MacCorkill's Scottish - History of Clan System

Sconemac's The Scottish Clan System


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Highlands and Islands Partnership

Scottish History and Culture

"The Scottish Clan System"

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THE SCOTTISH CLAN SYSTEM,
HOW IT DEVELOPED,
HOW IT SUCCEDED and
THE DEMISE OF THE CLANS





~~ How It Developed ~~



~~ How the Clan System Was Formed ~~

It is appropriate, I think, at this point that we should consider a condition of Highland politics which afterwards had an important influence on the development of the clans. The greater part of Scotland was divided into large clann districts, seven in number, corresponding largely to the territorial divisions of the country in Pictish times. In these districts, it has been proposed, "The unit was the Tuath or tribe; several Tauths formed a Mortuath or great tribe, two or more Mortuaths a Coicidh or province and at the head of each was a Ri or King, while each province contributed a portion of its territory at their junction to form a central district, in which the capital of the whole country was placed, and the Ri or King who was elected to be its Ard-Ri or sovereign had his seat of government." The Central district, where the four southern provinces met, was in Perthshire and accounts for the choice of 'Scone' as its capital. In the twelfth centrury the system was modified and the title Ri was no longer held by the heads of the Tauth and the Mortauth; at the head of the Tauth was the Toiseach, and the Mortuath the Mormaer (great steward.)

The Pictish divisions were seven in number, Caith represented by Caithness and Sutherland, Fidah represented by Ross and Moray, Fodhla represented by Athol, Fortrenn represented by Western Perthshire, Ce represented by Mar and Buchanan, Ciric or Circinn represented by the Mearns, and Fibh reprsented by Fife. If we add to these the districts of Dalriada, we have divisons that affected the formation of the Highland Clans.

The Clan System formed out of necessity. The people were already clannish, and to better protect themselves, they incresased their size and their society. Each clan consisted generally of "native men" and "broken men." The "native men" were those who were related to the Chief and to each other by blood ties. This blood relationship is an important fundamental in the clan system and was a strong element in the patriarchal system of government. The members of the clan were related to the Chief and principal heads of the clan and in this consanguinity all were bound together in a common interest. The clan also contained septs or branches composed of clansmen who had become powerful or prominent in some way, many times through marriage and founded families almost as important as that of the Chief. They chose to join a clan for mutual interests and protection. The "broken men" were individuals or groups from other clans who had sought and obtained the protection of the clan. Many times their own clan having suffered terrible losses in clan warfare, leaving them a small group, these broken men ask to become part of the clan and most always were accepted if they were deemed "good men". The clan organization consisted of the chief, the tanist, the chieftans, the captain, the daoin'-uaisle -- the gentlemen, and the general body of the clan. An Act passed in 1587 "for the quieting and keeping in obedience of the dirorderit and subjectis inhabitants of the Borders, Highland and Isles" containing a roll of "the clans that have Captains, Chiefs and Chieftains on whom they depend (offtimes against the will of their Landlords) as well on the Borders as those of the Highlands" may be considered proof of the existence of the patriarchal system among the inhabitants of the districts named as against the feudal holdings of the landlords, and also gives us three ranks of the clans.

The Chief, who succceeded according to the system of tanistry, dispersed the law in times of peace and led them in war. War was engaged in only with the consent of the whole clan. He governed the clan territory for the benefit of the clan and divided the land in such a way that each member had a portion sufficient for his needs. He "determined all differences and disputes, he protected his followers and he freed the necessitous from their arrears of rent and maintained such who by accidents were fallen to total decay. At his induction the Chief took his stand on a stone where he took an oath to preserve inviolate all the ancient customs of the people. He was then presented with a sword and a white wand. A bard recounted the Chief's pedigree, enumerated the exploits of his ancestors and exhorted the Chief to emulate their noble example." Ceremonies were observed at the Tanist induction similar to those of a chief except he placed one foot on the stone instead of standing on it. The Tanist was the person next in succession to the Chief according to the laws of tanistry. He was nominated and bore the title of Tanist during the lifetime of the Chief, and his special duty was to hold the clan lands in trust for the clan and their posterity."

