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A History of Munro by Michael Munro


Our thanks to Michael Munro for this information...

The name Munro (Rothach or Mac an Rothaich in Gaelic) is derived from the area in which they are first known to have came from, the 'Mountains of Ross-shire', Highlands, Scotland. However other people believe that the Munro's came from Ireland and settled in Scotland in the 11th Century. Another theory is that they were originally from Scotland and moved to Ireland to escape Roman rule and then returned to Scotland 300 years later to expel Viking invaders. Non of these theories can be fully substantiated.

By tradition it is believed that during the 11th Century the Munro's fought as mercenary soldiers under the Earl of Ross who defeated Viking invaders in Rosshire. The clan under chief Donald Munro, son of O'Ceann were granted lands in Rosshire and a seat at Foulis Castle as a reward for helping King Malcolm II of Scotland to defeat Viking invaders from Scandinavia.

Traditionally, Donald's grandson Hugh Munro was the first Munro recorded to be authentically designated Baron of Foulis, he died in 1126. A reliable scholar, Alexander Nisbet stated in 1722 that George Munro, 5th Baron of Foulis received a charter from the Earl of Sutherland during the reign of King Alexander II of Scotland, but this charter can no longer be traced. According to D. MacDougall's book 'Scots and Scots Descendant in America', the Munros fought in support of King Alexander III of Scotland against the Norwegian forces of Haakon IVof Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263 and as a result had all their lands in Ross-shire confirmed to them by the King.

The clan soon spread into Sutherlandshire and were also given a charter for lands in Strathspey in 1309. The Munro's lands lie on the north side of the Cromarty Firth and within their lands is the mountain Ben Wyvis which peaks at 3429 ft. Their lands have always been known as "Ferindonald" or in gaelic "Fearan Domhnuill" meaning "Donald's land". Across the Cromarty Firth is the peninsula called "Black Isle" where the Munros from time to time have also held land, however this area was mainly church land or territory of the Urquharts. Three rivers flow eastwards through Ferindonald into the Firth, one of them the River Glass runs through an awesome gorge known as the "Black Rock Gorge" before entering into the Cromarty Firth. Geographically the Munros were as secure as any Highlanders could reasonably expect to be and their soil was fertile.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence chief Robert Munro led the clan in support of King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Robert Munro survived the battle but his son George was there slain. George however had a son of his own before he died also called George. This George Munro succeeded his grandfather Robert as chief and led the clan at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333 where he was killed. In 1336 the Munros were granted more lands by the Earl of Ross.

Chief  'Robert de Munro' was married to the daughter of the Earl of Ross and had many charters confirmed to him under King David II of Scotland including one for the "Tower of Strathskehech" and "Estirfowlys" in 1350. Robert was killed in an obscure skirmish fighting in defense of the Earl of Ross in 1369. In 1371 the Munros received the lands and property of Carbisdale. This area which also included their properties of Achany, Achnagart, Atlass, Culrain, Inveran, Kilmachalmack, and Linside, was seperated from Ferindonald by the territory of their allies the Clan Ross. In 1394 chief Hugh Munro was granted a charter in respect of the "Tower of Strathschech" and "Wesstir Fowlys" from Euphemia I, Countess of Ross.

The Clan Munro led by chief Hugh Munro fought as Highlanders at the Battle of Harlaw near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire on 24 July 1411, against an army of Scottish Lowlanders. The Munros took the side of Donald, Lord of the Isles (MacDonald) who would become the Earl of Ross through marriage to Mary, Countess of Ross. They fought as part of the Lord of the Isles’ host. In 1427 to 1428 King James I of Scotland returned from captivity in England and took strong measures to restore order in the Highlands. He came to Inverness and siezed Mary, Countess of Ross and her son Alexander MacDonald, Lord of the Isles aswell as many other prominent highlanders who were punished in various ways. Among these no Munros are named. However there is a “letter of remission", signed under the Great Seal dated 24th August 1428. In the letter twenty eight named individuals are freed for crimes they had committed in the past and the first five names on the list are all Munros.

