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Heraldry Database: Colquhoun


Surname:  Colquhoun
Branch:  Colquhoun
Origins:  Scottish
More Info:  Scotland

Background:  The territory of the Colquhouns is in Dumbartonshire, and the priciple familes of the name are Colquhoun of Colquhoun and Luss, the chief of the clan, a baronet of Scotland and Nova Scotia, created in 1704, and of Great Britain in 1786; Colquhoun of Killermont and Gardcadden; Colquhoun of Ardenconnel; and Colquhoun of Glenmillan. There was likewise Colquhoun of Tilliquhoun, a baronet of Scotland and Nova Scotia (1625), but this family is extinct.

The origin of the name is territorial. One tradition deduces the descent of the first possessor from a younger son of the old Earls of Lennox, because of the similarity of their armorial bearings. It is certain that they were anciently vassals of that potent house.

Motto:  Si je puis, If I can.
Arms:  Argent, a saltire engrailed Sable.
Crest:  A hart's head couped Gules, attired Argent.
Supporters:  (on a compartment embellished with hazel saplings Proper, fructed Or). Two ratch-hounds Argent collared Sable.
Badge:  A branch of hazel slipped Proper and fructed Or enfiled of a buckle Argent, jewelled Gules.
Plant:  Hazell saplings.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The lands of the Colquhouns lie on the shores of Loch Lomond. The name itself probably derived from the Gaelic ‘cuil chumhann’ – ‘narrow corner’. Umphredus de Kilpatrick received from Malduin, Earl of Lennox, the estates of Auchentorily, Dumbuck and Colquhoun during the reign of Alexander II. The chief’s early stronghold was Dunglas Castle, near the royal castle of Dumbarton. Later chiefs of Colquhoun were to be appointed governors and keepers of Dumbarton Castle. The barony of Luss, from which the chiefs now derive their territorial designation, came to the Colquhouns by marriage, when Sir Robert of Colquhoun married the heiress of the Lord of Luss around 1368. Sir John Colquhoun of Luss was appointed governor of Dumbarton Castle during the minority of James II, and was murdered in 1439 during a raid at Inchmurrin. He was succeeded by his son, also Sir John, who rose to be Comptroller of the Royal Household, and extended considerably the family estates. In 1457 he received a charter incorporating all his lands into the free barony of Luss. The forests of Rossdhu and Glenmachome together with the lands of Kilmardinny, followed a year later. In 1474 he was part of the embassy to Edward IV of England, seeking to negotiate a marriage between the infant James IV and Edward’s daughter, Cecilia. He fought at the siege of Dunbar Castle, held by rebels against the king, where he was killed by a canonball. The Colquhouns also controlled the Castle of Camstradden, which had been obtained by a younger son of Luss in 1395. The sixth Colqu-houn Laird of Camstradden was a renowned knight who fought at Pinkie in 1547.

The strategic nature of the Colquhoun lands made them particularly vulnerable to clan raids, sometimes of great ferocity. In 1603, Alasdair Macgregor of Glenstrae marched into Colquhoun territory with a force of over four hundred men. His band followed a track along the eastern hills above Loch Long. The chief of the Colquhouns, who was granted a royal commission to suppress the Macgregors, assembled his followers and neighbours, and with a force of five hundred foot and nearly three hundred horse, advanced up Glen Fruin to repel the Highland raiders. Macgregor split his force in two and while the Colquhouns and the main Macgregor force locked in deadly combat, the second band of Macgregors outflanked their foes and attacked from the rear. The Colquhouns were caught in a vice and were driven into the Moss of Auchingaich where their cavalry were useless. It is believed that over two hundred Colquhouns were killed. The ancient enmity between the Colquhouns and the Macgregors gradually subsided until, at the end of the eighteenth century, the chief of Colquhoun and the chief of Clan Gregor visited Glen Fruin and shook hands on the very site of former slaughter.

Sir John Colquhoun, the eleventh Laird of Luss, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia on 30 August 1625. He was accused in 1632 of absconding with his wife’s sister, Lady Catherine Graham, daughter of the Earl of Montrose. It was alleged that he had used witchcraft and sorcery to accomplish his intrigue. He, perhaps wisely, did not return to answer the charges, and as a fugitive he was excommunicated and his estates forfeited. The estates were recovered, after much negotiation, by Sir John’s eldest son in 1646. Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, fifth Baronet, represented Dunbartonshire in the last Scottish Parliament in 1703, and strongly opposed the Treaty of Union. On 30 March 1704, having no male heir, he resigned his baronetcy to the Crown and obtained a new patent, allowing the title to pass on his death to the male issue of his daughter’s husband, James Grant of Pluscardine. When Pluscardine’s elder brother died, he succeeded to the substantial estates of his father and once more assumed the name of Grant. He was ancestor of the Earls of Seafield and the Barons Strathspey, on whom the baronetcy devolved. Sir James Grant Colquhoun, fourth son of James Grant and Ann Colquhoun, succeeded to the Colquhoun estates, and built the grand mansion of Rossdhu which was until recently the seat of the chiefs.

Sir Ian Colquhoun, the seventh Baronet of the new creation, and father of the present chief, was a distinguished and popular figure in Scottish society. He was mentioned in dispatches no less than five times in the First World War and twice wounded. He was created a Knight of the Thistle and was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. A member of the Royal Commission on ancient and historical monuments in Scotland and some time Rector of Glasgow University, he was at the forefront of the movement to preserve Scotland’s ancient monuments and countryside.

Name Variations:  Colquhoun, Cowan, Cowen, Culchone, Ingram, Kilpatrick, King, Kirkpatrick, Laing, MacAchounich, MacClintock, MacCowan, MacLinden, MacLintock, MacMains, MacManus, MacOwan.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.




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