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MacNaughton


The clan Nachtan or Macnaughton is supposed by Mr Skene to have originally belonged to Moray.

The MS of 1450 deduces the descent of the heads of the clan from Nachtan Mor, who is supposed to have lived in the 10th century. The Gaelic name Neachtain is the same as the Pictish Nectan, celebrated in the Pictish Chronicle as one of the great Celitc divisions in Scotland, and the appellation is among the most ancient in the north of Ireland, the original seat of the Cruithen Picts. According to Buchanan of Auchmar, the heads of this clan were for ages thanes of Loch Tay, and possessed all the country between the south side of Loch-Fyne and Lochawe, parts of which were Clenira, Glenshira, Glenfine, and other places, while their principal seat was Dunderraw on Loch-Fyne.

In the reign of Robert III, Maurince or Morice Macnaughton had a charter from Colin Campbell of Lochow of sundry lands in Over Lochow, but their first settlement in Argyleshire, in the central parts of which their lands latterly wholly lay, took place long before this. When Malcolm the Maiden attempted to civilise the ancient province of Moray, by introducing Norman and Saxon families, such as the Bissets, the Comyns, &c., in the place of the rude Celtic natives whom he had expatriated to the south, he gave lands in or near Strathtay or Strathspey, to Nachtan of Moray, for those he had held in that province. He had there a residence called Dunnachtan castle. Nesbit describes this Nachtan as "an eminent man in the time of Malcolm IV", and says that he "was in great esteem with the family of Lochawe, to whom he was very assistant in their wars with the Macdougals, for which he was rewarded with sundry lands". The family of Lochawe here mentioned were the Campbells.

The Macnaughtons appear to have been fairly and finally settled in Argyleshire previous to the reign of Alexander III, and Gilchrist Macnaughton, styled of that ilk, was by that monarch appointed in 1287, heritable keeper of his castle and island of Frechelan (Fraoch Ellan) on Lochawe, on condition that he should be properly entertained when he should pass that way; whence a castle embattled was assumed as the crest of the family.

This GIlchirst was father or grandfather of Donald Macnaughton of that ilk, who, being nearly connected with the Macdougals of Lorn, joined that powerful chief with his clan against Robert the Bruce, and fought against the latter at the battle of Dalree in 1306, in consequence of which he lost a great part of his estates. In Abercromby's Martial Achievements, it is related that the extraordinary courage shown by the king in having, in a narrow pass, slain with his own hand several of his pursuers, and amongst the rest three brothers, so greatly excited the admiration of the chief of the Macnaughtons that he became thenceforth on of his firmest adherents.

His son and successor, Duncan Macnaughton of that ilk, was a steady and loyal subject to King David II, who, as a reward for his fidelity, conferred on his his son, Alexander, lands in the island of Lewis, a portion of the forfeited possessions of John of the Isles, which the chiefs of the clan Naughton held for a time. The ruins of their castle of Macnaughton are still pointed out on that island.

Donald Macnaughton, a younger son of the family, was, in 1436, elected bishop of Dunkeld, in the reign of James I.

Alexander Macnaughton of that ilk, who lived in the beginning of the 16th century, was knighted by James IV, whom he accompanied to the disastrous field of Flodden, where he was slain, with nearly the whole chivalry of Scotland. His son, John, was succeeded by his second son, Malcolm Macnaughton of Glenshira, his eldest son having predeceased him. Malcolm died in the end of the reign of James VI, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander.

John, the second son of Malcolm, being of a handsome appearance, attracted the notice of King James VI, who appointed him one of his pages of honour, on his accession to the English crown. He became rich, and purchased lands in Kintyre. His elder brother, Alexander Macnaughton of that ilk, adheared firmly to the cause of Charles I, and in his service sustained many severe losses. At the Restoration, as some sort of compensation, he was knighted by Charles II, and, unlike many others, received from that monarch a liberal pension for life. Sir Alexander Macnaughton spent his later days in London, where he died. His son and successor, John Macnaughton of that ilk, succeeded to an estate greatly burdened with debt, but did not hesitate in his adherence to the fallen fortunes of the Stuarts. At the head of a considerable body of his own clan, he joined Viscount Dundee, and was with him at Killiecrankie. James VII signed a deed in his favour, restoring to his family all its old lands and hereditary rights, but, as it never passed the seals in Scotland, it was of no value. His lands were taken from him, not by forfeiture, but "the estate", says Buchanan of Auchmar, "was evicted by creditors for sums noways equivalent to its value, and, there being no diligence used for relief therefore, it went out of the hands of the family". His son, Alexander, a captain in Queen Anne's guards, was killed in the expedition to Vigo in 1702. His brother, John, at the beginning of the last century was for many years collector of customs at Anstruther in Fife, and subsequently was appointed inspector-general in the same department. The direct male line of the Macnaughton chiefs became extinct at his death.

