word Clan ‘‘ means family or offspring and was no
doubt originally applied to a certain number of families,
who claimed a common descent and lived in the same
district. The clan was therefore just a tribe, which was the
patriarchal form of society and universal in primitive times,
of whih tile twelve tribes of lsrael afford a good illustration.
It is doubtful if clans had Chiefs in Scotland before the adoption
of the feudal system, which was introduced by David I. on his
return from England about 1136. It was of Teutonic origin and
was based on military service, all land being held from the
Crown or State, and after a time it developed, till every occupier
was the vassal of the land—owner, who in turn was either
the vassal of the Crown, or of a mid-superior, that is
someone holding the Crown rights, the only exception being certain
towns where the Burghers were freemen and not subject to vassalage.
The Highlands in Pictish times and later, appear to have
been divided into large districts under the jurisdiction of
Mormaor, who was the hereditary ruler, and under him was the
Toiseach who was the military leader. When these Mormaors afterwards
obtained Crown Charters their powers became merged in that of
the feudal superior, and the Toiseach, except in a few instances,
disappeared. The Baron Bailie, who afterwards presided at the
Regality Court, may he regarded as the last representative of
Surnames were unknown till the thirteenth century, and
were not comm until the fourteenth, so that clan names can only
date from then. The name of the feudal superior was usually
taken as the surname, but it did not imply any blood relationship.
This is shown by the adoption in the Highlands of Norman and
other foreign surnames when these were the names of the superiors,
and so the non-Celtic names of Stewart, Menzies, Gordon, Fraser,
etc., were taken as readily as the Celtic names of Mackintosh,
Cameron, or Mackenzi e.
When the supremacy of the Crown disappeared during the Wars
of Independence , after the death ol Alexander III., the clan
system in its feudal form developed both in the Highlands and
in the Borders. This was because the people were cut off from
the central authority of the Crown, and had to combine under
their feudal superiors for their own protection. Many of these
feudal superiors were domiciled in England, or were opposed
to the Scottish National interests, and in these cases the people
took its their leaders or chiefs, men whom they could trust,
and who probably in the Highlands represented the old Toiseach
families. The Border clans in no way differed from the Highland
clans, they had the same clan feuds, clan battles, and fought
under their respective chiefs, but the clan system died out
there after the Union of the Crowns, when Parliament could make
its power felt.
The Stewarts and Robertsons are the two largest Atholl
Clans, but neither of these names are Celtic.
Stewart. The Earldom of Atholl
dates from 1115, but the first Stewart Earl was Robert, the
High Steward of
Scotland, who got a grant of the Earldom in 1357. The large
possesions of the earlier Earls of Athoil had been alienated
long before, so that the Stewart Earls had at first little beyond
the Castle of Blair and the deer forest of Atholl, but they
held the Crown Superiorities of nearly all the estates in the
District, and they had also the Regality Rights. Those embraced
the power of pit and gallows that is imprisonment or death.
The Earls held their Courts first at Tullymet, and afterwards
at Logierait until 1746, when all heritable jurisdictions were
Apart from the Dukes of Atholl, none of the Stewart
families that held, or still hold, lands in the Atholl District
are descended from the Stewart Earls. Most of them trace their
descent from Stewart of Garth who was a natural son of the Wolf
of Badenoch, the third son of Robert II. One family of Stewarts
are descended from a natural son of Robert II., and there are
two Stewart families that seem to be connected with the Stewarts
of Appin who were a younger branch of the Stewarts before the
senior line succeeded to the Throne.
The name Stewart is Saxon and has taken the place of the older
name of Seneschal. ‘‘ The latter name literally
means old servant ‘‘ or the one who had the oversight
of the King’s household, but Stewart is of lowly origin
and is the Teutonic Stiward ‘‘ or the Warden of
the Stye,’’ the word ‘‘ Stye in this
case probably referring to the cattle enclosure.
The Stewart family were, however, originally Celtic and
with reasonable proiabilitv can be traced back to Banquo,
the Thane of Lochaber, who was the hereditary Seneschal of Scotland.
His son, who had fled to Wales and then to Brittany after his
father’s murder by acbeth, seems to have joined William,
The Conqueror, from whom he got large possessions in England,
and one of his descendants, Walter Fitz Alan, accompanied David
I. to Scotland. He got back from him the old family office of
Seneschal, and obtained large grants of lands in the Counties
of Ayr and Renfrew. The Banquo tradition must have been known
to Shakespeare, as in his play
of Macbeth ‘‘ he makes the third witch address Banquo
thus, ‘‘ Thou shalt get Kings though thou he none.
