An Outlandish Clan History Part5

Wow, you guys! I knew we got a ton of readers, but I had no idea so many of you had Scottish roots and it warms the cockles of my historically based soul to see people so interested.  What started out as just a little article has turned into a mini genealogy search, but I like to keep my historical research skills sharp, so it’s all in good fun. You can go back and read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 to see what other clans I’ve brought up. If you don’t see your clan and would like to learn more, maybe I’ll do a part 6, so let me know in the comments!

Clan Donald/MacDonald


  • Clan Motto: per mare per terras- by sea and by land
  • Alternative Clan Motto: fraoch eilean- the heathery isle

There’s a lot to learn about Clan Donald, so if you’re a member, you might want to dig about! Until then, here are just a few little tidbits…

  • The Donalds were one of the larger Highland clans and even have clan connections in Ireland. They are also cousins, of sort, with the MacDougal clan, as their founders came from the same Norse family.
  • They originated from the Norse leader Domhnall mac Ragnail and kept allegiance with the Norwegian kings for more than two hundred years until Haakon IV of Norway was defeated by Alexander III, who then became king of Scotland.
  • Clan Donald was such a strong supporter of Robert the Bruce, once he became king, he proclaimed that the clan would always hold the right wing of his army in battle, a testament to his faith in their loyalty.
  • At the end of the 1400s and the beginning of the 1500s, the Donalds lost the title of Earl Ross, which they had held for a few hundred years, meaning they lost their political holding as Lord of the Isles. In a bid to regain the position, chief Domhnall Dubh formed an alliance with King Edward VI of England against James VI of Scotland. While they didn’t get the titles back that they asked for, Edward began giving parts of the clan smaller titles, which kept them separated and lessened their threat to the British Crown.
  • During the Jacobite uprising, many Donalds fought at Culloden. But when they saw the carnage and began losing many members, they fled, saving their numbers.

The Mackinnon Clan


  • Clan Motto: Audentes Fortuna Juvat- Fortune Favors the Bold
  • This Highland clan had control of many of the Hebride Islands and descended from Alpín mac Echdach, the king of Dál Riata, although historical archives point them having branched off from Clan Gregor. Their name comes from the Gaelic “Mac Fhionghuin”, which means “fair born”.
  • During the Jacobite rebellion, the Mackinnons threw their whole support behind Bonny Prince Charlie. But, after it failed, things went downhill for the small clan. They lost all of their ancestral land that was gifted to them by Robert the Bruce.
  • And although the clan was small in size, their level of sass was out of this world! After the failed Jacobite rebellion, the chief of the Mackinnons was taken to England and put on trial. But, because he was so old, they freed him and sent him back to Scotland. As he was getting read to leave court, the English Judge asked him, “If the King were in your power, as you have been in his, what would you have done to him?” The chief replied, “I would do to him, as he has this day done to me; I would send him back to his own country.”


Clan MacDuff


  • Clan Motto: Deus Juvat- God Assists
  • The MacDuffs originated from the royals of the Picts and the early chiefs were the Earls of Fife. The MacDuffs of Fife were considered the most powerful family in the middle ages, and even though they lost the title of Earl of Fife to the Stewarts in the late 1300s, it didn’t stop them from continuing to gain power.
  • This Lowland clan does not currently have a chief, although the direct line hasn’t died off.

Clan Moffat


  • Clan Motto: Spero Meliora- I hope for better things


  • This clan is so old, it’s difficult to place exactly where they came from. It is thought their name is of Norse origins, but they were definitely around by the time William Wallace was fighting for independence. by the 12th century, they owned large swaths of land and were considered minor nobles.
  • As most border clans, the Moffats were constantly fighting with other families, especially the Johnstones. in 1557 the Johnstones murdered the Moffat’s chief and then burned numerous other clan members alive after trapping them in a building. that was the end of the Moffat chiefs until 1983.
  • Their clan tartan is rather new, created in 1983 when the chiefdom was reestablished. It’s heavily based on that of Clan Douglas.

Clan Gunn


  • Clan Motto: Aut pax aut bellum- Either peace or war
  • Their name is among the oldest, coming from a Norse Jarl of Orkney named Gunni in the 1100s, whose wife had inherited the Jarldom of Orkney from her brother. Gunnis’ name meant “war”and he descended from Viking adventurers. Quite the interesting lineage if you’re a Gunn.
  • Their biggest enemies were Clan Keith and were constantly as war with them. in the 1400s it is said that a member of Clan Keith was in love with the daughter of the Chief of Clan Gunn and kidnapped her to stop her from marrying another man, shortly before her wedding. The girl didn’t return his affection and threw herself off a tower. Obviously, the Gunns were pissed and retaliated, but failed. The two of them finally came to a truce, but when they were supposed to meet in an act of goodwill, the Keiths decided to ambush them. But the Gunns got the last laugh when they killed the Chief of the Keiths and his son.
  • They participated in the Jacobite rebellion, but on the side of the British.
  • Bonus: I’m not 100% sure if Timothy Mackenzie Gunn is Scottish, but his name makes me think he hails from the clan!


