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The Highlanders of Scotland
Part II -
Chapter VII

Moray – (continued)

AN ancient manuscript history of this clan commences with these words – “The Camerons have a tradition among them, that they are originally descended of a younger son of the royal family of Denmark, who assisted at the restoration of king Fergus II., anno 404. He was called Cameron from his crooked nose, as that word imports. But it is more probable that they are of the aborigines of the ancient Scots or Caledonians that first planted the country.” With this last conclusion I am fully disposed to agree, but John Major has placed the matter beyond a doubt, for in mentioning on one occasion that clan Chattan and the clan Cameron, he says, “Hae tribus sunt consaguineae.” They therefore formed a part of the extensive tribe of Moray, and followed the chief of that race until the tribe became broken up, in consequence of the success of the Macintoshes in the conflict on the North Inch of Perth in 1396. Although the Macphersons for the time submitted to the Macintosh as captain of the clan, the Camerons seem to have separated themselves from the main stock, and to have assumed independence.

      The earliest possession of the Camerons was that part of Lochaber extending to the east of the Loch and river of Lochy, and was held by them of the lord of the Isles; their more modern possessions of Locheil and Locharkaig, which lie on the west side of that water, had been granted by the lord of the Isles to the founder of the clan Ranald, by whose descendants it was inhabited. As the Camerons are one of those clans whose chief bore the somewhat doubtful title of captain, we are led to suspect that the latter chiefs were of a different branch from the older family, and had, in common with the other clans among whom the title of captain is found, been the oldest cadet, and in that capacity had come to supersede the elder branch when reduced by circumstances. Originally the clan Cameron consisted of three septs, the clan ic Mhartin, or Mac Martins, of Letterfinlay; the clan ic Ilonobhy, or Camerons of Strone; and Sliochd Shoirle Ruaidh, or Camerons, of Glenevis. Of one of these septs the genealogy is to be found in the MS. of 1450, and it is apparent from that genealogy that the Locheil family belonged to the second, or clan ic Ilonobhy, for the first of the Locheil family who appears on record is Allan Mac Connell dui or son of Donald Du, who in 1472 obtains a charter from Celestine of the Isles, lord of Lochalche, to himself and the heirs male pro-created between him and his wife, Mariot, daughter of Angus de Insulis, with remainder to his brother, Eugene Mac Connelduy, and the two last generations of the clan ic Ilonobhy are Donald Du and his son Eogan. The traditionary origin of the Camerons, however, like that of the Macintoshes and other clans, clearly points out the ancient chiefs of the clan, for while they are unquestionably of native origin, their tradition derives them from a certain Cambro, a Dane, who is said to have acquired his property with the chiefship of the clan, by marriage with the daughter and heiress of Mac Martin, of Letterfinlay. The extraordinary identity of all these traditionary tales, wherever the title of captain is used, leaves little room to doubt that in this case the Mac Martins were the old chiefs of the clan, and the Locheil family were the oldest cadets, whose after position at the head of the clan gave them the title of captain of the clan Cameron. There is some reason to think that on the acquisition of the captainship of the clan Chattan, in 1396, by the Macintoshes, the Mac Martins adhered to the successful faction, while the great body of the clan, with the Camerons of Locheil, declared themselves independent, and thus the Locheil family gained that position which they have ever since retained. Another circumstance probably contributed to place Donald Du at the head of the clan, for the Camerons having, along with the clan Chattan, deserted Alexander, lord of the Isles, when attached by James I., in Lochaber, and having subsequently refused to join Donald Balloch in his invasion of Scotland in 1431, that chief, after his victory at Inverlochy, resolved to revenge himself upon the Camerons, and attacked them with fury. The clan was unable to withstand his attack, and the chief was obliged to fly into Ireland, while the rest of the clan took refuge among the most inaccessible parts of that mountain country.

      When the return of Alexander from captivity had restored some degree of order to his wild dominions, the family of Mac Martin were probably unable to resume their former station, and the oldest cadet, who on the occurrence of such events, and being generally the most powerful family of the clan, assumed the chieftainship with the title of captain, was now placed at the head of the clan. The name of this chief was Donald Du, and from him the Camerons of Locheil take their patronymic of Macconnel Du.

