Curries on the Net|
Through the MacMhuirrichs, the Literary Torch in the Western Isles was preserved for generations. They were recognized as the most illustrious body of learned men who were specialists in the heroic literature and genealogy of the ancient Gaelic world.
According to Derek Thompson, Professor of Celtic Literature, Glasgow University, the origin of the name Currie dates from the fall of the Gaelic order in the 18th Century. During this period, the English language began to pervade what had been purely Gaelic speaking areas. There followed an influx of people who found the old Gaelic names odd and difficult to pronounce. As a result, many old Highland names were anglicized or an English name was chosen that had the faintest resemblance to the sound of the Gaelic one.
The name MacMhuirrich [pronounced MacVurich] began to appear in many forms including MacMureach, MacVurich, and MacCurry and eventually took on the form of the present day Currie and other related spellings such as Curry and Currey.
It is important to make it quite clear that Clan Currie in the Western Isles is quite a separate and different race from the Clan MacPherson who are also sometimes designated Clan Mhurrich from their progenitor Mhurrich - a 12th Century Abbott of Kingussie. There are a number of such cases where two distinct clans hold the same patronymic. To mention only two, there is a Clan McAuley of Dunbartonshire and a Clan McAuley of Lewis. There is also a Clan McLaren of Tiree and a Clan McLaren of Balquidder and Strathearn. Although they bear the same name it is established by heraldic and genealogical reference that there is no connection between them.
The Office of Bardic poet was hereditary, and it was the duty of the father to dedicate and train one of his sons who showed the greatest talent. Down the line, the chosen sons were sent to the great colleges in Ireland which were then, the focal point of learning. Here the special functions of the bard were taught - oral learning, which included epic literature and genealogies, as well as eulogistic verse.
In the ancient Irish colleges, bardic scholars were trained in not less than 350 different kinds of metre. It took prodigious effort to master the metres. Twelve years was the minimum period of study in these schools, with some courses extending to twenty years. The Poet's course in literature embraced 350 of the great Bardic Epics - all of which he must not only have memorized, but have mastered in every detail and be prepared to deliver when called upon.
Further, when going for his final degree, he must be able to compose an impromptu short poem on any subject suggested. The Poet Ollamh - the poet of highest rank - had to be a master of Irish history, Irish antiquities, and genealogies of all the leading Irish families, and always be ready and able to recite anything called for at a moment's notice. Wonderful and powerful was the mental training of those who passed.
The principal duties of the bard's office were to keep in verse the historical, genealogical, and legal records; to prepare for the public special poetic accounts of particular historic events; and to sing to the feats of the champions, the hospitality of the princes, and the charms of the women.
So high was the regard for the poet of repute in ancient time, and for his work, that the voluntary fees were handsome. They were consequently wealthy and revered. No wonder some of these people thought that no consideration should bar them from the gratification of their slightest whim and that no man's rights were of any importance, if it came in conflict with their rights.
Muiredach O'Daly was a member of the most famous family in the Celtic world, the family of UiDaílaidh [O'Daly]. The O'Dalys were established in their literary role as a bardic family by the 12th century. When Mael Iíosa Ua Daílaidh, Muiredach's great-grandfather, died in 1185, he was described in the contemporary Irish annals as Ollamh of Ireland and Scotland.
According to Seumas MacManus in The Story of the Irish Races, Muiredach was highly respected as the King's Poet at the court of Cathal Crodhearg of Connaught. Unfortunately, he was forced to flee to Scotland in 1213 after making an enemy of the powerful chief of the O'Donnels, whose steward had the temerity to demand rent from the Royal Bard. O'Daly's response was swift and final - splitting the steward's head in two with a battle axe. Then, in traditional bardic arrogance, expressed his surprise over the ensuing fuss.
Trifling our quarrel with the man,
A clown to be abusing me,
And me to kill the churl,
Dear God, is this a cause for enmity?
