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ORIGINS

OF THE

CLAN GREGOR

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CLAN ALPIN=CLAN GRIOGHAIR=CLAN GREGOR

All men admit the Clan Gregor to be the purest branch of the ancient peoples of Scotland now in existence - true descendants of the native Pictic stock,  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 Alpin ," commonly adopted by themselves for centuries, would almost alone suffice proof of their descent from the Albiones (Picts).

There is an ancient Gaelic adage known throughout Scotland which states:

 "MacDonald is the heather, MacGregor is the rock". 

To decipher the above, one must remember that most of the original MacDonalds and MacGregors were of the same racial stock on the male side, that is, they were descendants of the Irish Dalriadic kings, namely Colla Uais and his family.  So the ancient Gaelic claim that MacGregors date further back than the MacDonalds must refer to the matriarchal (the female) side, which by all accounts is of Pictic origin.

However, it must be remembered that at the time of the union of the Pict and Scot crowns under an (at least) 75% Pict, with a Pict name, Kenneth MacAlpin, the population of Alban was 10% Scot and 90 % Pict.  By necessity and popular choice, that union emphasized the Pict traditions and Pict values.  (i.e. All kings after Grig Dungal, were officially designated as "Ri Albain", a P Celtic phrase unintelligible to all but Picts, until the death of MacBeth, the last of the highland kings.)

So, 42 generations later, all Highland Scots are actually a true representation of that racial proportion.

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       IN SEARCH OF GREGOR

The only historical writing left by the Picts is a list of their 69 Kings, called "The Pictish Chronicles." Return with me to pick up the story of the Royal successions, starting with Drust, the son of Erp in the year AD451.

At the time of the Roman abdication of Britain, the Caledonians (or Picts), were under the sway of a chieftain, named Drust, the son of Erp, who, for his prowess in his various expeditions against the Roman provinces, has been honoured by Irish historians, with the name of Drust of the hundred battles. Roman accounts tell of a Pict army burning London in the third century AD, although there is no account of the name of the Pict leader of the time. History, however, has not done the Picts justice, for it has left little concerning them on record.  In fact, little is known of the Pictish history for upwards of one hundred years, immediately after the Roman withdrawal.

The Pict Chronicles and Annals of Ulster afford us lists of the Pictish Kings, or Princes, from those lists, a chronological table is here subjoined:- Names are in Pict.

Series NAMES and FILIATIONS Date of Accession Duration of Reign (year) Period of their Deaths (AD)
1 DRUST, son of Uerb  (Reigned when St. Patrick arrived in Ireland as a missionary in 432 AD.)   451
2 TALORGGAN, son of Aniel 451 455
3 NEHHTON, son of Uerb 455 25 480
4 DRUST, son of Guidid 480 30 510
5 GALANAN Etelig 510 12 522
6 DRUST, son of Girom with DRUST, son of Uudrost 522 5 527
7 DRUST, son of Girom, again 527 5 532
8 GALANAN, son of Girom 532 7 539
9 GALANAN, son of Girom 539 1 540
10 TALORGGAN, son of Maelgwn 540 11 551
11 DRUST, son of Munait 552 1 553
12 GALANAN           (Died 580)
GALANAN with BRUDE
554
555

