BADGE: (Dress) Fraoch na Meinnanich (Phyllodoce coerulea) Menzies Heath, or
(Hunting) Uinseann (Fraxinus excelsior) a sprig of ash, or
(Ancient) Garbhag nan gleann (Lycopodium clavatum) staghom or club moss
SLOGAN: Geal 'us dearg a suas, The red and white for ever !
PIBROCH: Failte na Meinnanich
Though the chiefs of this clan had their seat in the very heart of Perthshire, the centre of the Highlands, cadets of the clan were landed men far to the north and south. The Menzieses of Pitfoddels in Aberdeenshire were a separate branch as early as the fourteenth century, while other houses of the name were located in Fifeshire, Lanarkshire, and the Lennox, about the lower districts of Kippen and Killearn. The valley of the Tay, however, seems always to have been the headquarters of the race, and the beautiful old seat of Weem Castle there still remains to speak of the former greatness of the clan. With its grey walls rising high among the trees in its stately park, against the noble background of the Hill of Weem, this romantic old house, dating from 1571, keeps memories of a long line of chiefs and their varying fortunes, which, as set forth in the Red Book of Menzies, edited by the claimant to the chiefship, excite a wistful regret in the mind of the student.
If one were to judge from a popular tradition of the neighbourhood, the house of Menzies might seem to have been settled here at a very early date indeed. The Hill of Weem, and Weem Castle itself, take their name from the Gaelic "Uamh", a cave, or a Pict's house. No cave is now traceable in the neighbourhood, so the alternative reading of "Pict's house" is more likely to be the origin of the name. The tradition runs that a certain ogre who inhabited this "Uamh", and who is described as going about in the guise of a red-hooded monk of scowling visage, carried off a daughter of the house of Menzies. The story forms the subject of a well-known Gaelic ballad. If it really goes back to the days of the Picts, this story would infer that the Menzieses had been settled here as long ago as the tenth century at least, and if it could be authenticated woulf fully justify the claims made by writers like James Logan, author of The Scottish Gael and the letterpress of McIan's Clans of the Scottish Highlands, for a purely Celtic origin to this famous old clan. This writer founds his contention on the fact that the Gaelic appellation of the clan is Meinn, plural Meinnanich, often corruptly written Meinnarich. This corruption he regards as accounting for the fact that the name in old documents and charters is frequently spelt Meyners. The general view of genealogists, however, is that the name is Norman, and that the family was an early offshoot of the great house of Manners, whose head is now the Duke of Rutland. The probability is that the founder of the house of Menzies was one of those Norman or Saxon settlers brought into the country in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by Malcolm Canmore and his sons, when they were introducing the feudal system as a support for their dynasty, and as a means of establishing settled government and improved methods of living in the country.
The first mention of the name appears in charters of the reign of William the Lion, in 1213. By the middle of that century the family already occupied a distinguished position, as, in the reign of Alexander II, about 1250, Robert de Meyners, Knight, appears as Lord High Chamberlain. According to Douglas's Baronage, Alexander, the son of this personage, appears in possession of wide lands in many scattered districts, including Weem, Fortingal, and Aberfeldy in Atholl, Glendochart in Breadalbane, and Durrisdeer in Nithsdale. Upon the death of this chief the lands of Fortingal, with their Roman traditions, went to his younger son Thomas, and in the fifteenth century, by the marriage of the heiress to James, natural son of the notorious Wolf of Badenoch, son of Robert II, they became the property of the Stewarts, with consequences which were almost disastrous to the elder line of Weem. In 1428 there is mention of Sir David Meigners of Weem. In later life this chief became a monk of the Cistercian order, and in 1450-1, following this event, his son and heir obtained a charter putting him in possession of Weem and the other family estates.
It was in the days of James IV that the ambition of the chief brought him into conflict of most serious kind with his neighbours. Having acquired possession of the wild and beautiful district of Rannach, he obtained a charter of that barony. On the very day on which the charter was signed, and September, the caterans of Rannach, led by Neil Stewart of Fortingal and Garth, descended upon the headquarters of the chief at Weem, and, committing much havoc on his lands on Tayside, burned his castle. The stronghold of that time stood somewhat to the east, near the village of Weem and the eastern gate of the park. The blow was a serious one, and it was sixty-nine years before the stronghold was rebuilt on its present site. This was in 1571, three years after the overthrow of Queen Mary at the battle of Langside. The Menzies chief, however, retained possession of Rannoch, which remained part of the family estates down to the twentieth century. Meanwhile, his family charters having been destroyed by the fire, Robert Menzies of that ilk had obtained a re-grant dated 6th October 1510, of his barony of Weem and other lands united into the barony of Menzies. In 1587, sixteen years after the rebuilding of Weem Castle, according to the Acts of the Scottish Parliament, "The Menyesses in Athoill and Apnadull" (the abthanery of Dull further up the valley of the Tay) are recorded as upon "The Roll of Clans that hes Captanes, chiefs, and Chieftanes on whom they depend".
The clan was long famous for the rearing of cattle, and its possessions in consequence were a special mark for the raids of less peaceably disposed tribes. "A fat mart from the herds of the Menzies" was a reward often promised for the performance of a deed of valour or for extraordinary skill as a piper. In consequence, the Menzies lands were the frequent subject of predatory raids. The clansmen, however, proved themselves well able to defend their property, and the skill in arms thus gained made them a welcome addition to the fighting forces of the country in the field.
