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Clan Darroch

To understand the clan system in Scotland it is necessary to go back to Roman times. The Picts and the Scots were thorns in the flesh of the Roman rulers of Britain. The Picts inhabited the
Highlands of Scotland and the Scots at that time were still mainly in Ireland. After the Romans
left Britain the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons came in from Northern Europe and set up their
petty kingdoms over the early Britons left defenseless. It was not until a thousand years ago, in
973, that England was first united under one king. The Anglo-Saxons also spread into the
Lowlands of North Britain and Scots had already migrated from Ireland into Argyll. In 750 there were
four separate peoples in present-day Scotland. The Picts in the north and eastern Highlands, the
Scots in the western Highlands and Islands. In the south-western lowlands were the original
Celtic Britons related to the Welsh,and in the eastern lowlands were the Anglo-Saxons. Later, the
Norse established themselves in the Hebrides. Kenneth McAlpin became the first king of united
Scotland in 843, and his successors, who were first called Kings of the Picts and later
Kings of Alba, extended their influence south to the River Tweed. However the boundary
between England and Scotland wavered north and south depending on the relative strengths of the

According to Dr. W.F Skene in his ' Highlanders of Scotland ', the original clans corresponded to the six Earldoms of the Picts. These earldoms divided into what he called the ' Great Clans ' ,eighteen in number. These again divided, some several times, until there were thirty. Except for nine of these such as Campbell, Cameron, Ross and others, the names all started with ' Mac ' indicating ' son of ' some important ancestor. The Norman Conquest affected Scotland as well asEngland. Other names, particularly in the eastern area between Edinburgh and Inverness, arose to prominence and are considered authentic clan names. It should be noted that most of the names in the peerage of Scotland are of Anglo-Norman derivation. To-day there are fewer than 100 Highland clans. ' Scots Kith and Kin ' lists 72, Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk in his ' Highland Clans ' lists only 60. Two hundred years ago the highland Clans and their culture were outlawed. A hundred years ago,after fifty years of Scott's novels, they were tolerated. To-day all Scots want to be ' Highlanders '. Even the Lowland families, who heretofore despised the Highlanders as savages, are getting into the act and forming Clan Societies. Indeed it is claimed that everyone of Scottish descent at the present time shares the blood of Kenneth McAlpin. It must be well diluted!

The word ' clann ' in Gaelic means 'children, hence ' families '. Early Scotland, especially in the wooded interior, was sparsely settled and many clans, no doubt, sprang from individuals who drove the boars and the bears from the forest in the empty glens or were the first who ' raised
smoke or boiled water in the land'. As the families multiplied, the descendants required a
strongleader to help them hold the land against other immigrants or stronger neighbors. This chief
became by custom, but not always, the oldest son of the oldest son. Intermarriage enlarged the
clan holdings and numbers. The Campbells were particularly noted for marrying their younger
sons to nearby heiresses, especially orphans they had created. Eventually the clan territory was
the home of many who were not of the chief's blood or name. In some cases these were the
ancient holders of the land, sometimes new-comers to the area or ' broken men ' of clans
destroyed or outlawed. When surnames were adopted, many of these took the nameof the clan
amongst which they lived. The Gordons, Chisholms, Mackenzies, Campbells and others greatly
enlarged their followings by compulsion. They rewarded them for change of name with a ' bowl
of meal ' or re-baptized them to their new names in the horse trough. Conscription was important
because the strength of a clan lay in the number of warriors it could command.

However the clan system evolved, it produced a remarkably cohesive society that continued almost intact for 1000 years until the savage repression after the '45. ( 1745 ). Clan society had three traditional elements; 1. An ancient name derived from an illustrious ancestor. 2. Land, held at first communally, later as the personal possession of the chief. 3. An ingrained sense of loyalty to the chief and inter dependence of the clansmen resulting from hundreds of years of harsh existence in land where climate and barren environment made co-operation a necessity. The spell was broken, when during the Highland Clearances, many chiefs turned their followers off the lands of their fore-fathers. Highlanders moved to the cities or emigrated. 'Clanishness ' was lost. The chiefs, themselves, often lost their lands through debts incurred through high living in London. To-day all that holds a clan together is the sentiment of a common name. Even the common name may be acquired or spurious.

