Who are Scotland's present day clan chiefs?

Scotland's clans may have lost their power and influence but much work is still done to promote the lineage, culture and shared history of some of the country's oldest families.Here we look at eight clans and their chiefs - who include a banker, an estate agent, a gardener and a restauranteur - who continue to promote the bonds forged hundreds of years ago through battle, birth and blood.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in Caithness, ancient seat of Clan Sinclair. PIC Creative Commons

Clan Moncreiffe

Chief: The Hon. Peregrine Moncreiffe of that Ilk

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Investment banker Peregrine Hay became chief of Clan Moncreiffe in 1998 following the death of his cousin, Elizabeth.

Peregrine Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Chief of the Clan Moncreiffe, and his borther Earl of Erroll, chief of Clan Hay, pictured in Edinburgh in 2009. PIC Ian Rutherford/TSPL

Now known as Moncreiffe of that Ilk after his clan link was recognised by the Lord Lyon, he is also the feudal baron of Easter Moncreiffe, the clan seat, in Perthshire.

Schooled at Eton and Oxford University, Moncreiffe is also a Freeman of the City of London and a Liverymam of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers.

A father-of-six, he now lives in the Channel Islands.

His brother, Sir Merlin Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll, is chief of Clan Hay.

Map of origin of Scottish surnames

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Clan Murray

Chief: Bruce Murray, 12th Duke of Atholl

Born in South Africa in 1960, Murray is a former tea plantation manager and owner of a signage business in Johannesburg.

Peregrine Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Chief of the Clan Moncreiffe, and his borther Earl of Erroll, chief of Clan Hay, pictured in Edinburgh in 2009. PIC Ian Rutherford/TSPL

He inherited his title following the death of his father John in 2012.

The family have long ties to South Africa, with the 11th Duke professing to have no interest in the title due to his “simple lifestyle” abroad. Despite his scepticism, he worked hard to sustain the Atholl Estates in Perthshire.

The 12th Duke attended the Atholl Highlanders Parade at Blair Atholl just days after his father’s death.


Map of origin of Scottish surnames

Clan Arthur

Chief: John MacArthur of that Ilk

Mr MacArthur, chief of Clan Arthur since 2004, has been the head gardener at Castle Kennedy near Stranraer, home to the Earl of Stair, for almost 30 years

Clan Arthur, also referred to as Clan MacArthur, once held lands on the shores of Loch Awe opposite Inishaiel with a branch of the clan becoming the hereditary pipers for the MacDonalds of Sleat.

Clan Arthur was leaderless for around 230 years after Charles MacArthur of Tirivadich vanished in India in the late 18th Century,

Following 15 years of research by a genealogist, the title of clan leader was passed to James Edward Moir MacArthur, a former Coal Board employee of Edinburgh, in 2002.

He was succeeded as chief by his son, John, two years later.

Clan Macnab

Chief: Jamie Macnab of Macnab

Jamie Macnab, 53, of Edinburgh, is a director of country house sales at estate agent Savills.

He became 24th chief of Clan Macnab following the death of his father, James Charles - known as The Macnab - in 2013.

The clan’s historical territory stretched from west Loch Tay and Killin across Glendochart to Tyndrum. The ancient seat of the MacNabs was a castle on Eilean Ran, an island on River Lochay.

It is said a pipe band greeted Jamie Macnab as he was brought home to the family’s former home of Kinnell Estate, near Killin, shortly after his birth in Edinburgh.

Mr Macnab reporteldy wears a signet ring depicting the clan badge, which features the head of a Neish. The two clans were involved in a bloody battle over Christmas 1612 near Loch Earn, with several Neishes beheaded.

Clan Macdonald of Clanranald

Chief: Ranald Macdonald

Ranald Macdonald runs a food and jazz empire in London though his string of Boisdale restaurants, which specialises in Scottish cuisine.

Following a childhood spent between London and Loch Tay, he studied at the University of St Andrews, reading Scottish history, psychology, medieval history and Arabic culture. He readily claims he learnt more about wine and cigars during his student years rather than his academic subjects, 

The Macdonalds of Clanranald are considered one of the oldest families in the world.

Descended from the Macdonald Lords of the Isles and sea kings of Dalriada, the Clanranalds emerge from the mists, myths and archaeology of the Dark Ages.

The historic family seat is Castle Tioram, a ruin in Loch Moidart, Lochaber.

Clan Hay

Chief: Merlin Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll

A software specialist, Merlin Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll, is also cross-bench member of the House of Lords, and hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland.

Lord Erroll is the son of Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk and Diana, Countess of Erroll. He was page to the Lord Lyon in 1956.

Educated at Eton College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, the Earl, who has been a lieutenant at the Atholl Highlanders since 1974, is a Freeman of the City of London.

He continues to head the luncheon club, Puffin’s Club, founded by his father. His brother, Peregrine, is head of Clan Moncreiffe (see above) is also a member.

Clan Durie

Chief: Andrew Durie CBE

A former Captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Mr Durie went on to have a successful career in the whisky industry which included spells as a director of White Horse Distillers and then later with Allied Distillers.

He was a former chairman of CBI Scotland from 1997 to 1999 and has served on the board of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Historically, Clan Durie’s seat was Durie in the parish of Scoonie, Fife, with Craigluscar, near Dunfermline and Rossend Castle in Burntisland also held by the family.

The Duries may have arrived in Britain with the Normans while some research suggests that the family travelled to Scotland in 1069 as part of the entourage of Queen Margaret of Scotland.

Today, the Clan Chief lives at Finnich Malise on the edge of the Loch Lomond National Park. His wife Marguerite is of Austrian descent.

Mr Durie now sits on the executive committee for Erskine Homes, the veterans charity.

Clan Sinclair

Chief: Malcolm Sinclair, 20th Earl of Caithness

The 20th Earl of Caithness and Conservative hereditary peer served as a House of Lords government whip under Margaret Thatcher from 1984 to 1985.

He then served as Minister of State in several key departments, including the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The clan chief is now working to preserve the historic ruins of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in Caithness, which sits at the heart of the clan’s historic territory. Built in the 15th Century, it is the only castle in Scotland listed by the World Monuments Fund and is owned by the Sinclair Castle Trust