Chattan Confederation

Chattan Confederation
Red Whortleberry: plant badge of Clan Chattan.

Clan Chattan or the Chattan Confederation is a confederation of 16 Scottish clans who joined for mutual defence or blood bonds. Its leader was the chief of Clan Mackintosh.



The origin of the name Chattan is disputed. There are two main theories

  • The name is taken from Cait, an ancient name for the present counties of Caithness and Sutherland.
  • The clan derives its name from Gillchattan Mor, baillie of Ardchattan, follower of Saint Catan. This is the most widely accepted theory, but as an explanation may become circular because it is probable that Saint Catan worked among the Picts and may himself be named after Cait, or Caithness, a former Pictish kingdom, e.g. the Saint of Catan.

One of the traditional accounts of the founding of the Macpherson clan, states that Gillicattan Mor Mac Gillespic settled in the Lochaber region of Scotland on the eastern side of Loch Ness, where he founded the Clan Chattan. It is said that three of Gillichattan Mor's sons founded branches of the Clan Chattan. Murriach, a younger son of Gillichattan Mor, founded Clann Mhuirich. His grandson Duncan was called the Parson, because he had the collection of parsonage tithes in the Parish of Laggan.

It is from him that the name Macpherson, the 'Son of the Parson', became the surname the clan in the 15th century. Although the chief of the Mackintosh clan has most frequently been the leader of Clan Chattan, there has been a long rivalry with the chiefs of the Macpherson clan for that position. Together, as the principal chiefs of Clan Chattan, they were involved in a bloody feud with Clan Cameron that lasted 350 years.

In 1396, a gladiatorial contest between the Chattan confederation and Clan Cameron was staged at a field outside the city of Perth called the North Inch. This fight to the death took place in front of King Robert III and his court. According to the story, Clan Chattan killed all but one of their rivals with the loss of 19 of their party of 30 clansmen.

Until the early 14th century the Clan Chattan was a separate Scottish clan with its own chieftaincy, until Angus Mackintosh, 6th chief of Clan Mackintosh married Eva, the daughter of Gilpatric Dougal Dall, the 6th chief of Clan Chattan. Thus Angus Mackintosh became 6th chief of Clan Mackintosh and 7th chief of the Clan Chattan. The two clans united to form the Chattan Confederation, headed by the chief of Clan Mackintosh.[1]

Clans belonging to the Chattan Confederation

Panorama South from Chattan Clan monument to Sarah Justina Macpherson of Cluny at Craig Dhu, Laggan, Scotland

The clans that currently make up the Clan Chattan Association are as follows:[2]


Portrait of Cluny MacPherson, chief of the Clan Chattan, circa 1873

The Chattan Confederation formed when the Clan Chattan and Clan Mackintosh united under the Mackintosh chief. See chiefs of Clan Mackintosh.[1]

During the War of Independence with England, the clan sided with Robert I of Scotland, most likely because MacKintosh's enemy, John Comyn had declared for Edward Balliol. In reward for his fealty, MacKintosh was awarded the Comyn lands of Benchar in Badenoch in 1319. It was after this event that the Chattan Confederation grew in size and influence to 16 clans.[1]

During the 1745 Jacobite Rising, Angus, the chief of Clan MacKintosh was a captain in the Black Watch. Although traditionally the Clan supported the House of Stewart they had not declared for the Young Pretender. Angus's wife, Anne, of Farquharson, successfully rallied the Chattan Confederation to the Jacobite cause.[1]

Following the defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the clan was severely diminished in strength and influence. In 1747 the Clan Chattan Association was established as a way to stimulate interest in the clan history. The Association floundered and a second Association was founded in 1893. They again died out around 1900. The third Association was founded in 1933 in London and continues to this day.

In 1942, the Lyon Court separated the leadership of Clan MacKintosh and Clan Chattan. The leadership of Clan Chattan passed to the Mackintosh of Torcastle line.

Clan Association

The activities of the Clan are now carried on by the Clan Chattan Association. The first Clan Chattan Association was established in 1727 with the aim of watching and defending the interests of the clan 'against all who would seek the injury of any of its subscribers'. It might be seen as an unsuccessful attempt to recast the clan in modern form.[3]

The development of clan societies, as we now know them, aimed to provide friendly social intercourse between those linked by a common name and to stimulate interest in the knowledge and understanding of their clan's history.[3]

The writings of Sir Walter Scott romanticised the Highlands and led to the revival of interest in the affairs, culture and economic wellbeing of its people.[3]

The fashion for 'all things Highland' was at its peak once Queen Victoria fell in love with the land and acquired the estate of Balmoral. In that era, many clan societies and associations emerged, among them the second Clan Chattan Association which was founded in Glasgow in 1893.[3]

Support for the Association was strong and the meetings, lectures and dances were described as 'a brilliant success'.[3]

Despite a growing membership, the Association waned and died around the turn of the century. Even so the clan historians of the period had produced several works of merit which are still of value today.[3]

There was little concerted activity until, in the summer of 1933, a few enthusiastic clansfolk in London founded the third Clan Chattan Association. It has flourished to the present day and now has a worldwide membership although it remains firmly based in Scotland.[3]

The Association is sustained by a group of active office bearers. It continues to organise successful activities such as the annual events which take place at Moy Hall in conjunction with the Highland Field Sports Fair towards the beginning of August. Although scattered throughout the world, members are kept informed of these and other events through the annual journal of the Clan Chattan Association. The cover of the journal features a cat 'salient proper on a wreath' – of red whortleberry and a scroll with the motto 'Touch not the cat bot a glove'.[3]

The Association's journal seeks to promote a knowledge of Clan Chattan – its past, present and future.[3]

Clan chief and Council


The following is a list of the traditional chiefs of the Clan Chattan before uniting with the Clan Mackintosh to form the Chattan Confederation:[1]

No. Name
6 Dougal or Gilpatric, daughter married 6th chief of Clan Mackintosh.
5 Gillicattan
4 Muirach Macpherson, grandfather of the 3 branches of Macphersons
3 Gillicattan
2 Diarmid
1 Gillcarten Mor, first known chief of Clan Chattan.

In 1942 the leadership of Clan Chattan was passed from the Mackintosh of Mackintosh line, to the Mackintosh of Torcastle line. The current chief, MacKintosh of Torcastle, resides in Zimbabwe.


There is currently a Clan Council of eight chiefs, representing the major clans of the Chattan.[4]

  • John Mackintosh of Mackintosh (President).
  • Honourable Sir Wm. McPherson of Cluny (Secretary) .
  • Captain A.A.C. Farquharson of Invercauld.
  • John Shaw of Tordarroch.
  • James McBain of McBain.
  • Alister Davidson of Davidson.
  • Andrew McThomas of Finegand.
  • The Very Reverend Allan MacLean of Dochgarroch.

Clan profile

  • Plant badge: Red Whortleberry lat. vaccinium vitis-idaea
  • Crest badge: A cat salient, proper.
  • Clan chief's motto: Touch not the catt bot a glove. 'Bot' may mean "without" or "ungloved", either being a warning to those who would harm the clan.


The individual Clans of the Chattan Confederation had their own. There is a Clan Chattan tartan, formerly known as Mackintosh Chief, recognised by Lord Lyon in 1938.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Margarat (1982). The Clan Mackintosh and the Clan Chattan.. ISBN 0904265730. 
  2. ^ "Associated Constituent Clans". Clan Chattan Association. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Clan Chattan Association". 
  4. ^ "Clan Chiefs". Retrieved 2008-02-01. 

External links

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