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March 7, 2017

Dr. Bruce Durie PhD QG comments on the upcoming Currie Family Convention

Finding a Chief:

Some are born Chiefs, some become Chiefs, and some have Chiefship thrust upon them...

It's an easy matter for those clans and families who have always had a chief, and where there is an ovbious successor. Jamie MacNab became 24th Chief of MacNab in 2013 on the sad passing of his father. It is somewhat more difficult where there used to be a Chief, but has not been for some time. The Buchanans are currently seeking to identify and have recognised the rightful heir of the Chiefly line, vacant for over 330 years.The situation is more complex still where there never was a Chief, but the surname group seeks to establish one.

This is the process the MacAlpines have recently completed, and a Commander is likely to be appointed very soon, with that person becoming Chief (barring challenges from a better candidate is 3 to 5 years time.There are those who claim that this process is antiquated, or that it is unjustified to have a Chief who resides outwith Scotland. On the first point, while modern chiefs no longer expect to lead their clan or family in battle, or demand rents and levies from those around, there is an up-to-date role to be filled - the clan or family can speak with one voice through one person, recognised legally as the head, and can represent the interests of the surname worldwide.

On the second point, it is an accident of history that some Scots stayed in Scotland and some moved overseas. No one challenges the Chiefs of Davidson or MacNeill or Raasay on the grounds that they live abroad. Likewise, it may be that the best candidate does not live in Scotland. Claimants to the Scottish throne, after all, have tended to live furth of Scotland!

Additionally, having a recognised Chief lays to rest the nonsense of "Septs" - a piece of late-Victorian romantic nonsense designed to cheer up people who couldn't find their surnames on lists of tartans.

Finally, will Currie be a Clan? Probably not - historically there never was a Clan Currie or Clan MacMhuirich, with territories and a quasi-military structure. The term "family" is probably inappropriate for Currie, as well as it indicates the Lowlands. The MacMhuirichs, however, were proud Highlanders, and hereditary bards to a numnber of clans. They were truly a "learned kindred", which may be the best designation for Currie.

The Lord Lyon will decide, of course, if and when he recognises a Chief of Name and Arms of Currie.And that's where we're all headed...

Dr. Bruce Durie PhD QG is a well-known Scottish genealogist, heraldist and historian, with Right of Audience at the Court of the Lord Lyon.