Clan Macqueen


  • Clan Motto: Constant and Faithful


  • This Highland bunch are an Armigerous clan and members of Clan Chattan. They claim relations with Clan Donald and often sided with them in small clan disputes. Another large part of the clan carried the last name MacSween.
  • They did not participate in the Jacobite rebellion, but still ended up migrating into Ireland, and more notably Australia, beginning in the 1600s.

Clan Kerr


  • Clan Motto: Sero sed serio- Late, but in earnest
  • The Kerrs were a border clan who has roots in ancient Norway, where they got their name. It comes from the Norse “kjarr” which means “marsh dweller”. It’s also origionally pronounced like “care” but when the mass migration to England and the Americas happened, the pronunciation turned into the modern “car”.
  • The two largest sections of the clan, the Kerrs of Ferniehurst and the Kerrs of Cessford fought with each other a lot for supremacy, but came together in their feud against Clan Scott. When a Kerr was accidentally killed in the 1520s by the Scotts, who were trying to free King James from Clan Douglas, they waited for their revenge. They knew that the band had been lead by Walter Scott, and waited until 1552 to kill him. Looks like they take their motto to heart!
  • Here’s a particularly fun fact, the Kerrs were known for being left handed. So much so, that their castles were often designed to suit left handed people. If you’re a Kerr, are you left handed?
  • Let’s look at our favorite left handed guy!

You read my mind, Fraser

The Farquharson Clan


Clan Motto: Fide et Fortitudine – By Faith and Fortitude

  • They were members of the Chattan Confederation and originated from the son of a Clan Shaw chief, named Farquhar.
  • By the end of the 1500s, they were gaining power and took on the nickname, the “Fighting Farquharsons”. They overtook many castles and no one dared oppose them for fear of retribution.
  • They supported the Stuarts 100% during the Jacobite rebellion and offered the large number of 500 men to the cause. They helped the Jacobites win many battles, but ultimately they couldn’t win the war. The Farquarson wife of the Mackintosh Chief even helped save Prince Charles Stuart’s life, earning her jail time after Culloden.


Clan Boyd


  • Clan Motto: Confido- I trust


  • They may be from Norman stock, as their name isn’t a traditional one, but more based on location. One possibility is that they got their name form the Scottish “buidh” which means “fair” or “yellow”. Or it could be a nod to the Isle of Bute.
  • They were strong supporters of Scottish independence and their ties to Robert the Bruce laid out their future as friends of the nobility. By the 1400s, one Boyd was young King James II’s regent, another his military tutor, and a third married the king’s sister. But they came too close to the crown and were ousted from power. But they regained their standing in the late 1500s when they put their support behind Mary Queen of Scots.
  • They fought for the Jacobites and the chief was later beheaded in London. His son then took the name Hay in order to try and retake the titles his dead father lost.
  • Their ancestral castle, formerly Kilmarnock Castle, is now Dean Castle and hosted almost every Scottish royal since it’s building in the 1350s.


Clan Colquhoun


  • Clan Motto: Si Je Puis – I will if I can
  • Colquhoun was a the name of a piece of land that was passed to Umphredus de Kilpatrick by Scottish King Alexander II.
  • They were a small, but noble family that expanded into what we know as a clan. Their strong ties to the royal family kept them close to all fights between the larger clans, but out of harm’s way. But, they were still very vulnerable to to attack, as they were more strategic people and less physical. This lead to them being slaughtered in large numbers by Clan MacGregor, who as we said before, got a bit rowdy at times.

The Swinton Clan


  • Clan Motto: J’espere, Je Pense- I Hope, I Think
    • There is no formally registered Swinton tartan, but some like this tartan and hold it as the Swinton plaid.


  • This Lowland clan came from Northumbrian stock and was probably named for the village of Swinewood in the 1130s, but a more romanticized version has it getting their name for their bravery in clearing the area of wild boars.
  • One member, John Swinton, is seen as the possible founder of the Quakers in the 1660s. Actress Tilda Swinton is also a member of this family and she can trace her lineage through the Swinton line, back into the middle ages!


