Origins of the Clan
Famed for their patriotism from earliest times they boasted a royal origin. They are descended from the Flemish nobleman Freskin de Moravia (also progenitor of Clan Sutherland). Flemish and Norman lords crossed the North Sea and established themselves in the Scottish realm at the invitation of the Kings of Scots from the early 12th century. Freskin and his son were granted extensive lands in Moray and intermarried with the old line of Celtic Mormaers from Moray. They took the name ‘de Moravia’, ie. ‘of Moray’ in Latin. The descendents of his grandson William de Moravia’s descendents became Lords of Bothwell. The name became more generally written simply as ‘Moray’ (or variants), deriving from the great province of Moray, once a local kingdom, by the end of the 13th century. From him descend the principal houses of Murray; Tullibardine, Atholl, Abercairney and Polmaise. The name Murray is believed to derive from Pictish *Moritreb, meaning ’seaward settlement’, referring to the ancient province, the Mormaer of Moray much larger than the present county of Moray, running along the coast of the Moray Firth, north of the Grampians. MacMurray, Moray, Murry and Morogh are all variants of the family name.
Wars of Scottish Independence
In the 14th century during the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan Murray led by Chief Sir Andrew Murray fought in the first uprising against the English conquerors in 1297. Chief Andrew Murray was mortally wounded while leading the Clan Murray at the famous victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge 1297. His son, Sir Andrew Murray, 4th Lord of Bothwell, third Regent of Scotland, married Christian Bruce, a sister of King Robert the Bruce. Sir Andrew Murray led the Murrays at the Battle of Halidon Hill and was captured by the English at Roxburgh in 1333. He was released in time to relieve his wife who had been bravely holding out and defending Kildrummy Castle against the English.
In March 1337 a Scots army under Sir Andrew Murray recaptured the Clan Murray’s Bothwell Castle which had been taken by the English.
15th Century & Clan Conflicts
Clan Murray of Atholl Tartan
1426, Battle of Harpsdale, Chief Angus Dow Mackay of the Clan MacKay, with his son Neil, enters Caithness with all hostility, and spoils the land. The inhabitants of Caithness assembled with all diligence, and fought with Angus Dow Mackay at Harpsdale, where there was great slaughter on either side. Soon after King James I came to Inverness, of intention to pursue Angus Dow Mackay. Angus Dow Mackay came and submitted himself to the King’s mercy, and gave his son Neil in pledge of his obedience in time coming, which submission the King accepted, and sent Neil Mackay to remain in captivity on the Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth, he was afterwards called Neil Bhasse Mackay.
1431, Battle of Drumnacoub, Angus Dubh Mackay defeats Angus Moray near Tongue.
Battle of Skibo and Strathfleet, 1480, John of Islay, Earl of Ross invaded Sutherlandshire and fought against men of the Clan Murray and Clan Sutherland.
Battle of Knockmary 1490; This battle was between the two long feuding clans of Clan Murray and Clan Drummond. The Murrays were first successful, however the Drummonds were later reinforced and drove the Murrays off the battlefield. Many of the Murrays took refuge in a small church near Crief. Legend has it that at first the Drummond pursuers could not find them but an all to eager Murray clansmen, seeing his chance fired an arrow and killed a Drumond. The Drummonds then heaped combustibles around the church and burnt it to the ground with all those inside. Eight score Murrays were included in the holocaust, only one of those within the kirk escaping by the compassion of a Drummond clansman outside, who was his relation.
16th Century & Clan Conflicts
Clan Murray of Tullibardine Tartan
The eldest of Murray of Tullibardine’s seventeen sons, Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, had, with other issue, William, his successor, and Sir Andrew Murray, ancestor of the Viscounts Stormont. His great-grandson, Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, was a zealous promoter of the Reformation in Scotland. George Halley, in the curious document already quoted, says that “Sir William Murray of Tullibardine having broke Argyll’s face with the hilt of his sword, in King James the Sixth’s presence, was obliged to leave the kingdom. Afterwards, the king’s mails and slaughter cows were not paid, neither could any subject to the realm be able to compel those who were bound to pay them; upon which the king cried out - ‘O, If I had Will Murray again, he would soon get my mails and slaughter cows’; to which one standing by replied - ‘That if his Majesty would not take Sir William Murray’s life, he might return shortly’. The king answered, ‘He would be loath to take his life, for he had not another subject like him!’. Upon which promise Sir William Murray returned and got a commission for the king to go to the north, and lift up the mails and the cows, which he speedily did, to the great satisfaction of the king, so that immediately after he was made lord comptroller”. This office be obtained in 1565.
