The Clan Watson Society

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The Watsons and the Buchanans

It is fairly general knowledge that the Watsons are listed as a sept of the Buchanans, as can be confirmed by a visit to the official site for the Clan Buchanan1. Before we discuss this link, it is worth briefly talking about septs.

Buchanan of Lenny Coat of ArmsSepts were families that followed another family’s chief or were part of the extended family but held a different surname. The first definition leads to an assumption that an agreement has been forged between two clan chiefs, with a smaller clan pledging fealty to a larger one. Although this may be the case for the Watsons and the Buchanans, we have not as yet been able to find any conclusive proof that the chiefs of Clan Watson had any form of interaction with those of Clan Buchanan.

One possible reason for the association of the Watson and Buchanan names is outlined in The History of the Ancient Surname of Buchanan and of Ancient Scottish Surnames; More Particularly the Clans2, which was written by William Buchanan of Auchmar and published in 1793. In it, he describes how the Buchanan family of Lenny is the oldest cadet branch of the Buchanan family. The first mention of a Buchanan laird of Lenny is in a charter dated 1247, which refers to an Allan Buchanan de Lenny. One of his descendants, John Buchanan, the second laird of Lenny called John, is stated as being laird during the reign of King Robert III, who reigned between 1390 and 1406. One of John’s sons was called Walter, although he was referred to as “Wattie in Calintuy, being the name of the place of his residence”. Wattie’s son John lived in the parish of Luss and “according to the ordinary custom of those, and even of the present times among highlanders, had his surname changed into a patronimical one, derived from his father’s proper name, being thence termed John MacWattie”. John had nine sons and the MacWatties became “in a small process of time pretty numerous”. Many of these MacWatties and their descendants retained the name, although some branches did later reassume the Buchanan name. As discussed on Page 4, the name “Watson” is the anglicised version of “MacWattie”.

We have not yet uncovered any evidence that any of these MacWatties were related to, or had any other interactions with, the Watsons of Saughton, although we do know that relatives of the Watsons of Saughton spread out towards traditional Buchanan territory, so they may well have come into contact.

Our research into other links between the Watson and Buchanan names is continuing, especially as we investigate Watson clusters closer to traditional Buchanan homelands; however, the absence of a signed contract between the Watson and Buchanan chiefs should not stop any present-day Watson from forming their own association with the Buchanan clan, whether it be by following them on Facebook or by actively signing up as a member. I have been in contact with the president of the Clan Buchanan Society International, and he has been instructed by the soon-to-be-inaugurated Clan Buchanan Chief to welcome as members anyone bearing the Watson name or one if its variants, so feel free to join up!

STOP PRESS!! Research that we are undertaking right at this moment has thrown up a link between the Watsons and the Buchanans! We are currently looking into a previously-unknown (to us, at least) cluster of prominent Watsons in Dumbartonshire that appears to pre-date the Watsons of Saughton and may even have once held the chiefship. In much the same way that we see multiple references to the Watsons of Saughton mixing in the same circles as other prominent families in the area (Hamiltons, Bairds, Douglases, etc), so we see the Watsons of Dumbartonshire mixing with Buchanans. We are currently looking into this to see where it leads us, and will update this page as new information comes to light and is validated. Bear with us!

References & Notes

1. Names of the Clan Buchanan on the official Clan Buchanan website.
2. The History of the Ancient Surname of Buchanan and of Ancient Scottish Surnames, William Buchanan of Auchmar, 1793, pages 72 to 82 (available on Google Books).


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