Bealach nam Broig 1452, A force of Munros and Dingwalls met north-west of BenWyvis. Their enemy was a force of western tribes who were loyal to MacKenzie of Kintail. They had with them an important Ross hostage, who was in fact the Earl of Ross's son. The Munros and their allies rescued the Ross hostage and completely exterminated their ememies. However the Munros victory came at a loss as 11 Munros from the house of Foulis were killed including their chief George Munro thus the Chieftenship was left to a baby still lying in his cradle. Also around 140 Dingwalls and their leader William of Dingwall were killed.

Clachnaharry 1454, John Munro of Milntown tutor of Foulis, the brother of the slain chief and uncle to the now infant chief, took the Clan Munro on a private raid into Perthshire, MacKenzie country. On their way home with their captured cattle the Munros had to pass through MacKintosh country and an amount of 'road collop' or passage money was demanded as was the custom. There was a dispute over the amount and in the ensuing fight it is said that the chief of Clan MacKintosh was and that John Munro was left for dead on the battlefield. John is said to have been found by an old woman after the battle and nursed back to health before being handed over to Lord Fraser of Lovat who returned him to his own people.

A surviving document signed and sealed at Foulis Castle in 1491 reads in Gaelic "Caisteal Biorach, nead nah-iolair" which means "Castle gaunt-peaked, the eagle's nest". This is reffering to the chief's heraldic emblem of a golden eagle.

Drumchatt 1497, In 1495 King James assembled an army at Glasgow. Then on May 18th many of the Highland Chiefs made their submissions to him, including the MacKenzie and Munro Chiefs. Soon after this Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh and his clan rebelled against the King. He invaded the fertile lands of Ross-shire where he was defeated in battle by the Munros and MacKenzies at a place called Drumchatt where he was driven out of Ross-shire. He escaped southward amongst the Isles but was caught on the island of Oransay, by MacIian of Ardnamurchan, and put to death.

Achnashellach 1505, Little is known of this battle which is often described as an obscure skirmish between the Clan Cameron and Clan MacKay, where chief William Munro who was on the side of the MacKays was killed. Historicial evidence shows that William was acting on the King's orders: "Sir William Munro of Foulis was sent to Lochaber on the King's business and was killed in an engagement between the Camerons and MacKays at a place called Achnashellach in 1505". William Munro left two sons Hector and William. The eldest, Hector Munro took over as chief of the clan and had extensive lands confirmed to him by King James V at Stirling and was made the Royal Lieutenant of Western Ross-shire as his father was before him. In 1539 King James V of Scotland granted Strome Castle to the Clan MacDonnell of Glengary and Hector Munro was made constable of the castle. Previously the castle had been held by the Clan MacDonald of Lochalsh and Alan MacDonald Dubh, chief of the Clan Cameorn had been constable.

In 1547 during the Anglo-Scottish Wars, chief Robert Munro died fighting when he led the clan at the last major battle between the Royal Scottish and Royal English armies at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Because of the awful number of Scottish lives lost at the Battle of Pinkie the 10th of September is known in Scotland as Black Saturday.

Newmore Castle which also belonged to the Munros today lies in ruin. It is mentioned in a charter from 1560 and it also gave safe keeping to the 'evidents and writs' of Foulis. It was once a three storey building, however it is now been reduced to a single storey building with a barrel-vaulted roof remaining. There is also the lower remains of a stair turrent which once led to the upper floors, giving access to what was formerly a first floor hall. The ground floor entrance, protected by gun ports also still remains.

Inverness 1562, Robert Mor Munro 15th chief of the clan was a staunch supporter and faithful friend of Mary Queen of Scots and he consequently was treated favourably by her son James VI. Buchanan states, that when the unfortunate princess went to Inverness in 1562; "as soon as they heard of their sovereign's danger, a great number of the most eminent Scots poured in around her, especially the Frasers and Munros, who were esteemed the most "valiant of the clans inhabiting those countries in the north". These two clans took Inverness Castle for the Queen, which had refused her admission. The Queen later hanged the governor, a Gordon who had refused her admission.

