Colquhoun Clan

Crest Badge: A hart's head, couped, gules, attired, argent. Motto: Si je puis (If I can). Gaelic Name: Mac a' Chombaich. Origin of Name: Place-name, Dunbartonshire. Plant Badge: Hazel. War Cry: Cnoc Ealachain. Pipe Music: The Colquhoun's March. This clan takes its name from the lands of Colquhoun in the county of Dunbarton. These lands were grated to Humphrey Kirkpatrick ( of Annandale) by Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, in the time of Alexander II. Sir Robert Kirkpatrick, of Colquhoun, married the daughter of the laird of Luss, and since then the chief has been described as of Colquhoun and Luss. About 1602 a desperate battle was fought between the Colquhouns and the MacGregors. After a conference between the two clans the Colquhouns hoped to trap the MacGregors in Glenfruin, but their intention was anticipated by Alastair MacGregor of Glenstrae, and after a bloody conflict the Colquhouns were signally defeated and their chief killed. In revenge they made a dramatic representation to the King and Clan Gregor [Rob Roy] was proscribed and their name forbidden under pain of death. Sir John Colquhoun (c. 1621-1676), known as the "Black Cock of the West," was a man of ability and learning who took a prominent part in public affairs and was a member of the first parliament after the Restoration. Sir Humphrey, 18th chief, surrendered his baronetcy for a new grant to himself and his daughter and his son-in-law James Grant, of Pluscarden, with a condition preventing the clan name and estates passing to the Grants of Grant. Owing to this provision two Grants in succession had to resign the estates which then passed to a younger son of James Grant from whom the present Luss family are descended.

Colquhoun vs. MacGregor A Look at the Famous Feud and the Role of the Kirkpatricks? by Ann A. Kirkpatrick Hull

In 1995 Holywood produced two movies which introduced many people to Scotland's history and heritage. "Braveheart" portrayed the life of Sir William Wallace, and "Rob Roy" chronicled the life of Rob Roy MacGregor whose entire family was outlawed following a clash with the Colquhoun clan. Sir William Wallace, the hero portrayed in "Brave Heart," was a cousin of Roger Kirkpatrick. (Wallace's mother was Kirkpatrick's aunt.) Historical Records also suggest that the Kirkpatricks may have played a role in the famous Colquhoun - MacGregor feud which set the stage for the movie "Rob Roy." While the classification is subject to dispute, several sources list the Kirkpatrick family as a "sept clan" of Clan Colquhoun. For this reason it is especially interesting to study the event and examine the role, if any, that the Kirkpatricks played. In order to understand the famous incident, however, it is logical to first investigate the two clans, their histories, and the events leading to the clash.

Clan Groggor

Clan Gregor's motto is "S'rioghal mo dhream," meaning "Royal is my blood" and it is said that the Gregor who began the line was either a brother or a son of Kenneth Mac Alpin, first king of Scotland. While most of their lands are now considered "Campbell Country," the MacGregors' ancestral territories were the three glens of the rivers Locky, Strae, and Orchy.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of "The Temple And The Lodge," suggest that the Knights Templer, a secret order of soldiers, established to protect pilgrims in the Holy Lands during the Crusades, may have fled to this same area in Scotland after the fall of the last Crusader outpost in 1291. Despite their service to monarch and pope, the Templars were a powerful force, feared by both church and state. In 1307, France's Kin, Philip the Fair, invited the Grand Master of the Templar to participate in a ceremony at court. However, upon his arrival, the Grand Master became one of many unsuspecting Templars who were carried off to the royal dungeons. While being tortured, Templars admitted to having urinated on crucifixes, they denied the existence of God, and they claimed to worship both a mysterious cat and an idol named Baphomet. When the Pope tried to intervene on their behalf, Philip responded by burning 54 of them alive. It is said that Grand Master Jacques de Molay, standing on the stake, waiting to be burned, summoned the king and Pope to appear with him at God's tribunals. Within a year both the king and pope were dead, and within a generation Philip's three sons, "the cursed kings," all died without heirs, thus ending the royal line of Capet. Baigent and Leigh purpose that some of the Templars who are known to have escaped, fled to Scotland where they disguised themselves as natives and hid in an area near Argyle. The authors further suggest that the Templar fought under the guise and colors of Clan Campbell at Bannockburn, greatly aiding the Scots' victory. If this theory is correct, it would explain Clan Campbell's sudden growth in number and strength, as well as their need, or expectation, of property in reward for their service.

