The McCullochs first emerge into documented Scottish history
with the mention of three men of that name in the Ragman Roll of
1296. When King Edward I of England briefly conquered Scotland,
he made a record of all Scottish chiefs and nobles and had them
apply their seals to the Roll. This historic document is now in
the Tower of London Archives. Thomas Mackulagh, the Count
Wiggetone, was the first Gallovidian Scot to apply his seal
rendering homage to Edward. By 1305, Thomas was the powerful
Sheriff of Wigtown. Also signing the roll were the chieftain
brothers of Michael and William Mackulagh. All three were
prominent supporters of the powerful Balliol faction which was
opposed to Robert the Bruce. When Robert the Bruce gained
Galloway for the Scottish Crown, the Balliols and their McCulloch
supporters were driven out. There is no reason however to term
these McCullochs as traitors to their country as John Balliol's
mother, Devorguilla, was a daughter of Alan, the last hereditary
Lord of Galloway. It was only to be expected that Gallovidian
families should support the Balliol cause, and when Balliol
submitted to the English King, his followers, of course, did
In 1353, the McCullochs swore allegiance to King David II of Scotland and in 1360, Patrick McCullagh received compensation of 100 merks for his family's sufferings and loss of lands in Scotland during their staunch support of the Balliols and the King of England. Three years later, in 1363, Patrick's son, Sir Patrick McCulloch, had the family's Scottish lands restored to him by King David II of Scotland, a final sign that the family had regained the King's trust and favour.
From 1363 to 1463, documentary evidence is scant on the Gallovidian McCullochs and it is during this period that some cadet branches of the family may have moved north to the Highlands through marriage or after serving as mercenaries abroad. Certainly about 1368, John MacCulloch of Tarrell appears in the records of Rosshire, most local histories merely stating that the MacCullochs, who were not indigenous to the region, "may have come into Easter Ross from some other part of Scotland." In 1458, John, Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles, and Sherriff of Innernys (Inverness) addressed to John MacCulloch, Bailie [Bailiff}] of the girth of Sanct Duthowis, a letter requiring him "to protect the privileges of Innernys in that quarter." The Scottish Antiquary (1898) relates that "among the aristocracy of the earldom of Ross there was no name more respected than that of MacCulloch, whose original designation was of Plaidis." Several generations were so designated, until John MacCulloch, Provost of Tain, in 1621 changed his style to that of Kindeace...
In The Roll of Clannis of 1387, the McCullochs were listed as a Border Clan and although the McCulloch territories were never adjacent to the English border, they were part of Scotland's coastal defence. It was estimated at this time that the McCullochs could put more than 500 warriors into the saddle to police the coastline and protect their own territories. Raiders from Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man were commonplace, not to mention those of the local variety who propagated the internecine squabbles of the border clans themselves.
The link between Galloway and Rosshire, lowland to highland, may be through the most illustrious of the old McCullochs who lived in the late 1400's and early 1500s. Sir Alexander McCulloch of Myretoun, also known in local legend as Cutlar McCulloch, Walter Jameson McCulloch relates in his History of the Galloway Families of McCulloch, that Sir Alexander was "for the greater part of his life...in close, even intimate, touch with the royal circle." He married Marjorie, the daughter of the 2nd Lord Sinclair, and grandaughter of the Earl of Rothes in Moray on her mother's side. Sir Alex was no stranger to the Orkneys and Shetlands as he travelled there on the king's business to purchase falcons, no doubt passing through Rosshire on his travels. Of Sir Alexander's father, Eliseus, and grandfather, Normand, very little is known but they may also have established earlier ties to the Earl of Ross through marriage. Certainly the Argyllshire McCullochs were linked to Angus, the Earl of Moray, neighbour to the Earl of Rothes. The MacLullichs ( see Origins) supposedly descended from the Earl of Moray and these supporters of the Clan Donald may have supported Donald of the Isles, a grandson of Robert II, who fought for the Earldom of Ross in right of his wife, a member of a lowland family, early in the 15th century. Donald suffered defeat at the hands of the Fraser and MacKays at Harlaw.
Other Argyllshire MacCullochs hail from the neighbourhood of Oban and the island of Kerrara. MacCulloch of Colgin, near Oban was regarded as the head of the Argyllshire McCullochs.
In the middle of the fifteenth century, James McCulloch of Cardoness built Cardoness Castle, a fine example of early Scottish architecture, particularly for its display of interior decorative detail. Overlooking the River Fleet estuary, it would be the principal McCulloch stronghold for over 200 hundred years. Other smaller tower keeps were built at Myretoun and Barholm.
The family of McCulloch of Myretoun was raised to the rank of baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles I in 1634. The last baronet was Sir Godfrey McCulloch, whose one claim to fame in the Scottish history books is that he was the last man to be ever executed on The Maiden - the Scottish equivalent of the guillotine.