There are two main theories as to the origins of the Clan Robertson:
• That the founder of the clan, Donn(a)chadh (Duncan) was the second son of Angus MacDonald, Lord of the Isles.
• That the Robertsons are lineal descendants of the Celtic Earls of Atholl, whose progenitor was King Duncan I (Donnchadh in Scottish Gaelic), eldest son of Malcolm II.
The clan’s first recognised chief Donnchadh Reamhar, ‘Stout Duncan’, son of Andrew de Atholia (Latin ‘Andrew of Atholl’), was a minor land-owner and leader of a kin-group in Highland Perthshire, and allegedly an enthusiastic and faithful supporter of Robert I (king 1306-29) during the Wars of Scottish Independence; he is said to have looked after King Robert after the Battle of Methven in 1306. The clan claims that Stout Duncan’s relatives and followers (not yet known as Robertsons) supported Robert Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (although this patriotic story is not supported by contemporary documentation). His descendants became known (in English or Scots) as the Duncansons, or Gaelic Clann Donnchaidh, ‘Children of Duncan’.
In 1394 a clan battle took place between Clann Donnchaidh and Clan Ogilvy, during a cattle raid on Angus. Sir Walter Ogilvy was slain at this battle. Clandonoquhy (Old Scots form of the Gaelic name) had rather a reputation as raiders and feuders in late medieval Scotland, though the chiefs seem always to have been loyal to the Bruce and Stewart royal dynasties.
Struan (Gaelic Sruthan, ‘streamlet’, ‘brook’) is a parish church, of early Christian origin and dedicated to St. Fillan, at the confluence of the Errochty Water and Garry rivers. Many of the medieval chiefs were buried in this church (although individual monuments have unfortunately not survived). The present building was built in the early 19th century, but the foundations of its predecessor can be traced in the churchyard. Donnchadh Reamhar is, however, said to have been buried in the parish church of Dull, near Aberfeldy. Recent excavations by members of the Clan Donnachaidh Society within the now redundant church of Dull (Gaelic Dul, ‘meadow’, ‘haugh’) failed to find evidence of this specific burial, although others were uncovered, along with early medieval carved stones. Recent generations of chiefs have been buried in a family vault in the grounds of the estate of Dunalastair, near Kinloch Rannoch.
Under Alexander Robertson, 12th chief, the clan are said to have supported James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose in all of his battles during the Scottish Civil War. During this time, the main Robertson castle at Invervack, near the present Clan museum, was burned by Cromwell’s forces, and many family records were lost.
In 1653 the Earl of Glencairn was in Rannoch looking for support for Charles II. He raised the Clan MacGregor from the Isle of Rannoch and Alexander Robertson led his men from Fea Corrie. Both forces met above Annat and marched up the old path to Loch Garry. However, the leaders reportedly quarrelled so much among themselves that Cromwell’s General, George Monk had little difficulty in winning the ensuing Battle of Dalnaspidal.
Alexander Robertson, 13th chief (b. 1668) joined the Jacobite rising of 1689 and was taken prisoner a few weeks after the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Dunkeld. After being released he went to live in France for thirteen years where he served for some time in the French army. He returned to Scotland in 1703.
Alexander Robertson, 13th chief, led 500 men of Clan Donnachaidh in support of the Earl of Mar at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. He was captured, but later rescued and he took refuge in France. The fighting force of Clan Robertson was estimated at 800 men in 1715 and at 700 men in 1745.
After the defeat of the 1745/46 rebellion the Robertson lands became part of the Forfeited Estates, although most were returned to the then chief, another Alexander Robertson, in 1784, after it became clear that the Central Highlands were wholly pacified.
Unlike many other Highland noblemen, the Robertson chiefs refused to ‘clear’ their estates of their clansmen in favour of the more profitable sheep during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This honourable but financially disadvantageous policy led to the eventual alienation of the entire clan lands by the early 20th century. Only the family vault at Dunalastair is still in the possession of the family of Struan; however, many modern properties have been added to the clan land. The title Baron of Struan is still transferred through Dunalastair.
• MacDhonnchaidh (surname, ‘son of Duncan’)
• MacRaibeirt (surname, ‘son of Robert’)
• Robasdan (surname – used when following a first name)
• An Robasdanach (surname, ‘the Robertson’ – used on its own, without a first name)
• Clann MhicDhonnchaidh / Clann ‘IcDhonnchaidh (collective – ‘Clan Robertson’)
• Clann Donnchaidh (collective)
• Na Robasdanaich (collective)
Note: the Gaelic spelling often appears with an “a” after the double nn of Dhònnchaidh, but this is not correct (though it does reflect the Gaelic insertion of an obscure vowel in pronunciation). Cf. the anglicised surname MacConnochie (and variants).
• Motto: Virtutis gloria merces (Glory is the reward of valour)
• Slogan: Garg ‘n uair dhuisgear. (Fierce when roused)
• Crest: A dexter hand holding up an imperial crown, all proper
• Badge: Bracken. (the clan had lands on the southern side of Loch Rannoch – Gaelic Loch Raineach, ‘Loch of Bracken’
• Pipe music:
• Salute: Fàilte Thighearna Struhain (Struan Robertson’s Salute)
• Gathering: Thàinig Clann Donnchaidh (The Robertsons Have Come)
• March: Till an Crodh Dhonnchaidh (Turn the Cattle, Donnachaidh); Riobain Gorm (Blue Ribbon); Teachd Chlann Dhonnchaidh (Coming of the Robertsons)
• Lament: Cumha Struhain (Lament for Robertson of Struan)
• Clan chief: Alexander Gilbert Haldane Robertson of Struan, 24th Chief of Clan Donnachaidh, 28th of Struan (styled Struan Robertson).
• Robertson of Auchleeks.
• Robertson of Inches.
• Robertson of Kindeace.
• Robertson of Kinlochmouidart.
• Robertson of Lude.
• Robertson of Struan.
The main surname used by Clan Donnachaidh is Robertson, which is also used by the present chief’s family, though other names are associated with the clan, the most common being Duncan and Reid. Other names associated with the clan may include:
Note that several of the above are merely anglicised variants of the Gaelic MacDhonnchaidh or literal translations into English of the same (Duncan, Duncanson, etc).
Years Attended: 2011