Chapter XXI - The Buchanans of Buchanan

("History of Strathendrick", pp. 283-286, written by John Guthrie Smith, published by Maclehose and Sons, Glasgow, 1896)


The Rev. J. B. Johnston 1 derives the place name Buchanan from the Gaelic bogh chanan, "low ground belonging to the canon." The surname also takes in Gaelic the form Mac-a-chanonaich, "son of the canon," but nothing seems to be known as to the canon to whom this refers, history and tradition being alike silent on the point. The tradition followed by William Buchanan of Auchmar, the genealogist of the family, is that the first of the race in Scotland was one Anselan O'Kyan (or O'Cahan), son of a petty king of South Ulster. 2 This Anselan, having been obliged by the Danes to flee, took refuge in Scotland, about the year 1016, and acquired lands in the Lennox, either by marriage, or as a reward for services rendered by him to King Malcolm II. Buchanan of Auchmar designates him first laird of Buchanan, and gives a list of his successors; but it is not until we come to the seventh laird that we reach the firm ground of documentary proof.

I. Anselan (or Absalon), the seventh laird of Buchanan, 3 was seneschal to the Earl of Lennox, 4 and his name appears as a witness in several Lennox charters; also among the charters at Buchanan Castle there is one by Maldoven, third Earl of Lennox, to Absalon, son of Macbed (or Macbethe), of the island called Clarines, 5 dated 1225; and the confirmation of the same by King Alexander II in the year 1231. 6

II. Gilbert, styled by Auchmar the eighth laird, appears under the designation of "Gilberto filio Absolonis" as a witness to several of the charters granted by Maldoven and Malcolm, third and fourth Earls of Lennox, including a confirmation by the latter of the lands and Church of Kilpatrick to the monastery of Paisley, dated St. Valentine's day, 1273 [1274]. 7 Auchmar states that this Gilbert was the first to assume the surname of Buchanan in place of the patronymic MacAuselan, though the latter still continued to be occasionally used. 8 There is, however, no extant mention of the name Buchanan before "Alan de Buchanan, " 9 who is one of the witnesses to a charter of the lands of Gartechonerane in favour of Malcolm Makedolf, 10 and also to the confirmation of the same by Malcolm, fourth Earl of Lennox; 11 the date of the latter being [17 November] 1274.

III. Maurice, son of Gilbert, succeeded his father as ninth laird. 12 "Mauritio de Buchanane" is a witness to a charter of the lands of Ardeureane and Ardenalochreth, granted by Malcolm, fourth Earl of Lennox, in favour of the daughters of John Drummond, 13 in the year 1290. 14

IV. The next laird was another Maurice 15, who was a member of an "Inquest" on the freedom of holding courts on the lands of the deceased Sir Thomas of Cremennane [20 th June], 1320. 16 "Mauritio Makhawstelan, domino de Buchanan," is witness to a charter of Balecorrach and other lands, granted by Donald, Earl of Lennox, in favour of Finlay of Campsy. 17 Maurice of Buchquhanane, son and heir of the deceased Maurice of Buchquhanane, had a charter from Donald, Earl of Lennox, of that carucate * of land called Buchquhanane, together with Sallachy. 18 This charter has no date, but is stated by Crawfurd 19 to have been granted in the year 1353. The confirmation by King David II, is dated at Edinburgh, 26th January, in the forty-first year of his reign [1370]. 20 Maurice Buchanan married a daughter of Sir Walter Menteith of Rusky, and had a son, Walter. 21

V. Walter Buchanan of that Ilk, styled by Auchmar eleventh laird of Buchanan, is the first mentioned in the old Genealogical Tree of Buchanan. 22 In 1360 he appears as a party to an agreement between John Drummond and John and Alexander Menteith and is therein described as nephew to the Menteiths ("nepos eorundem"). 23 "Walterus, dominus de Buchannane," had a charter of certain lands from Donald, Earl of Lennox, who died about 1364. 24 There was also a charter by Walter de Fosselane to Walter Buchanan of that Ilk and Margaret, his spouse, of part of the lands of Cambrune, about 1373. 25 Walter Buchanan was father of (1) Walter, who succeeded him; (2) Alexander Buchanan, who was killed at the Battle of Verneul, 1424, s.p., 26 and whom Auchmar identifies with the Alexander Macausland of the Book of Pluscardine; 27 (3) John, who married, about 1392, Janet de Lany, 28 and was the first of the Buchanans of Leny; (1) Elizabeth, 29 who was second wife of Sir Andrew Gray of Foulis; and (2) Jean, who married Humphrey Cununghame of Gelngarnock. 30

VI. Walter Buchanan of that Ilk probably succeeded his father before 1394. "Waltero de Buchanan, domino ejusdem," appears as witness to a charter in 1398. 31 It is difficult to say when the first Walter died and the second succeeded, but there seems to be no doubt that the Walter who had a charter from Earl Donald of Lennox, who died about 1364, and which may have granted many years earlier, was a different man from the Walter who had a charter from Earl Duncan of the Lennox in 1394, 32 and was a witness to a charter in 1398.

