There is a proverb used by West Highlanders when talking about the past “there is nothing older, unless the hills, MacArthur, and the devil.” Well, Clan MacArthur might not be as old as the hills but they have been around for a devilishly long time. The Clan shares a common origin with Clan Campbell, it is suggested that Clan MacArthur is the older of the two branches but it is certain that MacArthur were the more dominant Clan in the early years of these two mighty groups.
During the reign of Robert I, which is when these two Clans came into being, Campbell had no territory in Argyll while MacArthur had large tracts of land, even in Garmoran – the eventual seat of the Campbells. The Clan fared well until the reign of James I who summoned the Highland chiefs to parliament in Inverness. At this meeting, the King beheaded many of the chiefs he perceived as a threat to his rule, including Iain MacArthur. Not only did the head of the chief fall but so too did the fortunes of the clan, losing much of their land and influence to their rivals. The Clan Muddled through history, always on the fringes of importance until in 1771 the chief of the clan, Patrick Mac Arthur died without heirs in Jamaica.
Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees
During the late 18th century, Australia was in the process of being settled and colonised. Among the second fleet to land in New South Wales was one John MacArthur, the son of a Scottish Soldier who had fled the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. MacArthur was made commandant of Parramatta and through his hard work and a little cunning, managed to secure extremely large landholdings in the area. It was on these lands that MacArthur first had the idea of sheep farming, something that had not been done in Australia before this point. MacArthur, again through cunning, managed to acquire a flock of highly prized Merino sheep and quickly became the largest wool producer in Australia, making him an extremely wealthy man. In 1817 MacArthur established the first vineyard in Australia on his farm at Parramatta. Australia, it seems, has a lot to thank the MacArthurs for.
A Throne Without a King
When Patrick MacArthur died without heirs in 1771, the chieftainship of Clan MacArthur died with him. In 1986 the members Clan MacArthur decided to rectify their armigerous state and track down the chief. Genealogists determined that the line of Chiefs could be traced back to a common ancestor in 1495 and so the hunt began for someone who shared this ancestor. After five years of searching they found a Canadian named James Edward Moir MacArthur of Milton who shared this common ancestor. In 2003 James was made Chief of Clan MacArthur, a title that has passed on to his son, John Alexander MacArthur.
Ancient and noble, Clan MacArthur certainly are, if not a bit woolly. Speaking of woolly things, all our tartans are made with the finest wool around – why not check out some of our Clan MacArthur products here.