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Clan Chisholm

Crest of the Clan Chisholm
Feros Ferio - 'I am fierce with the fierce'

It is most likely that the first de Chesholme was one of the knights of William the Conqueror, arriving in England in1066. Scottish society, in the 150 years following the Norman conquest was a crucible in which two dynamic cultures, Celtic and Anglo-Norman were increasingly intermingled. Out of this the fiercely independent Scots character was formed. David I was the youngest of the three sons of Malcolm Canmore and Saint Margaret - the sister of Edgar Atheling - grew up at the Norman court, where his sister had married Henry I. David had a policy of gaining the allegiance of Norman knights by giving them tenancies in areas under his jurisdiction. According to clan tradition one of these knights was de Chesholme. By the end of the thirteenth century the de Chesholmes were prominent in David’s early territories around Roxburgh and Berwick.

By the early fourteenth century Alexander de Chesholme was called Lord of Chesholme in Roxburgh and Paxtoun in Berwickshire. His son married the daughter of another border laird, Sir Robert Lauder of the Bass. In 1329 Sir Robert became Justiciar of the North and Constable of the royal stronghold, Castle Urquart, and acquitted himself so well he was given lands near Elgin and Nairn. Robert Chisholm’s son inherited these lands from his wife.

Crest of the Clan Chisholm

Through successive marriages tenure of Erchless, Lovat ( which later passed to the Frasers by marriage), Beauly, Struy, and Crochail in Strathglass were added to the patrimony of the Chisholm. A clan legend states that the lands in Strathglass were acquired around 1400. Although many chiefs lived at Erchless, they took their title from Comar in Strathglass which they held outright - Erchless remaining a tenancy till much later. On the 13th March 1538 James the V of Scotland confirmed the land grant of Knockfin, Comarmore, Easter and Wester InverCannich, the two Breakachies and the woods and forests of Affric Coulavie and Breanulich to John Chisholm - the new barony of Comarmore

In the 17th century despite religious upheaval throughout the country the Clan Chisholm retained their Catholic beliefs. Hence Roderick Chisholm's support for the Stuart cause in 1715 and again in 1745. Eighty Chisholms fought alongside the Jacobites at Culloden leaving thirty of them, including Roderick's son Roderick Og, dead on the battlefield. Chisholms also assisted the defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie in keeping out of government hands. Note that two of Roderick's sons fought on Cumberland's side at Culloden - a not uncommon occurence that clans had a foot in both camps!

With the clan system now in decline many people emigrated to the new world. This process was speeded up with the introduction of 'the great white sheep' in the latter part of the 18th century. Then, clansmen were forcibly removed from the land by their own clan chiefs to make way for the sheep that were deemed a better economic alternative. Between 1801 and 1809, over 10,000 residents of Strathglass were evicted resulting in mass emigration.. It was said that only one tenant remained on Chisholm lands.

Although many Chisholms remained in Scotland thousands departed firstly for the Carolinas (US) then Canada followed by New Zealand and Australia. The Chisholm name can now be found in all corners of the globe.

The Clan Chisholm Society was founded at the end of the 19th Century by Chief James Chisholm, and revitalized in 1951 by his granddaughter, Mairi (see memorial plaque in Glen Cannich pictured left) and her nephew, Chief Alastair. Today, Alastair's son, Andrew Francis Hamish Chisholm of Chisholm is 33rd Chief of Clan Chisholm, and Juliette Chisholm Broomfield is President of the Clan Chisholm Society. The mission of The Clan Chisholm Society is to preserve the heritage of the Scottish clan and to promote links between Chisholms around the world.

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Download our local guide Chisholm Trail Struy

Visit the website of the International Clan Chisholm Society for information on Clan activities worldwide.

Another interesting website is The Chisholm Name Website.