Tonight, O God, I am alone,
Thou lookest on a crooked and evil world,
Twenty years we were together,
Sweeter with every year was our converse,
One of my limbs she was - one of my sides,
She was of countenance like the white thorn.
At least twenty poems are ascribed to Muiredach, and it is significant that one of them is addressed to an Earl of the ancient Gaelic province of the Lennox, who died in 1217. Another of them can be seen from its contents to provide supporting evidence that he took part in the Fifth Crusade. This 13th century poem has been perpetuated for all time in the Roman Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul at Arrochar near the very spot where the poem was composed:
Lo, tearful I sit on this knoll,
No Longer light-footed and strong.
'Tis a far cry, Saints Peter and Paul,
To Rome from the head of Loch Long.
Such were the already ancient origins of Scotland's longest learned dynasty. Naturally it attached itself to the Lords of the Isles when these maintained a virtually independent Gaelic principality in medieval Scotland. Muiredach's sons and their sons held the office of Hereditary Bards and Historians to the Lord of the Isles, and later to Clan Donald.
Nineteen years after the death of Muiredach, Donald, Lord of the Isles passed away and his son, Angus Mor, was inaugurated as the first MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, by Niall, the first MacMhuirrich. From this point on throughout the existence of the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles it was a MacMhuirrich Bard who performed this office at each successive Lord's inauguration.
O battle-loving Warriors,
O brave, heroic firebrands,
The Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles,
O Children of Conn, remember
Hardihood in time of Battle.
There are many historical references to the Clan Currie to show that the MacMhuirrichs were a Clan in their own right and not just a sept. In a document from South Uist written in 1707, MacDonald of Clan Ranald grants land to Donald McMureach:
I give and grant the lands of Staoligarry to Donald MacMureach in virtue of the station and office he presently serves me as bard and Sennachie and failing heirs of his own body I bind and oblige me and my descendants to warrant the Tack unto any other of the same Clan and tribe McMureach.
In A History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans  author James Browne, L.L.D. writes:
The Red Book of Clan Ranald was not written by one man, but was written, from age to age, by the family of Clan Mhuirrich, who were preserving and continuing the history of the MacDonalds and other heads of Highland Clans.Finally, in his forward to With Sword and Harp - The History of the Clan Currie by the late Major General Sir William McMurdo Currie, 30th Chief of Clan Currie, the Right Honorable Godfrey James MacDonald of MacDonald, High Chief of Clan Donald writes:
The Clan MacMhuirrich held a distinguished position within the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles. The MacMhuirrichs were associated with Clan Donald for some five centuries as hereditary poets, and it is in the MacMhuirrichs that we MacDonalds are indebted for the vast treasure of Gaelic literature which was their output during that time, and also for preserving the history of Clan Donald throughout the centuries. Therefore, so long as there has been a Clan Donald, there has been a Clan MacMhuirrich.
The grant goes on to say the right to use the Lord of the Isles tartan with certain heraldic differences, the differences to consist of two tinctions from the Currie Coat-of-Arms, namely black and gold, the same to constitute a guard in the darker green square of the basic Lord of the Isles tartan. This grant was reconfirmed in 1977 to the clan's last hereditary Chief, Major General Sir William McMurdo Currie by Lord MacDonald, the Right Honourable Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald.
The tartan has, until recently, been restricted solely for the use the family of Currie of Balilone. This explains the tartan's virtual absence from many of the standard tartan publications which, it should be noted, have never maintained complete catalogs of the vast array of registered tartans.
Today, the tartan is considered in a semi-restricted state, which requires all Curries who wish to acquire the tartan to request use of it directly from the Currie family under its acknowledged patriarch. This arrangement was confirmed by Major General Sir William McMurdo Currie, baronet, the last hereditary descendant of the Currie's of Balilone on 27 December 1991. The tartan is registered at the Scottish Tartan Museum in Comrie, and at the Glencoe Museum in Glencoe.
