The world would be a much lesser place without the tremendous fighting spirit of the Scottish Highland clans.
From the desolate, sea-swept Hebridean Islands and the croft-scattered western coast, this surname has emerged as belonging to one of the great families whose tradition is romanticized by the skirl of the bagpipes, the brandished sword, the colourful kilt and the highland games.
Historical researchers, using some of the oldest manuscripts, including Clan genealogies, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, the Ragman Rolls, the Inquisition, the Black Book of the Exchequer, parish cartularies, baptismal records, tax records and many other manuscripts, found the name MacGregor in Argyllshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.
Spelling variations of the name MacGregor caused much confusion in research. These changes occurred for a variety of reasons. From time to time the surname was spelled MacGregor, MacGrigor, MacGrioghair (Gaelic), and these changes in spelling occurred, sometimes even between father and son. It was not uncommon for a clansman to be born with one spelling, marry with another, and yet another to appear on his headstone. Sometimes a different spelling indicated a religious or Clan loyalty to a branch or chieftain.
The Dalriadan race of the Hebrides was anciently descended from the early Irish Kings, specifically King Colla da Crioch, who was banished from Ireland in 327 A.D., along with 350 clan chiefs. Even now, there are Scottish highland clans who still call themselves the "Children of Colla". Dalriadan King Fergus Mor MacEarca defeated the Picts, their neighbours to the east, in 498 A.D. Kenneth MacAlpine, first King of Scotland, or Alba, or Caledonia, as it was known, was half Dalriadan, half Pict.
The Highland Clans were a different breed. In early history many battles were fought with the Scottish King in Edinburgh. Bonnie Prince Charlie finally rallied their support for his claim to the throne which culminated at Culloden in 1745.
The surname MacGregor emerged as a Scottish Clan or family in their territory of Argyll where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. They were directly descended from King Alpin, High King of Scotland who died in 860. The MacGregors have always held their superior claim to the throne of Scotland. They were the principal branch of the Siol Alpine, an ancient Clan group descended from King Alpin. For their assistance to King Alexander the MacGregors held vast territories in Argyll and Perthshire. However, their neighbours, the Campbells were jealous of their status and over the next three or four centuries they proceeded to erode the territories and image of the MacGregors. They were first known as "Children of the Mist" and were finally outlawed in 1603 after their great battle with the Clan Colquhoun. Rob Roy MacGregor was the Clan hero. Another chieftain migrated to America where he was scalped by Indians. They were finally forgiven by Queen Victoria in 1888. The pine is the Clan's plant badge, their war cry is "Ard-choille" and the pipe music is Ruaig Ghlinne Freoine (Chase of Glen Fruin). One of the tartans is made of of red, black and yellow setts. Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Rob Roy MacGregor.
For the next two or three centuries the surname MacGregor played an important role in the highlands and in the affairs of Scotland. However, typical of the ancient conflict between highlander and Edinburgh, many ancient highland clans have still not officially been recognized as clans by the Lord Lyon of Scotland.
Many clansmen of Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. 16 families settled in Derry.
However, to many, life in Ireland became a disillusionment. Conditions were little better than in their homeland. Poverty prevailed, and the religious conflicts remained, except that now they were in a strange land and without the support and kinship of the Clan. The New World beckoned to the adventurous.
Clansmen sailed aboard the small sailing ships known as the "White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic, ships such as the Hector, the Rambler and the Dove, indenturing themselves for as long as ten years to pay their passage. These ships were originally designed for 100 passengers, but frequently sailed with 400 to 500 people on board. Many ships arrived with only 60 to 70% of their overcrowded passenger list alive, the rest dying at sea.
In North America, the Highlanders settled Virginia, the Carolinas, Pictou, Nova Scotia and the Ottawa Valley. Some of the first migrants which could be considered a kinsman of the name MacGregor, or of that same Clan or family, were Duncan McGregor settled in South Carolina in 1716, along with Mall; Gregor McGregor settled in Virginia along with John in 1716; John McGregor settled in Boston in 1766; Duncan, John, Joseph, Peter, Robert and William McGregor all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860; Greggie and Jane Macgregor settled in Georgia in 1737.
The American War of Independence found many who were loyal to their new cause, while others remaining loyal to the Crown trekked north to Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
Many prominent people enjoy the distinction of this name and they include: Kelvin McGregor, American Lawyer; Sir George McGregor, New Zealand Judge; Malcolm McGregor, Canadian Professor of the Classics; Air Marshall Andrew McGregor; Sir Colin MacGregor, Chief Justice in Jamaica; Duncan MacGregor, Dentist; Edward MacGregor, British Diplomat; Hon. Sir George MacGregor, Judge.
The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:
Silver with an oak tree surmounted by a sword on its tip a red crown.
The Crest was:
A black lion's head with an antique crown.
The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was:
"S rioghal Mo Dhream" (Royal is my race).