The Brahan Seer

Submitted by - Ian C Fyvie


For generations mankind has been fascinated by predictions of the future. Perhaps the best known is the predictions of the Frenchman "Nostradamus".

While the predictions of Notradamus are famous worldwide, few people know of the Scottish born "Brahan Seer". Perhaps this is not surprising as the seer spent all of his life in the highlands of Scotland and most of his predictions were for the Inverness and Ross-shire areas.

The Brahan Seer, whose real name is Coinneach Odhar  (Or in todays English Kenneth Mackenzie).  Was reportedly born at Baile-na-Cille, in the Parish of Uig and Island of Lews (Lewis), about the 1650's. Little is known of his early years, until approximately 1675 when he worked as a farm labourer on the Brahan Estate  (Hence the name Brahan Seer),  seat of the Seaforth chieftains.


Baile-na-cille - today

It was at this stage of his life the his predictions for the future became ever more famous in the North of Scotland.

It is recorded that he saw into the future by peering through a hole in a curious small bluish-black stone.

There are various accounts of how Coinneach aquired this stone,  Most concerning Fairies or Ghosts,  Hardly surprising at this stage of Scottish history, where people invented stories to explain the unexplainable, mostly using Ghosts, Witches or Fairies.

Almost all books and stories on the Brahan Seer mention this wonderous stone, that he looked through to view the Future.  However it is quite likely that the stone was a "Prop" used in the same way as a Gipsy uses a Chrystal ball.  Certainly holding up an unusal pebble and looking through a hole in it, would be visually more believable to people, than just a Man standing speaking his mind.

As his fame spread, Coinneach Odhar's predictions became more and more bizarre(to the people of his day). Indeed it is reported that an educated gentleman who decided to record the predictions of the Brahan Seer, ended up throwing the manuscript in the fire because they were too far fetched to be believable.

Let us now take a look at some of the predictions of the Brahan Seer:

"the time will come when full-rigged ships will be seen sailing eastwards and westwards by the back of Tomnahurich near Inverness"

The Seer said this more than a hundred years before the Caledonian canal was built  (commenced in 1803 and completed in 1822)  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.

Of course it would be easy to rubbish this as a prediction.  After all, anyone looking at a map of Scotland would, with a little foresight, see that the joining of the four Lochs running = through the "Great Glen" would provide a cheap and easy Canal route.


However books and maps were not that plentiful in the 1600's.  Also the Brahan Seer was a simple farm worker born and brought up on the Isle of Lewis, Would he have had the opportunity to study books or maps, indeed would he have even understood them?  Several people in the 1600's recorded the seers predictions, but nothing was written by the man himself.  Therefore we must conclude that he could neither read nor write.  Thus his prediction of the Caledonian Canal was either a lucky guess or amazing foresight into the future.

"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's armies invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939.  Disaster struck the World, just as predicted.

"When the ninth bridge crosses the Ness, there will be fire, flood and calamity,"

Bear in mind, that in and around 1675, Inverness was a small village of little importance nestled on the banks of the river Ness.  People in that age would not comprehend WHY the river would require 9 bridges.

This prediction by the Brahan Seer was made over 300 years ago.  A ninth bridge was built in 1987.  Only two years later: the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea exploded, killing 167 oil workers  (fire);  the 127-year-old rail bridge across the Ness was washed away (flood);  and the aircraft crashed in flames on Lockerbie, with a loss of 279 lives  (calamity).

Coincidence, perhaps?

"When five spires should rise in Strathpeffer,  ships will sail over the village and anchor to them."

1850s it was proposed that a new 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.

Needless to say the prediction was rubbished and St. Anne's Church was erected with a spire, taking the total to five.

Just 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 anchoring to them.

A prediction come true,  or a lucky guess?


Strathpeffer - today

"He talked of great black, bridleless horses, belching fire and steam, drawing lines of carriages through the glens,"

More than two hundred years later, railways were built through the Highlands and the name of the Brahan Seer was spoken in awe.

An insight into the future, or an assumption?

Streams of fire and water, will run side by side through the streets of Inverness and into every house.

This may have seemed impossible in 1675, after all fire and water cannot run side by side.  However in the 19th century gas, electric and water pipes run side by side under our city streets.

Perhaps the purist may point out that these pipe run UNDER the streets, not THROUGH the streets.  However we live on a growing planet, in 1675 the streets of Inverness would have been around 4 feet lower than they are today, the same depth of the mains pipes!

Fire and water do indeed run side by side through the streets.

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."

In 1746, almost a hundred years later, there was battle of Culloden Moor (Drumossie),  the last battle fought on British soil, when the Hanoverian forces finally defeated the royalist army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart:

After the battle the Hanoverian troops walked the battle field slaughtering the dying and wounded.  Indeed, mutilation of the bodies was recorded on this day, almost exactly as predicted by the Brahan Seer.

Surely no one could have guessed that a battle would be fought at Drumossie; perhaps the Brahan Seer DID have a window to the future.


Culloden-Muir and the clan graves

He predicted that Tomnahurich, the fairy hill of Inverness, would be barred and locked:  "One day the Fairy Hill will be under lock and key and the fairies will be secured within."

In 1860 Tomnahurich hill was turned into a cemetery and, in Victorian fashion, it was surrounded by iron railings and a gate which was locked at night. (Thus the prediction of the fairies being secured within came true).

How could anyone know that this spot would become a locked Cemetary in two hundred years time?

"A black rain will bring riches to Aberdeen."

Aberdeen of course became the oil Capital of Britian, bringing great wealth and prosperity to the city.

In the Brahan Seers life time Aberdeen was a simple fishing village, Natural gas and oil was unheard of, so how could someone know of "Black Rain"?

Then there is the story 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 as 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.


Taking no chances the locals concreted in the stone to ensure stability.  Obviously someone took the Brahan Seer seriously!

Tragically, one of the Seer's most incredible predictions led to his death.

Isabella, wife of the Earl of Seaforth and said to be one of the ugliest women in Scotland, asked for his advice.  The lady was justifiably suspicious of her husband's late return from a visit to Paris.

The Seer re-assured her that the Earl was in good health but he was unusually reluctant to go into further detail.  Fearing the worst but determined to hear it from another, Isabella threatened to have him killed unless he revealed all he knew.

"Your husband is this moment with another who is fairer than yourself... 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.

"His inheritor will be a white-coifed lass who will kill her sister.  As a sign that these things are coming to pass, there shall be four great lairds in the days of the last Seaforth, the deaf and dumb chief.  One shall be buck-toothed, another hare-lipped, another half-witted, and the fourth a stammerer.  Chiefs like these shall be the neighbours of the last of the Seaforths;  and when he sees them, he may know that his sons are doomed to death, that his lands shall pass away to the stranger, and that his race shall come to an end."

The Seer's prediction was fulfilled when Francis Humberston Mackenzie, deaf and dumb from scarlet fever as a child, inherited the title in 1783.  The white-coifed lass was his eldest daughter, widow of Admiral Sir Samuel Hood whose arms bore a white hood or coif.  She later lost control of a pony and trap which killed her sister.

The Seer's last prediction. It so enraged Isabella that she ordered her guards to seize him.  Screaming that he had insulted both her husband and herself by his lies, she had the guards drag him to the courtyard and throw him head-first into a barrel of boiling tar.

A stone Plaque is still in place at Channory Point, Rosemarkie, showing the place that the Brahan Seer Perished.


RIYAN Productions