The current chief of Clan Gregor is Sir Malcolm Gregor Charles MacGregor of MacGregor, 7th BT, of Lanrick and Balquhidder, 24th Chief of Clan Gregor. His Gaelic designation is An t-Ailpeanach, a name which bears testimony to the clan's traditional descent from Siol Ailpein.
"MacGregors have long been associated with Loch Earn and Balquhidder, a heartland that is as naturally beautiful today as described throughout history. We are proud to maintain links with the area, gathering at the annual Balquhidder, Strathyre and Lochearnhead Highland Games in July. National and international MacGregors - and septs of MacGregor - arrive on the games field in Lochearnhead sporting the tartan of their clan as part of the march of the local clans. Many of us can be found hosting The Clan Gregor hospitality tent. Lochearnhead hosts a small, traditional and very well run Highland Games event. We are made to feel most welcome by those who live in the community."
Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor
The Clan Gregor originally held lands in Glen Orchy, Glen Lochy and Glen Strae. At the time of the Wars of Independence, the dominant lineage in the area around Loch Awe was the Clann Ailpein. Iain, the chief, died probably supporting Wallace. His daughter Mariota was married to a minor laird in the area named Colin Campbell. The Clann Ailpein appear to have supported the MacDougalls of Lorne who in turn were, through marriage, connected to the Comyn family and were supporters of John Balliol. Colin Campbell took the side of Bruce and at the end of the Wars of Independence, with Robert Bruce on the throne, the MacDougalls had been dispossessed and the once dominant lineage found themselves vassals of Colin Campbell. This was explicitly stated in a mid 14th> century charter from King David II.
In the early 14th century, the chief of the clan and ‘name-father’ was Gregor, of the golden bridles. Gregor was the younger brother of Iain of Clann Ailpein, but on his brother’s death was passed over in favour of the husband of his niece, Mariota. Gregor’s son was Iain Camm One eye, who succeeded as the second chief sometime before 1390. The grandson of Gregor of the golden bridles was the first to use the name in written records of Mac Griogar or MacGregor.
According to the Book of the Dean of Lismore, (the Dean, himself, was a MacGregor, residing at Fortingall) the MacGregors descend from the ancient Royal line of Dalriada, through the Abbots of Glendochart. This is alluded to in the clan's motto: "Royal is my race". There is a tradition that Gregor was the son of the 9th century King Kenneth MacAlpin but there is no documentary evidence to support this. It may be that early historians confused the 13h century Clann Ailpein with the family of the 9th century king. However, modern DNA evidence does appear to support this hypothesis. The Clan Gregor Society currently sponsors one of the largest family DNA projects which has shown that around half of those tested share the DNA of the chiefly line and are sufficiently close to other West Highland families to share a common ancestor during the 6th or 7th centuries.
The barony of Loch Awe which included much of the MacGregor lands was granted to Colin Campbell, the chief of Clan Campbell by King Robert I. The Campbells built Kilchurn Castle, at the head of Loch Awe, which controlled the gateway to the western Highlands. Despite the later tradition of continual conflict with the Campbells, modern scholarship has shown that until 1550, Clan Campbell and their vassals, Clan Gregor, expanded together, taking advantage of the power vacuum following the overthrow and execution of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany in 1424. By 1550, large areas of eastern Argyll and Western Perthshire were in the hands of the Campbells of Glenorchy and the MacGregors of Glenstrae. Indeed, until the 1580s, the Macgregors of Brackley continued to be hereditary keepers of Kilchurn Castle for the Campbells of Glenorchy.
16th century and clan conflicts
Iain of Glenstrae died in 1519 with no direct heirs. The succession of a cousin, also Iain, was supported by the Campbells. He married a daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy. In 1547 Iain's son, Alasdair, fought against the English at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh but died shortly after.
Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, known as Grey Colin, refused to recognise the claim of Alasdair’s son, Gregor Roy MacGregor, to his lands of Glenstrae and for ten years Gregor waged a war against the Campbells. He and the clan were outlawed. However in 1569 he was captured and executed by Colin Campbell at Kenmore in 1570. The chiefship was claimed by his son, Alasdair, but he was unable to stem the Campbell's persecution of the MacGregors who became known as the Children of the Mist.
17th century, clan conflicts and civil war
King James VI attempted to impose order and good governance on the Highlands in the 1580s and 1590s. His solution was the General Band, whereby all men should be in the allegiance of a Lord who would be responsible for his followers. Most of these Lords had extensive charter lands and resources to fulfil their responsibilities under the General Band. As a result of earlier conflict, Alasdair had no charter lands and no Lord would guarantee the behaviour of the wilder members of the Clan who had no choice but to maintain themselves by raiding. By the 1590s Alasdair found himself in the hands of Archibald, Earl of Argyll, hereditary Justice General for Scotland. The Earl told the King that he would ensure the good behaviour of the Clan Gregor, but in fact put pressure on Alasdair to create disorder to the Earl’s benefit. The Earl had a feud with the Earl of Lennox whose lands he coveted, so members of Clan Gregor led, by Alasdair’s brother Iain, were encouraged to raid the lands of Colquhoun of Luss in 1602.