1
1
555
556
13 BRUD, son of Maelgwn     (Columba arrived 565) 556 30 586
14 GALANAN, son of Dommed 586 11 597
15 NEHHTON, son of Cano (died in 620) 597 20 617
16 CYNWYD, son of Lutren 617 16 633
17 GALANAN, son of Uuid 636 4 637
18 BRUD, son of Uuid 637 5 642
19 TALORGGAN their brother  642 12 653
20 TALORGGAN, son of Enfret (fought against Dal Riata in 654) 653 4 657
21 GALANAN, son of Dommed 657 6 1/2 663
22 DRUST, his brother  (expelled in 672) 663 9 672
23 BRUD, son of Bili (Defeated a Saxon invasion in 685) 674 21 695
24 TARAN, son of Entifidit  (Expelled to Ireland in 687) 695 4 697
25 BRUD, son of Derrell 697 11 708
26 NEHHTON, son of Derel  (Abdicated to join monastery) 708 17 724
27 DRUST   (expelled by Alpin) (attempted to regain crown) 724 2 726
28 ALPIN   (In 728, a 3 way civil war was fought) 727 2 729
29 ONNUS son of Uurgus. (conquered Dalriada & Ulster 741) 729 31 761
30 BRUD, son of Uurgus   761 2 763
31 CYNWYD, son of Uurad  (Albann attacked by Scots 768) 763 12 775
32 ALPIN, son of Uurad 775 3 1/2 779
33 DRUST, son of Talorc  779 1 780
34 TALORGGAN, son of Drust  (called "Black" Talorc) 780 2 782
35 TALORGGAN, son of Onnust   784 786
36 CANAUL, son of Tegid  (Lost to Cystennin. Killed in 807) 786 5 791
37 CYSTENNIN, son of Uurgus  (Also King of Dalriada) 791 30 820
36 ONNUS, son of Uurgus    (Also King of Dalriada) 821 12 833
37 DRUST son of Kastantin with TALORC son of Uurad  833 3 836
38 UUEN, son of Onnust  (Killed in battle against Vikings) 836 3 839
39 UURAD, son of Bargot 839 3 842
40 BRUD, son of Uuroid     (slain by Kenneth MacAlpin) 842 1 843

Now to pick up the line of Kings at 729AD to understand the background of the conditions that allowed the Scots to usurp the Pict throne.  Some historians consider that the Picts were assimilated by the Scots, others believe that the Picts merely began calling themselves Scots.


Onnust (Angus):

The Picts were a warrior society, and spent most of their time either plotting against or fighting their enemies, either strangers or family, for the right to rule over their subjects.

Onnist defeated all contenders to his throne; first the retired King Nehhtonn, as well as Nehhtonn's son Drust, whom he killed in battle in 729.  He then turned his attention to the Scottish problem.  He laid waste to the Scottish fortresses of Dunnadd and others.   After brutalizing the Scots on British soil, he invaded Ireland.

He massacred them in their ancestral homeland by defeating them in two great battles in 741.  He captured and drowned the King of Atholl, conquered the remaining Dalriada Scots on Britain and after beheading the Scottish king, became the first genuine King of Picts and Scots.

Flushed with victory over the troublesome Scots, and believing he was invincible, Angus went south in 744 and attacked the Britons of Strathclyde, the Celtic Kingdom formed south of Hadrian's wall.  He defeated them in open conflict but they retreated to their strong rock fortress of Dumbarton.

In 750, Onnist's brother, Talorc,  returned and fought the Britons again whereby both Talorcan and the Briton king, Tewdor,  were killed.   With the Britons holding Dumbarton,  the Picts were forced to retreat.

In 756, Onnist returned with a powerful Northumberland ally intent on destroying the Strathclyde kingdom.  The combined armies nearly succeeded in destroying the great rock fortress, but in a stunning reversal. they were nearly destroyed in a battle and Onnust retreated north where he died five years later.

Cystennin (Constantine):

After Brude's death, and with a succession of weak Pict kings, the Scots in Dalriada had forty years to gather their strength under the leadership of Aed Finn.   By 768AD, they were invading adjacent Pictish territories again.  A Pict fleet of 150 warships was destroyed in a freak storm near Ross Crussini, in a vain effort to suppress the new Viking menace in the north.   Aed Finn managed to repeal Pict laws in 768, and by the time of his death, the Scottish enclave of Dalriada was independent again. 

Cystennin, son of Uurgus won the Pict throne by killing Conall, who had ruled for 35 years as the second King of Picts and Scots.  (By this time, considerable Scottish blood was included in the Pict Royal family.)  Kastantin was succeeded by his brother, Onnist II, who is reputed to have brought the relics of St. Andrew back to Scotland.

Onnist II was followed by Drust and then Talorggan.   Talorc was listed as King of both the Picts and the Scots.  He was killed in a battle against the new menace in the north, the giant Norse Vikings, who averaged six feet tall (appearing seven feet tall by today's standards).. This shattering defeat and the decimation of the Pictish warrior class severely weakened the Picts.

The Picts understood that now they must unite with the less numerous but more ferocious Scots who had been extensively inter-marrying with the Picts or perish.  The pendulum of control swung over to the Scots who were ruled by a Kenneth MacAlpin.    With the cream of Pict warrior/aristocracy devastated, the throne was offered to Kenneth MacAlpin, who had a claim of succession under Pict custom through his Pict mother.

