The names of the families that have long been associated with, and supported, the Clan Macpherson are shown below. If you find yours (or that of one of your ancestors) among them, we invite you to join us in continuing that support and enjoying the privileges and fellowship that clanship provides. The procedures for joining vary slightly for each of the Branches. Click on the flag of your nation to find out what is needed for you to become a member.
Please note that we use the term "Cousins" or "Associated Families" and not Sept. The word "sept" was borrowed from the Irish culture in the nineteenth century in a mistaken attempt to explain the different surnames that can be found in a clan. The word "sept" is almost synonymous with the word "clan". A Scot would speak of Cluny and his Clan, while an Irishman would speak of O'Neill and his Sept.
Perhaps the only true use of "sept" in Scotland would be found in Clan Donald, where there are sub-clans. "Macdonald of Glencoe", for example, could be called a sept of Clan Donald. Still all the other surnames in Clan Donald are just that, families of the clan. As the Macphersons have no sub-clans there are no septs in theclan, only families with different surnames from that of the core family.
The Chief of Clan Macpherson, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, approved the following names as surnames and families associated with the Clan.
Those names with links are to a place within this page with something about the name. Take heed: many links go to the same place, as the root for many names is the same. Other details will be added from time to time; keep watching.
Before the time of the Websters, with their dictionary in America, and Samuel Johnson in the United Kingdom, there was not a standardized or correct spelling. Individuals when writing would use phonics (what they heard) to spell, and as a result names took on many variations. Letters exist from the 18th century where a name is written three different ways in the same letter by the same individual.
The following, written by Dr. Philip Smith, illustrates the way in which a name could and did change:
"The name MacBurrich is a variation of the Gaelic name MacMhurrich /mahk v'ur-Ik/ through the linguistic process of assimilation. The base name is Murrich ("Murdoch"). Prefixing the word mac for "son of " requires that the initial consonant of Murrich be lenited or aspirated, a common feature of the Celtic languages. Linguistically this means changing initial stop consonants --in the case /m/-- in to the fricative equivalent, /v/. The spelling convention in Gaelic is to show this process by adding -h. Thus Murrich, /mu'r-Ik/ "Murdoch", becomes MacMhurrich /mahk v'ur-Ik/ Son of Murdoch. The additional step, caused by the voicing of the /u/, is the assimilation of the voicing by /v/ converting it to /b/. The result is Mac Burrich, the equivalent of Mac Vurrich."
Some names have been reduced in some families to Mc or M' as a prefix, and in America there are variations in spelling caused by any number of reasons.
All who have, or are descended from, one or a variation of, the names above, are invited to call or write for information concerning the Clan Association and becoming a member.
The name is an occupational name and when translated from the Scots Gaelic means an armorer or smith. The name, therefore, is found all over Scotland. While the connection of a name and its association with a given clan in Scotland may be lost forever, here the connection is because of a single event in the clan's history, myth and culture.
The association of the name with Clan Macpherson happens by reason of the story of Henry Wynd, who was familiarly styled as "Gow Crom", meaning "crooked smith", a physical description which was the norm in those days, and today is often referred to as a "Tea Name" i.e the name by which many would be known, their actual name being unknown. It was he who, by tradition, took part in the now rather famous or infamous Battle of the North Inch in Perth. Story below and recorded by Wyntoun, Bower, Shaw and other early writers of Scottish History.
The traditional story in shortened form is as follows: the clan battle that took place at the North Inch of Perth in the Spey valley downstream from the Macphersons' homelands. The Battle being arranged, according to Wyntoun, by the Earl of Mor and Lindsay of Glennesk (afterward the Earl of Crawfurd) to settle a dispute between the Macphersons and Davidsons of Clan Chattan. At that battle supposedly 30 men from each side were to fight to the death. The feud between the two clans had kept the highlands running red in blood, making the Hatfields and McCoys look like a Sunday School Picnic.
The entire Highlands were in an uproar and the King had asked the Earls of Lindsay and Crawfurd and others to end the feud. The Blood battle was the answer they thought, and the last fought in Scotland. Whoever had men left alive on the field at the end would be the winner and the feud would be over. When they came on the field the Macphersons were one man short and as the other side would not remove one of their men, the Chief of the Macphersons offered a shilling to anyone who would fight on their side. A blacksmith known as "Gow Crom" offered to take to the field and the battle was on. The smith killed his man and stepped to the sidelines to watch. The Chief asked, it is said, why he was standing there, and when he replied that he had killed his man, the chief said the more killed the higher would be his pay, or something to that effect. Gow went back into the battle and, at the end of the fray, he and ten other Macphersons were standing.