*The Chieftains were the heads of the houses into which the clan was divided, and the oldest cadet (son) was usually termed the Toiseach and next to the Chief enjoyed the highest dignity in the clan, and the post of honour in time of war. In the absence of the Chief he commanded the whole clan. He was usually a son. (Makes you wonder where the Tanist was during the Clearances doesn't it?) and in fact it makes you wonder at the oath the Chief took, (above), which he could not possibly make come true if the King of Scotland gave clan lands away; gave it to a neighboring clan on a whim; or a payback for some deed. That left the Chief under an 'uncaring' landlord who extracted his rent or fealty but did nothing for the furtherance of the Clans, which seems to be the theme after Malcolm Ceanmore married the English (Saxon) King's daughter, Margaret, and the lands were taken away from the clans and became a feudal system, whereupon the King, the (new owner the land), gave it away as a gift or on a whim to a favorite here and there; seemingly not knowing or caring what would happen to his people, or clans sitting on this land; nor caring what would happen to the clan at the whim of the new landowners. Does this smack of a reminder, of what some of the Scottish Lords and Norman Lords did, when given land that belonged to the clans or to another Noble? Demanding of the clans, but giving nothing in return? Does not this seem to begin, when Malcolm Ceanmore married Margaret, of the English King, who brought her customs, her court, courtly behaviour, her Roman Catholic religion and all the English traditions to Scotland? and enforced her ideas, next to her seemingly weak, (he loved the English feudalism) Scottish King? Where did this leave his people? No King to protect them; their land grabbed up and given away; while the clans broke into small clans and fought for survival? Does this explain, in part, the feuds in Scotland, mostly over land and territory they had owned? Does this smack of destruction from within by the King and Queen? or just an uncaring King and Queen, who saw nothing wrong with giving away the clan's land? --- after all, under the feudal system the King claimed the land and he had decided that it was his to give. Margarets Roman Catholic religion, was replacing the Church of Culdee, Catholic Religion, that most clans had converted to. Therefore they could not receive the solace of their religion either.

This is a very close reminder of what the United States did to the Indian Nations, taking their lands, moving them to less desirable land - over. and over, and over again, until they starved, died of disease, or fought for their rightful land? Well,.... they didn't win, and neither did the Scot Highlanders. Both put up a valiant effort, both could only meet defeat, at a richer, wiser, (as in "fox") leaders, who really cared nothing for the clans, but cared everything to 'belong' and 'adapt' the feudal system of the English society. A King who cared everything for the best land, the fertile land, and pushed the Scots out, and further out, until the Scots were in the desolate; most undesireable lands; thus forcing the Scots into waring with each other like barbarians for their own land.

*Who, we might ask, made them barbarians? Did they have a choice? Was it life or destruction?



The Romans departed to Face Battles in Rome and Beyond.

*When the Romans departed, there were five races living in Scotland, which may be described as follows: The Picts; whose origin has been the subject of bitter discussion with no real conclusion that every scientist agreed to.

They had occupied most of the land North of the Forth and Clyde; the Scots who were Irish and arrived on the West coast at the beginning of the sixth century had established the Kingdom of Dalriada - in what is now call Argyll; the Britons who had been pressed out of England were settled in Strathclyde; the Attacotti who inhabited Galloway; and the Saxons, who had arrived in the Southeast of Scotland.

*At the same time Christianity was introduced into Scotland, [*first by St. Ninian about A.D. 396 ] and later by St. Columba about A.D. 563. [*St. Ninian was of the old "Church of Culdee", an Irish based Catholic church. St Ninian paved the way for St. Columba to continue to convert most of the people to Christianity and Catholicism. ]

Fergus e, son of Erc, established the Dalriadic (Argyll Area) settlement. He was accompanied by his brothers Lorn and Angus. Later this area was divided among our tribes of the Scots - the (1)Cinel Albran and the (2)Cinel Comgall descended from grandsons of Fergus, the (3)Cinel Lorn, and the (4)Cinel Angus descended from the brother of Fergus. This being the earliest instance of the division of the race into district clans, [*this became general in the Highlands some centuries later. It is perhaps the earliest instance of such a division.]

