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Clan Martin


MARTIN / MacMARTIN: As surnames, both forms are found throughout the whole of Scotland, with the latter most common in the West, and the former, with some notable exceptions, more frequent in the East. It is generally conceded that both forms had their origin in some distant ancestor being a devotee of, or deriving from some place associated with St Martin. Such origin would explain the widespread occurrence of the name throughout the western world and, therefore, Scottish ancestry should not be assumed on the evidence of the name alone. Genealogical or geographical association with Scotland is required to establish such origin. In Scotland, the name can be traced to the 12th century when the name 'de St Martin' was that of a family of considerable importance in the Lothians, and at least two 'Martins' were associated with the court of William the Lion (1165-1214). By the 15th/16th centuries an 'old' family of the name were established in St Andrews, Fife - one of whom was secretary to Archbishop Sharp. The Martins in Skye are traditionally associated with Clan Donald, although one of their number, Martin Martin (d.1719), author of one of the earliest topographical writings on the Hebrides, was factor to the neighbouring Macleods. The name is also linked to the Camerons by the fact that the MacMartins of Letterfinlay in Lochaber were an ancient race who later went to make up the Clan Cameron as we know it. MacMartin is also found in the records as 'Mac Gillemartin' - the 'gille' part emphasising devotion to the saint. The distribution of this form, extending from Galloway through Ayrshire to Lorne and Skye, with an inland spread to Breadalbane and Lochaber, accords with route taken by the spread of Christianity throughout Highland Scotland.


Clan Martin is an Anglicized and modern form of a very ancient people. It could be more accurately described as the "Tribe of Martin" because of its historical association with other early tribal groups, and their immigrations into Ireland. However, because of their association in Scotland for the past 1500 years, “Clan” is most commonly used. The Martin name in Scotland is associated with and delineated among the historical Clan system. The term “Mac” in early Scottish history was used as a title and slowly integrated into the surname, hence Clan Martin.

Clan Martin derives its origins from the Tribe of Mairtine. The Mairtine were evident in prehistoric Ireland, in the Munster, Tipperary, and possibly Connacht regions. The central hub for the Mairtine was located near the town of Emly, in county Tipperary.

The Mairtine are associated with, at that time, with the various tribes of the Erainn, Dal Riata, and Dál Fiatach (Ulaid)and maintained those associations in their move into Ulster and Scotland in the 6th and 7th centuries, as the second wave of Celts into Northern Ireland and the Western Scottish Archipelagos, as well as the area of Argyle in Scotland around 500AD. The seat of the king of the Dal Riada was in Ireland until about 490 A.D. when Fergus Mor MacEarca moved to what is now Scotland. For centuries before then, however, the kings of Dal Riada exercised control from Ireland over the Dal Riada in Scotland and despite their location in what is now two countries, the people of Dal Riada were one community. Travel over the narrow channel of water that separated the two parts of Dal Riada was easier than communication over land with other parts of Ireland. The business and cultural hub of the Dal Riada in Scotland was centered around Kilmartin, also in Argyll. Clan MacMartin is a named tribe among the Dal Riata.

Later migrations spread up the Great Glen and Clan Martin (MacMartin) proper extended as well. Early writings state that Clan MacMartin has inhabited the area around Loch Lochy since “very ancient times”. There were populations of Clan Martin in Letterfinlay, Invergloy, and GlenLoy, parts of Dochanassie, Stronaba and Mucomer/Mucomir. The ancient burial place of the MacMartins is at Cill 'Icomar, Achnanaimhnichean, although current research is underway by the Dal Riada society to validate the true timeline of the migrations.

The lineage of the current MacMartin line stems from Gladamer Mac Martin.

The associations of Clan Martin in Scotland are varied. In the western parts of Scotland, the Isle of Skye, and across the Irish Sea to Antrim, there is an historical affiliation with the Great Clans Donald, Ranald, McDonnell, and MacDonald.

 Farther north, with the Isles of Lewis and Skye, and parts of Ross and Cromarty, there is more of an affiliation with Clan Macleod.

The most annotated affiliation is with the Clan Camshron (Cameron). Clan MacMartin was one of four progenitors of the clan in its current form. It is unclear how Clan MacMartin lost its status as a major clan, but it is doubtful it was because of a marriage. The Dal Riada were patrilineal and it is unlikely they would give up chieftain status for what was probably an arranged agreement. Evidence indicates that the merging of the two Clans was forced after a weakened force of Martins survived the Jacobite Uprising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Clan MacMartin were certainly Jacobite supporters. The MacMartins are said to have been amongst the most loyal and valuable followers of Lochiel. In the 1745 Jacobite uprising, the MacMartins were "out with" Lochiel's regiment.

At the mustering of the clans at Delmacomer, early in 1689, under Dundee, the young Letterflnlay in the Grameid is described here, as it is translated into modern English.

Here, too, is MacMartin rising high above his whole line.
His dark locks hand around his face and cover his cheeks,
and his dark eyes shine like the start, while
his neck rivals the white flowers.
His father and a great force of dependants accompany him,
and an illustrious company of his brethren in
their ranks surround him on every side.
He himself in variegated array advances with lofty mien.
The garter ribbons hanging at his leg were dyed with Corycian saffron,
and with the tint of the Tyrian shell, as was his plaid.
The crest of his helmet glows with floating plumes,
and the trappings of his mounted powder-horn gleam in shining brass.
But his sister had embroidered his tunic with red gold,
and a double line of purple went round his terrible shoulders.
Mighty of limb, mighty in strength, he could uproot the old ash-tree,
or with his teeth alone tear away the hard iron.
Whenever he turns his head and neck his arms rattle,
and the hollow rocks seem to moan, and as he
treads the plain the earth groans under his weight.

A Martin may associate himself today with any clan that bears his name as a Sept or minor family. However, Clan Martin is not beholding to any chief and is its own Clan. There is an effort underway to raise the Clan to full status again.

Our thanks to Keith for this information.


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