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Myths and Legends
The Brahan Seer: The Gaelic Nostradamus

Fortrose Harbour
© SCRAN
If Coinneach Odhar was caught, it is likely he would have been burnt at Fortrose since Foulis was within the jurisdiction of Fortrose cathedral. This would agree with the myth which recounts that he was burnt in a spiked tar barrel at Chanonry point not far from Fortrose. There is still a stone slab by the light house that is said to mark the spot where he died.

But, how did the turbulent life of a gypsy become twisted into the heroic figure celebrated across the Highlands? One persuasive argument is that the Highlanders needed a hero. Coinneach Odhar was a notorious anti-establishment figure who died for his beliefs. In the 19th Century the Highland clearances left poor people powerless with no recourse to justice. Stories of a hero who foretold the downfall of the very landowners who were evicting them was the only revenge the Highlanders could hope for.

But that’s just one theory. Some people believe that the 16th Century Coinneach was the grandfather of the 17th Century character. Others believe there were two different men, one a seer and one a sorcerer. The evidence is by no means conclusive, and it seems fitting that the Brahan seer has left us with one last mystery. His life.

If you want to learn more about the Brahan Seer, listen again to Radio Scotland's Past Lives feature on the his life.


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Your comments

1 Michelle Frost from Inverness - 16 January 2004
"Why do you have the Brahan seer for the Isle of Lewis when he's from the Highlands? Surely something like information on the Viking houses or Callanish would have been more appropriate for the Isle of Lewis portion? "

2 Jessie MacKenzie from San Francisco, California USA - 2 January 2004
"My father came from Aird,Uig and when my parents spoke of Coinneach Odhar, they said he was minding sheep, when a Norwegian Princess ghost appeared to him, and gave him a small stone which was to help him foretell the future. I never heard anything about him being a gypsy. "

3 Darlene MacFarquhar from Holland - 22 December 2003
"My family still live in Ross-shire and in invergordon people of all ages still talk about him"




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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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Internet Links
The Brahan Seer
Encyclopaedia of the Celts
–Has a listing for the Brahan Seer
Clan MacKenzie's Brahan Seer Pages
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