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Clan Strachan

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Clan Strachan

Clan Strachan
Motto Non Timeo Sed Caveo (I fear not, but am cautious)
War cry Clachnaben!
Region Highlands
District Strachan District, in present day Aberdeenshire
Clan Strachan has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Last Chief Sir Richard Strachan
Died 3 February 1828
Commander Charles Robert Lund (Rob) Strachan

Clan Strachan is a Scottish clan originating from Aberdeenshire. The clan does not have a chief now, therefore it is considered by Court of the Lord Lyon and the Stand Council of Scottish Chiefs as an Armigerous clan.[1]

Clan Strachan held a Family Convention (or Ad Hoc Derbhfine) under the supervision of the Court of the Lord Lyon on 11 April 2014 in Edinburgh. The meeting ended amicably with unanimous support for Rob Strachan, Mill of Strachan, Strachan, Aberdeenshire to be recognised as Commander.

On 29 April 2014, Lord Lyon Dr. Joseph Morrow dispatched a letter to the Sennachie of Clan Strachan, Jim Strachan, whereas Lyon wrote, "I have signed a Warrant authorizing the Lyon Clerk to prepare a Commission appointing Charles Robert Lund Strachan to be Commander of the Hounourable Clan Strachan for a period of 5 years."

In 2019, there will be another Strachan Family Convention to officially recognize Rob as Hereditary Chief of the Honourable Clan Strachan. The Clan Strachan Society will be notifying its membership and those on their email lists of tentative plans was time approaches.

The Clan Strachan warcry is Clachnaben![2]


  • Highland or Lowland Clan? 1
  • History 2
    • Origins 2.1
    • Charter History of Strachan of that Ilk 2.2
    • Wars of Independence 2.3
    • 17th-18th century: Civil war and a split in family loyalties 2.4
    • Napoleonic Wars 2.5
    • Present day 2.6
  • Clan Castles 3
  • Clan Septs 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Highland or Lowland Clan?

The Highland Boundary Fault is a geologic fault that traverses Scotland from Arran and Helensburgh on the west coast to Stonehaven in the east. It separates two distinctly different physiographic regions: the Highlands from the Lowlands, but in most places it is only recognisable as a change in topography.

The original Strachan lands and home of all Strachans (Strachan District or Strachan, Aberdeenshire) is located in Aberdeenshire some 15 miles northwest of Stonehaven, 3 miles outside of Banchory, north and adjacent to the Highland Boundary Fault. Therefore, the traditional boundaries of Strachan is within the Highland Region. These lands, including Durris and the entire Howe of the Mearns were likely held under the Mormaer of the Mearns, Máel Petair of Mearns. His name means "tonsured one of (Saint) Peter". One source tells us that Máel Petair was the son of a Máel Coluim. His name occurs in many sources because he was the man who, in 1094, is often given credit for the murder of King Duncan II of Scotland. Most historians agree that King Edgar, the brother and heir of Duncan II confiscated Máel Petair's mormaerdom, and converted it to crown lands. By mid-13th century, virtually all of the Mearns were converted to thanages.

As will be seen herein, evidence from various charters and grants suggests that Clan Strachan should most appropriately be classified (during this period) as a Lowland Clan residing within the Highland Region. The territory controlled by Strachan of that Ilk were not held by the Clan in the traditional highland sense, but were occupied by the first of the name, Waltheof de Strachan (c. 1200) and his heirs until about 1315.

Various grants and charters confirm that Waltheof de Strachan was extremely loyal to the Scottish Crown and the House of Dunkeld. Given the cultural divide between highland and lowland peoples, in all likelihood Waltheof de Strachan would have been greatly offended had anyone considered him a "Highlander", which in the 13th century inferred loyalty to MacDonald Lord of the Isles. During that period, Lowlanders generally considered Highlanders outlaws and traitors to the Scottish Crown.

