Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scottish Nation

MACNAUGHTON, MACNAGHTON, the name of a clan of great antiquity in the West of Scotland (Argyleshire), the badge of which was the trailing azalia. The MS. of 1450 deduces the decent of the heads of this clan from Nachtan Mor, who is supposed to have lived in the 10th century. The Gaelic name Neachtain is the same as the Pictish Nectan, celebrated in the Pictish Chronicle as one of the great Celtic divisions in Scotland, and the appellation is among the most ancient in the north of Ireland, the original seat of the Crutnen Picts. The parish of Dunnichen, in Forfarshire, derived its name from the Gaelic dun, a hill, and the word Nechtan, the name of a Pictish chief who is traditionally reported to have resided in the parish. According to Buchanan of Auchmar, (History of the Origin of the Clans, p. 84, ) the heads of this clan were for ages thanes of Loch Tay, and possessed all the country between the south side of Loch-Fyne and Lochawe, parts of which were Glenira, Glenshira, Glenfine, and other places, while their principal seat was Dunderraw on Loch-Fyne.

      In the reign of Robert III., Maurice or Morice Macnaughton had a charter from Colin Campbell of Lochow of sundry lands in Over Lochow, but their first settlement in Argyleshire, in the central parts of which their lands latterly wholly lay, took place long before this. The Macnaughtons are said to have been originally a branch of the tribes of the province of Moray, when united under its maormors. (Skene’s History of the Highlands, vol. ii. p. 201.) These maormors were the most powerful chiefs in Scotland during the middle ages. When Malcolm the Maiden attempted to civilize the ancient province of Moray, by introducing Norman and Saxon families, such as the Bissets, the Comyns, &c., in the place of the rude Celtic natives whom he had expatriated to the south, he gave lands in or near Strathtay or Strathspey, to Nachtan of Moray, for those he had held in that province. He had there a residence called Dunnachtan castle. Nisbet (Heraldry, vol. i. p. 419) describes this Nachtan as “an eminent man in the time of Malcolm IV.,” and says that he “was in great esteem with the family of Lochawe, to whom he was very assistant in their wars with the Macdougals, for which he was rewarded with sundry lands.” The family of Lochawe here mentioned were the Campbells.

      The Macnaughtons appear to have been fairly and finally settled in Argyleshire previous to the reign of Alexander III., as Gilchrist Macnaughton, styled of that ilk, was by that monarch appointed in 1287, heritable keeper of his castle and island of Frechelan (Fraoch Ellan) on Lochawe, on condition that he should be properly entertained when he should pass that way, whence, a castle embattled was assumed as the crest of the family.

      This Gilchrist was father or grandfather of Donald Macnaughton of that ilk, who being nearly connected with the Macdougals of Lorn, joined that powerful chief with his clan against Robert the Bruce, and fought against the latter at the battle of Dalree in 1306, in consequence of which he lost a great part of his estates. In Abercromby’s ‘Martial Achievements,’ (vol. i. p. 577,) it is related that the extraordinary courage shown by the king in having, in a narrow pass, slain with his own hand several of his pursuers, and amongst the rest three brothers, so greatly excited the admiration of the chief of the Macnaughtons that he became thenceforth one of his firmest adherents.

      His son and successor, Duncan Macnaughton of that ilk, was a steady and loyal subject to King David II., who, as a reward for his fidelity, conferred on his son, Alexander, lands in the island of Lewis, a portion of the forfeited possessions of John of the Isles, which the chiefs of the clan Naughton held for a time. The ruins of their castle of Macnaughton are still pointed out on that island.

      Donald Macnaughton, a younger son of the family, was, in 1436, elected bishop of Dunkeld, in the reign of James I.

      Alexander Macnaughton of that ilk, who lived in the beginning of the 16th century, was knighted by James IV., whom he accompanied to the disastrous field of Flodden, where he was slain with nearly the whole chivalry of Scotland. His son, John, was succeeded by his second son, Malcolm Macnaughton of Glenshira, his eldest son having predeceased him. Malcolm died in the end of the reign of James VI., and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander.

