Note: The background tartan is faded MacGregor Green.
Editor's note: The background sound programmed into this chapter is "TheBattle of Glen Fruin" (written by Forbes MacGregor). As soon as you entered into this chapter, the song began to download. If you have a high speed internet service, you will hear the song quickly. For slow speed viewers, you must wait several minutes. Please be patient.
How It Once Was
Before the Norman usurpers, the Gaelic Kings of Scotland were content to let the Clan Chiefs find their places in a wild and mountainous country where roads were largely non-existent and where knowledge of the countryside rested solely in those loyal by blood to the Clan leadership. What little fertile land there was for farming was fought over and maintained by the strength of the Clan.
There was a constant struggle for lebensraum in a land where the right of the sword held sway. Alliances were made and broken, clans depended on their male citizens to participate in the defence of communal property. In return, a benevolent oligarchy ruled and made the decisions that would decide whether the clan would expand or be overrun by others.
The clan represented an enlarged family where everyone was in some way related to each other. The Clan Chief was not a despotic ruler, he had to listen to the clan elders and depended on them for sound and fair decisions. All Clan members were accorded equal rights in their dealings with others. In effect it was a cradle to the grave communal system where each member was expected to contribute what he could manage, and would received what he required to live a free and healthy lifestyle.
The clans practised a form of democracy that was foreign to the despotic Norman invaders who overran England in 1066. Theirs was a feudal system where there was no family connection between the ruling Lords and the serfs (subjects), although all able-bodied men were expected to serve in the Lord's army when called upon. Theirs was a dreary existence with no hope for advancement and with no say in their own affairs. The land belonged to the Lord and his family and the serfs were forced to pay taxes or tithes for the right to live and grow crops on the land.
Clan Gregor Is Used To
Regain The Western Coast and Isles
In the 9th century, the Norse Vikings raided the western and northern coasts and Islands and gradually settled down to intermarry with the Scots there. They were referred to as the Norse/Scots and owed allegiance to the far off King of Norway, not to the King of Scotland. This situation was unbearable to the King in Edinburgh, who each year would send an invading Army west to free up more land from the Norse.
His own "central" army was too small to obtain his objectives so he depended on the good graces of his loyal Clans to provide soldiers in his endeavours. The strongest and fiercest clans were his mainstay in his struggle to expand his power to the western shores of Argyle, the Inner and Outer Hebridies, and the northern coasts. The island archipelagos of the Shetlands and Faeroes were under strong Norse control, directed from the King of Norway and Scottish Kings had no hope of reconquering those lands until the 13th century, when the Norse eventually lost their control of the seas.
The King had little money to pay for these services so he passed out "grants"of conquered lands to those clans who helped in his conquests. The various clans also knew they had to maintain a strong fighting force to defend their lands from encroachment from their neighbours, who sometimes became jealous of their expansions.
Interclan rivalries festered and sometimes, fighting would break out between neighbouring clans. The King, in far off Edinburgh, would most often let these squabbles run their course and sometimes he would be called upon to mediate a reasonable truce. Clan Gregor excelled in these conditions and incurred the wrath of many of their neighbours.
Many lesser Clans resented this aggressive Clan that claimed direct descent from Pictish Kings - and from the Royal house of Kenneth MacAlpin, the most revered of all ancient Scottish Kings.
Petty grievances became major when neighbouring clans made representations to the King regarding Clan Gregor incursions into their territories. These complaints were mostly discounted by the sovereign partly due to his need for Clan Gregor's friendship.
Even after the usurpation of the "Gaelic" throne of Scotland by the Normans, the King could depend on Clan Gregor to provide fodder for in his seasonal wars against the Lords of the Isles and other rebellious clans. Clan Gregor's loyalty was never in question.
The symbiotic relationship between sovereign and Clan Gregor became null and void when James VI became James I of England and had no further use of Clan private armies.