1542, Battle of Alltan-Beath, Donald Mackay of Strathnaver decided to invade and molest the lands of Clan Sutherland. He burned the village of Knockartoll and stole many goods from Strathbrora. The Clan Sutherland and Clan Murray led by Hutcheon Murray of Abirscors with Gilbert Gordon of Garty decided to attack the MacKays. They attacked the MacKays at a place called Ailtan-Beath. After the battle the MacKays fled and much of the stolen booty was recovered. Donald MacKay was captured and imprisoned in Foulis Castle, Ross-shire by commandment of the Queen Regent.
1562, Battle of Corrichie, the Murrays support Mary, Queen of Scots against George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly.
In 1570 John Sinclair, Master of Caithness, son of George Sinclair 4th Earl of Caithness, chief of Clan Sinclair burned the Cathedral in pursuit of men from the Clan Murray who had taken refuge in the steeple. John was later imprisoned in Sinclair & Girnigoe Castle by his father until 1577.
1594, Battle of Glenlivet, the Murrays fought on the side of the Earl of Argyll whose forces consisted of 10000 Highlanders from Clan Campbell, Clan Forbes, and the Chattan Confederation of Clan MacKintosh. Their enemy was the Earl of Huntly whose forces consisted of 2000 Highlanders from Clan Gordon, Clan Comyn and Clan Cameron.
17th Century & Civil War
In the early 17th century a deadly feud broke out between the Murrays of Broughton and the Clan Hannay which resulted in the Hannays being outlawed.
Sir John Murray, the twelfth feudal baron of Tullibardine, was brought up with King James, who in 1592 constituted him his master of the household. On 10th July 1606 he was created Earl of Tullibardine. His lordship married Catherine, fourth daughter of David, second Lord Drummond, and died in 1609.
His eldest son, William, second Earl of Tullibardine, married Lady Borothea Stewart, eldest daughter and heir of line of the fifth Earl of Athole of the Stewart family, who died in 1595 without make issue. He eventually, in 1625, petitioned King Charles the First for the earldom of Athole. The king received the petition graciously, and gave his royal word that it should be done. The earl accordingly surrendered the title of Earl of Tullibardine into the king’s hands, 1st April 1626, to be conferred on his brother Sir Patrick Murray as a separate dignity, but before the patents could be issued, his lordship died the same year. His son John, however, obtained in February 1629 the title of Earl of Athole, and thus became the first earl of the Murray branch, and the earldom of Tullibardine was at the same time granted to Sir Patrick. This Earl of Athole was a zealous royalist, and joined the association formed by the Earl of Montrose for the king at Cumbernauld, in January 1641. He died in June 1642.
Chief of Clan Murray, James Murray was to begin with a strong supporter of King Charles and received the Marquess of Montrose at Blair Castle in 1644. However at the Battle of Tippermuir in 1644 James Murray led 1,800 men of the Clan Murry in support of the Scottish Covenanters against the Royalists.
18th Century & Jacobite Uprisings
War in France
Clan Murray fought for the British at the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709 against the French in France. The Battle of Malplaquet was one of the main battles of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was fought on September 11, 1709 between France and a British-Dutch-Austrian alliance (known as the Allies). Later in 1745 Lord John Murray’s Highlanders fought for the British at the Battle of Fontenoy against the French.
Jacobite rising of 1715 to 1719
Men from the Clan Murray fought at the Battle of Glen Shiel 1719 under William Murray, against the British government and in support of the Scottish Jacobite rebels. Their commander William Murray was wounded but escaped to France only to return with Prince Charles Edward Stuart for the Jacobite rebellion in 1745.
Jacobite Uprising of 1745 to 1746
During the Jacobite Uprisings of 1745 to 1746 many Murrays fought on both sides. The Chief of Clan Murray who was the Duke of Atholl supported the British Government however three of his sons betrayed him and chose to support the Jacobites. This resulted in the forces of the chief and his sons fighting against each other in battle. John Murray of Broughton served as secretary to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. At the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 two Murray regiments, called ‘Murrays 46th Regiment’ and ‘Murray’s 42nd Regiment’ fought for the British government. However at the same battle there was another Murray regiment on the Jacobites’ side led by Lord George Murray who was the son of John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl who was the chief of Clan Murray.
In December of 1745 Lord George Murray was one of the main Jacobite commanders involved in the Siege of Carlisle which was taken on 13th-15th December. He also fought at the Clifton Moor Skirmish on the 19th December 1745. Although three of his sons had joined the Jacobite rebels John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl the chief of Clan Murray himself actually remained loyal to the British government and he helped apprehend the Jacobite rebel Robert Roy MacGregor
The Duke of Atholl’s son Lord George Murray, was the Jacobite general responsible for the Jacobite’s initial successes during the early part of the 1745-1746 rebellion. Another Jacobite commander, William Murray even landed with Jacobite leader Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 at Borodale 25th July. He was the main Jacobite commander at the Battle of Prestonpans, Battle of Falkirk (1746) and the Battle of Culloden.
