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Clan History

Research your Scottish Clan's Ancestry and Family History

The clan system was thought to be well established in the Highlands by the thirteenth century, and by the fifteenth was powerful enough to be a threat to Scottish Kings, and was then outlawed partly as a consequence of the final Jacobite uprising 1745-6.

The Gaelic word clan (or “clann”) means family or children. Traditionally, Mac or Mc, is a meaning for “son of” which may not have always referred to a direct sibling, but could also have represented a broader family relationship, affiliation, or septs.

There is little to support that old clans could be recognised by tartan alone – availability of local dyestuffs would indicate the colouring. At Culloden for instance the Government Highlanders were distinct by the colour of badges on bonnets – red or yellow for government, whereas the Jacobites had the “white cockade”. Later, through Queen Victoria’s embrace of all things tartan, and the upsurge in romantic interest in the Highlands, tartans and their colours were reinvented

Balquhidder Glen

The parish registers show that there have been fifty different family clan names from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Clan names include Fergusons, MacLarens, MacGregors and then Macintyres, and the Stewarts.

Fairs were regularly held at the township of Stronvar to the south of the Kirkton. This could have been the forerunner of the Annual Balquhidder and Lochearnhead Highland Games, now held at Lochearnhead. Please see the separate page relevant to the Games, generally held the third Saturday in July. The Four Seasons Hotel currently hosts the Clan MacLaren Games Dinner

Robert Fergusson once owned Stronvar and a seventh generation descendant of his still lives in Muirlaggan today. This building is of some antiquity, still having some ‘heather thatch’ preserved under a flat roof. Above an exterior door is a primitive carved head and upper torso similar to the ‘McNab heads’ in their burial grounds. Apparently this stone was found on Loch Earn, home to the clan Neish, their sworn enemies.

Clan MacLaren

This clan, known in the glen since the ninth century was predominant until the arrival of the MacGregors who came here after being dispossessed of their own lands by the Clan Campbell. Another nearby MacLaren settlement was at Ardveich on Loch Earn with a small burial ground.

The knoll behind Balquhidder Kirk is known as Creag an Tuirc (the hill of the boar) and is acknowledged as the ‘MacLaren’s Meeting Place’, being marked by a stone monument.

The name MacLaren, (and varied other spellings), originate from Labhran of Ardveche, the hereditary Celtic Abbot of Achtus, in Balquhidder. The Clan can be traced back in the Glen and Strathearn to the ninth century. Allegedly the bloodline of the MacLarens goes back over 1,500 years, and might descend from Lorn, son of Fergus Erc, who landed in Argyll around AD 503.

Over the centuries, the MacLarens fought in many Scottish battles of note, their presence recorded at Bannockburn, Sauchieburn, Flodden, and Pinkie. The house of MacLaren of Auchleskine has been recognized, and in 1957 the Lyon Court adjudged the clan Chief to be Donald MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine.

Clan McGregor

In the parish of Balquhidder’s Kirk built in 1855, there is the grave of “Rob Roy” MacGregor. This is the Glen’s most famous name, and there is a romantic picture of him as wild man of the hills with a blood-dripping claymore at the centre of the battle. Certainly at times, there would be regional involvement and clan feuds. One of the more entertaining feuds in Balquhidder started with a blow to the head with a dead salmon.

The MacGregors made their first appearance in Balquhidder glen after losing their ancestral lands in GlenStrae to the ever conquering Campbells. There is a small ruinous MacGregor burial ground at the head of Loch Doine at the foot of Glencarnaig. The clan claim descent from Griogar, Son of Alpin, in the eight Century. The original home of the clan was the eastern Argyll bordering on west Perthshire, to include Glenmorchy, Glenstrae, Glengyle,and Glen Lyon. The Ancient Burial Ground of the MacGregors is on Inchcailloch. Many a tale is told of bodies lost overboard or bodies left unburied whilst the company grew merry together. The chief of Clan Gregor lived for many years at Edinchip House, their family mausoleum being at Auchtubh.

Loch Earn

Stewarts of Ardvorlich

The Stewarts moved to Ardvorlich in the sixteenth century and Dundurn to the east has been their burial ground. On the south Loch road there stands a stone resembling a gravestone, bearing the inscription ‘This stone marks the place of interment of Major James Stewart afterwards removed to the family vault at Dundurn died about 1660″. This was a temporary grave for a number of years to thwart the body’s disturbance by rival clans. A few miles further west is Ardvorlich House.

The Neishes of Neish Island

In the 17th century this island in Loch Earn, then known as ‘Isle of Morell’ – was home to the Clan Neish, a sept of the MacGregors. One famous story from a bygone Christmas, was when a party of McNabs from Killin were intercepted by the Neishes as they returned homewards with their turkey (?) provisions. The McNab chief was told of the incident, but as the Neishes owned the only boat on Loch Earn which they kept on the island they felt safe. The McNab family carried a boat over the hill to Loch Earn for use in a night time raid on Neish Island. The Neishes were caught abed and were wiped out and Loch Earn Castle laid waste. The McNabs return journey uphill proved too much and they abandoned the boat on the hillside where it was apparently still to be seen for a couple of hundred years.

The Camerons have held lands in Glen Ogle and Lochearnhead since early last century.

The McNabs were likely abbots of Glendochart, the homeland of the clan and the site of St. Fillian’s monastery. The McNabb family are a branch of the Siol Alpin, the descendants of Kenneth Mac Alpin, the celebrated Dalriadan founder of Scotland.

At the bridge over the Falls of Dochart there is access to Inchbui (Yellow Island), the burial place of the Clan MacNab of Killin. A stone enclosure on the island is the last resting place of generations of the Clan MacNab chiefs. Stone heads stand guard over the enclosure and its dozens of mainly unmarked graves. Kinnell House, one time home of the clan chief is nearby the island on the south shore.