TO FIND A CHIEF

The Clan MacGillivray today has a very special and very serious problem: It does not have a Chief.

Now, as in ages past, this presents a danger to a clan because the Chief not only provides personal leadership but is actually a living symbol of the Clan's continuity, of the centuries-long bloodline stretching back to its original founder. Without such a figure to personify the Clan's lineage, the Clan itself cannot truly be said to continue. This is all the more painfully ironic in our case, since it is practically a byword among authorities that the MacGillivrays are indeed a very "old" clan.

All MacGillivray clanspersons who care about their heritage, then, will surely ask:
1.) How did this happen?
2.) What, if anything, can be done about it?

The Vacant Chiefship.

This actually occurred quite recently, within the 20th century. The last Chief to own the chiefly seat of Dunmaglass was Capt. John William MacGillivray, 13th Laird, who was obliged to sell it in 1890. He himself ultimately died without direct heirs in 1914. Without lands attatched to it, the Chiefship itself then passed nominally to a cousin of his, John Farquhar MacGillivray, KC, a tax official in Toronto, Canada. He held the Chiefship, rather quietly, for 32 years before he too died without heirs in 1942. From that point, no heirs of his, or any other related lines, have surfaced or been definitely traced. And no other MacGillivray has succeeded in establishing a right to the Chiefship up to the present.

There have been claimants, though. The most recent of these, Col. George B. Macgillivray, a Canadian, formally petitioned the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland, who is authorised to settle such claims, a total of three times between 1953 and 1989. While apparently not confident enough of Col. Macgillivray's proofs to grant the Chiefship outright, Lord Lyon instead commissioned him as Commander of the Clan, conveying the authority of Chiefship, but without hereditary rights, for the purpose of rallying MacGillivrays as a Clan under temporary leadership. Col. Macgillivray's tenure as Commander was short, only five years before he passed away in September 1994. But it was decisively important, giving the Clan new momentum from renewed interest by clansfolk around the world resulting from his leadership.

This brings us up to the present. The Clan has been roused worldwide to a considerable extent. But once again we are without chiefly leadership, even on an interim basis.

Possible Solutions.

We are not the first or only clan to go chiefless. Indeed, over time and in recent years, Lord Lyon has successfully restored chiefships to numerous clans, often after gaps of much longer duration than ours. Within the legal processes administered by Lord Lyon and Lyon Court in Edinburgh, then, lie the means for resolving our problem. Yet it is fair to say also that the Clan itself must still provide the raw material for rendering such a solution.

In summary, here are three options that appear as possible avenues to a solution:

* A direct Petition to Lord Lyon by an individual clansman claiming the Chiefship on his own behalf. A successful result would depend on ability to clearly prove descent from past Chiefs, preferrably of recent generations.

* A nomination by the derbh fine of the Clan to Lord Lyon of one of its number to be commissioned as a new Commander of the Clan. This would again provide interim leadership while research continues towards finding viable candidates for Chiefship by descent, or determining any Petitions by one or more active claimants.

* If it can be conclusively proven that no heirs in near relation to recent chiefs survive anywhere today, Lyon might accept a claim for Chiefship on less stringent proof of descent. This could establish a new chiefly line, if the latter existing ones are completely foreclosed. This is surely a last resort, but perhaps not impossible.


If you would like a more detailed discussion of this complex and important issue, click to the illustrated essay. . .

The Chiefship and the Clan Today

There you will find links to other items of interest, such as. . .

Chiefly Genealogy Chart
Acquiring Scottish Arms

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