supporters of the Fitzgerald theory of the origin of the clan. It is admitted by those who uphold the claims of Colin Fitzgerald that the half of Kintail belonged to Farquhar O'Beolan, Earl of Ross, after what they describe as the other half had been granted by the King to Colin Fitzgerald. But as it is conclusively established that the ten pennylands, being the whole extent of Kintail were all the time, before and after, in possession of the Earls of Ross, this historical myth must follow the rest. Even the Laird of Applecross, in his MS. history of the clan, written in 1669, although he adopts the Fitzgerald theory from his friend and contemporary the Earl of Cromartie, has his doubts. After quoting the statement, that "the other half of Kintail at this time belonged to O'Beolan, whose chief, called Farquhar, was created Earl of Ross, and that his lands in Kintail were given by the King to Colin Fitzgerald," he says, "this tradition carries enough of probability to found historical credit, but I find no charter of these lands purporting any such grounds for that the first charter of Kintail is given by this King Alexander to this Colin, anno 1266." That is, Alexander III.

But enough has been said on this part of the subject. Let us, however, briefly quote two well-known modern writers. The late Robert Carruthers, LL.D., Inverness, had occasion several years ago to examine the Seaforth family papers for the purpose of reviewing them in the 'North British Quarterly Review.' He did not publish all that he had written on the subject, and he was good enough to present the writer, when preparing the first edition of this work, with some valuable MS. notes on the clan which had not before appeared in print. In one of these notes Dr Carruthers says -

"The chivalrous and romantic origin of the Clan Mackenzie, though vouched for by certain charters and local histories, is now believed to be fabulous. It seems to have been first advanced in the 17th century, when there was an absurd desire and ambition in Scotland to fabricate or magnify all ancient and lordly pedigrees. Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat, the Lord Advocate, and Sir George Mackenzie, the first Earl of Cromartie, were ready to swear to the descent of the Scots nation from Gathelus, son of Cecrops, King of Athens, and Scota his wife, daughter of Pharaoh, King of Egypt; and, of course, they were no less eager to claim a lofty and illustrious lineage for their own clan. But authentic history is silent as to the two wandering Irish Knights, and the reputed charter (the elder one being palpably erroneous) cannot now be found. For two centuries after the reigns of the Alexanders, the district of Kintail formed part of the lordship of the Isles, and was held by the Earls of Ross. The Mackenzies, however, can he easily traced to their wild mountainous and picturesque country - Ceann-da-Shail - the Head of the two Seas."

This is from an independent, impartial writer who had no interest whatever in supporting either the one theory or the other.

Sir William Fraser, the well-known author of so many valuable private family histories, incidentally refers to the forged charter in his 'Earls of Cromartie,' written specially for the late Duke of Sutherland. He was naturally unwilling to offend the susceptibilities of the Mackenzie chiefs, all of whom had hitherto claimed Colin Fitzgerald as their progenitor, but he was forced to admit the inconclusive character of the disputed charter, and that no such charter was granted to Colin Fitzgerald by Alexander III. Sir William says:- "In the middle of the seventeenth century, when Lord Cromartie wrote his history, the means of ascertaining, by the names of witnesses and other ways, the true granter of a charter and the date were not so accessible as at present. The mistake of attributing the Kintail charter to King Alexander the Third, instead of King Alexander the Second, cannot be regarded as a very serious error in the circumstances." Sir William, it will be observed, gives up the charter from Alexander III. The mere admission that it is not of Alexander III. is conclusive against its ever having been granted to Colin Fitzgerald at all, for, as already pointed out, that adventurer, if he ever existed, did not, even according to his stoutest supporters, cross the Irish Channel, nor was he ever heard of on this side of it, for more than thirty years after the date written on the face of the document itself could possibly have been genuine, the witnesses whose names appear as attesting it having been in there graves for more than a generation before the battle of Largs was fought.

