Clan Affiliation


One affiliation of Kyles is with the MacDowall Clan of Galloway which has a Sept Coull; The Much Honored Fergus MacDowall of Garthland, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall has confirmed that he would permit Kyles into the MacDowall Clan as a variant name of the Coull Sept. Chief MacDowall is the Patron of the Kyle Family Society.


The Districts of Kyle were historically named "Kyle Regis" and "Kyle Stewart" so there is a connection with the Stewart Clan. Until recently, the grounds of Kyle Castle were owned by the Marquis of Bute, Chief of the Clan Stuart of Bute.


The MacDougal Clan has a Sept of "Cole" and they will accept Kyles in the Clan; source Clan MacDougal.


One family tradition holds that Kyles were related to the Campbells of Inverness through the Campbell branch known as Clan Chattary; source OM Kile. The Campbells have no record of this "Clan Chattary" although the Campbells of Loudoun were located in our area.


Since there is a record of "Kyle of that Ilk" as having recorded Arms in the Workman's Manuscript of 1565 there might be a possibility that the Kyles were a Clan in their own right at one time; source Lyon Court.


Other Clans in Ayrshire also included, Clan Kennedy, Wallace, Cunningham, Hamilton, Boyd, Bruce and others See Burkes Clan Map.




Burkes posting of Lyon court leaflet explaining clan crest badges



The Macnab (1734-1816) by Raeburn

The Macnab (1734-1816) by Raeburn. 16th Chief of Macnab, in his uniform as Lt-Colonel of the Royal Breadalbane Volunteers to whom he used to give his commands in voluble and forcible Gaelic. He courted a lady in vain, even though he "told her as an irresistible charm that he had the most beautiful burying-ground in the world." He never married although he is reputed to have had thirty-two children. 








Clans, Families and Septs
By Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt
13th August 2001

The difference between clans, families and septs is the source of many questions as is the question phrased in one way or another, which asks, "to which clan do I belong". There are many definitions of clans and families as there are people, but this article will try to indicate how these matters are viewed in the Lyon Court.

It should first be recognised that a clan or family is a legally recognised group in Scotland, which has a corporate identity in the same way that a company, club or partnership has a corporate identity in law. A clan or family is a ''noble incorporation" because it has an officially recognised chief or head who being a nobleman of Scotland confers his noble status on the clan or family, thus making it a legally and statutorily recognised noble corporation often called "the Honourable Clan…" A name group, which does not have a chief, has no official position in the law of Scotland. The chiefs Seal of Arms, incorporated by the Lord Lyon's letters Patent, is the seal of the corporation, like a company seal, but only the chief is empowered by law to seal important documents on behalf of his clan. A clan as a noble incorporation is recognised as the chief’s heritable property - he owns it in law and is responsible for its administration and development.

So far the words clan and family have been used interchangeably in this article and this is the position. There is now a belief that clans are Highland and families are Lowland but this is really a development of the Victorian era. In an Act of Parliament of 1597 we have the description of the "Chiftanis and chieffis of all clannis...duelland in the hielands or bordouris" thus using the word clan to describe both Highland and Lowland families. Further, Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, the Lord Advocate (Attorney General) writing in 1680 said "By the term 'chief' we call the representative of the family from the word chef or head and in the Irish (Gaelic) with us the chief of the family is called the head of the clan''. So it can be seen that all along the words chief or head and clan or family are interchangeable. It is therefore quite correct to talk of the MacDonald family or the Stirling clan, although modern conventions would probably dictate that it was the MacDonald clan and Stirling family. The Lyon Court usually describes the chief of a clan or family as either the ''Chief of the Name and Arms" or as "Chief of the Honourable Clan - -"

