The story of the Clan Gregor is perhaps the most stirring and fascinating of all Scottish clans. It is a tale of adventure, greed, bravery, romance and oppression, woven against a background of betrayal and intrigue. The following is a comprehensive, illustrated account and analysis of the Scottish clan society and the inter-clan conflicts that resulted in the loss of all ancient MacGregor territories, homes, possessions, and their family name, but never their dignity. For students of history, this true account of a peoples' suffering and triumphs brings a modern insight to a tragic struggle of a brave and proud people. Against all odds, they fought for their survival against greed, treachery, cruelty, corruption, and an unjust government intent on their utter extinction, that today, would be labelled a deliberate, state sponsored genocide.
The story of the Clan Gregor is perhaps the most stirring and fascinating of all Scottish clans [Yeah, we're humble, too... *GRIN*]. It is a tale of adventure, greed, bravery, romance and oppression, woven against a background of betrayal and intrigue.
Our Clan Motto (JUST in case anyone is tempted to forget it *GRIN*) is found not only on our Coat of Arms, but in our Clan Badge and Clan Shield as well.
The Clan Gregor is one of the oldest clans, and our proud motto is based on the deeply held belief and tradition [rightly so!toldya we were humble *HEE HEE*] that we are descended from Grig (or Griogair [Gregor]), a 9th century king, and through him, from the ancient kings of Alba (Scotland).
The claim 'S Rioghail Mo Dhream
(literally: "So Royal My Race") can be traced thusly:
Dunsufferige was the capitol of Pictland. The Picts were the first people in Scotland, and were the ones who drove the Romans out. Funny thing, too... 'twas the Romans who gave the name "Pict" or "Picti" to the itinerant tribes who then lived North of the River Forth. Why? These tribes painted and/or tattooed their skin with coloured wood to produce intricate patterns... hence the Roman word "picti" or "picture" as we know it today. ANYWAY... After Pictland became Alba, they were ruled by Kings by the name of MacAlpin. In 849, King Kenneth MacAlpin united the Picts and the Celtic people that had migrated into what we know as Scotland. When Kenneth died, his younger brother Gregor became King. AH! So THAT'S where the Gregor puzzle piece fits in! Ta-Dah! as my "Scottish Bro," Gaul, would say!
A Highland Clan, the MacGregor ancestral lands were on the east bank of Loch Lomond, up through Glenorchy, Glen Dochard, the Trossick Mountains to Lock Katrine, Loch Voll and the Braes of Balquhidder. These extensive territories in the Central Highlands, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire, were coveted by others, especially the Campbells, who, over the years, obtained various legal charters to dispossess the MacGregors (no love lost herea prayer handed down by generations of MacGregors stated: "Frae the greed o' the Campbells, Good Lord deliver us!").
Landless, scattered, and driven by a sense of revenge, many MacGregors took to raiding and plundering the property of those who had dispossessed them. So... our clan's reputation as caterans and outlaws was not entirely unearned, but given the history, the MacGregors were as much sinned against as sinners. Moreso, in view of the very harsh laws which were passed against the clan. Despite severe hardships, the spirit and unity of the clan remained unbroken and the clan survived. MacGregors were determined to fight for what we believed to be rightly ours:
Sliochd nan righrean dùthchasach
Bha thuineadh an Dùn-Staibhnis,
Aig an robh crùn na h-Alb' o thus
'S aig a' bheil dùthchas fathast ris.
(Descendants of the hereditary kings
Who dwell in Dunstaffnage,
Who possessed the crown of Scotland originally
And who still have hereditary claim to it.)
Certainly, the politics of the times played a part. It was a game the Griogaraich initially scorned, for the Clan Gregor from time immemorial held its lands in the traditional mannerthat is, by coir a' chlaidheimh (the right of the Claymore [sword]). This proved to be disastrous arrogance, for the political game was one which others, especially the Campbells, played with great expertise.
