The Clan Currie, anciently Clan MacMhuirrich,
has a long and honorable history. They are one of the earliest constituted
Clans of the Scottish Highlands. In his book "Scottish Clans and
Tartans", Scottish author and historian Ian Grimble writes "The
Herbridean name of Currie is the corrupt English form of the MacMureach,
one of the most ancient and distinguished names in Scotland's history.
Through the MacMhuirrichs, the Literary Torch in the Western Isles was
preserved for generations. They were recognized as the most illustrious
body of learned men who were specialists in the heroic literature and
genealogy of the ancient Gaelic world".
According to Derek Thompson, Professor of
Celtic Literature, Glasgow University, the origin of the name Currie dates
from the fall of the Gaelic order in the 18th Century. During this period,
the English language began to pervade what had been purely Gaelic speaking
areas. There followed an influx of people who found the old Gaelic names
odd and difficult to pronounce. Consequently, many old Highland names were
anglicized or an English name was chosen that had the faintest resemblance
to the sound of the Gaelic one. The name MacMhuirrich [pronounced
MacVurich] began to appear in many forms including MacMureach, MacVurich,
and MacCurry and eventually took on the form of the present day Currie and
other related spellings such as Curry and Currey.
Origins of the Clan
In his book, "The Clans of
Scotland", noted anthropologist and author Dr. Micheil MacDonald outlines the early history of
Clan Currie. "The founder of the race was Muiredach O'Daly [1180 -
1222 AD], an outstanding poet of his time, who had studied at the famous
Irish Colleges. O'Daly's ancestry, which is fully recorded in the Office
of Genealogies and Arms in Dublin Castle, show's his family's descent
through the Royal race of Ireland back to Conn of the Hundred Battles, the
110th High King of Ireland in 177 AD. This officially acknowledged
genealogy confirms the Currie family as one of the oldest traceable
families in Europe".
Muiredach O'Daly was a member of the most
famous family in the Celtic world, the family of O'Daly. The O'Dalys were
established in their literary role as a bardic family by the 12th century.
When Mael Iosa Ua Da, Muiredach's great grandfather, died in 1185, he was
described in the contemporary Irish annals as Ollamh of Ireland and
According to Seumas MacManus in "The
Story of the Irish Race", Muiredach was highly respected as the
King's Poet at the court of Cathal Crodhearg of Connaught. However, he was
forced to flee to Scotland in 1213 after making an enemy of the powerful
chief of the O'Donnels, whose steward had arrogantly demanded rent from
the Royal Bard. O'Daly's response was swift and final - splitting the
steward's head in two with a battleaxe. Then, in traditional bardic
arrogance, expressed his surprise over the ensuing fuss in a poem:
Trifling our quarrel with
A clown to be abusing me,
And me to kill the churl,
Dear God, is this a cause for enmity?
He arrived in Scotland in 1213 and settled
in Islay, the stronghold home of Donald, Lord of the Isles and grandson of
Somerled, the Celtic-Norse founder of the Kingdom of Innesgall. The
addition of the famed Bard to his court brought Donald additional prestige
and the two men became great friends. Donald became the founder and
namefather of Clan Donald, and Muiredach of the MacMhuirrichs: the
contracted Scots Gaelic patronymic Mhuireadhaigh son of Muiredach.
Muiredach's fame and stature as a poet was without parallel in Gaelic
Scotland where he held an honored and revered position. The native Scots
claimed Muiredach as their own as shown by the title bestowed him
Muiredach Albanach or Muiredach of Scotland.
At least twenty poems are ascribed to
Muiredach, and it is significant that one of them can be seen from its
contents to provide supporting evidence that he took part in the Fifth
Crusade. This 13th century poem has been perpetuated for all time in the
Roman Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul at Arrochar near the very
spot where the poem was composed:
Lo, tearful I sit on this
No Longer light-footed and strong.
'Tis a far cry, Saints Peter and Paul,
To Rome from the head of Loch Long.
A footnote is added to the poem, which
reads "Repeated by the Pilgrim Muiredach Albanach at the head of Loch
Long in Argylshire when he returned from Rome". Recent archaeological
excavations on Islay have produced a 13th century pilgrims
badge, which could only have been acquired on such a pilgrimage to Rome.
Such were the already ancient origins of
Scotland's longest learned dynasty. Naturally, it attached itself to the
Lords of the Isles when these maintained a virtually independent Gaelic
principality in medieval Scotland. Muiredach's sons and their sons held
the office of Hereditary Bards and Historians to the Lord of the Isles,
and later to Clan Donald.
Nineteen years after the death of Muiredach,
Donald, Lord of the Isles passed away and his son, Angus Mor, was
inaugurated as the first MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, by Niall, the first
MacMhuirrich. From this point on throughout the existence of the MacDonald
Lordship of the Isles a MacMhuirrich Bard performed this office at each
successive Lord's inauguration.
At the decisive battle of Harlaw in 1411,
when the Lord of the Isles sought to enforce his claim to the lands of the
Earldom of Ross against the Stewarts, it was Lachlann Mor MacMhuirrich
[1370 - 1438] who composed the incitement to battle. The clan motto since
that day has been Inspire To Victory. The epic war poem took several hours
to recite, igniting the troops to combat and calling upon their lineage
back to their earliest ancestors to lead them to victory:
O Children of Conn of the Hundred
Now is the time for you to win recognition.
O raging whelps,
O sturdy heroes,
O most sprightly lions,
O battle-loving warriors, O brave firebrands,
The Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
O Children of Conn, remember,
Hardihood in time of battle.
