Murdoch must have felt secure in his stronghold of Ellandonnan, and been a man of great prudence, sagacity, and force of character, when, in spite of the commands of his nominal superior--the Lord of the Isles--to support him in these unlawful and rebellious proceedings against the King and threats of punishment in case of refusal, he resolutely declined to join him in his desperate and treasonable adventures. He went the length of saying that even if his lordship's claims were just in themselves, they would not justify a rebellion against the existing Government; and he further informed him that, altogether independently of that important consideration, he felt no great incentive to aid in the cause of the representative of his grandfather's murderer. Mackenzie was in fact one of those prudent and loyal chiefs who kept at home in the Highlands, looking
after his own affairs, the comfort of his followers, and laying a solid foundation for the future prosperity of his house, "which was so characteristic of them that they always esteemed the authority of the magistrate as an inviolable obligation."
Donald of the Isles never forgave Mackenzie for thus refusing to assist him in obtaining the Earldom of Ross, and he determined to ruin him if he could. On this subject the Earl of Cromartie says that at the battle of Harlaw Donald was assisted by almost "all the northern people, Mackenzie excepted, who because of the many injuries received by his predecessors from the Earls of Ross, and chiefly by the instigation and concurrence of Donald's predecessors, he withdrew and refused concurrence. Donald resolved to ruin him, but deferred it till his return, which falling out more unfortunately than he expected, did not allow him power nor opportunity to use the vengeance he intended, for on his return to Ross he sent Mackenzie a friend with fair speeches desiring his friendship, thinking no enemy despicable as he then stood." Murdoch, at Donald's request, proceeded to Dingwall, where the Island Lord urged him to join and promise him to support his interest. This Mackenzie firmly refused, "partly out of hatred to his family for old feuds, partly dissuaded by Donald's declining fortunes" at that particular period ; whereupon the Lord of the Isles made Murdoch prisoner in an underground chamber in the Castle of Dingwall. He was not long here, however, when he found an opportunity of making his plight known to some of his friends, and he was soon after released in exchange for some of Donald's immediate relatives who had been purposely captured by Mackenzie's devoted vassals.
Here it may be appropriate to give the traditionary account of the origin of the Macraes and how they first found their way to Kintail and other places in the West; for their relationship with the Mackenzies has from the earliest times been of the closest and most loyal character. Indeed, from the aid they invariably afforded them they have been aptly described as "Mackenzie's shirt of mail." According to the Rev. John Macrae, minister of Dingwall, who died in 1704, and wrote the only existing trustworthy history and genealogy of his own clan, the Macraes came originally from Clunes, in the Aird of Lovat, recently acquired from patriotic family reasons by Horatio Macrae, W.S., Edinburgh, the representative in this country of the Macraes of Inverinate, who were admittedly the chiefs of that brave and warlike race. The Rev. John Macrae, who was himself a member of the Inverinate family, says that the Macraes left the Aird under the following circumstances:--A dispute had arisen in the hunting field between Macrae of Clunes and a bastard son of Lovat, when a son of Macrae intervened to protect his father, and killed Fraser's son in the scuffle. The victor "immediately ran oft; and calling himself John Carrach, that he might be less known, settled on the West Coast, and of him are descended the branch of the Macraes called Clann Ian Charraich. It was some time after this that his brethren and other relatives began seriously to consider that Lovat's own kindred and friends became too numerous, and that the country could not accommodate them all, which was a motive for their removing to other places according as they had encouragement. One of the brothers went to Brae Ross and lived at Brahan, where there is a piece of land called Knock Vic Ra, and the spring well which affords water to the Castle is called Tober Vic Ra.
His succession spread westward to Strathgarve, Strathbraan, and Strathconan, where several of them live at this time. John Macrae, who was a merchant in Inverness, and some of his brethren, were of them, and some others in Ardmeanach. Other two of MacRa's sons, elder than the above, went off from Clunes several ways; one is said to have gone to Argyleshire and another to Kintail. In the meantime their father remained at Clunes all his days, and bad four Lords Fraser of Lovat fostered in his house. He that went to Argyle, according to our tradition, married the heiress of Craignish, and on that account took the surname of Campbell. The other brother who went to Kintail, earnestly invited and encouraged by Mackenzie, who then had no kindred of his own blood, the first six Barons, or Lords of Kintail, having but one lawful son to succeed the father, hoping that the MacRas, by reason of their relation, as being originally descended from the same race of people in Ireland would prove more faithful than others, wherein he was not disappointed, for the MacRas of Kintail served him and his successors very faithfully in every quarrel they had with neighbouring clans, and by their industry, blood, and courage, have been instrumental in raising that family." The writer adds that he does not know Macrae's christian name, but that he married "a daughter or grand-daughter of MacBeolan, who possessed a large part of Kintail before Mackenzie's predecessors got a right of it from Alexander III." This marriage, and their common ancestry from a native Celtic source, and not from "the same race of people in Ireland" seems a much more probable explanation of the early and continued friendship which existed between the two families than that suggested by the rev. author of "The Genealogy of the Macraes," above quoted.
But the curious circumstance to which he directs attention regarding the first five Mackenzie chiefs is quite true. It is borne out by every genealogy of the House of Kintail which we have ever seen. There is not a trace of any legitimate male descendant from the first of the name down to Alexander, the sixth baron, except the immediately succeeding chief, so that their vassals and followers in the field and elsewhere must, for nearly two hundred years, have been men of different septs and tribes and names, except the progeny of their own illegitimate sons, such as "Sliochd Mhurcbaidh Riabhaich" and others of similar base origin. Murdoch married Finguala or Florence, daughter of Malcolm Macleod, III. of Harris and Dunvegan, by his wife, Martha, daughter of Donald Stewart, Earl of Mar, nephew of King Robert the Bruce. By this marriage the Royal blood of the Bruce was introduced for the first time into the family of Kintail, as also that of the ancient Kings of Man.
Tormod Macleod, II. of Harris, who was grandson of Olave the Black, last Norwegian King of Man, and who, as we have seen, had married Christina, daughter of Ferquhard O'Beolan, Earl of Ross, married Finguala Mac Crotan, the daughter of an ancient and powerful Irish chief. By this lady Malcolm Macleod, III. of Harris and Dunvegan, had issue, among others, Finguala, who now became the wife of Murdoch Mackenzie and mother of Alexander Ionraic, who carried on the succession of the ancient line of Kintail.
Murdoch died in 1416 when he was succeeded by his only son,