Soon after the Scots, there appeared on the West coast, one who was to exercise great influence on the history of Scotland -- St. Columba. [*Columba was not the first Saint to reach and convert to Christianity. St. Ninian introduced Christianity into Galloway in the South of Scotland, previous to Columba,] the results of whose efforts reached as far as the North of Scotland.


~~ How the Christian Faith Flourished ~~

The effect of St. Columba were much more of an influence and the results on the condition of Scotland than those of his predecessor, St. Ninian. St Columba founded Iona, and the members of the church immediately set to work to Christianize the inhabitants of Scotland occupied by the Picts. The Saint and his missionaries journeyed throughout the country spreading the Gospel where the Druids had exercised complete control, and through time they extended the fields of their labors to England and to the Continent.

The Druids whom they succeeded, consisted of three classes -- the (1)Bardi or Poets, the (2)Vates or Priests, and the (3)Deo-Phaisten who acted as the instructors of the principles of religion and of law. [*It is said that they practised the cultivation of memory and that written records were forbidden. Poetry was used to aid the memory and it is easy to imagine that the wonderful feats of the Highland bards in memorizing thousands of lines were a survival of Druidical training.]

[*An Arch Druid presided over the Druids and exerted and exceeded a power that must have exceeded that of kings and chiefs, in the influence they wielded over the early inhabitants of the country.]



~~The Struggle Between the Picts and Scots~~

For following three centuries there was a continual struggle between the Picts and Scots for supremacy, and the latter were assisted, to a considerable extent, by the religious zeal of the missionaries of the Culdee Church in their endeavour to destroy all traces of Druidism.

About the year 836 Alpin the last King of the Scots was killed in battle against the Picts and the accession of his son Kenneth MacAlpin "King of Scots and Picts", marked a new era in the history of Scotland. Kenneth MacAlpin's mother was a Pict, so it is reported and therefore Kenneth understood both races and languages.

There is considerable divergence of opinion on the events of this period. Kenneth's capital was at Dunstaffnage in Argyll, but it was removed to Scone, Perthshire District, where he was crowned in 843 on the 'Stone of Scone' which has served as coronation stone ever since.



~~The Norse Element into Scottish History ~~

While the conflict between the Picts and Scots was proceeding, a new element entered into Scottish history in the coming of the Norsemen. In 793 Lindesdfarne and the North-east of England was invaded by the Norsemen and a year later they reached the Western Isles, of the Hebrides. These sea Raiders were described as of two distinct races by the early writers, (1)the Fingall or fair-headed foreigners were the Norsemen and the(2)Duthgall or dark-haired foreigners were he Danes.

[*In AD 789, 802, 806 and on other occasions Iona was burned, and the monks were massacred by these Vikings, if we may use this generic word to describe both races, as all historians did, it would be Danes.]

In 870 AD 'Olaf the White', the Norse King who had previously had his headquarters in Dublin, destroyed Dunbarton Castle after a siege of four months. We are informed by the Icelandic "Landnamabok" that Olaf's son 'Thorstein the Red' conquered Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and more than half of Alba. Before the end of the ninth century the Norsemen were masters of the Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. The Norse occupation had several setbacks for a period after A.D. 900 they were expelled from the North of Scotland [*although they still held their ascendancy over the Orkneys and the the Western Isles. Meanwhile they had intermarried with the inhabitants of Caithness and and the Western Isles and had become an integral part of Scottish life, thus the Norse influence was to be permanent with much of the Highlands and all of the Islands.]

