Cluny Castle, at Laggan near Newtonmore, was the hereditary home of the MacPherson clan chiefs. The original castle was destroyed by government forces in 1746 but a new mansion house was built on the site in 1805.
The Macpherson clan is part of a confederation of smaller clans, which came together in the middle-ages for mutual protection. Together, they formed a super clan called Clan Chattan. Among the many clans that have been associated with historic Clan Chattan, the Mackintosh clan is the most significant.
One of the traditional accounts of the founding of the Macpherson clan, states that Gillicattan Mor Mac Gillespic settled in the Lochaber region of Scotland on the eastern side of Loch Ness, where he founded the Clan Chattan. It is said that three of Gillichattan Mor's sons founded branches of the Clan Chattan. Murriach, a younger son of Gillichattan Mor, founded Clann Mhuirich. His grandson Duncan was called the Parson, because he had the collection of parsonage tithes in the Parish of Laggan.
It is from him that the name Macpherson, the 'Son of the Parson', became the surname the clan in the 15th century. Although the chief of the Mackintosh clan has most frequently been the leader of Clan Chattan, there has been a long rivalry with the chiefs of the Macpherson clan for that position. Together, as the principal chiefs of Clan Chattan, they were involved in a bloody feud with Clan Cameron that lasted 350 year.
In 1396, a gladiatorial contest between the Chattan confederation and Clan Cameron was staged at a field outside the city of Perth called the North Inch. This fight to the death took place in front of King Robert III and his court. According to the story, Clan Chattan killed all but one of their rivals with the loss of 19 of their party of 30 clansmen.
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, clan chef Ewan Macpherson of Cluny (known simply as Cluny Macpherson), raised 400 men in support of Charles Edward Stuart’s doomed attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty to the British throne. After the battle of Culloden (which Cluny Macpherson and his men missed), the chief went into hiding. He spent a total of nine years evading capture and had several notable lairs, including Cluny’s Cave on an inaccessible cliff above Newtonmore, and Cluny’s Cage: a hut on the sloes of Ben Alder immortalised in RL Stevenson’s adventure story Kidnapped. Cluny finally escaped to France.
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James MacPherson - the 18th century Gaelic poet and author of Fragments of Ancient Poetry which he passed off as the work of Ossian, a pre-Christian, blind Gaelic Bard.
Aimee Semple McPherson - the famous evangelist who set Southern California on fire with scandal and massive church productions. She was one of the original celebrities of the 20s and 30s, becoming a headliner for her audacious acts.
Elle MacPherson - Model and actress: although her name wasn’t originally MacPherson, she still had a name associated with the Clan, Gow.
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Spanish gold was landed on the west cast of Scotland to help bank role the campaign. It was taken to Loch Arkaig for safekeeping, but disappeared. Suspicion fell on Cluny Macpherson as a man who may have helped its disappearance.