King Robert The Bruce gave the barony of Loch Awe to the Campbells for their aid in raising him to the throne. Loch Awe was MacGregor land (oopsie), and The Bruce left it up to the Campbells how they would take possession of the area. The Campbells built the castle of Kilchurn and the MacGregors were forced to retreat deeper into the ancestral lands, until eventually restricted to Glenstrae. Chief of Clan Gregor, Iain the Black died in 1519 without a male heir. The Campbells supported Eian MacGregor as chief since he was married to the daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy. Eian's son, Alistair, fought the English at Pinkie Cleugh, but died shortly thereafter. In 1560, "the outlaw" Gregor Roy MacGregor fought the Campbells after Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy refused to recognise his claim to his estates. In 1570 he was captured and killed by the Campbells. His son, Alistair, took over as chief, but was unable to stop the Campbell persecution of the MacGregors.
Underestimating the value of cultivating political and diplomatic skills cost the MacGregors dearlythe loss of lands and many innocent lives. The hardest loss of all, however, was that of our birthrightour very name!
A series of rebellious acts of defiance due to the usurpation of MacGregor lands eventually led to the Clan being outlawed and the clan name proscribed. Subsequent to the reign of James VI, during the rule of Charles II, the proscription was temporarily lifted. (This was due to the fact that despite the outlawing of the clan, two hundred MacGregors fought against Cromwell during the civil war. It was in gratitude for this bravery and loyalty that Charles repealed the proscription of the MacGregor name). William of Orange, however, immediately upon ascending the throne, re-imposed the proscription.
In 1589, Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest of Glen Artney, John, 4th Laird of Drummond-Ernoch, had been instructed to provide venison for the wedding feast of King James VI. As he went about his task, Drummond is said to have discovered a band of MacGregors poaching deer in the royal game preserve, capturing a few of them, summarily executing them by hanging them on the spot. It is said that in retaliation, the remaining poaching kinsmen killed Drummond, supposedly cutting off his head, first parading it at the home of Drummond's sister, Lady Margaret Stewart of Ardvorlich (driving her mad in the process), and then taking it with them back to Balquhidder Kirk. [Recent research indicates that it was likely the "hand" of Drummond, not the head, which was removed; and that it was highly unlikely, given the hospitality shown the MacGregors by Lady Stewart on their journey home, that they would have behaved in such a fashion. That would have violated one of the most sacred principles of Highland culture. In addition, the parties supposedly involved were kinsmenalthough relatively distant in relation. Oh those transcription errors!]. Now... from the accumulated information, including a deposition given by Alexander MacNab, there are indications that it wasn't even the MacGregors who did the dirty deeds! It may have been the MacIans or MacDonalds of Glencoe who had been caught poaching, and simply another case of drumming up a story to answer the purpose intended: to deprive the MacGregors of all their ancestral lands, which were considerable. Nevertheless, the Privy Council was petitioned "for justice" by Drummond's survivors, and on 04 February 1590 issued a commission to a lengthy list of nobles (Colin Campbell, Earl of Argyle, foremost among them) to seek and apprehend certain named MacGregors deemed responsible. It was further recommended that ALL MacGregors be captured and punished, for if any were innocent of this particular crime, they certainly were participants in other crimes (don'tchya just LOVE the logic?). This commission allowed anyone to use any measure, including the use of lethal force, to bring anyone associated with the Clan Gregor to justice, and it rewarded the captors with half the value of any property which was to be automatically forfeited by any captured MacGregor. Kinda warms the cockles of your heart, don't it? :( Happily enough, though, the fact that the Drummonds and the MacGregors fought side-by-side when the Scots Army, commanded by Bonnie Prince Charlie faced off against its enemies at the Battle of Prestonpans on 21 September 1745 seems to indicate that the MacGregors and Drummonds did not hold each other to blame for whatever DID happen in Glen Artney in 1589. The CAMPBELLS, on the other hand... but I digress...
During a feud with the Clan Colquhoun in 1603 (could it possibly have been about... uhm... say... land?), Chieftain Alexander MacGregor fought in the celebrated Battle of Glenfruin (near Loch Lomond). When the tide of battle shifted to the MacGregors, the Colquhouns turned and fled. Some of the MacGregors gave pursuit, and a number of Colquhouns were killed. The widows and mothers laid the bloody shirts of their slain kinsmen in front of King James VI and complained about the barbarity of the MacGregors. Thisalong with other circumstancesled to the prosecution of the clan, with the Laird of MacGregor and many of his followers being executed in 1604.