Who belongs to what clan is of course, a matter of much difficulty, particularly today when the concept of clan is worldwide. Historically, in Scotland a chief was chief of "the cuntrie". He was chief of his clan territory and the persons who lived therein, although certain of his immediate family, would owe him allegiance wherever they were living. The majority of his followers and in particular his battle relatively to a neighbouring chief, they would switch their allegiance to the other chief. Thus we find that when Lord Lovat took over a neighbouring glen to his clan territory for the donation of a boll of meal to each family, the family was persuaded to change their name to Fraser and owe him allegiance - to this day they are called the "boll meal Frasers". Another example is a migration of a family of the Macleans from the West Coast to near Inverness and on moving to Inverness they changed their allegiance from the Maclean chief to the chiefs of the Clan Chattan. Thus the Macleans of Dochgarroch and their descendants and dependants are properly members of the Clan Chattan and not members of the Clan Maclean even though they bear a common surname.

A chief was also entitled to add to his clan by the adoption of families or groups of families to membership of his clan, a good example being the "boll meal Frasers". Equally, a chief has and had the power to expel or exclude particular persons from membership of his clan and this included blood members of his family. It was his legal right to outlaw certain persons from his clan. This is accepted in the modern sense to mean that a chief is empowered to accept anyone he wishes to be a member of his clan or decree that his clan membership shall be limited to particular groups or names of people. All persons who bear the chief's surname are deemed to be members of his clan. Equally, it is generally accepted that someone who determines to offer their allegiance to the chief shall be recognised as a member of that clan unless the chief has decreed that he will not accept such a person's allegiance, Thus, if a person offers his allegiance to a particular chief by joining his clan society or by wearing his tartan, he can be deemed to have elected to join that particular clan and should be viewed as a member of that clan unless the chief particularly states that he or his name group are not to be allowed to join the clan.

It should also be said that the various Sept lists, which are published in the various Clans and Tartan books, have no official authority. They merely represent some person's, (usually in the Victorian eras) views of which name groups were in a particular clan's territory. Thus we find members of a clan described, as being persons owing allegiance to their chief "be pretence of blud or place of thare duelling". In addition to blood members of the clan, certain families have a tradition (even if the tradition can with the aid of modern records be shown to be wrong) descent from a particular clan chief. They are, of course, still recognised as being members of the clan.

Historically, the concept of "clan territory" also gives rise to difficulty, particularly as certain names or Septs claim allegiance to a particular chief, because they come from his territory. The extent of the territory of any particular chief varied from time to time depending on the waxing and waning of his power. Thus a particular name living on the boundaries of a clan's territory would find that while the chiefs power was on the up they would owe him allegiance but - if his power declined retrospectively at some arbitrary' date which the compiler of the list has selected. Often the names are Scotland-wide and so it is difficult to say that particular name belongs to a particular clan. Often surnames are shown as potentially being members of a number of clans, and this is because a number of that name has been found in each different clan's territory. Generally speaking, if a person has a particular sept name which can he attributed to a number of clans, either they should determine from what part of Scotland their family originally came and owe allegiance to the clan of that area or, alternatively, if they do not know where they came from, they should perhaps owe allegiance to the clan to which their family had traditionally owed allegiance. Alternatively, they may offer their allegiance to any of the particular named clans in the hope that the chief will accept them as a member of his clan. Equally, as has already been said, with the variations from time to time of particular chiefly territories, it can be said that at one particular era some names were members of or owed allegiance to a particular chief while a century later their allegiance may well have been owed elsewhere.

In summary, therefore, the right to belong to a clan or family, which are the same thing, is a matter for the determination of the chief who is entitled to accept or reject persons who offer him their allegiance.

© Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt.

Published with kind permission of  Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt. QC, Lyon Court Rothesay Herald of Arms, Chief of Agnew Clan.









