OWING to the fortunate
preservation of some early ^ documents relating to Upper Deeside,
specimens of the names current in the district can be given from as
remote a date as the beginning of the 16th century. Among the Castle
Grant papers there are deeds of 1527-8, referred to in the article on
the Farquharsons, which are signed by or on behalf of a considerable
number of the tenants in Braemar and Strathdee. There is also extant a
roll of the King’s tenants in the Earldom of Mar for the year 1539.
Rather more than 150 years later we have the Poll Book with its complete
register of inhabitants, so that altogether the nomenclature of Braemar
and the neighbourhood is fairly well known for nearly 400 years.
Before dealing with the names in detail, it may be well to begin with a
few remarks on the general principles of old Highland personal names. As
is well known, fixed surnames did not become the rule in the Lowlands
dll the 14th or 15th century, and not dll much later in the Highlands.
(1) The typical method of designating an individual with the Gael was by
his pedigree. Thus, Iain Mac Alasdair mhic Uilleim, John the son of
Alexander the son of William. John’s son, Donald, would be Ddmhnull Mac
Iain mhic Alasdair mhic Uilleim, and so on indefinitely, except that
practical convenience limited the number of ancestors embraced in the
name, as ordinarily used, to one or two. This system of naming by
patronymics was modified in various ways, doubtless to secure greater
definiteness of designation; and the modification took place sooner in
the districts bordering on the Lowlands (and therefore in Mar) than in
the remoter parts of the Highlands.
(2) Descriptive epithets were tacked on to the patronymic. This habit
was practically universal and applied to all classes, high and low, from
the chief to the humblest cottar. The great Marquis of Argyll was known
as Gillespie Grumach (gloomy), Robert Macgregor as Rob Roy (red), Finlay
Farquharson as Finlay Mor (big), and so on. These epithet names should,
of course, have disappeared with the death of the individual, but in the
Highland borders they tended to become fixed as true surnames, and to be
borne by the descendants of the original holder. Hence the Roys, Moirs,
Beggs of Aberdeenshire, and other names of the same kind which will be
referred to below. The origin of such wide-spread names as Cameron
(“crooked nose”) and Campbell (“wry mouth”) is to be explained in the
same way. They were transferred as designations to the whole clan from
some early chief who had been so described. Bodily characteristics or
peculiarities supplied the majority of these nicknames, or by-names as
they are more generally called.
(3) The patronymic was also often supplemented by a name indicating the
trade, rank or profession of the bearer, such as gobha (smith), taillear
(tailor), greasaich (shoemaker), brocair (badger hunter, whence Brockie),
Besides his patronymic and by-name, the Highlander possessed his clan
name, and sometimes even his sept name also. Two examples, taken at
random from Braemar about 1700, will make clear what is meant The full
designation of one James Keir ran thus in Gaelic: “Seumas Ciar alias
Seumas MacChoinnich alias Seumas Beg.” Ciar is the clan name (if the
Keirs can be called a clan), MacChoinnich is the patronymic, and Beg is
the by-name. His descendants might conceivably call themselves by any of
the three. Similarly with “Ddmhnull MacLaomuinn alias Mac Gille Dhuibh
alias MacPhkraig Breabair,” the first is the clan, the second the sept
of the clan, the third the patronymic, and the fourth the by-name
(“weaver”). Each of the four, it may be remarked, is represented to-day,
as Lamont, Maclldowie, Paterson, and Brebber.
It must not be supposed, however, that in ordinary life the Highlander
carried about such a weight of denominations. He was satisfied with his
patronymic or by-name (besides of course his Christian name), and rarely
used his clan name, except on formal or important occasions, or when he
left his native district
In the lists of 1527-39 printed below it will be noticed that the full
names are not attempted, the scribes having contented themselves with as
little as served to distinguish the individual. Patronymics abound, and
also by-names; true surnames are less common. It should also be
remembered that the names have been changed as far as possible into the
lowland form (the large number of -sons is evidence of this), so that
many of them have to be retranslated back into Gaelic before their
forms, as actually used, are truly represented. Probably the most
striking feature of the lists is the large number of names they contain
that are still current on Deeside and throughout the neighbouring
The scribe has Latinised many of the Christian names, as the document to
which they were subscribed was in that language.
