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Coat of Arms

The Clan MacNeil has strong ties to the island of Barra and can trace its lineage back to the O'Neils of Ulster (hence the red hand on the arms of the Chief) who came to Barra from Ireland around the year 1000.

However, Barra is not the only island in Scotland where you will find MacNeils. There are also McNeils on the Inner Hebridean islands of Colonsay and Gigha. The Gigha branch of the Ma.....

Heraldry Database: Forbes


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

Background:  The Clan Forbes is said to originate from one Ochonochar, who slew a bear and won the Braes of Forbes in Aberdeenshire in the 13th century. Alexander of Forbes, a fierce opponent of the English King Edward I was killed defending Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness. His son died at the Battle of Dupplin in 1332. Alexander Forbes was created a peer by James II in 1445 and married the granddaughter of Robert II. The Forbes of Culloden were descended from Sir John Forbes of Forbes, through t he Forbes of Tolquhoun. Duncan Forbes, Laird of Culloden was Lord President of the Court of Session at the time of the 1745 Rebellion. He used his great influence to oppose the Prince's cause, receiving no thanks from an ungrateful George II. Later he fought hard to ease the cruel reprisals inflicted on the Highlands. The Forbes are famous for building and owning many beautiful castles most notably Craigievar in Aberdeenshire.

Motto:  Grace me guide.
Arms:  Azure three bears' heads couped two and one Argent muzzled Gules.
Crest:  A stag's head attired with ten times Proper.
Supporters:  Two bloodhounds (Argent) collared Gules.
Plant:  Broom.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

In that part of north-east Scotland which spreads itself from the mountain ranges of Aberdeenshire to the coast of Banff and Buchan, lie the lands of the Clan Forbes; here the great houses and estates of the clan – once there were no fewer than one hundred and fifty of them – were situated along the winding rivers that flow eastwards and northwards especially along the valley of the Don. Overlooking the Don today stands Castle Forbes, built in 1815 by James Ochoncar, seventeenth Lord Forbes, and still occupied by the direct descendants of Duncan Forbes upon whom the original lands were conferred in a charter dated 1271 by Alexander III.

The Forbes family grew in power in Aberdeenshire throughout the fourteenth century. Sir John Forbes of the Black Lip had four sons: William became the progenitor of the Pitsligo line; John was ancestor of the Forbes of Polquhoun; Alistair of Brux founded the lines of Skellater and Inverernan; while Alexander, his eldest son, fought in the victory at Harlaw in 1411 alongside the Earl of Mar against the invading hordes led by Donald of the Isles, and was elevated to the peerage some time between 1443 and July 1445, when he took his seat in Parliament. Since then the title has been handed down through successive generations, and on the union roll of 1701, Forbes was the premier Lordship of Scotland, a precedence held to this day.

James, son of the first Lord Forbes, himself had three sons: William, the third Lord Forbes; Duncan, who founded the family of Forbes of Corsindae and Monymusk; and Patrick of Corse, squire to James III, whose line later became Baronets of Craigievar.

Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a long and bitter struggle was waged against the great house of Gordon, although the Forbeses’ traditional enemies were the Leslies. In the 1520s these feuds reached a climax, with murders by both sides occurring constantly. One of the most prominent of those killed by the Forbes faction, Seton of Meldrum, was a close connection of the chief of the Gordons, the Earl of Huntly. Huntly soon became involved in a plot aimed at the Master of Forbes, son of the sixth Lord, who was heavily implicated in the Seton murder. In 1536 Huntly accused the master of conspiring to assassinate James V by shooting at him with a canon. he Master was tried and executed, but within days his conviction was reversed and the Forbes family restored to favour. However, the damage to relations between the Forbes and Gordons was irreparable, and for the remainder of the century the feud reduced Aberdeenshire to an unparalleled state of lawlessness. The Reformation added religion to the differences already existing between the clans, as the Gordons remained defiantly Catholic but the Forbeses favoured Protestantism. The Forbeses’ traditional enemies, such as the Leslies, Irvines and Setons, attached themselves to the Gordon faction and thereby remained Catholic, while the Keiths, Frasers, Crichtons and others formed a Protestant opposition of which the Forbeses were the heart. The feud culminated in 1571 in two battles, at Tillieangus and Craibstone. Druminnor, then Lord Forbes’s seat, was itself plundered, and in the same month the Gordons followed this with the massacre of twenty-seven Forbeses of Towie at Corgarff. Two Acts of Parliament were required to force the clans to put down their arms.

In 1582, James VI confirmed his ‘trusty and well beloved cousin’, Lord Forbes, in the ‘lands which have been in continuous possession of his family in times past the memory of man’. However, the struggle of the previous decades had drawn the Forbeses deep into debt, making it necessary in later years for them to sell much of their land.

Through all these ‘local’ troubles, and indeed into this present century, members of the family have achieved military distinction for their country. James Ochoncar, the seventeenth Lord Forbes, was an officer in the Coldstream Regiment of Footguards for twenty-six years, rising to the rank of general, having served as second-in-command of the British forces in Sicily in 1808 before commanding the Cork and Eastern districts in Ireland. It was during his time in Ireland that a castle was built near Alford on the site of the old family home of Putachie, and the seventeenth Lord is generally regarded as responsible for the building and for the layout of the estate. Today Castle Forbes is the home of his great-great-great-grandson. The present chief of the clan, Nigel, twenty-second Lord Forbes, lives at Balforbes on the south side of the River Don, which bisects the ‘modern’ Forbes estate. He followed his father, Atholl, twenty-first Lord, into the Grenadier Guards and fought throughout the major campaigns of the Second World War, before becoming military assistant to the High Commissioner for Palestine, General Sir Alan Cunningham. Like his father and many earlier holders of the title, he was elected to serve as a representative peer for Scotland in the House of Lords, and was Minister of State for Scotland in the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan in 1958–59.

Name Variations:  Bannerman, Berery, Berrie, Berry, Boyce, Boyes, Forbes, Fordyce, Lumsden, MacOuat, MacOwat, MacQuattie, MacWatt, Mechie, Mekie, Meldrum, Michie, Middleton, Walter, Walters, Waters, Watson, Watt, Watters, Wattie, Watts.

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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