Clan Colquhoun

Clan Colquhoun genealogists claim that their line began when Conoch came to Scotland from Ireland during the rule of Gregory the Great, during 875-891, and that they obtained their lands from that monarch. It is said that the name Conoch evolved to Conochon, and later Colquhoun. The Colquhoun family name, however, comes from the lands bearing the same name west of Loch Lomond. During the reign of Alexander II, King of Scotland from 1214 - 1249, Humphrey Kilpatrick, whom some genealogists claim was the younger brother of the Kirkpatrick Lord of Closeburn, was granted these lands by Malcom, the Earl of Lennox.

The trouble begins

Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor, writing in 1898 in the "History of the Clan Gregor," states that MacGregor of Ardinconnell, one of the oldest offshoots of the clan, was the branch most involved in the disputes with Colquhoun of Luss. The earliest record of any dispute is a Deed of Resignation dated February 7th, 1429, transferring Gleane Mackerne (Glen Mackurn) to John Colquhoun of Luss. Documents signed throughout the 1400s and 1500s indicate that the Colquhouns, like the Campbells, wanted the MacGregors' lands and were successful in their efforts.

Clan Gregor, however, managed to remain one of the most powerful highland clans until 1519, when the expansion of the Campbells created a problem of a different typs. When a young MacGregor boy "ravaged" a Campbell heiress the girl's family used the incident to their advantage. The boy was forced to marry the Campbell heiress and became the chief of the MacGregors. However, his actions were under the full control of the Campbells, who used the puppet-chief to take over more MacGregor lands. Meanwhile, the true chiefly heirs continued their struggles as guerrilla fighters in the mountains of Argyle and Perthshire, where they became known as the "Children of the Mist." With their lands now in the hands of the Campbells, the MacGregors had no other option than stealing cattle or poaching.

According to the "History of The Clan Gregor," serious trouble began in 1527, when Patrick MacGregor of Laggarie, "despoiled the father of the then Laird of Luss of a considerable number of oxen and cows." To obtain redress for the theft of his father's property, John Colquhoun summoned MacGregor on December 27, 1540 to appear before the Lords of the Privy Council who commanded MacGregor to restore to Colquhouns "eight oxen, twelve milk cows, or the price of them with profits of them since the year 1527." MacGregor, however, did not comply, and on May 30, 1541, was prohibited from selling any "heritable properties" until the bill was paid. Unable to sell anything of value, this prohibition would have caused an impasse. How could MacGregor pay his bill if he could not engage in commerce?!

Glen Fruin

In 1602 the MacGregors attacked the Colquhouns in Glen Luss, killing two clansmen, injuring others, and stealing livestock. Rather than respond with violence, the Colquhouns traveled to King James VI seeking redress. Instead of merely presenting a petition, the Colquhouns staged a visual production. About fifty women, each displaying men's torn and bloodied clothing on poles, rode white ponies through the narrow streets that led to the castle. While the effect was compelling, most historians agree that pigs' blood and old garments were used to amplify the effect. The stunt, however, served its purpose and the king responded by granting the Colquhouns permission to pursue the MacGregors with "fire and sword." Gle Fruin The MacGregors were not show to react. According to one account, Alexander of Glenstrae, the MacGregor chief, went to Luss in 1602 to negotiate on behalf of his clan. The meeting went smoothly and Glenstrae and his men returned home towards Rannach. The Colquhoun chief, however, did not trust the MacGregors and quickly gathered a group of his own followers, which included the Buchanans and the Graemes, and totaled about 500 horsemen and another 300 on foot. The group pursued the MacGregors, who traveled hom by way of Glen Fruin. There being no road, the MacGregors were traveling through the floor of the valley when the Colquhoun forces attacked without provocation.

