To fully understand the
history of Clan MacIntyre one must be familiar with the ethnic origins of
the Scottish people, the creation and inheritance of Scottish surnames,
the Scottish clan system, and the major events in Scottish history. What
you are about to read is neither pure fact nor fantasy but simply the best
judgment of this author after reading the opinions of many writers,
including the author of the first edition and the other MacIntyre
published historians (seanachies). These authors are in general agreement
but often disagree on the details. Remaining areas of controversy are
given extensive discussion in appendixes.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
In the Gaelic tradition,
the history of Scotland and Clan MacIntyre comes primarily from legend and
a few remaining artifacts. The Celtic culture and Druid religion relied on
bards (poets), storytellers, and seanachies (genealogists/historians) to
maintain a rich oral history in the form of sagas, legends, songs, and
poems. Archeology can confirm approximate dates, but the search for truth
requires a sprinkling of common sense and intuition. For example, legends
abound in fanciful exaggeration and may miss the mark by a millennium or a
continent, yet they still contain a great deal of truth. It is the desire
to know our past and to pass it on that creates these stories, and
motivated the writing of this book. Legends make wonderful bedtime stories
and MacIntyres are truly blessed with many colorful ones.1
Written histories dont
appear until the last half of the 15th century and it was
difficult to distinguish between legend and known fact, until the 20th
century. The most reliable information comes from church and legal
documents but these sources rarely reveal the life stories behind the
names. Those stories were sometimes found in the so-called Black Books
kept by many clans, although they are biased, as all histories are,
including this one.
THE SCOTS -- ORIGIN, SURNAMES, AND CLAN
Origin of the Scots
There is archeological
evidence in Scotland of the presence of hunter-gatherers around 7000 B.C.
By 3000 B.C., there were Neolithic farmers and cairn2builders. Around 1500 B.C., there are early Mesolithic,
Bronze-Age people. The first wave of Celtic tribes from southeastern
Europe arrived about 1200 1000 B.C. and eventually populated
England, Wales and Ireland.3None of these people were the direct ancestors of the Scots.
According to the
legends, in about 500 B.C., another Celtic group who came by sea from the
Iberian Peninsula conquered the earlier Celtic people in Ireland. These
conquerors have been referred to by several different names: Gaels,
Milesians, and Scoti.4Their legends had foretold they would find an Isle of Destiny. They
brought with them their "Stone of Destiny" (Lia Fail)5
upon which they proclaimed their High Kings (Ard Righ). Around this
same period, the Britons, an Iron-Age Celtic group from northern Europe,
conquered England and Wales.
Because the Celts did not
have a written history of their own, the only written descriptions of them
were by outsiders, who said they were warlike, artistic, and egalitarian.
Some combination . . . but it fits the Gaelic and Scottish persona like a
At the beginning of the
first millennium A.D., most of the western world was under the control of
the Roman Empire, except for the British Isles, which was still controlled
by Celts. To the outside (Roman) world,
1. A few of
these legends are included in Part I but most of them are in Part V.
2. Pile of stone indicating a gravesite.
3. This area is due north of Greece and Turkey that is now known as
Romania. It was the site of the ancient Scythians.
4. Named Gaels after their place of origin in Asia Minor, Milesians
after a revered king, and Scoti after an ancient queen.
5. See Part V. Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) and The Isle of Destiny.
Scotland was known as Alba
or Caledonia; Ireland was known as Scotia or Hibernia; and, England plus
Wales was known as Britannia. The English Channel did not deter the Roman
Legions for long. By the middle of the first century, they had subjugated
Although the Romans tried, they could not vanquish the inhabitants of
Alba, whom they called Picts.2
The Picts were so fierce and troublesome that Emperor Hadrian built a
protective wall from sea to sea.3
The location of this wall is almost identical to the present border
between England and Scotland.
The Romans had plans to
conquer Scotia (Ireland) but their empire was declining and they never got
around to it. Deprived of doing battle with the Roman Legions, the Scoti
continued to battle each other - an enduring, if not endearing, hallmark
of the Gaelic people. Between battles, they continued to live on their
Isle of Destiny and to give temporary allegiance to their High King at
Tara, Ulster, Scotia, Iona, Alba, Argyll, Dal Riada, The Dalriada, Loch
Etive, Glen Noe, Ben Cruachan)
The Celtic Isles c. 33 A.D.
Ulster, the northeast
corner of Scotia, was only a short distance across the sea from the west
coast of Alba and there was a natural interchange between the islands.
Around the time of Christ,4
the Scoti High King, Conor (Conchobar) MacNessa unintentionally started
the first known Scoti colony in Alba as described in Deirdre of the
Sorrows, one of the three Sorrows of Irish legend.5
This legend is important in MacIntyre history because it refers to Glen
Noe, Loch Etive, and Ben Cruachan, the ancestral home of the MacIntyre
Two hundred years
later, in the third century, High King Carbris Riada established a
significant Scoti colony on the west coast of Alba. He called it "The
Dalriada" after his Kingdom of Dal Riada in Ulster. The Dalriada was
located in the area we now call Argyll, meaning "of the Gaels"
or "coast of the Gaels." This enclave of Scoti (Scots) had to be
continuously defended against the Picts. About every 100 years, the colony
was strengthened and enlarged by kings of Ulster, including King Eric who
assigned the task to his three sons -- Lorne, Angus and Fergus Mor. Lorne
ruled the part of Argyll around Loch Etive and it is still referred to as
Lorn. The Dalriada ultimate triumph over the Picts was not by military
force but by the mission of St. Columba in the latter-half of the sixth
century, who converted the Picts to the Celtic form of Christianity. This
change in religion, removed a major difference between the Scots and Picts.
