The Clan Matheson

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The name Matheson is most commonly believed to originate from the Gaelic 'Mic Mhathaghamhuin', meaning 'son of the bear. Others have suggested that MacMhathan means 'son of the heroes", and there is also of course a Lowland derivation, which is simply 'son of Matthew.' The MacMathans were settled in Lochalsh in Wester Ross from an early period. Kenneth MacMathan, constable of Eilean Donan is recorded in both the Norse account of the expedition of King Haakon IV against Scotland in 1263, and in the Chamberlain Rolls of that year, which culminated in the defeat of King Haakon at Largs. The Mathesons fought for Donald of the Isles at Harlaw in 1411 and afterwards Chief Alastair, leader of 2000 men, was arrested by James I at Inverness and beheaded in Edinburgh in 1427. He had two sons; John from whom the Mathesons of Lochalsh descend and Donald Bain from whom the Sutherland Mathesons, "Siol Wohan" descend. John, was constable of Eilean Donnan Castle under Mackenzie, 9th of Kintail, and was killed defending the fortress against the Macdonalds of Sleat in 1539. His grandson Murdoch Buidhe had two sons Roderick of Fernaig and Dugald an Oir of Balmacarra. John (Ian Mor), son of Roderick bought Bennetsfield on the Black Isle c. 1688 and with his family left Lochalsh. The chiefship remained in this family, the Mathesons of Bennetsfield until 1975 when the then chief Colonel Bertram Matheson of Matheson, M.C. died without issue. Dugald an Oir was the progenitor of the Mathesons of Attadale and Lochalsh, Alexander of that family (b. 1805) bought back the Lochalsh estate in 1851 and was created Baronet of Lochalsh in 1882. His grandson Major Torquhil Matheson of Matheson, 6th Baronet of Lochalsh succeeded Colonel Bertram by tanistry. From the Sutherland Mathesons descend Sir James Matheson of the Shiness branch. He joined the well-known mercantile house of Jardine, Matheson and Co. of India and China where he amassed a large fortune. He bought the island of Lewis and was created the Baronet of Lewis in 1851 for his exertions and generosity in aleviating the sufferings of the inhabitants of the island during a period of famine. Descendants of the Lochalsh and Siol Wohan Mathesons are to be found today in Australia, Canada, U.S.A. and New Zealand.


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