In 915 the Danes occupied the North of England, so at one period or another the greater part of Scotland was either surrounded by or in the hands of the Norsemen. [*Every town in Scotland that has the letters "shire" might have been established by the Norse invaders.]

With periods of varying success the Norse occupation continued until about 1264 when they were finally expelled except from the Hebrides, Orkney. the Shetlands still consider themselves Norse, and remain loyal to Norway. [Many Vikings still lived in the Hebrides, and the Island-Highlands costal area and their influence can be heard and told by their Norse names and language today. Their occupation had considerable influence on the physical and mental characteristics of the people in the Highland and Islands. As well as the coast of Western Scotland. They married Celts and Picts and became a hodgepodge of very tough and awe inspiring people.]



SCOTTISH CLAN SYSTEM (CONTINUED) PART II

~~Enter Malcolm Ceanmore - King !!~~

It is unnecessary to refer individually to the kings who ascended the throne of Scotland until the succession of Malcolm Ceanmore in 1057, although the list contains names of some notable personages, including MacBeth whom Shakespeare has made immortal, if not wronged, by his play. MacBeth being (in this author's humble opinion), one of the best Scottish Kings, and Scotland was advanced by this "good" king.

~~A people abandoned by their King and denied his protection.~~

Malcom Ceanmore as King of Scotland and his treatment of the races and peoples of the Highlands of Scotland: Malcolm Ceanmore reigned over Scotland for thirty-five years, an amazingly long reign in that period of history, and from his reign, may be dated the rise of the Highland Clan System and the principal cause may be attributed to Malcolm's second wife Margaret, granddaughter of the Saxon King of England, who had to flee from England and seek shelter at the Scottish Court. Malcolm had moved his capital to Dunfermline and amongst other questions that came to be discussed was the law of succession, and differences between the Celtic system of tanistry and the feudalism influence, of the Saxons. As to Malcolm he favoured the latter and encouraged the immigration of a large number of Saxon and Norman nobles from England, to whom he made feudal grants. Queen Margaret exercised a great influence over the King and was successful in persuading him to make many innovations in Scotland, including the discontinuance of Gaelic as the Court language, and the substitution of Roman Catholic practices in the church where they differed from that of the Irish-Scots Culdee Church. These and other changes led to the alienation of the affection of his Gaelic subjects, who at his death, in 1093, supported the claims of Donald Ban, his brother, to the throne, instead of Malcolms's son Duncan. The further practices and teachings of Margaret, took Scotland Royalty deeper into the Saxon-Norman (English) way of life, court, religion, etc., further alienating the Highlanders, who had nothing in common with the ways of Margaret. Donald Ban further increased his popularity by expelling large numbers of Saxons and Normans whom Malcolm had favoured, after Malcolm's death.



~~A Queen for Malcom, a disaster for the Highland people.~~

As already mentioned, the demise of the Clan system may be dated from the coming of Queen Margaret to the court of Malcolm Ceanmore. She persuaded the King to adopt Southern customs, alienating his affections from the Gaelic subjects and made possible the introduction of feudalism which continued during the succeding reigns. The possessions of the land was the principal difference between the old and the new systems. Under the Celtic Patriarchal system the land belonged to the tribe, but feudalism meant that the land passed into the possession of the king to be parcelled out according to his whim or necessity. You can just see the trouble coming over this feudal system, against the Clan system. The clans system had a good system of government. [Tribal system, denotes, no established form of government, and continual battle for between factions who by killing became leaders.] Clans did not affect their Clans by murder, they voted for or against a Chief who disappointed them, no takeover or murder was necessary. There is the persistent use in the 'new history terms' to call all of Africa's Tribes,-- Clans. It is however, not correct and should be tribes, because they took their leadership by force and held it by strength.


~~Fight for the Hebrides: the Scottish King's attack the MacDonalds~~

The Crown at this time, was engaged in consolidating the Scottish Kingdom and extending the boundaries of the Central government. King Malcolm IV, who died in 1165, did much in this direction, by crushing a rebellion in Moray, defeating the army of the Lord of the Isles at Renfrew, in 1164, and bringing Galloway under control of the Crown, a seemingly good direction, except? for the Clan System!