In 576, the colony formally claimed independence from Scotia and became
known as Scotia Minor, to distinguish it from Scotia Major.6
In recognition of their independence, they brought their Stone of Destiny
to Iona, the center of the Catholic missionary, St. Columba, and it was
eventually taken to their political capitol, Dunstaffnage, at the entrance
to Loch Etive.7
Scotia Minor kept
increasing its territory on the mainland until the middle of the ninth
century, when Kenneth MacAlpin united the Picts and the Scots to become
the first King of Scotland.8
In keeping with this change, Scotia Minor became known only as Scotia and
eventually called Scotland, while Scotia Major reverted to being called
Erin or Eire, the names before the Scoti Gaels arrived in Ireland, more
than a millennium before.
This has been a brief,
albeit complicated, recounting of the origin of the Scots and Scotland. It
demonstrates the close connection between Scotland and Ireland that
resulted from their common Celtic-Gaelic-Scoti ancestry, and centuries of
trade, colonization, communication, religious missionaries, and
intermarriage. Although most of these connections are not described in
written records, they are manifest in the commonality of their Gaelic
language, family names, art, literature, music, and customs. The cultural
heritage of the modern Scots does not end here but its most enduring and
distinctive roots are from the Gaelic Celts.
1. Unless otherwise noted,
from this point forward, all dates will be A.D.
2. The Romans called these people Picts because their warriors drew
colorful designs (pictorials) on their skin.
3. Hadrians Wall was built from 122-128 A.D.
4. There is a brief comparative chronological history of the MacIntyres,
Scotland and the World is inside the back cover.
5. Part V. Legend, Deirdre of the Sorrows.
6. Scotia Minor was ratified as an independent Kingdom in 576 at the
Convention of Drimceatt in Scotia Major (Ireland).
7. ## Bibliography, p. 155 (In Scotland Again, H.V. Morton, 1933). Part
V., Lia Fail-Stone of Destiny.
8. King MacAlpin was a Scoti but his mother was of Pictish descent.
Shakespeare has Juliet
muse, "Whats in a name?" Alas, poor Romeo and Juliet lost
their lives because one was a Montague and the other, a Capulet! In a like
manner, many a Scot lived or died, prospered or declined, because of their
In the Gaelic culture, last
names were just that, the last name in a list of names, and the last name
changed, depending on where one stopped reciting the list. The Scottish
bards and seanachies spent most of their lives memorizing and reciting the
lineage and heroic deeds of their patrons. Alexander (Alister) James
MacIntyre of Inveraray related how his grandfather Alister had a common
ancestor with Duncan Ban MacIntyre, the famous Gaelic bard, and nine
generations earlier. In the early 1800s, when these two gentlemen met on
the main street of Inveraray, Duncan Ban would greet Alisters
grandfather as follows: "Failte Alister, Mac Alister, Mac Alister,
Mac Alister, Mac Alister, Mac Alister, Mac Iain, Mac Hamish, Mac Callum,
Mac Callum Mhor." The recitation of names not only kept the names
alive, but more importantly, the stories and legends associated with the
means "son of" or "descendant of."1
Thus, if you were Ian, son of Fergus, your name was Ian Mac Fergus. If Ian
Mac Fergus had a son called Donald, his name would be Donald Mac Ian. If
there were another person in the village with the same name, as well there
might, these two individuals would be distinguished by adding the
grandfathers name e.g., Donald Mac Ian Mac Fergus. The names from each
generation would have to be recited until there was no confusion with
someone else, and to show pride in their origin. Nevertheless, in a normal
conversation, nicknames were used just as they are today, emphasizing some
personal characteristic, e.g., Donald the Fair (Ban). Within a family, a
second name was often used to indicate the position of a son within the
family as Og (younger or first son) and Faich (second son). If your
father was the towns only shipwright, you might be known as Donald, son
of the wright. Nicknames were not passed on to the next generation unless
that individual started a new clan and his nickname became the new clans
name. If the famous ancestors name was Donald, then your surname would
be MacDonald "descendant of Donald." If, in honor of a heroic
act, you started a new clan and your nickname was Bheathain or
"lively one," then your descendants would be Mac-ic-Bheathain,
pronounced MacBain or MacBean, "descendants of the lively one."
The clan system is
based on blood relations, usually led by a patriarch.2All old-world cultures used this system, which had both social and
political functions. Clans are as old as the concepts of family, ancestor,
and leader. Even the word "chief" sounds like, and has the same
meaning as, "sheik" from far off Arabia. This system is
associated with Scots and Scotland because Scottish clans endured into the
modern era when it was surrounded by newer systems, especially the feudal
system. Although the recording of the clan names and territories was
probably influenced by the feudal system, the underlying concept was
Gaelic. The clan system has been both romanticized and vilified. The Scots
fine-tuned it, and it sustained them through the "best and worst of
times" as they were dispersed to the four corners of the earth. The
clan system continues to bring Scots together at Highland gatherings, a
rare demonstration of national and cultural solidarity.
Cadets, and Septs. Over the centuries, Scottish clans emerged and
disappeared. New clans were formed to honor an individual for a heroic act
and to acknowledge an individuals leadership, or strength. As a clan
prospered, the lack of space, or a problem of succession, resulted in a
part of the clan settling elsewhere. If the new group came from the male
line of the chief and claimed a new name, and became strong enough to
protect itself, it was a new clan. Formation of most clans Highland clans
occurred before the 13th century. If the new group was formed
by a younger brother who had his own territory and was separated from the
original clan, after four or more generations, his descendants would style
themselves as a cadet or branch of the clan, but retain the Clan Name
e.g., MacDonald of Sleat.3
If the group was led by
someone other than the male heir of the chief, or by a daughter of the
chief, or still required the protection of the Clan, they were not a cadet
but were referred to as a sept. The term sept was also used to describe
the relationship between a weak clan that sought and received protection
from a more
1. "Daughter of" in
Gaelic is "Nic." Since "Nic" is not used as a family
name, we have added "descendant of" as a meaning for
"Mac", especially when used as a clan name.
2. Clan in Gaelic means "children of " or "family
of," so Clan MacIntyre means, Children of the Son of the Wright.
