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Clan Cameron
Septs, Founding Tribes
and Surname Variations 

Cameron of Lochiel's Own Website

The following Scottish surnames have been affiliated with the Clan Cameron throughout the years.  Many of these names do not appear in the "standard" listing of Cameron septs, especially when considering surname variations and Gaelic versions.  Anyone bearing a surname within these listings, or descended from someone who bore that name, are considered part of the Clan Cameron and are entitled to membership in Clan Cameron Associations worldwide.






This surname is said to be derived from a Cameron who entered the French military service and assumed the name of Camerarius/Camerario (in French: De La Chambre), or Chalmers, as to be "more agreeable to the language of that country."

One of this specific Cameron's progeny, remaining in France, was the ancestor to the Lord of Tartas and others of this surname in that Kingdom.

Another of that name, having returned to Scotland, was the ancestor of the Chalmers of Aberdeen-shire and other parts of Scotland.  Chalmers was used as a "code name" for various Camerons during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, which may also signify the surname's connections with Clan Cameron.

All of the above mentioned names may be traced back to the Scots form of the name Chambers.


The above similar surnames are "anglicized" versions of the Gaelic "Mac a' Chlerich/Cleireach"; son of the cleric or, sometimes, clerk.  Those of Irish origins are usually of the surname Clarke, which is "Cleary" when anglicized, or Laoghaire, which is "Leary" when anglicized.  This sept is considered to have an ecclesiastical origin, as the name denotes.  Outside of Lochaber this sept is "claimed" as part of Clan Chattan, more specifically, Clan Mackintosh.

Near Lundavra, east of Loch Linnhe and south-west of Ben Nevis in Nether Lochaber is a place named Blar nan Chleireach, otherwise known as "The Field of the Clerks."  This place name is known to have existed prior to the mid-sixteenth century, when Donald "The Taillear Dubh" Cameron was brought up here by his foster parents.  The Gaelic version of the surname, Mac a' Chlerich/Mac a' Cleireach, supports this theory, in that they are strikingly similar to the place name.  In recent years there have been similar claims of place name-surname "connections" within Clan Cameron.  Only recently was it brought to light that the surname Stronach, taken from the Camerons of Strone, is a valid Cameron sept.

Curiously, Blar nan Chleireach is not part of the disputed lands between Clan Cameron and Clan Mackintosh.  It may be that the Mac a' Chlerichs, who are known to be adherents to both Lochiel and Mackintosh, split internally within their ranks.  Those who remained loyal to Lochiel may have left the disputed lands near Glen Loy, settling further from potential retribution from the Mackintoshes, yet within Lochiel's sphere of protection.  There is precedent to suggest that this may have been possible, in that during this era these "splits" within a clan were not uncommon.

There is evidence to suggest that segments of both Clan Cameron and Clan Mackintosh remained loyal to the Lord of the Isles during the early-mid fifteenth century.  If the Mac a' Chlerichs "split" in a similar fashion, then this would explain the "claim" of the sept by both clans.  If these residents of the "field of clerks" were "of Lundavra," then they were among the most staunch supporters and adherents of the Camerons of Lochiel.  In 1613, when the Camerons of Erracht and Glen Nevis revolted against Allan MacDonald Dubh Cameron, Sixteenth Chief, the Camerons of Lundavra, Callart and Culchenna were among Lochiel's firmest supporters.


A small "tribe" of this name occupied the lands of Achdalieu for many generations.  They probably descend from one, Cumming, who assisted Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel (17th Chief of Clan Cameron) at the Battle of Achdalieu in 1654.


This surname is derived from "MacDhomhnuil Duibh," "Domhnull Dubh," 11th Chief of Clan Cameron.  The surname Dowie is from "Dow" (of dark or black complexion) (in Gaelic=Dubh) + the diminuitive suffix "ie."


The surname Gilbert means "Bright Pledge"; with Gilbertson implying "Son of the Bright Pledge."  Gibbon is a double diminutive of Gilbert.


First and foremost, it should be stated that the Kennedys are a Scottish Clan in themselves.  Often, incorrectly, they are thought of as exclusively a sept of Clan Cameron in Scotland.  Only those Kennedys of Lianachan (2 miles south of Spean Bridge/Fort William road, the turning being a mile west of Spean Bridge) are stated to have been followers of Lochiel, though there may have been some living near Clunes at one time..

