MacCorkill's Scottish - History of Clan MacGregor

The MacGregors os Scotland

Scone's Scottish and Celtic Internet Book

Scottish History and Culture &

History of Clan MacGregor

by Sconemac

"another page in my book"

written by

Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot


"My race is royal!"

Clansmen's Crest: A lion's head, erased, crowned with an antique crown, proper.

Motto: 'S Roegmal mo dhream (My race is royal).

Gaelic name: macGrioghair.

Origin of Name: Son of Gregory (flocksman).

Badge: Pine

War Cry: Ardchoille.

Pipe Music: Ruaig Ghlinne Freoine (Chase of Glen Fruin).

Septs or family names("original") in Clan MacGregor:

Arrowsmith, Black, Bower,Bowmaker, Caird, Comrie, Denison, Dennison, Denson, Dochart, Docherty, Dowie, Fletcher, Gair, Garison, Garrison, Gregor, Gregorson, Gregory, Greig, Grewar, Greyson, Grier, Grierson, Grigor, Gruer, King, Latkie, Leckie, Lecky, Macadam, Macainsh, Macaldowie, Macalester, Macangus, Macalistir, Macalister, Macaldowie, Macanish, Macara, Macaree, Maccanish, Maccance,Maccansh, Macconachie, Maccondach, Maccondochie, Maccrouther, Macgregor, Macgrewar, Macgrigor, Macgrouther, Macgruder, Macgruer, Macgruther, MacIldowie, MacIlduff, MacIlduy, Macinnes, Macinstalker, Macleister, Macliver, Macnay, Macnea, Macnee, Macneice, Macneish, Macness, Macney, Macnie,Macniesh, Macnish, Macnocaird, Macnucator Macooachie, Macpeter, Macpetrie, Malloch, Neish, Nice, Nish, Nucator, Orr, Pattullo, Peat, Peter, Peters, Peterson, Petrie, Skinner, Stalker, Stringer, Walker, White, Whyte.

"'S Roigmal mo dhream" (Royal is my race), is the claim of this, 'one of the most famous of Highland clans', and the principal branch of the Clan Alpine. The Clan trace their history to Griogar, son of King Alpin, in the 8th century.

The home of the clan was the eastern border of Argyll and the western border of Perthshire, including Glenorchy, Glenstrae, Glenyou and Glengyle.

The earliesat possession of the clan, Glenorchy, previously owned by the Campbells, was bestowed on the MacGregors for services rendered to Alexander II in his conquest of Argyll.

In the tradition of Gregor of Girig of the ancient Clan Alpin dynasty, the MacGregors held doggedly to the old Celtic clan rule of defending possession by the sword, in defiance of : the "sheepskin" 'feudal charters' obtained through marriage or more dubious means by powerful neighbours having a closer approach or favor to the government's ear. These neighbour clans 'in favor' to the government were (in the case of the MacGregors)- notably the Campbells, Grahams and Colquhoune. After the defeat of these last at Glen Fruin in 1603, there came a long sucession of vindictive, fomenting and mean natured behaviour, taking full advantage of the MacGregor's spirit of untamed resentment. For a long time the MacGregors maintained possession of their lands *"by right of fire and sword", but the enmity of surrounding clans resulted in attempts to displace the clan, and there was the inevitable retaliation by the MacGregors, who thus earned the reputation of being a turbulent clan. During these conflicts the Campbells were enabled to obtain grants of the MacGregor lands, (something the Campbells were accustomed to doing), the name of MacGregor was unfairly proscribed, and severe enactments were passed against the clan, whose unfortunate members were prosecuted and persecuted. During this proscription, the MacGregor name was not allowed to be used for pain of death, their lands taken, weapons confiscated, refused food, and other clans were not allowed to associate with them. However, telling a Highland Clan to do these things is unsucessful as the Clans took in the MacGregors under their own name, and protected them. There were many clans that did this so that no one clan could be notably enlarged at one time. Thus the MacGregors lived on, .... turning your back on a Highland Clan who had done nothing wrong was not the "Highland Way". Today, many names appear on the MacGregor septs list and it is the clans who took them in, and helped them, whose names have been added. *(Note) Additionally, new names have been added as the Clan system broke apart and Scots moved around the country looking for work. They married other clan members. I do not try to keep up with that list as it would be impossible. So if you are a MacGregor and you do not see your name listed, please try to remember than I am a Historian of the 'Ancient' Clans of Scotland, and thus only list the original ancient septs.(end note)

