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Scottish Clans


The Camerons take their name from a Gaelic word , meaning "crooked nose" or "crooked hill." Initially, the clan was organised as a confederation of three influential families, the MacSorleys of Glen Nevis, the MacGillonies of Strone and the MacMartins of Letterfinlay. Subsequently, it divided onto two main branches, the Camerons of Erracht and the Camerons of Lochiel. The most notable member of the latter was the Royalist, Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel, who was the last of the Highland chiefs to hold out against Cromwell during the Civil War (1642 - 1649). His grandson Donald, better known as "Gentle Lochiel", also sided with the losing cause, when he joined Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 uprising.

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This clan name evolved from a personal epithet, for cam-beul is a Gaelic term for "crooked mouth." This may have helped to promote the family's association with another facial feature, for there is an old tradition that the Campbells were descended from Diarmaid Ua Duibne ("Diarmaid of the Love Spot"). As a result, they were often known as the "Clan Diarmaid."
The clan can trace its roots back to the 13th century, when a certain Gillespie Campbell was cited in a charter. By 1300, the family had achieved greater prominence, for Colin Campbell of Lochawe was knighted in 1280 and recognised as one of the most powerful lords in the region. He was hailed as the founder of the Campbells of Argyll, and subsequent chiefs were dubbed MacCailean Mor (Son of Great Colin), as a reference to his Gaelic nickname. Sir Neil Campbell, Colin's son, was granted extensive lands in the west Highlands, where the clan co-operated with the crown in seeking to curb the power of the MacDonalds.
The Campbells of breadalbane were as powerful as their Argyllshire kinsmen. They were descendants of Black Colin of Glenorchy, son of Duncan Campbell of Lochawe. Their most influential family member was Sir John Campbell who gave sterling support to Charles II and was made Earl of breadalbane.
The most infamous moment in the clan's history occurred in 1692, when a detachment of troops from the Campbells of Glenlyon took part in the Massacre of Glencoe. During this nocturnal ambush, 38 MacDonalds were killed in their beds - an atrocity that drew widespread condemnation, although the Campbells might argue that it formed part of a long running feud between the two clans.

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The Legend of Campbell

The Massacre of Glencoe has been marked down in the annals as one of the darkest episodes in Scottish history. On the night of 13th February 1692, a detachment of Government troops, led by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, launched a surprise attack on sleeping MacDonald clansmen. Some were killed in their beds, while others tried desperately to escape into the snow capped hills. News of the slaughter provoked widespread condemnation, particularly since many of the soldiers had been billeted with the MacDonalds and had coexisted peacefully with them throughout the previous week. To most Scots, this breached the most fundamental laws of hospitality and it was for this reason, more than any other, that the event caused such an outcry. Blame fell upon the Campbells, in particular, partly because of their close links with the English government, and partly because of suspicions that John Campbell, 1st Earl of breadalbane (1635 - 1717), had exploited the situation, in order to settle old scores with the MacDonalds.
The background to the massacre lay in the unstable political climate. In 1688, James VIII, the last of the Stuart kings, was driven out of power. William III, a Dutch Protestant, took his place on the English and Scottish thrones. James, meanwhile, set up a court in exile at Paris and plotted to regain his crown. As part of his plan, he landed in Ireland with an army, but was emphatically defeated at the Battle of the Boyne (1690). William proceeded to subdue his Irish domains, but was fully aware that Jacobite sympathies were still b in the Highlands of Scotland. So in an attempt to pacify the region, he ordered the clan chiefs to swear an oath of allegiance in return for financial rewards. The deadline for this oath was January 1 1692. Alasdair, 12th MacIain, the leader of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, agreed to sign the treaty on behalf of his clan. Through a fatal oversight, however, he travelled to Fort William rather than Inveraray, in order to make his submission. As a result, he was five days late in taking the oath. This offered the king's ministers a pretext for making an example of the recalcitrant Highlanders.
Most of the legends surrounding Glencoe have arisen after the night of the massacre. For, in spite of the element of surprise, comparatively few people were killed (just 38, less than a tenth of the number that had been targeted), and many of the most prominent clansmen managed to slip through the net. The most fanciful tale suggests that a band of fairy pipers swept through the glen, leading the attackers astray with their ghostly music. More realistically, there are stories that the Campbell soldiers helped their victims to escape. The most popular anecdote, which was repeated with endless variations, told of a warrior coming across a mother and child, huddling in the snow. Unable to bring himself to kill them, the soldier slew a wolf instead and took back his bloodied sword to show his commander, as evidence that he had carried out his cruel duty.
One other aspect of the massacre has entered Scottish folklore. Many Highlanders placed the ultimate blame for the killings on John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair (1648 - 1707) who, as William III's Secretary of State, gave the orders for the slaughter. Amid the ensuing recriminations, many critics focused on his coat of arms, which featured nine lozenges. Its similarity to the Nine of Diamonds soon prompted a superstition that the card was unlucky and, ever since then, it has been known colloquially as "the Curse of Scotland."