Clan Gregor was the senior branch of an alliance of Scots called the "Siol Alpin", who all traced their ancestries back to the MacAlpin/Pict ruling dynasties of ancient Alba. These other allied clans were:
o Clan Grant; who were settled on Griantoch moor in the 1200s, were descended from Gregor Mhor MacGregor.
o Clan Fingon (MacKinnon); descended from a son of Kenneth MacAlpin.
o Clan MacNab; descended from the same monks & Abbots as the MacGregors.
o Clan Mac a'Phis (MacPhee); who were descended from remnants of aboriginal (Pict) tribes who survived the Gaelic settlement of the area around Colinsay.
o Clan Ferguson of Strachur; who were descended from Fergus Mor, son of Eric, who founded the Kingdom of Dalriada in the early 6th century.
o Clan MacAulay of Ardincaple; In May of 1591, the Chief declared a bond of friendship between himself and Alasdair MacGregor of Glen Strae at a time when there was no profit in such an admission.
In addition to these major clans were many Septs and minor Clans who owed allegiance to these clans, for their own protection and vital interests.
The Siol Alpin was merely an informal alliance of kin who claimed a common ancestry. They seldom bothered each other and usually went to the aid of each other as needed. It was never intended to be an instrument of aggression, as was the Chattan Confederacy. Perhaps that was its downfall.
MacGregors Turn Full Circle to Influence In the Scottish Court
In ancient times when Gaelic Kings needed Clan Gregor's fierceness and bravery to combat foreign threats and recover lost territories, our influence was felt in the court at Edinburgh. MacGregor Chiefs often died on foreign soil serving their sovereign.
With the advent of Norman usurpers, the Gaelic Clans were subdued and Norman feudalism was established. The Campbells rose in power and influence at the Norman Court and, through treachery and subterfuge, subdued the MacGregors, the MacDonalds, and anyone else who stood in their way.
In the period of the Stuart renaissance, the Campbells had been converted to Protestantism and became less devoted to the Stuart cause. The MacGregors remained staunchly Royalist even though many converted to Protestantism due to the Roman Catholic Church and the established Presbyterian "Church Of Scotland" denying MacGregors any of the sacraments, according to the proscription laws repeatedly inscribed against the MacGregors.
In other words, the twin pillars of Catholicism and Protestantism became instruments of the insane James XI and his descendents, under the influence of the Campbell Earls of GlenOrchy. With the resurrection "from the dead" of the Stuarts, and the ensuing heady days of Charles II and James II, Campbell Lords were executed with the frequency that previously had been allotted to the MacGregors. MacGregors rose in rank and prestige within the Royalist power structure of Britain.
The Stuarts came to realize that the Gregarach were not fair weather friends like the Campbells. Well-connected MacGregors began receiving titles and prestigious appointments previously reserved for Campbells and their lackies.
When James II was forced out of Britain, the Stuarts were exiled to France with little support from England or the Lowlands of Scotland, which were largely Protestant. The remaining Catholic Highland Clans gathered round the Stuart cause and became known as "Jacobites" (followers of James).
The Stuarts, had proscribed the MacGregors in the late 1500s and again in 1603 under the influence of the Campbells but now the scene was much different. The Stuarts desperately needed the Highland Clans to provide a power base from which they might regain their throne. The big stumbling block was, that now with the Union Act of 1707, Scotland was no longer an equal partner in the union with England, merely a provincial backwater.
Any Stuart return to power would have to include the removal of the Hanoverians who had been invited to rule rather than submit to the Catholic Stuarts. Even though the Stuarts had a more direct claim on the throne, the English had enacted a law that required the Sovereign to be a Protestant, thereby annulling any claim the Stuarts had to the throne of England and Scotland (Britain).
This situation was resented by many Scots of both Catholic and Protestant persuasion. Some minor rebellions broke out in Scotland in favour of reinstating the Stuarts to their rightful place on the Scottish throne, but these local skirmishes were severely dealt with by the British Army and its lowland Scottish lackeys.
The Pope used his influence to persuade France and Spain to support the Stuart cause. Although this alignment gave the Stuarts a base of operations on the continent and possible allies in a future invasion, it only strengthened the resolve of the English to determine their own destiny despite the Papists on the continent (or in Scotland).
Meanwhile, the relationship between the exiled Stuarts and the proscribed MacGregors became warmer and warmer, culminating in a declaration of Knighthood of Alexander MacGregor of Balhaldie by King James VIII (Charles Edward Stuart or "Bonnie Prince Charlie")
Our Will and pleasure therefore is. That Letters Patent pass under our great Seal of our Ancient Kingdom of Scotland in due and competent form Making and creating as we hereby make and create the said Alexander M'Gregor a Knight and Baronet of our said Ancient Kingdom of Scotland to have and to hold to him and the lawful Heirs male of his own body with the privileges precedencies and other advantages thereunto appertaining, in as full and ample manner as any other Knight and Baronet of our said Ancient Kingdom holds and enjoys the same.
