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Famous Highland Personalities

7. The Brahan Seer

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The famous Highland seer, Kenneth Mackenzie, known as 'The Brahan Seer' (Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche), prophesied about the Mackenzies of Fairburn and the tower ; "The day will come when the Mackenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions; their castle will become uninhabited and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of the tower." In 1851, the now ruined tower was being used by a farmer to store hay, and a cow gave birth in the garret. It is believed that the animal, following a trail of hay, entered the tower, climbed to the top, and got stuck. Both the cow and calf were taken down five days later, allowing enough time for people to come and see the prophecy fulfilled.

Tomnahurich, 'the hill of the yews', is on the outskirts of Inverness. The hill is said to be the home of fairies and there are several stories of fiddlers playing for the fairies inside the hill for an evening and emerging a hundred years later. The cemetery there was opened in the 1850s and graves cover the steep sides of the hill. The Brahan Seer had predicted the cemetery by saying that Tomnahurich Hill would be 'under lock and key, and the fairies secured within'.

The 16th or 17th century prophet, the Brahan Seer, also predicted the coming of the Caledonian Canal - "full-rigged ships will be seen sailing eastward and westward by the back of Tomnahurich".

Strathpeffer too has its own prophecy by the Brahan Seer. He said that if the Eagle Stone (a small Pictish stone in the village) were to fall over three times then the valley would be flooded. The stone is now firmly cemented down.

Legend has it that Loch Ussie, near Dingwall, was where Kenneth MacKenzie, the Brahan Seer lived. It is said that when arrested for witchcraft he threw his oracle stone into the loch where it will one day be found inside a fish.

The old Brahan Castle stood about four miles south-west of Dingwall. It was built in the 17th century as the stronghold of the Earls of Seaforth, the chiefs of the Clan MacKenzie. The Brahan Seer worked on the estate. After enraging the lady of the house by revealing that her husband was being unfaithful to her, Kenneth MacKenzie was accused of witchcraft and burned in a barrel of tar. Before his death he predicted the downfall of the MacKenzies. By the end of the 18th century his predictions had been fulfilled. Brahan Castle was destroyed in 1953 and some of the stone used to build the Conon Bridge.

Click to enlarge the image, read the text then answer the following questions.

Questions

  1. Who was Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche and when did he live?
  2. How much of his prophecy about the Fairburn Tower come to pass?
  3. What has happened to the 'fairies of Tomnahurich'?
  4. What else did the Brahan Seer prophesy that was linked to Tomnahurich and has it come to pass?
  5. Why have they cemented down the Eagle Stone at Strathpeffer?
  6. What might you catch if you were fishing Loch Ussie?
  7. Describe how the Brahan Seer met his death.
  8. Of the seven 'Famous Highland Personalities' mentioned in the sources, which one do you think should be the 'Personality of the Year' and why?