At that time, Ross was part of the vast earldom of Moray. It became a separate earldom in the mid 12th century, when Máel Coluim is found designated as the Earl of Ross around 1168. There is some controversy concerning his origin as it is not clear if Máel Coluim was the son of Beth (or Áed or Eth), Mormaer of Ross, or instead an illegitimate son of the King of Scotland Alexander I.
Even when it is accepted that Máel Coluim was the son of Áed of Ross, this has raised further questions concerning the background of his kindred and the nature of their claims. The general consensus favors a background in Ross with claims to the Mormaerdom and descent from the Scots royal house, perhaps through Domnall, son of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada, who died in 1085.
After Máel Coluim passed away, the title was granted in 1161 by the King of Scotland, William the Lion to Floris III of Holland upon Floris's marriage to William's sister Ada of Huntingdon. However, Floris held the title only in a nominal sense, as he took no active part in the governance of Ross. The title seems not to have been passed on, for in 1291 Floris's descendant is found complaining that the earldom had been deprived from him.
The true founder of Clan Ross was the famous Ferquhard, of the Ó Beólláin family. Ferquhard was the son of the lay parson of the monastery of Applecross, and was hence known as MacIntagart, meaning "son of the priest". In 1215 the newly crowned King of Scotland Alexander II was forced to suppress a rebellion in Moray and Ross. Ferquhard sided with the king, and captured the rebel leaders, before beheading them and presenting their heads to the king. For this he was knighted and eventually created Earl of Ross around 1226. In 1235, King Alexander invaded Galloway and was saved during battle by Fearchar, who lead the men of Ross.
Around 1238, the local Abbey was transferred to a site called New Fearn, which is a short distance from Tain. This has been the burial place place of the Ross Clan Earls and Chiefs and is still in use today. In 1251, Fearchar died and was buried at the new Fearn Abbey with the stone effigy of a warrior marking his grave. His son Uilleam (William) then became Earl of Ross.
During this time, Norway controlled the Hebrides and Alexander II was unsuccessfully negotiating their purchase. Long after his death, his son Alexander III recruited Uilleam the Earl of Ross and Kjarnac Macmaaghan to raid the Isle of Skye in the year 1262. They burned towns and churches and slew many people. In retaliation, King Haakon IV of Norway lead over a hundred ships with thousands of men towards an invasion of Scotland. However, while wintering in Orkeny, Haakon died and his fleet returned to Norway. The Hebrides were then sold to Scotland and land near Loch Alsh was granted to the Macmaaghan's descendants; the Matheson's.
Uilleam died in 1274 with his son, who also named Uilleam, becoming the next Earl of Ross. In 1284 Uilleam II joined with other Scottish noblemen who acknowledged Margaret, Maid of Norway as heir to King Alexander III. However, she died before ever receiving the honor.
When Edward I, the King of England invaded Scotland in 1296, Uilleam II, fought him at the Battle of Dunbar. After the Scottish defeat, Uilleam II was captured and sent to prison in London. Large areas of Ross and Murray then broke out into open revolt led by Andrew Murray and William Wallace. By 1298 after his defeat at Falkirk, Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland in favor of Robert the Bruce who persisted thru years of guerrilla warfare and was eventually crowned King of Scotland in 1306.
In 1303, Uilleam II the Earl of Ross was released from prison and allowed to return to the north. His son and heir Hugh was a favorite of future King Robert the Bruce, who endowed him with many lands. Hugh even married Roberts sister Matilda in 1308 in the Orkney Isles. With Matilda, he had a son who became his successor William III. In 1320, Uilleam II was one of eight earls whose name appears on the Declaration of Arbroath. Uilleam II died in 1323 at Delnay Castle in Ross. William III was in Norway at the time of his father Hugh's death at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.
William III returned to Scotland and was at the Siege of Perth in 1339. Aware that the defensive channel of water around the town made it difficult to enter, Ross and his men diverted water and filled the ditch with driftwood, giving them access to the city walls and forcing the English to abandon the city.
