The Macphails are descended from
one "Paul Macphail, goodsir to that Sir Andrew Macphail, parson of Croy, who wrote
the history of the Mackintoshes. Paul lived in the time of Duncan, first of the name, and
eleventh of Mackintosh, who died in 1496. The head of the tribe had his residence at
Inverarnie, on the water of Nairn".
The name comes from Gaelic meaning 'son of Paul'. It is first
recorded in 1414. Members of the clan were associated with the Camerons, Clan Chattan, the
Mackintoshes, and the Mackays, a number of MacPhails appearing on a list of tenants on the
Reay (Mackay) estates in 1679.
The following information was provided by Joseph Broom, Commissioner, Clan Phail Society in
The chiefly branch of Clan Phail formed part of the original
blood of Clan Chattan, and its ancestors were reported to have moved from Lochaber to
Strathnairn with Angus Mackintosh in the early 14th century. According to Sir Aeneas
Mackintosh of Mackintosh, 23rd Chief, Clan Phail took protection of Clan Chattan in the
There is documented evidence that its chiefs were associated with the lands of Inverarnie
in Strathnairn as early as the 1540's and that they intermarried with the Shaws of
Tordarroch and other Clan Chattan families.
Several Macphails were officers in the Mackintosh/Clan Chattan regiment in the '15.
The heir to the chieftainship, along with other Clan Chattan officers, was deported
to the American colonies following surrender at Preston and died on board ship to
Virginia. The chiefs continued to hold Inverarnie until the early 1770's, when the lands
were lost. The last Macphail to be regarded as chief died in Australia in the early
1900's. The clan, though never numerous, was once found throughout eastern
Inverness-shire and Nairnshire.
Another branch of Clan Phail, perhaps descendants of the Macphails who once lived in
Lochaber, were associated with Clan Cameron in the 16th century. There were also
many McPhails who lived on the Isle of Mull and throughout Argyllshire. Another
branch was found in Sutherland and was a sept of Clan Mackay.