Origins of the Clan

The early Scottish Chisholms were not to be found in the Highlands, but owned land near the English border. In 1296, in the Ragman Rolls, John de Chesolm (Chesehelm) was described as “of the county of Berwick” and Richard de Chesolm (Chesehelm) as “of the county of Roxburgh“, while in 1335 Alexander de Chesholme was called “Lord of Chesholme in Roxburgh and Paxtoun in Berwickshire.”

In Scottish Gaelic, the name is rendered “Sosal” or Sosalach”.

Wars of Scottish Independence

Robert Chisholm fought against the English at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, was taken prisoner with King David II and probably not released until eleven years later when his royal master returned to Scotland. In 1359 Robert Chisholm succeeded his grandfather as Constable of Urquhart Castle, and later became Sheriff of Inverness and Justiciar of the North. This Robert was the last Chisholm to hold lands in both the North and South of Scotland. He divided his estates among his younger children.

Clan Conflicts

Battle of John o’ Groats; Hugh Freskin Sutherland is said to have strengthened the family’s royal favor by ridding the north of a ferocious band of robbers lead by Harold Chisholm. Among the crimes, a number of Sutherland churchmen were tortured by nailing horseshoes to their feet and making them dance to entertain the followers before putting them savagely to death. On hearing of this outrage, King William the Lion ordered Hugh of Sutherland to pursue Chisolm to the death and a great fight ensued near John o’ Groats. All of the robbers were either killed or captured. Harold Chisolm and the other leaders were given a punishment to fit the crime, horse shoeing and hanging. The rest were gelded to prevent any offspring from men who were so detestable. This seems to have been a frequent punishment of the time. In 1198 an entire sept of the Clan Sinclair were castrated for the killing of the Bishop of Caithness.

The Chisholms became well known for cattle raiding. In 1498 Wiland Chisholm of Comar and others carried off 56 oxen, 60 cows, 300 sheep, 80 swine and 15 horses belonging to Hugh Rose of the Clan Rose.

Later in 1513 Wiland Chisholm of Comar and Sir Alexander MacDonald of Glengarry were with Sir Donald MacDonald of Lochalsh on his return from the Battle of Flodden Field when he decided to invade the Clan Urquhart. Some sources say that Macdonald occupied Urquhart Castle for three years despite the efforts of Clan Grant to dislodge them.

Civil War

In 1647, Alexander Chisholm was appointed to the committee which arranged the defence of Inverness on behalf of the Covenanters against the Royalists. In 1653 the Chisholms stole cattle from the Clan Munro and Clan Fraser, they were however captured and brought to court where they were ordered to return all they had stolen and pay the Chief Munro of Foulis and Chief of Clan Fraser 1000 interest each.

After the Stuart restoration in 1660, Alexander followed his father as a Justice of the Peace, and in 1674 was appointed Sheriff Depute for Inverness. Once again his duties brought him up against the MacDonalds, for in 1679 he was ordered to lead a thousand men of the county to quell a disturbance created by some members of the clan, and in 1681 he was given a commission of fire and sword against them.

Jacobite Uprisings

During the Jacobite uprisings the Chisholms sided with their old enemies the Clan MacDonald in support of the Jacobites against the British Government. The Clan Chisholm took part in the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Another portion of the Clan was on the Government side at Culloden. After the battle, the officer leading the Government Chisholms was declared The Chisholm, the head of the Clan.

Clan Chief

The present Chief is Andrew Francis Hamish Chisholm of Chisholm, Thirty-third Chief of Clan Chisholm.

Clan Castle

The seat of the Clan Chisholm was at Erchless Castle, which was sold in 1937.

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