Clan MacTavish

Clan MacTavish
Crest badge
Clan member crest badge - Clan MacTavish.svg
Crest: a boar's head erased Or langued Gules.

MacTavish of Dunardry arms.svg
Steven Edward Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry
Chief of the Name and Arms of MacTavish

Clan MacTavish is a Highland Scottish clan.



The MacTavishes and Campbells are thought to share a common origin. Clan MacTavish claims to descend from Taus (Tavis) Coir, illegitimate son of Colin Mael Maith and a daughter of Suibhne Ruadh (Sween the Red of Castle Sween).[1] Nothing certain is known of Taus Coir other than he is listed in traditional genealogies.[2] According to the 17th century genealogy Ane Accompt of the Genealogie of the Campbells, which traces Colin Mael Maith back to the mythological King Arthur, Colin Mael Maith had one legitimate son and two illegitimate sons. The Accompt states the legitimate son as "Gillespic" or "Archibald", ancestor of Clan Campbell; and the two illegitimate sons are "Taius Coir" and "Iver", ancestors of the MacTavishes and MacIver Campbells.[3]

According to Alastair Campbell of Airds in 2000, a more probable candidate for the ancestor of the clan, rather than the possibly mythological Taus Coir, is the historical Sir Thomas Cambel.[4] Earlier in the 1970s, W. D. H. Sellar was also of the same opinion about Thomas.[5] In 1292 his name is recorded on a list of landowners in the sheriffdom of Kintyre. In 1296 he signed the Ragman Roll as 'Thomas Cambel among king's tenants in Perthshire'. The next year he was released from his imprisonment in the Tower of London. In 1308 he signed his name on a letter to the King of France. He was possibly dead by 1324, when his probable son, Duncan, was granted lands in Argyl for services rendered. In 1355, Duncan is listed as among 'the Barons of Argyll' at an inquest in Inverleckan, under the name of "Duncanus MacThamais".[6]

The chiefly line of MacTavishes are styled 'MacTavish of Dunardry' (the Gaelic Dun-ArdRigh means "fort or castle of the High King"). It is unknown who built the castle of Dunardry, or even when it was built. The castle is marked on a 1634 Timothy Pont map. By 1686 it must have been in the possession of the Earls of Argyll. It was renovated in 1704 by Duncan MacTavish, and according to the 19th century historian G.D. Mathews, it seems likley it was later owned by the MacTavishes.[2] Today nothing exists of the site, as it lays beneath the Crinan Canal.[6]


It is thought that Ewin MacTavish died while serving under the Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll (who also died) at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. In 1533, his grandson Iain Makalister McEwin McCaus and Dougal McAne received from Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll a charter for the 3 merklands of Dunardry, the 2 merklands of Dunans, the 1 merkland of Barderiche, the 1 merkland of Barloskiin, the 1/2 merkland of Barindaif, extending to 7½ merklands in Knapdale.[6]

18th century and Jacobite uprisings

In 1715 the Jacobite cause saw its first failed attempt to place the Stuarts back on the throne of Scotland and England. During this time Chief Archibald MacTavish was sympathetic to the Jacobite cause but took no action to support either the Government or the Jacobites.

Due to the fact that Dugald, the Younger, was imprisoned in September 1745 and that the Chief (Archibald) was quite elderly, during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, some of the MacTavishes fought within the ranks of their neighbor, MacIntosh.

On 16 April 1746 at the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobite army was defeated by a much larger force of the British government army (5000 fighting for Prince Charles and 9000 fighting for the government). On that day, the Jacobite army of Prince Charles lost the battle, and the fate of the Jacobite cause was sealed.

Highland Clearances

Unfortunately, after Culloden, some Jacobite Highland Chiefs treated their own clansmen very badly, transporting their Clan members off their land and, indeed, from their country. This was the period known as the Highland Clearances. The MacTavish Chiefly line, still seated in Dunardarie with their clansmen, were not involved in the "clearing" of their own kin, and no MacTavishes were put off the lands.

After Culloden, a few of the MacTavish started to use the Thom(p)son spelling. The Chiefly line of MacTavish, however, retained the name MacTavish and remained seated at Dunardry. Parish registers and family groups of gravestones in Argyll express the transition of the name from MacTavish to Thomson or Thompson.

Sale of Dunardry

Dugald's son and Heir, Lachlan MacTavish succeeded his father in 1775. On 31 December 1785, Lachlan was forced to sell Dunardry at public auction as he fell into financial difficulites, partly due to the building of the Crinan Canal which split the MacTavish lands in half. By this time, the Act of Proscription 1746 had taken away all the powers of the Chiefs except that of Landlord. The Canal had lasting effects for Scotland, and against the MacTavishes, who fell on harder times because the canal affected their ability to collect rents, as it separated their tenants from their farms and cattle. Lachlan, his wife and son, Dugald, who was three years old, moved to Edinburgh where Lachlan was installed as Governor of Taxes for the Crown, living at St. James' Court.