After the Fall of the Lordship of the
Niall Mor MacMhuirrich is the first who
appears under Clanranald patronage, and the earliest dateable poem from
his pen belongs to the year 1613. The Clanranald bards produced the
largest collection of MacMhuirrich writings. Niall MacMhuirrich [1637 -
1726], the last of the bardic race, chronicled the wars of Montrose in the
last body of Gaelic prose to be written in Scotland in the ancient Irish
script style. When he died in 1726, the bardic order became extinct in
The Currie Tartan
The Currie tartan came into existence in
1822 at the time of George IV's State visit to Edinburgh. That year, Lord
Alexander MacDonald, 10th Baronet of Nova Scotia, Chief of the MacDonalds
of the Isles, granted to James Currie of Balilone and Garrachoran, the
right to use the Lord of the Isles tartan as the basis for his own family
This grant was reconfirmed on August 22,
1971 to the last of the Balilone line of Curries, Col. William McMurdo
Currie by Lord MacDonald, the Right Honourable Godfrey James Macdonald of
Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald. The grant states:
"I Godfrey James Macdonald of
Macdonald, Lord, Macdonald, take pleasure in granting to you the right to
use the Lord of the Isles Tartan, with certain heraldic differences, as
your own Family Tartan. The difference to consist of two tinctures from
your own Coat-of-Arms, namely Black and Gold, the same to constitute a
guard to the darker green square of the basic Lord of the Isles Tartan.
This is done in recognition of you as the present Representer of the
Highland Family or Clan of Currie, anciently Clan MacMhuirrich, who of old
were the Historians to the Lords of the Isles. This confirms an earlier
grant of August 1822 made by Sir Alexander of Sleat, 10th Bart
and 2nd Lord Macdonald giving to your great-great-grandfather,
James Currie of Balilone and Garrochoran the right to this aforesaid
In his book, "The Clans of
Scotland", noted Scots tartan expert, anthropologist and editor of
"Scots Kith and Kin", Dr. Micheil MacDonald confirms this
history, "Some vassal clans which served the Lordship of the Isles
before its annexation in 1493 claim the right to tartans from that
connection. The Currie variant of the old "Lord of the Isles"
tartan was granted by the 2nd Lord MacDonald, as direct
descendant to the last Lord of the Isles in 1822. It was confirmed by the
present Lord MacDonald in 1976 to the most recent of a long line of
MacMhuirrich chiefs, Colonel William McMurdo Currie, 22nd Laird
of Balilone and 30th Chief of Clan MacMhuirrich".
Swatches of both the original 1822 tartan
and a more recent (ca. 1976) sample are registered at the Scottish Tartans
Society in Pitlochry and at the Glencoe Museum in Glencoe, Invernesshire.
The tartan remained in a restricted state,
i.e. solely for the use of the Balilone and Garrachoran line of Curries
until 1991. This explains the virtual absence of the tartan from many of
the standard tartan publications, which have never maintained complete
catalogs of the vast array of registered tartans. The tartan was adopted
as the official tartan for the entire clan in 1992.
Colonel William McMurdo Currie of Glasgow,
Scotland was last of the Balilone and Garrachoran line of Curries.
Currie was raised in Glasgow and attended the Royal College of Science and
Technology, as well as the Glasgow Art School. In 1939 he joined the
British Special Services. Cited for numerous acts of bravery, he was
recipient of a host of military honors including among others the Tunisian
Order of Glory , the Polish Virtuti Militari  and the Croix de
Guerre de Allies .
In 1959, a Bond of Allegiance, signed by
over 400 West Highland members of Clan Currie, was presented to Col.
Currie as their acknowledged Chief. This action combined with Col. Curries
formation of the first Clan Currie Society in Glasgow also in 1959, were
the first steps towards igniting an interest in pursuing clan recognition
in Edinburgh, a process that continues to this day.
An avid historian, author,
and genealogist, Col. Currie was a Fellow of the Royal Celtic Society and
the Society of Antiquitaries of Scotland. His publications included A
History of the Curries of Cowal , With Sword and Harp - The
History of the Clan Currie , and An Historical Description of
Loch Lomond and District .
In 1978, Col Currie was
made an Honorary Ambassador to the United States Navy Submarine Squadron
Number 14, stationed at Holy Loch, Scotland. In recognition of his service
he was made an Honorary Submariner of the U.S. Navy with the right to wear
the Gold Dolphin Insignia. In 1982 he was also made an Honorary Ambassador
for the Polish Government in Exile. In 1990, along with President Lech
Walessa, he was made a Knight of the White Eagle, Poland's highest State
Before his death in 1992, Col. Currie named
Robert Currie of the United States as his successor and bestowed upon him
the title of Clan Commander. Currie was chosen in recognition of his
efforts in re-establishing The Clan Currie Society - a non-profit,
tax-exempt, educational and cultural organization.
Today, the Clan Currie Society plays an
active role in preserving and promoting their highland heritage at
Scottish Games, ethnic festivals, as well as community groups and
classrooms. The Society has also sponsored a number of highly successful
concerts featuring Scottish music and Gaelic poetry.
Note: There is 2 volume publication "Memoir of the Life, Writings
and Correspondence of James Currie, M.D., F.R.S. of Liverpool" who was
born in the Scottish Borders. It is edited by his son William
Wallace Currie and published in 1831. In it are notes of the
Boston Tea Party, General Washington, The American Declaration of
Independence, meetings with the wife of Robert Burns and correspondence
with Sir Walter Scott amongst other notable events. You can download
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