Page images



Tradition has it that the clan and name Fergusson or Ferguson is among the very oldest of the Highland septs, and that in conformity with the name the race owed its origin to King Fergus. The traditionary pedigrees of the royal house of Scotland, handed down by the mediaeval historians, and associated with the warfare waged with the “auld enemies of England” by the pen as well as with the sword, place the first Fergus," the founder of Scotland's monarchy," whose legendary death by drowning off the Irish coast gave its name to Carrick Fergus, as early as three hundred years before the coming of our Lord. Modern research has, however, conclusively established that this Fergus is a mythical personage; but it has as certainly confirmed the fact that the first substantial settlement of the pure Scottish race in Scotland was led by a Fergus who was of royal blood, and whose house had for generations enjoyed regal dignity in Ireland, and was destined to produce, in St. Columbia, the founder of the Celtic Church in Scotland. The arrival on the Scottish shores of the real King Fergus—Fergus Mor Mac Earca—took place in the year 498 A. D. He was the true first of the long line of Scottish kings, the attachment of their people to whom is so quaintly expressed by the old Covenanter Baillie :-Had our throne been void and our voices taken for the filling of Fergus's chair, we had died ere any other had sitten down on that fatal marble but Charles alone.'', His descendants formed the Cinel Gabran, which, with the Cinel Angus and the Cinel Loarn, the descendants of his two brothers, are described as “ the three powerfuls of Dalriada'-i. e. the three pure Scotic tribes.

The tradition which makes the Ferguson clan one of the purest Scotic races, receives some confirmation from the fact that Fergusson families are found in districts which from an early period are associated with the Scottish royal race, or with specially Scottish traditions. The name was, and is, numerous in Argyllshire, which, as Dalriada, was the earliest seat of the Scots in Scotland, and especially in the districts occupied by the Cinel Gabran ; also in Balqubidder, and in Athole, in the neighborhood of Dunkeld, which succeeded Iona as the chief centre of the early Scottish Church, and which was in the vicinity of the chief seat of the Scottish monarchy at Scone.

The term “ Clan Fergusa" is found at a very early period distinguishing one branch of the descendants of Fergus Mor MacEarca.

The name Fergus is also associated with the early history of the Scottish Church. It is recorded in the life of St. Mungo, that when on his way from St. Serfs, at Culross, to the scene of his future labours in Strathclyde, after crossing the Forth, he found a holy man named Fergus who lay at the point of death and that after his decease St. Mungo carried his remains to Glasgow where they were laid to rest in the spot on which the Cathedral afterwards rose and which thus witnessed the first of a long succession of Christian burials.

The names Fergus, MacFhearghusa or Fergusson are the same and down to two centuries ago the forms Fergus and Ferguson were used indiscriminately in some families. The name is sometimes derived from feargachus, wrathful,

« PreviousContinue »