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Clan Gregor Chiefs

By Peter Lawrie, ©2018


Unlike some accounts of the chiefs of Clan Gregor, I do not intend to go back to the dark-age King Giric, identified by Hector Boece as Gregory the Great, Nor do I give any credit to the Baronage claims of Gregor Aluin - Gregor of the Golden bridles - quoted in "The History of Clan Gregor". [1]

As Martin MacGregor explained, the most credible genealogy of the chiefs of Clan Gregor can be found in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. It is probable that the 'Alpin' who featured at the start of that genealogy was in fact an early 12th century eponym of a tribe centred around Loch Awe and not the 9th century King Alpin. For reasons which are not documented but are most likely connected with the Wars of Independence, that tribe fractured. [2]

We do know that the rise of Clan Campbell dated from the charters bestowed by King Robert I on the Campbell Lord of Innis Chonnall for his support, particularly against the Clann Dubhgall of Lorn, based at Dunstaffnage. Despite the nonsense in the Baronage account, which had "the 11th chief, Malcolm, Dominus de MacGregor" fighting on the side of Bruce, it seems likely that the lineage from which Clan Gregor arose had supported the regional power of Clann Dubhgall rather than Bruce and hence were punished by being made subordinate to the Campbell lords.

According to Martin, the ordinance of 1293 mentioned Terra Johannis de Glenurwy - the land of John of Glenorchy, who was presumably the last of the Clann Ailpein. On 5 April 1358 David II granted totam terram de Glenwrquhay to Mariota of Glen Orchy, daughter of umquhile Johannes of Glen Orchy, and spouse of Eoin Campbell, to be held with all the liberties her predecessors enjoyed. Therefore the lineage which became Clan Gregor were explicitly made vassals of the Campbells. [3]

The chiefs of Clan Gregor

The genealogy of Gregor to John dhu McAnecham VcGregor - Chiefs one to three

A clan genealogy has been constructed based on the obituaries in the Book of the Dean of Lismore for the earlier chiefs and also using the patronymics of various clansmen appearing in surviving charters and other documents. This genealogy is not definitive and is open to challenge, either on interpretation or from new documentation which has not, so far, been considered.

First. The earliest chiefs can be identified from the obits. The first chief was Griogair, son of Donnchadh Beag and father of Eoin cam. Since Eoin cam died in 1390 Griogair himself must have flourished in the first half of the fourteenth century.

Second.. Eoin cam. 'One Eyed' John. Obit: 1390 April 19. Death of John MacGregor of Glenurquhay.

Third. Eoin dubh. Obit: 1415. Death of John dhu McAnecham VcGregor at Stronmelochane;

The genealogy of Malcolm to John dhu Macgregor of Glenstray - Chiefs four to six

Fourth. Maol coluim. Obit: 1440. April 20. Death of Malcolm son of John dhu MacGregor, at Glenurquhay,

Fifth. Padraig. Obit: 1461. Death of Patrick MacGregor of Glenstray at Stronmelochane, (b.circa 1405, d 28th.April 1461). The son of Gille Coluim obtained a Papal dispensation to marry Mariota Campbell.

Sixth. Eoin dubh. Obit: 1519, May 24-26. Death of John dhu Macgregor of Glenstray,* son of Patrick, at Stronmelochane, he was buried in Dysart, north of the Great Altar, in a stone coffin, upon the 26th of May, on which day a great meteor was seen in Glenurquhay.

Maol coluim. Obit: 1498, June 22. Death of Malcolm Macgregor, the son and heir of John Macgregor of Glenstray, at Glenlyon. he was buried in Dysart, south of the Altar, in a stone coffin. As Malcolm pre-deceased his father who had no other heirs, there was a succession crisis.

First break in patrilinear succession.

The genealogy of The Glenstrae MacEwins , chiefs seven and eight

A charter of 16 October 1434 (AT) refers to Alasdair mac Eoin mhic Ghriogair w. resignation by Ẹghan mac Ẹghain MacCorquodale, lord of Phantelan, to his overlord Donnchadh Campbell of Loch Awe. This suggests that Alasdair, was the second son of Eoin dubh, the third chief.