The Macphersons were so happy with what he had done that they brought him back home with them and set him up in a shop, where he became the local blacksmith. The English translation of Gow is Smith, and so the name became attached as an associated family of the clan. As mentioned above, there are no Septs in Clan Macpherson or, in fact, in any of the Clans except perhaps Clan Donald.
Smith, as a name, is the Anglicised form of Gow or Gowan, meaning an armourer or smith. The name in the Highlands has always been associated with Clan Macpherson and in the lowlands with the Glasgow District. We in Clan Macpherson welcome all of that name as members of the Clan, regardless of where they came from.
The name Cluny is actually found as early as the 13th century in Perthshire. MacCluny, McCluny, or M'Cluny simply mean the 'son of Cluny' and may have originated at any point up to the 18th century and perhaps later. Other forms of the name include Clunie, Clunie or Cluney. The name is taken from one of the places named or called Cluanadh. It is derived from the Gaelic word "cluanag" meaning an 'islet in a river, a piece of choice pasture or a meadow.' One such place was the estate from which Cluny of the '45 took his name, and which was know by that name in the late 16th century and perhaps for years before that. In 1591, on bond agreement between Clan Farson and the Earl of Huntly, we find Andrew Makfersone in Cluny. The "in cluny" would indicate that he was still considered a tenant and did not as yet have heritable rights to the land. It is not until 1609 that a bond of union among the Clan Chattan finds him in possession of the land, when he is found listed as Andrew Macpherson of Cluny.
The link, as such, to the Macpherson Clan can only be because of the estates of the clan and not from any connection to Cluny of the '45. When that link was started is anybody's guess, but one would have thought perhaps even earlier than the 1600s, and was most likely used by people on the fringes of the Clan Territory to show their loyalty to the Laird at "Cluny."
Today you would be welcomed into the Clan Family simply because of the connection of the name, and that is good enough. The odds of making a direct connection are perhaps a little better than astronomical in numbers. The 16th century is about as far as anyone can go in researching their ancestry in Scotland, other than with traditional genealogies, such as royal lines which cannot be proved and are often made up. It is the same with the Genealogies of the Chiefs of the Clans in Scotland. In our Macpherson Clan, the Chief's genealogy goes back to Gillichattan Mor, the progenitor of the clan. Those before the 17th century, and Andrew Makfersone, are actually a best guess and some suppositions, or at best "Traditional Genealogy."
The name is closely associated with the Clan Macpherson, as in Scots Gaelic the name of the clan is "Clann Mhuirich", which means the "Children of Murdoch". Mhuirich was, it is said, the name of the Parson of Kingussie, who is listed in the traditional genealogy of the clan as the son of Gillespeck mor and the progenitor of the family. His grandson was the first, by tradition, to have taken the name MacPherson, or the Son of the Parson. The name Murdoch(k) is not to be found in the parishes of the Clan at Laggan or Kingussie. Like many other associated families and cousins whose names are also not found there, it is found in the surrounding parishes down the Spey valley and over in the Lochaber and Loch Ness areas. While it cannot be proved, many no doubt took the name as a means of showing their loyalty to the Chief of Clan Mhuirich.
The name Murdock(h) is derived from two different Gaelic origins and merged into a common name. The first meaning of the name is from Middle Gaelic and has the meaning of "Belonging to the sea, a mariner". The second origin of the name is from Early Irish and has the meaning of "sea warrior". While the father of Colin Murdoch of Kingussie used to claim that the Murdocks of Clan Donald were just members of the family who went south on an outing and forgot to return, the truth, it would seem, is the other way round. Both sources are derived from an occupation dealing with the sea, and would lend support to the concept that the name and Clan Macpherson, along with the Clan Chattan federation, had their origins in the west of Scotland, perhaps in the Isles.
The name, throughout history, has been used as a popular forename in Scotland. Because of this it has been recorded with land holders in Yorkshire and Oxfordshire, where they may have been Gaels or Norsemen of Irish descent. A Murdac was Dean of Appleby, Westmoreland in 1175, and Walter Murdac was known during the reign of William the Lion. Murdoch, Duke of Albany, who was executed in 1429, is listed in English records as Mordac, Mordake, Mordik, Mordoc and Mordok, as well as several other variations. There was a John Murdoch who was a teacher of Burns, but it was William Murdoch (1754-1839), inventor of gas lighting, who was proclaimed a deity by Nassr-ed-din, Shah of Persia, who believed him to be a re-incarnation of Merodach or Marduk, God of Light.