In 1355, Euphemia, a daughter of Hugh married Robert Stewart, the sole son of the 6th High Steward of Scotland and Marjories Bruce. She would later become Queen of Scotland. Earl William III's only son, also named William, died in 1357 leaving the Earldom with no direct heir.
In 1368 a cousin, Hugh Ross of Rarichies was granted the lands of Balnagown, which would eventually become the home of the Ross Clan Chiefs for several hundreds of years. Rarichies, which is south of Tain is located north east of Nigg on the Fearn Peninsula.
The direct line of Ferquhard continued until the death of William, 5th Earl of Ross, in 1372 at Delnay Castle. William had two daughters, the eldest of which, Euphemia, married Sir Walter Leslie, who then became the Earl of Ross. This lead to a dispute over control of the earldom of Ross. Eventually, the Earldom was directed to another family. In 1375, construction of Balnagown Castle commenced.
Clan Ross was lead by Hugh's of Rarichies's son William the 2nd and grandsons Walter the 3rd and Hugh the 4th of Balnagown. In 1411, the Clan fought as Highlanders in support of the Lord of the Isles against an army of Scottish Lowlander who supported the Duke of Albany. The Clan also supplied some of the many Scottish troops supporting France during its Hundred Years war with the English. In 1424, at the Battle of Verneuil though, they suffered heavy causalities.
In 1427 the document listing the exemption of payments (privileges) within Tain was destroyed during a clan feud. On April 20, 1439, Hugh the 4th of Balnagown was a member of an inquest into Tain's legal status and witnessed the agreement concerning it between the Churches of Fearn and Tarradale, which was near Dingwall.
Hugh, the 4th of Balnagown had numerous sons. His son John became the 5th of Balnagown while William became the 1st of Shandwich. The Shandwich branch was prosperous. Williams son Walter become the 2nd of Shandwick. Walter married 5 different wives (Janet Tulloch, Agnes M'Culloch, Elizabeth Hay, Christian Chisholm & Janet Munro). By Janet Tulloch he had 4 sons. Walters son Donald would continue the Shandwich line, while his son Hugh became associated with Balmachy, which eventually led to the Balblair branch.
In 1486 Clan Ross slaughtered a raiding party from the Clan Mackay by locking them in the old Tarbat Church and setting fire to it. This event is known as the Battle of Tarbat. In 1487, the Mackay's gained revenge by killing many of the men of Ross including Chief Alexander the 6th of Balnagown in the Battle of Auldicharish. John, the 5th of Balnagown had four sons; Alexander become the 6th of Balnagown, while Donald obtained the Priesthill estate near Delny.
In 1522, Andrew Munro from the neighboring Clan is said to have been hanged from Balnagown Castle after being found guilty of many dastardly deeds.
Alexander's son David became the 7th of Balnagown with his grandson Walter becoming the 8th of Balnagown. David married twice; first to Hellen Keith and then to Margaret Stewart daughter of the Duke of Albany. David Ross died on May 22, 1527 while Walter Ross was murdered the next year in 1528 by a cousin called Hugh Ross. Walter's brother William eventually became the 1st of Invercharron and his brother Hugh became the 1st of Tolly & Achnacloich (Rosskeen).
Walter's son Alexander then became the 9th of Balnagown and thus Clan Chief. In 1553 Alexander ordered the purchase of numerous luxury items such as pepper, ginger, sugar and aniseed as well as chain mail coats and canons. Apparently, he planned to attack some of his neighbors with the canons. Then, being near bankruptcy, he became better known for his violence and lack of scruples in his dealings.
Officially, Ross-shire went Presbyterian in 1560. Alexander's son George attended St. Andrews University as a student in 1567 and became the 10th of Balnagown while his other son Nicholas became the 1st of Pitcalnie. George in turn had a son, grandson and great grandson each of whom were all named David, and who all became Chiefs of the Clan.