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The family takes its name from the barony in upper Lanarkshire, which has been their ancestral home since the 13th century. The land belonged originally to the Douglases, but Sir John de Carmychell acquired it from William, Earl of Douglas, in 1374. Many of his descendants found fame in France, rather than Scotland. Sir John de Carmichael distinguished himself at the Battle of Beauge (1421), fighting for the French against the English. Another John Carmichael became Bishop of Orleans, instituting a Scottish mass (1429) for his fellow countrymen and officiating at the coronation of Charles VII. In France, he was known as Jean de St Michel.

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The family takes its name from the lands of Carnegie in Angus. John de Ballinhard, who acquired these estates in 1358, is traditionally accepted as the founder of the Carnegie s of Southesk. They were made Earls in 1633. Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1918) was a successful steel magnate in the US, who made generous donations to his native land.

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Unlike most Scottish clans, this name does not represent the fortunes of a single family. Instead, it refers to a confederation of various different clans, who grouped together for mutual protection. These include the Macphersons, the Macphails, the Mackintoshes, the Davidsons, the Shaws and the Farquharsons. The origins of the clan are disputed, but the popular view is that they were descended from Gille Chattan Mor ("Great Servant of Cathan"), a 13th century chieftain. His name is a reference to St Cathan, one of the followers of St Columba. The sheer size of the Clan Chattan made it powerful, though there were frequent arguments over who should be its Captain (Chief).

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This clan took its name from "Cukoueburn", a river in the Borders. Its use as a family name can be traced back to the end of the 12th century, when Peter de Cokburne was cited in a hospital charter. After this, the Cockburns became vassals of the Earls of March, eventually acquiring the Barony of Carriden. Subsequent clan members have distinguished themselves in very different fields; John Cockburn of Ormiston (1679 - 1758) was a pioneering agriculturalist; Henry Cockburn (1779 - 1854) was a Whig politician, a prominent judge and a campaigning pamphleteer; while Admiral Cockburn was charged with the task of conducting Napoleon Bonaparte to his place of exile on St Helena (1815).

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This is a territorial name, stemming from an estate near Loch Lomond. Umphredus de Kilpatrick was the founder of the clan, acquiring the lands from the Earl of Lennox in the early 13th century. The chiefs later became hereditary keepers of Dumbarton Castle, and gained possession of the Barony of Luss through marriage (c.1368).

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The clan took its name from their ancestral estates in Lanarkshire. The family was probably of Norman origin, arriving in britain at the time of the Conquest, and there are 12th century references to a breton duke called Galfride de Crawford. The historical picture becomes clearer in the 13th century, when the death of Sir John Crawford was noted (1248), and when Sir Reginald Crawford was appointed Sheriff of Ayr (1296). The latter can be linked with the two main branches of the clan, the Crawfords of Auchinames and the Crawfords of Craufurdland. Margaret Crawford is well remembered as the mother of William Wallace.

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The name derives from the Cunningham district of Ayrshire, where the clan had settled by the mid 12th century. The name itself appears to be a combination of cuinneag ("milk pail") and ham ("village"). Hervey de Cunningham was granted land at Kilmaurs, after lending support to Alexander III, and the chiefs were later created Earls of Glencairn (1488).

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The Dalziels took their name from their ancestral lands in Lanarkshire. The literal meaning of the word has been disputed, although it probably comes from the Gaelic Dailghil ("at the White Dale"). The clan chiefs became Earls of Carnwath (1649), and the best known family member was General Thomas Dalyell (1599 - 1685), the "Muscovy beast who roasted men."

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This is one of the many clans who sheltered under the banner of the Clan Chattan confederation. Previously, the family had been a sept of the Comyns, before changing allegiance in the 14th century. Their family name stems from David Dubh of Invernahaven, who was linked with the Mackintoshes. The Davidsons suffered from the internal divisions within Clan Chattan, which culminated in the bloody Battle of North Inch (1396). This strife may have prompted some clansmen to move to the northeast of Scotland, for the Davidsons rapidly gravitated towards Inverness and Aberdeen. The principal branches in the north were those of Cantray and Tulloch.

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The Dewars are generally regarded as a sept of either the Menzies or the Macnabs. The name refers to the title of an important official, who was responsible for safeguarding any relics in the clan's possession. In the 14th century, for example, Donald Dewar Cogerach was the custodian of a crozier (cogerach), which had belonged to St Fillan, an ancestor of the Macnabs. The name has become linked with a world famous brand of whisky, as well as a type of vacuum flask, invented by Sir James Dewar (1842 - 1923). In recent times, it has also been associated with Donald Dewar (d. 2000), the First Minister of Scotland's then new Parliament.