The Law of the Clan

Source: Standing Council of Scottish Clan Chiefs


The name ‘clan’ is derived from the Gaelic word ‘clanna’, meaning ‘children’. The expansion of the power base of a single family group was inevitable as successful leaders extended their territories and thereby their ability to support larger groups of people, all acknowledging their paternal authority. The line of families extending from the chiefly line has been likened to a social pyramid with the chief at its apex, spreading down towards an ever broadening base; this arrangement of extended families was known in the Celtic polity as the ‘fine’ system. As Skene explained in Celtic Scotland:

"The fine system was one of the more important social features of the clan, not indeed as a means of succession but from the emphasis it gave to the concept of expanding branches, and the manner in which it developed biological communities within the Clan community keeping the pyramid always of manageable proportions. The gilfine consisted of a number of related households and was the minimum family commune. It was composed of five persons by which we understand not five individuals but five Heads. It represented the descendants of a grandfather as an actual working unit. Far from the title Chief being a rare one in Celtic civilisation, the popular unit was evidently the gilfine group under a gilfine Chief."

The Chief was required to govern wisely, and he was assisted in this by numerous officers, managers and an entire household of ‘civil servants’. If the chief was not well versed in law or was incapable of military leadership, these functions were delegated to a deemster or ‘judex’, or the war leader or ‘ceann-cath’, respectively. The tradition of an independent legal profession was well known throughout the Celtic lands, and judges (known as ‘brehons’) were highly respected individuals whose office tended to be hereditary. The ceann-cath was usually a member of the chief’s immediate family and often might have been the most suitable head of a major gilfine of the clan or perhaps the most likely heir if the chief were a youth or had no sons. There were no specific functions of the ceann-cath save in leading the war band and doing whatever might be necessary in times of military crisis. Following the chief himself in rank was the ‘tainistear’, who was the heir nominated by the chief during his own lifetime. The immediate family of the chief formed a kind of council known as the ‘derbhfine’, or true line. The heads of the individual gilfines, or houses into which the clan was divided, were known as ‘ceann-tighes’ which has generally been translated as ‘chieftain’. (The precise definition of this term has proved extremely problematic when it has come before the Courts; see section under Succession to the Chiefship.) The gentry of the clan, the ‘duisne-uasail’, constituted the only real rank gradation between the chief and his clansmen. They would have been originally denominated by their larger landholdings but in more modern times the term has become synonymous with an armiger, i.e. a person having their own grant of arms. As the Crown and its courts came to be called upon to settle disputes concerning chiefs and their clan rights, it became increasingly important to distinguish between chiefs and all their various descendants and, in particular, the principal cadets or gilfine houses. The development of a regulated and scientific system of heraldry was to become the key to this.









"The situation may, however, be that a family group has no clear historical evidence of its existence as a group in the distant past. In such a case it may be possible for a group to move towards being treated as a clan or name by various stages. Since the clan and heraldic systems are so closely linked, the first stage would be for there to be a number of individuals [i.e. more than 9] using the same surname to record their own Arms. Once there was a significant number of armigers within the group it would be possible for a derbhfine of the group to convene and make a proposal to the Lord Lyon for the appointment of one of the group as Commander. Regulations have been laid down as to the procedure to be followed in the conduct of such a derbhfine."   

--The Rt. Hon. Robin O Blair, LVO, WS, Lord Lyon, King of Arms








Two Mackintosh chiefs with their ladies at Moy, where The Mackintosh organized a Highland Industries Exhibition to coincide with his Clan Gathering in August 1964. The Mackintosh is standing in the center, between his wife and the Creek chief's daughter. On the right is Waldo E. MacIntosh, Principal Chief of the Creek Nation. His redskin name is Tustunuggee Micco, and his tribe numbers over 20,000, mostly in Oklahoma, where there is a MacIntosh County. He descends in the direct male line from the mediaeval Captains of Clan Chattan, through Lachlan Mor Mackintosh of Dunachton (the Chief who died in 1606) and a natural son of the Jacobite Brigadier of the 1715 Rising, William Mackintosh of Borlum. His branch emigrated to America in the eighteenth century, and marrying into the Creek redskin nation, became their chiefs.   ------  The Highland Clans by Sir Ian Moncreiffe of that Ilk.