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CLAN SHAW

BADGE: Lus nam braoileag (Vaccinium vi tis ideea) red whortleberry

The Rev. Lachlan Shaw, historian of Moray, declared that he saw no reason to doubt that all persons of the name, in the south country as well as the north, were members of this clan. There is reason to believe, however, that many Shaws in the south take their name from some ancestor's residence near a "shaw" or thicket, this being a common local place-name either alone or with some qualification, as in Pollokshaws, near Glasgow. The Gaelic name, Na Si'aich, on the other hand, means "Son of the Tempest" or "Son of the Snow". The same author, and the Rev. W.G. Shaw, following him, in his Memorials of Clan Shaw, quote unvaried tradition for the statement that the Shaws held Rothiemurcus from the Bishops of Moray in undisturbed possession for a long period prior to 1350. In that year, these writers declare, the Comyns of Strathdallas obtained a wadset or lease of the lands, and on the Shaws refusing to give them up, a combat took place in which James Shaw, the chief, fell. By his wife, a daughter of Ferguson, a baron of Atholl, this chief, say these writers, was father of a son who, on coming of age, attacked and defeated the Comyns and killed their leader at a place since called Laggan na Chuiminaich. He then purchased the freehold of Rothiemurcus and Baile an Easpuig, and so stopped further dispute.

Still another statement was made, in a Genealogie of the Farquharsons, written about the year 1700. The writer of that document derived his clan and that of the Shaws from Shaw, third son of Macduff, who, he says, "took his proper name for his surname, came north, and possessed himself of Rothiemurcus, which was a part of his father's inheritance".

All these writers appear to have been misled. by the occurrence of the Christian name Seth or Scayth in early documents. As a matter of fact, down to the seventeenth century the owners of Rothiemurcus were known as Mackintoshes, and only then took the Christian name of their doughty ancestor Shaw Mackintosh for a family name. The entire matter is clearly discussed and set forth in The Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan, by Mr. A.M. Mackintosh.

The Mackintoshes themselves claim descent from Shaw Macduff, son of the Earl of Fife, in 1163. The early chiefs of the Mackintoshes in the thirteenth century were alternately named Shaw and Ferquhard, and according to the Kinrara Manuscript, Shaw the fourth chief obtained in 1236 from Andrew, Bishop of Moray, founder of Elgin Cathedral, a lease of Rothiemurcus in Strathspey, Angus, sixth Mackintosh chief, in 1291 married Eva, only daughter and heiress of the head of the "old" Clan Chattan, and he and his descendants became on that account Captains of Clan Chattan. According to the Kinrara Manuscript, the founder of the family afterwards known as Shaws was a great-grandson of this pair. In modern tradition he is called Shaw Mor, or "the Great"; by Bower and Major he is designated Shaw Beg, or "Little", probably from his stature; and otherwise he is known as Shaw Sgorfhiaclach or Coriaclich, the Buck-toothed. The Mackintosh tradition is that his father's name was Gilchrist, but that of the Shaws runs that his father was James. The latter tradition seems the more likely, as Shaw Mor's son was named James, probably so called in Scottish fashion, after his grandfather. In this latter case the tradition would agree with the account already mentioned of the fall of James, an ancestor of the Shaws, in the struggle with the Comyns for possession of Rothiemurcus, and Shaw Mor would be the son who, on coming of age, avenged his father's death at Laggan na Chuiminaich. A little later he was to appear as a leader in a more extended warfare.

When Duncan, natural son of the Wolf of Badenoch, following his father's lawless and evil ways, swept down upon the lowland district of Angus in 1391, destroying and murdering with reckless cruelty, and overthrowing the royal forces under Ogilvie, Sheriff of Angus, at the bloody battle of Gasklune, near the Water of Isla, the Mackintoshes were led by Shaw Mor. Among the persons put to the horn for that raid of Angus the Act of Parliament of the time mentions "Slurach and the haill Clan Qwhevil". The "Slurach" is obviously a mistranscription of Sheach, or Shaw, while the Qwhevil of the Act is, of course, the Clan Qwhewyl mentioned in Wyntoun's Chronicle as taking part five years later in the famous combat of the "threttie against threttie",on the North Inch of Perth. Rothiemurcus was at the time under the overlordship of the lawless son of Robert II and a good deal of interesting matter regarding Shaw Mor is to be found in Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's romance The Wolf of Badenoch.

