MacGregor ancient hunting tartan
All men admit the clan Gregor to be the purest branch of the ancient race of Scotland now in existence. - true descendents, in short, of the native stock of the country, and unmixed by blood with immigrants either of their own or of any other race. About this point there is no dispute; and the name of clan Alpine, commonly adopted by them for centuries, would almost alone suffice to prove their descent from the Albiones, the first known inhabitants of Scotland. Condensed from "Clans of the highlands of Scotland", Thomas Smibert, 1850.
The name, 'Gregor', was taken from a Pict King, Grig MacDungal of Fortrenn, who was of no relation to the Alpin family whatsoever. He ruled Albann from 882 to 893 AD.
This Clan claims descent from Fingon (English spelling), a Pict monk, and a grandson of King Girig, and other Pict monks of Glen Dochart in western Perthshire. Fingon made a successful trip to Rome to ask Pope Benedict for permission for Pict monks in Glen Dochart to marry and procreate to offset the declining Pict numbers, due to so many men joining religious orders, and becoming celibate.
Unlike many other southern Highland clans, the MacGregors accepted, from their very beginning, other families into their clan as full members. This penchant was due to their efforts to survive in a hostile world of constant turmoil, and struggle for living space, and is reflected today in the broad spectrum of YDNA of known MacGregors, and their aliases. Their outstanding success at seizing territories, and holding them by the sword (with the tacit or outright approval of the King of the time) angered their neighbours, amongst whom was the emerging Campbells of Loch Awe.
In the AD900s, the MacGregors swept westwards to assist King Alexander II to reconquer an Argyll that was still under the control of the Norse King, and after a successful campaign, assimilated the Dalriadic Scots there, giving rise to the fabled three MacGregor Glens of Orchy, Lochy and Strae.
After Robert the Bruce became King, he began a concerted effort to settle old scores with those Highland Chiefs who had followed Wallace, but had spurned his efforts at gaining their loyalty. Bruce gave Campbell of Awe the rights to all lands around Loch Awe, giving them a foothold in MacGregor territory. Again, due to treachery, violence, fraud, and the abuse of Royal authority, the Campbell dragon stole huge swaths of MacGregor territory wherever it was discovered.
Denigrated since the time of Robert the Bruce, this clan was the object of many Royal (and Campbell) Commissions of Fire and Sword, two proscriptions, and the unique target of a concerted 300 year effort by the Scottish, then, the British Government to annihilate it. Several other clans disappeared under less horrific conditions but the MacGregors kept coming back, and, when under threat, coalesced like beads of mercury to punish those who tormented them. Even the powerful Dukes of Argyll took extreme measures to protect their families from the 'marauding' MacGregors.
Perhaps no other clan in Scotland has aroused as much emotion as this, the clan of Rob Roy. Belittled by Scottish historians, hunted by Campbell hounds, slaughtered by Stewarts, prejudged by the courts, and eulogized by Sir Walter Scott, the British government finally relented in 1774, when at the urging of saner minds, my family name was again allowed to be used legally in Scotland.
Forbes MacGregor wrote in 1977, in the only Clan Gregor Society authorized book on MacGregors, "The astounding thing is that the main body of MacGregors is of Pict ancestry but not the old line of Chiefs". This does not refrain many revisionists today from claiming the MacGregors are of Dalriadic Scottish descent. Is it no wonder we have trouble "fitting in?"
In two of the most typical episodes of our violent history; In 1565 (before we were proscribed), brothers Robert and Gregor MacGregor were cruelly murdered at night by two Campbell-hired Italian assassins. Queen Mary, being horrified by the deed, made a unique enactment; She ordered that Patrick MacGregor and a dozen other clansmen be released from a bond of restraint, so they could hunt down the perpetrators. How swiftly this was done may be read in the Chronicles of Fortingal of 27th July, 1565: "James Gestalcar killed with some of his accomplices by Gregor MacGregor of Stronemelochan".
After Mary fled to England in 1568, with the tacit assent from James I, Campbell of GlenOrchy and his hired killers pursued Gregor. Tradition tells he was the hero of the famous exploit still commemorated in "MacGregor's Leap" over a waterfall in Glen Lyon. Under constant threat from Scotland's most powerful Lord, he survived for only four years. On 7th April 1570, he was confined in a Campbell dungeon, and then beheaded. With grim satisfaction, the records of 22nd August 1570, related "John MacCoul Dow slain beside Glen Falloch with 13 of Campbell of Argyll's men by Clan Gregor".
Gregor's son was no other than Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, the "arrow of Glenstrae", and recognized Chief of Clan Gregor, until he too was treacherously betrayed by Argyll, and executed in Edinburgh with eleven of his closest relatives. One of its unique attributes was the creation of a government fort built merely to contain its activities, Inversnaid, which was destroyed at every opportunity by (of course) the MacGregors; the last time by James Mohr MacGregor (and a handful of Glengyle MacGregors), eldest son of Rob Roy.
The wheels of true justice grind slowly, but Alasdair was ultimately more than avenged on both Argyll and James VI. James's second son, Charles I, died on the scaffold in 1649. Both Argyll's son and grandson were also publicly executed; the first in 1661, and the other in 1685. The MacGregors must have partied long into the night.
In a language course with the Canadian government, I once asked two Iroquois MacGregor women how did their MacGregor men rate in Iroquois society. I was not surprised when they both quickly answered - "They are the worst". Maybe cells do have memories but then - the law of the day ensured that discretion would never be a MacGregor virtue.
The most powerful MacGregor who ever lived became the longest serving Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon MacKenzie King, who at one time, controlled the 3rd largest air force and navy, and the 5th largest army in the world. Eleven MacGregors were awarded the Victoria cross (more than any other Scottish Clan). Colonel John MacGregor was Canada's most decorated officer.
The most outstanding MacGregor to have left Scotland was the Rev. Dr. James Drummond MacGregor of Pictou, Nova Scotia, who was the 'Godfather' to all Gaelic-speaking protestants in northern Nova Scotia, all of Prince Edward Island and southwestern New Brunswick for most of his life. For more information on famous and outstanding MacGregors, click here.
After King Grig's reign, the title of Monarch was changed from the Latin 'Rex Pictorum' to the Pict 'Ri Albainn', and remained unchanged until the death of King MacBeth.