From the armorial bearing of the Menzieses it
has been conjectured that the first who settled in Scotland of this surname was a branch
of the Anglo-Norman family of Meyners, by corruption Manners. But this supposition does
not seem to be well founded.
The family of Menzies obtained a footing in Athole at a very early period, as appears from
a charter granted by Robert de Meyners in the reign of Alexander II. This Robert de
Meyners, knight, on the accession of Alexander III (1249) was appointed lord high
chamberlain of Scotland. His son, Alexander de Meyners, possessed the lands of Weem and
Aberfeldy in Athole, and Glendochart in Breadalbane, besides his origional seat of
Durrisdeer in Nithsdale, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert, in the estates of
Weem, Aberfeldy, and Durrisdeer, whilst his second son, Thomas, obtained the lands of
From the former of these is descended the family of Menzies of Castle Menzies, but that of
Menzies of Fortingal terminated in an heiress, by whose marriage with James Stewart, a
natural son of the Wolf of Badenoch, the property was transferred to the Stewarts.
In 1487, Sir Robert de Mengues, knight, obtained from the crown, in consequence of the
destruction of his mansion-house by fire, a grant of a the whole lands and estates erected
into a free barony, under the title of the barony of Menzies. From this Sir Robert
lineally descended Sir Alexander Menzies of Castle Menzies, who was created a baronet of
Nova Scotia, 2d September 1665.
Sir Robert Menzies, the seventh baronet, who succeeded his father, 20th August 1844, is
the 27th of the family in regular descent. The ancient designation of the family was
Menzies of Weem, their common style in old writings. In 1423 "David Menzies of Weem
(de Wimo)" was appointed governor of Orkney and Shetland, "under the most
clement lord and lady, Eric and Philippa, king and queen of Denmark, Swedland and
The Gaelic appellation of the clan is Meinnarich, a term, by way of distinction, also
applied to the chief. Of the eighteen clans who fought under Robert Bruce at Bannockburn,
the Menzies was one.
The "Menyesses" of Athole and Appin Dull are named in the parliamentary rolls of
1587, as among "the clans that have captains, chiefs, and chieftains". Castle
Menzies, the principal modern seat of the chief, stands to the east of Loch Tay, in the
parish and near to the church of Weem, in Perthshire. Weem Castle, the old mansion, is
picturesquely situated under a rock, called Craig Uamh, hence its name. In 1502, it was
burnt by Neil Stewart of Fortingal, in consequence of a dispute respecting the lands of
In 1644, when the Marquis of Montrose appeared in arms for Charles I, and had commenced
his march from Athole towards Strathern, he sent forward a trumpeter, with a friendly
notice to the Menzies, that it was his intention to pass through their country. His
messenger, unhappily, was maltreated, and, as some writers say, slain by them. They also
harassed the rear of his army, which so exasperated Montrose, that he ordered his men to
plunder and lay waste their lands and burn their houses.
During the rebellion of 1715, several gentlemen of the clan Menzies were taken prisoners
at the battle of Dunblane. One of them, Menzies of Culdares, having been pardoned for his
share in the rebellion, felt himself bound not to join in that of 1745. He sent, however,
a valuable horse as a present to Prince Charles, but his servant who had it in charge, was
seized and executed, nobly refusing to divulge his master's name, though offered his life
if he would do so. In the latter rebellion, Menzies of Shian took out the clan, and held
the rank of colonel, though the chief remained at home. The effective force of the clan in
1745 was 300.
The family of Menzies of Pitfoddels in Aberdeenshire, is now extinct. Gilbert Manzies of
this family, carrying the royal standard at the last battle of Montrose, in 1650,
repeatedly refused quarter, and fell rather than give up his charge. The last laird, John
Menzies of Pitfoddels, never married, and devoted the greater part of his large estate to
the endowment of a Roman Catholic Coolege. He died in 1843.
Another Account of the Clan
BADGE: (Dress) Fraoch na Meinnanich (Phyllodoce
coerulea) Menzies Heath, or (Hunting) Uinseann (Fraxinus excelsior) a
sprig of ash, or (Ancient) Garbhag nan gleann (Lycopodium clavatum)
staghorn or club moss.
SLOGAN: Geal us dearg a suas, The red and white for ever!
PIBR0CH: Failte na Meinnanich.
the chiefs of this clan had their seat in the very heart of Perthshire,
the centre of the Highlands, cadets of the clan were landed men far to the
north and south. The Menzieses of Pitfoddels in Aberdeenshire were a
separate branch as early as the fourteenth century, while other houses of
the name were located in Fifeshire, Lanarkshire, and the Lennox, about the
lower districts of Kippen and Killearn. The valley of the Tay, however,
seems always to have been the headquarters of the race, and the beautiful
old seat of Weem Castle there still remains to speak of the former
greatness of the clan. With its grey walls rising high among the trees in
its stately park, against the noble background of the Hill of Weem, this
romantic old house, dating from 1571, keeps memories of a long line of
chiefs and their varying fortunes, which, as set forth in the Red Book
of Mensies, edited by the claimant to the chiefship, excite a wistful
regret in the mind of the student.
