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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IX. The Gaels


Sutherlands. A branch went early to Ireland as gallowglasses (see under O’Crowley), the name being Anglicized there as MacCoy.

Duff mac Eth himself had two sons, Constantine MacDuff, second Earl of Fife, and Gillemichael MacDuff, third Earl of Fife (ca. 1133). From Gillemichael are descended the later earls of Fife (which earldom they held "by the grace of God," allodially, and not by feudal charter from the King of Scots), allies of the kings of Scots of the line of David I. As the descendants of Eth, first Earl of Fife, they bear as a coat of arms the Royal Arms of the King of Scots undifferenced, that is, without the "Royal Tressure" (double flory counterflory) that marks the arms of the line of King David 1, younger brother of Eth. This marks the heraldic seniority of their line to that of the kings of Scots themselves, as per Norman practice.

These earls were the chiefs of Clan MacDuff, a clan-name combining the sense of "Clan Duff" and "Clan (Gillemichael) MacDuff." As the "senior" kindred and also as the heirs of the Sacred Family of Dunkeld, these earls held the most honored position of precedence in Scotland, an almost sacred position born of their lineage. The County of Fife is still referred to as the Kingdom of Fife, and the Earl’s Kindred were legally accountable under a special code of ancient Scots law known as "the Law of Clan MacDuff," which meant that they could literally "get away with murder" (for a fee, and if they could first make it to the sanctuary cross of MacDuff near Abernethy in Strathearn). The earls of Fife held rich lands in the Lowlands of Fife, Stirlingshire, East Lothian and Midlothian, and these Lowland tracts were the chief seat of their power, which was centered in Fife. Nonetheless they also held wide lands in the Highlands of Perthshire, Banffshire, Inverness-shire and Moray.

The MacKintoshes, who inherited the chiefship of the Clan Chattan, are a branch of the Clan MacDuff (see under MacKintosh), as are the MacBuffs (MacDuibh), barons of Fandowie in the Strathbran district of Perthshire (a position they held as late as 1602). Alexander McDuff (sic), brother of the laird of Balanloan in Atholl, appears in a list of gentlemen on the Atholl estates who took part in the Rising of 1745. The MacDuffs of Bonhard in Perthshire are nineteenth-century representatives of this family.

However, the most important branches of the House of Fife, including the main branch, the earls of Fife, never adopted the patronymic of MacDuff. Instead the various branches of the House of Fife adopted such names as Wemyss, Abernethy, Spens, and Scrymgeour. The Wemyss take their name from the lands of that name on the other Fife side of the Firth of Forth opposite the city of Edinburgh. The ancestor of the family was Sir John de Methkil, son of Michael de Methkil (a place in Fife), who in 1228 witnessed a charter by Malcolm, seventh Earl of Fife, being himself descended of that house. He held land in east Lothian, and as John de Methkil he granted the church of Wemys (Wemyss) in Fife to House of Soltre sometime before 1240. His father was also known as Michael de Wemys. Sir David Wemyss was chosen ambassador


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