An Introduction to Scotland’s Clans | WeeBox

Everything you need to know about Scottish Clans

If you want an inspiring introduction to the world of Scottish clans, you’re in the right place.

WeeBox will take you through their history, Scottish clan colours, how to find out about your Scottish clan and how many clans there are in Scotland today. But let’s start at the beginning…

What does Clan mean?

Clan from the Gaelic ‘Clann’, it literally means children – as well as a broader meaning of kindred – and it’s this spirit that’s distilled into the Scottish consciousness, and still has a far-reaching resonance even today.

The Clan System in Scotland is synonymous with being part of a family, but it’s about so much more than just sharing a name. Historically, it was about being afforded protection, showing solidarity or even just a simple recognition that you were from a specific area of Scotland.

The history of Scottish Clans

Some of the origin stories of Scotland’s clans begin with the kinds of myths and legends that are usually reserved for Greek mythology. Some Clan Chiefs are said to have been descended from legendary Kings, warriors or heroes – but often, the reality was a bit more straightforward and borne from battle, political turmoil or rebellion.

Traditionally, these clans were from and held territories in the Scottish Highland and in the Borders of Scotland. And it’s in these strongholds that the clans’ influence still feature heavily today.

How to find your Scottish Clan

It’s a bit more complicated than you might think.

Obviously having a ‘clan’ name helps – and any name starting with a ‘Mac’, a ‘Mc’, or a ‘McC’ will tend to have its ultimate origin in Scotland or Ireland. So if you have the same surname as a recognised clan in Scotland, then you already belong!

What’s lesser known is that some clans had an array of family names that weren’t the same as their leaders’ name, but were ‘tied’ to the Clan Chief via an offer of allegiance, tenancy or just a longing for the association with more powerful neighbours. These groups were called ‘septs’ and their unrelated surnames mean that your name could already be part of a wider clan too. There’s no official list, as some of these allegiances have been lost in the mists of time, but you can sometimes find long-forgotten connections in historical documents, church records and tales of heroic battles over the centuries.

What’s your Clan Tartan?

Nearly every Scottish clan has more than one tartan attributed to their surname – things like ‘dress’ tartan, for more formal occasions and ‘hunting’ tartan for hill and mountain expeditions – are just two variations.

Did you know that tartan was once banned in Scotland? The Dress Act of 1746 was designed to strip the clans of their identity and stop any further Jacobite uprisings. In fact, the wearing of tartan was banned for around 36 years, and it was the end of this ban that led to tartans and their myriad of distinct colours and associations with the clan system to truly resurrect itself within Scottish culture.

Now there are so many websites that you can just enter your name into, and it will show you if you have an official clan tartan or if your surname has an affiliation with one.

From an official perspective, the Lyon Court Books is the place where each clan tartan is officially recorded, but now there are so many modern tartans and bespoke patterns, that the rule now is if you love tartan, you can wear any tartan you want.

How many Clans are there in Scotland?

Based on historical records, there are around 500 clans in Scotland, but the most important one we want you to belong to is the WeeBox Clan.

OUr global WeeBox clan has a common goal to share the best of Scotland with Scots and Scots-at-heart all over the world. So no matter where you are, you can experience the story and soul of Scotland – from luxurious Scottish brands that pamper you, to award-winning Scottish designers and iconic labels. Every WeeBox is carefully curated around a monthly theme, with five bonnie gifts and treats, which are often exclusive and can’t be bought outside of Scotland. Discover a kinship and feel part of a community that celebrates Scotland. Get your monthly subscription to WeeBox now.