Margie Lawson

Changing your Writing World

Clans of Scotland

‘Clans’ evokes images of bold and brawny kilted Highlanders swinging long, sharp swords. A positive image for many.

Yet John Pinkerton, a thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment, said that Highlanders had not ‘advanced even to the state of barbarism. They were incapable of industry or civilisation. They were ‘fond of lies and enemies of the truth’. Many of his contemporaries thought Pinkerton ‘a complete egoist’ who was ’unburdened by truth’. However, the belief that Highlanders were an inferior, uncivilised people was widespread and centuries old.

In 1380s John of Fordun wrote that there were two languages in Scotland, the Scottish [Gaelic] and Teutonic [English]. Those who spoke Scottish Gaelic lived in the mountains and western islands; those who spoke English possessed the coastal and low-lying regions.

According to him Lowlanders were ‘domesticated and cultured, trustworthy’. They were ‘decent in their attire, law-abiding and peaceful’. Highlanders were a ‘wild and untamed people’, ‘given to robbery’. They were good-looking but ‘unsightly in dress’. Lowlanders did not like the weird Highland dress.

The Rebellion of 1745 (think Outlander) reinforced the stereotype of Scottish Highlanders as barbarians and savages. Definitely untrustworthy at best.

How did this happen? The Gaels converted the heathens Angles (and maybe a few Saxons too), yet they were considered heathens by their English-speaking descendants.

How do a demonised people cope with such opinions? How did Gaelic society adapt to changes enforced by their rulers and incomers? In other words how did the ‘clan system’ develop from 1100 until 1500?

You'll see what Scots had in common and what made them different. You'll learn something about Scottish kingship and the relationship with Gaelic Scotland. And you see how the Highlands became the cradle of warriors.


  1. Scotland in 1100
  2. David I & 1000 Knights
  3. MacDonald Kings of the Isles
  4. The Wars of Independence
  5. Clans of the North & East
  6. MacKenzies & Campbells


Sharron Gunn writing as Sheila Currie

Sheila Currie lives in a world of thousands of books, fiction and non-fiction. Visiting friends worry about avalanches.

She was born on the east coast of Canada where there are many other people whose families came from Scotland and Ireland. Her love of those countries led her to study in Nova Scotia, Canada and then in Scotland where she obtained an M.A. in Scottish History and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow. She was fortunate enough to have a summer job selling Gaelic books door-to-door in the West Highlands and Islands. She went from one cup of tea to the next–a wonderful opportunity to talk to local people and hear their stories. 

She has taught history and Gaelic at university and for Hearts Through History Romance Writers. At long last she has published The Banshee of Castle Muirn, the first book of a trilogy–set in magic and historical Scotland.



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