Col. Currie was the maternal grandson of Vice Admiral Archibald McMurdo who in his younger days was Senior Lieutenant aboard the Terror, one of the two ships that took part in Sir James Ross' epic expedition to the Antarctic McMurdo Bay which later became McMurdo Sound, the location of US National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station.
He led an illustrious life including a meritorious military career with the British Special Services. A Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Lazarus, he received a number of bravery awards including Poland's Vertute Militari, the Belgian Medaille d'Honneur, and the Tunisian Order of Glory. He also authored a number of historical novels in addition to With Sword and Harp, The History of the Clan Currie including An Historical Description of Loch Lomond and District, and The Curries of Cowal.
After retirement from military service, Col. Currie served as the Honorary Ambassador to U.S. Navy Submarine Squadron stationed at Holy Loch, Scotland. In recognition of his service, he was designated an Honorary Submariner and presented with the Gold Dolphins of the United States Navy.
Prior to his death in 1992, Col. Currie named Robert Currie of the United States as his successor and bestowed upon him the title of Clan Commander. When no direct heir exists, a Commander may be appointed for a twenty year term to act in place of a Chief. Currie was selected in recognition of his efforts to the rally the Clan in North America via the founding of The Clan Currie Society - a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational and cultural organization. Commander Currie today represents Clan Currie at highland gatherings and other cultural events throughout the world.
As founder and president of the Clan Currie Society, Cdr. Currie has been active in support and representation of many Scottish activities and cultural gatherings and is a frequent lecturer on Scottish culture and genealogy.
Appointed to represent the Scottish-American community of State of New Jersey on the governor's Ethnic Advisory Council, he has since been named Chairman of the Council by Governor Christine Todd Whitman. In this capacity, he served as chairman of the State's 1994 Ethnic Festival at Ellis Island where he participated in the swearing-in ceremony of some 200 new citizens.
On behalf of the United States Navy, Cdr. Currie delivered a keynote address at the commissioning ceremonies of the USS John Paul Jones - a state-of-the-art guided missile destroyer named in honor of the Scottish-born naval hero. Currie has also served as Honorary Chief for several highland gatherings in the U.S. and Scotland including the Brodick Highland Games on the Isle of Arran and the Bonnie Brae Scottish Games. Cdr. Currie also presided over the 1992 Clan Currie gathering in Nova Scotia.
Commander Currie was also a member of the host committee for HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during his visit to the United States to attend the World Pair Driving Championship.
His efforts to educate the general public on the history and contributions of his Clan include editing a new edition of Sir William's book With Sword and Harp, The History of the Clan Currie for future publication, conducting fundraising activities on behalf of the Islay-based Finlaggan Trust, and the establishment of an international clan center to be based in Scotland. Through the Clan Currie Society, Cdr. Currie has established both an annual Kirking Of The Tartans festival and a Robert Burns Supper. He also serves on the Board of Advisors for the upcoming television production, Ancestors, created by the late Alex Haley, author of Roots.
Commander Currie is descended from Peter Currie - a native of the Isle of Arran, Scotland. Peter Currie served on the HMS Alfred under the command of Admiral William Bayne from 1779 - 1783. Peter's son Neil Currie, born 1793, married Flora Currie at the Kilmory Church in July of 1828 and emigrated to Canada later that same year, settling in Hull, Quebec. His autobiography, The Religious Experience of Neil Currie, was published in Ottawa in 1846. Neil's son, David, also an author was one of Canada's most respected authorities on agricultural affairs who wrote for the Montreal Witness. A collection of his works was published in 1880 under the title The Letters of Rusticus.
Cdr. Currie is a member of the Saint Andrew's Society of New York, Scottish Heritage - USA, and the American-Scottish Foundation. Commander and Mrs. Currie reside in the United States in Summit, New Jersey with their daughters Hilary Buchanan and Claire Macpherson.