sweeter after difficulties

History of the Ferguson Clan

Compiled from the pages of Michael Ferguson; original details since lost.

The names Fergusson and Ferguson derives from “Macfhearghuis” which is of ancient Celtic origin. One of Ireland’s oldest surviving documents, the “Tract on the Men of Albyn”, makes specific reference to the clan Fergusson (Albyn, Alba or Albion is an ancient name for Scotland reflecting the pallid-skinned natives). No other clan name mentioned in this ancient document has survived to modern times, making Fergus(s)on one of the oldest Scottish clans if not, dare I say it, the oldest Scottish clan.

Mediaeval historians made reference to a Fergus, living in Ireland around 300 B.C., who was credited with being the forefather to Scotland’s monarchy. It is a matter of record that by 500 A.D. the first of the people known as the Scots, under Fergus Mor MacErc [also referred to as Fergus Mor Mac Erc or Fergus Mor in some texts], left Ireland destined for the western shores of Alba (Scotland). Their purpose was more likely to invade and occupy rather than to peaceably co-exist with the indigenous Pictish inhabitants. They estabished a colony in the Argyll region, which they called Dalriada [aka Dal Riada or Dal Riata], named after the prominent Irish house, Dal Riata.

St Columba, quoted as a direct descendant of Fergus Mor, is credited with bringing Christianity from Ireland to Scotland. He was also associated with the coronation stone of the house Dal Riata. According to the legend, this stone was the same as that used by the biblical Jacob as a pillow. In bringing the stone to Scotland, Kenneth I (another direct descendant of Fergus Mor) had completely moved house of Dal Riata away from Ireland for good. The stone was relocated to Scone (pronounced ‘Scoon’) Abbey and became known as the ‘Stone of Scone’ or ‘Stone of Destiny’. This is an important symbol of the Irish, Scottish and subsequently British monarchy which has a considerable history of its own. It was blessed by St Patrick and has been used to crown Scottish, English and/or British monarchs from the day that it was brought to Scotland. The most recent ceremonial use was when Prince Charles knelt on it when he became the Prince of Wales (i.e. the incumbant British king). The Stone of Destiny was most recently in the news when it was returned to Scotland after residing for centuries in Westminster Abbey in London.

Fergus(s)on descendants may have brought this symbol with them from Ireland but more importantly they brought a blood-line. Almost all subsequent kings and queens of the Scots, including the present Queen Elizabeth II, are considered by historians to be of the same lineage as Fergus Mor. Without question, these are significant and profound contributions to the history of Scotland and indeed Britain.

Alas, the might and power of the Fergus(s)on clan began to wane, notably by the 13th century. This may have been due their gradual migration away from their first Scottish home in Argyll. They likely followed the paths laid by others who had landed with and after Fergus Mor to different parts of what is now Scotland. By the 18th century, there were at least five distinct Fergus(s)on clans spread across Scotland: from Ayrshire and Fife in the more southerly Scottish Lowlands to Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and Argyllshire in the more northerly Scottish Highlands. With the loss of power of the clan, it’s history in the latter centuries was less notable. Fergus(s)ons were associated with several notable events in Scottish history but were no longer making the history themselves.

A few words now about the Fergus(s)ons in the later centuries. The clan didn’t always stand united. Only some of the “sons of Fergus” fought with Robert de Bruce in the Wars of Independence from England (1314-1320). Much later, a minority of Fergus(s)ons, notably the Atholl (in Perthshire) Fergussons, supported Prince Charles Edward Stewart - the ‘Young Pretender’ - during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745-46. Most however sided with the government. Indeed, it was Capt. John Ferguson of the ship H.M.S. Furnace who pursued the fleeing Prince thoughout the Western Isles after his defeat at Culloden on April 16, 1746.

Like many other Highland clans, Fergus(s)ons were also affected by the Highland Clearances. The introduction of ‘more profitable’ sheep into the Highlands enforced an exodus of Fergus(s)on and many other Highlanders from their homeland between 1790 and 1850. Many lost their clan territories and migrated to a life of poverty in cities in England and parts of Ireland. Others left the ‘mist covered mountains’ of home in sailing ships destined for places such as Canada and the United States, places where Scottish heritage and culture could live and thrive again.

Gradually, in the 18th century, the Fergussons of Kilkerran in Ayrshire assumed seniority in the clan hierachy. Today, Sir Charles Fergusson of Kilkerran, 9th Baronet, who lives in the ancestral home near Maybole, is regarded as chief of all Scottish Fergusons and Fergussons.

Page created on Mon 15 Mar 2021 by Andy Ferguson