In the real world he is Duncan Simpson, a businessman from Dundee who uses the title Laird of Lochaber, which is available on the internet for £29.95.
Now Donnachadh MacShimsi (Gaelic for Duncan Simpson), as he calls himself on his website, has incurred the wrath of a higher authority. The Standing Council of Chiefs in Scotland has accused him of being a “bogus chieftain” who is bringing the official clan movement into disrepute.
The standing council, which was formed in 1952 to protect the clan system from exploitation, is made up chiefs officially recognised as representing the interests of their ancient families. Council members are concerned that a number of individuals with no right to call themselves chiefs are fooling an unwitting public – particularly overseas – into believing they are becoming members of legitimate clan.
Sir Malcolm MacGregor, chief of the Clan MacGregor and current convener of the standing council, said: “We need to notify people to beware people out there posing as chiefs. Scotland has attracted a number of these people who set themselves up as something that they are not.
“The title clan chief carries legal, historical, authentic weight. This man in Dundee is holding the system up to ridicule because he was self-appointed with no authority and no authenticity and people are just being misled.
“If people go around doing this they dilute the brand and the whole clan system.”
Simpson set up the clan and appointed himself its chief 12 years ago and uses the title Laird of Lochaber, which can be purchased from Lochaber Highland Estates for £29.99. Each purchaser receives a scroll and ownership of a square metre of peat bog so that they can state that they “own” a Highland estate.
The Simpsons are not a clan in their own right, being a branch of the Frasers, whose chief, Lady Saltoun, is a member of the standing council. The Clan MacShimsi website states that the clan was established “by a need for people throughout the world who felt a kinship and a need to belong to their roots in Scotland, its history, its people and its undoubted magnificent scenery.”
Although the clan was set up to “enhance” the Simpson surname, the website states that “the laird will consider applications from all who wish to be part of Clan MacShimsi.” In a section marked “Meet your clan chieftain” the website reads: “Donnachadh was educated and started his working life in Dundee although he has also worked in the City of London, in Northern England and in Europe prior to starting a successful business career back in his home town.”
It continues: “The current Laird MacShimsi hails from a line of proud, hard-working and disciplined men, who as former lairds of the clan have instilled this discipline and desire to succeed down the bloodline.”
The website carries a “clan archive” of images, including the kilted “laird” at a function with Alex Salmond, the First Minister and former Tayside Chief Constable John Vine, Simpson attending a Downing Street reception, and of a young “Lady Lauren MacShimsi”. He is also seen posing with a Jaguar car and a helicopter.
MacGregor said the MacShimsi was a “make-believe clan” that had “no history of living or fighting together”.
“He has set himself up as the chieftain and to all intents and purposes I would expect interested Simpsons will say; ‘that is what I must join – the Clan Simpson’, when there is no such thing. They should check with the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs website. If they are not listed there, they are not a bona fide chief.”
However, Simpson defended his clan against accusations that it was bogus, insisting that he did not charge any of the 2,000 members and provides each with a free certificate. He insisted the only difference between Clan MacShimsi and Clan MacGregor was time. “We are a young clan, but in 100 years, who knows, we might be as common as Clan MacGregor. I don’t know why anyone is getting upset as we are not treading on anyone’s toes.”
Simpson said he was given the title “Laird of Lochaber” as a gift and he did not take it seriously. He said: “Before I set up the clan I contacted the Lord Lyon [the official heraldic authority which defines Scottish clans] and he told me that there is no formality. If anybody wished to establish a clan it would be recognised by the Lord Lyon after a period of time.
“This does no-one any harm. I have not asked to join this council of clans. It is a family thing. You can become a member of the Clan Fraser and wear the Clan Fraser tartan but at the end of the day there are far more Simpsons than there are Frasers, so why should we be subordinate to them when the Lord Lyon himself said it was a perfectly valid way to go forward and create a clan? The MacShimsi tartan is now a registered and valid tartan.”
The office of the Lord Lyon said: “A clan chief is that person who has been recognised by the Lord Lyon as being in right of the undifferenced arms of the name. (The undifferenced arms are the plain coat of arms of a clan, a legal property recognised by the Lord Lyon, and passed down between father to the eldest male heir).
“No-one of the surname MacShimsi has ever recorded arms in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. It is also the case that no-one has been recognised in the undifferenced arms of Simpson.”