The MacGregors, however, were reputed to possess "the sight," and are said to have been able to foretell the future. Whether "the sight" played a role in the events that afternoon is anyone's guess. However, Alastair MacGregor most certainly had a premonition of impending trouble and, prior to the attack, divided his men into two groups. The party traveling through the valley floor was not alone. Concealed along the ridge above, the second group watched the mayhem below. While Alastair maintained combat with his own group on the valley floor, his brother's men made the circuit of the hill and attacked the unsuspecting assailants from the rear. It is said that no fewer than 200 Colquhouns were slain. But although many of the MacGregors were wounded, the only persons killed were the brother of the chief and one other. The MacGregors, however, were far from being "the winners." When the king learned of the massacre he ordered the entire MacGregor clan outlawed.

What role did the Kirkpatricks play ??

What were the Kirkpatricks doing during this era? Did the Kirkpatricks take part in the Colquhoun - MacGregor feud?

The late 1500s and early 1600s were difficult times for the Borders of Scotland and political concerns alone must have kept the Kirkpatricks, and the people in the southwest region, very busy. Disputes regarding stolen cattle no doubt presented little concern when compared to a possible invasion by the English.

November 24, 1542 brought the Battle of Solway Moss and 1547 saw the occupation and destruction of the Borders by the English. Meanwhile, religious conflict threatened to divide the Scots. Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, Lord of Closeburn, was one of many leaders taken prisoner st Solway Moss whose name appears on the list of those forced to make pledges to keep the peace, according to Lodge in his "Illustrations of British History." From this account, it appears that a cousin paid a ransom of 100 pounds for the release of Sir Thomas. The same source indicates that Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn has an army of 403 men, which was substantially larger than any other participant. The second largest company was that of the Kirkpatrick Lord of Kirkmichael, whose number totalled a little over 200.

The Kirkpatricks were affected by religious turmoil as well as battle and politics. In 1560 the Lords of the Secret Council asked for "sharp punishment of William Kirkpatrick of Kirkmichael for maintaining idols." However, I can find no evidence of a trial or punishment.

If religious disputes and English invaders were not sufficient to occupy the Kirkpatricks' concerns, conflict over the rule of Mary Queen of Scots, created new troubles. On May 8, 1568, the barons of Closeburn and Kirkmichael, both Kirkpatrick, where among those who obliged themselves to defend Queen Mary. The loch surrounding Closeburn Castle, which was drained in the 1700s, protected the structure for hundreds of years. But, in 1570, it could not prevent the assault of 4000 well equipped soldiers under the control of the Earl of Sussex. I am presently unable to locate any information concerning the castle's condition after this attack, but one must assume the English would not have left it suitable for occupation by the enemy. December 6, 1593 brought the Battle of Dryffe Sands, near Lockerby, where the Lords of Closeburn, Lag, and Drumlanrig barely escaped, crediting their good luck to their fleet and agile horses. According to documents passed through my family, "Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick belonged to the Privy Chamber of James VI" the same year. According to Rymer in Volume 16, King James granted to Sir Thomas a patent of free denizen within the kingdom of England in 1603, and in 1618 Sir Thomas was appointed Commissioner and charged with the task of repressing the rapines on the Borders. Documents show that the House of Kirkpatrick was indeed busy during the late 1500s and early 1600s. However, I have been unable to locate any evidence demonstrating Kirkpatrick involvement with the Colquhouns during this era.

The Grierson/Kirkpatrick connection

But, did the Kirkpatricks' association with the Grierson family have any relationship to the Colquhoun - MacGregor feud?

