Perthshire Scotland > Scottish Clans & Families > MacNab

The MacNab clan's historical territory stretched from west Loch Tay and Killin across Glendochart to Tyndrum. The ancient seat of the MacNabs was a castle on Eilean Ran, an island on River Lochay.

The name comes from the Gaelic Mac an Aba meaning son of the Abbot. MacNab chiefs were descended by tradition from the younger son of Kenneth McAlpine, who was Abbot of Glendochart and Strathearn. The written name MacNab first appeared in a document dated 1124 during the reign of David I.

The early phases of Robert the Bruce's campaign to secure the Scottish throne involved dealing with opposition to his claim. The Comyn family were his main competitors and the MacNabs sided with the Comyns, their relatives by marriage. At the Battle of Brander in 1308, Bruce defeated opposing Clans including the MacNabs who then lost their lands. However in 1336 Gilbert of Bovain received a royal charter from David II. He is regarded by the Lord Lyon as the first chief of Clan MacNab.

Clan MacNeish were based at Loch Earn Castle off St Fillans to the south of MacNab lands. As the power of the MacNeishs diminished they were reduced to plundering the surrounding countryside and then retreating to their island fortress. In 1612 they raided the MacNabs. 'Smooth' John MacNab decided to end this lawlessness by a daring attack involving carrying a boat over the mountains in order to attack in complete surprise. They stormed the castle and killed the chief of the MacNeishes and most of his clan. The MacNab crest has a depiction of the dead MacNeish chief's head.

In 1646 the Loch Dochart Castle, which had been built by Black Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy between Killin and Crianlarich, was destroyed by the MacNabs.

'Smooth' John sided with the Marquis of Montrose's rebellion in Scotland in support of Charles I. This was an attempt by Montrose to grab power in Scotland  for Charles while the army was in England fighting in the English Civil War in support of the Parliamentary forces. 'Smooth' John escaped capture when the rebellion was finally squashed but died at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 fighting in the English Royalist army. When Oliver Cromwell rose to power in the successful English Parliamentary side, he then turned on his Scottish allies and invaded Scotland. Eilean Ran Castle, like many others in Scotland, was destroyed in 1654 by Cromwellian forces.

Kinnell House, near Killin then became the MacNab seat.

During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, John MacNab (the 15th Chief) fought with the Hanoverian forces, although some members of the Clan followed Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The local Campbells of Glenorchy grew in power and became the Breadalbane family. Through the centuries their power increased in the area and the MacNabs waned. The estate became bankrupt and eventually the they lost Kinnell House and the lands. Many MacNabs emigrated and in 1825 specifically, 500 MacNabs moved with their chief Archibald to the Ottawa River Valley.

All that now remains in trust for Clan MacNab is the ancient burial ground on the island Inchbuie in the River Dochart at Killin just below the Falls. This can be viewed from the bridge. © 2004
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