Clan Gregor is the clan of the legendary 18th century outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. The clan was also one of the first Scottish families to begin playing the bagpipes, in the 17th century
At one time, it was entirely legal to kill a MacGregor and seize his property. This remarkable law was made by King James VI after the women of clan Colquhoun complained to him that the MacGregors had slaughtered 200 of their clansmen at the battle of Glen Fruin, proffering the bloody shirts of their menfolk as proof. The king, in his last act before leaving for England to become James I of Great Britain James, then proscribed the name MacGregor. Any member of the clan thereafter had to renounce his name or face death. As a result, nearly 100 males of the name were slain during the next 10 years (and these are the ones we know about) in a concerted effort to purge the MacGregors out of existence. Women and children could be branded and those who survived were forced to adopt different surnames. The clan lands were seized and given to the Campbells, who virtually eradicated clan Gregor.
After a brief respite in 1660-93 the name MacGregor was again proscribed as a result of the clan having supported the Stuart pretensions to the British throne. The right to bear the name was only reinstated in 1774. It is not surprising then that there are many people with different surnames which were adopted at the time of prescription whose ancestors never took the name back - some of these, like Stirling, Drummond, Bain have been identified from the Clan Gregor Society's DNA project. The DNA project has also identified different lines of MacGregors, much smaller in size, from Ireland, Rosshire and Perthshire. There are in addition many aliases or septs associated with the clan - such as Grier, Grierson, Peterson etc and many of these surnames were adopted when the name MacGregor was banned.
Tradition says that the progenitor of the Clan Gregor was King Kenneth MacAlpin, the 9th century first King of Scots. MacAlpin is an almost mythical figure, making this part of the Gregor clan history difficult to prove. The first historical chief we are sure of was Gregor of the Golden Bridles, who died around 1390 in Glenorchy and was buried in Dalmally Church. His son, Iain Camm (Iain of the One Eye) MacGregor, succeeded his father and all MacGregors supposedly descend from him. However, the Clan Gregor Society's DNA project suggests that only about 53% of those who bear the name do and the remaining 47% do not, so must have adopted the name for other reasons (both before and after the events described above).
The most famous member of clan Gregor was, of course, Rob Roy MacGregor. He was an 18th century soldier and cattleman, who was branded an outlaw when he defaulted on a debt. Thereafter he waged his own private blood feud with the Duke of Montrose and and later became a folk hero, thanks in part to the book written about him by Sir Walter Scott.
You can join in with the Clan Gregor Gathering which takes place around the annual members’ meeting in July. Every 4-5 years, the clan holds an immersive 10-day Gathering.
Fascinating Gregor places to visit
Kilchurn Castle is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. This spectacular ruin boasts a majestic setting on the shores of beautiful Loch Awe. Kilchurn is a Campbell castle, built by Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, but prior to the Campbell’s taking over the land in this area, this was the heart of MacGregor territory.
If you’re researching your family history, Edinburgh will be a very worthwhile stop. The Scottish Genealogy Society library in Victoria Terrace has a wealth of genealogical information and guidance. Nearby is Edinburgh Castle, where you’ll see how the monarch who persecuted the MacGregors, King James VI, lived. As you walk down the Royal Mile from the castle to Holyrood Palace, watch out for the Mercat Cross, by St Giles Cathedral. Here, in 1604, clan chief Alasdair MacGregor and 11 of his chieftains were hanged by order of the king.
This beautiful area of lochs, woods and mountains was home to the famous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. You’ll find it’s a romantic and atmospheric place to visit, and you’re sure to come away inspired with a passion for the past.
The northern shore of this beautiful loch in the heart of the Trossachs was Rob Roy’s birthplace and a small island in the centre of it is known as Rob Roy island. Set sail on the loch on the steamship SS Sir Walter Scott to really appreciate the beauty of the loch and the surrounding countryside.
Visit Rob Roy’s grave with its stirring epitaph ‘MacGregor Despite Them’.