3. The Highlander, Vol. Page
powerful clan, or a clan
that was forced to submit, but allowed to keep their name. A sept could
also be formed when an individual attached himself to another clan as
their piper or bard.
In modern times, the term
sept has been applied to surnames that might be connected
with a clan. This became popular when people with Scottish ancestry wanted
to know their Clan name, when they werent found on the list of tartans.
They werent listed because their clan had been eliminated, or because
their Gaelic surname was Anglicized when they left Scotland. For example,
MacDonald might have been changed to Donaldson, which is why Donaldson is
listed as a sept of Clan Donald. It is for this reason that in this
edition, Wrightson has been added to the list of MacIntyre names or septs.
The term sept, is not part
of the heraldic system.
Of course, there were clans
who were decisively defeated in battle and lost everything -- their lives,
land, and even their clan name.1
The Chief and his Clansmen.
Among his clansmen, the chief was considered the first among equals. The
land belonged to the clan and those who lived on the clans land were
usually related in some way. Although the chief administered justice, he
did not make the laws. Special individuals called brehons helped to
develop and pass down the laws. Although this system eventually
disappeared, even today, Scottish and English laws differ in many
The clan name indicated a
personal relationship between the clansman and his chief through a common
descent from the first chief. This relationship was also expressed by
symbols that were worn on their bonnet, such as the badge (plant)3
and the crest badge.4
Thus, the clan system was a
large extended family that ensured a degree of certainty and safety to
clansmen in times when both were tenuous. This concept of family even
extends to acknowledgment of a close relationship and duty among
independent clans who had a common ancestor, as illustrated by the
MacIntyres, MacDonalds, and MacDougalls. The sense of an extended family
bound by a name, still exists today.
Selection of the Chief.
In the earliest times, the chief was selected by his peers. As in most
systems, over long periods of time, the process became more defined and
codified. In determining who would succeed a chief, the Celtic tradition
used a method called tanistry in which the chief named his successor (tanist).5
This was usually the chiefs brother because battles had a way of
cutting ones life short, especially if you were leading the way. There
was no time to wait for a baby to grow up and lead the Clan into battle.
This was eventually changed from the brother to the first-born son. The
change came from the influence of feudalism and from those instances when
the chief lived to see their sons become an adult. It was then possible to
chose the eldest son, although the Celtic tradition also allowed him to
choose a stronger, but younger, son. If the chief died without naming a
tanist or without a male issue, then any male in the chiefs family,
with the same great-grandfather was eligible to be chief. The election of
a chief took place at a derbhfine (council meeting) of those
eligible to be the chief.6,7
The chief was central to
the clans survival. Inheritance of property by the chiefs son was
not an issue, since the territory belonged to the clan. However, once the
feudal system took hold in Scotland, the chief owned the land, which his
first son inherited. If the main line was without issue, then the
chieftain of the senior cadet became chief, and if there were no cadet,
the clan became extinct or a sept of another clan.
1. For many years, the
MacGregors were outlawed and so was their surname. During that time, they
used the names of neighboring Clans, e.g. MacIntyre.
2. There is no law in Scotland against trespassing as there is in England.
Also, Scots Law has a not proven verdict, in addition to the
standard verdicts of guilty and not guilty.
3. The badge refers to the plant, e.g., white heather.
4. The crest badge is the crest of the chiefs coat-of-arms encircled by
a belt. This does not mean that all persons with the surname MacIntyre, or
variations thereof, are descendants of the first chief. This name could
also have originated in Scotland outside of the Highlands, simply as the
son of a wright. This was true for Ireland as well. Nevertheless, the need
for family, that we all crave may lead anyone with the name MacIntyre, or
an associated name, to want to be part of the extended Clan MacIntyre. Who
would deny someone this basic need?
5. Tanistry, as distinct from the feudal system. The feudal system used
primogeniture (the eldest son inherited all of his fathers land and
6. There were rare exceptions when a female inherited the chiefship, as in
the case of the Mackintoshes.
7. An adaptation of this method is still available for use by the Court of
the Lord Lyon in selecting a temporary clan representative (ad hoc
The King and the Chiefs. Just
as the chief was the first among equals within his clan, the Gaelic king
was only the first among his peers, who were the clan chiefs.1
The clans retained their own lands and administered their own justice.
Until the time of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish kings had very little
power by the middle of the first century.2This is one reason why the Scottish kings had difficulty in bringing
the clans together for any length of time to oppose their enemies. The
interests of the individual clan were always more important than the king
or nation. When the English fought the Scots, the Scots usually won the
first battle but lost the war. Even when it appeared that the clans were
united, there were clans who abstained from fighting, and sometimes fought
on the other side. Conversely, the English were ruled by an absolute
feudal king who the barons had to support, or else. The best alternative
was exile but the punishment was often the Tower of London or the chopping
THE INFLUENCE OF OTHER
BLOODLINES AND CULTURES
The Norse and the English
were the last two important bloodlines and cultures to influence the
Gaelic world. Around 800 A.D., the Scandinavian kingdoms of the far north
began to attack and even settle parts of Scotland, England, and Ireland.
The Vikings, as they were called, started their expansion in the northern
islands of Scotland. They hop scotched to the northern mainland, then to
the Western Isles (Inner and Outer Hebrides), and south to the Isle of
Man, and over to Ireland. Over the next 500 years, they went as far south
as Sicily, east to Kiev, and west to Newfoundland (Vineland). Although
often ruthless in their brutality toward those they conquered, they were
not alone in this approach. Contrary to this stereotype, the Vikings often
settled down and intermarried with the local population. For example, they
established the city of Dublin, the Kingdom of Sicily, and a large Duchy
in France called Normandy (Land of the North Men).
The Vikings did not spare
Argyll and the western islands of Scotland. There were raids followed by
times of accommodation, when tribute was paid and strategic marriages were
arranged. The founders of most of the Highland Scottish clans, including
the MacIntyres, had some Norse blood in their veins and there were
Highland clans, like the Andersons, who were primarily Norse.