The origin of this family is doubtful. An attempt has been made
to trace their descent from the old Celtic Earls of Atholl,
by giving a son to Henry, the last of these Earls, although
there is undoubted evidence that he left only three daughters,
two of whom succeeded to the Earldom of Atholl, by having their
husbands made Earls, and every effort seems to have been made
by the Crown to keep the Earldom in the original Celtic family,
till it utterly died out.
the same time it must be admitted as a fact, that the
Robertsons, in the thirteenth century, are to be found occupying
large tracts of land in Atholl, which had belonged to the Celtic
tradition the Robertsons are said to be Macdonalds and to have
as their ancestor Duncan, a son of Angus, who was Lord of the
Isles in the reign of William, The Lion. The Celtic Earls ol
Atholl and the Lords of the Isles were from the same stock and
go back to Crinan, the lay Abbot of Dunkeld, who was a son of
the Lord of the Isles and had married the daughter of Malcolm
II., and it was the son of this marriage that succeeded to the
Scottish Throne. Henry, the last Celtic Earl, became a Crusader
and is supposed to have died at Carthage on his way to the Holy
Land. He seems to have had a strong bond or connection with
the Macdonalds, as is borne out by
the Charter of Glentilt, which he gave to one of the Macdonald
family, and the progenitor of the Robertsons mae also have got
a grant of lands from him or one of the old Celtic Earls of
Atholl. The Robertsons held their lands as vassals of the Earls
of Atholl till 1451, when a Crown Charter was obtained as a
reward tor apprehending two of the murderers of James 1.
There is no doubt that Glenerochty was the original
property of the Robertsons, and that their residence was at
Struan from which the Chief gets his name, which means streamy‘‘
or the place of Streams, and is quite descriptive, as it is
at the junction of the Garry with the Errochty .About 200 yards
above the junction, there is a large mound, having a deep dry
moat. The mound is known as Tigh—Mhor or The Big House,’
and was the first seat of the Robertsons. The minister of Blair
Atholl, in the Statistical Account ot 1792, states that the
mound was raised by Allan Dirip, who was a Macdonald of Keppoch,
and that the castle in the Island in Loch Tummel was built by
Duncan Ravar Macdonald, the Chief of the Clan Donnachie. It
is evident, therefore, that at that time the accuracy of the
Macdonald descent was not questioned.
The Rohertsons, who were previously known as the Clan
Donnachie, and sometimes as Duncanson, got their name from Robert
of Atholl, who obtained the Crown Charter. They are not mentioned
in the list of Clans drawn in 1450, unless they were included
under the Macdonalds.
The Reids, who are numerous in
Atholl, are Robertsons. A branch of the clan, which settled
in Strathardle, was
known as the Red Robertsons, the head of the house being Baron
Ruadh or the Red Baron. The last of the Barons was General John
Reid, who dropped the name of ‘‘ Robertson,’’
using the name ‘‘ Reid ’’ only. He died
at a great age in 1807 and left large funds, which have been
applied in founding the Chair of Music in University of Edinburgh.
The Macintoshes ol Atholl are Macdonalds and have no connection
with the Mackintoshes of Inverness-shire. Henry, the third and
last of the early Celtic Earls of Atholl, before joining the
Crusade gave a Charter of Glentilt and Glenfender to Eugenius
(Ewen), who is said to have been a brother of Reginald, Lord
of the Isles, but was more probably a nephew. The connection
of the Earls of Atholl with the Macdonalds of the Isles has
been given under the Clan Robertson. Glentilt was a thanage
so that the owner had heritable jurisdiction over all his territory.
Thane is a Saxon word, and its Gaelic equivalent is Toiseach
and both mean ‘‘ Leader.’’ The
Thane of Glentilt was therefore known as the Toiseach,’
and his family and followers, when surnames were assumed, became
Macintosh. It was fully a generation later that the Lords of
the Isles and their people took the surname of Macdonald. Glentilt
was held by Macintosh Thanes till 1502, when the Thanage was
acquired by the Earl of Atholl from Finlay Toiseach.
There is a rock in the bed of the Tilt on which the Mac-
intosh took his seat when he held his Court, and there is a
saying still common in the district as an excuse for a holiday,
’’ it’s not every day the Macintosh holds
his Court.’’ The ruins of the old stronghold of
the Macintoshes are on the bank of the Tilt about a mile above
the Bridge of Tilt, but latterly the residence of the Toiseach
was at Tirinie in Glenfender.
