A 17th-century woman walks into a graveyard. This isn’t the beginning of a joke, but rather the perfect origin story for Scotland’s most famous prophet. The legend goes that a local woman prevented the ghost of a long-dead Danish princess from returning to her grave on the Isle of Lewis. The princess gifted her a blue hagstone in exchange for being able to return to her final resting place. It was this stone that allowed the woman’s son, Coinneach Odhar, to see visions of the future.
Also known as Kenneth MacKenzie (after the ruling clan and his eventual employers), Dark Kenneth or the Brahan Seer, some say that he was blind in the eye that looked through the hagstone and into the future. Others believe that he never existed beyond folklore, but records do show that a man by the same name was executed for witchcraft around that time.
After stories of his apparent psychic abilities spread, Dark Kenneth was employed as a Seer by Kenneth Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Seaforth at Brahan Castle. There are no contemporary manuscripts of his predictions and most of them were retold in translation, but a lot of the prophecies attributed to the Brahan Seer have had a habit of coming true.
1. A (poisoned) dog’s dinner
While still a labourer at Loch Ussie, around 1675, Coinneach stopped his foreman from eating because he’d had a vision of his wife poisoning his lunch. The foreman threw the food to his dog who promptly died. This was one of his famous prophecies that led to him working for the Earl of Seaforth.
2. ‘Stained with the best blood o’the Highlands’
While standing on what became the site of the Battle of Culloden, Dark Kenneth said, ‘Oh Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall; ere many generations passed away, be stained with the best blood o’the Highlands.’ He added that he was glad he would not live to see the day when ‘no mercy shall be shown nor quarter given on either side’.
The Battle of Culloden marked the end of the Jacobite Rising and saw approximately 2,000 soldiers lose their lives or be wounded in the space of just one hour.
3. Aberdeen’s black rain
Dark Kenneth once declared, ‘A black rain will bring riches to Aberdeen’. A few hundred years later in 1970, major oil deposits were discovered in the North Sea. An estimated half million jobs in the energy industry have been created around the Aberdeen area and the Scottish city is often referred to as the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’.
4. The return of a Scottish Parliament
When the Brahan Seer stated that Scotland would only have its own parliament once men could walk ‘dry shod’ from England to France, many thought this was a prophecy that could never come true. However, the revolutionary Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994 and people could theoretically walk between the two nations without getting their shoes wet. Five years later, on 12th May 199, the Scottish Parliament held its first meeting since 1707.
5. Bridges over the River Ness
The River Ness passes through Inverness and connects the legendary Loch Ness to the North Sea. Dark Kenneth stated that worldwide chaos would be unleashed once five bridges spanned the river. Construction on the fifth bridge was completed in August 1939, just weeks before Hitler invaded Poland and World War II began.
Furthermore, according to the Seer, building nine bridges would bring ‘fire, blood and calamity’. Sure enough, the ninth bridge was built in 1987 and in July 1988, fire consumed the Piper Alpha oil rig off the coast of Aberdeen. 167 people died – 30 of whom were never found.
6. Destruction of Fairburn Tower
Clan Mackenzie owned areas of the Scottish Highlands for centuries and one of their most prized pieces of land was Fairburn Tower. Dark Kenneth issued a particularly dark warning for the family when he stated, ‘The MacKenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions [and] their castle shall become uninhabited, desolate and forsaken!’
While Fairburn Tower is not technically a castle, its fall into disrepute did coincide with the decline of the House of Seaforth. The tower was left abandoned in 1780 and then partially destroyed by a storm in 1803.
7. The final prophecies of Dark Kenneth
The prophecies of Dark Kenneth ended up being the death of him when a concerned Lady Seaforth asked him about her husband’s ongoing trip to Paris. The Seer confirmed that the 3rd Earl of Seaforth was safe but also revealed that he had spent time in the arms of another woman. Enraged, Lady Seaforth ordered Dark Kenneth be dragged to Chanonry Point, the area known for witch executions.
Before his head was shoved into a flaming barrel of tar, he delivered one final prophecy. He stated that one who couldn’t speak or hear would cause the House of Seaforth to end. Francis Humberston Mackenzie became Earl in 1783 but was left mute and deaf after contracting scarlet fever as a child. All four of his children died prematurely, thus bringing an end to the bloodline.