The progenitor of the Kennedys of Lochaber was Ualrig (Ulric) Kennedy of family of Dunure, Ayrshire.  He fled from justice (also stated to have fled from Carrick) after "some fatal affray" into the "wilds" of Lochaber during the sixteenth century.  His descendants became followers of Clan Cameron.  At a later point some of the MacWalricks broke from Clan Cameron, attaching themselves to MacDonnell of Keppoch.  The Celtic surname of Kennedy is derived from C(e)inneidigh, "Ugly Head/Ugly Chief."


MacGillonie and its variations are the "appellation" of the Camerons of Strone, one of the four original "principal" branches of Clan Cameron (and therefore not technically a "sept," but included here for clarification.)  They are said to be one of the most ancient "tribes" of Lochaber.  The surname is thought to be from the Gaelic "Mac Gille 'an fhaidh"/"Mael an' fhaidh," meaning "son of the servant of the prophet."

There is some indication that the surname "Stronach" is also a MacGillonie variation.  The name may have been taken from that of the area, "Strone" with the "ach" added, meaning "Son of Strone."

Strone lies near Erracht, at the foot of Glen Loy, where the small burial ground of the Camerons/MacGillonies of Strone is located.  Tradition holds that Charles MacGillonie of Strone led the Cameron "tribe" at the Battle of Invernahavon in 1370, the first of many battles to come against Clan Macintosh.


A "tribe" of MacKenzies occupied holdings in Onich and North Ballachulish under Lochiel.  Tradition holds that in the days of Ewen Beag M'Connel M'Ewen of Lochiel (14th Chief of Clan Cameron) some MacKenzies came to assist him in one of the encounters with Clan Macintosh; in gratitude they were rewarded with these lands.  Another version of this tradition states that the original MacKenzies in this area were rewarded for banishing the Mackintosh mother of Allan M'Connel Dow (16th Chief of Clan Cameron), after she threw the infant chief into the embers of a lit fireplace (after hearing of a Cameron victory over her "Maiden Clan").  The MacKenzies were reportedly responsible with mounting her to a horse, face to its tale, and driving it off into Mackintosh territory (never to be seen again).


The MacLachlans of Coruanan are thought to be the oldest cadet family of Clan MacLachlan.  Located at Coruanan, along the shores of Loch Linnhe (about 4 miles south of Fort William)

The MacLachlans of Coruanan were the hereditary standard-bearers of the Chiefs of Clan Cameron.  Lochiel's banner, which was carried from the field at the battle of Culloden by a MacLachlan of Coruanan, now hangs by the main stairs within Achnacarry.  Those others by this name in Coruanan followed Lochiel as their chief.


One of the original four branches of Clan Cameron (and therefore not technically a "sept," but included here for clarification)  the MacMartins apparently inhabited the area to the east of Loch Lochy from "very early times."

Tradition holds that the 11th Chief of Clan Cameron, Donald Dubh, married the daughter of a MacMartin Chief in the early fifteenth century, securing the support of the MacMartin "following."  The MacMartins are said to have been amongst the most loyal and valuable followers of Lochiel.

The MacMartins continued to have their own chief, associated lands and followers, although after the mid-sixteenth century they became "fully identified with the Camerons" and were known as "Cameron, alias, MacMartin," or visa versa.  In the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, the MacMartins were "out with" Lochiel's regiment, although their chief did not seem to take an active part in activities.

The MacMartins resided in Letterfinlay, Invergloy, GlenLoy, parts of Dochanassie, Stronaba and Mucomer/ Mucomir.  The Dochanassie MacMartin-Camerons were renowned far and wide for their strength and daring.  The burial place of the MacMartins is at Cill 'Icomar (Cladh Mucomir), Achnanaimhnichean.


According to Cameron tradition the MacMasters were originally the "tribe" who occupied the lands of Ardgour, eventually displaced by the MacLeans.  Later they occupied land in the vicinity of Inverlochy.  A small tribe of this name, who lived at Corrybeg on Lochielside, were followers of Lochiel.