As mentioned, one might accurately describe Clan Strachan as a Lowland Clan within the Highland Region. This was not uncommon as, for example, the Name of Gordon, Fraser and others fall within this same category.


Map of Scotland showing the district of Kincardineshire, where the Strachans of Thornton lived


This surname of Strachan is local as others of the greatest antiquity and has been according to ancient custom taken from lands. (GC, ii, 265)

As the STRACHAN surname is considered a "Local" or "Territorial" name it is merely an indication of where the individual came from, and it cannot be assumed that people with the surname are necessarily ancestors.

The Village of Strachan is located some 20 miles southwest of Aberdeen, in the Royal Deeside Grampian Highlands of Scotland.

The District of Strachan is about twenty miles in length, extending from the confines of the parish of Durris, on the east; to Mount Battock, on the west; and is twelve miles in breadth, from Cairn-o'-Mount, in the south, to the river Dee, which constitutes its northern boundary, and separates it from the parish of Banchory-Ternan. It encompasses 56,362 acres. (Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, ii, p. 504-5)

Through the District of Strachan run the Waters of the Dye, the Avon (pronounced: /on/), and Feugh. The first are tributaries to the latter, which falls into the Dee at Banchory-Teran, where the channel, wild and rocky, shaded by mountain pine, birch, and copsewood, presents a singularly romantic appearance. (Jervise p. 4)

The word Strachan is an anglicized derivative with origins in the Scottish Gaelic (or 'Scottis') language. Originally from the Gaelic word "strath" meaning "broad valley", and "Aven" (pronounced /on/) which is a Gaelic word for 'river', and also the name of one of the tributaries of the Dee that runs through the Strachan District (Water of the Aven, or alternatively spelt on other maps "Water of the Awen").

According to the Herald & Genealogist (vol. viii,302), Strachan means 'Vale of the Waters,' apparently due to the three main burns in the District (Waters of the Dye, Avon and Feugh).

Others suggest the Strachan surname means 'Valley of the Avon' (pronounced /on/). If this definition is accurate, it suggests the main burn in Strachan in or about the year 1200, was the Water of the Avon. Similarly suggesting the main medieval settlement of Strachan was located much farther to the west than where the main body of the current village is located. Perhaps just south and west of the Mill of Strachan in the area of Little Ennochie, Balblyth, Weir or Cuttieshillock, in the District of Stachan.

Charter History of Strachan of that Ilk

The lands of Strachan were granted by King William the Lion to William Giffard of Lethington, in the barony of Yester, in feu-tenure and in forest with permanent and hereditary rights for an annual render of 9 merks (c. 1189-95, RRS. ii, no. 340, 410). Simply, the lands of Strachan were owned by the crown, and held 'in forest' as a royal hunting preserve. Evidence also suggests that William Giffard was succeeded by Waltheof (de Strachan) sometime between 1189-1211 (St A. Lib., 276-7), and as such Waltheof de Strachan and his heirs were direct vassals of the crown.

Waltheof de Strachan appears to have had an affinity to Fife, and granted part of the lands of Strachan to the priory of St. Andrews in Fife (St A. Lib., 276-7). This suggests Waltheof de Strachan was likely the grandson of Waltheof, lord of Inverkeithing (FIF) and Dalmeny (WLO). This latter Waltheof was the grandson of Waltheof de Allerdale, who was the son of Cospatric, Earl of Northumbria. Cospatric, Earl of Northumbria was of Anglo-Saxon blood, and led a revolt against King William of England, who was a Norman. The revolt was put down, and Cospatric fled, eventually landing in Scotland. He was made ruler of Lothian, and his illegitimate son, also named Cospatric, was made Earl of Lothian/Dunbar.

