Manu Forti - With a Strong Hand

MacKay Tartan
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

MacKay Tartan

A name associated with the north of Scotland. In Gaelic, Mac Aoidh meaning 'son of Hugh', the name seems originally to have been MacHeth, MacEth or MacIye. The clan may descend from Aedh, brother of King Alexander I and the last Abbot of Dunkeld. Malcolm MacAedh, Earl of Ross, may have been his son. By the late 12th century, the clan was established in Strath Naver - 'MacKay Country', where the chief became Baron Reay in 1629. The Mackays had to work hard to keep their land from their more powerful neighbours the Sutherland. However mired in debt they lost this battle in 1875, when Duke of Sutherland acquired the property. A branch of the family settled in the Netherlands in the late 17th century, becoming the Barons Ophmert in 1822. It was this branch which inherited the Reay title, if not the land, in 1875. There were also branches of the family on Islay and in Kintyre.

Members of this family include Lieutenant-General Hugh Mackay of Scourie (c.1640-92) who commanded William of Orange's army at Killiecrankie; missionary and explorer Alexander Murdoch Mackay (1849-90); another Alexander Mackay (1856 - 1936), who invested in the US cattle trade; the actor Fulton Mackay (1922-87); jurist Lord Mackay of Clashfern (b.1927) and politician Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish (1938 - 2001).

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