Clan MacLellan


  • Clan Motto: Think On
  • This Lowland clan is considered Armigerous, as it does not have a chief. They got their name from the Gaelic “MacGille Fholain”, which means “son of the servant of St Fillan”, who was a missionary of the early Celtic Church.
  • They were allies of William Wallace and followed him into battle. From that time on, they were friends of the nobility and were frequently knighted. by the 1500’s, they were still rising in the peerage and were made titled lords and often seen at court. However, their closeness to the crown took a toll on their wealth. During the Scottish Civil War, their clan was almost bankrupt by their chief, who was a staunch royalist.
  • The title of chief has been dormant since 1832, so if you’re of the clan and think you have a shot, go for gold and see if you could claim it!
  • Bonus: Here’s a pic of the Maclellan’s castle, which was built in the mid-late 1500s.


Clan Home


  • Clan Motto: A Home! A Home! A Home!
  • Alternative Clan Motto: True to the End


  • The Home, or Hume as they are sometimes called, hail from the ancient earls of Northumbria that settled in a lard called “Home”, in the lower areas of Scotland.
  • They were a particularly powerful border clan, partly owing to their wealth and ties to the nobility. By the 1400s, some members were even made Lords of Parliament and the Great Chamberlain of Scotland. But their noble ties and location near the border had a downside, as they were often on the front lines against the English. But even when the English would overtake their lands, the Homes would rally up and push them out like it ain’t no thang.
  • The English seriously hated Clan Home. The Homes were always by the side of the Scottish kings and kicking English troops off Scottish land. So when Oliver Cromwell finally took some Home lands, and Hume Castle, he garrisoned troops there. (Pictured below). But Hume Castle’s history is really interesting. Built in the 12th century, it was the beacon of the south, responsible for overseeing the border and warning other clans about any English invasions. A fire would be lit in a tall tower, signaling it was time for battle. This was resurrected in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • But when the Jacobite rebellion came to pass, the Home’s swapped sides and fought with the British. But, in the long run, it was good for the clan. They continued to hold power and even present day Home/Humes are very respected. Think Alec Douglas-Home, the former PM of the UK!
  • One more tiny fun fact: in 1513, during the Battle of Flodden, the Home leader was rallying the troops by calling, “A Home! A Home!”. But as many under his charge weren’t Homes, they thought he was telling them to go home, so they did. Oops.


Clan Hamilton


  • Clan Motto: Through


  • The clan’s chiefs come from the noble Gilberts of Hameldone, appearing around the last 1200s, when Walter Fitz Gilbert was awarded the land, among others, due to his support of Robert the Bruce. This began their rise to power, alongside the Scottish royals.
  • By the 1400s, they were tightly entwined with the Scottish royal family, as Lord John Hamilton married King James III’s daughter, Mary, adding more titles and land to their clan.This notoriety of being mixed with noble stock kept them largely out of normal clan disputes.
  • But by the mid 1600’s, the chiefdom was in debt and the lineage so noble, there were fights over who would hold the coveted title. This weakened the clan and they began to drift apart.

Clan MacDowall


  • Clan Motto: Vincere Vel Mori- To conquer or die


  • They hail from Galloway and are of the earliest Scots clans in written history, their lineage being noted in the mid 8th century, but being mentioned as early as the 200s as being members of the noble house of Galloway. Bu the 1200s,  the name “M’douall” had appeared, which the modern MacDowall has hailed from.
  • There is a large MacDowall number in Ireland, due to the English sending poor Scots to settle there and cultivate the land in the early 1700s.
  • Through some smart marriages, this large, but mostly peaceful, clan has stayed largely out of the battles the clans are known from.

Names asked for, but not included in this list, which is focused on Scottish clans: Kirk (sept of Clan Maxwell), Paterson (sept of the Clan MacLaren and Clan Farquharson), Jack (not a clan, nor a recognized sept, but a last name), Byers (sept of Clan Lindsay), Day (derived from the Irish O’Dea), Fisher (not a clan, nor a recognized sept, but a last name) Tinley (not a clan, nor a recognized sept, but a last name), Alexander (sept of Clan Donald).

But if you’d like to know a bit about your last name, let me know and I’ll tell you a few fun facts! Also, keep an eye our for part 6, since I still have many more names to go, and let me know if your clan hasn’t been mentioned in any of these Outlandish Clan History posts, and I’ll see what I can do!

Sarah and I both have books out now, so if you like our posts, you’ll probably love our books! First Semester is a thrilling college romance that you can get HERE. Queen of Emeralds is a historic romance set in the highlands that you can get HERE.



6 thoughts on “An Outlandish Clan History Part5

  1. Jeanne Diesing says:

    Please post on the Clans of St.Clair/Sinclair. My husband’s maternal grandfather was William Columbus St.Clair, born in Missouri, USA. Some say he was related to Arthur St.Clair of the American Revolutionary period. The roots of the first ones to come to Scotland would be great to know. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s