MacGregor Allies

(and their fates)
(In alphabetical order)

The Siol  Alpin

A confederacy of related Highland clans that traced their ancestry back to the ancient Kings of Alba.

It consisted (alphabetically) of the clans of FERGUSSON (of  Strachur),  GRANTMacALPIN, MacAULAY, MacGREGOR, MacKINNONMacNAB, MacPHEE, and  MacQUARRIE. The Clan GREGOR is  universally accepted as the senior member of this confederacy.

Although there were instances of feuds between some of these clans, generally any and all could be expected to assist one another in times of peril, i.e. in 1690, Rob Roy sent two strong runners with their families to live with the Grants at their castle in Speyside should theMacIntoshes(who dominated the clan Chattan Confederacy) continue to annoy them.

There were other confederacies amongst clans of the Highlands, including the powerful Clan CHATTAN Confederacy, and the Comyns.  The early Kings of Scotland were chosen from among these 'power brokers', and maintained control until 'foreign' interlopers in the form of Anglo/Normans  succeeded in usurping the traditional influence of the Gaelic clans.

It should be remembered that both the Bruces and the Stewarts were French 'Norman' families who came to England with William in 1066 and later were invited to settle in Scotland under the auspices of King David I.
Several Norman families, (listed alphabetically) including: Abercrombie, Agnew, Barclay, Boyd, Bruce, Carmichael, Carnegie, Cochrane, Crawford, Cumming, Cunningham, Cockburn, Dalziel, Dundas, Dyce, Elphinstone, Erskine, Forsyth, Fraser, Gordon, Graham, Haig, Hamilton, Hay, Home, Hope, Hunter, Inglis ,Innes, Irvine, Jardine, Johnstone, Keith, Kerr, Lauder, Leask, Leslie, Lumsden, Maitland, Mar, Maxwell, Menzies, Middleton, Moncreiffe, Montgomery, Mowat, Murray, Napier, Nesbitt, Oliphant, Raeburn, Ramsay, Rollo, Rose, Russell, Sempill, Seton, Sinclair, Stewart, and Weir were all given titles and lands where many became powerful dynasties at the expense of the displaced Gaelic clans. Some adopted Gaelic sounding surnames from the territories which they had been given title.  Others retained their Norman sounding names with slight  anglicizations being the rule over time..

The history of Scotland after MacBeth, the last Gaelic King, became a litany of racism, with the ancient Gaelic houses of Scotland being fair game for any Lowland family  (Angles or Norman) that had managed to ingratiate themselves with the current monarch.


Fergus.jpg (15464 bytes)

The Fergusson clan is widely dispersed throughout Scotland and the various families are no doubt unrelated and descended from several Fergussons.           

Argyll was the ancient home of the Fergussons of Strachur, which claims descent from Fergus Mor, son of Eric, who founded the Kingdom of Dalriada in the early 6th century. They long held the lands of Glenshellich of Stra-chur on Loch Fyne, and the Celtic office of hereditary Mayors of Stra-chur.

The Fergussons were listed in the Act of Suppression of 1587 and the family clashed with authority again during the Jacobite risings.


Grant tartan

 The GRANTs are descended from Gregor Mhor MacGREGOR, who lived in the 12th century.  Their territory was Strathspey, where an extensive moor called 'Griantoch' (Plain of the Sun) is the origin of their name.                  

Their Chiefs became hereditary Sheriffs of Inverness.  They supported Robert Bruce and consequently were allotted additional lands in Glen Moriston and Glen Urquhart. Through adroit marriages and astute political manoeuvring, the Grants were elevated to a Barony in 1493.

 When the MacGregors were a proscribed and hunted clan, and the Grants being a prosperous clan, representatives of the two clans met at Blair Atholl for a fortnight and discussed reunion, and the adoption of the old name MacGregor, if the government could be persuded to lift the proscription that forbade its use.  Alternatively, it was agreed to use the name MacAlpine or Grant.  Not unnaturally, the negotiations foundered over the question of the chieftship.

