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Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, by Alexander Mackenzie, , at sacred-texts.com
ENNETH foretold "that, however unlikely it may now appear, the Island of Lews will be laid waste by a destructive war, which will continue till the contending armies, slaughtering each other as they proceed, shall reach Tarbert in Harris. In the Caws of Tarbert, the retreating host will suddenly halt; an onslaught, led by a left-handed Macleod, called Donald, son of Donald, son of Donald, will then be made upon the pursuers. The only weapon in this champion's hands will be a black sooty cabar, taken off a neighbouring hut; but his intrepidity and courage will so inspirit the fugitives that they will fight like mighty men, and overpower their pursuers. The Lews will then enjoy a long period of repose." It has not hitherto been suggested that this prophecy has been fulfilled, and we here stake the reputation of our prophet upon its fulfilment, and that of the following predictions, which are still current throughout the Northern Counties of Scotland.
Another, by which the faith of future generations may be tested, is the one in which he predicted "that a Loch above Beauly will burst through its banks and destroy in its rush a village in its vicinity". We are not aware that such a
calamity as is here foretold has yet occurred, nor are we aware of the locality of the loch or the village.
We have received various versions of the, as yet, unfulfilled prediction regarding "Clach an t-Seasaidh," near the Muir of Ord. This is an angular stone, sharp at the top, which at one time stood upright, and was of considerable height. It is now partly broken and lying on the ground. "The day will come when the ravens will, from the top of it, drink their three fulls, for three successive days, of the blood of the Mackenzies."
Mr. Maclennan's version is:--"The day will come when the ravens will drink their full of the Mackenzies' blood three times off the top of the 'Clach Mhor,' and glad am I (continues the Seer) that I will not live to see that day, for a bloody and destructive battle will be fought on the Muir of Ord. A squint-eyed (cam), pox-pitted tailor will originate the battle; for men will become so scarce in those days that each of seven women will strive hard for the squint-eyed tailor's heart and hand, and out of this strife the conflict will originate."
Mr. Macintyre writes regarding these:--"The prophecies that the raven will drink from the top of Clach an t-Seasaidh,' its full of the blood of the Mackenzies for three successive days,' and 'that the Mackenzies would be so reduced in numbers, that they would be all taken in an open fishing-boat (scuta dubh) back to Ireland from whence they originally came,' remain still unfulfilled."
In the Kintail versions of these predictions they are made to apply to the Macraes, who are to get so scarce that a cripple tailor of the name is to be in such request among the ladies as to cause a desperate battle in the district between themselves and the Maclennans, the result of which will be that a black fishing wherry or "scuta dubh" will carry back
to Ireland all that remains of the clan Macrae, but no sooner do they arrive than they again return to Kintail. Before this was to take place, nine men of the name of Macmillan would arrive at manhood (assume their bonnets) in the district; assemble at a funeral at Cnoc-a-Chlachain in Kilduich, and originate a quarrel. At this exact period, the Macraes, would be at the height of their prosperity in Kintail, and henceforth begin to lose their hold in the country of their ancestors. The Macmillans have actually met in this spot and originated a quarrel as predicted, although nothing could have been more unlikely, for in the Seer's day there was not a single one of the name in Kintail, nor for several generations after. It is somewhat remarkable to find that the Maclennans are at this very time actually supplanting the Macraes as foretold, for the last two of the ancient stock--the late tenants of Fernaig and Leachachan--who left the district have been succeeded in their holdings by Maclennans; and other instances of the same kind, within recent years, are well known.
At present, we are happy to say, there does not appear much probability of the Clan Mackenzie being reduced to such small dimensions as would justify us in expecting the fulfilment of the "scuta dubh" part of the prophecy on a very early date. If the prediction, however, be confined in its application to the Mackenzies of Seaforth, it may be said to have been already almost fulfilled. We have, indeed, been told that this is a fragment of the unfulfilled prophecy uttered by Coinneach regarding the ultimate doom and total extinction of the Seaforths, and which we have been as yet unable to procure in detail. It was, however, known to Bernard Burke, who makes the following reference to it
"He (the Seer) uttered it in all its horrible length; but I at present suppress the last portion of it, which is as yet unfulfilled.