What did this mean? This Proscription, which remained in effect for approximately 170 years stated, among other things:
Babies not yet born will not take
that MacGregor name under penalty of Death.
No more than four shall meet at a time, under penalty of Death.
They shall bear no weapon, save an unpointed knife for cutting their meat.
To kill a MacGregor is NOT a crime, but to be encouraged.
If they rob us of name
and pursue us with beagles
Give their roofs to the flame
And their flesh to the eagles.
Sir Walter Scott
Nameless, landless, and outlawed with a bounty on their heads, it would have been easier for our ancestors to have given in and disappeared from history as a clan. Defeat and disgrace, however, are not of the MacGregor nature. [We're the original "Unsinkable Molly Brown" types: "I ain't down yet!"] The clan took to the hills, became known as Clann a' Ched (The Children of the Mist), and fought back. The clan somehow survived.
Griogaraich gun fhàilinn cruadail,
Bha iad riamh gu h-uasal rioghail;
Chaidh riamh 's gach àite dian 's na blàraibh
'S gniomh an làimh a chòmhdach.
Clan Gregor faultless in hardihood,
Were even noble and royal;
Men who always keenly joined in battles
Everywhere, and gave proof of their prowess.
Duncan Bàn Macintyre
I Really Wanna be at the Top! Get Me Outta This MacGregor Maze!
Better times eventually prevailed. John Murray-MacGregor, who made a fortune in London, managed to secure an Act of Parliament (in November, 1774) in favour of the Members of Clan Gregor, in which the repressive measures against the clan were repealed and the name was restored. With the lifting of these harsh laws against Clan Gregor, clansmen and clanswomen threw off their assumed names and resumed the name MacGregor.
At this time, there were 826 MacGregors who wanted to claim the chiefship, but it was awarded to General John Murray, who was created a Baronet in 1795, in which year, having been elected chief-designate (the chiefship was de jure and de facto vacant)recognised and awarded the plain arms of the chief by decree of Lyon Court as Chief of the MacGregors.
The path of history has not been an easy one for our Clan, and its survival during the torment of the dark years of proscription is all the sweeter for it.
Although the years of repression are now more than two centuries gone, MacGregors today, no matter where we may be, can still find comfort and strength in remembering and knowing:
While there's leaves in the forest
And foam on the river,
MacGregor, despite them,
Shall flourish forever!
Sir Walter Scott
The Hereditary Chief of the Clan is Brig. Sir Gregor MacGregor, Baronet of Bannatyne, Newtyle, Angus, Scotland.
The American Honourary Clan Chieftain is Mr. Malcolm G. MacGregor of Florida.
Currently, the Honourary Chieftain of the Clan Gregor Society, Western USA Chapter, is Carolyne McGregor Long (yep! a woman!), a MacGregor of Glen Mor.
No history of the Clan Gregor would be complete without mention of the legendary Rob Roy MacGregoroften thought of as sort of a Scottish Robin Hood. Born at Glen Gyle in 1671 (at the west end of Lock Katrine in the Trossachs, on a main cattle droving route from the west), he trained in the cattle business, both legitimate and (oopsie) less sohe operated a "watch," providing security for other peoples' cattle if they paid protection money (not exactly of the "Guido" kind of "family" but more like your modern freelance "security guard." *GRIN*). He was a skilled swordsman, expert in hill craft, exceptionally resourceful, and a Jacobite supporter (sympathetic to the exiled House of Stuart). Because of the proscription, Rob Roy MacGregor assumed his mother's named of Campbell. He married Mary of Comar in 1693.