In 1230-1240, Sir Waldeve de Strachechin witnessed an undated charter which is translated as follows: Alicia (or Alice), daughter of John, son of Ranulph, with the consent of her son and heir John, has given, granted and by this her present charter established to Blessed Queen Margaret and Dunfermline Abbey, in free, pure and perpetual alms, six acres of land with toft and croft in the villa of Cramond ‘of the Scots’ (MLO)… in free and perpetual alms.(Dunf. Reg. no 202) Thus, it is possible, although not for certain, that Strachan of that Ilk may have been blood related to the Cramond family though the female line give the names provided in this charter.

The cartulary also suggest that Strachan of that Ilk married into the de Quincy family (c. 1196-1264), and obtained at least half the lands of Beath Waldeve (DR, no. 154; RRS, ii, no. 396; DR, no. 86). Elizabeth de Quincy married Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan, and if this thesis is proved true, it would have made Strachan of the Ilk blood related to the Alexander and Elizabeth's son, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan.

In 1264, 'R' Strachan (believed to be Ranulf de Strachan) was appointed Viscount (Sheriff) of Banffshire (a county North of Aberdeenshire) in succession of Alexander Comyn, the Earl of Buchan. (Exchequer Rolls i, p 15). This may support the thesis that Strachan of that Ilk were related to the Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan. Sheriffdoms were generally thought to be hereditary. (Grant. Medieval Scotland, p. 57)

in 1268, Elizabeth, Countess of Buchan, formally endorsed the appointment of Ranulph and Michael de Strachan, and William Comyn, named ‘the Black’ (probably the brother of the Earl of Badenoch and cousin of the Earl of Buchan), to receive her property on her behalf. (CDS / BAIN, i, 2509, 2513)

Wars of Independence

Strachan of that Ilk, holding crown lands, were no doubt beholding to the sovereign and would have supported the King of Scotland, and his heirs. This being King John Balliol in 1292, and in 1306 would have been Red Comyn. When Robert the Bruce murdered Red Comyn at the alter at Grayfriars Abbey, the new heir to the throne of Scotland was John Comyn, Earl of Buchan. Strachan of that Ilk, as mentioned previously, was likely blood-kin of John Comyn.

Bruce forces likely burned-out a timber fortress in Strachan, now called Castlehill of Strachan during the early summer of 1308 (Yeoman). Comyn, and his loyal supporters which likely included Clan Strachan, were defeated at the Battle of Inverurie (1308). After the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), the Strachans were disinherited by Robert the Bruce and the lands of Strachan were granted to Sir Alexander Fraser, thane of Cowie (1316).

Before 1325, Alexander Strachan, son and heir of John Strachan of that Ilk, and his wife Christina, daughter of Maule of Panmure, was granted by Maule all his land of Carmyllie, his whole land of Drumnadych, his whole land of Hacwrangdrom, half his land of Lochlair, the mill, the grain, Strathyis Copresille (ANG) … with all their just pertinents, correct bounds, etc.

The battle of Neville’s Cross took place to the west of Durham, England, on 17 October 1346. King David of Scotland – son and heir of Robert the Bruce – was wounded in the face by two arrows, and eventually captured. Both Alexander Strachan (spelt Straghern) and his son died fighting alongside of the Earl of Buchan, and all of whom serving in the same division under the direct command of King David of Scotland. (Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Chronicle of Lanercost, 1913, page 339)

Around 1350, many of the families that benefited from Robert the Bruce confiscations and disinheritance rushed to make amends with promises of noble marriages and grants of land. During this period, five new Houses of Strachan were formed... Knock, Glenkindie, Thornton, Lenturk, and a barony in Aberdeenshire.

17th-18th century: Civil war and a split in family loyalties

Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton obtained the Baronet of Nova Scotia from King Charles I in 1625. The baronetcy passed to a distant relative, Sir James Strachan of Inchtuthill. Sir James, minister of Keith, is believed to be from the senior line of Monboddo by a charter under the great seal in 1663.

In 1683, Sir James sold the Mains and Estate of Thornton to his wife's father (Robert Forbes). Some debate exists as to whether the sale was due to a financial over encumbrance, or fear that a more senior claim might be made.