It was probably by reason of the reputation he had gained in these affairs that Shaw Mor was chosen by his chief, Mackintosh, as captain of the picked warriors of the clan who took part in the battle on the North Inch in 1396. On a Monday morning, the day before Michaelmas, in the September of that year, a mighty multitude gathered to see that fight to the death within the barriers on the river side. King Robert III was there, with his queen, Annabella Drummond, and his crafty brother, the Duke of Albany, in the Gilten Arbour specially built for the occasion, as well as many of the nobles of Scotland and even visitors from France. All the world is familiar with the scene, as depicted in Sir Walter Scott's Fair Maid of Perth. At the last moment Clan Quhele was found to be a man short. His place was filled by an armourer of Perth, Hal o' the Wynd, otherwise the Gow Crom, or bandy-legged smith, who for his hire was to have a piece of silver and maintenance for life if he survived. Tradition runs that no sooner was the signal given than this doughty individual drew his bow and shot an enemy dead. He seemed disposed to make no further effort, and, on his captain demanding why, declared he had earned his day's wage. "Fight on", cried Shaw, "and your wage shall not be stinted". At this the smith rushed again into the battle, and by his fierce valour did much to win the fight. When all was over, and the only survivor of their opponents had plunged into the Tay and escaped, there were only eleven of Clan Quhele left, and all except the smith were wounded. According to the Kinrara Manuscript, the stout armourer went home with the clan he had supported, and became the ancestor of the Gows or Smiths, who are counted a sept of Clan Chattan. At the same time, according to the same authority, the captain of the victorious party was handsomely rewarded by the Mackintosh chief: "Lachlan gave to Shaw possession of the lands of Rothiemurcus for the valour he showed that day against his enemies". In the quiet graveyard which surrounds the little kirk of Rothiemurcus the grave of Shaw Mor may still be seen. For centuries it was marked by a grey stone on which were laid five roughly rounded smaller stones. But about 1870 an American individual of the name of Shaw, who claimed to be a grand-nephew of Farquhar Shaw, shot as a deserter from the Black Watch in 1743, laid on the grave a modern slab in which the deeds of Shaw Mor are attributed to a Farquhar Shaw ! James, the son and successor of Shaw Mor, took part in another and yet more important conflict. When Donald, Lord of the Isles, was being ousted by his uncle Robert, Duke of Albany, from his claim to the Earldom of Ross, and set out on his great raid across Scotland, he was followed, among other vassals, by Malcolm, tenth chief of the Mackintoshes, and his clan. They played their part valiantly in the great battle of Harlaw, fought on 24th July, 1411, and among those who fell in the struggle, both the ancient ballad and the historian Boece enumerate the Mackintosh chief. There is evidence, however, in the Kinrara Manuscript, in charters and in the Manuscript History of the Macdonalds, that the chief survived till 1457. The leader who really fell was James of Rothiemurcus. The fact that he was called Mackintosh in the ballad and by Boece merely shows that the Rothiemurcus family were still known by that name.

James left two infant sons, Alexander Keir (ciar, brown) and Ai or Adam, ancestor of the Shaws of Tordarroch. At that time the Comyns, who had once been lords of Badenoch and of vast territories elsewhere in Scotland, were still numerous in the region, and they seem to have taken advantage of the infancy of the holders to take possession of Rothiemurcus. On coming of age, however. Alexander Ciar gathered his friends, surprised and destroyed these Comyn enemies, and cleared his territory. His father and grandfather had merely held the lands as duchas, but Alexander secured the permanent rights. According to the Kinrara Manuscript, the eleventh Mackintosh chief, Duncan, disponed his right of possession and tack of Rothiemurcus to his cousin, Alister Keir Mackintosh, alias Shaw, and the conveyance was confirmed by the Bishop of Moray, feudal superior of the lands, who in 1464 gave "Alexander Keyr Mackintosy" a feu charter. The bishop was to receive an annual rent of twenty-four merks till Alister or his heirs should infeft him in lands of ten pounds annual value nearer Elgin, after which the payment for Rothiemurcus was to be a fir cone annually, if demanded. Some trouble took place with the Mackintosh chief over this charter, but in the end Alister Ciar secured possession, and so became feudally independent of Mackintosh, From that time onward he seems to have acted as an independent chief, to have given bands of manrent direct to the Earls of Errol and Huntly, and to have been recognised as the equal of the thanes of Cawdor and the lairds of Kilravock.