If one were to judge from a
popular tradition of the neighbourhood, the house of Menzies might seem to
have been settled here at a very early date indeed. The Hill of Weem, and
Weem Castle itself, take their name from the Gaelic " Uamh," a
cave, or a Picts house. No cave is now traceable in the neighbourhood,
so the alternative reading of " Picts house " is more likely
to be the origin of the name. The tradition runs that a certain ogre who
inhabited this "Uamh," and who is described as going about in
the guise of a red-hooded monk of scowling visage, carried off a daughter
of the house of Menzies. The story forms the subject of a well-known
Gaelic ballad. If it really goes back to the days of the Picts, this story
would infer that the Menzieses had been settled here as long ago as the
tenth century at least, and if it could be authenticated would fully
justify the claims made by writers like James Logan, author of The
Scottish Gael and the letter-press of MIans Clans of the
Scottish Highlands, for a purely Celtic origin to this famous old
clan. This writer founds his contention on the fact that the Gaelic
appellation of the clan is Meinn, plural Meinnanich, often corruptly
written Meinnarich. This corruption be regards as accounting for the fact
that the name in old documents and charters is frequently spelt Meyners.
The general view of genealogists, however, is that the name is Norman, and
that the family was an early offshoot of the great house of Manners, whose
head is now the Duke of Rutland. The probability is that the founder of
the house of Menzies was one of those Norman or Saxon settlers brought
into the country in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by Malcolm Canmore
and his sons, when they were introducing the feudal system as a support
for their dynasty, and as a means of establishing settled government and
improved methods of living in the country.
The first mention of the
name appears in charters of the reign of William the Lion, in 1213. By the
middle of that century the family already occupied a distinguished
position, as, in the reign of Alexander II., about 1250, Robert de Meyners,
Knight, appears as Lord High Chamberlain. According to Douglass Baronage,
Alexander, the son of this personage, appears in possession of wide
lands in many scattered districts, including Weem, Fortingal, and
Aberfeldy in Atholl, Glendochart in Breadalbane, and Durrisdeer in
Nithsdale. Upon the death of this chief the lands of Fortingal, with their
Roman traditions, went to his younger son Thomas, and in the fifteenth
century, by the marriage of the heiress to James, natural son of the
notorious Wolf of Badenoch, son of Robert II., they became the property of
the Stewarts, with consequences which were almost disastrous to the elder
line of Weem. In 1428 there is mention of Sir David Meigners of Weem. In
later life this chief became a monk of the Cistercian order, and in
1450-1, following this event, his son and heir obtained a charter putting
him in possession of Weem and the other family estates.
It was in the days of James
IV. that the ambition of the chief brought him into conflict of most
serious kind with his neighbours. Having acquired possession of the wild
and beautiful district of Rannoch, he obtained a charter of that barony.
On the very day on which the charter was signed, 2nd September, the
caterans of Rannoch, led by Neil Stewart of Fortingal and Garth, descended
upon the headquarters of the chief at Weem, and, committing much havoc on
his lands on Tayside, burned his castle. The stronghold of that time stood
somewhat to the east, near the village of Weem and the eastern gate of the
park. The blow was a serious one, and it was sixty-nine years before the
stronghold was rebuilt on its present site. This was in 1571, three years
after the overthrow of Queen Mary at the battle of Langside. The Menzies
chief, however, retained possession of Rannoch, which remained part of the
family estates down to the twentieth century. Meanwhile, his family
charters having been destroyed by the fire, Robert Menzies of that ilk had
obtained a re-grant dated 6th October, 1510, of his barony of Weem and
other lands united into the barony of Menzies. In 1587, sixteen years
after the rebuilding of Weem Castle, according to the Acts of the
Scottish Parliament, " The Menyesses in Athoill and Apnadull
" (the abthanery of Dull further up the valley of the Tay) are
recorded as upon "The Roll of Clans that hes Captanes, chiefs, and
Chieftanes on whom they depend."
The clan was long famous
for the rearing of cattle, and its possessions in consequence were a
special mark for the raids of less peaceably disposed tribes. "A fat
mart from the herds of the Menzies " was a reward often promised for
the performance of a deed of valour or for extraordinary skill as a piper.
In consequence, the Menzies lands were the frequent subject of predatory
raids. The clansmen, however, proved themselves well able to defend their
property, and the skill in arms thus gained made them a welcome addition
to the fighting forces of the country in the field.
During the civil wars of
Charles I., the Menzieses suffered somewhat severely. In the wars of
Montrose, for the accidental shooting of a trumpeter whose blood was the
first shed in the campaign, the lands of the Menzieses were ravaged and
greatly destroyed. Menzies of Pitfoddels was among the gentlemen who
fought on the Kings side against Montrose in the first fight of that
general at the Bridge of Dee, and later, in the last battle fought by
Montrose, himself now on the Kings side, Gilbert Menzies of this family
carried the Royal standard, and, refusing quarter, was slain rather than
give up his trust.