One of the Comyn Earls of Atholl, who coveted the thanage of
Glentilt, surprised the Toiseach when he was holding a feast,
and killed him and all his family except a child, who was in
the custody of his foster mother and who was able to escape
with him. When he grew to manhood, he revealed himself to his
clan and, gathering them together, defeated the Comyns in a
battle at Toldamph. The Earl rode of frorn the battle- field
making for Braemar by the East side of Ben-y-gloe, but Macintosh,
by taking a short cut through the Cromalton Pass, overtook and
killed him at Loch Loch, where a cairn marks the spot where
Comyn met his fate.
date is supposed to be about 1270, and nearly 300 years afterwards,
when Mary, Queen of Scots, looked on at the deer drive in the
Atholl forest, she took her seat within a few yards of this
cairn on the ledge of rock that separates the two lakes, where
she was in safety should the deer break away. While many families
their possessions, the Macintoshes do not seem to have had any
lands except the thanage, and the Toiseachs of Glentilt, so
far as known, have no descendents in the district.
Fergussons. This is much the oldest
Atholl Clan and probably dates from Pictish times. At one time,
the North part of Atholl, including the greater part of this
district, lay within the territory of the Northern Picts. When
McFergus, the King of Fortrenn, or of the Southern Picts, defeated
and killed the King of the Northern Picts at a battle fought
at Blathvlag, near Loch Broom, in 729, he united both Kingdoms
under his rule, and he seems to have adopted the prudent course
of establishing a colony of his loyal followers or Fergussons
along the old boundary line. Taking the battlefield as a centre,
the Fergusson country extended to the Bridge of Cally in the
East, and to Cluny in Strathtay in the West.
The Fergussons of Dunfallandy, who it one time possessed Cluny
and Derculich in Strathtay and the greater part of Strathardle,
were regarded as the head of the clan, but so far as known,
that branch is now extinct in the male line. The Fergussons
had no Chief, as they regarded themselves as the soldiers of
the King, and they held the most of their lands till the beginning
of the Seventeenth century, not by any feudal title, but by
Tacks or Leases at nominal rents for the services of watching
and warding. When the Macgregors were
outlawed, they claimed shelter from the Fergussons as being
King’s men like themselves, and the Court of Session Records
give details of hevy fines imposed from time to time on the
Fergussons of Atholl for harbouring the MacGregors.
Ihe earliest written record of the Fergussons goes back
to 1232, when the Chartulary of Moray narrates that Gille-Michael,
son of Adam of Balmacrochie, excambed part of Pitcarmick in
Strathardle with the Bishop of Moray for certain lands in Strathspey.
These Strathspey Fergussons were known as McAdam, softened into
McAdie, and afterwards corrupted into McHattie.
The Fergussons had a Charter of Cluny in Strathtay
granted by John Balliol, and it may not have been the original
Charter, but at least it proves their possession of Cluny as
far back as the 13th century.
Several of the Fergusson families in the district were dis-
tinguished by patronymics, which were after a time accepted
as surnames. The Fergussons of Woodhill in Strathardle from
the eldest son being always named Adam were called McAdie,’’
and the Fergussons in Glenbrierachan from the eldest son being
named Angus were known as M’Angus, which has been softened
into McInnes. In Glenfernate the Fergussons were known as McRobert
or McRobie from the eldest son heir named ‘ Robert.All
the extensive Fergusson properties in Atholl are now in other
hands, with the exception of Dunfallandy and Baledmund.
McLauchan, MacLagan. These two
names are merely variations of the original name of McClauchan.
clan was at first confined to the Weem District, and in the
15th century the Parish of Weem was known as ‘‘
Machlagan. Weem or Uamb means a cave, and there is a probability
that an old Celtic word Lach meaning a hollow or pit may be
the foundation ot the name, and had got corrupted into MacLachlan,
which might mean Son of the Cave. ‘‘ Some translate
McClagan as ‘ Son of the Little Bell,’ but the original
spelling of the name is against this, and there is no reason
to connect the clan with the bell of any Saint. The old spelling
of McClauchan sometimes became McClauchlan, and sometimes McClaggan,
till the present names of McLauchlan and McLagan emerged. The
Atholl McLauchlans have no connection with the Norse McLachlans
of the West Coast.
McLagan crest is one of the curiosities of Heraldry
About the middle of the 18th century, a McLagan, who had made
a fortune in England and retired to Edinburgh, wished to make
use of the crest of the clan, but could find none. Having a
good knowledge of broad Scots and none of Gaelic, he thought
his surname was a corruption ot Mucklegun and so he adopted
a mortar as his crest, and had it duly recorded in the Herald
Office, and now all the McLagans have accepted it.
