Clan Matheson Society
Until the late eighteenth century there were very few Mathesons anywhere outside of Scotland. Since then members of this clan family have spread across the globe, and there are few countries where the name is not known.
The Clan Matheson Society was set up in the mid-twentieth century to help members keep in touch with their family and roots. Today there are five branches: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. Each branch runs its own activities and events, but from time to time members from around the world come together at an international clan gathering.
Where do Mathesons come from, and where does the clan originate? The exact details are lost in the mists of time, but we do know that the name Matheson comes from the Gaelic MacMathan, which means “son of the bear”. This shouldn’t be confused with the English Mathewson which means simply “son of Mathew”.
The MacMathans were settled in Lochalsh in Wester Ross in the Scottish highlands from early times. Kenneth MacMathan, traditionally Constable of Eilean Donan Castle, is recorded in both the Chamberlain Rolls and the Norse account of the expedition of King Haakon IV against Scotland in 1263 which culminated in his defeat at Largs.
Chiefs of Clan Matheson
The identities of the clan chiefs are known from Mathghamhain in 1225 to the present day chief Sir Fergus Matheson, a record spanning more than 780 years! You can see the full list here.
The current chief is Sir Fergus Matheson of Matheson, 7th Baronet of Lochalsh, who succeeded to the chiefship of the clan in 1993 on the death of his elder brother Sir Torquhil Matheson of Matheson.
Find out more about what a baronet is, and the connection between the Matheson Baronetcy of Lochalsh and the Chief of the Clan Matheson in this article. One of the seven baronets has a particularly interesting connection with New Zealand.
Though tartans didn’t originate in Scotland, they are inextricably linked with that country and particularly with the Highlands. The familiar patterns are made with alternating bands of coloured threads woven at right angles to each other. The way the threads are woven forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, giving the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.
The Scottish Tartans Society recognised six Matheson setts dating from 1805 to 1977, two of which are recognised by the clan: the red dress tartan and the dark green hunting tartan.
Tartans are even registered! The Scottish Register of Tartans was established by an act of the Scottish Parliament in 2008 to protect, promote and preserve tartan. The Register is a database of tartan designs, maintained by the National Records of Scotland
There is an international Tartan Day when everyone around the world is encouraged to wear tartan to celebrate their Scottish heritage. But it’s not as simple as that. In most countries Tartan Day is on 6 April, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of Scottish independence, was signed in 1320.
But in New Zealand and Australia we do things a bit differently. For some reason that’s not clear we celebrate Tartan Day on 1 July, the anniversary of the repeal in 1782 of the 1747 Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of Highland dress including tartan in the wake of the Jacobite uprising and the Battle of Culloden.
So, whether on 6 April or 1 July (or both), show your Matheson heritage by wearing the tartan. The Clan Matheson Society online shop stocks a range of Matheson tartan products.
Be sure not to confuse this with the chief’s crest or the chief’s coat of arms, which can be worn only by him.