In 1665 Alexander Menzies,
eldest son of Duncan Menzies of Weem, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia
as "Princeps clarae familiae." The mother of this laird was Jean
Leslie, only daughter of James, Master of Rothes, and his wife was Agnes,
eldest daughter of Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. His eldest son, Robert,
died before him, and he was succeeded by his grandson, another Alexander.
In his time the Jacobite Rising of 1715 took place, and among those who
were taken prisoners at the battle of Sheriffmuir were a number of
"Gentlemen vassals of the Menzies chief." Among these were
Menzies of Culdares and two of his brothers, but they were fortunate
enough all to be pardoned.
In 1745, again, the clan
was out on the Jacobite side. On this occasion the chief remained at home,
and the clan was led by Menzies of Shian, with the rank of Colonel. On
this occasion they brought into the field 300 fighting men, which is said
to be a much smaller number than the ancient following of the chiefs.
Menzies of Culdares, he who had been captured at Sheriffmuir, did not take
the field on this occasion, but, to show his sympathy for the Jacobite
cause, he sent a handsome charger for the use of Prince Charles Edward.
The clansman who was sent with the horse into England by Culdares was
taken prisoner, and condemned to death. In this situation he was offered
pardon if he would reveal the name of the person who had made the gift to
the Prince. The faithful Highlander, however, refused to betray his
master, and suffered the last penalty in consequence.
This same cadet of the
family, Menzies of Culdares, is said by General Stewart of Garth to have
introduced the larch into Scotland in 1737, and to have given two plants
to the Duke of Atholl. These are still to be seen growing beside Dunkeld
Cathedral, and from them, it is said, have been derived all the valuable
plantations of larch in the Atholl district.
Sir Robert Menzies, third
baronet, married Mary, eldest daughter of James, first Earl of Bute, the
strenuous opponent of the Union with England, the ladys mother being
Agnes, eldest daughter of James VII.s famous Lord Advocate, Sir George
MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, founder of the Advocates Library, and the
"Bluidy MacKenzie" of Covenanting tradition. In November, 1778,
Sir Robert Menzies executed an entail of the estates and baronies of
Menzies and Rannoch, and at his death without issue in 1786 the title and
possessions of the house reverted to his kinsman, John Menzies, grandson
of Captain James Menzies of Comrie, second son of the first baronet. Sir
John Menzies married Charlotte, eldest daughter of John, fourth Duke of
Atholl, but in 1800 also died without issue, when the family honours were
inherited by Robert Menzies, son of Neill, third son of Captain James
Menzies of Comrie. This Sir Robert was the fifth baronet, and from him the
honours and possessions of the house descended directly to the late Sir
Neil! James Menzies, eighth baronet, who succeeded in 1903, and died
without issue some three or four years later.
So far as at present
recognised, Sir Neill Menzies was the last baronet and chief of the clan.
A claim to the family honours and estates has, however, been made by Mr.
D. P. Menzies of Plean Castle, near Larbert. This gentleman claims to
represent Robert Menzies, yet another son of Captain James Menzies of
Comrie above referred to, second son of Sir Alexander Menzies, first
baronet. So far, Mr. Menzies has been unsuccessful in proving his case
before the Lord Lyon and the Court of Session; but out of the mass of
documents in his possession, and in the possession of others interested,
which were acquired at the sale of the contents of Weem Castle after the
death of Sir Neill Menzies, it is still possible that some absolute proof
may be forthcoming in this interesting case.
The line of Menzies of
Pitfoddels came to an end with the death of John Menzies, Sir Walter Scotts
acquaintance, in 1834. This laird was an ardent Roman Catholic, and,
besides largely benefiting Saint Margarets Convent, Edinburgh, which
was opened a year after his death, he in 1827 conveyed to Bishop Paterson
his estate of Blairs for the education of secular priests. For a
considerable period of years the old mansion-house of Blairs served for a
college, but it has more recently been replaced by a great modern building
which ranks as the chief seminary for Roman Catholic priests in Scotland.
Among others of the name
who have earned a place in public recognition have been John Menzies, who,
in the troublous times of Charles I. and Charles II., as minister and
professor of divinity at Aberdeen, acted with constant inconsistency the
part of a Scottish Vicar of Bray. There was Michael Menzies, who died in
1766, and who, while by profession an advocate, produced such useful
inventions as a threshing machine, a machine for conveying coal to the
pitshaft, and a machine for draining coal mines. There was also Archibald
Menzies, the famous botanical collector (1754-1842). By profession a naval
surgeon, he accompanied a voyage of fur-trading and discovery to the
north-west coast of America and China in 1786-9. As naturalist and surgeon
he went with Vancouver to the Cape, New Zealand, and North-West America in
1790-5, making on the way ascents of Wha-ra-rai and Mauna Loa in
Hawaii, settling their altitude by the barometer, and bringing home many
interesting plants, cryptogams, and natural history objects. Members of
the clan have also distinguished themselves in many other spheres, and the
name must always remain among those honoured in Scotland.
Septs of Clan Menzies:
Dewar, Macindoer, MacMenzies, MacMinn, MacMonies, Means, Mein, Meine,
Mennie, Meyners, Minn, Minnus, Monzie.