The Lord of the Isles, whose forces he defeated at Renfew, was Somerled, the progenitor of that "greatest of clans", the Clan Donald, and also of the Clans MacDougall and MacRury. Somerled, who had warred against the Kings of Scotland, was the principal power in freeing the 'Western Highlands and Islands' from the grip of the Norsemen, and at the time of his death, Somerled was ruler of the West Coast from the Isle of Man, to the Lewes (Lewis).



~~The Demise of the Clans~~

From this time we have the two systems existing more or less together although not necessarily in harmony. The relationship between the sovereign and the chiefs was changed, but the internal polity of the clans remained little changed. Certainly when the larger claans were broken up, the smaller clans emerged, and thenceforward clanship was the principal governing the Highland people. The clans generally were confined to districts, restricted often by the configuration of the country. These districts were chosen for the suitability of defense and residence; for the growing of crops, grazing of cattle and for the facility of hunting and fishing. Inland glens, islands and the land bordering sea lochs were favorable districts. Islands, for instance, were held by a single clan and the MacDonalds in Islay, the MacFies in Colonsay, and the MacLeans in Mull, Tiree and Coll, while the MacDonalds, MacLeods and MacKinnons in Skye is an instance of several clans occupying one large island. MacLeods owned the Isle of Lewis as well. On the mainland the Campbells in Mid-Argyll, the Camerons in Lochaber, the Robertsons in Rannoch, the MacKenzies in Ross and the Gunns and MacKays in Caithness are examples of clans resident or associated with a district.

~~Clans, Their Laws and Chiefs~~

To restate a few facts mentioned earlier, each clan consisted generally of "native men" and "broken men." The "native men" were those who were related to the Chief and to each other by blood ties. This blood relationship is an important fundamental in the clan system of 'septs' and was a strong element in the patriarchal system of government. The members of the clan were related to the Chief and principal heads of the clan and in this consanguinity all were bound together in a common interest. The clan also contained septs or branches composed of clansmen who had become powerful or prominent in some way, many times through marriage and founded families almost as important as that of the Chief. The "broken men" were individuals or groups from other clans who had sought and obtained the protection of the clan. The clan organization consisted of the chief, the tanist, the chieftans, the captain, the daoin'-uaisle -- the gentlemen, and the general body of the clan. An Act passed in 1587 "for the quieting and keeping in obedience of the dirorderit and subjectis inhabitants of the Borders, Highland and Isles" containing a roll of "the clans that have Captains, Chiefs and Chieftains on whom they depend offtimes against the will of their feudal Landlords as well on the Borders as those of the Highlands" may be considered proof of the existence of the patriarchal system among the inhabitants of the districts named as against the feudal holdings of the landlords, and also gives us three ranks of the clans.

The Chief, who succceeded according to the system of tanistry, dispersed the law in times of peace and led them in war. War was engaged in only with the consent of the whole clan. He governed the clan territory for the benefit of the clan and divided the land in such a way that each member had a portion sufficient for his needs. He "determined all differences and disputes, he protected his followers and he freed the necessitous from their arrears of rent and maintained such who by accidents were fallen to total decay." "At his induction the Chief took his stand on a stone where he took an oath to preserve inviolate all the ancient customs of the people. He was then presented with a sword and a white wand. A bard recounted the Chief's pedigree, enumerated the exploits of his ancestors and exhorted the Chief to emulate their noble example." Ceremonies were observed at the Tanist induction similar to those of a chief except he placed one foot on the stone instead of standing on it. "The Tanist was the person next in succession to the Chief according to the laws of tanistry. He was nominated and bore the title of Tanist during the lifetime of the Chief, and his special duty was to hold the clan lands in trust for the clan and their posterity."



