About the MacGregors...
The Clan Gregor Society was founded in 1822 and is one of the oldest clan societies in Great Britain. It is also a registered charity.
In its early days it was managed by a committee of Edinburgh and Glasgow professional men, all named MacGregor or McGregor. Their goal was to extend ‘to the Poor of the Clan the benefits of a sound and Christian education.’ To this worthy end, money was donated and distributed accordingly.
On this page we explain a bit about the Clan Gregor, its history and traditions and who we are today. With clan members spread all round the world this is the place to meet together, share history and find others who are your kinsfolk.
Enjoy searching and if you need more information why not join the Society and benefit from our dedicated Members Only section (coming soon!)
What do we do today?
Today, the Society is a growing and dynamic international organisation with over 800 members worldwide.
We perpetually and actively seek to extend the links of kinship and friendship between MacGregors - wherever they may be - and to provide a focal point for all members of the Clan and any interested visitors who wish to learn more of our noble past. The Society also seeks to preserve the historic buildings, articles, musical, literary and artistic traditions of Clan Gregor and of Scotland.
The Clan Gregor Society sponsors educational awards, a genealogy and DNA project, a piping competition, the preservation of historic MacGregor grave stones at Dalmally, and supports archaeological digs near Loch Awe and Loch Lomond under the supervision of professional archaeologists based in Glasgow.
The Society participates at the Lochearnhead Highland Games each year and hosts an International Gathering in Scotland every 4 years, where members from all over the world tour Scotland and visit MacGregor-related sites.
The origins of Clan Gregor
The Clan Gregor held lands in the highlands of Scotland, namely Glenstrae, Glenlochy, Glenlyon, Glengyle, and Glenorchy.
They were descended from the ancient Celtic royal family through the hereditary Abbots of Glendochart, a descent which is proclaimed in the motto, ‘S Rioghal Mo Dhream translated as Royal is my Race.
Tradition holds that Gregor was the son of Kenneth MacAlpin. However he may have been Griogair, son of Dungal, who is said to have been a co-ruler of Alba, the kingdom north of Central Scotland between AD 879 and 889. Most modern historians agree that the first certain Chief was Gregor of the Golden Bridles. Gregor’s son, Iain Camm (Ian of the One-Eye) succeeded as the second Chief sometime prior to 1390.
Robert the Bruce granted the barony of Loch Awe - which included much of the MacGregor lands - to the Chief of the Campbells. In common with many royal gifts of the time, it was left to the recipient to work out how he would take possession of it. The Campbells harried the MacGregors who were forced to retire deeper into their lands until they were largely restricted to Glenstrae.
Proscription - our darkest years
The Jacobite cause
Children of the MIst
Clan Gregor today
Proscription - our darkest years
In 1589 John Drummond, the Kings forester, was murdered after hanging some MacGregors for poaching. The Chief, Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, took responsibility for the act and was condemned by the Privy Council. King James VI issued an edict enacted through his Privy Council proclaiming the name MacGregor ‘altogidder abolished’ meaning that those who bore the name must renounce it or suffer death. Specifically:
'… unhappie and detestable race be extirpat and ruttit out, and nevir sufferit to have rest or remaning within this cuntrey heirefter; …. they salbe prosequte, huntit, followit, and persewit with fyre and sword, ay and they be exterminat and ruttit out'.
The Proscriptive Acts of Clan Gregor were enacted on the 3rd of April 1603 following the battle of Glen Fruin wherein the MacGregors routed the Clan Colquhoun, killing hundreds in the process. This draconian ruling authorized the capture of Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae and his leading kinsmen. In the spring of 1604 Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, Chief and Laird of MacGregor was hung with thirty of his warriors against the West End of Saint Giles Kirk (Church) where the Tollbooth stood. Today, the ‘Heart of Midlothian’ in Edinburgh marks the spot where the MacGregor Chief was executed.
It is thought the MacGregor Monument in Perthshire above may commemorate the history of the Chief’s family, the lopped off branches and scars on the trunk of the ‘tree’ signifying those members of the family who perished during the turbulent years of the Clan’s history, especially following the imposition of the harsh penal laws which were passed against Clan Gregor in the 16th and 17th centuries
The 'Heart of Medlothian' in Edinburgh today...
The names of Clan Gregor were erased from existence. To even claim one of these names openly was to invite an immediate execution. The clanfolk of the ‘Gregorach’ were ordered to take different names, usually assigned. They were to obey implicitly the new Chief placed over them.
Many of the MacGregor’s refused. Of those who refused (and were caught); the men were executed, the women were stripped bare, branded, and whipped through the streets. The women and children were sold into slavery for Britain’s new colonies in North America.
Further additions to the proscriptive acts denied the MacGregors basic necessities of food, water, shelter and care for infants and the elderly. The MacGregors were denied the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, marriage, and last rites. The gentry of Scotland were encouraged to hunt the MacGregors with dogs as if they were common game stock. But without a doubt, the most horrifying act was the commission of selling MacGregor heads to the government to attain pardon for thievery and murder.
Children of the Mist
‘Children of the Mist’ is a term for the Clan Gregor which was invented by the 19th century romantic author Sir Walter Scott – who acted in essence as the founder of the Scottish Tourism industry.
In his 1829 novel ‘The Legend of Montrose’, Sir Walter mentioned the ‘Children of the Mist’ as the perpetrators of the horrid murder in 1586 of Drummond Ereneach, the King’s Forrester of Glenartney.
