Deriving their name from the Gaelic Mac a’ Phearsain, meaning “son of the parson”, Clan MacPherson are believed to have been founded by a man named Muireach or Murdo Cattenach who was the priest of Kingussie in Badenoch.
Making up part of the great confederation of clans, Clan Chattan, the MacPhersons would gain their lands at Badenoch in 1309 after they helped to crush the Comyn family – the great rivals of Robert the Bruce. The Macphersons would defend their land here with great honour and would help the rest of their Chattan allies rout the Cameron clan in 1370 when they attempted to lift cattle near the River Spey.
The clan would eventually become more influential as they fought alongside Royalist forces during the civil war of the mid-17th century, however, they would soon lose their position leaders of Clan Chattan in 1672 – when the Privy Council and Lord Lyon ruled in favour of Clan MacKintosh.
The family would eventually recover from this setback and despite Duncan, the 10th chief, dying without any heirs, the clan would soon find a new leader in Euan of Cluny, a famous Highland leader during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Euan would successfully lead Jacobite forces to victory at Clifton Moor and – despite ending up on the losing side at the decisive Battle of Culloden – he would escape capture by Hanoverian forces for 9 years, before moving to France in 1755.
Despite Euan’s escape, the assets of the clan would not go unharmed as the redcoats would burn the clan’s ancestral seat of Cluny Castle in 1746 and the ancestor of the current chief, William MacPherson of Purser, would be killed at Falkirk during the same year. The subsequent chief, Duncan MacPherson of Cluny, would finally accept the defeat of the Jacobites and would fight for the British Government during the American War of Independence in the 1770s. For his service, he would have the MacPherson estates returned to him in 1784, 20 years after they were forfeited, but the estates would then be lost for the last time at the end of the 19th century after massive debts were accrued by a family member.
Today, despite not having a connection to their ancestral home, the MacPhersons can be found around the world and – thanks to the co-operation of clan members – many important MacPherson artefacts have been purchased by the clan association and can be found at the Clan MacPherson Museum in Newtonhouse. The current seat of the chiefly family is Newton Castle in Perthshire and the current chief is James Brodie Macpherson of Cluny.