Tenants on the King’s Lands, The Earl of Huntly’s and Gordon of
Abergeldie’s, in Strathdee in 1527.
Findlayus Farquharsone. This is the famous Finlay Mor, the “virtual
founder” of the clan Farquharson.
Thomas Kay. Kay = (Ma)c Aoidh, Mackay.
Dominus Richardus Thome McWiUzeme.
Johannes Clerk. He occurs in another place as Clerk Ego; evidently a
priest or descended from one. The Clarks or Clan Chlerich were one of
the minor septs of the Mackintoshes.
David McAwuthone. The u may be a mistake for n. In that case Mac Antony
would be meant.
Willelmus Tailzour. Gael, taillear was borrowed from Eng.
Tailzaur Ray. Roy is Gael ruadh. The red tailor.
Tailzaur Crawbo. Taillear crfibach, the cripple tailor. Christian names
and surnames are wanting in these three.
Duncanus McKinriche. Mackendrick, Anglicised as Henderson, like
MacAlister and Sandieson, MacPhail and Poison, Macgregor and Grierson,
Euuyn Dondoch. Gael. Ebghan, i.e., Evan or Ewen, common as a surname on
Deeside. Dondoch may be the name of his holding.
Alexander More. M6r, big; whence Moir. Broad Scotch keeps the proper
pronunciation of the vowel. The late Dr. MacBain of Inverness, the chief
authority on Highland nomenclature, remarks on the prevalence of these
descriptive epithets as surnames in Aberdeenshire. He instances Bain
(fair), Roy (red), Duff (black), Keir (dusky), Don and Dunn (brown), and
Patricius Makfettis. MacPhetrish, son of Patrick, may be meant Paterson
would be the English form.
Mathaeus Don. Gael, donn, brown. Very common name in Mar, both in the
English and Gaelic form. Downie is the same name. All of them claimed a
Farquharson descent See the article on the clan.
Gawmak Molenys wif. Gael, gkmag, stride. Probably a nickname. Molenys,
“of the mill.”
Andreas McMorthy. MacMurchaidh, Murdo’s son; whence Murchieson, but not
apparently a name that established itself on Deeside.
Andreas McFeris. This is the phonetic spelling of Mac-Fear(gh)uis, in
English Ferguson, which was some-times confused with Farquharson. It
also occurs without the patronymic form as Ferris.
Johannes McMorgon. The connection of the name Morgan with Deeside
reaches back to the dawn of history. There was a Morgund, Earl of Mar,
in the 12th century. MacBain observes, “It is remarkable that the name
Morgan exists, or in historic times existed
[in Scotland], nowhere else than in Aberdeenshire and among the
Sutherland Mackays.” The clan Morgan is m fact a general name for the
Wilzeme Dow. Gael, dubh, black. Dowie is the same word. As “ dubh ” is
pronounced like the Scotch for pigeon, it sometimes got translated into
Johannes MeFuktur. This is an interesting form. It was once not uncommon
in the Highlands and is still occasionally found, but is extinct on
Deeside. In modem Gael, the spelling is MacFucadair, son of the fuller,
or in Scotch “ waulker,” which gives the personal name Walker.
Johannes McMichell. Son of Michael. Mitchell is the same word.
James McKinlackour. Probably MacFhionnlaidh (fh silent) odhair, son of
Gradach Ynnynthome. Gael. Inghean Thbmaidh = Gradach, Thomas’s daughter.
MacThbmaidh (-MacCombie) would be the masc.
Alexander Maitland. He was probably an absentee tacksman drawing profit
from his sub-tenants.
