After Life-Long Search, Detective Finds Lost Chief of Scottish Clan: ‘The Buchanan’ is its First Chief in 337 Years
After over three centuries without ancestral leadership, the Clan Buchanan welcomes John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, 60, who owns Cambusmore Estate near Callander, as the official head of the clan, thanks to decades of work of a dedicated genealogist. It is the first time the clan has had a chief since 1681.
Mr Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, now The Buchanan, will begin his duties serving millions of clan members across Europe, North America, Africa and Australia as the family figurehead, but his new found stature is all down to the incredible persistence of the 85-year-old geologist, Hugh Peskett, whose career has seen him track down “more than 12 Scottish and Irish clan chiefs” according to a report in The Telegraph.
A Life-Long Search
Fifty years ago, Mr Peskett’s grandmother, a Buchanan herself, urged him to “seek out the rightful clan chief” and after a lifetime of complex and dense genealogical research, he discovered Mr Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, was the rightful chief - ‘The Buchanan’. He had suspected that he was the rightful clan chief “all of his life” since his father told him as a child that his grandfather was a descendant of Francis Buchanan of Arnprior, who was himself “named by Sir Walter Scott as the true Buchanan leader”, eventually hung for his role in the 1745 AD Jacobite uprising in the Highlands of Scotland.
Once the world-renowned genealogist had established The Buchanan as the rightful clan chief, the claim was thereafter upheld by The Lord Lyon King of Arms, who regulates Scottish heraldry. The Buchanan told reporters at The Telegraph, “We first approached the Lyon Court informally over 20 years ago and it has taken decades of genealogical research to back up our claim.” And he added that he was “honoured and proud that my claim to the chiefship of Clan Buchanan has been upheld by Lord Lyon.”
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John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, the new Chief of Clan Buchanan. Credit: Clan Buchanan.
As happy as we should all be for The Buchanan, there is a whole part of me that sees the real winner in this story as Mr Peskett. After all, in the stark light of reality, The Buchanan was born of the ‘correct’ mother, an act requiring few skills in comparison to an entire lifetime of family history research. Mr Peskett is a family history specialist who like a detective has solved clues in history to identify the chiefs of 12 other clans. He is himself a Buchanan, and at the age of 85, having served 12 other families, is rewarded with discovering the identity of his own family head.
Speaking of this brilliant piece of work Peskett told reporters “As a clansman of the Clan Buchanan, it was absolutely fascinating to delve into the history and ancestry of one of the oldest clans in Scotland. My research took decades to compile and unequivocally confirms the chiefship claim. He humbly added, “This is a historic moment for Clan Buchanan and I am truly privileged to have played my part. I believe my grandmother would be incredibly proud of what we have achieved.”
Clan Buchanan: A 1,000-Year History?
According to the history section on Clan Buchanan’s website, with their famous War Cry: "Clar Innis” (our island in Loch Lomond), Clan Buchanan traditionally trace its chiefly line back to Anselan O'Kyan, a nobleman from Ulster who fled to Scotland inn 1016, during the reign of King Malcolm II. Having helped Scottish forces battle with the Danes, Kyan is believed to have received from king Malcolm II the lands of Buchanan to the east of Loch Lomond around the village of Killearn and east toward Stirling.
Every Scottish Clan is identified by their distinct tartan. Pictured here is the clothing of the Clan Buchanan (public domain)
However, many historians have disputed this story as a ‘mythological’ origin story as it appeared in no contemporary accounts for this period in Ireland. And their skepticism was confirmed with recent DNA research that showed the real origins of the clan go much farther back in Scottish history, “linking strongly with the Clan MacGregor indicating the Clan have Celtic Scottish roots in the ancient forgotten kingdoms of Dal Raida and Scotia, rather than over the water in Ireland.
Now, sitting just ‘under’ The Buchanan, David Byrne, who serves Clan Buchanan Society International as its president, said: “It has always been the goal of our Society since 1970 to keep the traditions of our clan alive in hopes that one day a chief would be named. Today we can proudly share that mission with The Buchanan for the first time in 337 years.”
Top image: John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, the new Chief of Clan Buchanan. Credit: Clan Buchanan.
By Ashley Cowie