This is a name derived from the Gaelic, "
son of the parson"
. The old Celtic church had married
clergy, and the Clan Mac Pherson is believed to have been
founded by Muireach (or Murdo) Cattenach, who was a priest of
Kingussie in Badenoch. The Mac Phersons formed part of the great
Clan Chattan Confederation. In the first half of the ninth
century, Clan Chattan was led by a chief called Gille Chattan
Mor, one of whose sons was forcibly resettled in Lochaber by
Kenneth Mac Alpine around 843. The chief would appear to have
been named in honour of St Cattan, and may have been the lay
prior of Ardchattan in Lorn.
Mac Pherson tradition has it that in 1309 Robert the Bruce
proposed granting the lands of Badenoch to the chief of the Mac
Phersons (perhaps Ewan Ban Mac Mhuirich), on condition that he
destroyed Bruces enemies, the Comyns. They carried out the
king's wishes with alacrity. Ewan Ban had three sons: Kenneth of
Clunie, lain of Pitmain and Gillies of Invereshie, and the Mac
Phersons are some-times known as the Clan of the Three Brothers.
In 1370, a raiding party of Camerons lifted cattle from the Clan
Chattan lands. They were confronted at the junction of the
Rivers Spey and Truim at Invernahavon by the Mac Phersons,
Mackintoshes and Davidsons. An argument arose between the Mac
Phersons and the Davidsons as to who should take the right wing,
traditionally the place of seniority or honour. Mackintosh
adjudicated in favour of the Davidsons, whereupon the Mac
Phersons refused to take part in the battle. The Camerons were
apparently gaining the upper hand when the Mackintosh sent his
bard, posing as a Cameron, to taunt the Mac Pherson for
cowardice. The Mac Phersons soon charged into battle, and the
Camerons were routed. The feud between Clan Chattan and the
Camerons continued for many years. In 1396 a battle of champions
was fixed to be held on the North Inch of Perth before Robert
III and his whole court, and Sir Walter Scott gave a vivid
description of this bizarre encounter in The Fair Maid of Perth.
Andrew Mac Pherson, reckoned as the eighth chief, acquired the
abbey-castle grange in Strathisla in 1618. His son, Euan, was a
great royalist, and fought with Montrose during the civil war.
Duncan Mac Pherson of Cluny, the tenth chief, lost his claim to
lead Clan Chattan in 1672 when the Privy Council and the Lord
Lyon, King of Arms, ruled in favour of a Mackintosh. As Duncan
had no sons, he was succeeded as chief of the Mac Phersons by
Lachlan Mac Pherson, fourth Laird of Nuid, in 1722.
His son, Fuan of Cluny, became a famous Highland leader in the
Forty-five. During the retreat from Derby he defeated a
numerically superior force at Clifton Moor in Westmorland. After
the defeat at Culloden, Cluny was able, through the faithful
support of his clansmen, to escape capture by Hanoverian troops
for nine years, despite a reward of £1,000 for his capture. He
finally escaped to France in 1755.