[paragraph continues] Every other part of the prediction has most literally and most accurately come to pass, but let us earnestly hope that the course of future events may at length give the lie to the avenging curse of the Seer. The last clause of the prophecy is well known to many of those versed in Highland family tradition, and I trust that it may remain unfulfilled."
One of our correspondents presumes that the mention of "Clach an t-Seasaidh" refers to the remains of a Druidical circle to be seen still on the right and left of the turnpike road at Windhill, near Beauly. As a sign whereby to know when the latter prophecy would be accomplished, Coinneach said "that a mountain-ash tree will grow out of the walls of Fairburn Tower, and when it becomes large enough to form a cart axle, these things will come to pass". Not long ago, a party informed us that a mountain-ash, or rowan-tree, was actually growing out of the tower walls, and was about the thickness of a man's thumb.
Various other unfulfilled predictions of the Seer remain to be noticed. One is regarding "Clach an Tiompain," a well-known stone in the immediate vicinity of the far-famed Strathpeffer Wells. It is, like "Clach-an-t-Seasaidh," an upright, pillar-looking stone, which, when struck, makes a great hollow sound or echo, and hence its designation, the literal meaning of which is the "stone of the hollow sound or echo". Coinneach said "that the day will come when ships will ride with their cables attached to 'Clach-an-Tiompain'". It is perhaps superfluous to point out that this has not yet come to pass; and we could only imagine two ways in which it was possible to happen, either by a canal being made through the valley of Strathpeffer, passing in the neighbourhood of the Clach, or by the removal of the stone some day by the authorities of "Baile Chail" to Dingwall
pier. They may feel disposed to thus aid the great prophet of their country to secure the position as a great man, which we now claim in his behalf.
While the first edition was going through the press we visited Knockfarrel, in the immediate vicinity of Loch Ussie, and we were told of another way in which this prediction might be fulfilled so peculiar that, although it is altogether improbable, nay impossible, that it can ever take place, we shall reproduce it. Having found our way to the top of this magnificent and perfect specimen of a vitrified fort, we were so struck with its great size, that we carefully paced it, and found it to be one hundred and fifty paces in length, with a uniform width of forty, both ends terminating in a semi-circle, from each of which projected for a distance of sixty paces, vitrified matter, as if it were originally a kind of promenade, thus making the whole length of the structure two hundred and seventy yards, or thereabout. On the summit of the hill we met two boys herding cows, and as our previous experience taught us that boys, as a rule--especially herd boys,--are acquainted with the traditions and places of interest in the localities they frequent, we were curious enough to ask them if they ever heard of Coinneach Odhar in the district, and if he ever said anything regarding the fort on Knockfarrel. They directed us to what they called "Fingal's Well," in the interior of the ruined fort, and informed us that this well was used by the inhabitants of the fortress "until Fingal, one day, drove them out, and placed a large stone over the well, which has ever since kept the water from oozing up, after which he jumped to the other side of the (Strathpeffer) valley". There being considerable rains for some days previous to our visit, water could be seen in the "well". One of the boys drove down a stick until it struck the stone, producing a hollow sound which unmistakably indicated the existence of a cavity
beneath. "Coinneach Odhar foretold," said the boy, "that if ever that stone was taken out of its place, Loch Ussie would ooze up through the well and flood the valley below to such an extent that ships could sail up to Strathpeffer and be fastened to 'Clach-an-Tiompain'; and this would happen after the stone had fallen three times. It has already fallen twice," continued our youthful informant, "and you can now see it newly raised, strongly and carefully propped up, near the end of the doctor's house." And so it is, and can still be seen, on the right, a few paces from the roadside, as you proceed up to the Strathpeffer Wells, We think it right to give this--a third--with the other versions, for probably the reader will admit that the one is just as likely to happen as the other. We can quite understand Kenneth prophecying that the sea would yet reach Strathpeffer; for to any one standing where we did, on the summit of Knockfarrel, the bottom of the valley appears much lower than the Cromarty Firth beyond Dingwall, and it looks as if it might, any day, break through the apparently slender natural embankment below Tulloch Castle, which seemed, from where we stood, to be the only obstruction in its path. We need, however, hardly inform the reader in the district that the bottom of the Strathpeffer valley is, in reality, several feet above the present sea level.
