The Brahan Seer, known in his native Scottish Gaelic as Coinneach Odhar, and Kenneth Mackenzie, was, according to legend, a predictor of the future who lived in the 17th century.
The Brahan Seer is regarded by some to be the creation of the folklorist Alexander MacKenzie whose accounts occur well after some of the events the Seer is claimed to have predicted. Others have also questioned whether the Seer existed at all.
Nevertheless, Mackenzie is thought to have come from Uig (Lewis) on lands owned by the Seaforths, and to have been of the Clan Mackenzie, although both these details are in themselves questioned. He is better known, however, for his connections to Brahan Castle near Dingwall, and the Black Isle in Easter Ross.
As with Nostradamus, who wrote in Provençal, most of his prophecies are best known in translation, which can in itself be deceptive. However, there are no contemporary manuscripts or accounts of his predictions, so it is impossible to verify them.
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Having become famous as a diviner and wit, he was invited to Seaforth territory in the east, to work as a labourer at Brahan Castle near Dingwall, in what is now the county of Easter Ross, where he met his downfall.
This move led to an unfortunately unforeseen sequence of events on the Seer's part, leading to his barbaric murder at Chanonry Point, when he was allegedly burnt in a spiked tar barrel, on the command of the Earl's wife, Lady Seaforth. The simple prediction that led to his downfall – that the absent Earl of Seaforth was having sexual adventures with one or more women in Paris – seems likely, but of course was highly outrageous to Lady Seaforth, as it cast her husband in a scandalous light and heaped embarrassment on her.
The Caledonian Canal
"One day ships will sail round the back of Tomnahurich Hill"
This is a remarkable prediction - firstly, there was already a passage for shipping - the River Ness, on the opposite south side of Tomnahurich Hill from today's canal - and the only choice for boats in the Brahan Seer's day. To say that ships would sail round the opposite side of the hill from the river seemed highly illogical to those who first heard the prediction.
But the prediction came true. Today the 19th century Caledonian Canal forks off from the River Ness at the eastern head of Loch Ness - which continues its route through Inverness town centre - and heads north-east "round the back of Tomnahurich", exiting into the Moray Firth at Clachnaharry.
According to this prophecy, "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." This apparently heralded the demise of the MacKenzies of Kintail and Seaforth.
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 the calf were taken down five days later, allowing enough time for people to come and see the prophecy fulfilled.
This was one of four prophecies by the Seer regarding Fairburn, at least three of which are reputed to have been fulfilled.
The deaf Caberfeidh
He predicted that when there should be a deaf Caberfae the gift land of the estate would be sold and the male line become extinct and that this would occur while there were four great contemporary lords distinguished by physical defects which he described. The four were Sir Hector Mackenzie, Baronet of Gairloch (who was buck-toothed), Chisholm of Chisholm (squint-eyed/crooked eyed and hare-lipped), Grant of Grant (half-witted) and MacLeod of Raasay (a stammerer). Lord Seaforth's last surviving son died 1814 at about the time that he sold certain gift lands.
Bridges over the River Ness
He predicted that when there were five bridges over the River Ness in Inverness that there would be worldwide chaos. In August 1939 there were five bridges over the Ness and on September 1 the same year, Hitler invaded Poland.
He said that when there were nine bridges that there would be fire, flood and calamity. The ninth bridge was built in 1987 and in 1988 the Piper Alpha disaster happened.
Bonar Bridge swept away
According to Alasdair Alpin MacGregor's The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, the Brahan Seer predicted that the bridge over the Kyle of Sutherland at Bonar Bridge would be "swept away under a flock of sheep".
On January 29, 1892 the Bridge was swept away by a flood. Eyewitnesses "likened the foam-current to a densely packed flock of sheep".
- Alexander Mackenzie, The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer (1899).
- Sutherland, Alex, The Brahan Seer: The Making of a Legend (Oxford etc., Peter Lang, 2009) (International Studies in Folklore and Ethnology, 1).
- The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, by Alexander Mackenzie (1899)
- The Brahan Seer: The Gaelic Nostradamus - BBC