"The Mackenricks are ascribed to the Macnaughton line, as also families of Macnights (or Macneits), Macnayers, Macbraynes, and Maceols". The present head of the Macbraynes is John Burns Macbrayne, grandson of Donald Macbrayne, merchant in Glasgow, who was great-grandson, on the female side, of Alexander Macnaughton of that ilk, and heir of line of John Macnaughton, inspector-general of customs in Scotland. On this account the present representative of the Macbraynes is entitled to quarter his arms with those of Macnaughtons.

There are still Athole families of the Macnaughton name, proving so far what has been stated respecting their early possession of lands in that district. Stewart of Garth makes most honourable mention of one of the sept, who was in the service of Menzies of Culdares in the year 1745. That gentleman had been "out" in 1715, and was pardoned. Grateful so far, he did not join Prince Charles, but sent a fine charger to him as he entered England. The servant, Macnaughton, who conveyed the present, was taken and tried at Carlisle. The errand on which he had come was clearly proved, and he ws offered pardon and life if he would reveal the name of the sender of the horse. He asked with indignation if they supposed that he could be such a villain. They repeated the offer to him on the scaffold, but he died firm to his notion of fidelity. His life was nothing to that of his master, he said. The brother of this Macnaughton was known to Garth, and was one of the Gael who always carried a weapon about him to his dying day.

Another Account of the Clan

BADGE: Lusan Albanach (azalea procumbeus) trailing azalea.
SLOGAN: Fraoch Eilean.

MacNaughton THROUGHOUT the legend-haunted Highlands, where every island, glen, and hillside has its strange and tender story of the past, no district is more crowded with old romance than that of Loch Awe. Here lay the heart of the old Oire Gaidheal, or Argyll—the Land of the Gael—headquarters of the Scots after their early settlement in this country in the days of St. Columba. Even at that time the islands and shores of Loch Awe seem to have been a region of old wonder and story, and from then till now traditions have gathered about these lovely shores, till the unforgotten deeds of clansmen long since dust would make a book of which one should never tire of turning the pages.

The origin of the loch itself is the subject of a legend which must have been told to wondering ears a thousand times in the most dim and misty past. According to that legend the bed of the loch was once a fair and fertile valley, with sheilings and cattle and cornfields, where the reapers sang at harvest time. It had always upon it, however, the fear of the day of fate. High on the side of Ben Cruachan, that mightier Eildon of the Highlands, with its strange triple summit, was a fairy spring which must always be kept covered. For generations this was jealously done, but as time went on and no trouble came, the folk grew less careful. At last one day a girl who went to draw water forgot to replace the cover on the spring. All night the water flowed and swelled in a silver flood, and when morning broke, in place of the fertile valley, a far-reaching loch, studded with islands like green and purple jewels, stretched away through the winding valleys of the hills.

Each of the islands, again, has its own tradition more or less strange or romantic. Of these tales one of the earliest is that of Inis Fraoch. In English to-day the name is taken to mean the Heather Isle, but another origin is given to it in one of the early songs of Ossian, to be found in old Gaelic manuscript and tradition. According to this legend there grew on the island a tree, the apples of which possessed the virtue of conferring immortal youth. This tree and its fruit were jealously guarded by a fierce dragon. The hero, Fraoch, loved and was loved by the fair Gealchean, and all would have gone well had not the girl’s mother, Mai, also become enamoured of the youth. Mai herself had once been a lovely woman, but the years had robbed her of her charms, and, moved by her passion, she became consumed with a desire to have these restored. She had heard of the apples of immortal youth which grew on Inis Fraoch, but the fear of the dragon which guarded them prevented her trying their efficacy. Driven at last to desperation, she induced Fraoch himself to go to the island and bring her the fruit. Fraoch set out, while Mal gave herself up to dreams of the effect which her restored charms would have upon him. As he secured the apples he was attacked by the dragon, and a terrible combat took place. In the end the beast was slain, but in the encounter Fraoch also received a wound, and the eager Mai had only received the fruit from his hand when she had the mortification to see him expire at her feet.