Another prediction is that concerning the Canonry of Ross, which is still standing--"The day will come when, full of the Mackenzies, it will fall with a fearful crash". This may come to pass in several ways. The Canonry is the principal burying-place of the Clan, and it may fall when full of dead Mackenzies, or when a large concourse of the Clan is present at the funeral of a great chief.
"When two false teachers shall come across the seas who will revolutionize the religion of the land, and nine bridges
shall span the river Ness, the Highlands will be overrun by ministers without grace and women without shame," is a prediction which some maintain has all the appearance of being rapidly fulfilled at this moment. It has been suggested that the two false teachers were no other than the great evangelists, Messrs. Moody and Sankey, who, no doubt, from Coinneach Odhar's standpoint of orthodoxy, who must have been a Roman Catholic or an Episcopalian, attempted to revolutionize the religion of the Highlands. If this be so, the other portions of the prophecy are looming not far off in the immediate future. We have already eight bridges on the Ness--the eighth has only been completed last year--and the ninth is almost finished. If we are to accept the opinions of certain of the clergy themselves, "ministers without grace" are becoming the rule, and as for a plenitude of "women without shame," ask any ancient matron, and she will at once tell you that Kenneth's prophecy may be held to have been fulfilled in that particular any time within the last half century. Gleidh sinne!!
It is possible the following may have something to do with the same calamity in the Highlands. Mr. Maclennan says:--With reference to some great revolution which shall take place in the country, Coinneach Odhar said that "before that event shall happen, the water of the river Beauly will thrice cease to run. On one of these occasions a salmon, having shells instead of scales, will be found in the bed of the river." This prophecy has been in part fulfilled, for the Beauly has on two occasions ceased to run, and a salmon of the kind mentioned has been found in the bed of the river.
Mr. Macintyre gives another version: "When the river Beauly is dried up three times, and a 'scaly salmon' or royal sturgeon, is caught in the river, that will be a time of great trial." (Nuair a thraoghas abhainn na Manachain tri
uairean, agus a ghlacair Bradan Sligeach air grunnd na h-aibhne, ’s ann an sin a bhitheas an deuchainn ghoirt.) The river has been already dried up twice, the last time in 1826, and a 'Bradan Sligeach,' or royal sturgeon, measuring nine feet in length, has been caught in the estuary of the Beauly about two years ago.
The following is one which we trust may never be realized in all its details, though some may be disposed to think that signs are not wanting of its ultimate fulfilment:--"The day will come when the jaw-bone of the big sheep, or 'caoirich mhora,' will put the plough on the rafters (air an aradh); when sheep shall become so numerous that the bleating of the one shall be heard by the other from Conchra in Lochalsh to Bun-da-Loch in Kintail they shall be at their height in price, and henceforth will go back and deteriorate, until they disappear altogether, and be so thoroughly forgotten that a man finding the jaw-bone of a sheep in a cairn, will not recognise it, or be able to tell what animal it belonged to. The ancient proprietors of the soil shall give place to strange merchant proprietors, and the whole Highlands will become one huge deer forest; the whole country will be so utterly desolated and depopulated that the crow of a cock shall not be heard north of Druim-Uachdair; the people will emigrate to Islands now unknown, but which shall yet be discovered in the boundless oceans, after which the deer and other wild animals in the huge wilderness shall be exterminated and drowned by horrid black rains (siantan dubha). The people will then return and take undisturbed possession of the lands of their ancestors."
