Buchanan Family History

A Brief History of the Clan Buchanan

The history of the Buchanan Family is not the stereotypical Scottish clan story. The long list of bloody, often pointless, feuds with other clans is largely absent. The honor and merit of this clan does not arise from the sharpness of its swords, but from intellectual, charitable, and spiritual distinction.

Weave through the traditional mythical origins of the clan and you'll find a charter in 1225 of the island of Clairinch in the southeast corner of Loch Lomond.  This was granted by the Earl of Lennox to Anselan, son of Macbeth McCausland (sometimes recorded as McCaslan; McCauland; or Cauland), for the payment of a pound of wax every Christmas. Anselan was already a knight – Sir Anselan of Buchanan, and held lands on the loch shore and the name means ‘House of the Canon.’  He descends from one of the leading families of the ancient Celtic Church.

‘Clairinch!’ became the battle cry of the clan; rendered in the Gaelic, ‘Clàr-Innis!’

During the Scottish Wars of Independence, Maurice, the chief, was one of the very few members of the Scots nobility who did not sign the Ragman Roll swearing fealty to Edward I of England. He was a stout supporter of Robert Bruce and gave the king sanctuary after the Battle of Dalrigh in 1305.

In the clan’s heartland on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, the parish is known as Buchanan, and most original land holders were cadet families of the chief. They included the Buchanans of Blairlusk, ancestors of American President James Buchanan. 

The 20th Chief of Buchanan gave £12,000 as scholarships to the universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. The 21st Chief, Sir George Buchanan, fought at the battles of Dunbar and Inverkeithing for the Royalists, and the poor management of the 22nd Chief, John, led to the sale of the family estates on his death in 1682 to the 3rd Marquis of Montrose.

The original Buchanan Castle burned in 1852.  The 4th Duke of Montrose of the Graham family built a new house, Buchanan Castle, on the site in 1854.  The castle was used as a hospital during World War II.  After the war, the roof was removed in order to avoid paying taxes.  It still stands today, although it is in disrepair and listed by the National Trust of Scotland for restoration.

Perhaps one of our most celebrated cousins was George Buchanan, a younger son of Thomas Buchanan of Mid Leowen. He was one of the greatest scholars of the European Renaissance, a university professor in France and Portugal, a historian, author, the most distinguished Latinist of his day and became a champion of the Reformation. In his later years he became the tutor to both Queen Mary and her son James VI and was responsible for the king’s education.  James VI of Scotland went on to become King James I of England and was responsible for authorizing the English translation of the Bible.

One notable achievement of the Clan Buchanan that cannot be overlooked is our Society. George, son of the Laird of Gartocharn, near Drymen, fought as a Covenanter in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679 before making his fortune in Glasgow. His four sons also prospered and, in 1725, they founded the Buchanan Society.  This was two decades before the Rising of 1745, and preceded the formation of any other clan society by nearly a century. Its object then, as now, was ‘to provide support for the poor of the Clan and to assist their young in schooling, apprenticeship and, for those ‘of promising genius,’ at University or otherwise.

Pensions, scholarships and bursaries are still awarded. Our Society is also now the owner of the island of Clairinch in Loch Lomond.

The Sons of Anselan Buchanan

Anselan McCausland of Buchanan, 1205

Gilbert Buchanan 1231-1274

Maurice Buchanan 1274

Maurice Buchanan  1298

Walter Buchanan 1338

John Buchanan 1376

Walter Buchanan 1425-1473

John Buchanan 1473

Thomas Buchanan 1500

Thomas C Buchanan 1525-1590

John of Gartocharn Buchanan 1545-1619

George Buchanan 1586

John Buchanan 1615-1682

George Buchanan 1648-1685

Thomas Buchanan 1680-1748

William A Buchanan 1704-1730

William Buchanan 1730-1802

William Marion Buchanan 1795-1870

Thomas Newton Buchanan 1837-1903

Daniel Lovick Buchanan 1870

Charles Carol Buchanan 1902-1967

Daniel Lee Buchanan 1940-

Daniel Kirkland Buchanan 1966-