Clan Davidson

Clan Davidson Sign

Clan Davidson Sign

Clan Davidson Tartan

Clan Davidson Tartan

According to the Highland manuscript believed to be written by one MacLauchlan, bearing the date 1467, and containing an account of the genealogies of Highland clans down to about the year 1450, which was accepted as authoritative by Skene in his Celtic Scotland, and believed to embody the common tradition of its time, the origin of the Davidsons is attributed to a certain Gilliecattan Mhor, chief of Clan Chattan in the time of David I. This personage, it is stated, had two sons, Muirich Mhor and Dhai Dhu. From the former of these was descended Clan Mhuirich or Macpherson, and from the latter Clan Dhai or Davidson. Sir Aeneas Macpherson, the historian of the clan of that name, states that both the Macphersons and the Davidsons were descended from Muirich, parson of Kingussie in the twelfth century. Against this statement it has been urged that the Roman kirk had no parson at Kingussie at that time. But this fact need not militate against the existence of Muirich at that place. The Culdee church was still strong in the twelfth century, and, as its clergy were allowed to marry, there was nothing to hinder Muirich from being the father of two sons, the elder of whom might carry on his name, and originate Clan Macpherson, while the younger, David, became ancestor of the Davidsons. Still another account is given in the Kinrara MS. upon which Mr. A. M. Mackintosh, the historian of Clan Mackintosh, chiefly relies: This MS. names David Dubh as ancestor of the clan, but makes him of the fourteenth century, and declares him to be of the race of the Comyns. His mother, it says, was Slane, daughter of Angus, sixth chief of the Mackintoshes, and his residence was at Nuid in Badenoch. Upon the whole, it seems most reasonable to accept the earliest account, that contained in the MS. of 1467, which no doubt embodied the traditions considered most authentic in its time.


The chiefs of the Davidsons are said to have been settled, in early times at Invernahaven, a small estate in Badenoch, at the junction of the Truim with the Spey, and when they emerge into history in 1370 or 1386 the holders of the name appear to have been of considerable number, and in close alliance with the Mackintoshes from whose forebears they claim descent.

The historian of Clan Chattan above referred to offers another theory to account for the comparative disappearance of Clan Davidson from the historic page, by pointing out that two of the name were concerned in the murder of Lachlan, the fourteenth Mackintosh chief, in 1524. One of these two, Milmoir MacDhaibhidh, was the chief’s foster-brother, but believed that Mackintosh had helped to destroy his prospects of marrying a rich widow, and accordingly, on 25th March, along with John Malcolmson and other accomplices, fell upon the chief and slew him while hunting at Ravoch on the Findhorn. For this deed the three assassins were seized and kept in chains in the dungeon on Loch.an-Eilan till 1531, when, after trial, Malcolmson was beheaded and quartered, and the two Davidsons were tortured, hanged, and had their heads fixed on poles at the spot where they committed the crime. Mr. Mackintosh also points out that another Davidson, Donald MacWilliam vic Dai dui, conspired with the son of the above John Malcolmson against William, the fifteenth Mackintosh chief in 1550 when the head of that chief was brought to the block by the Earl of Huntly at Strathbogie. The Davidsons who did these things, however, were merely servants and humble holders of the name, and their acts can hardly have brought the whole clan into serious disrepute.

Another important conflict a Davidson was in was the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. This battle, regarded by many today as the conflict between Highlanders and Lowlanders which killed the expansion of Gaelic influence, was one of the most brutal in Scottish history, becoming known as “Red Harlaw”.

On 25th March, 1909, with a view to the formation of a Clan Davidson Society, the Laird of Tulloch called a meeting of holders of the name at the Hotel Metropole in London. Some sixty members of the clan were present, when it was proposed, seconded, and carried that Davidson of Tulloch be recognized and acknowledged as chief of the clan. The act was questioned in a letter to the Northern Chronicle, in which the writer pointed out that, while for a long period of years writers on Highland history had all pointed to Tulloch as the chief, this must be taken as an error seeing that The Mackintosh was the only chief of Clan Chattan. In proof of this statement it was pointed out that in 1703 twenty persons named Dean alias Davidson had at Inverness signed a band of manrent declaring that they and their ancestors had been followers, dependents, and kinsmen to the lairds of Mackintosh, and were still in duty bound to own and maintain the claim, and to follow, assist, and defend the honorable person of Lachlan Mackintosh of that ilk as their true and lawful chieftain. A long correspondence followed pro and con, but it was pointed out by later writers that the acknowledgment of Mackintosh by twenty Davidsons as supreme head of the Clan Chattan confederacy did not prevent the Davidson sept from possessing and following a chief of their own. As a matter of fact, history shows them to have had a chief at the battle of Invernahaven, and by all the laws of Highland genealogy the clansmen were fully entitled to meet and confirm the claim of their present leader and head.

It should be added that Davidson of Tulloch is hereditary keeper of the royal castle of Dingwall.

Among notable holders of the name of Davidson mention must be made of the redoubtable provost of Aberdeen, Sir Robert Davidson, who led the burghers of the city at the battle of Harlaw in 1411, and gallantly fell at their head. It is said to be his Armour which is still treasured in the vestibule of the City Chambers at Aberdeen, and when the great old church of St. Nicholas in that city was being repaired a generation ago his skeleton was recognized by a red cloth cap with which he had been buried.

Another notable clansman was John Davidson, Regent of St. Leonard’s College at St Andrews in the days of Queen Mary, and afterwards the minister of Liberton near Edinburgh, who quarreled with the Regent Morton, opposed the desire of James VI. to restore prelacy, excommunicated Montgomerie, Bishop of Glasgow, at the desire of the General Assembly in 1582, and was author of Memorials of His Time.

Years Attended: Fall 2010 (First Year Attendee!)

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