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Surname:  Abercromby
Branch:  MacNab
Origins:  Scottish
More Info:  Scotland

Background:  The name "Macnab" (however spelt) is from the Gaelic "Mhic an Aba" and means "sons (or children) of the Abbot." Originally there were lay abbots, and according to tradition the Macnab chiefs were descended from the younger son of Kenneth McAlpine, King of the Scots, Abbot of Glendochart and Strathearn, who united the Scots and the Picts. Macnabs are members of a larger clan grouping, Siol-an-Alpine Clan Alpine, with the MacGregors, MacKinnons, Grants, Macquarries, and MacAulays.

The early history of Clan Macnab is bound up with Saint Fillan, the later of two so named. He was a Scot, the son of Feradach or Feriach, who succeeded St. Mundus as Abbot of Kilmun, then moved to Glendochart. The ruins of his chapel are at Kirkton in Strathfillan; his "pool" and "stone bed," supposed to cure the insane, are still there. Other relics of St. Fillan, important to the Clan, still exist. His pastoral staff, or crozier, (the Quigrich), which was carried before the Clan in battle, and his bell are in the National Museum in Edinburgh. His "healing stones" are at the Tweed Mill, Dochart Bridge, Killin. He died on 9 January, 703 A.D.

Macnab country stretched from Tyndrum west into Argyll, and east down Glendochart to Killin, where the seat of the Clan was Macnab Castle on Eilan Ran, an island on the north bank of the River Lochay. This was at the western end of Loch Tay, a point of great importance when there were no roads and water was the quickest means of transport.

The surname "Macnab" was first found in a document dated 1124 AD in the reign of David I. Angus Macnab, incensed by the murder of his brother-in-law, The Red Comyn, by Robert the Bruce, joined the Red Comyn's son-in-law, MacDougall of Lorn, and defeated the Bruce at the Battle of Dalrigh in Strathfillan. The Bruce then defeated MacDougall and Macnab at the Pass of Brander, 1308, and Bannockburn, 1314. The Macnab lands were forfeited, but in 1336, Gilbert of Bovain received a charter from King David II, and is regarded by the Lord Lyon as the first chief.

Motto:  Timor omnis abesto, Let fear be far from all.
Arms:  Sable, on a chevron Argent three crescents Vert, in base an open boat wit hoars in action on a sea in base undy, Argent and Azure.
Crest:  The head of a savage affrontee Proper.
Supporters:  (on a compartment embellished with stone-bramble) Two dragons Sable, armed and langued Or, having wings elevated Argent semee of crescents Vert.
Badge:  The head of a male savage.
Plant:  Stone-bramble.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The name Macnab derives from the Gaelic ‘Mac an Aba’, ‘child of the abbot’. According to tradition, the progenitor of this great clan was Abaruadh, the Abbot of Glendochart and Strathearn, the younger son of King Kenneth Macalpine. Abaruadh, the Red Abbot, was descended from King Fergus of Dalriada and a nephew of St Fillan, founder of the monastery in Glendochart in the seventh century.

Robert, the fourteenth chief, was apprenticed to study law under Colin Campbell of Carwhin, and he married the sister of John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane. This strong Campbell connection constrained him from supporting the Jacobite rising in 1715, although many of his clansmen drew their swords for the ‘Old Pretender’. The fifteenth chief was a Major in the British Army. His brother Archibald was also a serving officer and was taken prisoner by Jacobite forces at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.

Francis Macnab succeeded as sixteenth chief, and although within the clan he is renowned as a notable producer and consumer of whisky, he is more generally known as ‘The Macnab’ of Raeburn’s outstanding portrait. He inherited a great burden of debt, and despite considerable personal efforts, he owed over £35,000 when he died in 1816. He had never married, and was succeeded by his nephew, Archibald, who made desperate efforts to extricate the estate from debt. In 1823 a writ of foreclosure was issued, and Archibald was forced to flee to Canada, where he eventually obtained a grant of land in the Ottawa River Valley. Eighty-five settlers came to the estate, which he renamed Macnab. When an official enquiry was threatened into allegations of excessive rents there, he fled to Orkney, then to London, and finally to France, where he died in 1860. Sarah Anne, the eldest of his children, was recognised as the eighteenth chief, but she died unmarried in Italy in 1894.

It was established that the Arthurstone branch of the chiefly family was now entitled to succeed and the de jure chiefship passed to James William Macnab. He served in the East India Company and was succeeded by his eldest son, James Frederick, rector of Bolton Abbey. His only son, James Alexander, succeeded as twenty-first de jure chief. In 1954, he relinquished the chiefship to his uncle, Archibald Corrie Macnab, who had acquired the Killin estate to enable him to become the twenty-second de facto chief. Archibald died in 1970 when the succession reverted to James Charles, the eldest son of James Alexander, who is the present and twenty-third chief.

Name Variations:  Abarcrumbie, Abarcrumby, Abbot, Abbotson, Abbott, Abbottson, Abercrombie, Abercromby, Abercrombye, Abercrummye, Abircromby, Abircromme, Abircromy, Abircromye, Abircrumby, Abircrumbye, Abircrummy, Abircrumy, Dewar, Deware, Dewere, Dochard, Dochart, Gilelin, Gilfalyn, Gilfelan, Gilfillan, Gilfillane, Gilfillian, Gilfolan, Gilfulain, Gilfulan, Gilland, Gillefalyn, Gillefillane, Gillefillian, Gillefolan, Gilleland, Gillephillane, Gillifelan, Gillilan, Gilliland, Gillphillan, Gilphillan, Guileland, Guililand, Guilliland, Guliland, Gulliland, Jore, MacAnaba, MacAndeoir, MacGeorge, MacIndeoir, MacIndeor, MacIndoer, MacJore, MacKnabe, MacNab, MacNabb, MacNap, Makinnab, Maknabe, Milnab.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.

The beautiful heraldry artwork for this family is available to purchase on select products from the Celtic Radio Store. We look forward to filling your order!


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