Clan Ross History

Origins of the Clan

 

Mac-an-t-sagairt’

Clan Ross is a Highland Scottish clan first named as such by King Malcolm IV of Scotland in 1160.

The first of the chiefs was Fearchar, Earl of Ross from the O’Beolain family, also known as ‘Fearchar Mac-an-t-sagairt’ (meaning “son of the priest”). Ferquhard helped King Alexander II of Scotland (1214-1249) crush a rebellion in Moray and Ross-shire. When King Alexander II ascended to the throne, a rebellion broke out in Moray and western Ross-shire, whose Celtic population were opposed to the laws and customs of the south. The King marched northwards with his army but was unable to crush the insurgents from Ross and Moray. However, Fearchar, Earl of Ross, with a large body of men from his own clan and his allies, appeared on the scene and soon wiped out all opposition to the King’s authority. Fearchar brought the King the heads of the rebel leaders and was knighted on 15 June 1215. The Chronicle of Melrose reported that : "Machentagar attacked them and mightily overthrew the king's enemies; and he cut off their heads and presented them as gifts to the new king ... And because of this, the lord king appointed him a new knight." He was created Earl of Ross in about 1234.

The traditional story is that goes back to the work of the great William F. Skene, and indeed, even before him, with William Reeves, whom Skene cited. The historian Alexander Grant has recently challenged this theory, arguing that the evidence for this origin is far too thin to contradict the intuitive and well attested idea that he came from Easter Ross. Grant takes up the idea instead that mac an t-Sacairt (= Son of the Priest') probably refers to a background as keeper of the shrine to St Duthac, at Tain, Scotland.

Uilleam I, Earl of Ross

William, Earl of Ross (Gaelic: Uilleam; d. 1274) was ruler of the province of Ross in northern Scotland.

William appears as early as 1232, witnessing a charter as the son of Ferquhard, Earl of Ross. He succeeded his father as Earl around 1251. He played a pioneering role in the Scottish reconquest of the Hebrides, which had been under Norwegian control. Indeed, in many ways, he may be regarded as the instigator of Scottish aggression. Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar tells us that in Norway:

"In the previous summer [i.e. that of 1262], letters came east from the Hebrides ... and they brought forward much about the dispeace that the Earl of Ross ... and other Scots, had made in the Hebrides, when they went out to Skye, and burned towns and churches, and slew very many men and women ... They said that the Scottish king intended to lay under himself all the Hebrides."

Uilleam's attacks on Norwegian possessions earned him the ire of King Haakon, who planned an expedition against him. However, William escaped this expedition. He was probably rewarded with Skye and Lewis after the Scottish reconquest of the Hebrides, a reward secured when the conquests were ratified by the Treaty of Perth in 1266.

William married Jean Comyn, daughter of William, Earl of Buchan. So far as is known he had only one son, also named William, who succeeded him as Earl. William died in May 1274 at "Earles Allane", likely the site of modern Allanfearn or Allangrange.

 

Uilleam II

Scottish-Norwegian War

 

Clan Ross fought at the Battle of Largs in 1263 in support of Alexander III of Scotland against King Haakon IV of Norway. The Norwegian forces were defeated by the victorious Scots.

 

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan Ross fought against the English at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) where their chief, the Earl of Ross was captured. This meant that for a short time Uilleam II, Earl of Ross sided with the English but he later supported Robert the Bruce of Scotland. The Clan Ross fought alongside King Robert the Bruce when Earl Fearchar’s grandson William led the clan against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Aodh, the 5th earl, was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, and his successor William died without male issue. The earldom of Ross and the chiefship of Clan Ross were then separated:

 

 

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Tain & District Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of objects, photographs and archives of local, regional and national significance. Because of the relatively limited exhibition space, only a small proportion of the collection is on display at any one time. Our website allows us to make more of the Collection accessible to all.

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