For his support in the Revolution of 1688, King William granted the chief the Regality of Grant in 1694, enabling them to rule as monarchs in their clan territory.   In spite of the clan's support  for the house of Hanover in 1715 and 1745, the regality was abolished with all such independent jurisdictions after Culloden.


Lamont tartan


Not a member of the Siol Alpin, but nonetheless, an ally of them. This clan descends from the original Scots who crossed into Scotland from Ireland to found the Kingdom of Dalriada.  One of their ancestors was King Comgall, killed in AD537,a generation before the coming of Saint Columba. He was a prince of the same Royal  house of O'Neil that the Lamonts sprang from.  In about AD1200, Ferchar was a chief in Cowal, and a generation later his sons; Duncan and Malcom granted lands to the monks of Paisley.  Malcom's son Ladman is the progenitor from whom Clan Lamont derives its  name.

By the 1600s, the Lamont Chiefs lived in Toward Castle.  Satellite branches were established at Knockdow,Otter, and Silvercrags.  Situated as they where in the heart of Argyll,the Lamonts became the first victims of Campbell aggression and treachery.


In 1646, the Lamont country was ravaged by the Campbells, who carried away about 200 prisoners to Dunoon and massacred them at Gallowhill. After Sir James Lamont, the  Lamont Chief, had surrendered under written terms, women and young girls were murdered first, then 36 of the principle men of the clan were buried alive. This wholesale murder became a trademark of the Campbells.  Ironically, one year earlier, Sir James had actually fought for the Campbells at the battle of Inverlochy.


This devastating event marked the end of Lamont power.  They were overawed by the Campbells and became mere tenants in a Campbell empire.  After the massacre,  Ardlamont became the seat of the Chief, and so remained until its sale in the 19th century.



     MacAlpine tartan

MacALPINE ancestry is very  distinguished.  The founder of the clan was Alpin, a 9th century king of Dalriada,  reportedly slain by the Picts in 834AD.  His son, Kenneth MacAlpin, was much more  famous.  In 834AD, he managed to unite the thrones of the Picts and Scots thereby  forming the nucleus of a future Scotland. By the time of his death in 858AD, he had established the Scottish hegemony so effectively that the very Pictish language soon disappeared in favour of Gaelic.

This founding family engendered many clans.   It must be  remembered that "Mac" in Gaelic means 'son of' so in the early years of Gaelic  society, it was not uncommon to see the family surname change with each generation to  identify with the immediate male parent. It was also a common tradition to name the  first born male after the father so as to continue the original family name, but sometimes through misfortune or otherwise, a break would occur and a new branch of the same genetic stock would appear.

Although MacAlpin is used as a surname to this day, there is little evidence of an effective clan of that name in historical record.  The surname was resurrected in 1726 by some MacGregors and their cousins the Grants in frustration when their Chiefs' efforts at unification under one clan name fell apart.  Generally the term employed is "Siol Ailpein," the descendents of Alpin.  The paradox is that the clans that claimed descent from Alpin did not form an effective confederation like that of Clan Chattan.

MacAulay tartan

There are two Clans MacAULAY (Sons of Olaf).  The best known  were the MacAULAYs of Ardincaple, in Dumbartonshire.  Sir Aulay MacAULAY of  Ardincaple appears in 1587 in the Roll of the Landlords and Bailies in the Highlands and  Isles as one of the principal vassals of the Earl of Lennox.  The MacAULAYs are  coupled with the MacLEAYs and MacIVORs in the 15th century as giving trouble to the Earl  of Ross and his tenants.

The last portion of the clan territory passed out of the hands of the 12th Chief in 1767, when Ardincaple was sold to the CAMPBELL Duke of Argyll.

MacKinnon tartan

The MacKinnons began as a branch of the MacAlpine clan.  Their name means 'son of Fingon', indicating they were descended from one of the younger sons of King Alpin.  They were based on the coast at Skye and Mull. Through marriage with a Norse Princess,   Findanus, 4th Chief, acquired Dunakin, (Haakon's fort) and levied tolls on passing ships. Several members of the clan became abbots of Iona and eventually Bishops of   the Isles.