      He appears to have raised the Camerons from the depressed state into which they had fallen by the vengeance of the lords of the Isles, and to have re-acquired for the clan the estates which they had formerly possessed. These estates had been given by the lord of the Isles to John Garbh Maclean of Coll as a reward for his services, but Donald Du soon drove him out of Lochaber, and slew his son Ewen. Donald Du was succeeded by his son Allan M’Coilduy, who acquired the estates of Locharkaig and Locheil, from the latter of which his descendants have taken their title. This property had formed part of the possessions of the clan Ranald, and had been held by them of Godfrey of the Isles, and his son Alexander, the eldest branch of the family. After the death of Alexander, the Camerons appeared to have acquired a feudal title to these lands, while the chief of clan Ranald claimed them as male heir.

      At this period the feuds of the Camerons with the Macintoshes began, which, with various success on both sides, continued down to a late period, and that always with unabated bitterness. Allan Mac Coilduy was the most renowned of all the chiefs of the Camerons, with the exception, perhaps, of his descendant, Sir Ewen. “This Allan Mac Coilduy,” says the manuscript history before quoted, “had the character of being one of the bravest captains in his time. He is said to have made thirty-two expeditions into his enemies’ country, for the thirty-two years that he lived, and three more for the three-fourths of a year that he was in his mother’s womb.” Notwithstanding his character of one of the bravest captains, he was slain in one of his numerous conflicts with the Macintoshes and Macdonalds of Keppoch. The possessions of the family were still farther increased, and feudal titles to their whole property obtained by his son Ewen Allanson. He appears, in consequence of his feudal claims, to have acquired almost the whole of the estates which belonged to the chief of clan Ranald, and to have so effectually crushed that family that their chiefship was soon after usurped by a branch of the family.

      It was during the life of Ewen that the last lord of the Isles was forfeited, and as the crown readily gave charters to all the independent clans of the lands then in their possession Ewen Cameron easily obtained a feudal title to the whole of his possessions, as well those which he inherited from his father as those which he had wrested from the neighbouring clans; and at this period may be dated the establishment of the Camerons in that station of importance and consideration which they have ever since maintained.

      Ewen Cameron having acquired a great part of the lands of the chief of Clanranald, and having been the cause of the downfall of that family, he supported the bastard John Mudertach in his usurpation of the chiefship, and in consequence brought upon himself the resentment of Huntly, who was at that time all-powerful in the north. After Huntly and Lovat had by force dispossessed John Mudertach, they returned separately and by different routes, and the consequence as might have been expected was, that the Camerons and Macdonalds pursued Lovat, against whom they were principally irritated, and having overtaken him at the head of Loch Lochy, they attacked and slew him together with his eldest son and three hundred of his clan. Huntly, enraged at this, immediately returned to Lochaber with a force which prevented all opposition, seized Ewen Cameron and Ronald Macdonald of Keppoch, and caused them to be beheaded at Elgin.

      From this period the Camerons seem to have been engaged in the usual feuds with the neighbouring clans, conducted after the same fashion as usual in those matters, so that their history does not present anything remarkable until we come to the time of Sir Ewen Cameron, a hero whose fame has eclipsed that of all his predecessors. Sir Ewen, or “Evandhu” as he was called in the Highlands, seems to have possessed an uncommon character, and one of chivalrous features, only equalled perhaps by that of his unfortunate grandson, whose share in the insurrection of 1745 is well known. The grandfather was the first to join in the insurrection of 1652 in favour of the royal cause, and the last who held out against the power of Oliver Cromwell, and to whom, in fact, he never fully submitted.