A branch of this Scottish Clan, located along Loch Arkaig, was "confederated" with Clan Cameron for hundreds of years, following the Cameron Captains and Chiefs.  They do not appear to have widely adopted the name of Cameron.

This MacMillan "tribe" is said to be descended from John, eldest son of Malcolm Mor, 1st of Knap.  They originally settled along Loch Eil, but were granted lands along Loch Arkaig, by Macintosh, during the 14th century.  When the Camerons successfully occupied these disputed lands the MacMillans transferred their allegiance to the Captains of Clan Cameron and became "some of their staunchest followers."  These MacMillans fought along with Clan Cameron, following their own chieftain, MacMillan of Murlaggan.

The surname of MacMillan is derived from "son of Millan."  There is a small burial ground near the shore of the Loch at Murlaggan where the MacMillans lie buried.


The MacPhails and the associated spelling variations of their surname are of the same "stock" as the MacBeans and both are said to be MacGillonies in origin.  The ancestor of MacBean of Kinchyle, chief of Clan Bheann, came from Lochaber.  Many of this "ilk" settled near Inverness, upon the marriage of the heiress of Clanchattan and MacIntosh, early in the fourteenth century.  A portion of this clan, known as MacPhails (son of Paul) remained in Lochaber and followed Lochiel.  Tradition holds that the MacPhails at one time occupied Fassifern and were quite influential.


A branch of this Scottish Clan, in Glendessary and adjacent parts, was "confederated" with Clan Cameron for hundreds of years; following Lochiel, but usually retaining their surnames.

They were a branch of the Clann Dhubhi, whose chief, MacPhee of Colonsay, was driven off of that island and the clan became "broken," settling where they might in other clan lands.


One of the original four branches of Clan Cameron (and therefore not technically a "sept," but included here for clarification) the MacSorlies were one of the earliest tribes of Lochaber.  They are said to have originally descended from the same "stock" as the MacDonalds, as their patronymic implies - "Sliochd Shomhairle Ruaidh," "The Race of Somerled the Red."  Closely allied to their neighbors the MacMartins, the MacSorlies resided in Glen Nevis.

By the end of the fifteenth century the MacSorlies came under the leadership of Clan Cameron, although they seemingly didn't adopt the name of Cameron until the early seventeenth century.  The MacSorlies/Camerons of Glen Nevis were not the most faithful adherents to the Cameron Chiefs; they were know to be at feud with them on numerous occasions.

In the 1745 Jacobite Uprising the MacSorlies/Camerons of Glen Nevis were not "out" under their their leader, Alexander Cameron of Glen Nevis, but many of them were with Lochiel's regiment nevertheless; Alexander's brother Angus "brought out" the Rannoch Camerons to join the regiment.


The Taylors who are affiliated with Clan Cameron as a sept are said to be descended from Donald "Taillear Dubh na Tuaighe" (Black Tailor of the [Lochaber] Axe), who lived in the time of Mary Queen of Scots.  He was the "natural son" of Ewen Cameron, 14th Chief of Clan Cameron and a daughter of the Chief of Clan MacDougall, out of wedlock.  Ewen had Donald nursed by a tailor's wife at Lundavra; thus the name Taylor.  After his father's death (Ewen died while a captive of the Chief of the MacDougalls, held prisoner until he agreed to marry the Chief's daughter), Donald would became the greatest warrior that Clan Cameron had even known.  Acknowledgement of his parentage by his deceased father not being enough to ascend to the Chiefship, he excelled in the field of battle, usually against the Cameron's principal foes, the Clan Mackintosh and usually with his trusty Lochaber axe.  In time he would flee rising Cameron-Mackintosh internal Clan treachery, with a band of loyal followers, to Cowal.  The descendants of his followers there were for ages known as Mac an taillear; later as Taylor.  A tribute to Donald remains in the Cameron Coat of Arms, where his likeness, along with a Lochaber axe, borders/protects the outer shield.


All of these surnames are variations on the "Cameron" surname, beginning in the 12th century through about the 18th century.  There were a variety of reasons for these variations - family habit, local clerical error or simply the custom of a given geographic area.  All are considered "Cameron" by descent.