~~Enter Malcolm Ceanmore - King !!~

It is unnecessary to refer individually to the kings who ascended the throne of Scotland for our particular purposes, until the succession of Malcolm Ceanmore in 1057, although the list contains names of some notable personages including MacBeth whom Shakespeare has made immortal, if not wronged, by his play. MacBeth being (in this author's humble opinion), one of the best Scottish Kings, and Scotland was advanced by this "good" king.





~~A people abandoned by their King and denied his protection.~~


Malcom Ceanmore as King of Scotland and his treatment of the races and peoples of the Highlands of Scotland:

Malcolm Ceanmore reigned over Scotland for thirty-five years, an amazingly long reign in that period of history, and from his reign may be dated the rise of the Highland Clan System and the principal cause may be attributed to Malcolm's second wife Margaret, granddaughter of Edmund the Ironside, King of England, who had to flee from England and seek shelter at the Scottish Court. Malcolm had moved his capital to Dunfermline and amongst other questions that came to be discussed was the law of succession, and between the Celtic system of tanistry and the feudalism influence, of the Saxons on Malcolm he favoured the latter and encouraged the immigration of a large number of Saxon and Norman nobles from England, to whom he made feudal grants. Queen Margaret exercised a great influence over the King and was successful in persualding him to make many innovations in Scotland, including the discontinuance of Gaelic as the Court language, and the substitution of Roman Catholic practices in the church where they differed from that of the Irish-Scots Culdee Church. These and other changes led to the alienation off the affection of his Gaelic subjects, who at his death, in 1093, supported the claims of Donald Ban, his brother, to the throne, instead of Malcolms's son Duncan. The further practices and teachings of Margaret, took Scotland Royalty deeper into the Saxon-Norman (English) way of life, court, religion, etc., further alienating the highlanders who had nothing in common with the ways of Margaret. Donald Ban further increased his popularity by expelling large numbers of Saxons and Normans whom Malcolm had favoured....Scone



Successions of Rebellions, Jacobite uprisings and the Demise of the Clans System Begins

Long successions of rebellions began in many parts of the country, which continued with varying success until the last Jacobite rising in 1745, which resulted in the "Clearances" and the extinction of the Highland clan system. It was purely ethnic cleansing as we know it today.



The Fight for the Hebrides: the Scottish Kings attack the MacDonalds

The Crown at this time, was engaged in consolidating the Scottish Kingdom and extending the boundaries of the Central government. King Malcolm IV, who died in 1165, did much in this direction, by crushing a rebellion in Moray, defeating the army of the Lord of the Isles at Renfrew, in 1164, and bringing Galloway under control of the Crown. The Lord of the Isles, whose forces he defeated at Renfew, was Somerled, the progenitor of that greatest of clans, the Clan Donald, and also of the Clans MacDougall and MacRury. Somerled, who had warred against the Kings of Scotland, was the principal power in freeing the Western Highlands and Islands from the grip of the Norsemen, and at the time of his death, Somerled was ruler of the West Coast from the Isle of Man, to the Lewis.

It is appropriate, I think, at this point that we should consider a condition of Highland politics which afterwards had an important influence on the development of the clans. The greater part of Scotland was divided into large tribal districts, seven in number, corresponding largely to the territorial divisions of the country in Pictish times. In these districts, it has been proposed, "The unit was the Tuath or tribe; several Tauths formed a Mortuath or great tribe, two or more Mortuaths a Coicidh or province and at the head of each was a Ri or King, while each province contributed a portion of its territory at their junction to form a central district, in which the capital of the whole country was placed, and the Ri or King who was elected to be its Ard-Ri or sovereign had his seat of government." The Central district, where the four southern provinces met, was in Perthshire and accounts for the choice of Scone as its capital. In the twelfth centrury the system was modified and the title Ri was no longer held by the heads of the Tauth and the Mortauth; at the head of the Tauth was the Toiseach, and the Mortuath the Mormaer (great steward).