Charles II, because of their support of him, repealed the acts against Clan Gregor, but upon the accession of William of Orange the acts of proscription were renewed, and it was not until 1775 that the penal statutes against the MacGregors were finally repealed.

The person or persons who were responsible for the hateful act against the MacGregors, was the Argyll, leader of one group of Campbells. Argyll, was especially vindictive and renewed his vicious cry for proscription against the MacGregors.

Rob Roy MacGregor, known as Campbell, (his mother's maiden name) was well disguised to do his reiving and thieving of Argyll, as he swore he would in retaliation of what Argyll had done to his father and Clan Gregor, and he continued the harassment and rieving for the full period of time that the MacGregor name was proscribed. He was hunted, but never caught, ....he had many friends and sympathisers as he did what he could to pay Argyll back for destroying his father's name. He lived to an elder age, and was never caught. Rob Roy is legendary, and a hero to most Scots.

Proscription meant they had been forbidden to have their name, tartan, weapons, music, bagpipes, anything Scottish that the MacGregors held dear. They could no longer be a Clan. The name of MacGreagor was not allowed to be spoken.

After the restoration of their rights, a meeting of the clan was held and John Murray of Lanrick (afterwards called Sir John MacGregor, Bart.), descended from the family of Glenstrae, was recognized as chief.

Rob Roy, (1671-1743) the celebrated freebooter and hero of Sir Walter Scott's romance was son of Lieutenant Col. Donald MacGregor of Glengyle.

There are many references to the Clan Gunn, being the "MacGregors of the North", because they defended their lands by "fire and sword", and also were seen as a ferocious clan,....I take this as a real compliment to be considered as Noble and fierce as a MacGregor.

*Author's personal note:

This clan suffered a great injustice because they were caught up in the religious conflict of the Catholic north and the Protestant nation of England. England, determined to get rid of the Catholic support for the Kings of Scotland of French descent, the Catholic religion and the clans who still supported it and the 'Auld French Alliance', were set upon by the government of "the Orange" and the type of thing that happened at Glencoe against the MacDonalds and with the MacGregors, was caused by the "reformation that England wanted to see, and to see that John Knox was in command of in Scotland". Reforms of any type take their toll, but in Scotland, it was a dangerous time, and if the clan had supported the Scottish Catholic Kings (and most did) they were set upon by the English government. With the help of some clans in Scotland who themselves had aligned with "the Orange" and the Protestant cause, the Jacobite Risings were evident. This was a time of great emotional strife in Scotland. If one puts aside their own religious beliefs for a moment, and trys to remember that almost all of Europe was Catholic, then it was the English who were making the disasterous moves on Scotland for purely religious reasons. In Germany, the people had embraced the Martin Luther and his protest against the Papal rule. Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, does not matter. Take the view as a "spectator" and see what was happening. Henry VIII wanted his nation to become Protestant so that he could marry six women, without being excommunicated. What a selfish reason to destroy people and nations, but then wars are most often fought for selfish reasons. Before Henry VIII, there was the Hanovarian King, and the predecessor to the "house of Orange" rule and the German influence it exerted. Germany as a protestant nation influenced the change greatly, whether they knew it or not. End notation.

