A Brief Clan History

Legend has provided us with the story that in the ancient days, the Picts, of what is now Perthshire, consisted of the Kaledonioi. Of the Kaledonioi there were five great clans and one of these was the Clan Donnachai. These clans made a great fight against the Roman invaders about A.D. 78 and preserved their wild independence, being the only race in Europe which came to blows with Imperial Rome and never were subdued. In the year A.D. 84 the Clan Donnachiai and the other great clans fought the Romans in the famous Battle of Mons Grampus and brought the Roman invasion to a halt. The real Highlands were never invaded.

Coming to more recent times, the noted historian Dr. W.F. Skene, a very eminent authority, says, “The Robertsons of Struan are unquestionably the oldest family in Scotland, being the sole remaining branch of that Royal House which occupied the throne of Scotland during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.”

The Robertsons claim descent from the great King Malcolm II (1005 to 1034) and through him from Kenneth MacAlpine, first King of the Picts and Scots, who reigned 843 to 859 AD.

The grandson of Malcolm II was King Duncan II (1034 to 1039) who was murdered by his cousin Macbeth of Shakespearean fame. On the defeat of Macbeth, Duncan’s son Malcolm III (Canmore) became king. Of Malcolm III’s many sons, another Malcolm was the first Earl of Atholl and from him the Robertsons are descended.

The second earl was also named Malcolm and his son was Henry, third and last earl of the old Celtic line. He had two sons, Constantine and Conan. Constantine predeceased his father and his daughters carried the earldom out of the royal line. Conan of Glenerochyly possessed large territories in Perthshire, which eventually were possessed by his descendant Duncan (Rheamhair) de Atholia, who was born about 1275.

The Duncan or Donnachaidh Rheamhair (meaning robust or stout) was a very famous fighter and a firm friend of King Robert the Bruce. He fought many battles and led the Clan at the Battle of Bannockburn. He had four sons, three of whom were outlawed for the fight in the daring raid of Angus. The eldest, Robert named after King Robert the Bruce, was ancestor of the Robertsons of Struan. The Robertsons of Lude are descended from the second son Patrick.

Another noted chief was Robert Ruadh who was greatly feared by the lowlanders, on whom he was constantly making raids. He made himself especially famous by capturing the assassins of King James I.

The Clan increased in numbers and prospered, many branches appeared, descended from younger sons, and the Clan was noted for loyalty to the Stuarts, a loyalty which was to cost them dearly in later years. Under the great Montrose, when they fought for King Charles I, the Clan numbered 800 fighting men.

One of the most famous chiefs was Alexander, the Poet-Chief, who was out for the Stuarts in the rising of 1688, 1715, and 1745. In the name of Bonnie Prince Charlie the chief was too old to fight and the Clan was led by Donald of Woodsheal. The battle of Culloden was a bad day for the Robertsons and for many other Jacobite clans, as well as for Stuart Kings.

After Culloden many of the Clan emigrated to the United States, particularly to the southern states, to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but many stayed in Scotland and a number went to England. According to F.A. Adams, the Scottish historian, “Clan Donnachaidh” or the Robertsons number over 4.500 in Scotland alone and are now one of the most numerous clans in the world. Many thousands are occupying important positions in the United States and in all the Dominions and Colonies of the Commonwealth.

The chief of the Clan is styled Struan Robertson and in ancient days had castles at Inverack near Struan and in Rannoch. In more recent times their residences were at Dell, Dunalestair, and Rannoch Barracks. The burial places are at Struan and Dunalastair.

The motto Virtutis Gloris Merces (Glory is the Reward of Virture); may we, as clansmen and clanswomen of a great and famous Clan live up to the motto and its glorious tradition.