The Pictish divisions were seven in number, Caith represented by Caithness and Sutherland, Fidah represented by Ross and Moray, Fodhla represented by Athol, Fortrenn represented by Western Perthshire, Ce represented by Mar and Buchanan, Ciric or Circinn represented by the Mearns, and Fibh reprsented by Fife. If we add to these the districts of Dalriada, we have divisons that affected the formation of the Highland Clans.



~~A Queen for Malcom, a disaster for the Highland people.~~

As already mentioned, the demise of the Clan system may be dated from the coming of Queen Margaret to the court of Malcolm Ceanmore. She persuaded the King to adopt Southern customs, alienating his affections from the Gaelic subjects and made possible the introduction of feudalism which continued during the succeding reigns. The possessions of the land was the principal difference between the old and the new systems. Under the Celtic Patriarchal system the land belonged to the tribe, but feudalism meant that the land passed into the possession of the king to be parcelled out according to his whim or necessity. You can just see the trouble coming over this feudal system, against the Clan. The clans system had a good system of government. Tribal system, denotes, no established form of government, and continual battle for between factions who by killing became leaders. Clans did not affect their Clans by murder, they voted for or against a Chief who disappointed them, no takeover or murder was necessary. There is the persistent use in the news to call all of Africa's - Clans, it is however, not correct and should be tribes. It is prevelant in history as written, so I will keep it so.



~~ The Demise of the Clans ~~

From this time we have the two systems existing more or less together although not necessarily in harmony. The relationship between the sovereign and the chiefs was changed, but the the internal polity of the tribes or clans remained little changed. Certainly when the larger tribes were broken up, the clans smaller in size than the tribes emerged, and thenceforward clanship was the principal governing the Highland people. The clans generally were confined to districts, restricted often by the configuration of the country. These districts were chosen for the suitability of defense and residence; for the growing of crops, an grazing of cattle and for the facility of hunting and fishing. Inland glens, islands and the land bordering sea lochs were favorable districts. Islands, for instance, were held by a single clan and the MacDonalds in Islay, the MacFies in Colonsay, and the MacLeans in Mull, Tiree and Coll, while the MacDonalds, MacLeods and MacKinnons in Skye is an instance of several clans occupying one large island. MacLeods owned the Isle of Lewis as well. On the mainland the Campbells in Mid-Argyll, the Camerons in Lochaber, the Robertsons in Rannoch, the MacKenzies in Ross and the Gunns and MacKays in Sutherland are examples of clans resident or associated with a district.



Successions of Rebellions, Jacobite uprisings and the Demise of the Clans System Begins:

Long successions of rebellions began in many parts of the country, which continued with varying success until the last Jacobite rising in 1745, which resulted in the "Clearances" and the extinction of the Highland clan system. It was purely ethnic cleansing as we know it today.


*Author's Note -- I have relied heavily on two of the best historians, and former Lord Lyons' of Scotland, interspersed with my own thoughts and ideas about the history. The authors of whom I speak, in fact, the most quoted is ©R. Bain and ©Innes, (verbatim in some instances}; and their history is most reliable and I can agree with them (more than any other author's on the Clan System), although you will see, I do differ with them, and I do make comparison's with the American Native Indian who was treated in much the same manner, if not worse, (if possible), than the Clans of Scotland. Both were cheated from their land, by aggressors much more powerful and much more advanced in their learning. Both the Scots and the Native Americans put up a valiant struggle to keep life and limb together, and both lost in the end. I make this statement now rather than putting in quotes the many excerpts and a continual marking of footnotes which is nearly impossible with my keyboard.



The rest of the demise of the clans is well documented, although shrouded in secrecy. The Lowlands agreed with the English that the Clans were barbarians, and gave little thought to the matter. Those who would have cared, knew nothing of the clensing and others like Sir Walter Scott tried to ease what had happened by forming a group called "The Enlightment". Just how enlightening this group was, I have no idea, but they seemed to want to smooth over or gloss over the clensing, rather than condemn it.