The persecution of Clan Gregor finally ended in 1774 when the proscription was repealed – 171 years later.
We should be very careful thinking that Sir Walter Scott's fantasies are any basis for the true history of Clan Gregor.
Nigel Tranter, who wrote 5 novels on the theme of Clan Gregor, was no better than Sir Walter as a historian of the Clan. But derring-do with a bit of romance sells novels! If you search the internet today for ‘Children of the Mist’ you will find accounts of Clan Gregor which owe everything to imagination and virtually nothing to actual evidence.
To what extent did the romantic efforts of Sir Walter Scott and others reflect the documented reality of Clan Gregor in the 16th and 17th centuries?
Scott’s novel related to events of 1586 and after when the first state proscription was enacted and, more generally, to the period after 1603, when King James VI proscribed the entire Clan Gregor and gave license for its leaders to be hunted down. The King went further in forbidding the use of the name Gregor and MacGregor, commanding that all should take another name. There is a popular belief that all MacGregors were condemned to death by the King irrespective of their involvement at Glen Fruin.
The reality is however, the proscription of the MacGregors was not actually a pogrom of every man, woman, or child but slightly more merciful: every man, woman, or child was compelled to submit, abjure the name of MacGregor - assuming some other name - and follow another lord.
The reality, insofar as we can ascertain, is that the Clan Gregor divided into three main categories as seen to the right.
The nature of 17th century Scotland has to be considered. Campbell expansion had been at the expense of many others of the Highland elite. Menzies, Stewart, Murray and Drummond are all examples of lordly families whose status had been threatened and lands lost to Campbell expansionism.
Rather than incur the anger of the King by overt resistance, what better way to resist than to shelter, succour and encourage renegade MacGregors (and not just MacGregors) in order to hurt their rivals. Thus we see many examples of edicts of the Council requested by the Campbells and fulminating against the wicked resetters of Clan Gregor.
We should also remember that MacGregor men did not just marry their own kin. There was a network of marital relations who could be called on in time of need. Not everyone would be at daggers drawn with the mother-in-law.
In conclusion, the lack of central authority or a network of effective sheriffdoms until the 18th century left the power to enforce peace and lawful behaviour in the hands of local magnates. These men often succumbed to the temptation to use their legal power for their own benefit. Sir Walter Scott’s 'Children of the Mist' were not just MacGregors but could be any people who found themselves at the bottom of the social order and who were sheltered, used and discarded in the interests of the elite.
The first contingent, comprising the chiefly lineage of Glen Strae was largely hunted down, captured and killed - almost to extinction.
With the exception of the children of Iain dubh, brother of Alastair ruadh who were protected by Sir John Murray of Tullibardine and, took his name. Gregor and Patrick Murray would be the 12th and 13th chiefs under the protection of the Earls of Atholl.
The second group would, by and large, obey the edicts of the Council, follow another lord, take his name and, more or less, act in accordance with the law in future.
These people might become Drummonds, Murrays, Livingstones and even Campbells. Or perhaps, Lakies, Stirlings, and Telfords. In not a few cases their descendants have retained these names until the present day.
The third and final group remained in rebellion, either unable or unwilling to find security with another lord.
Their deeds occur at various times in sheriff court and state records which give the impression of a wild and recalcitrant people hiding in caves and emerging when hungry to take the livestock and lives of peaceable farmers.
James VI began his personal rule of Scotland in 1584. From 1603 until his death in 1625 James also ruled England and Ireland from London.
The clan of Gregor became the object of his most vehement hatred and the most unpardonable Clan in all the Highlands.
After Glen Fruin in 1603, he proscribed the entire Clan and decreed under pain of death, the abolition of the very name of MacGregor. In further legislation of 1610 and 1611, James urged the hunting down of surviving recalcitrant MacGregors with rewards specified for their heads.
James VI died in 1625 and was succeeded by his son as Charles I. Among the Acts of Parliament during Charles’s only visit to Scotland as ruler in 1633 was a further proscription of the clan, which licensed anyone to hunt down MacGregors and be rewarded with their property. One would have thought that this treatment of our ancestors by James and Charles might have motivated the undying hatred of the survivors for the House of Stuart.
But this would not be the case. Instead, when Charles I became enmeshed in the religious conflicts which eventually led to his execution by Cromwell in London in 1649, MacGregors fought in the army of the Marquis of Montrose on behalf of the King. Later, in 1653, MacGregors joined General Middleton in a rising against Commonwealth rule.
As a reward of sorts, the proscription was lifted by Charles II in 1661. In 1689, following the flight into exile of James VII, Clan Gregor came out with Bonnie Dundee for James at the battle of Killiecrankie, for which the proscription was re-imposed.
Members of the clan fought in the Jacobite Risings of 1715, 1719 and 1745 in favor of the Stuarts.
It was only in 1774 that a ruler of the upstart house of Hanover would lift the proscription on the name MacGregor.
MacGregors and the Jacobite cause
The Clan Gregor today...
The Society today boasts a global membership of active enthusiastic persons who are interested in Clan Gregor - its past, our respective and collective family histories, and who wish to contribute to the future of our clan. We arrange and host attendance at Highland Games, international tours to Scotland, local events and facilitate research (such as the MacGregor DNA project, archaeology digs, historical information preservation and family tree investigations.
Clan Gregor also sponsors a number of academic grants and scholarships as well as piping events.