      Of the numberless anecdotes related of this chief, it would be impossible to give a full detail in this place, or to do any justice to his history in a work so limited. He is said to have killed the last wolf in Scotland, and he so often defeated the body of troops stationed in Lochaber, and so constantly harassed them, that they were obliged to remain confined in the fortress of Inverlochy, and were at length so desirous to be at peace with him, that a treaty was concluded on terms most honourable to Sir Ewen, and in which his political principles were fully respected. One circumstance, however, regarding him, it may be proper to mention, being of more importance than all his exploits, as it illustrates the highly chivalrous nature of his character as well as the impression it had made upon others; and of the truth of this circumstance we have sufficient authority in the following passage of General Monk’s letter: – “No oath was required of Locheill to Cromwell, but his word of honour to live in peace. He and his clan were allowed to keep their arms, as before the war broke out, they behaving peaceably. Reparation was to be made to Locheil for the wood cut by the garrison of Inverlochy. A full indemnity was granted for all acts of depredation and crimes committed by his men. Reparation was to be made to his tenants, for all the losses they had sustained from the troops.”

      Sir Ewen joined the royal party at Killicranky, although then an old man, and survived till the year 1719, when he died at the age of ninety.

      If Sir Ewen’s character was equalled by any one, it was by his grandson. The share taken by that unfortunate chief in the insurrection of 1745, is well known to every one, and his conduct was such as to gain him the respect and admiration of all. The estates of the family became of course included in the numerous forfeitures of that period; but they were afterwards restored, notwithstanding that this clan had taken a part in every attempt made by the Highlanders in favour of the family of Stuart.


Or, paly, barry, gules.



Principal Seat.


Oldest Cadet.

Cameron of Locheil was oldest cadet, and has been captain of the clan Cameron since the fourteenth century.


Previous to the fifteenth century, Macmartin of Letterfinlay.


In 1715, 800. In 1745, 800.


Clan Nachtan.

      The tradition of the M’Nachtans derive them from Lochtay, where they are said to have been Thanes, but the genealogy contained in the manuscript of 1450, puts it beyond all doubt that they were one of the clans descended from the tribe of Moray, and formerly united under its Maormors. The whole of the ancient district of Moray is still occupied by clans descended from that tribe, with the exception of one portion of considerable extent. This portion consists of that part of the ancient district which extends between the lordship of Badenoch and Strathnairn and the southern boundary of Ross, and comprehends the extensive districts of the Aird, Glenurchart, Glenmorison, Abertariff, Stratherick, & c. This northern division of the ancient district is intersected by Loch Oich and Loch Ness, and is chiefly in possession of the Frasers, Grants, and Macdonalds, but as all these families can be traced as having acquired possession of the lands at different periods, and as deriving their origin from the occupiers of other districts, it is plain that we must look to other quarters for the early occupiers of this division of the territories of that tribe.

      The first families that can be traced as in possession of this part of Moray are those of Bisset, a family unquestionably of Norman origin, and of Thirlstain, certainly a Lowland, if not a Norman family, and there can be little doubt that they acquired this district from Malcolm IV. in 1160, when we know that he planted a great part of Moray with strangers. The oldest authorities for this fact, however, are equally distinct, that he removed the old inhabitants and placed them in other parts of the country, for which purpose the crown lands must have been principally employed. It is, therefore, extremely probable, that those clans of Moray descent which we find at an early period in districts the most remote from their original seat, formed a part of the inhabitants of this district whom Malcolm IV. removed.

      To them the Macnachtans certainly belonged, for their genealogy indicates a Moray descent, while their traditions place them at a very early period in the crown lands of Strathtay.

      There is one remarkable circumstance regarding this clan, which is, that while the other clans can generally be traced to have previously formed a part of some greater sept, the Macnachtans at a very early period appear in the same independent state in which they existed at a late period, and also, that they continued without perceptible increase or diminution of strength. Their earliest possessions, which they have always maintained, although they afterwards held them of the earl of Argyll, extended betwixt the south side of Lochfine and Lochawe, and included the glens of Ara and Shira, Glenfine, and others, while their ancient seat, the castle of Daintier, shews that they must at one time have possessed considerable power. They probably obtained these properties from Alexander II., on his conquest of Argyll in 1221, and must as crown vassals have formed a part of his army, to whom the forfeited lands were principally given. The MS. of 1450 deduces them through a long line of ancestors from Nachtan Mor, who, according to that authority, must have flourished in the tenth century; but the first chief of the family occurring in this genealogy, whose age we can fix with certainty, is Gilchrist Macnachtan, who obtained from Alexander III. the keeping of the royal castle of Frechelan in Lochawe, and this castle was for some time the residence of the family. In the reign of Robert Bruce, the baron Macnachtan is mentioned as having actively supported the cause of Baliol along with the lord of Lorn, and on that occasion the Campbells probably obtained a grant of a great part of their lands.

