Clan Robertson

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Clan Donnachaidh
Clann Donnchaidh[1]
Crest: Dexter hand holding up an imperial crown Proper
MottoVirtutis gloria merces (Glory is the reward of valour)[2]
War cryGarg 'nuair dhùisgear (Fierce when roused)
DistrictStruan, Perthshire[2]
Plant badgebracken[2]
Pipe musicTeachd Chlann Dhonnchaidh (Coming of the Duncans)[3] or Teachd Chlann Donnachaidh (The Clan Donnachie has arrived).[2]
Gilbert Robertson of Struan[2]
The 23rd Chief of Clan Donnachaidh (Mac Dhonnchaidh[1])
Historic seatDunalastair Castle[4]
Septs of Clan Donnachaidh
Collier,[5] Colyear,[5] Conlow
Connachie,[5] Dobbie
Dobieson,[5] Dobie [5] Dobinson,[5]Dobson
Donachie,[5] Donica, Donnachie,[5]Duncan,[5] Duncanson,[5] Dunkeson,[6] Dunnachie,[5] Inches,[5] MacConachie,[5] MacConlogue, MacConnichie,[5] MacDonachie,[5] MacInroy,[5] MacIver,[5] MacIvor,[5] MacLagan,[5] MacLaggan,[5] MacRob,[5] MacRobb,[5] MacRobbie,[5] MacRobert,[5] MacRobie,[5] MacWilliam, McConnachie, [McRobie,[5] Robb,[5] Robbie, Roberts, Roberson,[5] Robison, Robinson, [5] Robson,[5] Roy,[5] Stark,[5] Tannoch (Tanner, Tonner),[5] Tannochy,[5] Hart,
Note that several of the above are merely anglicised variants of the Scottish Gaelic MacDhonnchaidh or literal translations into English of the same (Duncan, Duncanson, etc).
Clan branches
Robertson of Struan (chiefs)[7]
Robertson of Lude (principal cadets).[8]
Robertson of Auchleeks.[7]
Robertson of Faskally.[7]
Robertson of Inches.[7]
Robertson of Kindeace.[7]
Robertson of Kinlochmouidart.[7]
Allied clans
Rival clans

Clan Robertson, is correctly known as Clan Donnachaidh (Scottish Gaelic: Clann Donnchaidh)[1] ([ˈkʰl̪ˠãũn̪ˠ ˈt̪ɔn̪ˠɔxɪ]) is a Scottish clan. The principal surnames of the clan are Robertson, Reid and Duncan but there are also many other septs.



There are two main theories as to the origins of the Clan:

  1. That the founder of the clan, Donn(a)chadh (Duncan) was the second son of Angus MacDonald, Lord of the Isles.[9]
  2. That the Robertsons are lineal descendants of the Celtic Earls of Atholl, whose progenitor was King Duncan I (Donnchadh in Scottish Gaelic).[10] The Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia supports this theory.[8]

Wars of Scottish Independence[edit]

The clan's first recognised chief, Donnchaidh Reamhar, "Stout Duncan", son of Andrew de Atholia (Latin "Andrew of Atholl"), was a minor land-owner and leader of a kin-group around Dunkeld,[11] Highland Perthshire, and as legend has it, an enthusiastic and faithful supporter of Robert I (king 1306–29 aka Robert the Bruce) during the Wars of Scottish Independence; he is believed to have looked after King Robert after the Battle of Methven in 1306.[citation needed] The clan asserts that Stout Duncan's relatives and followers (not yet known as Robertsons) supported Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.[8][12] His descendants became known (in English or Scots) as the Duncansons, or Gaelic Clann Dhònnchaidh, "Children of Duncan".[7] Duncan is believed to have been killed at the Battle of Neville's Cross and was succeeded by Robert, from whom the Clan Robertson takes its name.[8] Robert's brother, Patrick, was the ancestor of the Robertsons of Lude who were the principal cadet branch.[8]

"Robertson". Romanticised Victorian depiction of a member of the clan in a late 17th-century dress by R. R. McIan, from The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, published in 1845.

