September 13-19, 2019 – Scotland
Written by Diana
My maternal great-grandmother was born a McGregor. That meant little to me, until I started researching my genealogy a year ago. Her father, William McGregor, was born in Scotland and immigrated with his parents to New York, NY in 1829 at 3 years old. Later they immigrated to Canada, and eventually William immigrated to the U.S. with his wife. I have been able to trace this family line back to my 5th great-grand father who was born in Scotland about 1745. The reason I am not able to go beyond this may be that the MacGregor name was banned for almost 200 years! Yes, you heard right, outlawed.
Clan Gregor is one of the oldest clans in Scotland. They are descended from Kenneth MacAlpin, the king who united Scotland back in the 13th century. Thus their motto was: Royal is my race. The MacGregors lost much of their land through the years for various reasons. Eventually they were set up to lose a battle with another clan, but won even though they were very outnumbered. This upset folks as they said they didn’t fight fair, so they became victims of proscription. From 1603-1775 MacGregors could not use the MacGregor name, were legally hunted down, tortured and/or beheaded. They could not own land, weapons, or even a knife. They were referred to as “Children of the Mist” because they escaped to the highlands to avoid capture. Many changed their names. As you can imagine, learning this story was very upsetting to me.
The good news is that after the punishment of proscription was lifted in 1775, many families went back to using their MacGregor name and have been successful both in Scotland as well as numerous countries around the world. So the Clan MacGregor motto is now, “MacGregor despite them, shall flourish forever!” We visited several sites while exploring Scotland that relate to my proud MacGregor heritage.
September 13, 2019
While enjoying the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, we made it a point to find the Heart of Midlothian Mosaic. This is the site of the former jail where the MacGregor chief was quartered then hung, and 30 warriors were hung in the spring of 1604. This was all done as the public gathered to view the spectacle. Scots spit on it. As we were approaching a tour guide was explaining the tradition to his group. I spit on it with gusto and he commented, “And there you have it.” I felt it was the least I could do to express my disgust at the treatment my ancestors received.
September 14, 2019
We visited Castle Menzies because they have been gracious enough to provide a room for the Clan Gregor Museum. It was wonderful to see the displays and to learn more about the history of the clan. I really appreciated the staff answering my many questions and helping me to understand more about my family tree. My 5th great-grandfather was married to Janet Fleming. She said that the name Fleming was used for Flemish weavers that were brought to the area to weave the sheep wool.
I was very excited, as you can see! So much planning, and we were finally here.
After leaving the castle we headed to the Pitlochry Highland Games. This has been an annual event since 1852. It was great fun! Many events were taking place at the same time; including races, bag pipes, Scottish dancers, and other traditional Highland games. There were all levels of participants, from local school children to professionals. They even had a tent for international visitors were they treated us to a plate of goodies and a glass of wine. I enjoyed wearing my new hat and scarf, made with MacGregor tartan. Below a contestant is competing in the hammer throw.
September 19, 2019
We visited the Glenorchy Parish Church where there are historic MacGregor graves from 600 years ago. These stones of the leaders of Clan Gregor were once inside the church, but were long ago placed out in the weather. The Dalmally Stones Project is an effort to protect and restore these stones, but unfortunately it may soon be too late.
The Kilchurn Castle is castle ruins in MacGregor territory. MacGregors were caretakers here, and possibly built the castle. It later was given to another clan. We really enjoyed exploring the many levels of the castle and enjoying the view out to Loch Awe.
We made a somber visit to the Glen Fruin Memorial, site of the battle that led to the proscription of the MacGregor Clan. It serves as a modern memorial whose wording was agreed to by the families of both of the clans involved. Both sides suffered in this glen on Feb. 7, 1603.
Thank you to my third cousin Robert Fay, who I’ve gotten to know through ancestry.com, for providing this photo of our 2nd great grandfather William McGregor.
Note for my Halstead side: My father’s mother was Ethel Glass. Her mother was Ellen Swift, and her mother was Sarah Athere Narrin. The Narrin’s seem to go back to Scotland, but I haven’t nailed down the details yet. The original Glass family name also goes back to Scotland, but I haven’t been able to trace my Glass roots across the pond. I have Glass ancestors being born in the U.S. in 1755.
Next up, we continue our tour of the Scottish Highlands and its beautiful scenery. Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!