SCOTO-IRISH (DALRIADIC) KINGS, FROM AD503

Names & Affiliations Date of Accession (AD) Duration of Reign Demise (AD)
Loarn, son of Uurc, (reigned with Fergus) 503 3 506
Uurgus, son of Uurc 503 3 506
Domangart, son of Uurgust  506 5 511
Comgal, son of Domangart 511 24 535
Gauran, son of Domangart 535 22 557
Conall I, son of Comgal 557 14 571
Aedan, son of Gauran 571 34 605
Eoacha'-Bui, son of  Aedan 605 16 621
Kinnid, son of Eoacha 621 1/4 621
Ferchar I, son of Eogan 621 16 636
Donal-Brec, son of Eoacha 637 5 642
Conall II, grandson of Conall I 642 10 652
Dungal, ruled with Conall II .... ? .... ? 652
Donal-Duin, son of Conall II 652 13 665
Mael-Duin, son of Conall II 665 16 681
Uurgus-Uuada, grandson of Fergus I 681 21 702
Eogan-Rinevel, son of Domangart 702 3 705
Ainbhcealach, son of Ferchar-Fada 705 1 706
Selvach, son of Ferchar-Fada  (ruled Lorn) 706 23 729
Duncha-Beg, (ruled Cantyr & Argyll)  706 14 720
Eogan III, (ruled Cantyr & Argyll)
  "          "   (ruled also over Lorn)
720
729
9
4
729
733
Muredach, son of Ainbhcealach 733 3 736
Eogan, son of Muredach 736 3 739
Aodh-Fin, son of Eoacha III 739 30 769
Uurgust, son of Aodh-Fin 769 3 772
Selvach II, son of Eogan 772 24 796
Eogan-Annuine IV, son of Aodh-Fin 796 30 826
Dungal, son of Selvach II 826 7 833
Alpin, son of Eoacha-Annuine IV 833 3 836
Cynwyd, son of Alpin (Kenneth MacAlpin) 836 7 843

The MacAlpin Dynasty-

The list of 69 Pict kings ended with Drust IX, when he was killed by Kenneth MacAlpin, the first Scot/Pict to become King of Picts and Scots, but definitely not the first King of both Picts and Scots.  Before that, those who claimed a united crown were 100% Pict.  In 843 AD, Kenneth MacAlpin was crowned Rex Pictorium, (in Latin) wearing a plain circlet of gold in the Pictic tradition.

Many Picts could not stomach this foreign interloper, consequently, a Pictish regional king, Wroid of Fortrenn (pronounced Froid) and his three sons, Brude, Drust and Kenneth, each attempted to  take the throne, but each in turn was defeated and slain by Kenneth.   He died about 858 from the fatal disease of tumore ani.  His body was carried to Iona, where he was buried in the Scotic tradition with the past kings of Dalriada.

Kinnid (Kenneth's) brother, Donal succeeded him and reigned for four years.  On Donald MacAlpin's death, the crown was passed down to one of Kenneth's grandsons,  Kastantan (Constantine) MacKenneth. Constantine was slain with most of his army in a great battle in Inverdovet against the Norse Vikings. With the Scots nearly annihilated, the pendulum swung back to the Picts.

The crown was passed on to Kenneth MacAlpin's youngest son, Hugh (the Poisonous), who lasted but a year.  He was slain in Glen Artney.    The Pictish Chronicles stated quite boldly (in Latin)   " Ed Mac Kinet uno anno.  Interfectus in bello in Strathalin a Girg filio Dungal".   The (English translation= Hugh MacKenneth ruled for one year.  Slain in war in Strathearn by Gregor MacDunegal).

Pict King Grig (Gregor) Breaks In-

Gregor attained the Pictic/Scotic Crown in the time honoured way of the Picts (and of the Scots), with blood on his hands.  Gregor's father was a Pict, (Dunegal of Fortrenn).   His name in Latin was 'Ciricius'; in Pict it was 'Girig', in Gaelic it was 'Grioghair MacDunegal', in English it was 'Gregor MacDungal.'  Official Scottish annals recorded he was a foster son of Hugh Kenneth, but this was an obvious ploy in a selfish parochial attempt to retain Scotic continuity of the MacAlpin Royal Family line, and to maintain the myth that Kenneth MacAlpin crushed Pictic power.  Most objective historians agree that Giric ruled alone from 878 to 889.

