The name may be derived from the Gaelic "mac rath" meaning "son of Grace" and is found initially around Beauly, north of Inverness, in the 12/13th centuries before moving to Wester Ross in the 14th century. Staunch allies of the MacKenzies>, they looked after the MacKenzie castle of Eilean Donan>. At one time they were called "MacKenzie's shirt of mail" and they were well known for their fighting qualities. When the MacDonald Lord of the Isles attempted to regain his title in 1539, he besieged Eilean Donan Castle> and a MacRae is reputed to have killed him with an arrow.
The MacRaes benefitted from the good fortune of the MacKenzies and became hereditary constables of Eilean Donan. The castle was restored by a MacRae descendant in the 1930s and may now be the most photographed castle in Scotland.
In the 17th century Duncan MacRae became known as a writer of Gaelic poetry and compiled an anthology of Gaelic verse known as the Fernaig Manuscript. Duncan also became known as "Duncan of the Silver Cups" because of his magnificent tableware.
The MacRaes were well to the fore supporting the Jacobites> at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. In 1719, the chief of the Clan MacKenzie, the Earl of Seaforth, landed at Eilean Donan with a small force of Spaniards in support of the Jacobite "Old Pretender">. But a government naval force arrived and bombarded and destroyed the castle. Perhaps as result of these earlier experiences, only individual clansmen rose in support of Charles Edward Stewart> in 1745.
When the Earl of Seaforth raised the 78th Seaforth Highlanders> in 1778, so many of the regiment were MacRaes that it became known as "the MacRaes."
In the Lowlands, the name was sometimes contracted to Reith - Lord Reith was the famous general manager of the BBC in its early days. He established the standards and ethos of that corporation.
The MacRae clan motto is "Fortitudine" which means "With fortitude".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the MacRae clan include Macara, MacCraw, MacCreath, MacGrath, Macra, Macrach, MacRaith, MacRath, Raith.
There is a MacRae clan Web sites at www.clanmacrae.org>.
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