The Norwegian Kingdom didnt
relinquish its last Scottish possession until 1266 A.D. Given the 400
years they were overlords of northern and western Scotland, the remnants
of the Norse influence is very small. They left many place names and
family names but had relatively little cultural influence. Many of the
Norse men married Scoti women and never returned to their homeland. This
allowed the mothers to speak Gaelic and to pass on the legends that
embodied the Scoti-Gaelic heritage.
The final cultural and political influence
came from England where wave upon wave of political refugees - Britons,
Angles, Danes, Saxons, and Normans - came over Hadrians Wall and
resettled in the Scottish Lowlands. It was from these refugees that the
Gaelic-Scoti political system met its match and was eventually overcome.
DEMISE OF THE CLAN SYSTEM 1
Clash of cultures
In Scotland, two major
systems of governance and culture competed for preeminence. There was the
clan system that originated with the Celts, then the Gaels, and finally
the Scoti, with a touch of Picts and Norse thrown in for spice. From the
south came the newer European feudal system that originated with the
Germans and was refined by the French-Normans. Gaelic and feudal systems
affected daily life in different ways that instigated many conflicts. The
final military battle to retain something of the Gaelic clan culture was
fought at Culloden in 1746. Although defeated
In the modern
vernacular, the clan system was organized from the bottom up and the
feudal system from the top down. The essential difference was the clans
emphasis on family, relative equality, and leadership, while the
feudal system was based on land ownership, inequality, and ultimately on
the divine right of kings.
1. This was the
same as in the old Scotia (Ireland), where there were the regional kings
and then there was the elected, High King at Tara.
2. MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, was able to ignore the Kings of Scotland
through an alliance with the Norse Kings.
For those who cant wait to read about Clan MacIntyres history, you
can skip to Part II. For genealogists, anxious to study the MacIntyre
Chiefs and Chieftains, go directly to Part III. For those who have had
enough "history" for a while, you can take rest by reading about
MacIntyre culture in Part IV and MacIntyre stories in Part V. For the rest
of you, I say, stay right here and "charge ahead."
In the feudal system, the
barons (equivalent to Gaelic chiefs) gave their land and allegiance to the
king who, at his pleasure, returned to them the use of the land along with
honorary titles and privileges. These privileges included
administering the laws, "in the name of the King." The land and
honorary titles were passed on to the first-born male, as the heir
apparent, in a system known as primogeniture. The king had the power to
create new titles and reclaimed his land from any baron who failed in his
allegiance. This was a common occurrence, with the titles and land given
to a more loyal subject, for services rendered or promised. In the feudal
system, the people who worked on the nobles land were not related to
him, except for extramarital relations. In fact, the livestock were often
treated better than the peasants because they were more valuable,
reliable, and less trouble.2 Feudalism, and its continuations
in the form of the "barons" of industry, eventually lost its
control of the peasants to newer social, political, and economic systems
that were based on freedom of the individual or on the power of a
non-hereditary, nationalistic government.
By comparison, in the
Gaelic clan system, the position of chief was by consent of the clansmen,
who were family. A change in a Gaelic king did not change the
relationship of a clan chief to his clansmen. A chief would not and could
not treat his clansmen as his personal property. Clan territory belonged
to the clansmen and could not be transferred by the chief to another clan
or to the king without their consent. The chief and the clansmen protected
each other with their lives, even against the king. This meant that the
military strength of the clan determined their independence from the king
and the strength of the king depended on the strength of the clans that
supported him. The chiefs status depended on his wisdom, military
prowess, and leadership skills. Among different clans, there were always
disagreements due to the lack of distinct territorial boundaries, and
fierce clan loyalty, without regard to right and wrong.
The collision between
the English and Gaelic cultures and between the feudal and clan systems
intensified in the middle of the 12th century and continues to this day.1
Other underlying conflicts were Highland vs. Lowland, traditional vs. new,
Catholic vs. Protestant, and Scottish Protestant vs. English Protestant.
The problem developed as
wave after wave of vanquished English rulers and their entourage crossed
into Scotland. This immigration continued for a thousand years. These
"refugees" smoothed their welcome with gold and forged
alliances with their daughters. The sequence of immigration was: Britons,
Saxons, Angles, and then the Danes who were ousted by the French-Norman,
William the Conqueror, in 1066. Each of these groups seemed to be
willing to accept the Gaelic culture as their own. Meanwhile, in England,
the French-Normans had installed a highly sophisticated and oppressive
form of feudalism. Thats how things stood for the next century, until
1154, when there was a split in the Norman-English royal house. The losing
faction landed on Scotlands doorstep as so many groups before, with
their money and daughters with one major difference; they brought their
While most of the nobles
came from England to Scotland, there were instances when the flow was
reversed. In these instances, an unsuccessful claimant to the Scottish
throne fled to the English court for the safety of his family. These
children were brought up speaking French and later English, but certainly
not Gaelic. As important, he learned the customs of the English court
(Anglicized). When the Scottish king was became caught up in the power
struggles, he was often assassinated and the son of the previous king to
return to rule Scotland. Unfortunately, he had been brainwashed and was
Scottish in name only, and through marriages with English royalty, lacking
even Scoti blood.
In the Scottish court and
at the border of the Highlands, the concept of chief and clansman
began to lose ground to the concept of lord and subject. The nobles
from England curried favor with the weak, Anglicized, Scottish kings, and
in return, for their money and daughters, they were given land, titles,
and privileges. The lands were often taken from Highland clans who backed
the losing side in the intrigues over who was the rightful king. The
concept of land ownership within the feudal system slowly became imposed
on much of Scotland, which meant that the king and not the clans owned the
A Slow Demise
The clan system reached
its high point in 1156-58 when Somerled took control of Argyll and the
western Isles from the Norse overlords. He never had a chance to rest due
to constant pressure from the feudal tide from the
2. See Jonathon Swifts, A Modest
Proposal, which is from a later period and satirical but the
based on the same premise.