During the civil wars of Charles I, the Menzieses suffered somewhat severely. In the wars of Montrose, for the accidental shooting of a trumpeter whose blood was the first shed in the campaign, the lands of the Menzieses were ravaged and greatly destroyed. Menzies of Pitfoddels was among the gentlemen who fought on the King's side against Montrose in the first fight of that general at the Bridge of Dee, and later, in the last battle fought by Montrose, himself now on the King's side, Gilbert Menzies of this family carried the Royal standard, and, refusing quarter, was slain rather than give up his trust.
In 1665 Alexander Menzies, eldest son of Duncan Menzies of Weem, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia as " Princeps clarae familiae". The mother of this laird was Jean Leslie, only daughter of James, Master of Rothes, and his wife was Agnes, eldest daughter of Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. His eldest son Robert died before him, and he was succeeded by his grandson, another Alexander. In his time the Jacobite Rising of 1715 took place, and among those who were taken prisoners at the battle of Sheriffmuir were a number of "Gentlemen vassals of the Menzies chief". Among these were Menzies of Culdares and two of his brothers, but they were fortunate enough all to be pardoned.
In 1745, again, the clan was out on the Jacobite side. On this occasion the chief remained at home, and the clan was led by Menzies of Shian, with the rank of Colonel. On this occasion they brought into the field 300 fighting men, which is said to be a much smaller number than the ancient following of the chiefs. Menzies of Culdares, he who had been captured at Sheriffmuir, did not take the field on this occasion, but, to show his sympathy for the Jacobite cause, he sent a handsome charger for the use of Prince Charles Edward. The clansman who was sent with the horse into England by Culdares was taken prisoner, and condemned to death. In this situation he was offered pardon if he would reveal the name of the person who had made the gift to the Prince. The faithful Highlander, however, refused to betray his master, and suffered the last penalty in consequence.
This same cadet of the family, Menzies of Culdares, is said by General Stewart of Garth to have introduced the larch into Scotland in 1737, and to have given two plants to the Duke of Atholl. These are still to be seen growing beside Dunkeld Cathedral, and from them, it is said, have been derived all the valuable plantations of larch in the Atholl district.
Sir Robert Menzies, third baronet, married Mary, eldest daughter of James, first Earl of Bute, the strenuous opponent of the Union with England, the lady's mother being Agnes, eldest daughter of James VII's famous Lord Advocate, Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, founder of the Advocates' Library, and the "Bluidy MacKenzie" of Covenanting tradition. In November, 1778, Sir Robert Menzies executed an entail of the estates and baronies of Menzies and Rannach, and at his death without issue in 1786 the title and possessions of the house reverted to his kinsman, John Menzies, grandson of Captain James Menzies of Comrie, second son of the first baronet. Sir John Menzies married Charlotte, eldest daughter of John, fourth Duke of Atholl, but in 1800 also died without issue, when the family honours were inherited by Robert Menzies, son of Neill, third son of Captain James Menzies of Comrie. This Sir Robert was the fifth baronet, and from him the honours and possessions of the house descended directly to the late Sir Neill James Menzies, eighth baronet, who succeeded in 1903, and died without issue some three or four years later.
So far as at present recognised, Sir Neill Menzies was the last baronet and chief of the clan. A claim to the family honours and estates has, however, been made by Mr. D.P. Menzies of Plean Castle, near Larbert. This gentleman claims to represent Robert Menzies, yet another son of Captain James Menzies of Comrie above referred to, second son of Sir Alexander Menzies, first baronet. So far, Mr. Menzies has been unsuccessful in proving his case before the Lord Lyon and the Court of Session; but out of the mass of documents in his possession, and in the possession of others interested, which were acquired at the sale of the contents of Weem Castle after the death of Sir Neill Menzies, it is still possible that some absolute proof may be forthcoming in this interesting case.
The line of Menzies of Pitfoddels came to an end with the death of John Menzies, Sir Walter Scott's acquaintance, in 1834. This laird was an ardent Roman Catholic, and, besides largely benefiting Saint Margaret's Convent, Edinburgh, which was opened a year after his death, he in 1827 conveyed to Bishop Paterson his estate of Blairs for the education of secular priests. For a considerable period of years the old mansion-house of Blairs served for a college, but it has more recently been replaced by a great modern building which ranks as the chief seminary for Roman Catholic priests in Scotland.
Among others of the name who have earned a place in public recognition have been John Menzies, who, in the troublous times of Charles I and Charles II, as minister and professor of divinity at Aberdeen, acted with constant inconsistency the part of a Scottish Vicar of Bray. There was Michael Menzies, who died in 1766, and who, while by profession an advocate, produced such useful inventions as a threshing machine, a machine for conveying coal to the pitshaft, and a machine for draining coal mines. There was also Archibald Menzies, the famous botanical collector (1754-1842). By profession a naval surgeon, he accompanied a voyage of fur-trading and discovery to the north-west coast of America and China in 1786-9. As naturalist and surgeon he went with Vancouver to the Cape, New Zealand, and North-West America in 1790-5, making on the way ascents of Wha-ra-rai and Mauna Loa in Hawaii, settling their altitude by the barometer, and bringing home many interesting plants, cryptogams, and natural history objects. Members of the clan have also distinguished themselves in many other spheres, and the name must always remain among those honoured in Scotland.
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