Johannes Lammeson. The form McLammie also occurs. Both are meant for
Alex. Thomeson. This is the Anglicised form of the Gael. MacThbmais or
MacThbmaidh (th silent). It is usually spelt Makcome (3 syllables) in
these early lists, and was once well represented all over Upper Deeside.
The MacComies or MacCombies of Glen-shee were prominent in the 16th and
Donald Pethanoch. The second word is probably the name of his holding.
Cp. Dondoch above.
Merzone Ego. This surname, which still survives though in much reduced
numbers, may be classed with Morgan for antiquity. It is one of the
names found among the early Celtic Earls of Mar. Ego, son of Fergus, had
a charter of Auchteraim in Cromar in 1364. The meaning is doubtful: some
Gaelic scholars see in it an early form of Adam.
Donald Gerrow. More commonly Garrow. Gael, garbh, rough, or stout as
applied to persons. The SUochd Garraidh (race of Garrow) of Braemar was
a small sept of the Stewarts. Donald Mor MacGarraidh was piper to the
Earl of Mar in the ’is.*
Wille Dag. Gael dag, a pistol. Highlanders were and are very partial to
ludicrous nicknames ; cp. Gawmak above. Farquhar, the eponymus of the
clan Farquhar-son, was known as F. nan gad (F. of the wands), in
allusion to his supposed trade of basket-maker. Similarly Wattie
“Plants” in this volume.
John Red McEdwart. Reid has rather ousted the form Roy as a rendering of
Gael, ruadh, red.
Donald MacHardy. The home country of the MacHardies is the Highlands of
Aberdeenshire and the immediate neighbourhood to the north and south.
Those of Braemar are said to have enjoyed with the Far-quharsons the
favour of the Earls of Mar, but while the Farquharsons succeeded in
rising from the position of tenants to be lairds, the MacHardies, with
some few unimportant exceptions, did not own land on Deeside. They were,
however, numerous and influential. The Strathdon branch counted
themselves of the Clan Chattan and followed Mackintosh as their chief.
The original form of the name, according to MacBain, is to be found in
Gartnaigh or Gratney. There was an Earl of Mar thus called about 1300.
This developed through MacCardney to the present form. The h is
intrusive, and silent in the vernacular it may be noticed.
Elspet Innyfuktour. Inghean Fucadair, the fuller’s or Walker’s daughter.
See above, Johannes McFuktur.
Ago McGillequhome. Ego, son of the servant of (St) Thomas. Saints’ names
were popular among the Celts, but they preferred to use them combined
with the prefix Mael or Gille, especially the latter, both meaning “
servant” Thus we have Gillies, servant of Jesus; Gillanders, servant of
Andrew; Malcolm, servant of Columba; Gilmour, servant of Mary; and many
Adam, Clans and /Regiments.
Johannes Deray. Modem Dewar. The Gael, is debradh, pilgrim or keeper of
religious relics. “The office was hereditary,” Macdonald says in his
Place Names, “and gave the right to the possession of the Deray croft”
Thomas Kyntaggart. T., son of the priest Gael sagart, a priest, from Lat
Relicta McRalte. MacRaild’s widow. The MacRailds or Clan Tarralaich were
associated with Petty, near Inverness. The name is derived from the word
Herald or Harold. Heraldson also occurs among our names, evidently as a
trahslation of MacRaild.
Patrick Brebner. More commonly spelt at this date Brabaner, the meaning
being native of Brabant. With this may be taken also Fleming, native of
Flanders. Artificers and traders from the Low countries of the Continent
settled in Aberdeenshire at a very early time, and evidently descendants
found their way to the Highlands, where doubtless their skill in the
arts, eg., in making arms, would be in some request. The Flemings of
Auchintoul in Glengaim are said to have got their lands some time after
Harlaw from the Earl of Mar.
Robert Stewart. For the Stewarts of the district, see p. 279.
