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Issue 27 - A bloody clan co-operative (Clan Chattan)

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Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006


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A bloody clan co-operative (Clan Chattan)

Clan Chattan is a coalition of small clans from the Highlands. James Irvine Robertson

Clan Chattan (pronounced ‘Hattan’) – the Clan of the Cats – is unique. It is not just one clan, but a coalition of more than a dozen occupying the central Highlands and who acknowledged the chief of the Mackintoshes as their Captain.

But it was only a matter of time before the Macphersons challenged for the leadership.

Had the federation been united, it could have rivaled Clan Donald and the Campbells in power. Amongst others, the alliance consisted of the Mackintoshes, Macphersons, Macgillivrays, Shaws, Farquharsons, Macbeans, Macphails, Clarks, Nobles, Macqueens, Davidsons, Cattanachs and Gillespies.

Victorian historians appropriated as many Septs and dependent families as they could to their parent Clans, but the 1,256 different surnames claimed by one authority for Clan Chattan must surely be the record. Many of these families were linked by blood as supposed descendants of Gillichattan Mor – the great servant of St.

Catan – of the ancient Culdee Church.

In 1947, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the ultimate authority on such matters, separated the leadership of Clan Chattan from that of the Mackintoshes, recognising Duncan Alexander Mackintosh of Torcastle as 31st chief of Clan Chattan through the female line. John Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh is, therefore, the 31st chief of the Mackintoshes. His family has been resident at Moy Hall, south of Inverness, for the past six centuries.

However, the name Mackintosh means ‘Son of the Toschach’ or leader, and the original toschach in this case seems to have been the Earl of Fife, Shaw McDuff, who was rewarded by Malcolm IV in 1163 with lands near Inverness for his help incrushing a local rebellion.

Alittle more than a century later, the 6th chief, Angus, married Eva, the heiress of Clan Chattan, inheriting her lands and the leadership of her clan. Having already clashed with the Comyns, Angus was a staunch supporter of their rival for the throne, Robert the Bruce, and the clan fought by his side at Bannockburn.

But at the same time, the Camerons disputed ownership of the Clan Chattan lands inherited by Angus, and this resulted in a feud, which lasted for three centuries with frequent and bloody clashes between the two sides.

In fact, more than most clans, the history of the Mackintoshes is a tale of intense violence and bloodshed as they struggled to survive and control their territory.

In 1429, the Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross brought an army into Lochaber. The Mackintoshes were his vassals, but switched sides to join the royal army and were rewarded with more land. When the Lordship was finally brought to an end by James IV in 1475, the clan’s expansion was curbed by the rise of the family of Gordon, earls of Huntly, who were the northern enforcer for the later Stuart kings and became the feudal superiors of the Mackintoshes.

In 1550, the 15th chief was the third in succession to die violently when he was condemned for conspiring against Huntly. The Earl swore his life would be spared, so he left it to his Countess to dispose of the chief in the kitchens of Castle Huntly. Nevertheless, the clan remained one of the most powerful and unruly forces in the Highlands, estimated by General Wade in 1724 as being able to field 800 warriors.

In the autumn of 1665, the feud with the Camerons was brought to an end by an arrangement in which Lochiel agreed to pay 72,500 merks for possession of the disputed lands of Glenluy and Locharkaig. Still later, in 1688, the old trouble with the Macdonalds of Keppoch, who had persisted in occupying Mackintosh’s lands in Glen Roy and Glen Spean without paying rent, was brought to a head in the last clan battle fought in Scotland.

This was the encounter at Mulroy, in which the Mackintoshes were defeated, and the chief himself taken prisoner. Then the Macphersons arrived on the field. They were rivals to the Mackintoshes as leaders of Clan Chattan, but emnity was put aside as they forced the Keppochs to release their captive or else face a further battle.

The modern image of Highland clans is often heavily influenced by their actions in the Stuart Risings. In 1688, the Mackintoshes supported the new Protestant regime when James VII and II fled the throne of Great Britain.

But, in the Rising of 1715, Lachlan, 20th Chief, was captured at Preston as part of the army commanded by Brigadier Mackintosh of Borlum.

He received a pardon.

Aeneas Mackintosh, 22nd chief, had just raised a company for the Black Watch when Prince Charles arrived in Scotland in 1745, and he kept to his oath of allegiance to the State, despite his wife being the 22-year-old daughter of the fiercely Jacobite Farquharson of Invercauld.

Not until January 1746, against her husband’s wishes and when most knew that the Prince’s cause was hopeless, did she raise the clan to fight at the Battle of Falkirk, earning herself the sobriquet of Colonel Anne.

The Prince stayed at Moy Hall on his retreat north. The Government army got news of this and Lord Loudon set off with 1,500 men to capture him. However, Colonel Anne did not bother to rouse the Prince, but ordered the local smith and four companions into the path of the soldiers, telling them to shout out as though the entire rebel army was waiting. Loudon was so alarmed that he retreated some 70 miles to Sutherland rather than risk an engagement.

At the Battle of Culloden, the Mackintoshes and their Clan Chattan allies charged into the enemy lines and suffered massive casualties. Colonel Anne was captured and Moy Hall ransacked.

The lady herself was escorted to Inverness where, after a short imprisonment, she was put into the care of her mother-in-law. A few years later, at a ball in London she danced with the Duke of Cumberland.

The bed in which Prince Charles slept is still at Moy Hall, as is the great broadsword used by the medieval chiefs. In addition to being chiefs in Scotland, the Mackintoshes have been chiefs of the Creek Nation in America now for more than two centuries.

BADGE: Lus nam braoileag (vaccineum vitis idaea) Red whortleberry.

SLOGAN: Loch Moidh!

PIBROCH: Cu’a’ Mhic an Tosaich

MOTTO: Touch not the cat bot (without) a glove