Tuesday 28 September 2010

The First Earl of Seaforth’s Funeral

An entry made by Alexander Carmichael concerns the funeral ‘celebration’ of Cailean Ruadh MacKenzie (1596/7–1633), the 1st Earl of Seaforth. He was the eldest son of Kenneth MacKenzie, 1st Lord MacKenzie of Kintail by his first wife, Ann, daughter of George Ross of Balnagown. The MacKenzies were a clan from Ross-shire that had risen to prominence in the fifteenth century after the collapse of the Lordship of the Isles.

When Cailein Ruadh Leoghais died
100 sheep 100 pigs 100 hens, 100
geese 100 ducks 100 fat heifers & 100 casks of whisk[y]
were consumed at the funeral which
last[ed] three days & three nights.

Cailean Ruadh throughout his life had been known for his profligacy and would think nothing of spending beyond his means. For instance, he commissioned the building of Brahan Castle in 1611. The Rev. John MacRae (d. 1704) states that he “lived most of his time at Chanonry in great state and very magnificently. He annually imported his wines from the Continent, and kept a store for his wines, beers, and other liquors, from which he replenished his fleet on his voyages round the West Coast and the Lewis, when he made a circular voyage every year or at least every two years round his own estates … It is scarcely credible what allowance was made for his table of Scotch and French wines during these trips amongst his people … I have heard my grandfather, Mr Farquhar MacRa (then Constable of the Castle) say that the Earl never came to his house with less than 300 and sometimes 500 men.” Thus showing in life his boundless extravagence which was later to be reflected in the consummate consumption which was so conspicuous at his funeral. Indeed, his death reflected his life in this very respect.

CW 108, fo. 19v
MacKenzie, Alexander, History of the MacKenzies (Inverness: A. & W. MacKenzie, 1894)
Image: Brahan Castle

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]