In 1572, Chief Alexander Ross led a raid on the lands of Alexander Innes of the Plaids. Alexander Ross stole crops and livestock and took Innes and his wife hostage forcing them both to sign over much of their lands. Innes's Castle at Cadboll was later attacked with cannons. In 1573, Alexander Ross was imprisoned in Edinburgh (Tantallon castle) for four months and compelled to pay a fine. After being released, he refused to complete payments and lived in defiance of the Government. A 'Fire and Sword' order was issued allowing him to be captured. Because of his fathers poor behavior, his son George signed a letter dated August 2, 1577, urging his father to serve God and be obedient to his King. By 1583, Alexander's behavior had not improved and he was legally denounced as a rebel. Alexander died at Ardmore in 1592 and was buried at Fearn Abbey.
Alexander also had a daughter named Katherine, who married the chief of the Munro Clan; Hector Munro. Following some family quarrels, in May 1577 she plotted to kill her husbands oldest son so that his widow could marry her brother George Ross. As part of her plan, George's current wife was also to be killed. Katherine conspired with several individuals to procure the necessary poisons. However, after being exposed the group was labeled witches and put on trial. Her accompliaces were convicted and burned to death. Katherine managed to avoid punishment as several of the jury members were employeed by her father.
In 1583, Robert within the Shandwich branch is born. He goes on to become a Minister in Alness and the father of at least 5 sons. His son William born in 1593 becomes the 5th of Shandwick.
George Ross, the 10th of Balnagown passed away in 1615 and was buried at Nigg. In 1619, David the 11th of Balnagown also died at Ardmore. The Clan was then led by David the 11th followed by David the 12th. In 1638, he signed the National Covenant at Inverness. In 1650, David the 12th of Balnagown while on the side of the Presbyterian Covenanters helped inflict a heavy defeat on the Royalist Army during the Battle of Carbisdale near Culrain in Sutherland. The following year, at the Battle of Worcester, David the 12th was captured along with eight hundred Clansmen. Most died during a death march to London, but some are shipped to the American colonies as indentured servants with numerous descandants.
About 1629, a George Ross is born. He served in the Scottish Army and was captured during the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 or Worcester in 1651 by Cromwell forces. Surviving a 370 mile death march to London, he was shipped to America as an indentured servant. Eventually, he would be freed and went on to raise a large family in Massachuttes whose descendants survived to the modern era.
In 1679 the Reverend George Aeneus Ross is born to David Ross of Balblair and his wife Margaret Stroncah. He went to school early and showed promise in Latin. He became a Presbyterian minister and a missionary and eventually traveled to America.
In 1689, 100 men of Clan Ross occupied Castle Leod to watch for movement of Jacobite MacKenzies. This castle, which was an inspiration for the Outlander Movie, is located in the Easter Ross village of Strathpeffer west of Dingwall.
In 1695, Hugh Ross is born probably near Shandwich. He became a Baile (Alderman) and in 1721 at duel at Tain, killed a cousin also named Hugh Ross. He would go on to travel to Sweden and London as a merchant and eventually settled at the Kerse estate in East Ayrshire, Scotland. His decendants include Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Ross (1788-1838), Major General Sir Campbell Ross serving in India (1824-1892) and Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932) as well as current Clan Chief David Ross.
On April 17, 1711, David Ross, the 13th of Balnagowan and Chief of Clan Ross, died without issue while deeply in debt, most of which was inherited from his grandfather and father (supporting the King against uprisings and paying fines). Some of the debt was due to renovations to the castle, mortgaging it to cover debts, repairs to churches, generous assistance to his clansmen, and acting as sheriff of Ross (appointed by King William of Orange to form a garrison to uphold Presbyterianism in the north and to protect Inverness). Chief of Clan Ross and the Blanagowan estate passes from the O'Beolain line to the Ross family of Hawkhead.