With the Mackenzie clan the Munros were often at feud, and Andrew Munro of Milntown defended and held, for three years, the Castle Chanonry of Ross in Fortrose, Black Isle, which he had received from the Regent Moray who died in 1569, against the Clan MacKenzie, at the expense of many lives on both sides. In 1573 the feud was settled when the castle was handed over to the Mackenzies peacefully as they had gained more legal right to own the castle and Andrew Munro was paid compensation for his expenses in occupying the castle. By the 17th century most of the land on Black Isle had been bought by the MacKenzies apart from the northern sector which was territory of the Clan Urquhart. Later Munros of the Milntown line would dispute MacKenzie domination of Black Isle and George Munro of Milntown added the property of Meikle, Tarrel and Ballone to his lands, and sat in the Scots Parliament between 1617 and 1621.

In 1587 Foulis Castles' "tower and fortalice" are mentioned in a charter from the crown. In 1597, at a time of peace between the Clan MacKenzie and Clan Munro a fight broke out at a fair in Logiebride. The fight began between John Macgillichallum (brother to MacLeod the Laird of Raasay) and Alexander Bane (brother to Duncan Bane of Tulloch). The Munros took the side of Alexander Bane and the MacKenzies took the side of John Macgillichallum. John Macgllicham was killed along with John Mac-Murdo Mac-William and three others from the Clan MacKenzie. Alexander Bane escaped but three on his side were also killed; John Munro of Culcraggie, his brother Hutcheon Munro and John Munro Robertson.

During the early part of the 17th Century the Munros continued their strong military traditions, fighting in the continental Thirty Years War. Robert Munro, the 18th chief and 700 members of Clan Munro joined the army of Gustavs Adolphus, in defence of protestantism in Scandinavia. Many men from Clan MacKay were also placed under Robert Munro's command. In his own words: "When cannons are roaring, and bullets are flying, If one would have honour, he must not fear dying". Robert and his men served with distinction and received the name of the "Invincibles" in recognition of their prowess. There were twenty-seven field officers and eleven captains of the name of Munro in the Swedish army. The Siege of Stralsund in 1628 and the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 being amongst their most notable successes.

In 1640, During the Bishop's Wars General Robert Monro of the Obsdale family, who had also fought in the Thirty Years War laid siege and took Spynie Palace, Drum Castle and Huntly Castle. Between 1642 and 1648 he was in command of the Scottish army in Ireland.

During the Civil War at the Battle of Stirling in 1648, Sir George Munro, 1st of Newmore, now a royalist, showed great initiative when he successfully commanded a force in support of the Earl of Lanerick who had been left to defend the Scottish parliament, against the Marquess of Argyll was in open rebellion against parliment. Sir George Munro had heard that one of Argyll's commanders was in Stirling and made a move towards the town in a bid to capture his enemy but actually succeeded in entering the town before any of Argyll's commanders were aware of his presence. Argyll's supprised forces broke after some initial resistance. If it was not for Munro's initiative quite a different battle may have been fought the following day. The two opposing armies of the Earl of Lanerick and Argyll made peace during the following days.

In 1649 a large force stormed Inverness Castle. Among the commanders were Colonel Hugh Fraser, Colonel John Munro of Lemlair, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine. They were all opposed to the authority of the current parliament. They assaulted the town and took the castle. They then expelled the garrison and raised the fortifications. However, on the approach of the parlimentry forces led by General David Leslie all of the clans retreated back into Ross-shire. On hearing of this rising against Leslie, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, a royalist and his invading army of foreigners, mainly Germans and Danes landed in Ross-shire. However they found themselves opposed by Munros and their allies who completely defeated the invading army at the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650. By 1651 the Scottish Covenantor Government had become disillusioned with the English parliament and decided to support the Royalists instead. At the Battle of Worcester in 1651, William Munroe was one of four Munroes captured and transported to America.

In 1660 Teaninich Castle was bought by the Munros of Teaninich, the receipt for which still survives today. After The Restoration the chief's brother George Munro, 1st of Newmore commanded the King's forces in Scotland from 1674 to 1677. George Munro of Auchinbowie, son of Sir Alexander Munro of Bearcrofts who himself was a survivor of the Battle of Worcester, commanded the Cameronian Regiment to victory at the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689 and was later promoted to a Major.

