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The Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan
A review

The Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan. By A. M. Mackintosh, pp. xxiv, 566. Printed for the author, 1903.

The history of the Mackintoshes is important, even apart from other reasons, on account of their central position in the Highlands, and their close association for centuries with the town of Inverness. Like that of most of the clans, their origin is shrouded in much obscurity, but the author of this volume has spared no pains to make his information as interesting and reliable as possible. As early as 1880 he published a book on the same subject. This second edition is intended to represent the results of wider research and fuller knowledge. Favourably situated as the author has been for the purpose, he has endeavoured, as he tells, us, to present a correct history of the Clan Chattan generally, and of its component septs in particular. To this end he has carefully piloted his way (by the help of record and documentary evidence alone, disregarding or not insisting on the delusive lights of tradition, taking for granted no statements of family historians as to ancient events, and avoiding all temptation to speculations or guesses of his own, or to 'writing for writing’s sake.’

There have been two views taken of the origin of the Clan Mackintosh. According to the one, supported by a MS. of date 1467, the family can be traced to the Dalriadic kings; according to the other, founded on the Kinrara MS., which was completed about the year 1679, they are descended from the ancient Earls of Fife. For reasons assigned, Mr. Mackintosh follows the latter document as his chief authority for the earlier period. It is a family history written in English by Lachlan Mackintosh of Kinrara, brother of the 18th chief, and afterwards abbreviated and translated into Latin. This Lachlan quotes from three older MSS. which are now no longer extant. One of these was the work of Ferquhard, 12th chief; another, that of Andrew Macphail, parson of Croy; and the third was written by George Munro of Davochgartie.

Briefly, the account in the Kinrara MS. is, that Shaw, second son of Duncan, 3rd Earl of Fife, came to the north with King Malcolm IV. in 1163, to suppress a rebellion of the men of Moray; and that as a reward for his services he was made keeper or constable of the royal castle of Inverness, and received possession of the lands of Petty and Breachley, with the forest of Stratheme (Strathdearn). The name Mackintosh is said to mean ‘son of the thane,’ and this Shaw Macduff was the first to bear it, because his father, though an earl, was commonly called Toshachy that is, ‘thane.'

The first mention of the name in its present form, which the author of the book under review could find as unmistakably applied to one of the Clan Chattan occurs in the case of Malcolm Mackintosh in 1428. Another Angus Mackintosh figures in the Exchequer Rolls of Aberdeen as early as 1412-13, but the author cannot say whether he belonged to the clan or not.

Though there is no extant proof that the Mackintoshes occupied the above-mentioned lands in the twelfth century, they are found there as king’s tenants in the fifteenth—the earliest period for which records of these lands are available. If the Kinrara MS. is correct in stating that their founder was keeper of the castle of Inverness* the connection of the family with that town is coeval with their residence in the north, and indeed with their existence under the name they now bear.

With regard to the headship of the Clan Chattan, over which the Macphersons and the Mackintoshes have long been at feud, each sept claiming the right for its own chief, Mr. Mackintosh remarks: ‘Those who have carefully and impartially followed me so far, must admit, I venture to think, that although the Macphersons of Cluny may possibly be the lineal representatives of the heads of the old or pre-historic Clan Chattan, the right to the headship of the clan as it has existed during its historical period belongs solely to the chiefs of Mackintosh, who possess it by the consent of the majority of the clan—of the whole, down to the latter half of the seventeenth century and during part of the eighteenth century—and by continual usage for a period of nearly six hundred years, not to speak of the authority of King and Government at various periods. The position as regards the alleged original right is not so satisfactory, but although there is absolutely no evidence either in favour or against that right, I have perhaps succeeded in showing at least that—supposing the story of the marriage of Eva to be true in the main—neither Macpherson of Cluny nor any one else is in a position to furnish a better title than that of Mackintosh to the chiefship of Clan Chattan.

Yet with every good intention, Mr. Mackintosh need hardly expect to find that he has closed a controversy in which the traditions and sentiments of the rival clans mingle so freely.

On the famous clan battle at Perth in 1396 he has an interesting chapter, in which he deals at some length with the various historical references to that event. Discussing the old puzzle as to which were the clans involved—the Clahynnhe Qwhewyl and Clachiny-ha mentioned by Wyntoun—he inclines to the opinion that they were the Clan Chattan and the Clan Cameron, among the former of whom were some Mackintoshes.

How soon even more modem facts and events get wrapped in obscurity may be gathered, by the way, from another reference in this book. It concerns the parentage of so noted a man as James Macpherson of Ossianic fame. In a paper of 1797 quoted in Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands, he is said to have been the son of ‘Andrew Macpherson, son to Ewan Macpherson, brother to the then Macpherson of Cluny,’ but, remarks Mr. Mackintosh, nothing appears in the genealogy of the Cluny family to warrant that statement.

On some points, as might be expected, the author differs in his opinions from those of well-known writers such as Dr. Skene and Sir Walter Scott, and he is emphatic in assuring us that the Lady Mackintosh of the ’Forty-Five’ was not such a forward Amazon as she has been depicted by English scribes. His work, on the whole, is a valuable addition to the Clan histories, and Mr. Mackintosh deserves great credit for his zeal and patient endeavour to make it as complete as possible. It may be added that the book closes with a short account of the heraldry of Clan Chattan.

Magnus Maclean.

We've also obtained the books...


Historical Memoirs of the House and Clan of Mackintosh and Clan Chattan
By Alexander Mackintosh Shaw

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