In February 1603, Alasdair MacGregor marched into the territory of Colquhoun of Luss with a force of over two hundred men. The purpose was actually conciliation at the behest of the Earl of Argyll. Alasdair and the Luss were to meet at the head of Glen Fruin to settle their dispute and agree compensation, with no more than 100 men each. Sticking to the letter of their agreement, but suspecting Luss might not, Alasdair left the bulk of his men, with his brother on the boundary of the Luss lands at Allt a’ Cleidh, four miles from the place of meeting.
Colquhoun had assembled a force of five hundred foot and three hundred horse. Leaving most in hiding along the expected route of the MacGregors, the two men met at the head of Gen Fruin with their agreed escorts, but failed to reach agreement. Alasdair MacGregor left the meeting site, and avoided the intended ambush. Retreating quickly to Allt a’ Cleidh, the Clan Gregor in turn ambushed the Colquhouns, killing and injuring a number of them. They in turn retreated, pursued by the Macgregors. Colquhoun made a stand at the head of Glen Fruin near the meeting site, but driven into the Moss of Auchingaich, the cavalry was useless and it is said, perhaps with some exaggeration, that over two hundred Colquhouns were killed, and just two Macgregors, of whom one was the chief’s brother Iain.
Colquhoun petitioned the King who issued an edict in April 1603 that proclaimed the name of MacGregor as altogidder abolished. This meant that anyone who bore the name must renounce it or suffer death. In 1604 MacGregor and eleven of his chieftains were hanged in Edinburgh. As a result the Clan Gregor was scattered with many taking other names such as Murray or Grant. They were hunted like animals and flushed out of the heather by bloodhounds.
An Edinburgh burgess, Robert Birrel, who kept a diary of events at the time, described the episode thus,
[MacGregor] wes convoyit to Berwick be the Gaird to conforme to the Earl's promese: for he promesit to put him out of Scottis grund. Swa [so] he keipit ane Hieland-manis promes; in respect he sent the Gaird to convoy him out of Scottis grund: But thai were not directit to pairt with him, but to fetche him bak agane! The 18 Januar, at evine [evening], he come agane to Edinburghe; and upone the 20-day he wes hangit at the Croce, and xj [eleven] of his freindis and name, upon ane gallous: Himself being Chieff, he wes hangit his awin hicht aboune the rest of hes freindis."
An Act of the Scottish Parliament from 1617 stated (translated into modern English):
It was ordained that the name of MacGregor should be abolished and that the whole persons of that name should renounce their name and take some other name and that they nor none of their name and that they nor none of their posterity should call themselves Gregor or MacGregor under pain of death .... that any person or persons of the said clan who has already renounced their names or hereafter shall renounce their names or if any of their children or posterity shall at any time hereafter assume or take to themselves the name of Gregor or MacGregor .... that every such person or persons assuming or taking to themselves the said name .... shall incurr the pain of death which pain shall be executed upon them without favour.
Despite the savage treatment of the MacGregors they actually fought for the king during the Scottish Civil War, Two hundred men of the Clan Gregor fought for the Earl of Glencairn, against the Commonwealth. In recognition of this Charles II repealed the proscription of the name but William of Orange reimposed it when Charles's brother James VII was deposed.
18th century and Jacobite risings
Rob Roy MacGregor was born in 1671, a younger son of MacGregor of Glengyle. However he had been forced to assume his mother's surname of Campbell. The adventures of Rob Roy MacGregor have been immortalised and romanticised by Sir Walter Scott. Rob Roy supported the Jacobite cause in 1715 and led the clan at the Battle of Sheriffmuir He also led a small party of the Clan Gregor at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719. He died in 1734 and is buried in Balquhidder churchyard.
During the 1745 to 1746 uprising some of the Clan Gregor under the Duke of Perth fought as Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. A contingent of the Clan under MacGregor of Glencarnaig went with the army to Derby, While MacGregor of Glengyle garrisoned Doune Castle. The Clan Gregor were amongst the Jacobite force sent into Sutherland, but when recalled on 15th April, were too late to take part in the Battle of Culloden.
Persecution of the MacGregors did not end until 1774 when the laws against them were repealed.
19th century and restored clan
To restore pride in the clan the chiefs needed to be re-established. Eight hundred and twenty six MacGregors subscribed to a petition declaring General John Murray of Lanrick to be the true chief. Murray was in fact a MacGregor who was descended from Duncan MacGregor of Ardchoille who had died in 1552. His son was Sir Evan who played a part in the visit of George IV to Scotland in 1822, where he and his clansmen guarded the honours of Scotland.