When the ablest upholders of the Colin Fitzgerald theory are obliged to make such admissions and explanations as these, they explain away their whole case and they must be held to have practically given it up; for once admit, as Sir William Fraser does, that the charter is of the reign of Alexander II. (1230), it cannot possibly have any reference to Colin Fitzgerald, who, according to those who support the Irish origin of the clan, only arrived in Scotland from Ireland in 1262 and it is equally absurd and impossible to maintain that a charter granted in 1230 could have been a reward for services rendered or valour displayed at the battle of Largs, which was fought in 1263, to say nothing of the now admittedly impossible date and signatures written on the face of the document itself; and Sir William Fraser having, by the logic of facts, been forced to give up that crucial point, should in consistency have at the same time given up Colin Fitzgerald. And in reality he practically did so, for having stated that the later reputed charters of 1360 and 1380 are not now known to exist, he adds, "But the terms of them as quoted in the early histories of the family are consistent with either theory of the origin of the Mackenzies, whether descended from Colin Fitzgerald or Colin of the Aird." In this he is quite correct; but it is impossible to say the same thing of the earlier charter, which all the authorities worth listening to now admit to be a palpable forgery of the seventeenth century; and Sir William virtually admits as much.

There is one other fact which alone would be almost conclusive against the Fitzgerald theory. Not a single man of the name Colin is found, either among the chiefs or members of the clan from their first appearance in history until we come to Colin cam Mackenzie XI. of Kintail, who succeeded in June, 1568 - a period of three hundred years after the alleged date of the reputed charter to Colin Fitzgerald. Colin Cam was a second son, his eldest brother, Murdoch, having died during his father's life and before he attained majority, when Colin became heir to the estates. It was then, as now, a common custom to name the second son after some prominent member of his mother's family, and this was, no doubt, what was done in the case of Colin Cam, the first Colin who appears - as late as the middle of the sixteenth century - in the genealogy of the Mackenzies. His mother was Lady Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of John, Earl of Atholl, by Lady Mary Campbell, daughter of Archibald, second, and sister of Colin, third Earl of Argyll. Colin Cam Mackenzie, XI. of Kintail, and the first of the name in the family genealogy, was thus called Colin by his mother, Lady Elizabeth Stewart, after her uncle Colin, third Earl of Argyll.

It scarcely needs to be pointed out how very improbable it is that, had Colin Fitzgerald been really the progenitor of the Mackenzies, his name would have been so completely ignored as a family name for more than three hundred years in face of the invariable custom among all other notable Highland houses of honouring their direct ancestors by continuing their names as the leading names in the family genealogy.

It is believed that no one who brings an independent, unprejudiced. mind to bear upon the question discussed in the preceding pages can help coming to the conclusion that the Colin Fitzgerald theory is completely disposed of. It is indeed extremely doubtful whether such a person ever existed, but in any case it has been conclusively proved by the evidence of those who claim him as their ancestor that he never could have been what they allege - the progenitor of the Mackenzies, whom all the best authorities now maintain to be of purely native Celtic origin. And if this be so, is it not unpatriotic in the highest degree for the heads of our principal Mackenzie families to persist in supplying Burke, Foster, and other authors of Peerages, Baronet ages, and County Families, with the details of an alien Irish origin like the impossible Fitzgerald myth upon which they have, in entire error, been feeding their vanity since its invention by the first Earl of Cromartie little more than two hundred years ago. For be it remembered that all these Norman and Florentine pedigrees and descents are supplied to the compilers of such genealogical works as those by members of the respective families themselves, and that the editors are not personally responsible for nor do they in any way guarantee their accuracy. It is really difficult to understand the feeling that has so long prompted most of our leading Highlanders to show such an unnatural and unpatriotic preference for alien progenitors - claiming the Norman enemies and conquerers of their country, or mythical Irish adventurers, as ancestors to be proud of. Writing of the clans who claim this alien origin the late Dr W. F. Skene, Historiographer Royal for Scotland, says -


History Of The Mackenzies - 4/115

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