One of Scotland’s Largest and Oldest Clans has Appointed its First Chief in 337 Years

Ian Harvey
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For centuries, the Scottish clan Buchanan has been without a chief. The clan can trace its origins back to 1010 A.D., and has millions of members, not just in Scotland, but also in America, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Jamaica, according to the BBC.

Clan Buchanan’s last chief was John Buchanan, who died in 1681 without a male heir, leaving the clan without a chief for 337 years – until now.

John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, with his dog (Photo by : Clan Buchanan)

The clan will now be led by 60-year-old John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, who runs the Cambusmore Estate, near Callander, Scotland. He will now be known as “The Buchanan.” He first made an informal claim to the role 20 years ago.

A romantic depiction of a clan Duine Uasal (pronounced Dunnie-wassal) illustrated by R. R. McIan, from James Logan’s The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, 1845.

In September of 2018, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, head of the Lyon Court which regulates Scottish heraldry, formally upheld a petition from Mr. Buchanan to assume the chiefship.

Buchanan’s claim is based on the work of genealogist Hugh Peskett. Peskett, who is known for tracing President Ronald Reagan’s Irish ancestry back in the 1980s, came to the field 50 years ago when his grandmother, herself a Buchanan, urged him find the rightful chief.

Sir Francis Grant, Lord Lyon King of Arms (left), and the Duke of York (center) proceeding to St Giles’ Cathedral in 1933.

According to the Telegraph, The Buchanan believed himself to be the rightful chief as he is a descendant of Francis Buchanan of Arnprior, who was executed for his part in the Jacobite uprising of 1745, and whom Sir Walter Scott named as the true Buchanan leader.

The Buchanan’s father first told him of the family connections, and although he had never made an official claim for the title, he decided it was something to investigate.

Sir Walter Scott by Henry Raeburn, 1822.

He was quoted by the BBC as saying, “My family has been acknowledged as leaders of one of the principal clan septs, the Buchanan’s of Leny and Arnprior, for many years, but we have also believed that we had a good case for the overall chiefship. We first approached the Lyon Court informally over 20 years ago, and it has taken decades of research to back up our claim.”

He also thanked Peskett for his work and his enduring tenacity. In a letter to the clan, The Buchanan noted that he had commissioned Peskett to do the research 15 years ago, and that the case Peskett compiled consisted of 100 pages, went back to 1370 in places, and referenced some 300 documents.

Relationship of John Buchanan of Buchanan to Francis Buchanan of Arnprior. Photo by Scabd buchanan CC BY SA 4.0

With The Buchanan’s identity now proven, the Telegraph quoted Peskett as saying, “As a clansman of the clan Buchanan, it was absolutely fascinating to delve into the history and ancestry of one of the oldest clans in Scotland.

My research took decades to compile, and unequivocally confirms the chiefship claim.” He went on to note that it was a historic moment, and he thought that his grandmother would be proud of what they achieved. Peskett is no stranger to tracing lineage in Scotland.

In 2003, Peskett’s work meant that a London banker replaced a farmer as clan chief to the Oliphant family. Peskett has tracked down more than 12 chiefs in total, although finding The Buchanan has a special significance, owing to the family links.

The CBSI was founded in 1970 as the Clan Buchanan Society in America at the Grandfather Mountain Games in North Carolina. The name was later changed to the Clan Buchanan Society International, Inc., to reflect its expanded membership and purpose, according to the Clan Buchanan website. The CBSI is divided into sixteen regions, and has members in the United States and around the world.

Read another story from us:Scotland’s bitter feud comes alive with discovery of 16th century clan seal

David Byrne, the president of the Clan Buchanan Society International remarked, “This is a day many of us believed would never happen in our lifetime, so it’s a time to celebrate for our members.” He also noted that it has been the Society’s goal since its inception to maintain and preserve the clan’s traditions against the day that a new chief might be named.