1. It is the reason Scotland recently voted for
devolution and their own Parliament.
south. In 1164, on the eve
of his first great battle with Malcolm IV (the Maiden), King of Scotland,1
Somerled was murdered and the battle was lost.2 One would think that a
united Scottish Kingdom would be good for the clan system, but the system
was based on the independence of the clans loosely held together by an
appointed king. Starting with this victory, the kings of Scotland began to
impose the feudal system on the Highlands, including an inherited
monarchy. This led to a Scottish civil war, which superficially ended in
1266 when the feudal King of Scotland, Alexander III, defeated The
MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, the strongest supporter of the clan system,
as long as it suited him. By outward appearances, Scotland was at its
strongest, with both the Highlands and Lowlands united under one feudal
king who was still of direct Scoti descent and to whom all owed
their fealty (feudal allegiance). However, neither the marriage between
the clan and feudal systems nor the marriage between the Gaelic and
English cultures, was ever consummated. The internal conflicts based on
their inherent differences contributed to constant conflict and the
eventual loss of Scotlands independence. Not by coincidence,
Alexander III (1249 1286) was the last King of Scotland with a direct
Scoti blood descent.
The demise of the Gaelic
culture in Scotland was also unfolding in Ireland but with less subtlety.
There were direct attempts by the English to conquer, subjugate, and, if
necessary, annihilate the Irish Gaelic population in order to take over
their Isle of Destiny. The first attempt was by the newly established
King, William the Conqueror. His Normans conquered Ireland in a military
sense, but they, in turn, were conquered by the Gaelic culture, which they
found so enjoyable that they became "more Irish than the Irish."
However, that didnt stop
the English kings from trying again and again. The efforts intensified
when Henry VIIIs new religion made it legal to kill Roman Catholic
priests and to steal from the Irish monasteries. Ireland was now seen as
the bastion of Catholicism. Elizabeth, the First, carried on where her
father left off, and it was close to genocide. The resistance of the
Gaelic chiefs (earls) led by Hugh ONeill, Earl of Tir-Owen, continued
for nine years. Although the English lost most of the battles, their
superior numbers and armament eventually wore the Irish down. The Gaelic
king, "The ONeill,"3with a red hand on his banner,
reluctantly agreed to terms. But Elizabeth I, died before the agreement
was signed. Her successor, King James VI of Scotland, now became King
James I of England as well. King James was an ardent Protestant and his Irish
solution was to settle Scottish Protestants in ONeills Ulster so
he could control the Catholics Gaels. So, in 1607, The ONeill and his
earls were forced to leave Ireland for the Continent. This tragic event in
Irish history is known as "The Flight of the Earls" and signaled
the end of 2500 years of Gaelic rule in Ireland. The ONeill was
eventually hunted down and murdered in France. It is indeed ironic that
this took place at the hands of a Scottish king who should have supported
Gaeldom. Unfortunately for the Irish, James had become "more English
than the English." Once the Ulster chiefs had left Ireland, their
lands became forfeit and King James gave them to his English and Scottish
supporters. The consequences of his policy to bring in Scottish
Protestants to manage the Ulster Plantations continue to this very day in
the violent religious and cultural divide known euphemistically in
Northern Ireland as, "The Troubles."
"success" in Ireland, the English monarchs turned their
attention once more to putting an end to the last vestige of Gaeldom, the
Scottish clan system in the Highlands. This should have been easy since
for over three hundred years, Scottish kings hadnt been of Gaelic or
Scoti descent, and Gaelic hadnt been spoken in the Scottish Court or
Parliament. Yet, the Highlanders were still speaking Gaelic and acting as
if they were Gaels, and this represented a real threat to the Crown. Time
after time, it appeared that the clans were doomed starting with Malcolm
IV, who ostensibly united the Scottish Kingdom as far back as 1164.
Then in 1266, Alexander III defeated The Lord of the Isles, which again,
supposedly removed the last opposition to the king and the feudal system.
In 1314, Robert the Bruce (although a Scot on by acculturation) appeared
to maintain and strengthen an independent Scottish Kingdom at Bannockburn.
Technically, an independent Scottish kingdom was maintained in 1603, when
the crowns of the two kingdoms (Scotland and England) were united under
the Scottish King, James Stewart, the sixth of Scotland, and the first of
England. But James and his Stewart successors stayed in London. In 1707,
the de facto domination of England became a legal reality, when the
two kingdoms (with one king) became one kingdom, the United Kingdom. Under
immense pressure, liberal bribes, and threat of invasion from England, the
Scottish Parliament, by passing the Act of Union, created a
1. He was the King of
Scotland but not a Scottish king because only a small portion of the Kings
blood was Scottish and he possessed even less Scottish culture. After all,
English had been the language of the Scottish court for 100 years, starting with
Malcolm III (Canmore) and his Saxon wife, Margaret.
2. In Part II you will see how some would blame a MacIntyre for the death of
Somerled and by inference, the death of the clan system.
3. In an act of defiance, Hugh ONeill, called Earl of Tir-Owen under the
feudal system, returned to his Gaelic roots, publicly rejected his Earldom, and
henceforth, was only addressed by his Gaelic title, The ONeill.
country, Great Britain.1 This appears to be the only instance where a
sovereign nation voted itself out of existence.
The royal union of Scotland
and England under one monarch in 1603 coincided with the subjugation of
the Gaels in Ireland. The Highland clans continued their resistance to
this "union" for another 150 years. The clan system, with its
family ties based on equality and a blood relationship, was so strong that
it could not be dismissed easily or peacefully. In a direct effort to
weaken the clan system, an Act of Parliament in 1608 officially severed
the patriarchal relationship of the chief to his clansmen by making him
their legal landlord. Although this did not change the hearts of the
Highlanders or their loyalty to their Chief, it was another incursion of
the feudal system. It was now necessary to provide proof of title, both to
land and nobility. This included a coat of arms, a land designation, and
an honorary title. Even the staunchly Gaelic chiefs began to accept this
system of nobility, including those who didnt have title to their land
e.g., MacDonald of Keppoch and MacIntyre of Glenoe. The Scottish chiefs
coat of arms signified his families past and therefore the past of his
clan, but it was also a symbol of feudalism.
