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MacKay Tartan

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Motto: Manu forti (With a strong hand)

The name MacKay is a corruption of the Gaelic ‘MacAoidh’, ‘son of Aodh’.  Formerly this name was spelt ‘Aed’, a name borrowed into Gaelic from the Old German word meaning fire.  The common pronunciation, together with the other variations such a MacKee and MacGee are a result of the ‘c’ at the end of the ‘Mac’ being pronounced hard.  In Scotland not all MacKays can originally have been part of the Sutherland based Clan MacKay.  Clan Kay are known in Gaelic as ‘Clann mhic Morgainn’, after the name of the founder, Morgund of Pluscarden.  Their later title of MacKay comes from a Chief so named, living at the time of David II.  

In Inverness-shire, the MacKays are thought to have been MacDhai or Davidson and were a branch of the Clan Chatton; the ‘Dh’ being frequently silent.  First record of the name was in 1326 when Gilchrist M’ay, progenitor of the MacKays of Ugandale, made a payment to the constable of Tarbert, and in 1329 as Gilchrist Macyman McAy had confirmation of certain lands in Kintyre from Robert I.  There has been considerable amount of argument as to whether these MacKays of Kintyre, Islay and Galloway are connected to the Sutherland MacKays.  The lack of firm evidence suggests they probably evolved separately, as in the case of the Inverness-shire MacKays.  

Morgund, progenitor of Clan Kay, was of the Royal House of Moray.  His descendants were apparently among the Moraymen removed to Ross in 1160 by Malcolm IV, from where they migrated to Sutherland.  The Clan rose to a powerful position.  They supported Bruce and fought on his side at Bannockburn, but in the troubles of the 17th and 18th century they did not support the Jacobites.  

The MacKays of Strathnaver are remembered for the famous ‘MacKay’ Regiment’ raised in service of the Dutch and Swedish Crown; many latterly settled there and continue to this day.  In 1628, Sir Donald MacKay was raised to the peerage by Charles I.

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