At a later day Inis Fraoch became the stronghold of the MacNaughton chiefs. According to the Gaelic manuscript of 1450, so much relied upon by Skene in his Highlanders, of Scotland, the clan was already, in the days of David I., a powerful tribe in the north, in the district of Moray. The name is said to be identical with the Pictish Nectan, and a shadowy trace of its importance in an earlier time is to be found in the names of Dunecht and Nectansmere in Fife, the latter famous for the great victory of the Picts in the year 685 over the invading forces of Ecgfrith the Northumbrian king, from which only a solitary fugitive escaped. Thirty-two years later, Nectan, son of Deriloi, was, according to Bede and Tighernac, the Pictish king who built Abernethy with its round tower on the lower Earn, and made it the capital of the Pictish Church. According to tradition, however, the clan took its name from Nachtan, a hero of the time of Malcolm IV., in the middle of the twelfth century.

In keeping with the tradition of their Pictish origin, the chiefs are said to have been for ages Thanes of Loch Tay. Afterwards they are said to have possessed all the country between Loch Fyne and Loch Awe, and in 1267 King Alexnnder III. appointed Gilchrist MacNaughton hereditary keeper of the island and castle of Inis Fraoch on condition that when the king passed that way he should be suitably entertained by the MacNaughton chief. At the time of the wars of Bruce, Donald, chief of the MacNaughtons, being closely related to the great MacDougal Lords of Lorne, at first took their side against the king. At the battle in the pass of Dalrigh, however, as described in Barbour’s Bruce, MacNaughton, who was with the Lord of Lorne, was a witness of the king’s prowess in ridding himself of the three brothers who attacked him all at once as he defended the rear of his little army retreating through a narrow pass. The MacNaughton chief expressed his admiration of Bruce’s achievement, and was sharply taken to task by the Lord of Lorne:

"It seems it likes thee, perfay,
That he slays yon gate our mengye!"

From that time MacNaughton took the side of the king, and in the days of David II., Bruce’s son, the next chief, Duncan, was a strong supporter of the Scottish Royal house. As a reward for the support of the clan, David II. conferred on the next chief, Alastair MacNaughton, all the forfeited lands of John Dornagil, or White Fist, and of John, son of Duncan MacAlastair of the Isles. The MacNaughton chief thus became a great island lord as well as the owner of broad lands in old Argyll.

Another Alastair MacNaughton, who was chief in the time of James IV., was knighted by that king, and led his clan to battle in that great rush of the men of the Highlands and Isles which carried all before it at the beginning of the battle of Flodden. There, however, he himself fell. He was succeeded by two of his sons in turn, John and Malcolm of Glenshira. This Malcolm’s second son, another John, was noted for his handsome person. His good looks attracted the attention of James VI., who, while not particularly prepossessing himself, appears to have had a keen appreciation of a good presence in other men, and to have had a penchant for retaining them about his court. In this way the king "who never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one" kept near his person such men as the Bonnie Earl of Moray, Francis, Earl of Bothwell, Esme Stewart, Duke of Lennox, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. For the same reason, on succeeding to the English throne, he made Glenshira’s son one of his pages of honour. In this position John MacNaughton became a man of means, and, returning to his native district, purchased a good estate in Kintyre.

The chiefs of MacNaughton were now at the summit of their fortunes. Alexander, Malcolm’s eldest son and successor, was a well-known figure at the court of Charles I. In 1627, during the war with France, that king gave him a Commission, " With ane sufficient warrant to levie and transport twa hundrethe bowmen," to take part against the country’s enemies. This warrant is curious evidence of the use of an ancient weapon at that late period in the Highlands. The Laird of MacKinnon contributed part of the force, and the two hundred were soon got together and set sail. On the passage, however, they came near to disaster, their transport being twice driven into Falmouth and " Hetlie followit by ane man of warr" of France. The Highlanders happened to be accompanied by their pipers and a harper, and, according to Donald Gregory in the Archceologia Scotica, the Frenchman were prevented from attacking by the awe-inspiring sound and sight of the "Bagg-pypperis and marlit plaidis." In the civil wars of Charles I. MacNaughton remained a staunch Royalist, and at the court of Charles II., after the Restoration, as Colonel Macnachtan, he was a great favourite of that king. When he died at last in London, Charles buried him at his own expense in the chapel royal.