The elder Sir James, continued his ministry at Keith until he was deprived of his living by the Privy Council in 1689, because he refused pray for King William and Mary, but instead prayed for the restoration of King James II… always a devote Royalist! Sir James Strachan (the elder) died at Inverness in 1715.

His son and heir, also named Sir James entrusted their three daughters and their tutorship to the father of his wife, Barbara Forbes' father. Sir James joined the Highland force that Calverhouse, for the Viscount Dundee, in support of the deposed King James II. It is thus apparent the Royalist sentiments passed from father to son. On 27 July 1689 Bonnie Dundee’s Highlanders met and defeated General Mackay’s army at the Battle of Killiecrankie. Unfortunately, Dundee, and the rising hope of the Jacobite cause, was slain in the hour of its own victory. Among the highland dead, was also James Strachan, younger of Thornton.

The kinsmen of Strachan of Thornton, Alexander Strachans of Glenkindie was known as the 'Great Covenanter' (d.c. 1674). This allegiance to the government was passed down to his grandson, Sir Patrick was imprisoned by the Jacobites during the first Rebellion in 1715, and on his release he appears to have been very active in the disarming of the country.

By 1745, at the Battle of Culloden all Houses of Strachan were extinct except for the Representor of Thornton who was now residing in London. Strachan was a broken clan by this time, and progressive generations of this surviving line had begun failing in the male line. At Culloden, there are a number of Strachans who are recorded in the ranks of the Jacobites. The remains of John Strachan has been identified at Culloden, and is in the ranks of the Jacobites. John Strachan is listed among the dead at Culloden Centre at the exit from the battle field film exhibit.

Napoleonic Wars

In the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, Admiral Sir Richard Strachan, 6th baronet from the direct line of the chieftainship of the Clan Strachan, commanded a squadron. On 2 November 1805, his squadron engaged four French battleships that had escaped from Lord Nelson's triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar. Sir Richard captured all four French vessels with little loss of British life. He was created a Knight of the Bath and in 1810 was granted freedom of the City of London. Sir Richard died in 1829 without male heir.

Arms of the Clan Strachan Society


Present day

The last chief of Clan Strachan was one Admiral Sir Richard John Strachan (Bart.), RN, who died in 1828. As he was without male heir, his title and the baronetcy became dormant in 1854.

The Strachan surname is recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon, and the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs as an Armigerous clan.

As mentioned above Clan Strachan Society is holding a Family Convention (Ad Hoc Derbhfine) to recognize a new Commander for Clan Strachan. The Commander will likely become the hereditary Chief of Clan Strachan after waiting 10 years. This 'waiting period' is to determine if a more legitimate claimant to the Chiefdom comes forth with a documented blood line (found satisfactory to the Lord Lyon) that proves descent from the past Chief (or a cadet branch therein). A person with documented blood line to the past Chief (or a cadet branch) would have a priority claim for the Chiefship. As no one in 186 years has come forth to claim the Strachan Chiefship, it is expected the appointed Commander (Rob Strachan, Mill of Strachan) will eventually become the recognized and legal hereditary Chief of Clan Strachan.

The Clan Strachan Societyin July 2012 was issued a new Grant of Arms by the Lord Lyon. The Society is therefore recognized as an Armigerous Society, an 'indeterminant cadet' [Innes]. According to Innes, an Armigerous Clan Society as a corporate Armiger is responsible to act as the economic and business affairs arm of the clan, subordinate to the Chief.

Armorial description of the Society Arms:

Azure, a hart trippant Or attired and ungulled Gules in chief three annulets conjoined in fess Or.
"Crest issuant from a celestial crown Purpure a demi-hart rampant Or attired and ungulled Gules charged with a saltire Argent and in its mouth a California Poppy Proper."
Clan Strachan Tartan – designed in 1987, by Tony Murray. According to Kenneth Dalgliesh (Scottish World Tartan Society) it was first seen in 1999, and was registered in 2000.