Seventh. Eoin ~1455 to his Obit: 1528, April 12 Death of John .Macgregor McEwine, Captain of the Clan Gregor of Glenstray, who died of good memory, at Achallader in Glenurquhay, he was buried in Dysart, as others of his name used to be.

1527. August 14th at Edinburgh. Quo die Johannes, Comes Atholie plegins devenit ad intrandum Donaldem Campbell nominatum ad Abbacium de Cowper & &. ....., John Makewin Makalester Captain of the Clangregour, Duncan Bayne his cousin, Duncan Brek his cousin, Donald Patricksone, Duncan Donaldsone, Gregor Patricksone, Patrik Duncansoun in Dundwrne, James his brother,....... ad subcundum leges pro arte et parte convocationes ligeorum Domini Regis ad magnum numerum vemendi super, Patricium Charteris Prepositum de Perth die festi Corporis Christi ultimo elapso, ipsum invadendo et pergarte et parte mutilationis. Duncan Cameron et Patricii Rutherford Servitorum dicte Patricus. Record of Justiciary.

John Makewin Makalester Captain of Clangregour is the chief of clan Gregor, his actual name is John MacGregor VcAne VcEwin VcAllaster (d April 12th 1528). He was the father of Griogair (d July 1526) and Alasdair ruadh (d 1547). His father was Eoghan (Ewan) and grandfather Alasdair, presumed to be the second son of Eoin dubh, the third chief.

The genealogy of Alasdair ruadh, his sons and grandson - Chiefs eight to eleven

Eighth. Alasdair ruadh / Alastair roy ~1523 to 1547.

Ninth. Eoin ruadh / John roy ~1543 to 1550. son of Alasdair ruadh
John MacGregor of Glenstray, in which property he never was never infeoffed. He died of the hurt of an arrow, without issue, and was succeeded by his brother. (probably 1549 or 1550

Tenth. Griogair ruadh / Gregor roy ~1544 to 1570. Second son of Alasdair ruadh
BBT death: 1570-04-07 Gregor McGregor of Glenstra heddit at Balloch by Grey Colin

Eleventh. Alasdair ruadh / Alastair roy ~1567 to 1604.
1604. January 20 Five persons executed - 1. Allaster Roy MacGregour of Glenstray, Captain and Chief of the ClanGregor.

The descendants of Eoin dubh nan lurach, brother of the 11th chief - Chiefs twelve to fourteen

Twelth. Griogair / Gregor alias Murray b.~1599 died ~1639
eldest son of Eoin dubh {the brother of Alasdair ruadh who died at Glenfruin in february 1603),

Thirteenth. Padraig ruadh / Patrick roy alias Murray b.~1600 died ~1649
Second son of Eoin dubh (died at Glenfruin feb 1693), the brother of Alasdair ruadh

Fourteenth. James MacGregor of that ilk b.~1645 died 1679
son of Padraig ruadh, thirteenth chief

Second break in patrilinear succession.

The descendants of Ewen the tutor, Gregor and Archibald of Kilmanan - Chiefs fifteen and sixteen

Fifteenth. Gregor of Stukinroy b.~1660 d.1693, succeeded in 1679, buried at Inchcailleach
Gregor was a great grandson of Ewin the tutor (d.1589), the brother of Griogair ruadh, the tenth chief; and great great grandson of Alasdair ruadh the eighth chief.

Sixteenth. Archibald, 2nd of Kilmanan b.~before Jan 11 1659. mar. Anna Cochrane, May 1679
went to Ireland, ~1706 and had no more to do with the clan; he died. 24 Oct 1726 Archibald appears to have had a son, Hugh, and grandsons but they did not succeed as chiefs.
Archibald was another great grandson of Ewin the tutor, through Eoghan, 1st of Kilmanan who was listed in 1649, and still alive in 1662. Eoghan was a younger brother of Malcolm in Stukinroy, the father of Gregor the 15th chief.

