Clan Cameron History

Described as ‘fiercer than fierceness itself’, the Clan Cameron is said to be one of the most ancient of Scottish clans. One theory for their inception is that they are descended from a son of the Danish King Camchron.

A 19th century depiction of a Cameron clansman by R.R. McIan

A 19th century depiction of a Cameron clansman by R.R. McIan

There were numerous names circulating in the 13th century which would appear to be the progenitors of the name Cameron, all evolving from the Gaelic terms for a crooked hill and a crooked nose. The more probable theory is that their first known chief, Donald Dubh, who may have been the 11th by 1411, was a descendant of either the MacGillonies or the family Cambrun of Ballegarno in mediaeval Fife.

He married an heiress of the MacMartins of Letterfinlay and his respected leadership and strengths enabled him to bring together the confederation of tribes which would, by the end of that century, be known as the Clan Cameron, and Lochaber their territory.

In 1528 King James V granted a charter whereby the ‘Captain of Clan Cameron’ had his lands erected into the barony of Lochiel. It is from this point that we had a Captain of Cameron of Lochiel.

Achnacarry Castle was built as the home of the Camerons of Lochiel by Sir Ewen, 17th of Lochiel. It was Sir Ewen who was such a thorn in Cromwell’s side, continually waging war against his troops. Finally, on Sir Ewen’s word to live peaceably, the Camerons were allowed to retain their arms.

Remembered as “The Gentle Lochiel”, Donald, 19th of Lochiel, displayed such bravery during “the ‘45” that he is regarded as the noblest of the Highland Chiefs. He is said to have saved Glasgow from being ravaged by the occupying Jacobite army of 1745. His descendants, however, had none of his honour and they treated their clansmen inhumanely during the Highland clearances.


Families were evicted and their lands auctioned off to raise money for the complete rebuilding of Achnacarry Castle. In 1803, as the evictions began, Allan Cameron wrote: ‘Lochiel’s lands are in the papers to be let at Whitsuntide first, nothing but spurring and hauling, and, I am afraid, the tenantry have no chance… the grand castle at Achnacarry is going on with great speed.’

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