In 1715 the Earl of Seaforth led a force of 3000 men headed by the Clan MacKenzie which also included men from the Clan MacDonald, Clan MacKinnion, Clan MacRae and the Clan Chisholm. He was opposed by Colonel Sir Robert Munro of Foulis who had formed a camp at the Bridge of Alness with 600 men which also included men from the Clan Ross. Munro had sent many of his own men south to protect the lands of the Clan Forbes of Culloden from the Jacobites. Munro was soon joined by the Earl of Sutherland and the chief of Clan MacKay who both brought with them only a portion of their clans. The government force totalled just 1800 and expected support from the Clan Grant did not arrive. The Earl of Seaforth's forces advanced on the Sutherland's camp who made a quick retreat to avoid contact with their more powerful foe. Soon afterwards a council of war was held between the two sides and the Sutherlanders and MacKays peacefully moved back north to their own territory, while much of the Ross's lands were ravaged and the Munros returned to find Ferindonald had been raided too.

Inverness 1715, Simon Fraser of Lovat (who had been outlawed and in exile), put pressure on the MacKenzie Jacobite garrison in Inverness, which was delivered upon the very day when the Battle of Sheriffmuir was fought. Soon after this 31 year old Colonel Robert Munro of Foulis marched into the town of Inverness with 400 Munros and took over control as governor from Fraser. Government troops arrived in Inverness towards the end of February, and for some months the process of disarming the rebels went on, helped by a Munro detachment under George Munro of Culcairn. With the rising suppressed, and the Hanoverian succession firmly established, Colonel Robert's interest with the Government and his own compassionate nature prompted him to mediate on behalf of some of the defeated leaders (including Alexander MacDonell of Glengarry) and their wives and children.

The clan rivalries which had erupted in rebellion were finding an outlet in local politics. MacKenzie's Earl of Seaforth came to an end in 1716, and it seems to have been arranged that while the Rosses held the county seat the Munros would represent the Tain Burghs. To secure the burghs, control of three out of the five was necessary, and the manoeuvrings by which the councils were persuaded to send the "right" delegate to vote in parliamentary elections were often exciting, and even a show of force was likely. Ross ascendancy was secure in Tain, and from 1716 to 1745 the Munros controlled Dingwall, with one of Robert Munro's brothers as provost, but not without something like two armed Munro "invasions" of the county town in 1721 and 1740, when opposing councillors were abducted to secure a favourable result (for the first incident Colonel Robert and his brother were fined 200 each, and after the second his parliamentary career came to an abrupt end with defeat at the 1741 election).

In 1719 chief Robert Munro's second son, George Munro of Culcairn raised a detachment from his father's clan to fight at the Battle of Glenshiel in 1719 where they helped to defeat the Jacobites . George Munro was wounded during the battle.

In 1725 six Independent Black Watch companies were formed. One of Munro's, one of Fraser's, one of Grant's and three of Campbell's. These companies were known by the name Reicudan Dhu, or Black Watch. By 1740 it had become the 43d Highland regiment and then the 42nd Royal Highlanders. Sir Robert Munro was appointed lieutenant-colonel. Among the captains were his next brother, George Munro of Culcairn, and John Munro, promoted to be lieutenant-colonel in 1745. The surgeon of the regiment was his younger brother, Dr Duncan Munro. Their first action came on 11th May 1745, at the Battle of Fontenoy. Allowed "their own way of fighting", each time they received the French fire Col. Sir Robert Munro ordered his men to "clap to the ground" while he himself, because of his corpulence, stood alone with the colours behind him. For the first time in a European battle they introduced a system of infantry tactics (alternatively firing and taking cover) that was not superseded. Springing up and closing with the enemy, they several times drove them back, and finished with a successful rear-guard action against French cavalry.

In June 1745, a little more than a month after the Battle of Fontenoy. Col. Sir Robert Munro was "rewarded" by an appointment to succeed General Ponsonby as Colonel of the English 37th Regiment of Foot. When the Jacobite Rising broke out, his friends in the Highlands hoped for his presence among them. One wrote that it would have been "the greatest service to His Majesty and the common cause", but it was not to be.. The Munros supported the British government during the Jacobite uprisings. In 1745 the Jacobites were lead by Charles Edward Stewart who was the exiled claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Charles was the son of James Francis Edward Stuart who was in turn the son of King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland, who had been deposed in 1688. After his father's death Charles was recognised as "King Charles III" by his supporters but his opponents referred to him as "The Young Pretender".

