The Brahan Seer
The Brahan Seer was one born Kennoth Odhar (Keanoch Owir) in Uig on the Isle of Lewis about 1650. He lived at Loch Ussie near to Dingwall in Ross-shire and worked as a labourer on the Brahan Estate, seat of the Seaforth chieftains, from somewhere around 1675 .
The stories that follow, not having been written down, have been translated from the oral Gaelic. Told no doubt by the fireside, with the wind howling outside accompanied by the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep. Perhaps the rain was battering down as well
The story would begin with a tale about his mother who, on one particular night while she was tending the cattle, saw the a vast multitude of people of every age rising from their graves in the burial ground of Baile-na-Cille on Uig. Out of curiosity she put the end of her staff into one of the graves as a means of preventing re-entry. When a dead woman returned from her wanderings to her grave, she pleaded to be allowed back into her coffin. The seer's mother relented and because of her kindness, or was it fear, was told where to find a little black (or blue) stone that would give her infant son, Kenneth, the gift of prophecy
There are of course differing stories about this <grin> The fact? remains that he was during his life in possession of a round stone, with or without a hole in the centre, from which he gained a sight into the future. Where is the stone now, well the Seer reportedly threw it into Loch Ussie and said that one day it would be found in the belly of a fish and that must be the fisherman's tale of the one that got away because, as far as is known, it has not yet turned up
The lightning which destroyed Fearn Abbey in 1742 was predicted by him
He foretold the battle of Culloden Muir in 1746, the last battle fought on British soil, when the Hanoverian forces finally defeated the royalist army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart
"Oh! Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad I am that I will not see that day, for it will be a fearful period: heads will be lopped off by the score and no mercy will be shown or quarter given on either side."
The Duke of Cumberland (Butcher Cumberland) had been told to murder as many Scots as he might so that there could be peace in the land. Many of the dead Scots were hideously and obscenely mutilated. The clansmen were buried in communal graves with only one headstone depicting the name of the clan to remember them by.
The seer was wrong about one thing though. He predicted that Policemen will become so numerous in every town that they will be met at the corner of every street. So how come you can never find a policeman when you want one?
It is just typical that bearers of bad tidings were executed in olden days. The Seer met this fate when he was asked by Isabella, wife of the third Earl of Seaforth, for news of her husband who was away in Paris at that time. He assured her that he was well. The lady tried entreaties, bribes and threats to induce him to give a true account of her husband, as he had seen him, to tell who was with him, and all about him
The seer pulled himself together and proceeded to say
"As you know that which will make you unhappy, I must tell you the truth" and told her of her husband's philandering with a Frenchwoman, which was not what she wanted to hear.
Isabella was so outraged and hurt that she took her spite out on the seer and denounced him as a vile slanderer of her husband's character. She trusted that the signal vengeance she was about to inflict upon him as a liar and a defamer would impress those present including the family relations and members of the clergy, the inhabitants of Ross and Inverness, with a sense of her disbelief in the scandalous story. The fact that she fully believed the story had nothing to do with it .
She said to him:
" You have spoken evil of dignities, you have defamed the mighty chief, abused my hospitality and my feelings and sullied the good name of my lord in the halls of his ancestors. You shall suffer the most signal vengeance I can inflict - you shall suffer the death"
There was no appeal against the sentence, apparently no objections from the from the members of the clergy. No opportunity for intercession in his favour. He was taken out for immediate execution which was by being thrown alive into a barrel of boiling tar or tied to a stake and burned -depending in the mists of time at Chanonry Point, , Fortrose where there is now a memorial stone and plaque.
Prediction about Strathpeffer:
"Uninviting and disagreeable as it now is, with its thick crusted surface and unpleasant smell, the day will come when it shall be under lock and key, and crowds of pleasure and health seekers will throng its portals, in their eagerness to get a draught of its waters". This happened about 1818. Strathpeffer was a Victorian health resort with sulphur springs but it is now famous for the dolls museum housed in the remains of the baths complex
Also " when five spires should rise in Strathpeffer, ships will sail over the village and anchor to them. In the 1850's it was proposed that an Episcopal church be built. Because there were already four spires in Strathpeffer, a petition was presented to the rector asking that another should not be built. However St Anne's Church was erected with a spire bringing the total to five and shortly after the First World War, a small airship appeared at the Strathpeffer games. It dropped a grapnel which became entangled in one of the spires, thus and anchored to them
The Seer said more than a hundred years before the canal was built (commenced in 1803 and completed in 1822) that "the time will come when full-rigged ships will be seen sailing eastwards and westwards by the back of Tomnahurich near Inverness". The canal was to provide a safe water passage for ships of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic War. The designer was Thomas Telford who already had scores of roads and bridges to his credit
River Ness Bridges
There have been several prophecies relating to bridges built over the river Ness
The Seer predicted that the Ness Bridge would be swept away by a great flood while crowded with people. In 1655 the old wooden bridge collapsed with about 200 people on it.
"When the ninth bridge crosses the Ness, there will be fire, flood and calamity."
The ninth bridge was built in 1987 and in 1988, the Piper Alpha oil rig, in the North Sea, exploded killing 167 oil workers and an American passenger plane crashed in flames on Lockerbie killing a further 279 persons. On the 7th February, 1989 the rail bridge across the Ness, dating from 1862 was washed away when the Ness flooded
"When it is possible to cross the River Ness dryshod in five places, a frightful disaster would strike the whole world"
In August 1939, the river could be crossed at five bridges, one only being there to assist in the demolishing of the Bridge Street suspension bridge which had been condemned in 1937. Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939
My favourite story is about a stone, the Eagle Stone at Strathpeffer, allegedly put up by the Clan Munro following a battle with the Mackenzies and inscribed with the Munro crest, The Eagle.
The Seer said that if the stone fell down three times, Loch Ussie would flood the valley below so that ships could sail as far a Strathpeffer. The stone has already fallen twice, on the second occasion the waters of the Cromarty Firth flooded right up to the old County Buildings, in Dingwall, so it is now concreted in to ensure stability. Obviously someone takes him seriously .
Data freely copied from parts of the Ross-shire Journal Special Publications entitled The Brahan Seer Trail
Found the stories a little sketchy? Well after all these years things get to be like that. I hope that what you have read was of interest to you. Some facts have come true, of that there is no doubt.
Last Update: 23rd April, 2000