In 1797 Dunardry was purchased by Simon McTavish of Montreal, from Stratherrick, Invernesshire. Simon McTavish was born of the Garthbeg branch of the family and at this time was probably the richest man in North America. The Stratherrick McTavishes were considered a sept of Clan Fraser.[7]

20th century

Back in the 18th century Lachlan's son, Dugald, under age in 1796, did not register the MacTavish arms; and as a grown man, with his duties as the Sheriff Substitute of Kintyre he obviously did not feel inclined to do so, as he was, already, legally known as MacTavish of Dunardry. He died without having re-registered the Arms. Unfortunately, this carried on with his son William MacTavish who had moved to the "wilds" of Canada. William also declined to register the Arms. It is nominally suggested by Lord Lyon that at least every other generation re-register the Chiefly Arms, to avoid dormancy of the Clan. As a result of William not matriculating for the arms, the Chiefly line was "lost" until 1949, when the Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, contacted the MacTavish family in Canada, advising them that they were the long-lost Chiefly line, inviting them to petition for the Arms and Chiefship of the Clan.


Clan MacTavish experienced a dormancy of 200 years when Lachlan MacTavish was the last Chief to register at that time. The dormancy ended in 1997 when Edward Stewart Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry matriculated. His son, Steven Edward Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry is the current Chief of Clan MacTavish.

William's great grandson, Edward Stewart Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, was matriculated by the Court of the Lord Lyon 23 July 1997 and granted the Arms and Title of Chief of the Clan MacTavish of Dunardry, and was the 26th Chief of the Clan in an unbroken line. He died on 19 June 2005 at his home in Vancouver, BC. He is succeeded by his son and heir, the 27th Chief, Steven Edward Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

Clan profile


The current chief of Clan MacTavish is Steven Edward Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacTavish [8]. He assumed leadership of the clan upon the death of his father, Edward Stewart Dugald MacTavish [9]

Origin of the name

The clan name MacTavish is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Mac Tamhais.[10] This name is a patronymic form of the Scots personal name Tammas, which in turn is a form of the name Thomas.

The Gaelic name Mac Tamhais is pronounced similarly to 'MacTavis' or 'MacTavish' (the "mh" in Gaelic pronounced as the "v" in the English word "very"). In old charters, the name had many variant spellings. Some spellings found within old charters, post-Culloden parish registers, and in The Commons Argyll appear as MacAvis, MacCamis, McCawis,McKavis, McKnavis, M'Ash, MacAnish, mcTais, MacTavifh and mcThavish, to give but a few. It seems that from near the end of 17th century, the spellings, MacTavish and/or Thom(p)son or Thomas were the most common. Variations in surname spelling within one document are often seen for the same person.[citation needed]

Clan symbols

The crest badge suitable for members of Clan MacTavish contains the crest and motto of the clan chief. The crest is blazoned a boar's head erased or langued proper.[11] The motto is NON OBLITUS,[12] which translates from Latin as "not forgetful".[13] Both the crest and motto echo those from the chief of Clan Campbell. The MacTavishes had been considered a part of Clan Campbell until 1997 when the "Chief of the Clan MacTavish" was recognised by the Lord Lyon. The motto is a response to the Campbell chief's NE OBLIVISCARIS (which translates from Latin as "do not forget").[13] The phrase “Clan MacTavish”, the crest badge and the Chief's coat of arms have all been trademarked in both Canada and the United States. The serial numbers for the existing trademarks are: Clan MacTavish 78847088 Crest Badge 78847258 Coat of Arms 78849931

Chiefly arms

In 1793, John Hooke-Campbell Lord Lyon King of Arms granted the following coat of arms to Lachlan MacTavish of Dunardry: Quarterly, 1st and 4th a Gyronny of eight Sable and Or; 2nd and 3rd, Argent, a buck's head cabossed Gules attired Or on a chief engrailed Azure a cross crosslet fitchèe between two mullets Or. Crest a boar's head erased Or langued Gules. Motto: NON OBLITUS. The arms display in the first and fourth quarters the gyronny prominent in Campbell heraldry reversed for difference. The second and third quarters are a differenced version of the arms of Thompson of that Ilk.[14]

In 2002, at the request of Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, the Lord Lyon King of Arms re-granted his arms with certain amendments. MacTavish of Dunardry insisted on switching the Campbell gyronny from the first and fourth quarters to the second and third quarters. The new arms are blazoned Quarterly, 1st and 4th, Argent, a Buck's Head cabossed Gules attired Or on a Chief engrailed Azure a cross crosslet fitchèe between two mullets of the First; 2nd and 3rd, Gyronny of eight Sable and Or. Above the Shield is placed an Helm befitting his degree with a Mantling Azure doubled Argent, and on a Wreath of the Liveries is set for Crest a boar's head erased Or langued Proper, and in an Escrol over the same this Motto "NON OBLITUS".[11]

The phrase “Clan MacTavish”, the crest badge and the Chief's coat of arms have all been trademarked in both Canada and the United States. The serial numbers for the existing trademarks are: Clan MacTavish 78847088 Crest Badge 78847258 Coat of Arms 78849931


While the origins of the term sept are disputed, in modern times Scottish septs are considered to be family names and name variants associated with a particular clan. In some instances, names are added to the list of clan septs by invitation of the Chief in honor of a valued friendship or marriage [15]. In this manner, Stephenson/Stevenson was added to the Sept list for Clan MacTavish by Chief E.S. Dugald MacTavish in 1999.

Names, variant names, and septs for Clan MacTavish include Cash, MacCash, MacCavish, MacLehose, MacSteaphain, MacTavish, MacThom, MacThomas, Stephen(son), Steven(son), Tais, Taws, Taweson, Thom, Thomas, Thomason, Thompson, Thomson, Tod(d) and all variant spellings.[16][17]


  1. ^ "The Bloodline of the MacTavish Chiefs" (pdf). Retrieved 13 April 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Mathews, G.D.. "Argylshire". In Adams, Patricia (pdf). Retrieved 13 April 2008. 
  3. ^ Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2000). A History of Clan Campbell; Volume 1, From Origins To The Battle Of Flodden. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 9–12. ISBN 1-902930-17-7. 
  4. ^ Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2000). A History of Clan Campbell; Volume 1, From Origins To The Battle Of Flodden. Edinburgh University Press. p. 46. ISBN 1-902930-17-7. 
  5. ^ "The Origins of the Campbells". Clan Campbell Society North America. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2000). A History of Clan Campbell; Volume 1, From Origins To The Battle Of Flodden. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 243–244. ISBN 1-902930-17-7. 
  7. ^ Alexander Mackenzie. 1896. History of the Frasers of Lovat, with Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, to which is added those of Dunballoch and Phopachy, Inverness: A. and W. Mackenzie, printed by The "Scottish Highlander" Office, pp. 697-699.
  8. ^
  9. ^ burkes peerage
  10. ^ "McTavish Name Meaning and History". Retrieved 14 April 2008. 
  11. ^ a b "Clan MacTavish Press Release, New Arms For MacTavish Chief". Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Clan MacTavish". Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. Retrieved 9 June 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2000). A History of Clan Campbell; Volume 1, From Origins To The Battle Of Flodden. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 246–247. ISBN 1-902930-17-7. 
  14. ^ Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2004). A History of Clan Campbell; Volume 3, From The Restoration To The Present Day. Edinburgh University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0748617906. 
  15. ^ Lyon Court statement regarding Chiefs right to accept Sept families into clans
  16. ^ Surnames of Scotland; by Professor George Black, 1866–1948, 12th Printing, 1999.
  17. ^ The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands; by Frank Adams, 7th Edition revised by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms
  • A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants before the Confederation, Donald Whyte
  • Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Middle Ages, Edward J. Cowan and R. Andrew MacDonald
  • Annals and Chronicles: (Ulster, Four Mastes, Tigernach, Inishfallen, Senchus fer nAlban, Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Life of St. Columba, etc.) Translations of these records can be brought into your nearest public library through Inter-Library loan.
  • Chronicles of Mann and the Sudreys, from the Manuscript Codex in the British Museum with historical notes by P. A. Munch, Professor of History n the Royal University f Christiania, HON. F.R.A.S.S., Revised, annotated, and furnished with additional documents, and English translations of the Chronyca, and of the Latin Documents by the Right Rev. Dr. Goss.
  • Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, Frank Adams, revised by Sir Thomas Learney, Lord Lyon
  • Hebridean Sea Kings: The Successors of Somerled, 1164–1316, W. D. H. Sellar
  • Highlanders: A History of the Gaels, John MacLeod
  • Late Medieval Monumental Sculpture in the West Highlands, Bannerman, J W M & Steer, Wm, 1977,Edinburgh.
  • Rebels without a Cause. The Relations of Fergus of Galloway and Somerled of Argyll with the Scottish Kings, 1151–1164, R. Andrew McDonald
  • Scottish Surnames, Donald Whyte, 2000
  • Surnames of Scotland, Professor George Black, 12th Edition 1999

External links

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