Signed by James R.
MacGregors Come To The Aid of Bonnie Prince Charlie
When Charles VIII landed in the Western Isles, he had only seven men with him. Within a year he had advanced to within 150 miles of London and had frightened the Hanoverians to the point of packing their bags, ready to flee back to Germany on a moments notice.
It was a MacGregor officer in Charles Army that, upon surrendering the town of Carlisle back to the Hanoverians, was put to death in a most vile and barbaric manner, but not before writing the most beautiful love poem in Scotland's history, entitled "Loch Lomond".
Charles slept at the Balhaldie estate and was impressed with the loyalty and sincerity of his MacGregor host. Charles had won every battle except the last and it would be the undoing of his family's fortunes - and the fate of the entire north of Scotland. Within another fifty years the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Highlands would leave a stark and empty landscape where once there was a thriving community.
The MacGregors had tossed their lot in with the family
that had outlawed them and had "thrown them to the Campbells". Yet their
loyalty was never in question. It was perhaps poetic justice that all the Clans of
northern Scotland would come to bear some of the injustices that the MacGregors had been
forced to undergo for so many terrible years.
Scottish History is Rewritten To Exclude the MacGregors
To those who like to think the Scottish establishment has "rehabilitated" the MacGregors and their legacy, merely look at any "authoritative" book on Scottish Clans and their septs.
In "Clans & Tartans Scotland" by Iain Zaczek, a typical whitewash of ancient MacGregor influence is accomplished quite nicely. Under "Families and associated clans", several families are listed as septs of both MacGregor and another clan; eg. Black is listed as a sept both MacGregor and Lamont. (although MacGregor is listed first, and Lamont comes first in the alphabet). Again, Crerar is listed as a sept of the Mackintoshes. Fletcher is not listed at all, and everyone knows they were our most famous sept. Family names such as Carter, Fisher, Bowmaker, MacIver, and Royal are not mentioned either, although they are all MacGregor names.
This official animosity began with the first encroachment of our ancestors by the Campbells. According to the classical rules of treachery, the first step in obliterating an enemy is to demonize him, and the Campbells were exceedingly good at it. From humble beginnings as a left branch of the MacDiarmids, they quickly and forcefully became the predominant landowners in Scotland. Many corpses were left on the wayside in their rise to power.
When the Campbells finally succeeded in taking the three MacGregor Glens in Argyle, they insisted the inhabitants there pledge fealty to the Campbells and become their serfs. At least they had a choice, the Stuarts merely slaughtered all the MacLivers and MacIvers in Glen Lyon when they stole it, then later sold the entire valley to the Campbells. I guess it must have been the last piece in a set.
Any able-bodied MacGregor male (and kept his name) who lived in the 1200-1700s was lucky to die in bed. Campbells had laws put on the books that ordered any confiscated MacGregor property was automatically placed under Campbell ownership. No wonder the Campbells had an over-riding interest in tracking us down.
That a civilized country would endeavour to exterminate one of its oldest and major elements is an embarrasement that many people in high places would rather forget. "Ethnic cleansing" is a foreign concept, one relegated to ancient history, not one for decent British folk to ponder. In Scottish written historical records, anything the MacGregors accomplished has been omitted or relegated to someone else.
There has never been any official British recognition of the inherent evil in using proscription in a two hundred year campaign to annihilate an entire clan. Their only defence is to continue the Campbell fallacy that we were nothing but an "unhappy" band of cut throats. If any government says something is true often enough, after awhile, people will believe it, at least those with a guilty conscience..
The general animosity against the "murdering MacGregors" was still festering in the 1800s when Sir Walter Scott vindicated the proscribed MacGregors in Poetry and Novel. He exposed the Highland culture in all its richness - and the valid presence of the Clan Gregor. He singularly brought about a renaissance of Highland culture and was able to stage manage a visit by King George IV to Scotland and to provide a Clan Gregor bodyguard for the entire visit (even though Clan Gregor was officially proscribed at the time).