In the northern shires the Earl of Sutherland was King George's Lieutenant, and the Sutherlanders, MacKays, Rosses, Munros, Gunns, Campbells, and Grants could be counted on to support the British Government, but the MacDonalds, MacKenzies, MacKintoshes, Menzies and Chisholms were Jacobites, and the Frasers were divided owing to a disputed chiefship but they later joined the Jacobites. Traditionally the Munros held their lands from the Crown on the condition that they should furnish a snowball at mid summer for the King if required. This they could easily do as the corries of their mountain property, Ben Wyvis held snow all year round. It is said that in 1746 when the Duke of Cumberland advanced north the Munros actually sent him some snow to cool his wines.

Chief Col. Sir Robert Munro had been fighting at the front at the second Battle of Falkirk (1746) when, by account of the rebels, the English 37th regiment he was in command of ran away and he was surrounded and attacked by seven Jacobites, he killed at least two with his pike before being shot by a Jacobite commander with a pistol. The Jacobites wished to do special honour to their opponent: They buried Robert in the grave of Sir John de Graham who died at the first Battle of Falkirk (1298). The graves can be seen today in Falkirk churchyard. The Munro clansmen served in an Independent Company under Roberts brother, George Munro of Culcairn.

Robert's son Sir Harry Munro who served as an officer in Loudon's Highlanders regiment had been captured at the Battle of Prestonpans in September 1745. He returned home to find Foulis Castle had been partially destroyed by Jacobites who set fire to it after the Battle of Falkirk. A few months after Falkirk the Jacobites were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden by government forces. Harry was listed as absent "by HRH leave" presumably to try and deal with the problems at Foulis Castle. After the rising was surpressed, a Munro Independant Company under Harry continued to police the Highlands and was disbanded in 1748. Harry set about rebuilding the castle as it is today incorporating what he could of the original building which now appears as a mansion house built in a formal Georgian style. Many Munros and their septs imigrated to different parts of the world including Australia and the United States of America from the later half of the 18th century well into the 19th century.

Sir Hector Munro of Novar (1726 - 1805) was a Scottish General in the British Army who had great success fighting in India against both Indians and the French. As a Major Hector Munro attacked the enemy at Buxar, on the 23d of October 1764, and though the force opposed to him was five times as numerous as his own, he overthrew and dispersed it. Major Munro received a letter of thanks on the occasion from the President and Council of Calcutta. "The signal victory you gained," they say, " so as at one blow utterly to defeat the designs of the enemy against these provinces, is an event which does so much honour to yourself, Sir, in particular, and to all the officers and men under your command, and which, at the same time, is attended with such particular advantages to the Company, as call upon us to return you our sincere thanks." For this important service Major Munro was immediately promoted to the brevet rank of Lieutenant colonel. He went to Bomaby in 1761, in command of the 89th regiment, and in that year effected the surrender of Mah from the French. Later, as commander of the Bengal army, he suppressed a mutiny of sepoys at Patna, and on October 23, 1764 won the victories of Buxar against Shuja-ud-Dowlah the nawab wasir of Oudh, and Mir Kasim, which rank amongst the most decisive battles ever fought in India.

James Monroe (1758-1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817-1825), whose administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida (1819), the Missouri Compromise (1820), in which Missouri was declared a slave state, and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), declaring U.S. opposition to European interference in the Americas.

James Munro (1826 - 1871) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He became a Sergeant in the Crimean War.

James Munro (1832 – 1908), (who the author of this article is a distant cousin) was an Australian colonial politician, was the 15th Premier of Victoria. Munro was born in Sutherlandshire, Scotland - he was the third Scottish-born Premier in succession. After a primary education at a village school he left home for Edinburgh and joined a firm of publishers. In 1858 he emigrated to Victoria where he set up a printing business. In the 1860s he expanded into banking and then promoting building societies. By 1870 he was a very wealthy man, and he continued to engage in speculation, particularly in land, after entering politics.

Sir Hugh Thomas Munro (1856 - 1919) was the founding member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club in 1889. He is best known for the list of mountains in Scotland over 3000ft (914.4m) which he produced two years later in 1891. This list caused much surprise in mountaineering circles, as until his list was produced many thought that the number of mountains exceeding this height was around 30, rather than the nearly 300 that he listed. These mountains are now known as "Munros" and it is a popular hobby to attempt to climb them all.


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