Nicoll Davidson. The Gael. Mac Dhki gives rise also to the Anglicised
forms Dawson and Desson.
Johne Males. The later spelling is Mellis. The Gael, is Mael-Isa,
servant of Jesus. Cp. Gilchrist, servant of Christ
Janat Enytiyr. Modem Gael, spelling Inghean-an-t-saoir, the Wright’s
daughter. The masculine form is Mac-an-t-saoir (Macintyre).
Janat Quhyt. Translating Bhkn, “fair,” no doubt
John Corbet. A Norman name, which first appeared in Aberdeenshire in the
Thomas McGilliglas, Ferquhar McGillikeir. “Son of the sallow lad or man,
son of the dusky lad.” Mac and
Gille were ultimately dropped, giving rise to the modem surnames Glass
Patrick Southar. Translating Gael, greasaich, shoemaker. Gresal Lyndsaye.
Morgund Mathowson. Gael MacMhathain.
Mathcus McGillereache. “Son of the brindled or freckled lad.” Now Riach.
Cp. Glass and Keir above.
Hanre Moris. Morris and Morrison were and still are used among the Gaels
as the English equivalents of Mac Gille Mhoire, son of the follower of
The King’s Tenants in Braemar and Strathdee in 1539.
It has to be pointed out that the following rental includes only the
names of those who were responsible for the rent to the Exchequer; the
hundreds of sub-tenants who sat under the King’s rentallers find no
place in the list. In fact all those who are given here were in a way
lairds. The lands of Braemar were held by comparatively few different
individuals, but on descending the valley to Crathie we find much
greater subdivision. The tradition that “bonnet lairds swarmed in that
part of the country ” about the time of Finlay Mor turns out to he well
supported by this piece of documentary evidence.
Inverey—Finlay Farquharson and Johannes alias Clerk Ego. Dalmore—Thomas
Corriemulzie—Duncan Donaldson and Thomas Donaldson. Craggan—Thomas
Wester Allajjaquoich—Thomas Donaldson. Next to Finlay Farquharson these
Donaldsons would appear to have been the most important men in the
district at this time. Unfortunately their name tells no more than that
their father was Donald. According to tradition the Mackenzies of
Dalmore were in possession of that land at least, before 1500, hut
whether they and the Donaldsons are one and the same it is impossible to
Easter Allanaquoich — James Turra and Alexander Gardin. Lowlanders and
Auchendrawin—Stewart. The prevalence of the name Stewart in Braemar is
what might be expected when we remember the long period during which the
Kings and their Stuart relations possessed the Earldom, and the
readiness of the Highlanders to assume the name of their patrons. One
small sept or family of the name claimed to be descended from the “Wolf
of Badenoch,” the grandson of Robert II. The tradition among the
Farquharsons was that the previous holders of Invercauld were Stewarts,
somehow related to the House of Mar. “A’ Stewarts,” however, as the
proverb reminds us, “are nae sib to the King.”
Camusnakiest—A quarter was held by Duncan McMort and Donald McGown (“
smith’s son ”); a quarter by John McAlister and John Dow; a quarter by
Finlay Glas and Patrick Candvane ; and a quarter by Finlay McGillewey.
Candvane is Gael. Ceann-bhkn, white head. McGillewey is Mac Gille or Mac
’Ghille Dhuibh, generally spelt Maclldowie. This is the only tenant of
the name in 1539, but there is ground for believing that the MacGiUeweys
once held East Allanaquoich and Inverey. A hundred years after this the
name is the commonest in the district They considered themselves to be
Lamonts, and in the 18th century gradually dropped the MacGillewey. Sir
James Lamont in his “ Declairation of the true extraction of the
Macllldowies alias Lamont,” dated 1661, says that “ John Macllldowie in
Castleton in the Brae of Mar and all the Macllldowies are my true native
kindly people and kinsmen.” Whether this relationship is imaginary, or
how representatives of this west country clan found their way to the
heart of the Grampians, is unknown. In later days at any rate, the
Lamonts, as tenants of the Farquharsons, followed that clan.