There were always feuds
among clans that sporadically resulted in minor battles.2 These battles
were short because they took the combatants away from their families and
cultivation of their meager crops. The feuds ranged from a single death
(blood feud) to conflicts over land, inheritance, or power (king of the
hill). Every so often, feuds escalated into major conflicts. These were
usually kept within the confines of Scotland, but when they involved the
Scottish monarchy, one side often sought help from the English, with
disastrous consequences. The wars were ostensibly fought over important
principles, but the underlying conflict was between the Gaelic-Highland
culture and the English-feudal system. Among the more significant
"feuds" was Robert the Bruce and the MacDougalls who fought at
the Pass of Brander. This ultimately led to the ascendancy of the
Campbells in the Highlands, and a feud massacre of the MacDonalds by the
Campbells at Glencoe, which has caused many Highland clans to associate
the name Campbell with the English.
There were a series of wars
to establish or maintain Scotland as a separate nation. The most famous of
these were there ones led by Wallace in 1297-98, and by Bruce in 1314 at
Bannockburn. Prior to these was Somerleds successful sea battle n 1556,
to free western Scotland from the Norse, and a second one by Alexander III
against King Haakon of Norway, at Largs in 1263. There were a number of
other battles to maintain independence as the goal, including Flodden
Field in 1513, and both Dunbar and Worcester in 1651.
Starting in the late 1500s
there was disagreement over governance of the Scottish church. On one side
were the King and his appointed bishops, known as Royalists. Opposing them
was the laity, known as Presbyterians or Covenanters. The result was a
civil war. Although it was the reverse of their normal position, the
MacDonalds supported the King and the Campbells supported the Covenanters.
This was just the beginning
of a long period of large scale fighting which saw clans fighting on one
side and then reversing themselves and fighting for the other side. The
changes were some times just pragmatic - to be on the winning side - or
based on a change in the issue, e.g., from church governance to
independence from English domination. Among the major events during this
period of upheaval were the execution of the Stuart King Charles I of the
United Kingdoms, the exile of Charles II, the rise and fall of Oliver
Cromwell, the restoration of Charles II, the execution of the Marquis of
Argyll, the rise and fall of James the VII of Scotland and II of England,
the accession of William and Mary, and the massacre of the MacDonalds at
1. See Robert Burns poem, Such a
Parcel of Rogues in a Nation, with the famous line "
bought and sold for English gold."
2. A minor battle except for
those who died.
The civil discord that
started in the late 1500s never really ended because the Scots were never
free of the English yoke. The Parliament was in London and the new King,
William of Orange, had no connection with Scotland. In 1715, the monarchy
was given to George I, a German from Hanover. This instigated a failed
rising in support of James, the son of James II, who was the legitimate
blood successor to the throne of the United Kingdom through the Stuart
line. Once again, it was the MacDonalds leading the Highland clans in
support of a Scottish king who was more English than Scottish in
opposition to the Campbells, who supported the established monarchy, even
though the English king was a German! The rebels were called Jacobites,
Latin for James. If successful, James, called the Old Chevalier or Old
Pretender, would have been James VIII of Scotland and would have separated
the two kingdoms that had only officially united eight years earlier.
In 1745, there was one last
great rebellion to return to the throne the son of James, the Old
Chevalier, Charles James Stuart. His supporters called him Bonnie
Prince Charlie, and his detractors called him the Young Pretender. The
motivation for the Highlanders was to free Scotland from English
domination even if it meant accepting a hated feudal system. As we all
know, after initial success brought the rebels to the doorstep of London,
the rebellion ended at Culloden, where the depleted and bedraggled
Highland clans were defeated on April 16, 1746.
Aftermath of the 45
Rebellion. Despite loss of their
rights, internal warfare, and total military defeat at Culloden,
the sense of clan loyalty, based on eternal feelings of kith and kin, the
Gaelic culture, and the Highland lifestyle could not be quenched. The
losing chiefs fled to the Continent and many of their clansmen voluntarily
or involuntarily emigrated to the colonies. The concept of the clan and
the loyalty that it demanded was still alive during the major Scottish
emigration to the New World. While clans have been characterized by the
feuds between the Martins and the McCoys, the clan system and Gaelic
culture served as a source of strength for the Scottish immigrants. The
warm coals of clanship remained and were rekindled wherever they were
taken. They continue to burn in the hearts and minds of Scots to this very
day in every corner of the earth.
As happened to the Irish
earls 150 year before, the lands of the Highland chiefs who supported the
Jacobite cause were forfeited to the Crown and given to chiefs who
supported the Government. Unlike what happened in Ireland, the forfeited
lands in Scotland were given to Scots, instead of foreigners. However,
this didnt end the strife because, in one respect, the new landlords
were worse than foreign conquerors, they were traitors! The Campbells were
the major beneficiary of this land grab and in Argyll; they became the
hated agents of the Crown who collected the unjust and exorbitant rents.
Many clansmen remained loyal to their exiled chiefs and in addition to
paying rent to their new "Land-Lord," they made a secret payment
to their chiefs in exile. In this way, they recognized their clan
obligations even though there was no legal bond.
The victorious English
forged ahead with numerous steps to eliminate the last vestiges of the
Scottish clan system. Following the indiscriminate butchery of the
survivors of Culloden, laws were enacted that kept Scots from bearing arms
or even playing the bagpipe, for the pipes were considered Articles
of War.1 Recognizing the potential threat from cultural and family
ties, the Hanoverian government outlawed and ruthlessly suppressed the
wearing of the kilt or showing the tartan. They had previously abolished
the hereditary jurisdiction of the chiefs as local magistrates and they
fostered the feudal system that discouraged a family relationship between
the lord of the manor and his tenants.