      In the reign of Robert III. there is a charter by Colin, earl of Argyle, to Maurice Macnachtan, of sundry lands in Over Lochaw, and at the same period Morice Macnachtan occurs in the genealogy previously alluded to. After this we know very little of the family until the reign of Charles I., when Sir Alexander Macnachtan appears to have distinguished himself very much in the numerous civil wars of that era On the restoration of Charles II., Macnachtan is said to have proved an exception to the generality of the royalists, and to have been rewarded with a large pension as well as the honour of knighthood. He did not, however, escape the fate of the neighbouring clans, and found himself as little in a condition to offer any obstacle to the rapid advancement of the Argyll family as the others. They accordingly soon joined the ranks of the dependents of that great family, and the loss of their estate some time afterwards, through the operation of legal diligence, reduced them still lower, until there was little left to them but the recollection of former greatness, which the ruins of various of their strongholds, and the general tradition of the country, would shew not to be visionary.


quarterly. First and fourth – Argent, a hand fess-ways, coupee, proper, holding a cross crosslet, fitchee, azure. Second and third – Argent, a tower embattled gules.

Principal Seat.

Dundurraw on Lochfine.




Clan Gille-eon.

      This clan is one of those to which a Norman origin has for a considerable length of time been assigned, and it is said that a brother of Colin Fitzgerald, the alleged ancestor of the Mackenzies, was the founder of the family. But this origin, as well as those of the other clans derived from a Norman source appears to have been altogether unknown previous to the seventeenth century, and to be but little deserving of credit.

      This clan has been omitted in the MS. of 1450, but the two oldest genealogies of the family, of which one is the production of the Beatons, who were hereditary sennachies of the familoy, concur in deriving the clan Gille-eon from the same race from whom the clans belonging to the great Moray tribe are brought by the MS. of 1450. Of this clan the oldest seat seems to have been the district of Lorn, as they first appear in subjection to the lords of Lorn; and their situation being thus between the Camerons and Macnachtans, who were undoubted branches of the Moray tribe, there can be little doubt that the Macleans belonged to that race also. As their oldest seat was thus in Argyll, while they are unquestionably a part of the tribe of Moray, we may infer that they were one of those clans transplanted from north Moray by Malcolm IV., and it is not unlikely that Glenurchart was their original residence, as that district is said to have been in the possession of the Macleans when the Bissets came in.

      The first of the family on whom tradition has fixed a name is Gilleon, surnamed “ni tuoidh,” from the word signifying a battle-axe, which it appears was his favourite weapon. He is said to have fought at the battle of Largs, but of his history nothing whatever is known. In 1296 we find Gillemore Macilean de Counté de Perth signing Ragman’s Roll, and as the county of Perth at that time embraced Lorn, it is probable that this was the son of Gilleon and ancestor of the Macleans. In the reign of Robert the Bruce, frequent mention is made of three brothers, John, Nigell, and Dofuall, termed Mac Gillion, or filii Gillion, and they appear to have been sons of Gillemore, for we find John designated afterwards Mac Mormari, or Mac Gillimore.