Gregor's prominence was apparent in his comparatively long reign.  Scotic authorities tried their best to deride him, minimize his deeds and accomplishes.  Many Scottish and English historians have omitted any reference to Gregor or to his reign; some through ignorance, others by design.  His significant presence is a real testament that Kenneth MacAlpin, contrary to Scottish myth, did not actually destroy the Picts, he needed them to help repel the Vikings..

In a typically jaundiced viewpoint, James Browne, in his "History of the Highlands," published in 1838, stated "The worthless Grig, who had fought against his sovereign,  ascended to the throne in 882."

King Grig (or Gregor) is recorded as "the conqueror of Anglia." Of course, this does not mean England, but is the old name for Tynedale and Lothian, populated by the Teutonic Anglo-Saxons, in a region that covered an extensive area in the southeast of Scotland (including Edinburgh).  Gregor is also recorded as being successful in conquests in "Hibernia" (Ireland).

In all likelihood, he would have been supporting the Dalriadic Scots in Ulster, relatives of his own subjects in Dalriada (Irish history is full of many similar armed supports by Pict armies of their cousins in northern Ireland).  He also managed to obtain Anglo-Saxon (English) permission to have a free hand in Northumbria to crush the invading Danish Vikings there.  These military successes signified an upsurge in Pictish military power, backed up by the fierceness of the Dalriadic Scots.

Gregor was well known for his attempt, well before his time, to become the first ecumenical monarch in history.  His position as state head (Defender of the Pictish Church, the "Culdees"), granted him the authority to grant equality of status to the Scotic (or Columban) Church.  It is obvious he wished to gain the goodwill of his Scotic subjects and effectively unite the nation.  Jealous backstabbing by the Pictish clergy during and after a momentous solar eclipse in 885, provided the superstitious Picts and their clergy with an excuse to condemn him and have him eventually deposed and executed.  So much for good intentions.

Gregor died at the hands of his fellow Pictish subjects, and the Scots in his domain did nothing to assist him.  Although he arbitrarily gave them equality before the law  with his majority Pict subjects, Scots wished to see him deposed and replaced with a Scot King, who they considered would treat them with more favouritism.

Contrary to Scottish myth, it was Gregor, (a Pict) not Alpin who created equality for the Scots, which eventually led to the submersion of the Pict language.

Gregor's Legacy:

His remains were allowed to be buried in Iona with the other Scotic rulers of Dalriada.  All trace of his body and burial chamber have since been obliterated, although a church and a surrounding parish were named "Ecclesia Cirig", after him.  (The name "Selkirk" or 'Selcraig' may have been once called 'Cil-Cirig' or Church of Gregor.)  This is as near to canonization as Gregor got.

After Gregor's reign, and due to his legislation, the united kingdom of Picts and Scots became much more of a reality than the United Kingdom of England and Scotland did, after 1603.  After Gregor's death the name of the kingdom was changed, and the kings' titles instead of being in Latin form "Rex Pictorum," became "Ri Albain", which was unintelligible to all except the Picts.

After Gregor's death, the MacAlpin dynasty was resurrected with the appointment of Donald MacConstantine, a grandson of Kenneth MacAlpin as King.  During his reign, the Vikings wasted Pictland and finally slew Donald near Forres in Moray.

Note: This title would be retained up to the death of King MacBeth, (the last Pictic/Scotic King.)  With the Norman King Robert Bruce, the title was changed to 'King of the Scots.' The Norman Stewarts retained this title until James VI became 'King James VI of Scotland and James I of England.'

Our clan changed its name from 'Clan MacAlpin' to 'Clan Gregor' in 1100AD.  Therefore the correct spelling of the name is MacGregor, denoting 'son of Gregor', (a king and therefore deserving of a capitalized first letter G.)

