In the year 1600, Coinneach (Kenneth in Gaelic) Odhar was born on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Odhar was a poor farm labourer until tales of his prophetic powers reached the ears of his feudal overlord, Lord Mackenzie of Kintail. Lord Mackenzie was intrigued by the stories of the Scot's mysterious talent, and so he summoned Kenneth to live on his land at Brahan Castle, near the Firth of Cromarty. Shortly after Kenneth's arrival on the Brahan lands, Lord Mackenzie died, and was succeeded by one of the Earls of Seaforth.
The 'Brahan Seer', as Kenneth was known, was taken on as a resident prophet of the Seaforth family, and he lodged in a sod-roofed cottage on the Brahan estate. Some doubted his purported powers of second sight, and one doubter, an elderly man named Duncan Macrae of Glenshiel, asked the Brahan Seer to tell him how he would end his days. Kenneth Odhar told Macrae that he would die by the sword. Many laughed at this prediction; after all, who would stoop to killing an old man with a sword?
But years later, in 1654, the English General George Monck was leading a troop of Parliamentary soldiers up towards Kintail, and a company of his men encountered old Duncan Macrae, who was walking across the hills to his home. The soldiers challenged Macrae - who was unfamiliar with the English tongue - and he panicked and reached for his broadsword. A nervous English soldier reacted to the old man's sudden movement by hacking him to death with a sword - as the Brahan Seer had predicted years previously.
In 1630, the Seer was crossing a vast expanse of moorland when he suddenly stopped and soliloquized, "Oh! Drummrossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad I am that I will not see the day! Heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy shall be shown."
The Brahan Seer was accurately describing the battle of Culloden that would be fought in the area one hundred and sixteen years into the future. The Duke of Cumberland's Royal troops completely routed the Highlanders of the Young Pretender on April 16th, 1746, and many heads were 'lopped off'. Cumberland's barbaric tactics at Culloden earned him the title of 'Butcher'.
Another prediction that the Seer made was regarded as nonsense in his day. He said that, one day, strings of black carriages, horseless and brideless, would pass through the Highlands, drawn by 'a fiery chariot.' That was the only way the 17th century oracle could describe the railways that were to come in the Victorian era.
The Brahan Seer also declared that ships would one day sail round the back of Tomnahurich Hill, and those who laughed at the nonsensical prophecy never lived to see the construction of Thomas Telford's Caledonian Canal, which linked the North Sea with the Irish Sea via the Great Glen. The great canal cut a path round the back of Tomnahurich Hill, so it came to pass that ships were able to sail behind the hill - 150 years after the Brahan Seer prophesised it would be so.
The Celtic soothsayer also foresaw three ecological disasters for Scotland. The first one has already happened, but the other two have yet to occur. The Seer said, "A Loch above Beauly will burst its banks and destroy in its rush a village in its vicinity."
In 1967, an unusually heavy rain was responsible for causing the hydroelectric dam at Torachilty to overflow, and this in turn caused the River Conlon to burst its banks. The ensuing flood destroyed buildings, cattle and crops, and created havoc for the village of Conlon Bridge, which is only five miles from Beauly.
The second, as yet unfulfilled prophecy of the Brahan Seer is: "When Loch Shiel in Kintail shall become so narrow that a man shall leap across it, the salmon shall desert the Loch and the River Shiel."
The third bleak prophecy concerned "Horrid black rains" that will fall on the land. Perhaps the Seer is describing a type of acid rain, or perhaps even fallout from an atomic war or a nuclear-power plant disaster like the one that occurred in the 1980s at Chernobyl.
In the end, the Brahan Seer sealed his own fate with one of his prophecies when he told the Countess of Seaforth that her husband had a mistress in Paris. The seer was correct about the adulterous affair, but the Countess was outraged at the prediction, and ordered that the psychic should be boiled in tar as a warlock. The Seer was taken to Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth to be executed. Shortly before he was cruelly boiled alive in a barrel of molten tar, the Seer made his last prediction, which concerned the future of the Seaforth family. He said that the last of the Seaforth line would be deaf and dumb, and added that the inheritor would be a "white-hooded lassie who would kill her sister."
One hundred and fifty years later, in January 1815, Francis Mackenzie, the last of the line, died of a sinister illness that made him deaf and dumb, and two years afterwards, his eldest surviving daughter Mary, who inherited his estate, was wearing the traditional white hood - mourning the recent death of her husband - as she drove a carriage through woods. Her passenger was Caroline, her sister, and during the journey, the ponies bolted and the carriage overturned, injuring Mary and killing Caroline.
The Eagle Stone Many of the Brahan Seer's predictions have still to come about. The overturning of a great stone, the Eagle Stone at Strathpeffer, is said to presage the end of the world. "When the stone is turned for the third time, the end of all will follow in a week." The stone was turned over by a blacksmith, as a demonstration of his strength, in 1789. It was turned again by another strongman in 1932. The stone is now set in concrete.