Am Bratach Sith: The Fairy Flag

There are many stories regarding the origins of this most treasured relic of the clan MacLeod, which can still be seen today in Dun Bheagan (Dunvegan) castle. Legend has it that the flag can only be unfurled 3 times in dire consequences and the clan shall be triumphant. It is widely believed to have been unfurled only twice but has been carried (furled and cased) on may occasions. Certainly the flag is still regarded by many as a powerful relic, in fact it is said that MacLeod pilots during the second world war carried pictures of the flag as a talisman. Also a fire at Dun Bheagan in 1939 is said to have abated when the flag was removed to safety.The Fairy Versions: Continue reading “Am Bratach Sith: The Fairy Flag”

Clan MacLeod

Dunvegan castleThe MacLeod (in Gaelic MacLeoid) clan can be traced back to Leod Olafson who was born around 1200, the youngest son of Olaf the Black one of the last Norse Kings of Mann and the Isles. Leod inherited the regions of Lewis and Harris along with parts of Skye on his father’s death in 1237. Through marriage to the Norse seneschal of Skye, the family acquired Dunvegan Castle, which remains the ancestral family home. The Clan consists of two main branches: the MacLeods of LewisMacLeod of Lewis tartan descend from Leod’s son Torquil while the MacLeods of Harris and Skye descend from another son, Tormod. I have also included a detailed lineage of the clan chiefs. There are quite a few tartans now associated with the clan MacLeod, but by far the most common are those of Lewis and Harris.

MacLeod of Harris tartanThe most treasured relic of the Clan MacLeod is the “am Bratach Sith” or the Fairy Flag, which is kept at Dunvegan castle. It is said to have been woven by fairies to be used by the chief of the MacLeods in dire times. Its magic has been called upon to turn defeat in victory on at least two occasions. Tradition holds that MacLeod pilots in the Battle of Britain carried pictures of the Flag. We see here an image of the Fairy Flag as it is today. Fairy flag of the MacLeodsIt was on public display for many years in Dunvegan Castle but the last time I was there I couldn’t find it. Perhaps it has been put in storage as you can see it is in a pretty sorry state.

Clan Bruce: a short history of the house of Bruce

King Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) was descended from Robert de Bruis from Normandy, who came to England with William The Conqueror in 1066 and died around 1094. The name Bruce comes from the French ‘de Brus’ or ‘de Bruis’, now Brix between Cherbourg and Valognes in Normandy. Although his paternal ancestors were on Anglo-Norman descent his maternal ancestors were Scots Gaels.

ADAM de Brus, built Chateau d’Adam at Brix situated between Cherbourg and Valognes named after him in the 11th century

ROBERT de Bruis (1066-1094)came to England with the Conqueror in 1066 and received Skelton and Yorkshire, he died circa 1094

ROBERT le Meschin (1094-1138) “the Cadet” came as companion-in-arms of King David I. (youngest son of Queen Margaret) to Scotland in 1124 when David became King. David I. created him Lord of Annandale, but in 1138 he renounced his title to his second son and in the Battle of the Standard in 1139 he fought on the English side and took his son prisoner.

ROBERT second son of Robert the Cadet (1138-) fought the Battle of the Standard in 1139 under David I. and was taken prisoner by his own father, he became 2nd Lord of Annandale when his father renounced his rights to take the English side in the Battle

ROBERT 3rd Lord of Annandale, son of Robert 2nd Lord of Annandale (-1191)

WILLIAM 2nd son of Robert 2nd Lord of Annandale (1191-1215)

ROBERT 4th Lord of Annandale (1215-1245) son of William, married to Isabella of Huntingdon great-granddaughter of King David I. and niece of William the Lion thus giving the later family a claim to the throne of Scotland.

ROBERT 5th Lord of Annandale (1215-1295) son of Robert, in 1255 Alexander II had nominated him as heir in case of his failure before the birth of Alexander III. Later he was one of the Regents of Scotland and guardian of Alexander III, in 1290 he claimed the Crown of Scotland, as the nearest heir of Alexander III. and also alleged a verbal nomination. King Edward I of England, having been asked to preside in a centumviral court trial, the court adjudged the Crown to John Balliol as heir, according to the Scots law of succession, of Margaret, Lady of Scotland (the maid of Norway). A few days before this Robert had resigned his claims and bestowed them on his son and heirs.

ROBERT 6th Lord of Annandale (1243-1304) eldest son of Robert, married to Margaret, Countess of of Carrick, they had 5 sons and 5 daughters, Robert, Edward, Neil, Thomas, Alexander, Isabel, Christina, Maud, Mary and Margaret.

ROBERT 7th Lord of Annandale (1304-1329) 2nd Earl of Carrick, King ROBERT I. of Scotland,  secured Scottish independence by victory over King Edward II of England, John Balliol having disgraced himself and abdicated in 1306. The Bruce asserted his grandfather’s claim to the Scottish Crown and was crowned at Scone, Perthshire on 27th May 1306, having killed John, the Red Comyn (a nephew of John Balliol by his sister) on 10 February 1306. The Red Comyn had defeated the English at Roslin 1302 but submitted to Edward I After many vicissitudes the power of King Robert I was finally cemented by his decisive victory at Bannockburn in 1314 and the Treaty of Northampton in 1328. He died on 7th June 1329 at Cardross, Dumbartonshire and was interred in the Abbey Church of Dunfermline 25 years later. His heart was first carried on a crusade to Spain by Sir James Douglas and now lies in Melrose Abbey.

King David II of Scotland (1324-1371) son of Robert I. In 1346 David II of Scotland became king on his father’s death in 1329. In 1346 David marched south into England in the interests of France, but was defeated and imprisoned Battle of Neville’s Cross  in Yorkshire on October 17 of that year. His nephew, Robert Stewart reigned for him and negotiated until King David was released in October 1357 after the contract of Berwick, promising the payment of 100,000 marks of silver to England (which was never paid). David built David’s Tower in Edinburgh Castle. He died childless in Edinburgh Castle in 1370 and the Royal Line was taken up by the Stewart descendants of his aunt, Lady Marjory Bruce namely by Robert Stewart as Robert II.

In 1334, Thomas Bruce, whose relationship to David II is uncertain, organised a rising against the English supporters of Balliol who had plagued the reign of David II For this service he was awarded the crown lands in Clackmannan. The Earls of Elgin, descended from these Bruces of Clackmannan and are now acknowledged chiefs of the family.

Sir Edward Bruce was made commendator of Kinloss Abbey and appointed a judge in 1597. He was appointed a Lord of Parliament with the title of Lord Kinloss in 1602. He accompanied James VI to claim his English throne in 1603 and was subsequently appointed to English judicial office as Master of the Rolls. In 1608 he was granted a barony as Lord Bruce of Kinloss. His younger son, Thomas, 3rd Lord Kinloss, was created first Earl of Elgin in 1633. When the fourth Earl died without issue, the title passed to the descendants of Sir George Bruce of Carnock, who already held the title Earl of Kincardine and in 1747 the Earldoms were united.

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin was a diplomat and ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1799 and 1803. He is famous, or infamous, for the removing marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, now commonly referred to as the Elgin Marbles. His son, James, was Governor General of the Province of Canada and Viceroy of India.

The current chief, Andrew Bruce, 11th Earl of Elgin, is prominent in Scottish affairs and is convener of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.