Most books on Scottish clans merely list Darroch among the 200 or so names that are considered septs of Clan Donald. Some of these septs are occupational in nature, such as Mac
Sporran or Purcell, the keeper of the purse, indicating the nature of their duties under the Lords of
the Isles. In ' The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands ' Sir Thomas Innes of
Learney, the late Lord Lyon King of Arms, lists ' Darroch ' among the septs of Clan Donald
proper as opposed to the other divisionsof the Clan Donald such as Clanranald, Glengarry,
Glencoe, etc. Under Clan Donald he divided the names into thirty sections. ' Darroch ' etc. being
the eighth. It goes as follows:

8 ) Darroch, MacIlreach, MacIlriach, MacIleriach, Reoch, MacIlwraith, MacRaith, MacIlrevie, Revie, Bowie.- These names are synonyms for Mac-Gille-Riabhaich ( son of the brindled or freckled man ). The Mac-Gille-Riabhaichs were hereditary bards to the Clan Donald North, and in virtue of their office held the land of Baile Mhic Gille- Riabhich in Trotternish. MacIlwraith and MacRaith are forms of the name met with in Ayr and Galloway. MacIlrevie and Revie are the forms in Kintyre. Reoch and Riach are abbreviations adopted by those who settled in the Lowlands. Darroch is a form of the name found in Islay and Jura. In 1794 ( sic 1797 ) the Lord Lyon King of Arms officially registered " Duncan Darroch of Gourock, chief that ancient name, the patronymic of which is M'Iliriach ", showing that 'Iliriach was the progenitor of this sept. The by-name of Darrach, so says tradition, was applied to one of the MacIleriachs, who, in some clan foray, distinguished himself by the good use he made of an oak staff. The ' History of Clan Donald ' says:

In more modern times the island of Jura is the nursery of the Darroch race, and there the name is most frequently met with in its special form of Darroch. In this form it is supposed to be a corruption of the words Dath Riabhach or brindled colour, to distinguish the sept of the Dath Buidhe or yellow colour, there being many of the Clan Bowie also among the inhabitants of Jura.

The Darrochs are officially reckoned a clan of their own.

In the same book under the List of Hereditary Precedence of Scottish Clans and Names, Darroch s
listed as 71st among 75.

The first part of the passage from which the above quotation in ' The History of Clan Donald' is taken, is as follows

The Darroch tribe is very probably - as is claimed by its members a real branch of the Macdonald Clan, though the received origin of the name and its traditional connection with an oak stick may well be regarded as a legend very naturally growing out of the particular form which the name has assumed. The sept is styled in gaelic ‘Clann ‘ille Riabhaich’ sometimes ‘Clann Domhnuill Riabhaich’, and in 1623 we find a family of this name in Skye entering into a Bond with Sir Donald Macdonald, 1st Baronet of Sleat, in which they acknowledge him as their chief, and he promises them due protection. Whether this is the origin of the claim to belong to the Clan Donald cannot be determined.

