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Clan Donnachaidh Annual
Balquhidder Surnames


From 'Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander' by Duncan Campbell. Inverness 1910.

In 1860 the inhabitants of Balquhidder, under many surnames, were, with the fewest possible exceptions, of undoubted Celtic descent. They spoke the excellent Gaelic of the days of Robert Kirk and Dugald Buchanan, but there were not many of them who could not well speak English also. It was a singular thing that the people bearing the names of the oldest proprietors Stewarts, Buchanans, and Campbells made such a small numerical show in the nominal muster. Fergusons came in with the Atholl minister of the first half of the eighteenth century. The Macdonalds of Monochyle and Blarcriche came from Glenlyon in the preceding generation. It is probable that when Colin, Earl of Argyll, held a Justiciary Court in Balquhidder in 1526, he brought in Macintyres to strengthen his clients, the Clan Laurin, against the Clan Gregor, who were even then seeming more dangerous to the peace of the district than the Buchanans had been in the former century. By the end of that century, Balquhidder, out-lying place as it was, without any strong-handed local magnate invested with official authority, became a convenient resort for the unruly Clan Gregor. It was in the kirk of Balquhidder that they went, through their "ethnic" ceremony of swearing over the head of murdered Drummond - Ernoch. Fearfully were they punished for that murder and that heathenish ceremony. In 1860 the number of people bearing the Stewart surname was surprisingly small, considering that they had had a footing in the parish as early as 1400, and that being of the King's clan they were favoured above others, especially when Sir Walter Stewart ruled in Queen Margaret's name, and that they got legal titles to the Braes, Glenbuckie, Gartnafuaran, and other places. The Earl of Moray has still kept the Braes, but the other Stewart properties were all gone before my time. The bigger one of them, Glenbuckie, was sold in 1846 to Mr David Carnegie of Stronvar, who added to it by other purchases until he left his son the far largest and best estate in the parish. In 1860 the people of the Clan Gregor surname were numerous. I had great-great-grandchildren of Rob Roy in my school, although the most of his male descendants went to the West Indies soon after the execution of Robin Og. Rob Roy's youngest son, Ranald, who was not mixed up with the evil doings of the others, remained behind, and died as tenant of the Kirkton farm in good old age. In 1860 there were at least two old men, Hugh Macgregor and the old bellman, who remembered him perfectly. He was still living when the lame boy, Walter Scott was gathering strength and stories at Cambusmore, ten miles away, and lived a good many years more.

     The Balquhidder people who have the oldest surnames are the MacLarens or Clan Laurin, who derive their designation, and presumably their lineage, from a Culdee Abbot of Cuil who lived in the later times when the Culdees married. A married Abbot of Glendochart was the founder of the Clan Macnab, and Laurence Abbot of Cuil founded the Clan Laurin of the adjoining district. Cuil is on the Edinchip estate. Not the smallest vestige of its monastic structures remains; probably they were wooden buildings, as was usual in Columban and Culdee days. But the memory of it and the names of its Abbots have been preserved in ancient ecclesiastical documents. So faint grew the local tradition about the Cuil Monastery, and so much was Abbot Laurence forgotten, that in my time fanciful members of the Clan Laurin began to claim tribal origin from a Scoto-Dalriadic prince of Argyll. It is not unlikely that the protection of the clan by Earls of Argyll long afterwards suggested this fancy. Had Abbot Laurence belonged to the early era of Columban missionaries, he might well have been a Dalriadic-Scot or Irishman. But as he belonged to a very much later time, he was much more likely to be of the Pictish race.


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