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If you are an avid reader of these posts, and I know at least one of you exists (thanks Mum), you will know the way in which we try to go about them. Each post centres on a particular Clan, going briefly into their history and then looking at some notable members of the clan throughout history. This time around, the spotlight of our gaze is being turned to Clan Shaw
, a Highland clan with the motto Fide et Fortitudine – by fidelity and fortitude. I hope I can be faithful to the story of this historic group.
A wee bit of History
Clan Shaw can trace their origins back to Kenneth McAlpin, King of the Scots, through the Thane of Fife. Shaw MacDuff was the son of this Thane and it is from him that we can assume the Clan Shaw sprang forth. In the 12th
century, Shaw MacDuff was given the role of Keeper of Inverness Castle and it is around this time that the family started to gain power with is grandson Shaw MacWilliam getting his hands on lands at Rothiemurchus in 1263.
As is always seen in Clan history (although the Shaws aren’t really considered a Clan proper at this time – not having a chief), when one clan starts to acquire lands and power, this puts another Clan’s nose firmly out of joint. This was indeed the case with the Shaws and Clan Comyn (Cumming), tension was mounting between the two clans so the Shaws tried to strengthen their position through alliances and in medieval history the surest way of forming an alliance was through marriage. The Son of Shaw MacWilliam, a certain Farquhard, married the daughter of the Lord of Islay, forming an alliance between the Shaws and the Donalds. Farquhard’s son would become the 6th
chief of clan MacKintosh who would in turn marry the daughter of Clan Chattan. This helped to consolidate the Chattan Federation’s position as a powerhouse of the north. Out of all of this came John-Angus who is considered the first chief of Clan Shaw, the clan remains an important sept (branch) of the Chattan Federation.
The member of Clan Shaw
that really stands out during its early days is the 2nd
Chief, Shaw MacGhillechrist Mhic Iain. Clearly everybody thought this was a bit of a mouthful so they gave him the nickname sgorfhiachlach
which basically translates as bucktooth. Now, old Bucky was a fierce warrior who was present at the battle of Invernahaven (a needlessly bloody battle between the Chattan Federation and Clan Cameron) as well as being elected as the captain of Clan Chattan
for raids on Angus with the Wolf of Badenoch - the son of King Robert II. Bucktooth had clearly cemented his reputation as a warrior in these battles and was therefore the obvious choice for leader of the Clan at the battle of North Inch.
The Battle of North Inch is something that I find really odd; it’s almost like something from Game of Thrones. The story here is that the Chattan Federation was having a dispute with a clan named Kay – although it is usually assumed to have been Clan Cameron. The king had urged for the use of diplomacy to ease tensions between the Clans and bring about peaceful resolution, however, this didn’t work. Left with two powerful factions constantly warring with each other, trial by combat was deemed the only solution to the conflict. Each side was to put forward thirty men who would fight until a victor was clear, the victor would be awarded with honours and the losers would be pardoned. The battle raged fiercely for some time until only one member of Clan Cameron and eleven members of the Chattan federation were left. Seemingly the Cameron became aware of the shaky position he was in and jumped into the river to escape. What I find so odd about this battle though, is that it was entirely orchestrated by the King, going so far as to mark out the battle ground and provide seating for spectators, one of who was the Dauphin of France.
Some Notable Shaws throughout time
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George Bernard Shaw[/caption]
George Bernard Shaw
– The Irish Playwright was descended from the Clan. In his lifetime George Bernard Shaw wrote more than sixty plays, probably the most famous is Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and also an Oscar in 1938 for adapting Pygmalion to the screen. In life Shaw seemed to delight in holding outrageous views which were at times contradictory.
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Percy Shaw, Inventor of Cat's eyes[/caption]
– Percy Shaw invented the cat’s eye. I don’t mean to say that before he came along felines were constantly bumping into things; I mean the reflective road markers of the same name. Shaw invented the cat’s eye in 1934 and its sales slowly took off, boosted by forced blackouts during the Second World War. Shaw would go on to amass a fortune from his invention but sadly he never married but instead became more and more eccentric as the years passed. He was awarded an OBE in 1965.
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Martin Shaw, British Actor[/caption]
- Born in 1945 in Birmingham this British actor makes the list to keep my aforementioned faithful reader happy. Martin Shaw has appeared on stage and television in many different roles since the 1960s. Shaw’s highlights include Judge John Deed, Inspector George Gently and The Professionals.
Are you a Shaw with a story to tell? Share it with us we would love to hear from you.