The Clan Macintyre

A history of the Clan MacIntyre

General Information

Per ardua
Through difficulties
War cry
A mountain near Loch Awe
Clan pipe music
Pibroch and march: "Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor"
"We will take the highway"
The Macintyre's Salute
Fraoch Geal
White heather


The surname Macintyre is generally assumed to derive from the Gaelic “Mac-an-t-saoir” -- the Carpenter’s Son. The traditional history of the clan claims that they are a sept of the MacDonalds of Sleat, Skye. This claim may be supported by the fact that the clan also makes use of the MacDonald badge, heather.

One popular origin story for the clan name claims that it arose from an incident in which a MacDonald chief’s galley sprung a leak. The clansman who discovered the leak forced his thumb into the hole to plug it, then cut off the thumb with his knife so that he could continue to help sail the galley. His actions saved the crew from drowning, and he was subsequently known as “Saoir na H-ordaig”, the Thumb Carpenter. His son took the name of “Mac-an-t-saoir”, the Carpenter's Son.

A less dramatic version attributes the name to a MacDonald who was known as Cean-tire because he possessed lands in Kintyre. His son John held land at Degnish in Lorn, and was known as John Mac-Cein-teire-Dhegnish, his descendants later taking the name of Macintyre.

A third possible explanation is that the name does indeed mean “the carpenter’s son”, but that rather than being descendants of a single legendary Thumb Carpenter, Macintyres were simply the children of local carpenters or wrights. This could explain why the name is found in many different districts of Scotland, and would mean that not all those bearing the name are necessarily related.

The principal family of Macintyres possessed lands in Glenoe on Loch Etive. According to legend, the first “Mac-an-t-saoir” left Sleat in his galley in order to seek his fortune elsewhere. He took with him a white cow and vowed that he would settle wherever the cow first lay down to rest after landing. The cow duly lay down at Glenoe, Loch Etive side, in a place still known as Làrach na Bà Bàine - the Site of the White Cow. The Macintyres of Glenoe occupied these lands for between five and six hundred years, until 1806. They held Glenoe in tenure from the Campbells of Glenorchy, afterwards of Breadalbane, paying an annual rent every summer that consisted of a snowball and a white fatted calf, reared on the land and delivered over at the stone called “Clach an laoigh Bhiadhta” - the Stone of the Fatted Calf. The snowball could easily be fetched from the nearby mountain of Cruachan and as they always kept a white cow or two, a white fatted calf was also easy to obtain. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the then tenant of Glenoe foolishly agreed for the payment to be commuted into money which then became rent. The rent was then increased until it became so large that the Macintyres could no longer pay it. In 1806 they were compelled to give up their lands. Several members of the family subsequently emigrated to America.

The Macintyres were famous for their versatility. The Macintyres of Glenoe were hereditary foresters to the Stewarts of Lorn. A family of Macintyres were hereditary pipers to Macdonald of Clan Ranald, while the Macintyres of Rannoch were hereditary pipers to the chief of Clan Menzies. There was a colony of Macintyres resident for many generations at the village of Claidich, Loch Awe, where they worked as weavers. One of their specialties was the production of very finely woven hose and garters, made in the various clan tartans. No Highland costume, however expensive, was complete at the time without a pair of Claidich garters.

Other notable Macintyres include a bard who was taken under the protection of William, 13th of Mackintosh (the Macintyres of Badenoch are descended from this bard Macintyre, and were attached to the Clan Chattan), and the Gaelic hunter poet Duncan bàn Macintyre, Donnacha Ban nan Oran, born in Glenorchy in 1724. Duncan Macintyre was involved in the 1745 Jacobite Rising (the Macintyres fought at Culloden under the banner of the Stewarts of Appin), and was subsequently imprisoned for writing a poem against the Act proscribing Highland dress. He died in Edinburgh in 1812.


The Macintyres of Glenoe were the chiefs of the Macintyres.

