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The Scottish Nation

MENZIES, a surname originally Mengues, or Mingies (pronounced Meenies,) was one of the first adopted in Scotland, about the time of Malcolm Canmore. From the armorial bearings of the Menzieses it has been conjectured that the first who settled in Scotland of this surname was a branch of the Anglo-Norman family of Meyners, by corruption Manners. But this supposition does not seem to be well-founded.

The family of Menzies obtained a footing in Athol at a very early period, as appears from a charter granted by Robert de Meyners in the reign of Alexander II. This Robert de Meyners, knight, on the accession of Alexander III. (1249) was appointed lord high chamberlain of Scotland. His son, Alexander de Meyners, possessed the lands of Weem and Aberfeldy in Athol, and Glendochart in Breadalbane, besides his original seat of Durrisdeer in Nithsdale, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert, in the estates of Weem, Aberfeldy, and Durrisdeer, whilst his second son, Thomas, obtained the lands of Fortingal.

From the former of these is descended the family of Menzies of Castle Menzies, but that of Menzies of Fortingal terminated in an heiress, by whose marriage with James Stewart, a natural son of the Wolf of Badenoch, the property was transferred to the Stewarts.

In 1487, Sir Robert de Mengues, knight, obtained from the crown, in consequence of the destruction of his mansion-house by fire, a grant of the whole lands and estate erected into a free barony, under the title of the barony of Menzies. From this Sir Robert lineally descended Sir Alexander Menzies of Castle Menzies, who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 2d September 1665.

Sir Robert Menzies, the seventh baronet, who succeeded his father 20th August, 1844, is the 27th of the family in regular descent; married, with issue. Seats: Castle Menzies, Rannoch Lodge, and Foss House, Perthshire. The ancient designation of the family was Menzies of Weem, their common style in old writings. In 1428 “David Menzies of Weem (de Wimo)” was appointed governor of Orkney and Shetland, “under the most clement lord and lady, Eric and Philippa, king and queen of Denmark, Swedland, and Norway.”


The clan Menzies, the badge of which is a species of heath called the Menzies heath, like the Frasers, the Stewarts, and the Chisholms, is not originally Celtic, though long established in the Highlands. The Gaelic appellation of the clan is Meinnarich, a term, by way of distinction, also applied to the chief. Of the eighteen clans who fought under Robert Bruce at Bannockburn, the Menzieses were one.

The “Menyesses” of Athol and Appin Dull are named in the parliamentary rolls of 1587, as among “the clans that have captains, chiefs, and chieftains.” Castle Menzies, the principal modern seat of the chief, stands to the east of Loch Tay, in the parish and near to the church of Weem, in Perthshire. Weem castle, the old mansion, is picturesquely situated, under a rock called Craig Uamh, hence its name. In 1502, it was burnt by Niel Stuart of Fortingal, in consequence of a dispute respecting the lands of Rannoch.

In 1644, when the marquis of Montrose appeared in arms for Charles I., and had commenced his march from Athol towards Strathern, he sent forward a trumpeter, with a friendly notice, to the Menzieses, that it was his intention to pass through their country. His messenger, unhappily, was mal-treated, and as some writers say, slain by them. They also harassed the rear of his army, which so exasperated Montrose that he ordered his men to plunder and lay waste their lands and burn their houses.

During the rebellion of 1715, several gentlemen of the clan Menzies were taken prisoners at the battle of Dunblane. One of them, Menzies of Culdares, having been pardoned for his share in the rebellion, felt himself bound not to join in that of 1745. He sent, however, a valuable horse as a present to Prince Charles, but his servant who had it in charge, was seized and executed, nobly refusing to divulge his master’s name, though offered his life if he would do so. In the latter rebellion, Menzies of Shian took out the clan, and held the rank of colonel, though the chief remained at home. The effective force of the clan in 1745 was 300.

The old family of Menzies of Pitfoddels in Aberdeenshire, is now extinct. Gilbert Menzies of this family, carrying the royal standard at the last battle of Montrose, in 1650, repeatedly refused quarter, and fell rather than give up his charge. The last laird, John Menzies of Pitfoddels, never married, and devoted the greater part of his large estate to the endowment of a Roman Catholic college. He died in 1843.

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