Beginning with the 1400s the Kirkpatrick family was bound to the Grierson family through several marriages. A charter by Isabel de Kirkpatrick, Lady of Roukel, spouse of Gilbery Grerson, and mother of Vedast and Gilbert Grerson, is dated December 20, 1444. From this time onwards, an abundance of other records show inter-family cooperation. While today the names "MacGregor" and "Grerson" may appear distinctively different, is should be noted that, in early Scottish history, the name MacGregor, meaning "Gregor's son," was spelled a variety of ways. Greir, Greierson, Grerson, Grierson, Greig, were several of the common ancient spellings of MacGregor. Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor, writing in 1898, disputes any relationship between the Greirsons of Lag, a well known branch of the Kirkpatrick family, and Clan Gregor. Ms. MacGregor further mentions that the Griersons of Lag are not eligible for membership in Clan Gregor. I am currently seeking an explanation concerning this matter from the current chief or historian of Clan Gregor in the hopes that some light will be shed on the matter. I find it "curious," however, that Ms. MacGregor mentions the Greirsons of Lag as ineligible for membership in Clan Gregor, then, immediately follows this statement writing that MacGregor of Ardinconnell, "one of the oldest offshoots of the Clan," was the party "most involved" in the disputes with Colquhoun of Luss. This causes me to question if perhaps the Greirsons of Lag, relatives of the Kirkpatricks, perhaps did side with the Colquhouns? If so, such a stance would have certainly provoked banishment from Clan Gregor. However, it is not more likely that the Kirkpatricks, being kin to the Griersons, whose name at the time was an accepted variation of Gregor, would have sided with the MacGregors, rather than with the Colquhouns, which whom no inter-family marriages or other legal transactions have been found during this period?

Whay became of the Colquhouns

John, son of Alexander, a participant on the feud, was created baronet of Nova Scotia by King Charles in 1625. Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, the fiercely independent eighteenth chief, sat in parliament in 1707, and is famous for voting against every single clause in the United Kingdom's Act of Union.

What happened to the MacGreggors ??

What happened when the entire MacGregor clan was outlawed? For starters, the family was no longer allowed to use their surname. Any document including the name MacGregor was made void. This included marriage certificates, birth certificates, deeds, and wills, just to name a few. Nameless, the family took on various other surnames including Grieg, Grier, Grierson, Gregory, Carse, Cass, and most commonly Murray. A few, such as the famous "Rob Roy," whose mother was a Campbell of Glenlyon, signed legal documents as "Rob Roy Campbell." Nigel Tranter, in his historical novel "Children of the Mist," published in London by Coronet Books in 1992, writes that rewards were paid for MacGregor heads as long as thirty years following the incident at Glen Fruin. It was not until nearly two hundred years later, in 1774, that John Murray MacGregor had proclaimed chief by the Lyon Court. Sir John Murray MacGregor, however, was not the only MacGregor to make a name for himself. Sir Samuel Carlevitch Greig, bitn in Fife, became known as the "Father of the Russian Navy" during the time of Catherine the Great. For a brief time, Grieg, actually had another Scot under his command, Admiral John Paul Jones, who is himself known as the "Father of the American Navy." General Gregor MacGregor, Simon Bolivar's right-hand-man, is famous for assisting South America's liberation from Spain. General Sir Colin Campbell, born into the MacGregor clan as Colin McLiver, is famous for commanding "The Thin Red Line" in the Crimea and "The Relief of Lucknow" in the Indian Mutiny. One last MacGregor is worthy of mentioning for yet another skill. In 1799 a MacGregor arrived in Mexico City, married a local girl, and produced 22 sons by her. He is considered the forefather of a clan of well over a thousand members!


Historical documents dated during the age of Colquhoun and MacGregor feud, show ample Kirkpatrick involvement in Border politics and warfare. However, I have uncovered no documents showing any interaction of any kind between the Kirkpatricks and the Colquhouns, to whom some claim the Kirkpatricks are bound as a sept. Considering the Kirkpatrick's close relationship, beginning in the 1400s, through marriage and family with the Griersons, is it not logical to assume that, had the Kirkpatricks been involved in the feud, it would most likely have been on the side of the Griersons, whose name is a variation of MacGregor? Reprinted with permission from the "Kirkpatrick Historical", Volume 1, Issue 2, page 10-13.