While John, his eldest son, succeeded him in Rothiernurcus, Alexander Ciar's younger sons became the ancestors of the Shaws of Dell, the Shaws of Dalnavert the Farquharsons of Deeside, and the MacIvers of Harris and the Western Isles.

John's son Alan succeeded in 1521. Three years later Lachlan, chief of the Mackintoshes, was murdered while hunting at Raigmore on the Findhorn. Shortly afterwards the murderers were captured, and kept in chains in the stronghold of Loch-an-Eilan in Rothiemurcus till 1531, when they were tried by the Earl of Moray, and duly executed. At the same period when Clan Chattan was bringing trouble upon itself by raiding and slaughtering on the lands of the Earl of Moray, who had assumed the guardianship of his nephew, their infant chief, and by supporting the Earl of Angus in his too close guardianship of his stepson, the boy king, James V, "Allan Keir" is found concerned. So serious was the trouble that a mandate of extermination was issued against Clan Chattan. Among others, Grant of Freuchie was cornmissioned to pursue the offenders.

These acts seem to have undermined the fortunes of the house of Rothiemurcus. In 1539 Alan disposed of the property to George Gordon, governor of Ruthven Castle and son of the Earl of Huntly. From the Gordons the lands passed to the Grants in 1567. This alienation of the lands was a bitter regret to the Mackintosh chief. He appealed to Grant's generosity to let him have his "own native country of Rothiemurcus" for the price he had paid for it. But Grant was adamant, and a feud began in consequence, which continued till 1586. Some of the popular stories of that feud are recounted in Memoirs of a Highland Lady, one of the Grants of Rothiemurcus. The authoress describes how the new owner repaired the ruins on Loch-an-Eilan in case of mishap, and destroyed the old fort of the Shaws on the Doune Hill, "leaving his malediction on any of his successors who should rebuild it". One rather gruesome story is of the slaying of one of the leaders of the Shaws, His followers "had to bury him, and no grave would suit them but one in the kirkyard of Rothiemurcus beside his fathers. With such array as their fallen fortunes permitted of, they brought their dead, and laid him unmolested in that dust to which we must all return. But, oh, what horrid times! His widow next morning, on opening the door of her house at Dalnavert, caught in her arms the corpse, which had been raised in the night and carried back to her. It was buried again, and again it was raised, more times than I care to say, till Laird James announced he was tired of the play. The corpse was raised, but carried home no more. It was buried deep down within the kirk, beneath the laird's own seat, and every Sunday when he went to pray he stamped his feet upon the heavy stone he had laid over the remains of his enemy".

Alan, who sold the estate, reserved possession to himself during his lifetime, and his son James and James's son Alan continued in the district after him. In 1620 appears the first instance of the use of Shaw as a family name, when Alexander Shaw in Dalnavert witnesses a Mackintosh sasine, but by 1640 the name was in full use. In 1645, the time of Montrose and the Civil War, the chief, as Alan Shaw, witnessed a bond of defence against the king's enemies.

According to tradition, Alan was outlawed for the slaughter of his stepfather, Dallas of Cantray, and having been seized and imprisoned in Castle Grant, died there soon afterwards.

The Rev. Lachlan Shaw, in his History of Moray, states that Alan's brother and associates "exiled into the Western Isles and Ireland", the main line of the family thus becoming extinct in the country. To the present day there are many Shaws in Skye and Jura, who may be descendants of these "exiles". The Rev. W.G. Shaw, however, in his Memorials of Clan Shaw, quotes the tradition of an Alasdair Ruaidh Shaw who resisted all the attempts of the Grants to eject him from his tenancy of Achnahaitnich, laughing at legal processes, and resisting with sword and gun. This Alasdair he makes out to have been Alan's brother, and to have continued the main line of the family at Crathinard in Braemar and Crandard in Glenisla. But the evidence seems doubtful. Sir Robert Sibbald in 1680 described Rothiemurcus as formerly belonging to "the Schaws, who still possess (i.e., occupy) the parish, Alexander Schaw of Dell being head of the tribe".

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