Sir Robert Gordon (in his "Earldom of Sutherland") stated, "... the laird of Balnagown's surname should not be Ross, seeing that there was never any Earl of Ross of that surname;but the Earls of Ross were first of the surname of Beolan ..." "So I do think that the lairds of Balnagowan, perceiving the Earls of Ross decayed ... they called themselves Ross, thereby to testify their descent from the Earls of Ross. Besides, all the Rosses in that province are unto this day called in the Irish (Gaelic) language Clan Leandries (known today as Clann Aindreas), which by their own tradition is sprung from another stock."

~~~~~~~WHAT'S IN A NAME?~~~~~~~

The sister of the sixth Earl of Ross was Marjory, who became Countess of Strathearn after her marriage to Malise, the eighth Earl of Strathearn. Earl Malise granted the lands of Hawkhead to his kinsmen Godfrey de Ros about 1367. The Hawkhead family of "de Ros" was of Norman descent and unrelated to the Earl of Ross.

Those Normans certainly mucked up clan names in the record-keeping and early documents. The name of Ross (as applied to the Earls) appears as "de Ros" in papers around the time of Robert "de Brus". There was even some confusion with clan Rose, as well as a Norman "de Ros" family in Yorkshire which moved to Ayrshire. The Halkhead/Hawkhead family of "de Ros" in Renfrewshire adopted the Celtic name of Ross in 1489 when Sir John Ros was inserted among the Barons of Parliament as "Lord Ross of Hawkhead".

~~~~~~~A QUESTION OF TRUST~~~~~~~

Fearchar's feudal attitudes would eventually erode the relationship between the ordinary clansperson and the chiefs, who became increasingly arrogant and indifferent. Descended from the fifth Earl of Ross, the Balnagowan chiefs were more inclined to be chiefs of the land rather than of the clan. They gradually frittered away clan wealth.

One fraudulent successor, James Lockhart-Ross, whose family had also adopted the name of Ross, became an absentee landlord and appointed Factors after the introduction of the Cheviot sheep. During the clearances, these Factors were empowered to get rid of cotters in favour of sheep or to create larger tracts of land for "improved" farms by evicting cotters from their smaller run-rig fields (after they had been cleared of trees and large stones).

~~~~~~~GENEALOGY & RELIGION~~~~~~~

Sometimes religion can be a clue when researching the Ross surname in Scotland. Ross and Cromarty became Protestant during the Reformation. After censuring a long list of "sinful practices", the religious zealots headed by John Knox made a particularly strong effort to enforce the ways of the Reformed Church of Scotland upon the County of Ross. Nicolas Ross (Bishop of Fearn Abbey and Provost of Tain College) handed the historical Clan relics and artifacts over to Alexander Ross (9th of Balnagowan) in 1560 for safe keeping. A descendant, Alexander Ross of the Pitcalnie Cadet Branch, became the nominal clan chief when the Balnagown line ended. Like other members of the fragmented clan, he was a staunch Protestant but, politically, he was pro-Hanoverian in his public sentiments (unlike many plain clansfolk whose political loyalties favoured a Scottish King over a German one). Malcolm Ross, the eldest son of Alexander in the Pitcalnie line, was disinherited because of his support of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Rebellion of 1745. The Pitcalnie Cadet Branch continued through Alexander's second son Nicholas, and most of the families of Clan Ross followed the protestant Church of Scotland and Presbyterianism.

In recognition of the Earl's services during the Royal campaign of 1234 in Galloway, it was noted that Fearchar Mac an t'Sagairt, son of a Celtic priest and 2nd Earl of Ross, received a grant of land in Galloway. Over the succeeding centuries, the land thrived under the Ross families relocated to that area in Southern Scotland. Most of these families held onto a Celtic Roman Catholic form of religion which was, originally: clan-oriented with a clan saint, monastic with a hereditary priesthood, but uncelibate.

© J. Douglas Ross Email: <jdr(at)greatclanross(dot)org>