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The name of this famous clan has territorial origins. Douglas stems from the Gaelic Dubh Glas ("Dark Water"), which was a stream on one of their properties. In genealogical terms, however, the family's roots are surprisingly obscure. The name can be traced back only to the last quarter of the 12th century, when William de Douglas witnessed a charter for the monks of Kelso Abbey. The first clansman of real prominence was Sir James Douglas (c.1286 - 1330). He figured prominently in the struggle for independence, capturing Roxburgh Castle (1314) and Berwick (1318). For his many services, Robert the bruce rewarded him with property in Jedburgh, Galloway and Lauderdale, together with an "Emerald Charter", which gave him exceptional powers within his own domain.
Sir James is hailed as the founder of the Black Douglases, who flourished as the leading branch of the clan until the 15th century. James's nephew, William, was made Earl of Douglas in c.1357, and the family fortunes were consolidated by Archibald "the Grim," the 3rd Earl. His successor campaigned successfully against the English in France, winning the Duchy of Touraine, but the clan was making dangerous enemies at home. This reached a climax in the 15th century, when the 8th Earl was killed by James II (1452), and the 9th Earl allied himself with the English, forfeiting his earldom in the process (1455). After this, the chiefship passed to the Red Douglases, the Earls of Angus. Their most notable family member was Archibald, the 5th Earl, popularly known as "Bell-the-Cat." He earned this nickname by curbing royal power. Among other things, he slew the favourites of James III and abandoned James IV at Flodden (1513), following an argument on the battlefield.

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The Legend of Douglas

Throughout their long history, the power of the Douglases attracted great hostility and envy, and many of their chiefs met with violent deaths. In 1440, for example, William, the 6th Earl, and his young brother were treacherously slain on the orders of Sir William Crichton, the Chancellor of ten year old James II. Crichton was concerned that the growing influence of the Douglases threatened the minority government of his young charge. So he invited the pair to a royal feast at Edinburgh Castle, which has subsequently become known by the grisly nickname of "the Black Dinner." For, while the Douglases were enjoying his hospitality, Crichton had them seized and put to death before the young king's eyes.
It would not be long before James II clashed again with a member of the clan. For in 1452, James II summoned the 8th Earl to Stirling Castle, in order to remonstrate with him about a treaty that he had signed with the Lord of the Isles. The Earl had been promised safe conduct but, when he refused to break off his alliance, James II lost his temper and stabbed the unfortunate man to death.
Earlier members of the clan had enjoyed better relations with the king. Sir James Douglas (c.1286 - 1330) was a loyal companion of Robert the bruce. Even so, he was capable of acts of great brutality. The most notorious of these concerned his home, Castle Douglas, which had been captured by the English. James laboured hard to regain it - a struggle which formed the basis of Sir Walter Scott's novel, Castle Dangerous. At length he succeeded, trapping the enemy at church on Palm Sunday. Then he scattered provisions on the floor of the castle, piling the bodies of his prisoners on top of these, before setting light to the grisly heap. This gruesome act became known as "the Douglas Larder."

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The name derives from Drmen (literally "high ground"), the territory in Stirlingshire where the family first settled. The founder of the clan was Malcolm Beg ("Little Malcolm"), who held the post of Seneschal of the Lennox in the early 13th century. One of his most notable descendants was Sir Malcolm de Drymen, who distinguished himself at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). By strewing the field with caltrops (metal spikes), he crippled the English cavalry and helped Robert the bruce to gain a famous victory. On a less auspicious note, Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have worn a cloak bearing the Drummond tartan during the disastrous 1745 uprising.

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This is a territorial name deriving from the bhold of Dunbar, which occupied an important strategic position close to the English border. Gospatric, the nephew of King Duncan I, was made Earl of Dunbar in 1072, and his descendants did much to frustrate the ambitions of their southern neighbours. The most famous of these was "Black Agnes," the wife of the 9th Earl, who successfully defended Dunbar Castle in 1337. Later worthies included Gavin Dunbar, who served as Lord Chancellor in James V's reign, and William Dunbar (c.1465 - c.1530), the poverty stricken poet whom Walter Scott described as "the darling of the Scottish Muses."

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The origins of Donnchadh, the Gaelic form of Duncan, stretch far back into Scotland's Celtic past. Dunchad (d.717) was an early abbot of Iona, and his namesake held a similar post in Dunkeld. There were two Scottish kings named Duncan, both of whom met violent ends. Duncan I (d.1040), was deposed by Macbeth, as Shakespeare recorded in his celebrated play. Duncan II fared little better, and was slain by his in-laws in 1094. The Duncan clan was founded in the 14th century by Donnchadh Reamhar ("Duncan the Fat"), who fought in the victory at Bannockburn (1314). The Roberstsons claim descent from the same ancestor and have always described themselves as the "Clann Donnchaidh."

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The Dundases were an ancient family, who took their name from their lands in West Lothian. The charter for these estates is said to have been acquired by Helias, during the reign of Malcolm IV (1153 - 1165), although Serle de Dundas was the first name to be properly documented, later in the century.

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