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February 3, 2017

Why a distinct learned family instead of a ‘sept’ of an existing clan?

  • In many popular books about Scottish surnames, Currie is often associated with MacDonald of Clanranald or MacPherson in an effort to assign a particular clan or tartan. While Curries were closely associated with these clans, particularly MacDonald of Clanranald as bards, there is no evidence of any direct kinship or having been considered a ‘sept’. The term ‘sept’ has no historical authority in Scotland – it was borrowed from the Irish in 19th Century, during a period of Victorian reimagining of the Highland spurred by Walter Scott’s novels, and intended to satisfy those who could find no ‘clan’ name or tartan to adopt.
  • The Clan Currie Society celebrated our close connections with Clanranald in 2012 by erecting a cairn at Stilligarry on South Uist at site of the remains of the bard’s house which the MacMhuirich received as part of his compensation.• From recent discussions with Ranald, Younger of Clanranald (son of The Captain of Clanranald, Ranald Alexander Macdonald of Clanranald) it is clear that he accepts that MacMhuirich was a family separate from but closely allied to Clanranald. Clanranald himself has said that in his view, a true Clan would have held authority over a large number of people which he could muster into an army, and would hold sway over large tracts of land. The MacMhuirich bard was a sole practitioner in his work. Both parties agreed that in this traditional definition of roles, the MacMhuirichs would be best described as a ‘learned family’ as opposed to a Highland Clan.
  • Curries who prefer to identify with MacDonald of Clanranald or MacPherson may continue to do so even after the identification of a Commander by a Family Convention. In seeking to be identified as a distinct learned kindred, the goal is to provide greater clarity about our identity. There is no desire to distance ourselves from other clans. Indeed, the greater distinction of the Curries from other families, the greater distinction to families such as Clanranald in having such an esteemed bardic dynasty so closely associated, not by blood but by choice.

David A. Currie

Chaplain to the Clan Currie Society