Published: 30/03/2007 00:00 - Updated: 30/11/2011 12:11

Mackenzie chief and wife part company

THE chief of Clan Mackenzie, the Earl of Cromartie and his wife have parted company, although it is unclear whether the separation is permanent. Local sources said that John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie, titular head of the worldwide clan, had left his family seat at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, to live with a woman who modelled at art classes he attended. The Ross-shire Journal was unable to contact the Earl for comment, and the Countess, whom he married in 1985, this week would only say, "We would rather keep it as a private matter." A senior member of the Clan Mackenzie Society confirmed, "We are aware that the couple had split, about the end of last year, though we don't know the reasons for it." The Earl (58), son of the three-times married 4th Earl and his second wife Olga, inherited the title and chief's mantle on his father's death in 1989. His father Roderick Blunt-Mackenzie, who discarded the surname Blunt in 1962, was recognised as clan chief by the Lord Lyon in 1984, after an inter-clan wrangle over the honour. Educated at Rannoch School and Strathclyde University, Lord Cromartie became a geologist and explosives engineer. He is a recognised expert on the civilian uses of explosives and a member of the Institute of Explosives Engineers. An expert mountaineer, who has pioneered several hazardous climbs in the Highlands, he is a member of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and author of the book Selected Climbs in Skye. In 1973, when holder of the courtesy title Viscount Tarbat and heir to the earldom, he married fellow student Helen Murray, a miner's daughter. In 1980 the couple had a son, Kenneth, who died when only seven weeks old. He and Helen divorced in 1983, and two years later he married Strathpeffer woman Janet Harley, daughter of former Ross and Cromarty County Council development officer, the late Chris Harley. They have two sons Colin, Viscount Tarbat (19), the heir to the earldom, and Alasdair (18). A reserved, courteous man, Lord Cromartie is said by clan members to suffer from periodic bouts of depression. He is thought to have called off a visit to Stone Mountain Highland Games in Georgia, USA, in October, for this reason. Mackenzies in America and elsewhere are currently raising funds for an ongoing restoration of Castle Leod.

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