These restrictions were
retained for almost forty years, more than a generation, during which they
were resisted by Scots whenever possible. The resistance is evidenced in
one of R.R. McIans famous prints where a MacIntyre has a plant badge of
white heather in his bonnet and has used a skirt of purple cloth stitched
down the middle, to masquerade as trews (trousers). The white
heather was a statement that he was a member of the MacIntyre clan, and
the pants were clearly a kilt in disguise, sans tartan. Duncan Ban
MacIntyre, a famous Gaelic poet, protested the ban on wearing the kilt in
his The Song of the Breeches and he spent time in jail for his
breach of the peace. It was not until 1782 that the fear of another
clan rebellion had receded enough for James, Marquis of Graham, to obtain
a repeal of the ban on the wearing of tartan and kilt. Duncan Ban
celebrated its repeal in his verse, The Highland Garb, but the
"clan" as a way of life and governance, was
1. There was an element of
logic in this since the kilted Scots were piped into battle. There are
many stories of how the pipes saved the day. The one I liked as a child
(as told by my father) was how the Scots fooled the English by tripling
the number of pipers. Since the Scots were out of sight, the English
assumed they had three times as many fighters are than actually had and
decided to retreat when they actually far outnumber their outnumbered
Scots. Perhaps the most celebrated occasion was at Waterloo, when the Duke
of Wellingon ordered the Highland regiments to the weakest point of the
line to stave of a fierce counterattack by Napoleon. Wellington ordered
their pipers to play "as if your lives depended upon it." The
rest is history.
doomed forever. It
was the very next year that the first MacIntyre from the chiefs line,
Donald, the Younger, and heir apparent to James (III), emigrated to the New
World on the heels of the defeat of the English in the American
Although the Stuart
crown was lost, the Jacobite cause lingered on into the present century.
It was fueled by sentimentality rooted in the Highland and Scoti
clan culture and traditions. In January 1966, the Royal Stuart Society
held a meeting of the Jacobites in England to celebrate a mass for James
VII of Scotland and III of Great Britain. They proclaimed Albert of
Bavaria as the legitimate Stuart successor to the claims of Prince Charles
Edward and their "rightful" king, although they knew that the
German Prince Albert would not claim the throne or apply for recognition
to the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms as Chief of the Royal
THE SCOTTISH DISPERSION
The many military defeats
resulted in both voluntary and involuntary exile of Scots to all the
continents. At the same time, there were social and economic changes that
worked against the survival of the clan system and caused many people to
Fighting was a well-known
vocation and avocation for Highlanders. For centuries, clansmen had fought
in foreign armies, either as mercenaries or for a cause in which they
deeply believed (e.g., against England). The Kings of France had a Scots
Guard in which you could find clansmen with names like Bouquenaine and
Ualis, which had been Buchanan and Wallace. There were Scots in the army
of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, who took part in the Thirty Years War
in Germany. The Protestants served Sweden and their military experience
later helped the Covenanting Army. The Catholics entered the service of
Spain, Austria, and France. Often a bantering over a rampart or a
challenge by a Scot in Gaelic would be answered in Gaelic! Centuries
later, Scots who served in the British navy went to Chile to train their
sailors and many stayed. While some Latinized their names, there was an
Admiral Donald MacIntyre in the Navy of Chile some generations later.
After each of the
continuing conflicts, clansmen and clanswomen were forced into exile, most
of them never to return. The most common relocation was to Ireland but
this was too close for comfort and these "unsociable" Scots had
too much in common with the "unsociable" Irish. The next best
place to get rid of prisoners was the American Colonies.
There was a major shipment
following the Battles of Dunbar and Worcester in 1651 when many Scots lost
their lives but many more were captured. Oliver Cromwell did not want to
send the prisoners back to Scotland, to live and fight another day.
Instead, as virtual slaves, they were sent to the American colonies in
Massachusetts, the Carolinas, and the Barbados to work off their
sentences. Among them were MacIntyres. Almost a century later, following
the debacle of Culloden, a second contingent of prisoners arrived in the
Barbados and, to their amazement, heard the natives and non-Scottish
slaves speaking Gaelic that they had learned from their Scottish
overseers! After 1776, the Americas were no longer a place to send
undesirables and Australia became the prime destination.
Since the time when the
Scots came from Northern Ireland to settle Alba (Scotland), there had been
continuous interchanges between these two lands, especially between Ulster
and Argyll. County Antrim in Ulster is only 20 miles across the Irish Sea
from Kintyre in Argyll. The Scottish MacDonnell, Lords of Islay and
Kintyre at one time held the Glynns (Glens) of Antrim, married with the
O'Neills, fought against plans to colonize Ulster with English settlers,
and one of his descendants became the 1st Earl of Antrim. Ireland was
always a place where Scots who lost their land in Scotland could go and
still maintain their Gaelic culture.
As mentioned previously, to
subdue the Irish Catholic rebels and to stabilize control of the forfeited
territory, Queen Elizabeth I conceived the Plantation of Ulster, which
gave the lands of the Gaelic Chiefs to English and Scottish friends of the
Crown. Her successor, James VI/I of the United Kingdom implemented
Elizabeths plans and brought Scots to Ulster to manage the plantations
(1608-20). MacIntyres were among those leaving Scotland to settle on
plantations in Northern Ireland, particularly Tyrone and Donegal.1 Scots
were considered the best settlers because of their work ethic and
Protestant religion. The major problem was their tendency to intermarry
with the native Irish.