NAMES OF THE GAELIC/PICT KINGS of Alba Date of Accession (AD)
Duration of Reign (years)
Demise (AD)

CYNWYD (KENNETH) MacALPIN  

843 16 859
DONAL MacALPIN, Kenneth's brother 859 4 863
KASTANTIN II, grandson of Kenneth 863 18 881
AODH, (Hugh), son of Kenneth (slain by Grig) 881 1 882
GRIG, son of Hugh Dungal (Pict from Uurtrenn) 882 11 893
DONAL IV, son of Kastantin (slain by Norse) 893 11 904
KASTANTIN III, son of Aodh 904 40 944
MALCOM I, son of Donal IV 944 9 953
INDULF, son of Kastantin III 953 8 961
DUB, son of Malcom I 961 4 1/2 963
CULEN, son of Indulf 963 4 1/2 970
KINNID III, son of Malcom I 970 24 994
KASTANTIN IV, son of Culen  994 1 1/2 995
KINNID IV, son of Duf 995 8 1003
MALCOM II, son of Kinnid III 1003 30 1033
DUNCAN, grandson of Malcom II 1033 6 1039
MacBETHAD, son of FindlŠich (from Uuortriu) 1039 17 1056
LULACH, son of Gruoch 1056 1  1/2 1057
MALCOM-CAN MORE, son of Duncan 1057 36 1093
DONAL-BANE, son of Duncan 1093 6 months 1094
DUNCAN II, son of Malcom III 1094 6 months 1094
DONAL-BANE (again)  1094 3 1097

The union of the two crowns, or of two separate peoples into one monarchy; gave the Scots ascendancy, which enabled them eventually to give their name to the whole of north Britain.  The consolidation of Scottish and Pict power, under the direction of one supreme leader, enabled them not only to repel invaders but eventually to expand beyond the Forth, which beforehand had been the southern frontier of the recent Pictish Kingdom. 

Yet Kenneth was hard pressed to protect his people from incursions by the southern Picts, (or Strathclyde Britons) in the south and from the more dangerous Norse Vikings to the west, north and east.  Whereas the Britons were earth-bound around their stronghold at Dumbarton,  the Vikings were sea-going predators and came ashore wherever they thought to be to their advantage.

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A Pict Society Becomes 

  CLAN GREGOR

Picts Adopt The Clan System

The Scottish 'Clan' system was not in any way similar to the Norman 'Feudal' system.   Under the Clan system, every man was equal, his land was his own, no one was taxed, the Chief, though often hereditary, was usually elected by an assemblage of senior men.  All members of the Clan were considered as family ( i.e. MacGregors, et al.) although loyalty to the central leader in times of peril (outside threats) was absolute, under pain of death. 

In contrast; under the feudal system, all the land belonged to the Lord(s), the residents paid a tithe annually for their 'protection' in support of the Lord's life style.  The population of a feudal territory often had no blood or family connection to their ruler(s), who were sometimes foreigners, granted title to lands and the people thereon by the ruler in far off Edinburgh.

Under the old Pictic system, powerful families divided the country into fiefdoms as the harsh mountainous terrain with no roads, that constituted Pictavia, did not lend itself easily to the rule of a central government.  The Scots in Dalriada had set up a militaristic clan system that served them well in a time when land encroachment was a way of life.

The entire countryside was rife with conflicts between competing clans who were all jostling for territory.  The rule of life was to expand or die.

As the Scots expanded, under the protection of the MacAlpin dynasty, the Picts had no alternative but to form their own Clans as a lifesaving manoeuvre..  so they reorganized into regional family 'clans.'   These clans of heterogeneous forces were so effective that they continued to hold sway over vast areas of northern Scotland until the encroachment of the Norman knights under the sponsorship of the anglicized King David.

The absolute power of Scottish Clan chiefs to determine life or death of clan members was only broken in 1746 when the British Parliament enacted laws designed to cripple the powers of the Highland chiefs.  The traditional discipline enforced on Highland soldiers was such that, when inducted into the British Army, it was not necessary to apply military discipline to them, as that of the clans was  more severe.  These Highland battalions quickly became the backbone of the British forces.

In the interior of northern Pictavia, where Scots, Britons and Angles had not yet penetrated, many Picts were not about to give ground to foreigners of any sort.   In the inland position which they have ever held seems to have mainly tended to preserve this offshoot of the old Albionian or Alpinian race in all its primitive purity.  In western Perthshire, they were just far enough in the interior to abstain from uniting with the Irish visitants (Scots), and far enough to the north to mix little with the Germanic Anglo-Saxons of the south-eastern  Lowlands.

