Sunday, 8 May 2011

William Mackenzie of Seaforth turns 21

CALEDONIAN MERCURY 1 AUGUST 1812 (issue 14137)

Yesterday exhibited a very unusual display of gaiety and festivity in this place, in honour of the anniversary of the birth-day of the Honourable William Mackenzie of Seaforth, when he completed the 21st year of his age. In the forenoon of the day, all the ships in the roads and harbour hoisted their colours to very great effect; andc the principal tenants from all parts of this extensive country (the sole property of the noble family of Seaforth,) together with the ministers of the parishes of Stornoway and [Barvas], having joined the feuars and most respectable part of the inhabitants of the town, a plentiful dinner, which had been previously ordered, was served up at Morison's inn, to which upwards of 70 gentlemen sat down. After the usual loyal toasts had been given and drank, the toasts expressive of the cause and nature of the meeting were given in succession, which were drank by every possible demonstration of joy, and answered by a discharged of seven great guns, planted near Seaforth Lodge, to each toast, and handfuls of silver were thrown over the windows to the populace.

The utmost harmony and good humour prevailed among the convivial party, iuntil it was announced that the ball-room door was opened. The scene then shifted ot the Freemasons' Hall, where a very numerous and beautiful assemblage of ladies presented themselves to view. Before the dancing commenced, a great gun was fired, the agreed signal for a general illumination of the houses in town, and for lighting three bonfires on the highest eminences around Seaforth Lodge and opposite to the town. The towering heights, and brilliancy of the bonfires, with the adjoining beautiful appearance of Seaforth Lodge, which was completely illuminated, opposed by the mass of light exhibited by the town, made a delightfully grand appearance, and to which the mildness and serenity of the night was highly conducive. At the same time, a large bonfifre was lighted on the quay, opposite to the ballroom, where the porter was in profusion distributed to the people; and several other bonfires, on the rising grounds, near the residences of the gentlemen and principal farmers throughout the country, were conspicuously seen and admired. The dancing was kept up with great vivacity until one o'clock this morning, when the doors of the apartments adjoining to the ballroom were thrown open, into which the company retired, and partook of a very elegant cold collation. After a short relaxation, dancing recommenced, and was continued with much spirit and gaiety till three o'clock, when the company began to retire, but not even then without a seeming reluctance to separate. So universal was the sentiment of respect and attachment felt by the whole for the young and promising nobleman, and for his ancient and distinguished family, that the smile of complacency and mirth was strongly depicted on every countenance throughout, which was no doubt considerably heightened by the pleasant idea of his being a native of the island.

Mr Mackenzie, of Newhall, who happened to be on a visit to this country, warmly joined the company, and contributed much to the general satisfaction and happiness expressed by all present.

It is but justice to add, that at settling the expences so cheerfully incurred today, a very handsome surplus remained, which was, by unanimous consent, devoted to the relief of several poor persons, in this and other parishes of the island. 
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The William Mackenzie of Seaforth, celebrated in such lavish style, died in 1814. He was, at that time, the MP for Ross-shire. William was one of four sons of Francis Humberston Mackenzie, First Baron of Seaforth. William, with his three brothers, pre-deceased his father, as apparently prophesised by the Brahan Seer. Francis Mackenzie was deaf and almost wholly deprived of speech following a bout of scarlet fever at the age of 12. After the death of his sons, he never spoke again.

The title of Earl of Seaforth was held from 1623 until 1716, after it became was attainted during the First Jacobite uprising of 1715. Attainted [sic] means that succession of a line of nobility is stopped, after a serious offence; it would appear that the treason in 1715 led to the attainder. The sons therefore did not inherit the title of Earl of Seaforth. The title was briefly revived between 1771 and 1781. In 1797 Francis Mackenzie (outlined above) was raised to the title of Baron Seaforth. The line died out in 1814 upon the death of Francis.

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