Walter Buchanan married Isobel Stewart, 33 daughter of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, and grand-daughter of Duncan, Earl of Lennox, but his children must have been by a former wife. He had three sons: (1) Patrick, who succeeded him; (2) Maurice; and (3) Thomas of Drummikill, ancestor of the Drummikill and Carbeth families.

Footnotes to chapter XXI

1. Place Names of Scotland, p. 46.

2. Buchanan of Auchmar's Essay upon the Family of Buchanan, edition 1723, p. 19.

3. According to Auchmar.

4. Cartularnim de Levenax, p. 13.

5. The name Clarines (or Clarinch) became afterwards the Slughorn, or war cry, of the Clan of Buchanan.

6. Facsimiles of both are given in The Lennox, by Sir William Fraser, Vol. II, p. 4.

7. Cart. de Levenax, p. 15.

8. Family of Buchanan, pp. 25, 28.

9. Second son of Gilbert (Family of Buchanan, p. 96).

10. Cart. de Levenax, p. 84.

11. ibid., p. 86.

12. Family of Buchanan, p. 26

13. Cart. de Levenax, p. 47

14. Wood's Douglas's Peerage, Vol. II, p. 358

15. The name of Malcolm de Bougheannan [Buchanan] appears in the "Ragman's Roll" at the date 28th August 1296. The device on his seal is either a fox or a wolf, with the inscription "S. MALCOLM NVADEOC" (Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, Vol. ?, p. 205; and App. III., No. 597). The author of the Remarks on the Ragman's Roll states that this Malcolm was a son of Gilbert, which may possibly be correct; and he may have held the land during the minority of his nephew, the second Maurice. He is probably identical with Malcolm Macabsolon [MacAuselan] who is witness to a charter granted by Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, to Sir John of Luss, confirmed by King Robert I., 6th March, in the tenth year of his reign [1316].

16. Cart. de Levenax, p. 82

17. Ibid., p. 53

18. Ibid.. p. 56

19. Peerage, p. 257, note.

20. Hist. MSS. Com., Third Report, p. 387

21. Red Book of Menteith, by Sir William Fraser, Vol. II, p. 460.

22. See a reduced facsimile of the original in the possession of Mr. Buchanan-Hamilton of Leny (facing p. 284).

23. Red Book of Menteith, Vol. II., p. 239

24. Montrose Writs in The Lennox", Vol. II., p. 25.

25. The Lennox, Vol. II., p. 37

26. Family of Buchanan, p. 29.

27. Historians of Scotland, Vol. X., p. 268.

28. There is among the Leny Writs an extract from a charter of Robert, King of Scotland, to John de Buchanan, son of Walter de Buchanan, Knt., and Janet de Lany, daughter and heiress of John de Lany, of the lands of Petquhonardym 6th July, third of king's reign [6th July 1392]. He was alive and on an assize, 1429 (Irving's Dumbartonshire, Vol. I., pp. 62,63, notes). Auchmar says that there was a John Buchanan, twelfth laird of Buchanan, who died before his father, Walter, and he makes him father of John Buchanan, first of Leny. In the old Buchanan Tree there is also a John Buchanan of that Ilk. I think there was no such laird.

29. Assignation to Elizabeth Gray, Lady of Foulis, daughter of quhilum Sir Walter of Buchanan, Knight, wife of Sir Andrew Gray, Knight, Lord of Foulis, 28th July 1436 (Douglas's Peerage, Wood's edition, Vol. I., p. 666, and Reg. Mag. Sig., 1424-1513, No. 767).

30. Cuninghame, by J. S. Dobie, p. 169.

31. Cart. de Levenax, p. 74.

32. Ibid., p. 59

33. Family of Buchanan, p. 30.

Definition: carucate
(n. ) A plowland; as much land as one team can plow in a year and a day; -- by some said to be about 100 acres. from the 1913 Webster's Dictionary