In the context of "Race" as it was used by Highlanders, it pertained to a clan or tribe universally descended from a common ancestor.   The term "clan" is a P Celtic word.   Therefore the Clan Gregor claim to be children of ancestral Pictish Royalty.  This claim of belonging to the ancient Alpinian "race" also was shared with related clans such as the  Grants, MacAlpins, MacNabs, Fergussons, and  MacKinnons.

The Pictic Church Becomes A Military Instrument of Survival

According to W.F. Skene, in "Celtic Scotland", the related clans, MacGregor, MacNab and MacKinnon, originated around the territory of Glen Dochart, between Strathearn and Glen Orchy, in Central Perthshire.  This region is associated with the early Irish Pict missionary, St. Fillan, whose name is still embodied in the village of that name.

Thus, in the 11th century, when MacGregors were expelled from GlenOrchy by the Campbell Dragon, under their war cry of "Ardchoille", (meaning the 'high wood' in English) they retreated to a secret meeting place, back up into their spiritual homeland of Glendochart

The saint, like most others in those warlike times, established his church and abbey close by a great fortress, Dundurn, or the 'Fort on the Earn.'  For five centuries this picturesque and fertile mountainous region, capable of supplying all the needs of a numerous population with firing, shelter, weapons, food and drink, was under the guidance of the abthanerie of St. Fillan's successors.

The people of this extensive area supported the religious establishments, and in return, were helped both spiritually and materially by the accumulated techniques and wisdom of the abbots.  In times of war, the religious orders, whose existence was bound up in the whole community, did not hesitate to take an active part.  Many Pict Abbots became military leaders with their own private armies of religious jealots.

The Pictish Church was in unquestioned control of the whole area, although a new situation began to develop after King Gregor granted the "gift of liberty" to the Scotic Church.  The Scots were impatient to obtain some substantial results of this legislation, albeit they were excluded from the monasteries by a church law which ordained that the Abbot of these must be a Pict by birth.  The Pictish abbots were aware of the pressure from their rivals, who had already been granted Vicarships in the Pictish Church.

Finghin Obtains Papal Sanction To Raise Pictic Clans

Finghin was the Abbot of Glen Dochart in 966.   He was a man of action, he packed his bags and went to Rome for an audience with the Pope.  Finghin's answer to the problem of getting Pictish successors to the Abthanerie in Glen Dochart and elsewhere, (for he was titular Abbot of Iona), was quite simple.  He would provide them through Pict Abbots, if he could obtain Papal sanction to marry.   This the Pope readily granted.  The precedent was set for Pict Abbots to marry and spawn their own clans.

In this way, arose the clan Finghin (MacKinnon), and MacNab (son of the abbot).  There are many other clans, (MacPherson, MacAustillan, and MacVicar) that had churchmen as their founders, but the MacGregors are different.   They always signed official documents in Latin as: (i.e. Donaldus Gregorii) signifying they were members of the Gregory group or clan but not descendants by blood. 

There is a Gaelic tradition that Finghin was a grandson of King Gregor, however there were several notable Gregors after his death, indicating that there was no stigma attached to the name.  Some of the Glen Dochart or Strathearn people were known to be directly descended from Gregor by other grandchildren.   

However, in those early years, many of the Clan Gregor men were not very sure, and, the clan had, according to Pictic custom,  assimilated everyone who lived in the area as full clan family members.   To properly include every man, it was agreed to drop 'Mac' from the proper name of the Clan.  To this day we are referred to as Clan 'Gregor', not clan 'MacGregor.'  Another clan that did this was Clan 'Donald' of the MacDonalds.

What Sort of People Became the Clan Gregor?

