Tartan Ribbon

MacGregor Tartan History

 

H I S T O R Y

As many customers do ask, here's a little "potted history" with apologies to better historians than me for the bits I've undoubtedly got wrong . . .  

Clan Gregor claims descent from Constantin, first son of Doungallas and his wife Spontana, a daughter of a High King of Ireland. Constantin was always a grandson of Giric, the third son of Alpin mac Echdach, the father of Kenneth MacAlpin, the first King of Scots. This slightly complicated-sounding lineage gives rise to the clan's claim of royal blood... the clan motto is "'S Rioghal Mo Dhream" ("My Race is Royal").

King Kenneth I (MacAlpin) united the kingdom of Scotland around AD843 by marrying a Pictish princess Royal and thus laying claim to both the Scottish and Pictish thrones. Kenneth I had a younger brother called Gregor, although there is no surviving documentary evidence to support this. There was definitely a Gregor who was named as a commander in the army of Kenneth MacAlpin - a role normally reserved for family. Kenneth I had a least one other known brother, Donald, who succeeded him as King of Scots. Unfortunately, most of the early public records of Scotland were destroyed by order of the English King Edward Plantagenet, during his occupation of Scotland at the end of the 13th century so although there is some evidence to support the idea of "Prince Gregor", it can't actually be proved.

The original home of the clan was Glenstrae, the glen of the three rivers Orchy, Strae and Lochy. Inter-clan feuding prevented the clan from gaining much new land and when Robert the Bruce granted the Barony of Loch Awe to the Campbells, the MacGregors had to retreat further into the hills of their ancestral lands.

During the Wars of Independence, Clan Gregor (MacGregor) supported Robert the Bruce and fought at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The MacGregors suffered a reversal of fortune when the King Robert I (Robert the Bruce) granted the barony of Loch Awe, which included much of the ancestral MacGregor lands, to the chief of Clan Campbell. The Campbells achieved this partly through a series of clever political marriages and wasted no time in ejecting the MacGregors, forcing them to retire deeper into their lands until they were largely restricted to Glenstrae.

The MacGregors fought the Campbells for decades and were eventually disposessed of all their lands. So bitter was this feuding that when John Drummond, the king’s forester, was murdered after hanging some MacGregors for poaching, the chief of the Clan Gregor, Alistair of Glen Strae was condemned by the Privy Council. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) actually declared the whole MacGregor clan "outlawed" and even the use of the clan name was proscribed under penalty of death(!).

Reduced to the status of outlaws, they rustled cattle and poached deer to survive. They became so proficient at these endeavours many other clans would pay them not to steal their cattle as they exhausted all other means of stopping them. In 1671 a certain Rob Roy MacGregor (he of the movie!) was born, and arguably became the most famous MacGregor. In reality, a rather unromantic robber and sheep-stealer, he nevertheless rallied to the Jacobite cause in 1715 and fought at the battle of Sherrifmuir. He also (it is said) led the clan as part of an alliance between Jacobite and Spanish troops against the British government forces at the Battle of Glenshiel in 1719. This was the last close engagement of British and foreign troops on mainland British soil and although sometimes considered an extension of the 1715 rising, it is more correctly a separate rebellion. The MacGregors also supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 Jacobite uprising and fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

It wasn't until 1774 that the laws proscribing the clan name MacGregor were repealed but by this time the remaining clans-folk were scattered. This scattering and the fact that they were not allowed to use their own clan name caused the clan to be known as "the children of the mist". With MacGregors assuming other names and suffering the fate of many highland families in the Highland Clearances, they have re-settled all over the world... and how many countless thousands of re-named MacGregors worldwide don't even know they are really MacGregors?

The MacGregor tartan was first published in the Vestiarum Scoticum (a self-styled "authority" on tartan) in in 1842. General John MacGregor-Murray of Lanmrick was declared clan chief in 1774, when the name MacGregor was once again made legitimate, and in 1795 was named Sir John Murray MacGregor. It is believed that the chief adopted the tartan at the time of the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822, by then the tartan had been in production by Wilsons of Bannockburn, with the name of MacGregor-Murray. It is the MacGregor-Murray line of the clan which exists today.

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