Truth is unpopular. Tell someone they’ve put on weight, have a messy house, are wrong, or that their dog is stupid—and see how quickly they walk away.
Some 2,000 years ago, the Man Who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” was condemned to death and nailed on a cross to suffer and die. Today, Christians around the world are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for telling the truth.
So, too, with Scotland’s Brahn Seer. Because there are only oral, and no written stories about him, some claim that Gaelic-speaking Coinneach Odhar never existed outside folklore. As in earlier centuries, written records in Scotland in the 1600s were rare. Some historians would likely doubt the existence of the Picts, who disappeared without a whisper in the 9th century, had not the Picts left behind marvelously carved stones that thwart attempts to decipher them for lack of a written language. Because the story of the Brahn Seer and Lady Seaforth rings true to human nature, and because I’m a writer and love great stories—I choose to believe what the students at Fortrose Academy believed when they erected a stone monument to him at Chanonry Point in 1969. The Brahn Seer was burned to death in a staked barrel of tar at the point…for telling the truth.
Coinneach Odhar worked for Kenneth MacKenzie, 3rd earl of Seaforth at Brahan Castle near Dingwall. He had acquired a reputation for possessing second sight and making predictions. When Lady Seaforth asked Odhar, he told her that her husband was enjoying sexual adventures with other women in Paris. She rewarded that truth by having him burned to death in a barrel of tar.
He predicted the building of the Caledonian Canal in Inverness. Author Alan McKean and I took our books on a trip down the Caledonian Canal and out across Loch Ness.
He predicted that the MacKenzies would come to ruin and their castle would be inhabited by a cow that gave birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of the tower. In 1851, a farmer was storing hay in the ruined castle. A cow followed a trail of hay up to the garret and gave birth to a calf. The farmer left them there for five days so people could come witness the truth of the Brahn Seer’s prediction.
He predicted that when five bridges were built over the Ness River in Inverness, there would be world wide chaos. In August, 1939, there were five bridges…and Hitler invaded Poland.
He predicted that when there were nine bridges across the Ness River, there would be fire and calamity. The ninth bridge was completed in 1987. In 1988, there was an explosion at Piper Alpha North Sea Oil Production resulting in the worst offshore oil disaster ever, claiming 167 lives, and impacting ten percent of North Sea oil production.
While historians claim there are no written records of the Brahn Seer, his words are recorded as he stood overlooking land where the Battle of Culloden was fought in 1745. “Oh! Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad am I that I will not see the day, for it will be a fearful period; heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy shall be shown or quarter given on either side.”
Another prediction was that, “The sheep shall eat the men.” As crazy and impossible as those words must have sounded in the 16th century, sadly, during the 19th century Highland Clearances families were driven from the Highlands by landowners who thought they could make more money grazing sheep. Families who had been farmers for generations were thrust into seaside villages and told to become fishermen. They knew nothing of fishing and scores of them starved or froze to death. Their croft houses on the farms were burned down behind them as they left to keep them from returning, and they were often unable to even take their possessions with them.
The Brahn Seer predicted that within a few generations, the chieftaincy of the Mackenzies would pass to a man who was deaf and dumb; all of his sons would die before he did; the ancient Mackenzie line would end, and a hooded girl from the East would claim his possessions and kill her sister. This would happen when all four of the great Highland lairds had some physical defect; buck-toothed, hare-lipped, half-witted, a stammer. It happened in the 17th century
Truth is seldom popular. Whether or not the Brahn Seer was a real person or a much embellished oral legend, truth can get a person killed. Jesus, Who died to take on the sins of the world and purchase eternity for us is a real and lasting example of the fact that—sometimes—truth kills.