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History of the Scottish Clans

What is a Clan?

Clan = children
Mac = son of

Chief = Supreme Leader and Lawgiver
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The Tanist
Nominated by the Chief
Tanistry was a system of succession
by a previously elected member of the Clan or family.
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Commander/Military Leader
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Chieftains
(heads of various branches or Septs of the clan,
always appointed if the Chief were old or infirm)
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Gentlemen
(those who could claim a blood connection with the Chief)
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Clansmen
The greatest in numbers --
In times of peace, the clansmen did the manual work;

in times of war, they fought for their chief



The term clan, now applied almost exclusively to the tribes into which the Scottish Highlanders were formerly, and still to some extent are divided, was also applied to those large and powerful septs into which the Irish people were at one time divided, as well as to the communities of freebooters that inhabited the Scottish borders, each of which, like the Highland clans, had a common surname. Indeed, in an Act of the Scottish Parliament for 1587, the Highlanders and Borderers are classed together as being alike "dependents on chieftains or captains of clans." The border clans, how ever, were at a comparatively early period broken up and weaned from their predatory and warlike habits, whereas the system of clanship in the Highlands continued to flourish in almost full vigour down to the middle of the 18th century. As there is so much of romance surrounding the system, especially in its later manifestations, and as it was the cause of much annoyance to Britain, it has become a subject of interest to antiquarians and students of mankind generally; and as it flourished so far into the historical period, curiosity can, to a great extent, be gratified as to its details and working.