In 1715, during the Jacobite rising, Clan Ross and others are forced into retreat by Clan MacKenzie during a skirmish at Alness. The Ross's were only armed with sharpened wood poles as they had previously agreed to give up their weapons to the government. Between 1716 to 1745, the Ross's politically controlled Tain while the Munros controlled Dingwall. In 1719, Clan Ross fought for the government at the Battle of Glan Shield where the Jacobites were defeated.
During the Jacobite rising of 1715 the chiefs of the Highland Clan Ross supported the British-Hanoverian Government. The rising of 1715 was ultimately defeated at the Battle of Sheriffmuir and another rising had been defeated at the Battle of Glenshiel in 1719, where troops from the Clan Ross had again fought in support of the Government and defeated the likes of the Jacobite Clan Mackenzie. William Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth, chief of Clan Mackenzie, had been exiled in France for his part in the Jacobite rising of 1715 but had also returned briefly to Scotland to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1719, before returning to exile in France.
In 1720 two members of the Clan Ross - William Ross, 6th of Easter Fearn (ex-Provost of Tain) and his brother Robert Ross (Baillie of Tain) - had been appointed factors on the estates of Mackenzie of Seaforth, Chisholm and Glenmoriston. The following year, in 1721, they went on an expedition to collect rents with those estates. The Rosses set off from Inverness with thirty armed men, picking up a further fifty armed men from Bernera Barracks. The Murchison family being a sept of the Clan Mackenzie, Colonel Donald Murchison was Mackenzie of Seaforth's factor who had been collecting rents and sending them to his master in France.
While on their journey to Mackenzie of Seaforth's lands in Kintail, the Rosses who were attended by a small company of soldiers met three hundred men of Clan Mackenzie and their allies Clan Macrae in Glen Affric. Historian Alan Mackenzie says that the Rosses were "ambushed" at near Loch Affric. The Mackenzies and Macraes were commanded by Colonel Donald Murchison of Auchtyre and Lochalsh who had been sending the rents to Mackenzie of Seaforth in France.
A skirmish took place between the two sides in which the Rosses were outnumbered. William Ross of Easter Fearn was the first to be wounded by fired shots. However, he continued to give orders to his troops to advance and clear the ground of lurking clansmen. They had some success in this respect and were able to proceed to a narrow gorge in Kintail which led into Loch Affric, where they were then ambushed by Murchison's men. William Ross's son Walter Ross and also his nephew William Ross (son of his brother Robert Ross) were also wounded. Realizing that further resistance was useless William Ross met Colonel Murchison between the lines and a discussion took place. The Rosses agreed to return home, promising never again to officiate as factors and as a token of sincerity handed their commissions to Donald Murchison.
In 1724, The British General Wade reported that the estimated combined clan strength of the Rosses and Munros at 700 men.
In 1730, in America a son George is born to the Reverend George Aeneas Ross and his wife Anna Catherine. His father was the Rev. George Aeneas, 5th Laird Balblair Ross (1679-1754), who had 2 wives and 16 children. George studied law, became a Lawyer and in 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1735, his sister Gertrude Ross is born. She married George Read, who also signed the Declaration of Independence.
In 1745, Charles Ross the 13th of Hawkhead and 15th of Balnagown, was killed while leading some members of the clan at the Battle of Fontenoy in France.
In 1752, Elizabeth Griscom is born. She married John Ross a second cousin to George Ross, signer of the Declaration of Independance. She and her husband ran an upholstery business and attended the Christ Church in Philadelphia, where George Washington and numerous signers of the Declartion of Independance would worship. In 1776, she made the first American Flag and would go on to make flags for over 50 years.
In 1755 on expiry of the male Ross of Hawkhead line, the estate of Balnagowan passes to James Lockhart of Carstaris whoese grandfaterh had married Grizel the daughter of william Ross, 12th Lord Ross. Sir James assumes the name Lockhart-Ross.