John, the next chief, was no less staunch a Royalist. At the Revolution, with a strong force of his clan, he joined James VII.’s general, Viscount Dundee, and is said to have taken a leading part in the overthrow of King William’s troops at Killiecrankie in 1689. After the battle, and the death of Dundee, he, with his son Alexander and the other leaders of the little Jacobite army, signed the letter of defiance sent to the commander of King William’s forces, General MacKay; and he also entered into a bond with other Jacobite chiefs, by which he undertook to appear with fifty men for the cause of King James, at whatever place and time might be appointed. The result of his Jacobite activities was disaster to his house. In 1691 an Act of Forfeiture was passed by the Scottish Parliament which deprived him of his estates.

The wife of this chief was a sister of that crafty schemer, Sir John Campbell, fifth baronet of Glenurchie, who became, first, Earl of Caithness and afterwards Earl of Breadalbane and Holland; and his son Alexander, already referred to, became a captain in Queen Anne’s Lifeguards. He might have restored the family fortunes, but was killed in the expedition to Vigo in 1702. The chiefship then passed to his brother John, but the latter also died without heirs of his body, and the chiefship became extinct.

Both Charles II. and James VII. had intended to confer substantial honours on the MacNaughton chiefs, the former with a charter of the hereditary sheriffship of Argyll, and the latter with a commission as steward and hereditary bailie of all the lands which he and his ancestors had ever possessed; but in the former case the patent, by reason of some court intrigue, never passed the seals, and in the second case, though the deed was signed by the king and counter-signed by the Earl of Perth, its purpose was defeated by the outbreak of the Revolution.

In 1747, in the report made by Lord President Forbes on the strength of the Highland chiefs, the MacNaughtons appear as a broken clan, being classed with several others who inhabited the district. Like the MacArthurs, MacAlisters, MacGregors, MacNabs, and Fletchers, who had formerly flourished on the shores of Loch Awe, they had no longer a chief to lead them and further their interests, and the broad MacNaughton lands had passed for the most part into the hands of their shrewd neighbours, the Campbells. Memorials only of their ancient greatness are to be seen in the ruined stronghold of Inis Fraoch in Loch Awe, of Dunderaw, now restored, on the shore of Loch Fyne, of MacNachtan Castle in the Lews, and others—in particular, belonging to a still earlier day, that of Dunnachton in Strathspey.

Septs of Clan MacNaughton: Kendrick, Hendry, Maceol, MacBrayne, MacHendry, MacKendrick, MacKenrick, Macknight, MacNair, MacNayer, MacNiven, MacNuir, MacNuyer, MacVicar, Niven, Weir.


Another account of the clan...

The name MacNaughton comes from the Pictish Nechton meaning "the pure one". Clan Nechtan were established in Strathtay in the 12th century, probably transferred there from Moray by Malcolm IV, but their possessions extended over the upper part of Loch Awe, Glenarn, Glenshira and Loch Fyne. Gilchrist MacNaughton was granted the castle and island of Fraoch Eilean in Loch Awe by Alexander III in 1267. In addition, Gilchrist also held Dunderave on Loch Fyne and the castle of Dubh Loch in Glenshira. As the MacNaughtons were allied to the MacDougalls of Lorne, their chief Donald MacNaughton opposed Robert the Bruce (as did the Comyns in the north). On Robert becoming King, the MacNaughtons lost many of their lands in Argyll to the Campbells. However Donald's son, Duncan, loyally supported King David II, who rewarded his son Alexander with lands in the Isle of Lewis. Sir Alexander, chief of the clan during the reign of James IV fell with his King at Flodden in 1513. The MacNaughtons continued to be loyal to the Stewarts both during the wars of Charles I and at the revolution of 1688 that overthrew James VII, for which they lost their estates in 1691. The 17th and last chief of the MacNaughtons was John of Dundarave who fell out with Campbell of Ardkinglas whose daughter he was to marry. MacNaughton thought he was to marry the younger daughter with whom he was in love, however after taking too much refreshment prior to the ceremony he discovered he'd been wed to the eldest daughter. On realising his predicament he promtly deserted his wife and eloped to Ireland with his love, the second daughter. Ardkinglas gained possession of the MacNaughton estates on the grounds of incest and the chiefship became vacant. In 1818, the Lord Lyon King of Arms accepted Edmund A MacNaghton of Bushmills Co. Antrim as chief of the clan and its his descendant Sir Patrick Macnaghton of that Ilk and Dundarave Co. Antrim who is the present-day chief.



From the Celtic Magazine of 1878 we find...


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