      John Mac Gillimore had two sons, Lachlan Lubanich, predecessor of the family of Dowart, and Eachin Reganich, predecessor of that of Lochbuy. These brothers lived during the reign of Robert II., and appear first as followers of the lord of Lorn; but a dispute having arisen between them and their chief, they left him and took refuge with the lord of the Isles. The island lord was now rapidly acquiring the supremacy over the other descendants of their great progenitor, Somerled, and they were accordingly at once received by him with great favour. But the usual consequence of a stranger entering into the country of another clan followed, and a bitter feud soon took place between them and the chief of the Mackinnons, which led to one of the most daring actions which has ever been recorded of any Highland chief. The lord of the Isles had set out on some expedition to the mainland in a single galley, desiring the Macleans and the Mackinnons to follow him, and the Macleans resolved upon taking this opportunity of avenging many injuries which they had received from Mackinnon, and killed him while in the act of mounting into his galley. Afraid of the vengeance of the lord of the Isles for this deed of treachery, they proceeded to follow up their act by one still more daring, and accordingly set sail after him. No sooner had they overtaken his galley than the two brothers at once boarded it, and succeeded in taking the Macdonald himself prisoner in the very centre of his islands, and within sight of many of his castles. They then carried their captive to the small island of Garveloch, and thence to Icolmkill, where they detained him until the lord of the Isles, seeing no prospect of speedy relief from his degrading situation, agreed to vow friendship to them “upon certain stones where men were used to make solemn vows in those superstitious times,” and granted them the lands in Mull which the clan have ever since possessed.

      Lachlan Lubanich afterwards married the daughter of the lord of the Isles, and was appointed by him his lieutenant-general in time of war, an office for which this deed had shewn him well fitted. The descendants of these brothers have disputed among themselves the honour of the chieftainship of the clan Gille-eon, but, although there are not data left from which to ascertain with any degree of certainty in which the family right lay, there seems little reason to doubt that the family of Dowart was the principal branch of the clan. Both families produce tradition in support of their claims; but when we consider that, upon the lord of the Isles being compelled when in the power of both the brothers, to give his daughter to one of them, Lachlan was selected; and that unvaried tradition asserts that his son commanded as lieutenant-general at the battle of the Harlaw; it seems probable, that Lachlan was the eldest brother, and consequently, that the Macleans of Dowart were chiefs of the clan Gille-eon.

      Lachlan Lubanich was succeeded by his son Eachin Ruoidh ni Cath or Red Hector of the battles. He commanded, as we have said, at the battle of Harlaw, under the Earl of Ross, and it is said, that the Maclean and Irvine of Drum, having encountered on the field of battle, slew each other in single combat. He appears to have well maintained his epithet of “ni cath,” although the Sennachy is scarcely borne out in history, when he asserts that he “commanded an army in Ireland, took the city of Dublin, and a fleet that lay in the harbour.”

      His eldest son, Lachlan, was taken prisoner at the battle of Harlaw, and detained in captivity for a long time by the Earl of Mar; his brother John, however, followed Donald Ballovh with the Macleans in his expedition into Lochaber, and was present at the victory of Inverlochy. From this period until the forfeiture of the lords of the Isles, the Macleans adhered to these powerful chiefs, taking a share in all the transactions in which the Macdonalds were engaged. In the dissensions which arose between John, the last lord, and his son Angus Og, the chief of the Macleans took part with the former, and was present at the sea fight in the bloody bay, where both Macdonald the father, and Maclean, were made prisoners.

