|A Brief History:|
In Gaelic, this name is rendered as 'Macaoidh', 'son of Hugh'. Exactly who Hugh was is uncertain. Sir Ian Moncrieff suggested that the name comes from a branch of the ancient Celtic royal house who disputed the throne in the 12th and 13th centuries. He asserted that the Mackays descend from Aedh, who was the last Abbot of Dunkeld, first Earl of Fife, and the elder brother of Alexander I. Aedh's wife was the granddaughter of Queen Gruoch, wife of Macbeth.
Iye was chamberlain to Walter, Bishop of Caithness, in 1263. Angus Dubh, 6th in Descent from the Chamberlain, married Elizabeth, sister of Donald Lord of the Isles and granddaughter of Robert II, around 1415. This indicates the importance the clan had achieved, as such a marriage would never have happened, except on political grounds. Angus is said to have been able to call out 4000 men from his lands at Strathnaver.
The clan spent the next 5 centuries fending off their predatory neighbours, the Earls of Sutherland. They were ultimately to lose the lands to the Sutherlands in 1829.
In 1556 Iye Mackay, then the chief, was captured by the Sutherlands and sent as a prisoner to Edinburgh Castle. His grandson, Sir Donald Mackay, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1627. A year later he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Reay. Lord Reay was a distinguished soldier who fought for Charles I in the civil war. The family settled in the Netherlands, where they prospered. Barthold Mackay was created Baron Ophemert in the Netherlands in 1822.
In Scotland the chiefly line passed to cousins from time to time, when the chief died without heirs. Eric the 9th Baron Reay, got heavily into debt, encouraged by the Earls of Sutherland, having first ensured the Mackay lands were pledged as security. The Sutherlands acquired the entire estates when Eric died unmarried in 1875.
In recent times... James Mackay prospered in business, becoming chairman of the P&O shipping line. He was created Earl of Inchcape in 1929. In 1987, Donald Mackay, now Lord Mackay of Clashfern, was appointed Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.