Third break in patrilinear succession.

The Drummonds of Balhaldies - Chiefs seventeen to nineteen

Seventeenth. Alexander Drummond of Balhaldies b.~1663 and died.1749
He was elected 17th chief in 1714 by a number of gentlemen of the clan, in order to share in the Government bounty by the Hanoverian George I.
He married in 1686 Margaret dtr. of Ewen Cameron of Lochiel

The Duke of Atholl had attempted to introduce John Dow (b.1670 d.1737), a tenant of his in Glen Almond. John dow descended from Alasdair galt, third son of Alasdair ruadh the eighth chief. When John dow refused, the Duke was said to be incandescent with rage.

Eighteenth. William Drummond of Balhaldies, b.8/5/1688 died.1765, Jacobite plotter, "Mr Malloch" m. dtr of Oliphant of Gask

Nineteenth. Alexander Drummond of Balhaldies, b.7/10/1758 Capt. 65th Regt, died 1794 in West Indies

Fourth break in patrilinear succession.

Descendants of Iain oag beag in Glencarnoch

The descendants of Evan Murray, from Sir John Murray to Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor - Chiefs twenty to twenty six (or eighteen to twenty four)

Twentieth. John Murray, born 1736 and died 28/6/1822; became chief in 1787 after arranging for the collection of the signatures of 897 men claiming to be MacGregor. (most of them probably were, but there is evidence suggesting that a few were not). Subsequently in 1795 he obtained the hereditary peerage title from the crown of the first Baronet MacGregor of MacGregor.

John Murray claimed to be the 18th chief as he did not agree with the descent after the 14th chief, (second break above). John claimed descent from Duncan Ladasach, although the position of Ladasach, in relation to the rest of the clan at the time of his death in 1552 is not clear. John Murray's grandfather Iain oag beag who had died in 1744, in his view, should have succeeded James from 1679 as 15th chief; then as the 16th chief, Iain oag's eldest son, Robert who had died in 1758 leaving no male heirs; then as the 17th chief, Duncan the son of his brother (also Duncan) who died in February 1787, with only his daughter, Drummond Mary, still alive. Thus making John Murray the 18th chief, not the 20th.

Subsequent generations of descendants from John Murray have retained this numbering, hence, Sir Malcolm, the current chief uses the designation of 24th chief, not the 26th as in this list. Despite the above discussion, there is no dispute that the current chief. Sir Malcolm is the current hereditary chief of all MacGregors.

John Murray's reason for this was expressed in his contribution to Douglas's "Baronage of Scotland" . In fact, like much of the "Baronage" account ("a piece of sustained fiction, marred only by the occcasional intrusion of fact", according to Dr Martin MacGregor) this was based on misapprehension of the truth by John who had confused Patrick roy, the 13th chief who had died in 1649, with his contemporary Patrick abrach, the grandson of Donnchadh Ladasach and grandfather of Iain oag beag.. Both had used the alias Patrick Murray. Even Amelia acknowledges this mistake in History of The Clan Gregor which quoted extensively from the "Baronage".

Both Patricks had sons called James (although Patrick abrach's may not have actually existed, but assumed to match James, the actual 14th chief). Thereafter, the "Baronage" refers to the 15th chief as "Gregor the bastard" claiming his succession as illegitimate, and therefore, John Murray asserted, the true 15th chief should have been Iain oag beag, from the death of James in 1679 (as Iain was born around 1668, and assuming that his father John Murray in Mamlorn had been deceased by then).

John Murray incorrectly stated in the "Baronage" that Iain dubh nan lurach who died at Glenfruin had no children, in fact it was his brother, Alasdair the 11th chief, executed in 1604, who had been childless. As outlined above, the sons of Iain dubh succeeded Alasdair: Gregor as 12th and then Patrick roy as the 13th. Patrick roy died in 1648 and was then succeeded as 14th chief by his son James who died childless in 1679.