      On the forfeiture of the last lord of the Isles, the Macleans assumed independence, and appear to have gradually risen upon the ruins of that great clan, in the same manner as the Mackenzies, Campbells, Macintoshes and others. The possessions of the Macleans now comprehended the greater part of the island of Mull, Movern, and many of the smaller isles, and became divided into the powerful branches of Dowart, Lochbuy, Coll, Ardgowr, Movern, & c. Their history after this period exhibits merely a succession of feuds between them and the Macdonalds and Campbells, in which they were enabled to maintain their ground against both, by reason of their great numbers, and the nature of the country they possessed. But at length, towards the close of the sixteenth century, the Macdonalds appear to have united for the purpose of effectually crushing the rising power of the Macleans. At the head of this union was Angus Macdonald of Kintyre, who had married Maclean’s sister, and between whom and Maclean disputes had arisen in consequence of both possessing lands in Jura. The Macdonalds of Slait were involved in the dispute in consequence of Slait having landed on Maclean’s property in Jura on his way to visit Macdonald of Kintyre, when the Kintyre Macdonalds carried off some of Maclean’s cattle during the night, in order that he might impute the theft to Macdonald of Sleat. In this they were successful, for the Macleans were no sooner aware of their loss, than they attacked the Macdonalds of Sleat and defeated them with so much slaughter, that their chief with difficulty escaped. In order to revenge themselves, the Macdonalds united to attach the Macleans, and having assembled in great numbers, landed in Mull. At that juncture, the chief of the Macleans, who was surnamed Lachlan More, was a person well fitted by his great talents and military genius to meet the emergency upon which the fate of his clan seemed to depend. He immediately retired with his followers and cattle to the hills in the interior of the island, and left the plains open to the Macdonalds, who, finding no one to attack, and being unable to force the almost inaccessible mountains, were obliged to depart; but soon after returning with greater numbers, they found Maclean, having assembled his whole clan and been joined by the other numerous branches of the family, determined to anticipate their purposed invasion, and setting sail for Mull he attacked the Macdonalds in an island south of Kerrera, called Bacca. Unprepared for so vigorous an attack on the part of the Macleans, the Macdonalds were forced to give way and betake themselves to their galleys, stationed in the other side of the island, but not before they had sustained great loss in the skirmish. After this defeat, the Macdonalds never again attempted to invade the possessions of the Macleans, but a bitter enmity existed between the Macleans and the Macdonalds of Isla and Kintyre, who failing to make any impression upon them by force resorted to treachery. With this view Angus Macdonald of Kintyre effected a reconciliation with Lachlan More, and the better to cover his intended fraud he visited him at his castle of Dowart, where his purpose was anticipated by Maclean, who took him prisoner, and did not release him until he had given up his right to some of the lands in Isla, and had left his brother and his eldest son at Dowart as hostages. Maclean was then invited to visit Macdonald at Kintyre, which, relying upon the security of the hostages, he agreed to do, and arrived there, having left Macdonald’s brother at Dowart, and being accompanied by the other hostage, his uncle, and seventy gentlemen of his clan. They were received with apparent cordiality, but had no sooner retired for the night than the house was surrounded by the Macdonalds with Angus at their head, and after an obstinate resistance, the Macleans were made prisoners.

      Angus now satiated his vengeance by executing two of the Macleans every day, reserving their chief Lachlan More to the last; and he had already in this way slain them all except the chief, when two of the gentlemen of his clan having been taken prisoners in Mull, he was obliged to exchange Lachlan for them. No sooner, therefore, was Lachlan at liberty than he applied to the government, and obtained letters of fire and sword against Macdonald, with an order upon Macleod and Locheil to assist him. With these means he sailed for Isla, attacked and defeated the Macdonalds, burnt the whole island, and drove Angus to seek refuge in his castle, who, seeing that he could not resist Maclean, bought his forbearance by giving up to him the half of the island of Isla.

      On the death of Angus of Isla, this grant produced some negotiations between Maclean and James Macdonald, Angus’s son, and in order to settle their difference a meeting was agreed upon between them, but Maclean coming unadvisedly with a small attendance, and his boats being stranded by the retiring tide, he was surprised by James Macdonald and killed after a brave resistance. And thus fell the greatest chief whom the Macleans ever had, a victim to the treachery of the Macdonalds of Isla.

      After this the feuds between the Macleans and Macdonalds seem to have come to an end; the son of Lachlan having fully revenged his death by ravaging the island of Isla. The Macleans joined the Marquis of Montrose in his memorable campaign, along with the other Highland clans under the command of Sir Lachlan Maclean of Morvery, and sustained the warlike character of the clan throughout that enterprise.

      In the year 1715 the Macleans also joined the rising under the Earl of Mar, and suffered upon that occasion the same penalty with the other clans who had been induced to take a part in that unfortunate expedition. But their estates having been afterwards restored, they were prevailed upon by the persuasions of President Forbes to remain quiet during the subsequent insurrection of the year 1745.

      Nevertheless, although they had thus escaped the snare into which so many of the clans fell upon this occasion, the family became soon after extinct, and the clan is now divided into several independent branches who contest with each other the honour of the chiefship.


Quarterly – First. Argent, a rock gules. Second – Argent, a dexter hand fess-ways, coupee, gules, holding a cross crosslet, fitchee, in pale azure. Third – Or, a lymphad sable. Fourth – Argent, a salmon naiant, proper; in chief, two eagles’ heads erased, affronte gules.


