The Clan Macpherson were known as the guardians of the heart of the Scottish Highlands. They controlled and protected the routes trodden by soldiers, pilgrims and drovers through the wilds of Badenoch, the Cairngorms and Speyside.
In Scottish Gaelic the name Macpherson is Mac a' phersein which means ‘son of the parson’ - the ancient Celtic church allowed priests to marry.
Legend says that in 843, the first chief of Clan Macpherson was forced to settle in Lochaber by Kenneth MacAlpin, first king of Scots. The Macphersons later migrated east to lands in Badenoch where, through fierce battles, they defeated the then residents Clan Comyn who had plagued travellers on this vital route to the North. This resulted in the clan chief being entitled to use "The bloody dagger held in a fist couped at the wrist" within his Coat of Arms as designated by Robert the Bruce.
This ancestral home on the upper waters of the mighty river Spey is a rugged land with rocks, mountains and water forming a natural barrier to travellers.
The clan’s loyalty to royalty was exemplified by its active participation in the wars of the First Marquis of Montrose, when they played an important part in the year of miracles in the middle of the 17th century.
This loyalty to the crown continued during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6 when they proved devoted supporters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Under the leadership of Ewan Macpherson, the 18th Chief, they provided a regiment of 350 men who joined the Prince’s army for his advance through England with the objective of London. During the retreat from Derby the Macphersons distinguished themselves in the skirmish at Clifton when they charged and routed the Hanoverian Dragoons who were too close on their heels. In January 1746 they played an important part in the victory in Falkirk.
Thereafter the Macphersons formed a rear guard for the Jacobite army being the last Clan to leave Derby. They also joined with the Athol Regiment under Lord George Murray to wipe out a dozen militia posts in Athol and Rannoch before they invested Castle Blair and held the Pass of Killiecrankie for some two weeks before making a marathon night march from Badenoch but arrived too late to take part in the Battle of Culloden . The Macphersons however stepped in to form a rearguard saving complete slaughter of the retreating fugitives of the battle and were instrumental in rescuing the Prince's personal equipage. Ewan Macpherson further proved himself a true friend of the Prince when he gave him refuge in Cluny’s Cage, a hide out on the lonely shores of Loch Ericht before his final escape to France. Ewan remained in hiding for nine years before escaping to France, where he died in poverty in 1764.
During the spread of the British Empire across the seas, the Macphersons were to the fore, providing more than their fair share of explorers, soldiers and administrators in North America, India and Australia, many of whose descendants still live overseas.
On the entrance wall of the Clan Macpherson Museum in Newtonmore a plaque reads:- ‘Here are Housed Relics and Memorials of Rich Historical Interest; not only to Scottish Clansmen but to all of Whatever Race they may be who are attracted by the Story of High Resolve, Patriotism and Loyalty’.
Macpherson is a clan to be feared in war but one which welcomes visitors to its lands.
On the first Saturday of August the Macpherson Clan make an impressive kilted march to the Newtonmore Highland Games. The Gathering extends over the whole week-end with a variety of events including a Formal Ball, a ceilidh evening, a picnic at our cairn, a church service in Kingussie, guided walks and much more with great conviviality.
Clan sights to visit
Clan Macpherson Museum
This fascinating museum in Newtonmore in the heart of Cairngorms National Park tells the story of Clan Macpherson through the ages. Hear about the famous men and women of the Clan who have changed the face of the world: in science, the military, the arts and sport, as well as their role in the Jacobite uprisings. The Museum has many exhibits associated with the Clan, including the famous Black Chanter which reputedly fell from the skies during the battle of North Inch in Perth in 1396.
The Clan Macpherson Cairn
Situated in the Glentruim Estate on the road from the Invernahavon Caravan Site (PH20 1BE) to General Wades Military Road (A889) beside Cat Lodge. A Cairn built of stones from all over the world where Clan Macpherson Association Members have settled. (Picture attached)
Highland Folk Museum
The Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore offers you a truly fascinating day out - it’s Britain’s first open air museum and presents a vivid picture of how Highland people lived and worked from the 1700s up until the 1960s. You’ll get a real feel for the ways of your Macpherson ancestors.
On a prominent site close to the A9 is Ruthven Barracks, built by the Hanoverian government after the Jacobite Rising of 1715. After Culloden, the remnants of the Jacobite army gathered here and set fire to the buildings before dispersing for the last time. (Picture attached)
Highland Wildlife Park
The wildcat is said to be our fiercest native animal, perhaps explaining why the animal appears in the Coat of Arms Crest of the Chief of the Clan. Sadly there is now only a few animals surviving. Appropriately, the Clan Macpherson Association sponsors the family of wildcat in the Highland Wildlife Park, near to Kingussie.
Clan legend says that Ewen Macpherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan Macpherson, hid from the Government army for nine years after Culloden in a cleverly constructed hideout on Ben Alder this structure was known as Cluny’s Cage differentiating it from several caves which he was also credited to have visited. No one knows for sure where the hide-out was, but Ben Alder can be seen looking down Loch Ericht from Dalwhinnie. Cluny's Cage is also where he gave shelter to Bonnie Prince Charlie before he returned to France.
The current clan chief is Sir William Alan Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie. His home in Blairgowrie, is a private residence and not open to the public but this lovely Perthshire town is well worth exploring.