James was followed as the 15th chief by Gregor, the great-grandson of Eoghan the tutor, brother of Gregor roy, the 10th chief, executed in 1570. As Gregor, the 15th, was also childless, he was succeeded as 16th chief by his cousin Archibald of Kilmanan. Kilmanan eventually left Scotland and his children may have been unwilling to take on the mantle of chiefs of Clan Gregor.

Thus, in 1714, in order to obtain a share of payments (bribes) on offer to chiefs of Highland clans from the incoming regime of George I, Rob Roy and others elected Alexander Drummond of Balhaldies as the 17th chief, followed by his son and grandson as 18th and 19th. Balhaldies was convenient and willing at the time to be elected, but did not claim to have any right of patrilenear descent.

William of Balhaldies, the 19th chief, had been in the West Indies with the army, where he died in 1794. His son, William Oliphant MacGregor attempted an unsuccessful legal action in 1799 against Sir John's claim to be chief.

Twenty first. (19th) Sir Evan Murray MacGregor, b.1/1/1785 d.14/6/1841
Second Baronet

Twenty second. (20th) Sir John Athole Bannatyne b.20/1/1810 d.11/5/1851
Third Baronet

Twenty third. (21st) Sir Malcolm b.29/8/1834 d.31/8/1879
Fourth Baronet

Twenty fourth. (22nd) Captain, Sir Malcolm, RN b. 3/81873 d.5/12/1958
Fifth Baronet

Twenty fifth. (23rd) Brigadier, Sir Gregor b.15/12/1925 d.30/3/2003
Sixth Baronet

Twenty sixth. (24th) Sir Malcolm b.23/3/1959
Seventh Baronet

[1] A.G.M. MacGregor, History of Clan Gregor, vol i, 407, pages 5-6 and Appendix A
And on page 394 of volume ii:
A.- Introduction, page 2. Correspondence of Sir Robert Douglas, and John Murray, Esq., afterwards Sir John MacGregor Murray, 1st Baronet, 1769.

No. 1. Mr Murray's best compliments attend Sir Robert Douglas. He sends him inclosed three sheets of the scroll genealogical account of the family of MacGregor. Gathering the materials of it has cost him no small trouble for several years past, but he has the satisfaction to think his labours have not been entirely thrown away. Dr Gregory has seen and has been pleased to approve of it. As this Clan is upon a different footing from all others, and have for some ages past been the football of fortune, it became abso1utely necessary to enquire into and give a succinct account of the different causes of their misfortunes, in order to justify them, and render the remembrance of past actions less obnoxious than their enemies would chuse to paint them  This has been attempted as briefly as possible, and Sir Robert is left to judge how successfully. Meantime, as it is absolutely necessary to answer these purposes that the account be inserted fully with all the notes, Mr Murray begs Sir Robert may candidly say whether he will give it room as it stands, because if he does not, he insists that no part of it at all be mentioned, for to half do the affair would be in his opinion worse than silence. He knows the printing will be above the common run of the account of other families, and believes Sir Robert can have no other objection than that of the burden of these expenses. Let him however understand, that if he otherways seems satisfied to give it room, these will be made easy to him. What remains of it will be sent in a day or two.- Friday, 21st September 1769.

No.2. Sir Robert Douglas presents compliments to Mr Murray, thinks himself extremely obliged to him for the papers he has sent him, and so far as he has read of them, has not the smallest objection;  as soon as he has gone through the whole, will be glad to see Mr Murray. - Saturday, 22nd September 1769.

No.3. Sir Robert Douglas presents his compliments to Mr Murray, he has again carefully perused his account of the Clan MacGregor, and is so well satisfied with it, that he is determined to print the whole papers, without leaving out one word of it, and intends to send it to the Press to-morrow, he'll therefore please return the remainder of it without fail. -Wednesday, October 4th, 1769.

see R. Douglas, The Baronage of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1798), 493; (ed.), S. Lee, Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1909), xii, 869-72.

[2] MacGregor, Martin, 1989, unpublished thesis, page 18 at click here for link

[3] MacGregor M, op cit. page 19