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Spelling variations of the name MacTavish caused much confusion. These changes occured for a variety of reasons. The name MacTavish originated with Tause's son as MacTause, or MacThamhais. Other spellings found within the Charters of the Commons of Argyll appear as MacAwis, McKavis, McKnavis, MacAnish, and MacTavifh and from the end of the 17th century it appears as MacTavish.
The surname of MacTavish emerged as a Scottish Clan in their territory of Argyll where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in Knapdale. The Clan was seated at Dunardarie where they were known as "the children of Colla" or "the children of the mist". During the period known as the Jacobite uprisings, the MacTavish was, as were many Highland Clans, sympathetic to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the quest of seeing the Stewart's back on the throne. As a result the Duke of Argyll imprisoned the MacTavish chief, Dugald, in Dunbarton prison in 1745. The charge read:
"imprisoned for treasonable acts"The treasonable acts refered to were some letters written by Dugald to Sir James Campbell of Auchanbreck who was also sympathetic to Bonnie Prince Charlie and anti-Campbell of Argyll. The Duke of Argyll hoped this would put a stop to the plotting in Argyll. The Chief was released with the General Pardon in 1747.
Many Clansmen of the Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland, England, Australia and North America in what was called "The Clearances". The Chiefly line of MacTavish remained in Scotland. In 1833, William MacTavish, son of Dugald, 20th Chief sailed to Canada with the Hudson Bay Company as a clerk and took up his duties at Fort Garry. He succeeded as Chief on the death of his father Dugald in 1855. William rose within the company to be appointed as Governor of Assiniboia and Rupertsland and was instrumental in the formation of events leading up to the confederation of Canada in 1867. Williams great grandson Dugald is the present Chief of the Clan, 26th Chief in an unbroken line.
Submitted by: Dugald MacTavish, Chief of the Clan MacTavish