      John, the second son of Malcolm, being of a handsome appearance, attracted the notice of King James VI., who appointed him one of his pages of honour, on his accession to the English crown. He became rich, and purchased lands in Kintyre. He was also sheriff-depute of Argyleshire. His elder brother, Alexander Macnaughton of that ilk, adhered firmly to the cause of Charles I., and in his service, like all who remained loyal to him, sustained many severe losses. At the Restoration, as some sort of compensation, he was knighted by Charles II., and, unlike many others, he received from that monarch a liberal pension for life. Sir Alexander Macnaughton spent his later years in London, where he died. His son and successor, John Macnaughton of that ilk, succeeded to an estate greatly burdened with debt, but did not hesitate in his adherence to the fallen fortunes of the Stuarts. At the head of a considerable body of his own clan, he joined the viscount Dundee, and was with him at Killiecrankie. James VII. signed a deed in his favour, restoring to his family all its old lands and hereditary rights, but, as it never passed the seals in Scotland, it was of less value than the paper on which it was written. His lands were taken from him, not by forfeiture, but “the estate,” says Buchanan of Auchmar, “was evicted by creditors for sums noway equivalent to its value, and, there being no diligence used for relief thereof, it went out of the hands of the family.” His son, Alexander, a captain in Queen Anne’s guards, was killed in the expedition to Vigo in 1702. His brother, John, at the beginning of the last century was for many years collector of customs at Anstruther in Fife, and subsequently was appointed inspector-general in the same department. The direct male line of the Macnaughton chiefs became extinct at his death.


      The chiefship is now in an Irish family, descended from Shane Dhu, grandson of Sir Alexander Macnaughton, slain at Flodden, who went to Ireland in 1580, as secretary to his kinsman, the 1st earl of Antrim, and settled there. His son Daniel Macnaughton, Esq., married Catherine, niece of the celebrated primate, George Dowdall, and their great-grandson, Edmund Alexander Macnaughten, Esq. of Beardville, born August 3, 1762, was M.P. for County Antrim, and a lord of the treasury. The clan Macnaughton elected this gentleman and his heirs to the chieftainship. At his decease in 1832, it descended with his family estates to his brother, Sir Francis Workman Macnaughten, born August 2, 1763, educated for the law, and knighted on being appointed a judge of the supreme court of judicature at Madras, in 1809. In 1815 he was transferred to that of Bengal, and in 1823 he assumed the additional surname and arms of Workman. He retired from the bench in 1825, and was created a baronet, July 16, 1836. He died Nov. 22, 1843. By his wife, the eldest daughter of Sir William Dunkin of Clogher, a judge of the supreme court of judicature, Calcutta, he had 6 sons and 10 daughters. Of the eldest son, in the following paragraph. The 2d son, William Hay, of the Bengal Civil Service, was created a baronet in 1839, and was assassinated at Cabul, Dec. 25, 1841. Stuart Macnaughten, the youngest son, born June 20, 1815, educated at Edinburgh and Trinity College, Dublin, (B.A. 1835), called to the bar at the Middle Temple, 1839; married in 1848, Agnes, daughter of James Eastmont, Esq. of St. Berners, near Edinburgh, and widow of Capt. Lewis Shedden.

      The eldest son, Sir Edmund Charles Workman Macnaughten, of Dunderave, Bushmills, county Antrim, 2d baronet, born April 1, 1790, M.P. for that county, 1847-1852, married in 1827, Mary, only child of Edward Gwatkin, Esq.; issue five sons and two daughters. The sons are 1. Francis Edmund, major, 8th Hussars, born in 1828; 2. Edward, barrister-at-law; 3. William Henry, 1st Bengal light cavalry; 4. Fergus; 5. Edmund Charles. The family spell their name Macnaughten.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus