by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot.
is a Celtic word meaning "Children of Duncan" and is pronounced "Donnakey".
Their ancestors were one of the northern Pickish tribes which resided in that
part of Scotland now called Atholl in Perthshire. The descent is through the
Earls of Atholl from King Malcolm II.
The first Chief was Donnachadh Reamhair, or "Stout Duncan" The original clan property was located in Rannoch, Perthshire by Loch Rannoch in the central highlands and was said to extend from the Moor of Rannoch to the gates of Perth.
One of the first accounts of the Clan was in 1306. Chief Duncan called the clan to battle in defense of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. Bruce was staying in Rannoch after his defeat at the Battle of Methven. Bruce was being pursued by Clan MacDougall as a result of his having killed a cousin of the chief of that Clan. The MacDougall's declared blood vengeance on Bruce and went to Rannoch to settle the account. Two battles were fought and both were won by Clan Donnachaidh. During the second battle on Rannoch moor, Chief Duncan was nearly captured by one of the MacDougalls, he had been spying in their camp and was discovered. To escape the grasp of his capture he let his tartan loose. Attached to the tartan was the Clan's crest. The MacDougalls captured the crest and have it to this day.
Chief Duncan and the Clan also fought in the Battle of Bannockburn, outside Stirling Castle, in 1314, during which King Bruce routed the English forces under King Edward II. Duncan died about 1355.
Duncan's great grandson Robert Ruabh Duncanson, became the forth Chief in the late 1300's. In 1437 King James I of Scotland was murdered at Perth, Robert, along with other members of the clan, pursued and captured the murderers on the moor above Invervack. Those captured were the Earl of Atholl, Sir Walter Stewert; his grandson, Sir Robert Stewert; and Sir Robert Graham. In 1451, King James II, out of gratitude, granted Robert a charter making the family lands into the Barony of Struan. This is represented in the chief's crest by a man in chains below the shield. As a result of receiving the Barony, the followers of Robert began calling themselves Robert's sons, thus the Clan name changed from Donnachaidh to the present Robertson.
The Robertsons have always been a wild lot. An example of this was a notice that appeared in 1516. " Donald Robertson of Struan, for many villainies committed by him, is beheaded at Logerreat this year, by the governor's command. Again in 1530; the then Earl of Atholl had a dispute over family lands with Robert's great-grandson William. The earl held a mortgage on part of the Struan lands and based on this claim seized half the Clan's property. William raided Atholl and was pursued by the Earls men. The dispute was finally resolved by the beheading of William by the earl's followers.
If they thought they were being wronged, they weren't afraid to speak up either. In 1681 Alexander Robertson, during a dispute with the Marquis of Atholl and the Marquis friend, John Fleming, declared in open court that Fleming was a knave and villain, adding that he would see the Marquis hanged before he would be his vassal. As for the court, he didn't give a pinch of snuff for it, either. He also threatened to write out his case on Fleming's skin. To say the least, the court was less then pleased with this outburst. Alexander lost his case and was ordered to apologize.
The Clan fought many battles through the years. They always fought under their own standard and as a group. It was said that "The considerable Barons of Atholl... if any be wronged, they all participate." The standard had a precious stone mounted on it called the clach-nan-brattich, or stone of the banner. It was believed to ensure victory in battle. The stone was probably a Druidical beryl.
In 1646, 800 members of the Clan joined the army of Montrose, under Donald, the tutor of Struan. Donald's nephew (the actual Chief) was a minor at the time. The clan, under chief Alexander Robertson of Struan, the Jacobite poet, took part in the Jacobite uprisings in 1689, 1715, and 1745. The Jacobites were rebels in the eyes of the English because they wanted to be ruled by their own Scottish King, Charles Edward Stewart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. The English king wasn't even English. He was of the Hanover dynasty of Germany.
After the Jacobite defeat at the battle of Culloden in 1746, where 400 Robertsons fought under Lord George Murray's Atholl Brigade, the rest of the lands were gradually sold off and the clan was scattered, many immigrating to other countries.
Besides the wild ones, the centuries have also seen many notable Robertsons. There have been famous poets, statesman and military officers. One Robertson, Alexander, a golf ball maker, was also the first professional golfer in Scotland and is represented in the St. Andrews golf museum.
Today, the current chief, Alexander Gilbert Haldane Robertson of Struan, resides in England.