The legendary Brahan Seer and his prophecies
Coinneach Odhar is celebrated in Gaelic oral
traditions as a seventeenth century inhabitant of Lewis with the
gift of second sight. Many prophecies are attributed to him in various
parts of the Highland and Western Isles. Some are discussed even
today. An example of a casual reference to a Brahan Seer prophecy
occurs in a letter written to the factor of the Knoydart Estate
in June 1902 from an ironmonger in Beauly (Highland Council Archives,
reference D253). A prophecy, that a king would reign over Britain
but would not be crowned, had been ascribed to the Seer, and by
1902 the prophecy had not been realised. While the writer of the
letter believed that it might apply to King Edward VII, then undergoing
an operation for appendicitis, prior to his coronation, it can actually
be applied to Edward VIII, who thirty years later, did 'reign over
Britain, but would not be crowned'.
Alexander Mackenzie, in Prophecies of
the Brahan Seer (Stirling, 1877), translated many of the supposed
sayings of Coinneach Odhar into English and the seer’s fame spread
beyond the Gaidhealtachd (the Gaelic speaking community). The Seer
was reputedly executed for witchcraft and burnt in a barrel of tar
at Fortrose, following a disagreement with the Countess of Seaforth.
The Brahan Seer in official records
However, no contemporary records support
the description of him by Mackenzie. William Matheson in The
Historical Coinneach Odhar and some Prophecies Attributed to Him,
argues persuasively that the original Coinneach Odhar was a sixteenth
century inhabitant of Urray parish, in Ross, who was accused of
being the ringleader of a band of witches in 1577-78, and that several
prophecies attributed to him relate to sixteenth century events.
The fate of this sixteenth century Coinneach Odhar is unrecorded,
but others accused with him were certainly executed for witchcraft.
For further details see the Frequently Asked Question in the column
William Matheson 'The Historical Coinneach
Odhar and some Prophecies Attributed to Him' in Transactions
of the Gaelic Society of Inverness (1968); Norman Macrae (ed.)
Highland Second Sight with Prophecies of Coinneach Odhar and
the Seer of Perth (Dingwall, 1908), Domhnall Iain Maclomhair,
Coinneach Odhar (Glasgow, 1990).
Can the Brahan Seer be identified from documentary sources?
Royal commission ordering the apprehension
of Coinneach Odhar and others, entered in the Exchequer records
(National Archives of Scotland, reference E1/7, ff67-68).
here to see the whole document
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