They were called Scotch-Irish
because they came from Ireland but they were Scots by culture. After all,
they had only been in Ireland for 150 years. Continuation of their
Scottish culture was aided by their relative isolation in a separate layer
of society and the northeast corner of Ireland, site of the Ulster
plantations. In 1717, drought caused an economic depression that forced
around 5,000 of these Scotch-Irish to leave Ulster for emigration
to America. This continued in significant numbers for half a century,
until 1775. By 1790, the Scotch-Irish were the second largest nationality
group in the United States.2 They preferred the Appalachian mountain range,
because it reminded them of Scotland. They initially settled in New York
and moved south across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia,
North Carolina, and Georgia. Significant concentrations of MacIntyres can
still be found in the mountains of New York and North Carolina.
Some decided to leave on
their own, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. The Argyll Colony was
one of the earliest Scottish settlements in what was to be the United
States. The first colonists arrived from Argyll on the Thistle after a
three and a half month voyage from the Isle of Gigha to what is now
Wilmington, North Carolina at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Others
followed including some, like John McIntyre from Glenorchy, in 1775. This
colony was the source of many descendants who still live in the area and
some when on to concentrate in other areas, such as Charleston, South
Carolina and Mississippi. Of course, there were those, Like Donald (IV)
who decided to come to the new world alone to use their skills where they
were most needed.
Canada was another place
where Scots were welcomed. There were undoubtedly a significant proportion
of Scots in the English armies that came to fight in the French and Indian
wars and later in the English Army in the Americans War of Independence.
Some certainly remained in Canada rather then returning to a less than
certain life in England or Scotland. There were others, like the daughters
of James III, who left Glenoe for Canada and then the United States at a
time when successive droughts had made farming in Scotland increasingly
Australia, although halfway
around the world, became another destination for voluntary emigration. The
word got back from former prisoners that life wasnt so bad and the
opportunities were good. This fostered the first wave of emigration to
Australia in 1830s coinciding with the clearances in Scotland and
bolstered by the gold rush from 1850-60.
peaceful, the period from 1775 to 1825 was perhaps an even more difficult
challenge to the clans than the 45 defeat. This period included crop
failures, fear of war with France, and more importantly, the rapid
advancement of the Industrial Revolution. These problems werent as
acute as a war, but the ultimate effect was more devastating and long
The threat and reality of
the Napoleonic wars required coke to stoke the iron furnaces and the coke
was made from Highland timber. Wool for the mills could not be obtained
from the continent so the Highland pastures were converted from cattle to
sheep. These two activities, tree cutting for coke and pasturage for
sheep, complemented each other. The forested hills of Scotland quickly
became the largely barren, grazing hillsides we see today. The higher
elevations were used for deer hunting by the Lords and their friends. One
shepherd could look after many sheep and what was left of the forest as
well. As a result, many of the crofters were put off the land. The removal
of the tenants was chronicled in the two books, Highland Clearances
by John Prebble and The History of the Highland Clearances by
(PHOTO) (newspaper article
from that time enumerating the loss of population)
map of Ireland, published on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1954 by The
Washington Post Washington, D.C. shows MacIntire in County Donegal and
MacIntyre in County Tyrone among the great names of the Emerald Isle.
2. The Germans were the
largest group and the English were third.
By this time, fewer and
fewer Scottish tenants were blood relations or even in the same clan as
the owner of the land. Also, the sense of clan obligation had diminished
over the 200 years since the time when the clans owned the land. Despite
these major economic and social changes, between 1755 and 1795 there was
only a small reduction in the population around Glen Noe. This was only a
temporary reprieve because in the ten years between 1831 and 1841, there
was a sixty percent reduction in the population of Argyll. The new,
largely absentee, landlords used the land for the highest monetary return.
In only a short fifty years, sheep had replaced cattle and then hunting
had replace sheep as the most valuable use of land. An important factor
was the economics, with that land for hunting requiring even fewer workers
than sheep. Fewer workers meant fewer problems and fewer expenses for the
lords who used the added profits to pay for townhouses in Edinburgh and
London. The uprooted tenants had three choices: seek their fortune
overseas, go to England as beggars or servants, or enlist in one of the
Kings kilted regiments that forged the bonds of the Empire upon which
the sun never set.
Regardless of the reasons
for their emigration, a Scot kept a warm spot in his heart for the glen he
called home. He also took with him his stories of loyalties and
injustices, which he passed on to his descendants, via the same oral
method that his father and grandfather used; in fact, the same way my
father passed them on to me (until he wrote this book). Thus, clan
loyalties (and feuds) did not die with the destruction of the clan system.
To this day, there remains a strong kinship among people of Scottish
descent, especially those who bear the same name. There is no other
explanation for the feeling pride or disgrace that we feel when someone
with our name is in the news. Regardless of their socio-economic status,
location, religion, or race, we know that we are somehow connected to them
and that this connection is important.
The rivalry between clans
remains, especially between clans who in the past were deadly enemies. At
annual clan gatherings, there is a feeling of Scottish unity while
maintaining, in jest (usually), the traditional clan feuds such as, the
MacDonalds vs. Campbells with the MacIntyres still caught in between. Even
as we toast the Queen, we think of her as the Scottish Queen, so we can
retain our enmity toward the English who tried, and still try, to take
away our Highland heritage and independence. We also smile when we see the
present monarchs take pleasure in wearing the kilt on their Scottish
holidays at Balmoral Castle, especially because the "Queen Mum"
is a Scot by birth.
Despite centuries of
defeats on the battlefield, the culture of the clan has survived, as
witnessed by this book, the Clan Societies, and the many annual Highland
gatherings. Tartan, kilt, bagpipe, Scotch whiskey, country dancing,
Highland dancing, country music, and golf, have all found their way into
the fabric of daily life wherever the Scots have settled.
A worldwide gathering of
the clans was held in Edinburgh, Scotland in May 1977, when the
descendants of those who had left centuries before, returned to celebrate
their clans survival and to visit the land their clans once held. This
reunion was testimony to the hardiness - and luck - of ancestors who
survived war, famine, pestilence and the other hardships of life in both
the old and the new world. The motto of all of the clans might well be
that of the MacIntyres, Per Ardua.