In 1777, Sir John Ross was born, the son of Reverend Adrew Ross of Balsarroch, Mininster of Inch in Wigtownshire, and Elizabeth Corsane, daughter of Robert Corsane, the Provost of Dumfries. At age nine, he joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer. Over his long career, he was wounded several times during various battles and explored the Artic in particular the Northwest passage. He also served with recogniton both the Swedish and Danish Navy's. He retired as Rear Admiral and is the Uncle of Sir James Clark Ross, who accompained him on some expeditions.
In 1790, John Ross is born, the son of a Cherokee mother and a Scottish father. He would go on to become the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to 1866. A time including relocation to Indian Territory and the American Civil War.
19th Century and beyond:
Economic conditions in the Highlands deteriorated and a significant number of members left Scotland. The number of Americans of Scottish descent today is estimated to be 20 to 25 million (up to 8.3% of the total US population), and Scotch-Irish 27 to 30 million (up to 10% of the total US population), the subgroups overlapping and not always distinguishable because of their shared ancestral surnames and heritage.
In 1800, Sir James Clark Ross was born, the son of George Ross and nephew of Sir John Ross. He entered the navy at age 12 on his uncles Ship and within months was a participtant in battles of the Napoleonic Wars and later magnetic survey's of the Artic. He would go on to lead expeditions to the Antarctic beginning in 1839, discovering the Ross sea, Ice Shelf, Island, Mountain and seal which are named after him. He retired as Rear-Admiral of the Red. The James Ross Strait, Ross Bay, Ross Point, Rossoya and Ross's gull in the Arctic are all named after him as is Ross crater on the Moon.
1857, Ronald Ross is born in India as the eldest of ten children of Sir Cambell Claye Grant Ross, a general in the British Indian Army. Educated in England, he was a medical doctor who received the Noble Prize for Medicine in 1902 for his work on the transmission of malaria. He proved that malaria was transmittted by mosquitoes laying the foundation for effectively combating the disease.
Harmon Pumpelly Read, a descendant of both the Rev George Aeneas Ross and George Read, in the later part of the 1800's traveled from New York State to Scotland in order to fully document Ross genealogy. He produced the book "Rossiana", which was eventually published in 1908. A digital copy is available at the following link: Rossiana
Born at Balnagown Castle, Sir Charles Henery Augustus Frederick Lockhart Ross, 9th Baronet passes in 1942. For the next 30 years the castle was unoccupired and became dilapidated. In 1957, the Rosses of Pitcalnie, direct descendants of Nicholass Ross who was the second son of Chief Alexander Ross 9th of Balnagown who died in 1592 legally claim the Chiefship of Balnagowan. As such, the Chiefship was with a descendant of Alexander's first son George 10th of Balnagowan who died in 1612.
In 1948, Jerry Ross is born. He would go on to serve in the US Airforce and 7 Space Shuttle missions.
In 1972, Balnagowan Castle is purchased by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who began restoration of the house and grounds.
The Chiefship passes to the Shandwick line of Ross's; descendants of William Ross who was killed in battle in 1486. William was the grandson of Hugh Ross the 4th of Balnagown and brother of Alexander Ross 6th of Balnagowan. In 19__ David Campbell Ross becomes the current Chief of Clan Ross.
Fychie, Little Alland & Eye
Ankerville and Easterfern
Tolly & Arhnacloich
Historically mostly allied Clan:
Historical rivals (but now friendly) Clans:
Balnagown Castle, eight miles north-east of Alness
Hawkhead Castle a mile east of Paisley in Renfrewshire
Arnage Castle, near Ellon, Aberdeenshire
Balcone Castle, near Alness, Ross and Cromarty
Caisteal nan Corr (invercassley), near Lairg in Sutherland
Pitcalnie Castle, near Cromarty
Portencross (Ardnell) Castle, near West Kilbride, in Ayrshire
Sanquhar Castel, near Sanquhar in Dumfried and Galloway
Shandwick Castle, near Balintore, Easter Ross
Tain Through Time, in Tain houses at the Clan Ross Centre