Menzies. The name is Norman and
is the same its the English Mlanners, the head of the house
being the Duke
of Rutland. ln Atholl the name dates from the time of Alexander
II., when Sir Robert de Meynes, a Norman Knight. whose seat
was in Durrisdeer in Nithsdale, obtained a Charter of Weem and
other lands. The name afterwards became Menyes, but as the letter
Z in old Scots takes the place of V, the spelling became ‘‘
Mlenzies. The correct pronunciation is Meenis, but in England
and elsewhere the Z spelling has led to an absurd pronunciation
as there no Z sound in Gaelic or Scots. The name MacKenzie,
which should be Mckennie’ is another example of mispronunciation,
caused by the old Z being used instead of V.
The extensive Menzies estates with the historical Castle
Menzies have all been sold within recent years, and the family
seems to be extinct in the male line, but for many centuries
the Menzies family, from the position they held and the extent
of their possessions ranked next in importance to the Dukes
of Atholl and the Earls of Breadalbane.
The Macdonalds, althqugh the seat
of the clan is in the West Highlands, are now very numerous
in Atholl. Two hundred years ago the name was almost unknown
in the district, but about the beginning of the 18th century
Macdonald or Macdonell of Glengarry bought the Lochgarry estate,
which included nearly all, Glengarry above Struan and part of
Rannoch, and Macdonald of Keppoch bought Dalchosnie in Rannoch
about the same time. The purchase of these properties brought
manv of the clan to the district, and they have so increased
that, after the Stewarts and the Robertsons, they vie with the
Camphells as being the next most numerous clan in Atholl. Macdonald
of Lochgarrv was Prince Charlie’s
most devoted and loyal adherent, and in consequence his estates
is said that some of Macdonald’s men were engaged in building
the garden wall at Lochgarrv House, when they were called up,
and as they never returned, the small part of the wall, that
they left unbuilt, still remains unfinished, in deference to
an old superstition. There are no Macdonald proprietors now
in Atholl, the last being General Macdonald of Dalchosnie and
represented the Macdonalds of Keppoch.
Dow—Calmanach. This was a small clan in Strathtummel
and until the beginning of last century was known as Calmanach.
The name was taken from a St Colman, who came to Strathtummel
in the 7th century. A hamlet, now all in ruin,, was known as
Cor—chalmaig or St Colms corrie, and the burn passing
through it bears the name of ‘ Alt—Chalmaig. The
people were dissatisfied with the name and, having ascertained
that it meant a Dove, they turned the Gaelic Calmanach into
the Scots Doo. It is spelt Dow, and though usually correctly
pronounced Doo ‘ in Atholl, it is generally pronounced
elsewhere as it is spelt and so the meaning is lost.
MacNaughton. Nearly all the Macnaughtons
trace their descent from the Macnaughtons of Glenlyon. William
the Lion, about 1170, after conquering Sutherland and Caithness,
transplanted a number of the rebellious Sutherland Mackays,
and settled them in the Crown lands of Glenlyon. After a few
generations, these Mackays called themsehes Macnaughton and
dropped Mackay, but the reason of this change is not known
McLaren. The McLarens or McLaurens
are fairly numerous in Atholl. They are the descendants of the
of Balquidder, a small clan that takes its name from Abbot
Lawrence, who was the Abbot of Balquidder in the 9th century.
It is probable that both Abbot Lawrence and the unnamed Abbot
of Glendochart, from whom the Macnabs trace their descent, were
lay Abbots and not monks.
McIntyre. In old writings the McIntyres
of Atholl are
named McKintaylors and sometimes McIntailzeour. While the name
Mclntyre means the son of the carpenter, McIntaylor is, of course,
the son of the tailor. The Mclntyres are a West country clan
and have no connection with the Atholl McIntyres, except that
the latter have appropriated their name.
Names That Have Died Out In Atholl.
was a small clan, that at one time held half of Foss in Strathtummel
and were noted as bold and successful raiders. They usually
followed the Stewarts of Garth. There are none of the name now
in Strathtummel, and few, if any, Atholl.
Ayson. The Avsons were settled
in Tullymet. It is
probably the same name as Esson, but in either form, it is now
quite extinct in Atholl.
Cunnison. The older form of the
name was McConish.
The Cunnisons were proprietors for several hundred years of
Edradour and Ardgie, the head of the house being Baron Cunnison
of Edradour. The name and the family have alike disappeared.
following are names of witnesses in some of the old
Charters between 200 and 400 years ago, and are described as
tenants or residenters, but are now unknown in the district,
viz. :—Gillechrist, Fyff, McWillie, Ambros (who was Baron
Bailie of Dunkeld), Glas, McIndewar, McPay, Ewinsone, Hering,
McQwen, McAnedone, Makandee, McAchandrih, Mc Invar.
There are numerous clan names in Atholl , such as Camp-
bell, Fraser, and Grant, but they are not Atholl Clans and their
clan history is not connected with the district.
To Pitlochry History
To Tour Pitlochry