Clan MacPherson History

Of ecclesiastic origin, this is a name derived from the gaelic Macaphersein, meaning “Son of the Parson”. The clan itself is reputed to have been founded by Murdo Cattenach, a priest of Kingussie in Badenoch.

19th century depiction of Clan MacPherson by R.R. McIan

19th century depiction of Clan MacPherson by R.R. McIan

The MacPhersons formed part of the great Clan Chattan, and frequently disputed the leadership of this federation with the MacKintosh family. They finally did acknowledge the MacKintosh claim to “Captain of Clan Chattan”, but showed them little loyalty in the ensuing years.

Tradition states that Robert the Bruce promised to grant the lands of Badenoch to the chief of the MacPhersons, on condition that he destroy the Bruce’s bitter enemies, the Comyns. This murderous deed was carried out by the chief, Ewan Ban MacMhuirich, and his three sons. In recognition of this event, the clan MacPherson is often referred to as “the Clan of the three brothers”.

There are many branches of the MacPherson family but the Cluny family emerged as the most important, with Euan MacPherson of Cluny becoming a famous Highland leader in the ’45 rebellion. Renowned as one the most spectacular fighters in the Scottish forces, he was forced to live in hiding for nine years, after his property had been burnt to the ground. Despite a reward of £1.00,000 on his head, he was supported by his loyal clansmen, eventually escaping to France in 1755.

Euan’s son, Duncan MacPherson of Cluny, fought for the government during the American Wars of Independence, before returning to claim the forfeited MacPherson estates in 1784. The clan seat today is a fine castle at Blairgowrie.

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