Ridiculed In Scotland - Due to an Ancient Fear
The ridicule of MacGregors through books such as "Dr. Finlay's Casebook", "Dr. MacGregor and his Wee black bag", and "The Lament of Dougal MacGregor" in the Scotland of the 19th and 20th centuries, underlines an archaic fear. It doesn't take a psychiatrist to figure that one out.
Still, the MacGregors had been ridiculed by the Saxons in Lothian and by the Norman usurpers for centuries; generations had grown up and were fed the doctrine that MacGregors were bad people and had contributed nothing positive to Scotland. This credo survives in Scotland today. Examples below:
* Do any of the children in the streets of Scotland's cities who sing a little ditty entitled "In and out of the dusty bluebells" know the original music was once the Clan Gregor Marching Song "How the Mighty Have Fallen!" which struck terror into anyone who heard it?
* Does anyone in Scotland know of the Dean of Linsmore and the effect he had on Scottish literature?
* Do Scottish historians teach about the major part played by the MacGregors in the development of Bagpipe music?
(i.e. The piping championships at the great Falkirk Tryst was taken by Patrick MacGregor dressed in the tartan of his forebears. For twenty-nine years, eleven championships were won by MacGregors. Nevertheless, in David Webster's lists "Scottish Highland Games", MacGregors were absent.)
* Was there any public outcry when the ancient Clan Gregor meeting place, Lanrick Castle, was demolished in March of 2002?
* How many structures and castles does Scottish history tell us that the Clan Gregor built?
* Does anyone outside Clan Gregor believe that our ancestors were Royalty?
* Are any Scottish maps produced that correctly reflect the original holdings of Clan Gregor?
* Why is General Gregor MacGregor, (grandson of Gregor Glun Dubh the nephew of Rob Roy), hero and liberator of most of Venezuela, so honoured even with monuments in Venezuela, but still in limbo in Edinburgh?
* Why was the father of the Russian Navy, Grand Admiral Sir Samuel Greig, (on loan by the British Royal Navy to the Russian Imperial Navy) so honoured in Russia , even with a National Holiday proclaimed in his honour, and has been totally ignored by historians in Britain?
The negative answers to all these questions remains a matter of a deep prejudice by the Scottish intelligentsia against our Clan and its people. It is the same reason why Sir Walter Scott had to mask his central character, Roderick, in "The Lady of the Lake" as Chief of the Clan Alpin, rather than the historically correct Clan Gregor.
It is the same reasoning by which many of our historical Septs have been listed as belonging to other clans, (i.e. Clan Fletcher, which was synonymous with MacGregor for eight centuries) and why much of our ancient lands, steeped in MacGregor blood, have been erroneously labeled as being historical Clan Campbell territory.
An example of prejudice by lowlanders against Highlander which has lingered to the present was evident recently in an article in the "Scottish Banner" dated August 2003. I will quote it word for word.
Gaelic Girl Rejected
A man from Plockton in Wester Ross was told recently that he could not register his new born daughter's name, because he had chosen a Gaelic name! The General Registrar Office of Scotland told the father of two that Gaelic could not be used to register surnames or place names as Gaelic was a foreign dialect. Following various official complaints the Registrar's office has allowed the name to be used and apologized for the inconvenience the family has been caused.
MacGregors Make An Impact on the World Outside Scotland
Visit my chapter on "Famous MacGregors" to get an impression on whether we have made an impression outside of Scotland.
For two examples of our tenacity, the longest serving First Minister of any British Commonwealth country, and the architect of the modern Liberal Party of Canada was, William Lyon MacKenzie King, a MacGregor.
The savior of the Union, Hero of the American Civil War, and later President of the United States of America for two terms, Ulysses S. Grant, was a direct descendent (on the male side) of Gregor Mohr MacGregor, who founded the Clan Grant.
Although not publicly recognized as a MacGregor in life, he certainly was in death, as he spent the last months of his life at Mount MacGregor and his body was first buried in the MacGregor Cemetery near Saratoga, New York, before being reinterred at a proper National Monument in New York City.
Ulysses S. Grant
Some other US descendants of McGregors include: General Billy Mitchell; Major Gen John Bankhead Magruder; Lt Gen James Longstreet, CSA; Patrick Magruder, an early Librarian of Congress; Frank Abbott Magruder, author of many US Govt. textbooks; Asa Candler, founder of Coca Cola; and William Woodward, financier, and owner of the Bel Air Stables.