Auchallater—Alex, and William Stewart.
Castleton — Duncan Donaldson; John Heraldson (cp. McRalte, p. 277); Pat.
and John McEwin; Duncan Gibbon and Thomas Roy.
The original of Gihbon is Gilbert “ Its resemblance to Gillebrlde,
servant of St Bridget, ensured it a permanent place in the Highlands;
its pet form Gibbon was an especial favourite in Perthshire at an early
date ” (MacBain).
Innerquhanvit—John alias Clerk Ego.
Invercauld, Kkloch, Cluny—Finlay Farquharson. Aberardek—James Stewart.
Schanwell—John Stewart, John Seytoun.
Tullochcoy—William Roy; Donald Roy and John Reoch;
John Donaldson ; James Roy.
Monaltrie—Robert Scheris, rector of Quysny ; Walter Stewart. The
presence of the rector of Cushnie here proves that some of these
rentallers were practically non-resident landlords. Hence such Lowland
names as Turra, Garden, and Seytoun.
Crathienaird—^A* Reid Gordoun, Alex. Symoun, And. McFeris, Alex. McCarqy,
Pat. Stewart, Elis. Symoun. The Symons are still represented in Crathie.
Kirktown of Crathie—Alex. Garden, Thos. Lang, Pat. McTagart, John Grasse
alias Cordonar. The scribe translates correctly. Grassie, Gressick,
Grassick are Gael, greasaich, shoemaker or cordiner.
Balmoral—Elis. Stewart, John Gordon, John Leith, Alex. Gordon. The name
Gordon begins to appear as the Abergeldie country is approached.
Invergelder—W. Canwell, W. Schaw, John Makcome. Canwell looks good Saxon
but it conceals Gael, ceann-mhaoil (mh = v), bald head. The head and its
appearance gave rise to several names—Candvane (white, fair), Candmore
(big), Candow (black), and Kennedy (ugly head 1).
Balnachochane—James and Janet Mclntailyeour.
Wester Micras—Alex. Mclnwill (Mac Iain Dhughaill, son of John Dugaldson,
or possibly Mac Iain Mhaoil; cp. Canwell, p. 280), John Murgounis
(Morgan), W. Cameron, T. Roy, E. Dwn (Gael donn, brown), A. McAlister, T
Easter Micras—T. McGlas (grey, sallow), P. McFers (Ferguson), John,
Finlay, and Patrick Duncanson, A. Ardson (Gael. &rd, tall, whence Aird;
but Ardson may be meant for Mac(H)ardy in English form), W. Tailyeour,
A. McMorgan, A. Fereson (cp. McFers), W. Gordon, D. McGilleglas.
Dalbagie—John Clerk, three McReochs, P. Roy, W. Brabaner.
Cults —John Gordon, Don. Farquharson, Johannes Clerk. Rinabrouch—John
Neilson. Neill, Gael. Niall, whence Mac-Neill and Neilson, was a common
Christian name. The English Nelson is Nell’s son.
Tombellie—Thomas Cay alias Makcuyk, J. Clerk, A. Brabanar. The MacCoigs
of Braemar and Crathie must have been numerous at one time; the old
genealogies of the Farquharsons mention them as followers of the clan.
These minor sept names sometimes disappeared entirely, owing to the
adoption by their owners of the wider clan name instead. Richarkarie—Alex.
Inning de Drum. The Irvines were once large landowners in Cromar and
Glengaim. Sir Alex. Irvine had a charter of this property from the Earl
of Mar in 1633.
Lawsie—Thos. Mclntagart, J. Gordon, Alex. Duncanson, Duncan Makkarny
(possibly Mac Ceathamaich, cateran’s son).
Fabrile [smithy] de Invergelder—John Smith.
