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What is Mackay Country

The name Mackay Country comes from the Gaelic placename which is still used by older generations and Gaelic speakers of any age – Dùthaich ‘Ic Aoidh, more formally, Mhic Aoidh. This translates in English as Mackay Country. Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh, comprises the communities in the north west corner of Sutherland in mainland Scotland. The civil parishes of Eddrachilles, Durness, Tongue and Farr make up Mackay Country today. Historically the actual boundaries have varied and at times reached as far south as Lairg. Another old name for roughly the same area is The Province of Strathnaver

Mackay Country today has a population of 2,600 people and, at less than one person per square kilometre, has one of the lowest population densities in Western Europe. In development industry terms this area is defined as ‘fragile’. The average household size is 2.2 persons; 48.7% of the population is aged 45 years and over; total population and school rolls are falling and household incomes are c. 17% below the Scottish average.2 The nature of the local economy is well illustrated by the fact that Durness, the most northerly civil parish on the Scottish mainland, has a self-employment rate of 20% compared to an average for Highland Region of 10%.3 The group’s formal aim as described in The Memorandum and Articles of Association is ‘To provide a structure to allow the development of partnership between the communities and community groups operating in and comprising Mackay Country’.


(The above is an extract by Issie MacPhail abridged from her Moving Times draft book)

In 1828 the last of the Reay Estate, comprising the last of the lands owned by the Mackay Clan Chief, Lord Reay, were sold to the George Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquis of Stafford (made 1st Duke of Sutherland on his death in 1833) and Elizabeth, Duchess of Sutherland, proprietors of The Sutherland Estates. By 1834 almost all of the County’s 1,297,803 acres were owned by Sutherland Estates. That pattern held throughout the nineteenth century. In the past one hundred years that dominance has fragmented very significantly. The map below illustrates some historic boundary shifts and the current civil parish boundaries.
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