Blackberry heath.

Principal Seat.


Oldest Cadet.

The family of Lochbuy, who have long claimed the chiefship, appear to be the oldest cadet.


Maclean of Dowart appears to have been chief of the clan.


Formerly 800. In 1745, 500.


Siol O’Cain.

      In enquiring into the existence of any descendants of the ancient inhabitants of the North of Moray, we should expect to find them either as isolated clans in the neighbourhood, whose traditionary origin shewed some connection with those of the tribe of Moray, or situated in districts whose situation displayed evident marks of the violent removal effected by Malcolm IV. Of the latter we find instances in the Macnachtans and Macleans, of the former we can discover it in those clans whom tradition deduces from the O’Cains, and which consist principally of the Monros, Macmillans, and Buchannans. These clans, like most of the other Highland clans, have been supposed to be derived from the Irish, but their traditionary origin clearly points out their connection with the tribe of Moray. According to the ancient Sennachies, the descent of these clans is derived from certain branches of the family of O’cain, who are said to have come from Fermanagh; but the name Cain being spelt in Gaelic Cathan, and being the very same with Cattan, from whom clan Chattan derives its appellation, it seems much more probable that they derived their patronymic of “O’Cain” or “O’Cathan” from the Cattan of clan Chattan. And more particularly when the oldest genealogies of the Macmillans, expressly makes them a branch of the clan Chattan. The founder of the clan Chattan is also brought from the same part of Ireland as the Monros in the legends of the Sennachies; and the identity of tradition clearly points out a connection between the two clans. We have already shewn this fable of the Irish origin to be untenable in respect to the one, and it must be equally so with regard to the other.


Clan Roich.

      The possessions of the Monros lie on the north side of the Cromarty Firth, and are known in the Highlands by the name of “Ferrin Donald,” a name derived from the progenitor Donald, who bore the patronymic of O’Cain; but as they originally formed a part of the tribe of Moray, it seems clear that their earliest seats must have been in that part of moray from which they were driven out by the Bissets. By their situation they were naturally thrown into connection with the earls of Ross, and they seem, accordingly, to have followed them in the various expeditions in which they were engaged.

      The first of the Monros for whom we have distinct authority, is George Monro of Fowlis, who is said to be mentioned in a charter of William, earl of Sutherland, so early as the reign of Alexander II. In the next century, the clan appears to have been nearly cut off to a man, in a feud with the inhabitants of the hill-country of Ross. These clans, consisting principally of the Macivers, Macaulays, and Maclays, had risen against the earl of Ross, and taken his second son at Balnagowan. In his attempt to put down this insurrection, the earl of Ross was promptly assisted by the Monros and the Dingwalls, who pursued the Highlanders, and fought them at a place called Beallynebroig. The three clans who had broken out into rebellion were nearly extinguished, and it is said that a hundred and forth of the Dingwalls and eleven of the house of Fowlis, who were to succeed each other, were killed, and that accordingly the succession fell to an infant. The Monros, however, appear to have soon recovered from this slaughter, and to have again attained to the station they had formerly possessed.

      The first feudal titles obtained by this family to their possessions were acquired about the middle of the fourteenth century, and all proceeded from the earl of Ross as their feudal superior. The reddendo of one of these charters is of a somewhat singular nature considering the times, Monro holding the lands of Pitlundie blench of the earl of Ross, for payment of a pair of white gloves, or three pounds Scots, if required, alternately. In another charter, however, granted by the same earl, of the lands of Easter Fowlis, to Robert Monro of Fowlis, it is expressly said, that these lands had belonged to his predecessors ever since the time of Donald, the first of this family. From this period, the Monros appear to have remained in possession of the same territories, without either acquiring additions to them, or suffering diminution; and to have at all times held the same station in which they were first found among the other Highland clans.

      In the sixteenth century they seem to have been considered as a clan of considerable importance, for when so many of the Highlanders assembled round Queen Mary at Inverness, in 1562, Rubhannan says, “Audito principis periculo magna priscorum Scotorum multitudo partim excita partim sua sponte affecit, imprimis Fraserii et Monroi hominum fortissimorum in illis gentibus familiae.”

