Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clan Buchanan

Extract: “The Scottish Nation ; or The Surnames, Families,Literature, Honours And Biographical History of the People of Scotland,” By William Anderson ; A.Fullarton & Co., Edinburg and London, 1862. Vol. 1 , p. 459

Buchanan, a surname belonging to a numerous clan in Stirlingshire, and the country on the north side of Loch Lomond. The reputed founder of the Buchanans was Anselan, son of O’Kyan, king of Ulster in Ireland, who is said to have been compelled to leave his native country, by the incursions of the Danes, and take refuge in Scotland. He landed, with some attendants, on the northern coast of Argyleshire, near the Lennox, about the year 1016, and having, according to the family tradition, in all such cases made and provided, lent his assistance to King Malcolm the Second in repelling his old enemies the Danes, on two different occasions of their arrival in Scotland, he received from that king for his services, a grant of land in north Scotland. The improbable character of this genealogy is manifested by its farther stating that the aforesaid Anselan married the heiress of the lands of Buchanan, a lady named Dennistoun; for the Dennistouns deriving their name from lands given to a family of the name of Danziel, [ see Dennistoun, surnamre of,] who came into Scotland with Alan the father of the founder of the abbey of Paisley, and the first dapifer, seneschal, or steward of Scotland, no heiress of that name could have been in Scotland until after the period here referred to. It is more probable that a portion of what afterwards became the estate of Buchanan formed a part of some royal grant as being connected with the estates of the earls of Lennox, whom Skene and Napier have established to have been remotely connected with the royal family of the Canmore line, and to have been in the first instance administrators, on the part of the crown, of the lands which were afterwards bestowed upon them.

The name Buchanan is territorial, and is now that of a parish in Stirlingshire, which was anciently called Inchcaileoch, (‘old woman’s island,’) from an island of that name in Loch Lomond, on which in earlier ages there was a nunnery, and latterly the parish church for a century after the Reformation. In 1621 a detached part of the parish of Luss, which comprehends the lands of the family of Buchanan, was included in this parish, when the chapel of Buchanan was used for the only place of worship, and gave the name to the whole parish.

Regarding the etymology of Buchanan (or, as it was formerly spelled, Bouchannane) the following curious passage occurs in Bleau’s Atlas, published in Holland in 1658: “Buchanan qui ont de belles Signeuries sur la riviere d’Aneric du coste du Midi, et sur le lac de Leimond du coste du l’occident, l’une desquelles appartient au chef de la famille, qui s’appelle vulgairment Buchanan, laquelle a donne le nom a toute la maison: le mot, qui signifie une possession, est compose, et veut dire un terroir bas et proche des eaux, car Much on Buch signifie un lieu bas Annan de l’eau; et en effect il est ainsi,” &c. [Tome vi. Pp. 96,07.] We have not a doubt that the name Buchanan has the same origin as the word Buchan (see ante, p. 458), being its diminutive of Buchanino or Buquhanino, the little Buquhan or cattle-growing district.

Anselan (in the family genealogies styled the third of that name) the seventh laird of Buchanan, and the sixth in descent from the above-named Irish prince, but not unlikely to be the first of the name, which is Norman French, is dignified in the same records with the magniloquent appellation of seneschal or chamberlain to Malcolm the first earl of Levenax (as Lennox was then called). He and two of his sons, Gilbert and Methlen, are witnesses to a charter granted by the same earl to Gilmore son of Maoldonich, of the lands of Luss, in the reign of King Alexander the Second, a nobleman of no great influence or power, descended from administrators of one of the abthaneships of Dull, or royal lands reverting to the crown by demise of younger branches, in which charter they are more correctly designed the earl’s clients or vassals. In 1225, this Anselan obtained from the same earl a charter of a small island in Lochlomond called Clareinch, witnesses Dougal, Gilchrist, and Amalyn, the earl’s three brothers, the name of which island afterwards became the rallying cry of the Buchanans. The same Anselan is also mentioned as a witness in a charter granted by the earl of Lennox of the lands of Dalmanoch in mortification to the old church of Kilpatrick, by the designation of Absalon de Buchanan, Absalon being the same as Anselan. He had three sons, viz. Methlen, ancestor of the MacMillans ; Colman, ancestor of the MacColmans ; and his successor Gilbert.

His eldest son, Gilbert, or Gillebrid, appears to have borne the surname of Buchanan. There is a charter of confirmation of that of Clareinch, and some other lands of Buchanan, granted in favour of this Gilbert by King Alexander the Second in the seventeenth year of his reign, and of our Lord 1281. The same Gilbert is also witness to a charter, by Malcolm earl of Lennox, to the abbot and monks of Paisley, dated at Renfrew in 12 74. [Chartulary of Dumbartonshire ]


  1. Captain John S. COLMAN.March 31, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    A resonant Scoto-Irish objection in respect of the foolish pronunciation mainly by BBC Scotland newcasters, of the name BUCHANAN. Correctly and respectfully it sounds BUCK-ANNAN, but despite written objections it is too often pretentiously sounded out as BEW-KENNIN, by idiotic and unteachable BBC people. Would they say BEWKEN for the north-east name BUCHAN?
    I wrote in protest to the CLAN BUCHANAN secretary , clearly in the wrong task, who told me that she had more to do that to correct the BBC Glasgow. So much for pride of ancestry!!!!!!
    Maybe some others will rattle the cage of Philistines at the BBC. Captain J.S. COLMAN ARDENTINNY ARGYLL.

  2. Interesting comment about the pronunciation. I had always thought that the right way was like your "Buck-annan", except likely more contracted, almost as B'kannan. I visited the Buchanan area last year, from Kippen over to Loch Lomond, and asked the locals how it should be pronounced. They said "Bew-kennin".

    Mike Miller
    mbmiller2 at gmail dot com