Sir Walter Scott, owed much to the Highlanders, after all he made great amounts of money writing about Scots and Tales of Romanticised Scottish Clans and the Ladies of the Clans. He wrote the Waverly Novels, which were enormously popular and helped popularize the Highlands and all that the Highlands stood for. It was an empty land he wrote about, the Highlanders had been cleared except for a small number kept to work waist deep, in icy cold water pulling kelp for the newly organized kelp industry. These Scots were treated as "ponies" and worked back-breaking hours at a back-breaking job. They barely survived, in fact, many perished from sickness brought abut by the icy waters. Walter Scott is a great writer, he is no John Prebble, but then he was born at a time when the turbulence was going on, and he wrote the romantic stories. He let himself be used by King George "Wee Geordie", and later by Queen Victoria by helping her put a Romantic spin on everything Highland. It is irony, that she never lifted a hand to help the Highlanders, but enjoyed their traditions as if they were her own. I will always believe that Queen Victoria's love for the Highland people, stopped with the Royals of Scotland and wealthy families. Somehow, she got across to the Highlanders who were left, that she truly adored them. Many bought it, many did not and called it "balmorality". She did a heck of a public relations job though. She sold her love of Scotland to most of the Scottish Lowlands and Borders. As to the demise of the clans, she said nothing, ever!

As a postscript, I would like to add that when some of the Lowland Scots found out (by reading English papers) that the clearing was taking place, they were shocked by the insentivity of the Scottish Parliment and the people in charge of the clearing. They demanded a stop put to it and they were very angry. It was too little, too late, but they tried.

Also, to blame were the Lords who bought the lands of the Highland Chiefs, (who incidentally didn't own the lands the clans did), but nevertheless many Chiefs sold out their people and profited by the sale. They walked away, and never looked back, while other Chiefs engaged in the Clearances such as the notorious Sutherland Clearances and others in Strathnaver and the Western Isles. The Lords be they English or Scottish wanted to clear the land for raising sheep. These prould clans people were told they were not worth as much as the sheep. The atrocities that took place against the Highland people are numerous, and if you can stomach it, I suggest your read R. Gunn's Highland Clearances, which was published but he also put it up on his history on-line site. He is editor and writer for ScotWeb and also maintains his own history site. I shall put his URL at the end of this article.

There is one more thought I would like to leave with you. I am an aged writer, and over the years I havd had many say to me "Well, it was best for those people anyway, look how well they did in other countries." That is when my Scottish Highland Blood starts to boil and I would like to throttle the person. How, can anyone think that being killed, some beaten beyond belief, sold into slavery, treated like less than sheep, and finally if they survived the long voyage, with no clothes but those on their backs and very little food, thrown into a dirty hold, with too many others, and in complete misery......and upon arrival in the Colonies were sold into servitude, not their choice. Others were shipped to work at the Canadian Hudson Bay Fur Company, and I doubt the fared much better until they escaped and formed their own settlements. Those in the colonies, wanted to stay and fight with the colonists and most did, while others with heavy hearts and tears, felt the "blood oath" they were forced to take, would put any family they had in Scotland in jeopardy, returned to Scotland with heavy hearts and hopelessness. Many fearing their families were already dead. Many Scots wanted to stay and fight, and fight they did. Their fierce fighting attacks stunned the British soldiers, while the truly Ammerican Colonists with their lovely Kentucky long rifles, hid behind trees and shot with the precision of years of hunting. The British complained that the colonists fought from ambush and not out in the open as they did. The Americans had fewer in numbers and belived in killing the 'redcoats' anyway necessary -- they were fighting for their newly acquired country, much to the disgust of the British Empire.

Thus we finish the chapter titled "The Demise of the Clans". It was a terrible time for Scots who loved their country and were thrown out, evicted, killed. That was the demise of the clans.

Slainte, my good Scottish friends,


Nancy MacCorkill,F.S.A. Scot USA
Author, Poet, Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland

Clans MacLeod, Gunn, Keith (Marshall) and Wallace,
www.sconemac2.com


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