Due to a succession of hard winters in the years 1696 through 1699, it was necessary for clans living on the edge of the Highlands (like the MacGregors) to raid cattle in order to survive. It's the sort of thing that happens when you get your land taken away, and a lot of your livelihood swiped in the process... The years 1700 through 1711 saw a great expansion of the cattle business. The Duke of Montrose, in 1712 contracted Rob Roy to buy cattle for him for fattening and resale, but Rob Roy's assistant absconded with the funds. Without giving Rob Roy the opportunity to arrange for repayment of the money, Montrose immediately declared Rob Roy an outlaw, burned his home and seized his lands. Historians have argued for years about the "whys" involved... What were Montrose's motives? Was it (1) Political (the Duke was anti-Jacobite)? or (2) Greed (did he just want Rob Roy's lands)?
From 1713 through 1720 Rob Roy lived beyond the law. He frequently raided the properties of the Duke of Montrose in revenge for the Duke's actions. Government forces repeatedly failed to bring him to Lowland justice. As such, Rob Roy became sort of a local folk hero. There are many stories about Rob Roy's exploits during this period. He was involved in Jacobite uprisings, but eventually emerged from hiding. He had successfully evaded all the efforts of the British Army to capture and to hold him (sorta like "They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? That damned, elusive Pimpernell!").
In 1720, Rob Roy peacefully settled at Balquhidder and returned to cattle business of the legal kind. A formal pardon was arranged through General Wade in 1725. Meanwhile, Daniel Defoe wrote a book featuring Rob Roy MacGREGOR called "Adventures of a Highland Rogue," which enhanced Rob Roy's folk hero reputation. Even the King is said to have enjoyed the story!
A "Legend in his own Lifetime," Rob Roy died peacefully at home in Balquhidder in 1734. A thorn in the side of the government almost until the end, he typified the last of the old order, the clansmen who lived beyond the reach of the Lowland authority, surviving in a hostile Highland environment through his courage and resourcefulness. The old Clan system was dismantled after The Battle of Cullodenonly twelve years after Rob Roy's death.
Years later, Sir Walter Scott heard many tales of Rob Roy's exploits, and even talked to old men who could remember him. These first-hand accounts and embellished tales wove their way into his novel, "Rob Roy," in which Scott portrayed Robunder threat from the Lowland based government, and the spread of industry and commerceas a symbol of a vanishing way of life.
The old Highlanders, after the Battle of Culloden,
were forced to take this oath:
"I do swear never to take arms against the King of Britain,
and I do swear never to pipe the pipe, an instrument of war.
And I do further swear to never wear tartan, plaid
or any part of the Highland garb. If I break my oath
in any particular, may I be cursed in my undertakings, family, property;
may I never see my wife and children, father, mother or relations;
may I be killed in battle as a coward and lie without Christian burial
in a strange land, far from the graves of my forefathers and kindred."
To their children they said:
"But ye, childrenye are unsworn!
Play the pipes, wear the kilt and never forsake your king!"
The Spur and Phoenix
"The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland" by Innes of Learney
The Griogarach Newsletter (e-mail: CGoddess@aol.com)
Carolynn Black Klindt, Managing Editor
Richard Magruder "Who Killed Drummond-Ernoch?"
The Gathering of the Clans
The Clan Gregor Society, Western USA Chapter
(P.O. Box #1423 / Stockton, CA 95201)
The Clan Gregor Society was instituted in 1822 and is one of the oldest clan societies. In its early days it was managed by a committee of Edinburgh and Glasgow professional men, all surnamed MacGregor or McGregor. Their object was to extend "to the Poor of the Clan the benefits of a sound and Christian education." To this worthy end, large sums were subscribed and distributed, and this benevolent work contributed greatly to the rising fortunes of the clan throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, the Society is a growing organisation with membership throughout the world. It's most active objectives are to extend the links of kinship and friendship between MacGregors, wherever they may be, and to provide a focal point for all members of the Clan and, indeed, any interested visitors who wish to learn more of our noble past.
In addition to the names Gregor and MacGregor (various spellings), more than one hundred names are recognised as forming part of Clan Gregor. Membership in the Clan Gregor Society is open to all who regard themselves as MacGregors, and to all others as associate or honourary members, in accordance with the Society's rules.
For those of you in the Western U.S. who are
interested in joining the Society, contact:
CLAN GREGOR SOCIETY
Western USA Chapter
Post Office Box #1423
Stockton, California 95201