After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 William Murray tried to escape however as he was suffering from bad health and fatigue he surrendered on the 27th April 1746 to Mr Buchannan of Drummakill. He was then taken to the Tower of London where he died on July 9th 1746. Lord George Murray escaped to the continent in December 1746, and was well received in Rome by the prince’s father, James Stuart, who granted him a pension. Despite the father’s hospitality, when Murray journeyed to Paris the following year, the prince refused to meet with him. Murray lived in numerous places on the continent over the next few years, and eventually died in Medemblik, Holland on the 11th October, 1760 at the age of 66. Meanwhile, the prince’s erstwhile secretary John Murray of Broughton earned the enmity of the Jacobites by turning king’s evidence.
The ruined inner hall of Bothwell Castle
Blair Castle was the seat of the chief of Clan Murray who was the Duke of Atholl.
Bothwell Castle was one of the Clan Murray’s castles. It was taken by the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence. However in March 1337 a Scots army under Sir Andrew Murray recaptured the castle. It remained with the Murrays until it was lost to the powerful Clan Douglas. It wasn’t until the 1600s that the Murrays got the castle back again.
Balvaird Castle built in 1500 for the Murrays of Tullibardine, Earls of Mansfield and Mansfield.
Clan chief: John Murray, 11th Duke of Atholl
Badges and Crest
The current Clan badge (depicted at the beginning of this article) depicts a demi-savage (the upper half of a wreathed, shirtless man) holding a sword in the right hand and a key in the left. The clan motto appearing with this badge reads “Furth, Fortune, and Fill the Fetters“, which roughly translates to “go forth against your enemies, have good fortune, and return with items of value“. The demi-savage badge was the one favored by the late Duke, and the Clan continues to use it out of respect.
An older Clan badge depicts a mermaid holding a mirror in one hand and a comb in the other. The motto that appears with this version is “Tout pret“, which is Old French for “Quite ready“. This older badge is still found in many books and heraldry shops, and it remains readily recognizable.
The Clan crest is a peacock.
Family names associated with the Murray Clan: Balneaves, Dinsmore, Dunsmore, Fleming, Moray, Murrie, Neaves, Piper, Pyper, Smail, Smale, Small, Smeal, and Spalding (this list is shorter, but is in line with the list used by the home society in Scotland). The Clan Septs and Dependents comprise those who were descended from the Chief through the female line and consequently bore a different surname; and those who sought and obtained the protection of the Clan and became dependents.
Other septs of Clan Murray include: Balneaves, Buttar Butter, Butters, Flamanc, Flamang, Flamench, Flamyng, Fleeman, Fleeming, Flemen, Fleming, Flemmynge, Flemyn, Flemyne, Flemyng, Flemynge, Fleymen, Fleyming, Fliming, Flymen, Flymyng, MacKinnoch, MacKmurrie, MacMurray, MacMurre, MacMurree, MacMurrie, MacMurry, MacMurrye, MacMury, Mirrey, Monchryf, Moncref, Moncrefe, Moncreife, Moncreiff, Moncreiffe, Moncrief, Moncriefe, Moncrieff, Moncrieffe, Moncrif, Moncrife, Moncriffe, Monkreff, Monkreth, Montcreffe, Montcrief, Montcrif, Moray, Morray, Mouncref, Mowray, Mulmurray, Mulmury, Muncrefe, Muncreff, Muncreif, Muncreiffe, Muncreyfe, Muncrif, Muncrife, Munkrethe, Muray, Murra, Murrai, Murraue, Murray, Murrie, Murry, Mury, Neaves, Pepper, Phylemen, Piper, Pyper, Ratray, Ratre, Ratteray, Rattray, Retrey, Rettra, Rettray, Rotray, Smail, Smaill, Smal, Smale, Small, Smalle, Smaw, Smeal, Smeall, Spaden, Spadine, Spaldene, Spaldeng, Spalding, Spaldyn, Spaldyng, Spaldynge.
Various members of Clan Murray have held important seats as Earls and Dukes in Scotland throughout history. They have included amongst others the following:
Earl of Atholl, The position of Earl of Atholl also known as Earl of Tullibardine has been held by the Murrays since 1606. In 1676 the title was promoted to Marquess of Atholl. In 1703 the title was again promoted to Duke of Atholl and is currently held by John Murray, 11th Duke of Atholl.
Earl of Dunmore (1661 to the present day).
Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield (1776 to the present day).
Earl of Annandale and Hartfell (1625 to 1658).
Earl of Dysart (1643 to 1698).
Earl of Sutherland, A separate line of Murrays by the name of “de Moravia” held the title of Earl of Sutherland from the early 13th century to the early 16th century. This title also made them Chiefs of the Clan Sutherland. The title went to a younger son of the Chief of Clan Gordon in the early 16th century, who in the 18th century changed their surname to Sutherland.
Earl of Wigtown (1341 to 1382) (1606 to 1747).