Also from the same book referring to the social conditions of Clan Donald we find the following:

How foreign septs came into the community and privileges of clans alien to them in blood is illustrated by a certain class of bonds of manrent which form so important a feature in the political life of the ancient Gael. The Bond of ' Clann Domhnuill Riabhaich ' to Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat in 1632 ( sic ? ) is but a specimen of many similar bonds - probably unwritten - which would have been formed in previous generations between the native men of Skye - the earlier inhabitants of the island - and the chiefs
of Clan Uisden ( Clan Donald North ) who entered into effective occupation in the first half of the 16th century. Tradition says that the ' Clann Domhnuill Riabhaich ' were a family of hereditary bards to the Macleods of Dunvegan, and that the Macleod chief, having for some reason dismissed Mac-Gille-Riabhaich, Macdonald of Sleat received him and his sept, giving them lands on the farm of Kilmorey in Trotternish, which for long- perhaps to this day - retains the name of Baile Mhic Ghille Riabhaich. It was the ancient principle of kindred as the root idea of Gaelic society which rendered this system of Bondsof manrent necessary in the case of tribes seeking the protection of a more powerful clan community.

Note - Spellings and pronunciations differ in the various areas. ' Riabhaich ' may be pronounced ' riavach ' or ' riach' with the ' bh ' silent. An ' h ' inserted after the first letter of a noun, gives it the dative case. Thus ' Baile Mhic Ghille Raibhaich ' is literally ' the town of the son of the boy freckled'.

Tradition dies hard in the Highlands and can usually be given credence but there are anomalies here that should be considered objectively, especially since errors that have crept into the old authorities are often repeated and enlarged. ' Darroch ' may have been derived from ' Dath Riabhaich ' but the Mac Gille Riabhaichs were a northern race. Small clans did not spread. How did so many of them get down to Jura? Jura may have been the nursery of the Darroch race. Where was it born? When? What do the Macilwraiths and especially the Bowies ( Buie ) think of this? It appears that the Lord Lyon of 1797 has placed a whole clan of names that are obviously of similar origin under another name, from a far off place, as a result of rather slender supposition. It is flattering for Darrochs to be considered a clan of their own and as Domhnull Gruamach said bear ' one of the most ancient names in Celtic history '. But they cannot trace their name to any known ancestor, there never was a clan territory, and they have always seemed to have existed as separate families among the rest of the population. Certainly quite some years prior to the bond of manrent of the Mac Gille Riabhaichs who were Bards to the Clan Donald in Skye, Mulmorich Darroch was serenely, we hope, tending his flocks in Kintyre.

To find the true origins of the Darrochs in Argyll or at least eliminate a possibility, the birthplace of Mulmorich Darroch must be found and his background, including his education be investigated. In the time of John Knox in the last half of the 16th century, the Argyll Macdonalds were Roman Catholics and that religion persited among them for another hundred years. When the Campbells got control of the Macdonald lands, they forced the new Covenanting Protestantism on the inhabitants. To do this they must have imported ministers from the hot-beds of the new religion in the Lowlands. They needed tried and true preachers who would not be swayed by the winds of politics. Mulmorich Darroch was such a one. There had been Darrochs in Stirling for nearly two hundred years. More recently Darrochs had been ' reidares ' or lay ministers in several parishes about 1575, the year of Mulmorich's birth. He certainly did not get his staunch Protestantism from Macdonalds in Argyll. Carmichael, the name of his wife, was a Lanarkshire name of twelfth century origin. What was more likely, than for the Earl of Argyll to locate and import a seasoned, married Covenanting preacher to attend to his converts in the strategic area of mid-Argyll? That Mulmorich Darroch did his job to the satisfaction of his parishioners is evident from his tombstone. Did they also Gaelicize his given name of Mulmorich? He is only referred to as Mulmorich on his tombstone. In the records it is various spellings of Maurice. That he satisfied the Campbells is obvious from the length of his tenure and the succession of his sons, who were both university trained. ( On a preachers pay? ) His sons were allowed to marry into less important Campbell families. A large proportion of the descendants of these ministers, how many they had is uncertain, would blend into the Highland population and their origin become obscure to them. They could make for themselves, or have attributed to them, traditions to match those of other families. Therefore ' Darroch ' despite its traditions and its associations with the ancient Druids, may not be Macdonald, and may not even be Highland. Three hundred and fifty years would be plenty of time to generate the modest numbers of Darrochs bearing the name to-day.

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