The Buchanan name has been grounded in the lands surrounding the shores of Loch Lomond since 1225, when a grant by the Earls of Lennox to Sir Absalon of Buchanan, referred to in contemporaneous sources as ‘clericus meus’ i.e. he was a clergyman.
A 19th century depiction of a Buchanan clansman by R.R. McIan
The derivation of the name in Gaelic lends validity to such a claim: ‘Buth chanain’ is Gaelic for the ‘House of the Canon’, an indication that the first Buchanan’s may have been a family that was dedicated to the service of the ancient Celtic church, or may have had a pre-charter, hereditary clerical tenure. Furthermore, the clan can trace its origins back to Anselan O Kyan, son of a King of Ulster who landed in Argyll circa 1016. For his services against the Danes he received the lands of Buchanan, lying to the east of Loch Lomond.
Equally, it has been argued that the benefactor was Gilbert, seneschal to the Earl of Lennox, and that the lands were in Stirlingshire. 1282 was when these lands were confirmed with baronial rights through a charter to Morris of Buchanan, who also held a small island called Clarinch, that subsequently became the clan battle cry.
The Buchanans supported the Bruce in the war of independence, thus assuring the predominance of the family in the post-Banockburn era. The Buchanan shield is virtually indistinguishable from the Royal Arms of Scotland, with a significant difference. The Buchanan version of the arms changes the lion and the double treasure of fleur de lis from red to black, thought to be an allusion to the marriage of Sir Walter Buchanan to the only daughter of Murdoch, Duke of Albany and Regent of Scotland.
The regent was to be beheaded by his cousin, James I in 1425, his lands confiscated and the line of the Regent’s family terminated when his son died heirless. It is reputed that the colouring of the Buchanan arms also reflects a mourning for loss of status as nearest relatives to this branch of the disinherited family.
Other descendants of this chiefly family were the Buchanan’s of Arnprior who held lands in Kippen, Perthshire, where they were known as ‘Kings of Kippen’. This popular nickname relates to a Walter Scott story in which James V arrived at Arnprior, unrecognised due to his penchant for travelling his lands in disguise. He was met with a degree of hospitality that was hardly sufficient given his status – the Laird was eating, and could not be disturbed, he was told.
The disguised James V asked the Laird’s doorman to tell the ‘King of Kippen’ that:
“the Goodman of Ballengreich is come to feast”.
Buchanan knew that these words signalled he was in the presence of true royalty, and begged forgiveness.
In August 2018 John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan was made Chief of the Name and Arms of Buchanan. He is the first Chief of the Clan in 337 years. His full title is John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan of that Ilk and Arnprior Chief of the Name and Arms of Buchanan.