The above lists contain a good proportion of the present-day names of
Upper Deeside, if we omit the recent importations caused by the growth
of Ballater and the
village of Braemar. A few notes on some others, now or at one time
common in the locality, may prove of interest.
Abercrombie. This must have been originally a place-name ; it means “
outlet of the bent or winding stream.” In Gaelic the Deeside
Abercrombies are called Macintyre (son of the carpenter), but the reason
for this alias we have never heard.
Niven or Nivie. Gael Gille Naoimhein, servant of the saint. Cattanach.
The meaning is “Cattaner” or Clan Chattan man, a name commoner, as might
be expected, outside than within the Clan Chattan country.
Michie. A diminutive or pet form of Michael (the ch of which is
pronounced as in “loch” in Gael and Scots). The generally received
tradition concerning the Michies is that Michael MacDonald, a younger
son of a laird of Appin, came to assist the Gordons in their feuds about
the end of the 16th century and ultimately settled in Strathdon. His
descendants were called by his Christian name, and gradually spread into
Deeside and the surrounding parts.
MacConnach. The Eng. of this is MacKenzie, which however is usually
taken to mean “son of Kenneth.” Gael. Cinead (Kenneth) and Coinneach got
confused. Gruer. Gael grhdair, a “brewster.”
Forbes. There can be no doubt that this is originally a place-name, and
that the family of Forbes took their name from the place and not vice
versa. But what is the meaning? Dr. MacBain points out that the terminal
part -es (Gael -ais) is common in place-names in Pictland. Dallas,
Duffus, Geddes, Kellas may be mentioned, which also have given rise to
personal designations in the same way as Forbes. He traces this
termination to an old Celtic form meaning “town,” so that Forbes is
simply “Forbton,” whatever the first part may signify. (In later Gaelic
“town” is expressed by prefixing “baile”—Balfour, Balmoral, &c.)
Gillanders, older Macgillanders. Servant of (St.) Andrew.
Mackintosh. Gael. Mac-an-tdisich, son of the chief. The Mackintoshes of
Braemar considered themselves to be of two different families, the Tir
Igny and the Marcaich, and carried the distinction even to the
churchyard, where each sept had its own alloted ground; and has so
still, the writer is informed. The legends concerning the two branches
are told in Grant’s Braes of Mar.
Littlejohn. Is of course English, but probably some of the Deeside
Littlejohns had Anglicised their names from Mclnvige. At any rate this
name occurs in the Poll Book as a phonetic spelling of Maclain bhig, son
of little John.
Milne. In the same way this typically Aberdeenshire name may be partly
derived from a Gaelic original In the great majority of cases it arose
doubtless in this way:—“William of the mill” became William Milne. On
the Highland borders, however, William Maol (bald William) might easily
give rise to the same form. “John Myill in Petty,” an entry which is on
record in 1502, points in this direction. His name is certainly meant
for Bald John. Cp. Canwell, p. 280. In favour of this view is die fact
that the n of Milne is silent in the vernacular, and that epithet names
of this type are characteristic of Aberdeenshire. See under Alexander
More, p. 274.
Warrack. In Gaelic MacUaraig, which was regarded as the equivalent of
Gillespie. Older MacGillespick. Gael. Gilleasbuig, servant of the
bishop. As a Christian name the Gaels used it, for what reason is
unknown, as the equivalent of Archibald.
Esson. The older spelling Ayson shows the derivation. It is simply
Mackay Anglicised, with -son instead of Mac-.
Rattray. The Highland Rattrays were located in Perthshire under the Duke
of Atholl, but individuals spread into Upper Deeside and Donside.
Allanach. Once very common, especially in Strathdon. They counted
themselves Stewarts, and gradually dropped the name Allanach. Locally
the race had a, great reputation for strength and stature.
Erskine. The Braemar Erskines were really Macgregors who adopted that
name when their own was proscribed. See the note on the Deeside
Gall or Gauld. The Highlanders called a stranger settled, among them by
this name. Gael, gall, a foreigner.