In regard to their general origin,  they are generally considered to be a branch of the Ross-shire Gad, that is, a branch of the native Picts of the inland parts of the north of Scotland.
Dr. Beddoe, the leading British ethnologist of the 19th century and an acknowledged authority on the racial composition of Britain, Europe and beyond, did a very meticulous census of about a hundred people at random over the area of West Central Perthshire, original home of the MacGregors, measuring skulls, noting height, eye and hair colour, and other personal characteristics.  He published his conclusions in his 'Races of Britain' which are quite startling.
Of Perthshire, in the area of the MacGregor country, he says that many of the inhabitants resembled the Caledonians of Tacitus' description, of large athletic frame, and red hair.  But these were in a minority and he thinks they were also in a minority in Roman times, and that Tacitus noted them because they were outstanding amongst their peers.
It should be noted here that Rob Roy had flaming red hair and also was known for his especially long arms, which enabled him to become an outstanding
swordsman. Over the whole area, Beddoe said, the population was more homogeneous than he had found in any similar area he had investigated.  He considered the population had not changed their characteristics for eighteen centuries.   They had remained a tightly compacted community.  He wrote that they showed strong attachment, a love of nature and of poetry, shrewdness and wit, and a martial spirit, allied to physical fitness, and ability to endure hunger, thirst, cold, heat and fatigue.

It was well known that Highland soldiers routinely slept on the open ground in the midst of winter with a mound of snow as a pillow, and often soaked their plaid in water so it would freeze and form an effective barrier to the chilling winds.  This robustness was partly due to the old Highland tradition of bathing young boys twice a day in cold water, thereby acclimatizing them to the cold.


Clan Gregor Takes Over Lands In Dalriada.

The MacGregors originated in central Perth-shire and spread westwards into Argyll where they assimilated local Dalriadic Scots.  From Glenstrae they afterwards branched out to Glengyle and Roro.  They were from the same stock as their neighbours, the MacNabs, and were both descended from the hereditary abbots of Glendochart, of royal race.

By the 1200s, the homeland of the Clan Gregor spread throughout the 'three Glens' of the rivers Orchy, Strae and Lochy on the opposite watershed to Strathfillan and Glendochart, straddling the border between Argyll - and Perth-shires..

It is known from historical records the clan expanded westward from Glen Dochart and were in possession of lands in Dalriada in and around Glen Orchy by 1296.  The Alban King in Edinburgh was trying to regain his throne's ancient  territories in the Hebridies and along the western coast, which had fallen under the control of the Norse/Scots, who owed allegiance only to the Kings of Norway. 

Every spring, clan Gregor detachments would march off to assist in these annual campaigns of the central government. These favours were rendered resulting in more decrees of land, which were more often than not, verbal handshakes.

Their expansions met stiff resistance as a Royal decree meant nothing to the previous owners.  It was left to the devices of the recipient to take decreed lands in whatever means necessary.  And the MacGregors (under the name of clan MacAlpin) were ferocious enough to be good at it.  They held their lands by the ancient 'decree of the sword'.

The Seeds Of Clan Destruction Are Planted.

Elsewhere throughout Alba, Scots were infiltrating Pict culture; although in the western Perthshire Highlands, a prosperous Pict clan was expanding into the ancient homeland of the Dalriadic Scots.   This situation resulted in bad feeling among Scots in the area.  Many Dalriadic Scot chiefs intermarried on occasion with Clan Gregor women.  In this way the Glen-Orchy MacGregors blossomed and produced a very ambitious chief who claimed descendancy from the Scot King Fergus.   These Glen Orchy MacGregors became the most powerful and aggressive branch of the clan, and claimed hereditary Chiefship of the whole clan.

Previously, no one family line had the prerogative of providing the chief.  According to the traditional Celtic system, the most able candidate was elected from among the ruling families.  The abandonment of this system would ultimately lead to the deterioration of the entire clan system in Scotland.  Now, under the Orchy line, the Scot 'Tanic' custom of succession would be followed, where the succession would be handed down to the first born, regardless of his attributes.  The clan was beginning to look more like a Norman feudal system than a broad-based family of equals.

Meanwhile, in the heart of Dalriada, a new ambitious  and treacherous power threatened all in its path to ascendancy, including the more powerful MacGregors.   This was a branch of a Gaelic clan called 'MacDiarmaid', recently renamed 'Campbell' (wry mouth in Gaelic).

The MacGregor chiefs, in their traditional veracity, referred to this Gaelic upstart clan derisively as "Dermid's race" or "wry-mouths", and had no idea that it  would give them nightmares for the next 500 years.

There is an old Celtic saying: 

"MacDonald is the heather, MacGregor is the rock."

because we were there before anyone else could remember!

Loch Katrine in ancient MacGregor territory


 Loch Awe,site of the largest MacGregor fort; Kilchurn