Clan Castles

  • Glenkindie House: Adam Strachan was granted lands in Aberdeenshire from William Keith (1350). William Keith had inherited the barony of Strachan through his mother, the daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser and niece of King Robert I. Adam Strachan also married the Daughter of the Earl of Mar, Margaret Mar, and gained the lands and baronetcy of Glenkindie. As a result of this marriage between the Strachan of Glenkindie and the Earldom of Mar, Strachans may wear the Tribe of Mar tartan. Additionally, as the Earldom of Mar were related to the King Robert the Bruce, descendants from this marriage would no doubt have royal blood.
  • House of Thornton: In 1348, seven years before Adam Strachan obtained Glenkindie, a Sir James Strachan of Monboddo married Agnete, heiress of the Barony of Thornton, which had been granted to her father by Robert I in 1309. From thenceforth, the Strachans of Thornton and the Strachans of Glenkindie became the two principal chieftains of the Strachan family. Thornton Castle lies about 15 miles to the south of the village of Strachan and Glenkindie House lies about 30 miles to its north.
  • House of Carmyllie: Alexander de Strachan granted the barony of Carmylie in Forfarshire (1347) by Sir Henry Maule of Panmure. Also received the lands of Drummayeth, Hackmangerum, Acheyclare, and Moncur.
  • House of Lenturk: Sir John de Strachan was granted the barony of Lenturk in Aberdeenshire (1350 possibly by the Earl of Mar, as his lands were situated quite near to the Earl of Mar's fortress, Kildrummy Castle). In 1359, Sir John became Viscount (Sheriff) of Forfarshire. In official documents of the time, he is listed as a witness to the installation of John of Mar as Bishop of Aberdeen and, to another charter, as co-witness with William Keith, the Earl Marshall. In 1380, the granted the lands of Petgervy to his son Galfrid.
  • Barony of Aberdeenshire: ~1347, King David II himself granted to Donald de Strachan and his wife Annabel very extensive lands in Forfarshire, and a barony in Aberdeenshire.
  • House of Knock: Thomas de Strachan got the lands of Knock in Kincardineshire.

It is highly unlikely this is a coincidence, as all these grants occurred almost simultaneously, particularly as they involved marriages, and marriages amongst the nobility were typically political. It follows that there must have been some new motivation that made marriage with the Strachans politically desirable.

It is believed by historians (see "Notes" immediately below) that the former Baron de Strachan was one of the large numbers of pro-Balliol nobles who, after the Battle of Inverurie (1308) fled to the English court, and where they were known as "the disinherited". But in 1347, King David, honouring obligations under the Franco-Scottish alliance, invaded the north of England, were heavily defeated, and captured by the English. So, from the perspective of "the disinherited", here was the son of the man (King Robert the Bruce) who had disinherited them arriving captive in London. If one king could disinherit them, why should not another? With a little persuasion King David reinstated the Strachans, among others.

Clan Septs

The Anglicization of the Gaelic led to different spellings of the name, as transliterations were made in various censuses: Strachan (mainly Scots), Straghan (mainly Irish), or Strahan (both) and Strawn (American). Strachen, Straughan, Strawhun, Straun, Strane, Stracon, Strahin, Strain, Strong, Strongman, Stronger, Strang, Stronge, Strang, Strange, Strangeman, Straughn, and Stranahan are also recognized derivations of Strachan.[3]

See also


  1. ^ History of Clan Strachan
  2. ^ Clan Strachan Warcry - Clachnaben!
  3. ^ Strachan Names List
  • Story of Clan Strachan
  • Strachan, Major Benjamin, CMG. Author of "A History of the Strachans."
  • Strachan, James Andrew, FSA Scot. Author of "Here's Tae Us, Wha's Like Us – A History of Clan Strachan."

External links

  • Official Clan Strachan Society Website
  • Clan Strachan at
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