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The clan and name of Grant are of great antiquity. Feudal barons named Grant were land holders and office bearers in the Scottish highlands in the 13th century. These ambitious early Grants were undoubtedly the ancestors of our present-day chief and the forebears of the extended family later known as the Clan Grant. Our Chief, Sir James Patrick Trevor Grant of Grant, Baronet, 6th Lord Strathspey, and other hereditary chieftains of cadet families, descend directly from Sir Duncan le Grant of Freuchie, Knight, who held lands in Strathspey in the mid-15th century.
The Lordship of Glencarnie (from the Gaelic Glenchearnich, glen of heroes) and the Barony of Freuchie (from fraoch, place of the heather) were among the earliest holdings of Sir Duncan Grant in Strathspey. These lands generally encompass the present-day towns and environs of Aviemore, Carrbridge, Dulnain Bridge, Boat of Garten and Grantown-on-Spey.
The first known reference to the Clan Grant was in a notarized agreement between James Grant of Freuchie and Finlay Farquharson and his tenants in Strathdee. The document referred to “lye Clan de Grantis” and was dated October 8, 1527, but the concept of clanship existed long before that time.
Strathspey, the valley of the River Spey, was the “country of the Grants”. During the halcyon days of the clan system, it was the stated goal of succeeding chiefs to consolidate and hold all the lands in Strathspey “between the two Craigellachies”. And they very nearly succeeded!
Craigellachie is the name of the high hill overlooking the modern town of Aviemore. It is also a village situated thirty-five miles downstream – hence, the two Craigellachies. Creag Eileachaidh (Kra GELʹ a key) means “rock of alarm”. In former times, huge bond fires were ignited on high hills in Strathspey to designate a gathering place for the men of the clan, or to proclaim a great celebration, such as the birth of the chief’s first-born son. The clan’s motto or rallying cry was, and is today: “Stand fast, Craigellachie!”
Although the principal families of the clan were entrenched in Strathspey as early as the 15th century – and in Stratherrick (on the southeast side of Loch Ness) before that – important cadet families were later established in other parts of Scotland. There were Grants in Glenmoriston, at Corrimony and Shewglie in Glenurquhart, at Monymusk in Aberdeenshire, and Kilgraston in Perthshire. With the passage of time, these families became virtually autonomous and conducted their affairs independently of their more powerful distant cousins in Strathspey.
In the late 17th century, Ludovick Grant of Freuchie (d. 1716) was the de facto Chief of the Clan Grant. In 1694, Glencharnie, Freuchie and all his other lands – which by that time were considerable! – were consolidated by the Crown into the Regality of Grant. From that time forth, Ludovick Grant, 8th Laird of Freuchie, and subsequent heritors lineally descended from him, were known as the Chiefs of Grant, and their principal residence of Ballachastell (town of the castle) was called Castle Grant.
A century later, Sir James Grant of Grant, Baronet (1738-1811), was perhaps the ablest chief of his long line. He was well-educated and well traveled; he was a dedicated public servant and ardent improver of his vast estates; and he was keenly aware of his over-riding responsibilities to his family, tenants and clansmen. Sir James Grant was the founder of Grantown, which was a creative attempt to provide employment for his clansmen during a time when many highland lairds were clearing tenants from their lands. Sir James was a Member of Parliament, Cashier of Excise for Scotland, Lord Lieutenant and Sheriff of Inverness-shire. Patriotic to a fault, he raised and served as Colonel of two regiments during the conflict with France during the last decade of the 18th century.
During the 19th century, the Earls of Seafield were Chiefs of the Clan Grant. In 1858, the 7th Earl, Sir John Charles Ogilvie-Grant (1815-1881), was created 1st Baron Strathspey in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, and in 1879, he was made a Knight of the Thistle. The Earls of Seafield were avid planters of trees; they assumed leadership roles in the affairs of the Church of Scotland; and generally served as conscientious guardians of their vast estates.
Since 1915, when the 11th Earl of Seafield, Capt. Sir James Ogilvie-Grant, was killed in World War I, while serving in Belgium with the Cameron Highlanders, the Chief has been the Lord Strathspey. Today, the Right Honorable 6th Lord Strathspey, Sir James Patrick Trevor Grant of Grant, Baronet of Nova Scotia, is Chief of the Clan Grant. Lord Strathspey lives in retirement at Duthil, one of the oldest holdings of his ancestors in Strathspey.
[For a more comprehensive portrayal of the Clan Grant, please see A History of the Clan Grant under the menu “For Members Only”.]