14th- and 15th-century clan conflicts[edit]

In 1394 a clan battle took place between Clann Dhònnchaidh, Clan Lindsay and involving Clan Ogilvy, who were the hereditary sheriffs of Angus, during a cattle raid on Angus. Sir Walter Ogilvy was slain at this battle. Clandonoquhy had rather a reputation as raiders and feuders in late medieval Scotland, though the chiefs seem always to have been loyal to the Bruce and Stewart royal dynasties.[7]

Robert Riabhach ("Grizzled") Duncanson, 4th Chief of Clann Dhònnchaidh, was a strong supporter of King James I (1406–1437) and was incensed by his murder at the Blackfriars Dominican Friary in Perth. He tracked down and captured two of the regicides, Sir Robert Graham and the King's uncle Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl, as they hid above Invervack in Atholl, and turned them over to the Crown. They were tortured to death in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh on the orders of the Regent, James I's widow, Joan Beaufort (d. 1445). The Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia states that they were put to death with considerable savagery.[8] The Robertson crest badge of a right hand upholding an imperial crown was awarded by James II (1437–60) to the 4th chief on 15 August 1451 as a reward for capturing his father's assassins. The highly unusual third supporter (below the shield) on the Robertson coat of arms, of a "savage man in chains" is in reference to the capture of Graham. It is in honour of Robert Riabhach that his descendants took the name Robertson. James II also erected the clan lands into the Barony of Struan, which formerly took in extensive lands in Highland Perthshire, notably in Glen Errochty, the north and south banks of Loch Tay and the area surrounding Loch Rannoch. None of these lands are any longer in the possession of the clan.[8][7]

Robert Riabhach or Riach died in 1460 from wounds received in battle.[8] The chiefship then passed to his eldest son, Alexander.[8] The Clan Robertson then feuded with the Clan Stewart of Atholl.[8] William Robertson, the sixth chief was killed trying to recover lands that had been seized by the Stewarts of Atholl.[8] The eighth chief of Clan Robertson was murdered and his brother inherited the estate.[8]

Struan (Gaelic Sruthan, "streams"), is a parish church, of early Christian origin and dedicated to St. Fillan, at the confluence of the Errochty Water and Garry rivers. Many of the medieval chiefs were buried in this church (although individual monuments have unfortunately not survived). The present building was built in the early 19th century, but the foundations of its predecessor can be traced in the churchyard. Donnchadh Reamhar is, however, said to have been buried in the parish church of Dull, near Aberfeldy. Recent excavations by members of the Clan Donnachaidh Society within the now redundant church of Dull (Gaelic Dul, "meadow", "haugh") failed to find evidence of this specific burial, although others were uncovered, along with early medieval carved stones. Recent generations of chiefs have been buried in a family vault in the grounds of the estate of Dunalastair, near Kinloch Rannoch.[7]

17th century and Civil War[edit]

Alexander Robertson, 13th chief of Clan Robertson who supported the Jacobite risings of 1689 and 1715

Under Alexander Robertson, 12th chief, the clan is said to have supported Montrose in all of his battles during the Scottish Civil War.[7] During this time, the main Robertson castle at Invervack, near the present Clan museum, was burned by Cromwell's forces, and many family records were lost. The Clan Robertson played a major part in the fighting at the Battle of Inverlochy (1645) in support of the royalist, James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, where they put the king's enemies to flight.[8] Alexander Robertson of Lude fought for Charles I of Scotland at the Battle of Tippermuir and as a result Lude was burned by Cromwell's forces in retaliation.[8]

In 1653 the Earl of Glencairn was in Rannoch looking for support for Charles II. He raised the Clan MacGregor from the Isle of Rannoch and Alexander Robertson led his men from Fea Corrie. Both forces met above Annat and marched up the old path to Loch Garry. However, the leaders reportedly quarrelled so much among themselves that Cromwell's General, George Monk had little difficulty in winning the ensuing Battle of Dalnaspidal.[citation needed]

Alexander Robertson, 13th chief (b. 1668) joined the Jacobite rising of 1689 and was taken prisoner a few weeks after the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Dunkeld. After being released he went to live in France for thirteen years where he served for some time in the French army. He returned to Scotland in 1703.[7]

18th century and Jacobite uprisings[edit]

Alexander Robertson, 13th chief, led 500 men of Clan Robertson in support of the Earl of Mar at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. He was captured, but later rescued and he took refuge in France.[7] General Wade's report on the Highlands in 1724, estimated the clan strength at 800 men.[13] The fighting force of Clan Donnachaidh was estimated at 700 men in 1745.[14]

After the defeat of the Jacobite rising of 1745 the Robertson lands became part of the Forfeited Estates, although most were returned to the then chief, another Alexander Robertson, in 1784, after it became clear that the Central Highlands were wholly pacified.[7]

Two of the most notorious and well documented Highland Clearances occurred on the Robertson clan land of Strathcarron:[15]

  1. In 1845, the Glencalvie or Croick clearance, executed by the factor James Gillander on behalf of William Robertson, sixth laird of Kindeace.
  2. In 1854, the Greenyards clearance, sometimes known as the Massacre of the Rosses. This was also carried out by James Gillander on behalf of Major Charles Robertson—son of William.