The MacKinnons supported the Stuarts during the Great Civil War and ensuing uprisings.  Sir Lachlan MacKinnon of Strathard, 28th Chief, was a Royalist, and was created a Knight-Banneret by Charles II on the field at Worcester, in 1651.

They answered the Jacobite call to arms fighting at both Sherriffmuir and Culloden, and similarly to other clans who had fought for the Bonnie Prince, were dealt harshly with by the Hanoverians and their Campbell quislings.  Their old Chief was taken prisoner and after a long imprisonment died  in 1756.

His son, Charles was forced to part with the twenty-six mile long valley of Strathairdale in 1765.  The last of the clan lands, held in unbroken succession for 450 years, went under the hammer in 1791.  John, son of Charles, last of the direct line of the Chiefs of Clan Fingon, inherited nothing except his ancient office and died in poverty.


MacNab tartan

In Gaelic, this name means 'son of the Abbot.'  This clan claims descendency from the Abbots of Glen Dochart.  This area was MacGregor clan territory before Christianity was introduced into the region, so it is generally accepted  that the origins of this clan lay with the MacGregors.

The MacNabs suffered much in the early decades of the 14th century.  Due to the murder of their relative, Red Comyn, by Robert Bruce and because of Bruce's treachery  against William Wallace, the MacNabs took up arms against him.  After Bannockburn,  Bruce had a free hand and he seized much of MacNab lands which he decreed to the Campbells, the Stewarts, and others of his favourites.

For political reasons, thechief of this clan acknowledged himself as a branch of the  stronger Clan MacKinnon.  In 1645, John MacNab gained fame for his exploits with  Montrose and his later escape from capture.

In 1823, Archibald MacNab fled to Canada to escape his debtors . Many of his  clansmen and their families jammed emigrant ships and joined him in an effort to establish a clan community.  Due to extreme hardship in the wilderness there, he returned to  Scotland and proceeded to re-establish a Grant homeland.    He eventually  overtaxed the resources of his clansmen and died a broken man in France in 1860.


MacPhee tartan

This clan lived on the island of Colonsay, in the Inner Hebrides. The oldest form of the name is MacDuffie, which appears as a charter in 1463,  but it is also written as MacFIE or MacPHEE.  MacDuffie of Colonsay was Hereditary Keeper of the Records of the Lords of the Isles. 

In 1615, Malcom MacFIE of Colonsay joined Sir James MacDonald of Islay and was one of  the principal leaders in his subsequent rebellions.  With the defeat of that rebellion, the clan was dispossessed of their original inheritance and became a 'broken clan,' lost their independence, and so were obliged to rank under more powerful clans.

MacFIE became a dependent of the Macdonald's and later of the Campbells of Argyll, as the Island of Colonsay was first awarded by Royal decree to the former and then the latter.

In 1623, Malcom of Colonsay was slain while hiding under a pile of seaweed, and the island passed into other hands.  Those MacPhees still remaining on the island did so under the precarious tenure as crofters.  Some clansmen and their families settled in Cameron country on the mainland.  So many of this broken clan became rootless that the very name of MacPHEE became synonymous with the itinerant tin smiths known as tinkers..


   MacQuarrie tartan

This clan claims descendency from Guarie,  a great-grandson of King Kenneth MacAlpin. ('Guarie' in Gaelic means 'Noble' in  English). The clan lands included the island of Ulva and part of Mull.  The  clan followed the MacDONALDs or the MacLEANs of Duart, but they were badly affected by the  defeat of the MacDONALDs at Inverkeithing (1651), when the clan was almost wiped out. They were then forced to become dependent on the Campbells of Argyll.

  Lachlan MacQUARRIE, the 16th Chief, was forced to sell his ancestral lands in 1778, and at  the age of 63 joined the British Army.  He served with distinction as an officer in  the Duke of Argyll's regiment, the Argyll Highlanders.

  Author's Note:

Given the sad fate of most of our  allies, it is surprising that the MacGregors, the most victimized of all the clans by the  Campbells and the Stewarts, has survived to date. 

It is a reflection of our unique stubbornness and inner strength in the face of horrible  oppression that we were not wholly absorbed by our nemesis.  God only knows they tried.

May I make an ancient toast to our family?

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