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Clans

Scottish clans are kinship organizations. Historically, clans were sophisticated institutions which defined the political landscape of medieval Scotland. Clans were headed by chiefs and united by a common territory, and were as varied as the diverse geography of Scotland. They were integral to the feudal society of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and were also present throughout the Lowlands, particularly in the Borders region.

The word “clan” derives from the Gaelic clann, literally meaning children, showing how kinship (both real and fictional) was key to the understanding of Gaelic society. Rather than being limited to strict blood relation as we might today conceive it, however, this kinship extended to include the whole community who were viewed as an extended family. Indeed, the members of historical clans were closely tied by territory, resources, and customs.

Today, clans are modern social institutions with an interest in preserving history and traditions, exploring genealogy, and promoting global kinship ties. Clans have a mission of promoting a sense of shared history and identity among the Scottish diaspora. Like highland games, they provide the opportunity to engage with heritage and forge connections in a modern world. Clans are also structured by the Court of the Lord Lyon, which regulates heraldry in Scotland.

During the Antigonish Highland Games, clan societies and local heritage organizations put on exhibits and provide information to visitors on history and their activities. We invite you to visit the Clan Tent on Columbus Field to experience the exhibits, chat with representatives, and enjoy some refreshments.

We invite all Clans to walk/ride in the main parade starting at 9 am, Saturday, July 9th, 2022.

If you don’t want to be in the parade just come to the Clan Tent.

Please RSVP admin@antigonishhighlandgames.ca

Common Clans

The Abercrombies

A village in Fife which means ‘mouth of the river Crombie’. Clan Abercromby is a Lowland Scottish clan.

Their motto: “Petit Alta” – “He aims at high things”

The Andersons

Meaning Son of Andrew, it was usually used in reference to the Patron Saint of Scotland. Clan Anderson was found in the North East of Scotland.

Their motto: “Stand Sure”

The Buchanans

The Gaelic “both-chanain” (meaning “the seat of the canon”) and the area in Stirlingshire of the same name are both cited as being the origin of this surname.

The Camerons

From the Gaelic ‘Cam-sron’ meaning ‘Crooked Nose’, the clan is based in Lochaber.

Their motto: “Aonaibh Ri Chéile” from the Gaelic for “Let Us Unite”.

The Campbells

Another of the most famous Scottish clans, based in Argyll, their name comes from the Gaelic ‘Cam’ meaning ‘Crooked’ and Beul meaning ‘Mouth’.

Their motto: “Ne Obliviscaris” – Latin for “Do not forget”.

The Chisholm

The Chisholm surname is most commonly found in Highland Region (incorporates the historic counties of Caithness, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland), and Lewis in the Western Isles.

Their Motto: Feros Ferio (I am fierce with the fierce).

The Donalds (MacDonald)

One of Scotland’s most famous clans, the MacDonald name comes from ‘Mac Domhnuill’ meaning ‘Son of Donald’. With septs widespread across the country, it remains one of the most common surnames in Scotland to this day.

Their motto: Per Mare Per Terras – “By Sea and By Land” (referring to their base in the islands and their push for control of the west coast).

The Frasers

A clan name that is said to date back to Norman times, with the word possibly coming from the French word for strawberry ‘fraise’. Originating in Inverness, this clan have been active in Scotland’s politics and conflicts for generations.

Their motto: “Je Suis Prest” – from the French: “I Am Ready”

The Grants

Hailing from Banffshire, it is thought their name could have from the French word “Grand” meaning “tall” or “large” but there is little evidence to back this up. 

Their motto: Stand Fast, Stand Sure

The Gordons

This clan is said to have been descended from a Norman nobleman. First associated with the town of Gordon in the Borders, they are now better known in Aberdeenshire. 

Their motto: “Bydand” – Thought to be a contraction of the Scots “Bide and Fecht” meaning “Stay and Fight.

The MacInnes

The MacInnes’s are of ancient Celtic origin, with the name MacAoghuis being Gaelic for “son of Angus”. The ancestors were probably amoung the earliest settlers of Dalriada.

Their motto: Irid ghibht Dhe agus an Righ (Through the grace of God and the King)

The MacLeans

This clan are strongly Herbridean based with bases in Mull, Coll and Tiree. The name comes from ‘Son of Gillean’, a reowned 13th century warrior.
Their motto: ‘Virtue Mine Honour’

The MacKintoshes

Prominent in both Inverness and Perthshire, they take their name from the Gaelic “Mac an Tòisich”, which means “Son of the chief Leader.”

Their motto: “Touch not the cat bot a glove” referring to their clan crest, which features a cat. 

The MacLeods

A clan with influence over the islands of Skye and Lewis, MacLeod means ‘Son of Leod’, a famed Norse warrior.

Their motto: “Hold Fast” 

The MacKenzies

Derived from ‘Mac Coinnich’ meaning ‘Son of Kenneth’ or ‘Son of the Fair one’ – the clan was found in the western Highlands and the Outer Hebrides, it’s now associated with Dalmore single malt whisky.

Their motto: “Luceo Non Uro” from the Latin for “I Shine Not Burn”. 

Sinclair

Hailing from the lands of Sutherland, the Orkney Isles and the Lothians, Clan Sinclair take their name from the Norman family St Clair who settled in Rosslyn before extending their influence through marriage to the northern Highlands and Islands. 

Their motto: “Commit Thy Work To God”

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The Robertsons

Derived from ‘Son of Robert’, said to have been a famous clan chief of the Clan Donald. Also referred to as Clan Donnachaidh they were based in Perthsire.

Their motto: “Virtutis Gloria Merces” from the Latin “Glory is the reward of valour”.