  • Duncan Macintyre (I) of Glenoe, chief of the Macintyres, married Mary, daughter of Patrick Campbell of Barcaldine, "Para Beag". Duncan died in 1695.
  • Donald (II) of Glenoe, son of Duncan, was married twice. He had a daughter by his first wife, Janet, daughter of Archibald MacDonell of Keppoch. He had three children - James, Catherine and Mary - by his second wife, Catherine, daughter of MacDonald of Dalness.
  • James (III) of Glenoe was born about 1727. He studied Law for some time, but gave it up after his father's death in order to take charge of Glenoe. He is said to have been an excellent Gaelic scholar and was the author of several Gaelic poems. He married Ann, daughter of Duncan Campbell of Barcaldine and sister of “Caelein Ghlinn Iubhair”. He had three sons and six daughters – Donald, Martin, Duncan, Ann, Isabel Mary, Lucy and Jean.
  • Duncan, the third son of James, was a captain in one of the Highland regiments and the last Macintyre to hold Glenoe. He died in London in 1808.
  • Donald (IV), the eldest son of Duncan, succeeded his father as chief of the clan. He was a doctor. He went to New York in 1783. He married Easter Hames, who gave him four sons - James, Donald, Thomas and Martin. He died in 1792.
  • James (V), the eldest son of Dr Donald Macintyre, was born in Newburgh, Orange County, New York in 1785. He came to Scotland in 1806 and married in 1817, Ann, daughter of Peter Campbell of Corries, Glenorchy, by his wife Joan, daughter of John Campbell of Fassiefern. He returned to the United States in 1822, and settled on a farm in Fulton County, New York. He had six sons - Donald, Peter, James, Ewen, Archibald and Martin. He died in 1863.
  • Donald (VI) settled on a farm near Fonda. He married Phebe Shepherd by whom he had one son - James - and four daughters. He died in October 1887.
  • James (VII) was born in January 1864.

Mr Duncan Macintyre, Leith, one of the Camus-na-h-Eireadh branch and son of the late Rev. John Macintyre, LL.D. of Kilmonivaig, fourteenth in descent from the first chief of whom there is any authentic record, was said to have had the best claim to the chieftanship of any Macintyre resident in Scotland. He had in his possession the Glenoe ring, which has engraved on it the Macintyre crest and the motto "Per Ardua". This ring was examined by the poet Duncan bàn Macintyre of Glenorchy, who composed some Gaelic verses describing the ring and the armorial bearing of the clan.


Clan Macintyre tartan
Clan Macintyre hunting tartan

Clan Macintyre has both an official tartan and a so-called ‘hunting’ tartan. Hunting tartans are usually a variant of the main clan tartan, sometimes using more muted colors. There is probably no truth in the claim that these alternative designs were used as a kind of camouflage for hunting – the Macintyre hunting tartan is actually brighter than the main clan tartan – and like many other tartans they may simply have been invented during the 19th century, part of the Victorian fad for all things Scottish.

These renderings of the Macintyre tartans are from Tartanify.


The crest of the clan is described as:

"A dexter hand holding a skean dhu in pale, on which is affixed a snowball all proper. Around the wrist a manche of the correct tartan turned or."

Translated from the technical language of heraldry, this means that the crest shows a left (dexter) hand holding a skean dhu (a small dagger) which is aligned with the central part of the crest (in pale) and has a white snowball stuck on it (‘proper’ means that the object is shown in its natural color, white in this case). Around the wrist is a sleeve (‘manche’) of the clan’s tartan, possibly trimmed in gold.

Although the description above specifies a snowball -- probably a reference to the Macintyre’s rent -- the crest is most often rendered as simply a hand holding a dagger, and the sleeve, instead of being tartan, is red and yellow.

The crest includes the legend 'Per Ardua', which is the first half of the Latin phrase 'Per Ardua Ad Astra' -- 'Through adversity, to the stars'.

The crest of the Clan Macintyre

You can download the Clan Macintyre crest in Encapsulated Postscript Format (EPS, 43K).