Living around the same time as the legendary Nostradamus was a farm labourer called Coinneach Odhar. His prophesies are maybe not as well known as his contemporary but the alarming accuracy of his predictions has added to the sense of mystery that still exists around the Black Isle. Indeed many of those local to this area of Scotland still hold his predictions in great reverence.
The ‘Brahan Seer was possibly born near Uig on the Isle of Lewis towards the end of the 17th Century. His gift of ‘Second Sight’ was reputed to come from a small blue and black stone with a hole in the centre. Popular legend has it that his mother had witnessed spirits wandering near a graveyard and had prevented one spirit from returning after her wanderings. She finally allowed the spirit to go back to rest and she had been given the stone as a gift in return.
Coinneach Odhar’s travels lead him to an area near Strathpeffer. He lived by Loch Ussie and worked on the Brahan estates; home to the powerful Seaforth MacKenzies. It was from here that many of his prophesies were made.
He predicted the Battle of Culloden and the demise of the Highland way of life; in one prediction he was walking on Drummossie moor when he said “Thy bleak wilderness will be stained by the best blood of the Highlands. Glad I am that I will not live to see that day where heads will be lopped off in the heather and no lives spared.” Half a century later the infamous battle was fought on this spot. furthermore in another prediction he said that “the clans will become so effeminate as to flee from their native country before an army of sheep.” A very direct reference to the Highland Clearances.
Some of his predictions saw a return of the fortunes of Scotland and other advancement such as his statement: “Strange as it may seem to you this day, time will come, and it is not far off, when full-rigged ships will be seen sailing eastward and westward by the back of Tomnahurich, near Inverness.” 150 years later the Caledonian Canal linked the Lochs along the Great Glen. He was also reported to have said that Scotland’s Parliament would return when a man could walk from England to France without getting their feet wet. With the building of the channel tunnel this was indeed possible and the parliament soon followed.
Other predictions sounded downright bizarre. In nearby Strathpeffer he predicted that when a fifth spire was built in the town a ship would snag its anchor on the newest one. The townsfolk were mindful of this years later when indeed a fifth spire was erected in the town. Thinking that the predicted a great flood they were relived in 1932 when an airship attending a nearby fair caught its moorings in the spire and fulfilled the prediction.
Unfortunately for the seer the accurate and precise nature of his predictions were to be his downfall:
His powers had come to the attention of his employers the Earl of Seaforth and his wife. While the Earl was away in Paris his wife Isabella called for Coinneach Odhar and asked him to tell her how her husband was. The seer seemed reluctant to give any information and simply said that he was in good health. This enraged Isabella who demanded more information, the seer then told her that her husband was on his knees in front of a French lady fairer than herself. This was too much for Lady Isabella and she flew into a rage and had the poor seer thrown into a barrel of tar.
As he was being dragged off to meet his fate he made his last and most chilling prediction as a curse on the family of MacKenzie; “The line of Seaforth will come to an end in sorrow. I see the last head of his house both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four fair sons, all of whom he will follow to the tomb. He will live careworn, and die mourning, knowing that the honours of his line are to be extinguished forever, that no future chief of the Mackenzies shall bear rule at Brahan or in Kintail.”
In 1783 Francis Humberston Mackenzie inherited the title. He was indeed deaf and mute due to a childhood attack of scarlet fever. He had 4 children all of whom died prematurely fulfilling the final prophesy.
To this day the Brahan Seers predictions are remembered in this part of the highlands. The fireside tales have been passed down through generations and some evidence exists on how serious the local people take his prophesies. In the small town of Strathpeffer stands the Eagle Stone; a small celtic standing stone. He predicted that if the stone fell three times the nearby loch would burst its banks and flood the village. It has fallen twice already and is now cemented into place!
Find out more about Clan MacKenzie
From the Gaelic “Maccoinneach” meaning “fair, bright one”, the MacKenzies are thought to descend from the ancient royal house of Lorn. The clan held lands in Ross-shire, stretching from the Outer Hebrides in the west, to the Black Isle in the east.
The western stronghold of the clan MacKenzie was at Eilean Donan Castle at the mouth of Loch Duich. During the seventeenth century, the MacKenzies installed the clan MacRae as hereditary constables of the castle, and the MacRaes were to remain fiercely loyal to the family for many centuries.
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