Origin of Clan Murray (Clann Mhoraidh)

[Clan Murray Crest] Clan Murray Crest
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Gaelic Name: Clann Mhoraidh
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This clan adopted the name of the ancient Pictish Province of Moray, located in the area surrounding Inverness. In the mid twelfth century, that area was under the rebellious influence of King MacBeth's descendants. The incumbent, King David I, sent a Flemish knight to banish the rebels. This Knight was Ollec Freskin who was granted lands and extensive authority over the Province of Moray. Freskin's family intermarried with the ancient royal family of Moray, thereby gaining hereditary rights.

Among Freskin's grandsons were: Hugo, First Lord of Sutherland and progenitor of Clan Sutherland; William, Lord of Petty and ancestor of the Perthshire and lowland branches; Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness and founder of the Sutherland branch; and Richard, a warrior who also founded the Sutherland branch. The senior branch became the Sutherlands, whereas the remainder adopted the Murray surname.

William of Petty begot some of the most influential Lords in Sutherland, such as Tullibardine, Abercairney, Bothwell, Ochtertyre, Mansfield, and Atholl. Many of these titles were acquired by convenient marriages. The Bothwell Murrays were guardians of Scottish Kings and Regents. Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell was Sir William Wallace's most influential colleague and general during the late 13th century.

By the 16th century, there were many Murray families scattered throughout the Kingdom. At that time they banded together and proclaimed the Tullibardine lineage as chiefs. In 1629 the Tullibardine chief married the Stewart heiress of Atholl and became the Duke of Atholl. Blair Atholl Castle in Perthshire became the Clan seat, which is still maintained by the present Chief, the Duke of Atholl. It is interesting to note that the Murray Chief was, for a brief spell, Sovereign of the Isle of Man in the 18th century, again resulting from a well planned marriage.

While some Murrays in Nova Scotia can trace their origins into Perthshire, the majority hail from the eastern parishes of Sutherland. As already noted, brothers of the Lord of Sutherland established the name in that area. Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness, founded the Dornoch Cathedral which stands to this day. The clan spread along the Dornoch Firth and inland to Rogart and Clyne. Their captain appears to have lived at Abercross in Strath Fleet. For centuries these Murrays fought gallantly on behalf of the Sutherland Earls, particularly against their ancient enemies, the MacKays.

The Murray migration to Nova Scotia began with the ship "Hector" in 1773, which brought two Sutherland Murray families to Pictou. After 1800, a steady stream of Murray clansmen left the Northern Highlands to settle in the dark forests of Nova Scotia. Some came seeking fortune and adventure, while others were ruthlessly evicted from their ancient homeland by their landlord (after Culloden, and during the Highland Clearances).

Major Murray settlements grew around Barneys River, Middle River, Scotsburn and River John in Pictou County, as well as Earltown in Colchester County. Their offspring can be found all across Canada and the USA, as well as Australia and South Africa. Included among their numerous progeny are noted and humble people in all walks of life, including the former Premier George Murray of Nova Scotia, world renowned singer, Anne Murray, and Rear Admiral Leonard W. Murray of Granton, Pictou County, the Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Northwest Atlantic during the Second World War.

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