*Author's personal opinion:

That is why some Highlanders to this day will not wear the "diced" balmoral or diced glengarry caps. The "diced" area meant the wearer, supported the English government, against their own Scots people, and it still means that. Whether, Protestant or Catholic, it was not popular for most Highlanders, to support the country who had conquered them, and then oppressed them. From the other point of view, the English felt that they had to destroy the clan system and get rid of Catholicism, in order to control the "wild" Scots, and it was probably true, but I am descended from Highlanders and it still does not come easy, to take no sides on this issue. To this day, you will find most Highlanders do not wear the diced hats.....once they find out what it means!

Nancy MacCorkill,F.S.A.Scot
Author, Poet,
Clans Gunn, MacLeod of Lewis, Keith and Wallace.
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Many more people outside of the Highlands of Scotland have heard of the name Rob Roy MacGregor because of the recent film made of this famous Highlander's exploits. Rob Roy actually existed, one of history's larger than life characters, a fearless fighter from a far off time.

He belonged to Clan Gregor - a clan which suffered and endured more than most over the centuries, savagely hunted by both king, state officials and neighbours, all seemingly hell-bent on nothing less than its complete extermination.

But though often left without lands, and even name, Clan Gregor showed a spirit and tenacity which earned them respect and often admiration from many of their fellow clansmen across the Highlands. Historically, Clan Gregor lands lay widely scattered, in parcels from the western end of Perthshire to the wild mountains and glens of Argyll. With the rise of other, and subsequently more powerful clans, such as the Campbells, members of Clan Gregor were reduced more and more to the role of tenant - even though their natural allegiance was to their own chief, MacGregor of Glenstrae. As well as tenant, paying rent to an alien laird, members of the clan were also obliged to make up the numbers when it came to the inevitable inter-clan disputes, skirmishes and fights so common across the Highlands.

Traditionally, the Clan Gregor chief had a pretty impossible situation on his hands, because although he was responsible by law for the deeds of his clansmen, they were scattered across other clan lands where he effectively had no control over them. The landlords, of course, did and so it was little wonder MacGregors seemed often innvolved in much of the raiding and killing which was almost a way of life in the Highlands of 400 years ago.

The 16th century was a pretty bad time for the MacGregors. Neighbouring chiefs attempted to hunt them down in 1562, for example, and some two years later they had another unsuccessful crack at them. Two decades later and James VI tried his hand at taming the "wicked and unhappie race of the Clan Gregour". (old spelling). Sounds like there was more than a little of politics behind the move. No sooner had the king attained the throne than an Act of Council outlawed the clan. The name was also abolished because, according to the king, it led clan members "to presume of thair power, force and strenthe",(old spelling) thus encouraging them in their law breaking. The move certainly produced results, although not immediately. However, a year later, the chief and 11 clansmen were hanged in Edinburgh. A price of 1,000 - an incredible sum in those days - was put on the heads of other leaders of the clan, 100 merks for minor members, and there were pardons on offer for every clansman who brought in the head of another clansman of equal rank.

The hunt continued and the cruelty intensified over the coming decades. There were even attempts to forcibly settle the MacGregor clan women and children in the Lowlands. The MacGregor wives were even branded on the face. The carrying of weapons was prohibited, and only four clansmen were allowed to gather together at any one time. But there were clans, both near and far, who were prepared to risk the wrath of the crown to give MacGregors shelter and protection. The persecution of the clan continued off and on throughout the century and into the next, yet despite this, it somehow survived with its identity remaining intact. And whenever the opportunity arose the clan fought back!

Incredibly, during the various Jacobite rebellions, Clan Gregor always managed to muster some kind of presence. In the rising of 1745, for example, two companies of MacGregors fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stuart cause.

But it was not until almost 30 years later, in 1774, that the centuries of persecution of the MacGregors ended finally, and officially, with the removal of the outlaw tag first placed on the clan by King James VI.

And as if to prove that all really had been forgiven, in 1822 and in 1953 the clan was given a place of honour in the escort that carried the 'Honours of Scotland' before the Sovereign.

Author's note: I could have written my own account of this sad episode "the MacGregors", but I was very much pleased with the impact of the article from the above source.

Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A.Scot
Author, Poet
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