Early History

The history of the village of Strathy and the surrounding area is a story of landscape, clans, and rich landowners but mostly of the struggle of ordinary people to survive.

Early Settlers

The Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments in Scotland records a number of different antiquities that point to some human occupation in the area early on. In neighbouring Strath Halladale there are a number of ruins of rectangular and circular buildings. Similar evidence exists in Strathy today, such as above Daila'Bhaite. About 1/2 mile south of the Strathy Point road end (NC 8310493) in the hill can be found the Priests Stone. It would have marked the grave of a person who had high standing in the community. Local legend says it is the grave of a priest and if disturbed will cause a great storm. After the foundation of the abbey of lona by St. Columba and his Irish priests, they then travelled the Highlands. The stone is either of the early Christian period (7th Century) or dates from the much later period of the 13th Century when a chapel existed in Strathy at the time of Bishop Gilbert. Though the stone once stood it has long since fallen. On the hillside to the east of the Priest's Stone there are numerous hut circles and enclosures dating form the Bronze or the Iron Age.

Clan Mackay

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The area around Strathy is rightly known as Mackay country - this clan has predominated for asignificant period of time. While the origins of the clan are hidden in the depths of time the first recorded chief is Dubh Angus or Black Angus from the 15th century. It was in 1415 that Donald, Lord of the Isles, transferred Strathnaver and Strath Halladale to Black Angus and his son Neil. The name Mackay takes it name from the Gaelic word Aoidh, there is no direct English translation. The early clan chiefs were descended from the ancient Pictish rulers of Moray, Morair Maghrath. Six hundred years of Far North history were dominated by the chiefs of Clan Mackay. Much of this history involves the territorial warfare between the Earl of Sutherland and the Mackays. For 150 years after about 1400 there were ten major battles. At its height in the 15th century the chief could raise four thousand men and they saw battle at Bannockburn, Flodden and Solway Moss. However it was not just the Mackays that were keen on fighting. The Gunns beat the Siol Iver in a clan skirmish in 1589 at Acha-main-merkel in the heights of Reay, at Strathy. During the religious tension in Scotland at the end of the 16th century the Mackays found a further outlet for their battling. Donald Mackay, the first Lord of Reay, was born in 1590 and became clan chief in 1614 and was probably the first chief to turn Protestant. The first Lord of Reay, a title created in the early 17th century, owned land from Assynt and Cape Wrath to West Caithness. Post-Reformation the clan fully supported the Protestant cause and Donald Mackay took a contingent to the continent to do battle in the Thirty Years War, and gained a Peerage and became Lord Reay. Lord Reay's dedication to the Protestant cause was not without penalty. The costs he acquired during the Reformation resulted in him selling parts of his land to the old clan enemy the Earl of Sutherland. Sale of land continued until the Seventh Lord Reay sold the remaining clan lands to Sutherland in 1829. In 1875 the ninth Lord Reay dies without issue and the succession passed to a Dutch branch of the family. Mackay of Strathy was a younger brother of the first Lord, and was granted the lands around Strathy for himself and heirs. The laird's house was located on the east bank of the river near to its estuary. No evidence of this landmark exists today. The fighting men of the clan of Mackay earned a reputation on the battlefield, for example in the defence of the Pass of Oldenburg (Thirty Years War). They were the first regiment to adopt Highland dress as its official uniform. Mackays fought on the government side during the Jacobean uprisings of 1715 and 1745. Early origins of the Sutherland Highlanders comprised mostly of Mackays They formed the "Thin Red Line" during the Battle of Balaclava and provided the lone piper at Waterloo.