Matheson Clan

Matheson Clan Crest: From a crown, a hand holding a scimitar.

Matheson Clan Motto: Fac Et Spera (Do and hope).

History of Clan Matheson/Mathieson:
The surname translates from the Gaelic means as “Son of the Bear.” Of course, the Lowland interpretation, “Son of Matthew,” sounds less colourful.

The Clan appears in Lochalsh and Kintail under the authority of the ancient earldom of Ross, and there appear to have been two branches – Lochalsh and Shiness.  In the 13th century, after the Battle of Largs, the Clan followed the Lords of the Isles, but their fortunes declined following the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

Dougal MacRuadhri Matheson was Prior of Beauly  from 1498 to 1514. In Sutherland, the Mathesons served under the earls of Sutherland and were located beside Loch Shin. As followers of Clan Sutherland, therefore, Donald Matheson of Shiness opposed the Jacobites during the 1715 Uprising.

The Matheson Chiefship remained in Lochalsh until 1688 when Ian Mor Matheson moved to the Black Isle. The Chiefship then passed to the Mathesons of Bennetsfield, who held it until 1975. Major Sir Torquil Matheson of Matheson of the Lochalsh branch was then recognised as Chief, passing in 1993 to his brother, Major Sir Fergus Matheson of Matheson, 7th Baronet.

Sir James Matheson of Shiness (1796-1879), with Dr William Jardine, founded the Hong Kong trading company Jardine Matheson, and became owner of the Island of Lewis in 1844.

Sir Alexander Matheson, 1st Baronet of Lochalsh (1796-1878), joined his uncle's firm Jardine Matheson in China. When he returned to Scotland in 1840, he bought land in Ross-shire and recovered the Lochalsh Barony and estate.

Sir Louis Matheson (1912-2002) was Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Surname distribution in Scotland: The Matheson name is most commonly found in the Outer Hebrides, Highland which incorporates the historic counties of Caithness, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and small areas of Argyllshire and Morayshire, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray (includes large parts of historic Banffshire).

Places of Interest:
Eilean Donan Castle, Lochalsh, Wester Ross. Iain dubh Matheson was the Constable of this Mackenzie stronghold when it was besieged by Donald Gruamach of Sleat in 1539. He died in its defence.

Lochalsh Parish Church, Kirkton, Wester Ross. Large numbers of Mathesons are buried in the kirk yard.

Associated family names (Septs): Bairnson, MacBirnie, MacBurnie, MacMahon, MacMath, MacMathon, MacMhathain, Massey, Masson, Matheson, Mathewson, Mathie, Mathieson, Mathison, Mathyson, Matthews, Matthewson.

Clan Matheson certificates.