The Clearances upon the Clan Robertson lands are also important to the history of Scottish Gaelic literature

In Sutherland, Eòghainn MacDhonnchaidh (Ewan Robertson, (1842–1895) of Tongue[16] was called "the Bard of the Clearances";[17] is most famous for his song Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr ("My curses upon the Border sheep") mocking, among others, the Duchess of Sutherland and Patrick Sellar.[18] The song has been recorded by notable singers Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes. There is a monument to Robertson in Tongue.[17][19][18]

A similar poem in Canadian Gaelic attacks James Gillanders of Highfield Cottage near Dingwall, who was the Factor for the estate of Major Charles Robertson of Kincardine. As his employer was then serving with the British Army in Australia, Gillanders was the person most responsible for the mass evictions staged at Glencalvie, Ross-shire in 1845. The Gaelic-language poem denouncing Gillanders for the brutality of the evictions was later submitted anonymously to Pàdraig MacNeacail, the editor of the column in Gaelic in which the poem was published in the Antigonish, Nova Scotia newspaper The Casket. The poem, which is believed to draw upon eyewitness accounts, is believed to be the only Gaelic language source relating to the evictions in Glencalvie.[20]

Only the family vault at Dunalastair is still in the possession of the family of Struan; however, many modern properties have been added to the clan land. The title Baron of Struan is still transferred through Dunalastair.[7]

Clan Castles[edit]

Eilean nam Faoilaig was once held by the Robertsons
  • Mount Alexander was one of among the original seats of the chiefs of Clan Robertson.[4] The castle was eventually replaced by Dall House.[4] Despite common misconception, the present ruin of Dunalistair on the site is nothing to do with the clan, but was built in 1859[21][failed verification][22][self-published source][23][24][unreliable source]
  • The original seat was at Inverack, and was lost in the Civil war[25][23]
  • Lude Castle belonged to the Clan Robertson from at least the 17th century but was torched by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1650 after Alexander Robertson of Lude had fought on the side of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose at the Battle of Tippermuir in 1644.[4]
  • Auchleeks Castle was held by the Clan Robertson from the 1530s but was later replaced by a mansion.[4] They sold the property in 1962 and the garden is occasionally open to the public.[4]
  • Eilean nam Faoilaig, near Kinloch Rannoch, Perthshire, is the site of a castle on an island that was held by the Robertsons of Struan and was used as both a refuge and a prison.[4]


Gaelic names[edit]

  • MacDhònnchaidh (surname, 'son of Duncan')
  • MacRaibeirt (surname, 'son of Robert')
  • Robasdan (surname – used when following a first name)
  • An Robasdanach (surname, 'the Robertson' – used on its own, without a first name)
  • Clann MhicDhònnchaidh / Clann 'IcDhònnchaidh (collective – 'Clan Robertson')
  • Clann Dhònnchaidh (collective)
  • Na Robasdanaich (collective) – the Robertsons as a whole.

Note: the common spelling often appears with an "a" after the double nn of Dhònnchaidh, but this is not correct (though it does reflect the Gaelic insertion of an epenthetic vowel in pronunciation). Cf. the anglicised surname MacConnochie (and variants). "MacDhònnchaidh" and derivatives are usually used on the mainland, "Robasdan" and derivatives on the islands.[29]


  • Robertson of Auchleeks.[7]
  • Robertson of Faskally.[7]
  • Robertson of Inches.[7]
  • Robertson of Kindeace.[7]
  • Robertson of Kinlochmouidart.[7]
  • Robertson of Lude.[7]
  • Robertson of Struan.[7]


The main surname used by the Clan is Robertson, which is also used by the present chief's family, though other names are associated with the clan.[30] These may include:

Note that several of the above are merely anglicised variants of the Scots Gaelic MacDhònnchaidh or literal translations into English of the same (Duncan, Duncanson, etc.).

See also[edit]

Clan profile[edit]

  • Motto: Virtutis gloria merces ('Glory is the reward of valour')[32]
  • Slogan: Garg 'nuair dhùisgear ('Fierce when Roused')[14]
  • Crest: A dexter hand holding up an imperial crown, all proper[33]
  • Badge: Bracken[34] (the clan had lands on the southern side of Loch Rannoch – Gaelic Loch Raineach, 'Loch of Bracken')[35]
  • Pipe music:
    • Salute: Fàilte Thighearna Sruthain (Struan Robertson's Salute[3] or Laird of Struan's Salute)[36]
    • Gathering: Thàinig Clann Dhònnchaidh (The Robertsons Are Come)[3]
    • March: Till an Crodh Dhònnchadh (Turn the Cattle, Dònnchadh); Riobain Gorm (Blue Ribbon); Teachd Chlann Dhònnchaidh (Coming of the Robertsons)[3]
    • Lament: Cumha Sruthain (Lament for Robertson of Struan)[3]
  • Clan chief: Alexander Gilbert Haldane Robertson of Struan, 24th Chief of Clan Robertson, 28th of Struan (styled Struan Robertson)[37]