We have yet to see the realization of the following:--"A dun, hornless, cow (supposed to mean a steamer) will appear in the Minch (off Carr Point, in Gairloch), and make a 'geum,' or bellow, which will knock the six chimneys off
[paragraph continues] Gairloch House." (Thig bo mhaol odhar a steach an t-Aitemor agus leigeas i geum aiste ’chuireas na se beannagan dheth an Tigh Dhige.) Gairloch House, or the Tigh Dige of Coinneach's day, was the old house which stood in the park on the right, as you proceed from the bridge in the direction of the present mansion. The walls were of wattled twigs, wicker work, or plaited twig hurdles, thatched with turf or divots, and surrounded with a deep ditch, which could, in time of approaching danger, be filled with water from the river, hence the name "Tigh Dige," House of the Ditch. It has been suggested that the Seer's prediction referred to this stronghold, but a strong objection to this view appears in the circumstance that the ancient citadel had no chimneys to fall off. The present mansion is, however, also called the "Tigh Dige," and it has the exact number of chimneys--six.
"The day will come when a river in Wester Ross shall be dried up." "The day will come when there shall be such dire persecution and bloodshed in the county of Sutherland, that people can ford the river Oykel dryshod, over dead men's bodies." "The day will come when a raven, attired in plaid and bonnet, will drink his full of human blood on 'Fionn-bheinn,' three times a day, for three successive days."
"A battle will be fought at Ault-nan-Torcan, in the Lewis, which will be a bloody one indeed. It will truly take place, though the time may be far hence, but woe to the mothers of sucklings that day. The defeated host will continue to be cut down till it reaches Ard-a-chaolais (a place nearly seven miles from Ault-nan-Torcan), and there the swords will make terrible havoc." This has not yet occurred.
Speaking of what should come to pass in the parish of
[paragraph continues] Lochs, he said--"At bleak Runish in Lochs, they will spoil and devour, at the foot of the crags, and will split heads by the score." He is also said to have predicted "that the day will come when the raven will drink its three fulls of the blood of the Clan Macdonald on the top of the Hills of Minaraidh in Parks, in the parish of Lochs". This looks as if the one above predicted about the Mackenzies had been misapplied to the Macdonalds. "The day will come when there shall be a laird of Tulloch who will kill four wives in succession, but the fifth shall kill him."
Regarding the battle of Ard-nan-Ceann, at Benbecula, North Uist, he said--"Oh, Ard-nan-Ceann, Ard-nan-Ceann, glad am I that I will not be at the end of the South Clachan that day, when the young men will be weary and faint; for Ard-nan-Ceann will be the scene of a terrible conflict".
"A severe battle will be fought at the (present) Ardelve market stance, in Lochalsh, when the slaughter will be so great that people can cross the ferry over dead men's bodies. The battle will be finally decided by a powerful man and his five sons, who will come across from the Strath (the Achamore district)."
Coinneach said--"When a holly bush (or tree) shall grow out of the face of the rock at Torr-a-Chuilinn (Kintail) to a size sufficiently large to make a shaft for a carn-slaoid' (sledge-cart), a battle will be fought in the locality."
"When Loch Shiel, in Kintail, shall become so narrow that a man can leap across it, the salmon shall desert the Loch and the River Shiel." We are told that the Loch is rapidly getting narrower at a particular point, by the action of the water on the banks and bottom, and that if it goes on as it has done in recent years it can easily be leaped at no distant date. Prudence would suggest a short lease of these Salmon Fishings.
He also predicted that a large stone, standing on the hill opposite Scallisaig farm-house, in Glenelg, "will fall and kill a man". This boulder is well known to people in the district, and the prophecy is of such a definite character, that there cannot possibly be any mistake about its meaning or its fulfilment should such a calamity ever unfortunately take place.