      But when the civil wars of the seventeenth century broke out, and the Highlanders took such an active part on the side of the royal cause, the Monros were one of the few clans of Gaelic origin who embraced the other side; and from this period they made a constant and determined opposition to the efforts made in favour of the Stuarts. The cause of this determination is probably to be found in the circumstance of the chief of the Monros having been for several generations engaged in the continental wars, into which they had been drawn to serve by embarrassments at home, and the hope of increasing the fortunes of the family. This circumstance, as it had the same effect with the Mackays, seems always to have induced the Scotch, on their return from the German wars, to adopt the line of politics opposed to that of the Highlanders generally, and, in this respect, the Monros had rendered themselves well known for the active support which they invariably afforded to the established government.

      In the year 1745, the Monros proved their attachment to the government by joining it with the whole clan, and their chief Sir Robert Monro, of Fowlis, was killed at the battle of Falkirk, fighting against the army of the Stuart cause.


Or, an eagle’s head erased, gules.


Eagles’ feathers.

Principal Seat.


Oldest Cadet.

Munro of Milton.


Munro of Fowlis.


In 1704 and 1715, 400. In 1745, 500.


Clan Gillemhaol.

      The earliest seat of the Macmillans appears to have been on both sides of the Locharkaig, and their situation strongly confirms their traditionary connection with the clan Chattan. On the grant of Lochaber to the lord of the Isles, the Macmillans became vassals of that powerful chief, but when the Camerons obtained possession of Locharkaig, they became dependent upon that clan, in which situation they have remained ever since.

      Another branch of this clan possessed the greater part of southern Knapdale, where their chief was known under the title of Macmillan of Knap; and although the family is now extinct, many records of their former power are to be found in that district. One of the towers of that fine ancient edifice Castle Swen, bears the name of Macmillan’s Tower, and there is a stone cross in the old churchyard of Kilmoray Knap, upwards of twelve feet high, richly sculptured, which has upon one side the representation of an Highland chief engaged in hunting the deer, having the following inscription in ancient Saxon characters underneath the figure: – “Haec est crux Alexandri Macmillan.” Although the Macmillans were at a very early period in Knapdale, they probably obtained the greater part of their possessions there by marriage with the heiress of the chief of the Macneils, in the sixteenth century. Tradition asserts that these Knapdale Macmillans came originally from Lochtay side, and that they formerly possessed Lawers, on the north side of that loch, from which they were driven by Chalmers of Lawers, in the reign of David II.

      As there is little reason to doubt the accuracy of the tradition, it would appear that this branch of the Macmillans had been removed by Malcolm IV. from North Moray, and placed in the crown lands of Strathtay. Macmillan is said to have had the charter of his lands in Knapdale engraved in toe Gaelic language and charger upon a rock at the extremity of his estate; and tradition reports that the last of the name, in order to prevent the prostitution of his wife, butchered her admirer, and was obliged in consequence to abscond. On the extinction of the family of the chief, the next branch, Macmillan of Dunmore, assumed the title of Macmillan of Macmillan, but that family is now also extinct.

      Although the Macmillans appear at one time to have been a clan of considerable importance, yet as latterly they became mere dependants upon their more powerful neighbours, who possessed the superiority of their lands, and as their principal families are now extinct, no records of their history have come down to us, nor do we know what share they took in the various great events of Highland history. Their property, upon the extinction of the family of the chief, was contended for by the Campbells and Macneills, the latter of whom were a powerful clan in North Knapdale, but the contest was, by compromise decided in favour of the former. It continued in the same family till the year 1775, when, after the death of the tenth possessor, the estate was purchased by Sir Archibald Campbell, of Inverniel.

      Of the same race with the Macmillans appear to be the Buchannans, or clan Anselan, who obtained the barony of Buchannan by marriage with its heiress. They claimed descent from Anselan O’Cain, and their oldest traditions indicate a close connection with the Macmillans.


Or, a lion rampant sable upon a chief parted per barr, gules, three mollets argent.

Principal Seat.




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