Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Scottish History

By Thomas Hiram McAdams

Part 1
A possible kinsman of ours in the 17th and 18th century was Rob Roy MacGregor. This is the same Rob Roy popularized in a recent movie. His time of birth is uncertain. Speculation has it that he was born around 1665 to a Donald MacGregor of Glengyle and his wife, a Campbell. He had to go by the name Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell as a consequence of the Acts of Parliament abolishing the use of the name MacGregor. He grew up on the east side of Loch Lomond, in central Scotland, around Aberfoyle, MacGregor stronghold country. The time of his death is uncertain, but it is said to be in the year 1733, and he died an aged man (Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott).

“With fiery red hair and a mighty frame, at first sight he did not seem so tall as he actually was because of his enormous width of shoulder, and the fact that his arms were so long that he could tie his garters without stooping. A born leader and of an acquisitive bent, he had perfected the traditional MacGregor preoccupation with their neighbor’s cattle (rustling) into the forerunner of the protection racket, or if you prefer it, the “insurance industry” (The Story of Scotland by Nigel Tranter). He fought in the failed Risings of 1708, 1715, and 1719 against English control of Scotland.

There is a statue of Rob Roy today outside Stirling Castle in central Scotland. An interesting fact is that Rob Roy could not use his rightful name of MacGregor in a legal way. This goes back to an occurrence in the early years of the 17th century. The MacGregors were the “bad boys” of the clans in the region of Scotland. They were constantly warring against other clans because of their smaller size and in order to maintain their claim to the lands around the east side of Loch Lomond. The Campbell clan had been systematically ejecting the MacGregors from their own Argyll lands for centuries, to the fury of the smaller clan, who were fiercely proud of their descent from Celtic kings (Clan MacAlpin -- Gregor being a son of the king, Kenneth 1 of Scotland). The clan had become quite warlike with something of a persecution mania. Matters culminated in 1603, when a raid of Luss occurred and the MacGregors killed many of the Buchanan clan. Afterward in another battle, the MacGregors slew 200 Cohquhoun clansmen at the clan battle of Glen Fruin.

This battle and massacre occurred during the visit of King James (of England and Scotland) to Scotland. Outraged by the constant clan wars with each other, he decided to make an example of the MacGregors (bad timing!). The clan chief of the MacGregors and 35 clan warriors were arrested and hanged at the command of the King and with connivance of the Campbell clan. A declaration of fire and sword was issued against the MacGregor clan whereby anyone and everyone had the right and duty to slay, harry, burn and dispossess any MacGregors they might find weak enough to let them do so. By official decree, the name MacGregor was proscribed or forbidden. Thereafter, none might legally call themselves by the name MacGregor. No property could be held in that name, nor bought or sold, no document so signed was lawfully valid, and no one thus named could marry or be buried, and so on. They could not gather in groups larger than four in number and could not maintain any arms (swords or guns). This extraordinary proscription made it legally necessary for every MacGregor to adopt another surname! This decree remained in effect until 1774 - for 170 years (The Story of Scotland by Nigel Tranter).

You may wonder -- “Why is Rob Roy a kinsman of the McAdams?” A Scottish clan was a collection of families (with differing surnames) having a common ancestor and subject to a single chieftain. Most of the families bore the surname of the clan chieftain (example: MacGregor). However, the clans included septs or sub-groups. These septs were families with different surnames that were closely allied with and inter-married with the main clan family. The MacGregor clan had the following families as septs: McAdam (Son of Adam MacGregor), Black, Brewer, Fletcher, Grier, King, Petrie, and White.

The septs were proud to be connected to the clan chief and to each other and the evidence shows they were willing to die for the clan. To add to the solidarity of the clan, fosterage was practiced, which meant that children (including the clan chief’s) were exchanged for periods of time and brought up among the different families allied with the clan. Thus, the most humble clansman felt personally responsible for the children of his chief, clan, family and vice-versa (Scottish Clans by Alan Bold).

Speculation! The McAdam(s) were a sept of the clan MacGregor. During the period (1603 - 1774) when the use of the MacGregor name was forbidden, what names do you think the MacGregors assumed or used? It is quite possible and likely they used the names of their septs. Thus, it seems likely that Rob Roy and other MacGregors were our kinsmen and some of them assumed the surname of McAdam.

Part 2
The Scots have fought the English for centuries for their independence. Starting in the late twelfth century when the Normans conquered England and Scotland, they dominated the Scots for a hundred years. In the early 1300’s, William Wallace (Brave Heart) started the fight against the English / Norman control, and later Robert de Bruce led Scotland to freedom from English control at the battle of Bannockburn (near Stirling castle in Scotland) in 1314. The Scots in later centuries lost control of the country to England again.

There have been numerous attempts by Scottish nationals to regain control of Scotland from England. The last time occurred in 1745 - 1746 when Prince Charles Stewart, pretender to the throne of England and Scotland, rallied Scottish highlanders to his cause and attempted to overthrow the current English monarch, King George.

At the decisive battle of Culloden moor (near Inverness, Scotland) in April, 1746, English troops (and some Scottish clans) under the Duke of Cumberland, third son of King George, decisively defeated Charles Stewart and his highland army. This victory for the English re-established the rule and control of England over Scotland, which has lasted to current times.

During the aftermath of the battle, English troops destroyed the Scottish countryside, Scottish society, and the clan system. During the remainder of the 1700’s and early 1800’s, thousands of Scots were forced to emigrate to other lands. This was part of the “Highland Clearances” in which the English destroyed the clan system and exploited the country in the same pattern of colonial development (native population removed or reduced) as in America, Canada, and Australia. The result was a mass exodus of Scottish people to Nova Scotia (New Scotland), Canada, and America from 1746 to1850.

According to one source, 20,000 highland Scots left Scotland for the American colonies between 1763 and 1775 (The Highland Clearances by John Prebble). Although only a fraction of the clans had taken part in the rebellion of 1745 - 1746, all felt the results of the defeat at Culloden. Bayonet and noose, proscription of arms (swords, knives, guns) and bagpipes, outlawing the wearing of tartan and kilt, abolition of hereditary jurisdiction of the clan chiefs, and confiscation of clan lands led to the destruction of the Scottish clan system and way of life. Their attachment to the land had been deep and strong. Now they were uprooted.

Partly because conditions were not good in Scotland, partly out of natural individualism of the Scot-Irish-Celt people, and partly due to personal enterprise, Scots left in a major overseas exodus. The McAdams’, like other clan families, were probably part of this exodus, eventually coming to America in the middle 1700’s. The result of this exodus of Scots from Scotland was that by 1985, it was computed that there were 20 million “overseas Scots”, people with direct family links to Scotland, whereas Scotland’s population was 4 million.