  1. ^ a b c Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Clan Robertson Profile Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Frank Adam, Thomas Innes: The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 1934, p 423
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 497–498. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw "The Official Clan Donnachaidh Web Site". Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  6. ^ a b "The Origin of The Duncanson Name". Archived from the original on 19 November 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Robertson, James. (1929). Chiefs of Clan Donnachaidh, 1275 – 1749 and the Highlanders at Bannockburn. Printed by Wood and Son, Mill Street, Perth.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 302–303.
  9. ^ Robertson, James. (1929). Chiefs of Clan Donnachaidh, 1275 – 1749 and Highlanders at Bannockburn. Quoting: Simbert, pp. 77. Printed by Wood and Son, Mill Street, Perth.
  10. ^ Robertson, James. (1929). Chiefs of Clan Donnachaidh, 1275 – 1749 and Highlanders at Bannockburn. Quoting: William Forbes Skene, vol. 11. pp. 140. Printed by Wood and Son, Mill Street, Perth.
  11. ^ Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Iain. The Robertsons (Clan Donnachaidh of Atholl). Pub: W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon Ltd., Edinburgh. 1962 (reprint of 1954), p. 6.
  12. ^ Ronald McNair Scott: Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, Hutchinson & Co 1982. p 243
  13. ^ Johnston, Thomas Brumby; Robertson, James Alexander; Dickson, William Kirk (1899). "General Wade's Report". Historical Geography of the Clans of Scotland. Edinburgh and London: W. & A.K. Johnston. p. 26. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  14. ^ a b "A Short History of the Clan Robertson". By Maj. J Robertson Reid. Printed at the Observer Press, Stirling, Scotland. 1933.
  15. ^ Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances, Secker & Warburg, 1963. Chapter 5
  16. ^ "Sgrìobhaichean, Eòghainn MacDhonnchaidh". BBC. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Scran ::: Ewen Robertson Memorial, Sutherland". Scran.
  18. ^ a b MacDonnchaidh, Eòghann. "Mo Mhallachd aig na Caoraich Mhòr". BBC. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Kathleen MacInnes – Duthaich MhicAoidh – MacKay Country (Sutherland)".
  20. ^ Edited by Michael Newton (2015), Seanchaidh na Coille: Memory-Keeper of the Forest, Cape Breton University Press. Pages 59–62.
  21. ^ "A place in the shade". 24 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Secret Scotland".
  23. ^ a b Robertson, James Irvine (2005). The Robertsons: Clan Donnachaidh in Atholl. Librario Publishing. ISBN 1904440630.
  24. ^ "History of Dunalastair Estate". Dunalastair Estate Holiday Cottages. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  25. ^ MacDonald, D MacDonnel. "These Are Your People: Clan Roberson" (PDF). The Highlander.
  26. ^ Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Iain. The Robertsons (Clan Donnachaidh of Atholl). W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon Ltd., Edinburgh. 1962. (reprint of 1954), p. 8 (fig. opposite; cutline reads "Robertson Tartan")
  27. ^ Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Iain. The Robertsons (Clan Donnachaidh of Atholl). W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon Ltd., Edinburgh. 1962. (reprint of 1954), p. 9 (fig. opposite; cutline reads "Robertson Hunting Tartan. Probably evolved 1803 for the Loyal Clan Donachie Volunteers (White Stripe added to Atholl Tartan").
  28. ^ This 1842 publication was rife with errors and outright hoaxes.
  29. ^ Iain Mac an Tàilleir: Ainmean pearsanta (available on SMO website)
  30. ^ Clan History Retrieved 5 March 2020; Clan Donnachaidh Society Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  31. ^ "Clan Donnachaidh Society of Texas, Inc". Archived from the original on 21 August 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  32. ^ Sir Bernard Burke (1864). The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales: Comprising a Registry of Armorial Bearings from the Earliest to the Present Time. Harrison & sons. p. 861.
  33. ^ Alexander Deuchar: British Crests, p 241
  34. ^ Fox-Davies Charles: Heraldic Badges, p 139
  35. ^ Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
  36. ^ Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Iain. The Robertsons (Clan Donnachaidh of Atholl). W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon Ltd., Edinburgh. 1962 (reprint of 1954), p. 27
  37. ^ Burke's Peerage and Gentry

External links[edit]