Scotland’s ancient clans unite to ‘crown’ first Buchanan Chief for 340 years

The clans of Scotland have reunited for the inauguration of the first Buchanan Clan Chief for over 340 years. Bringing together the Buchanan clan for the first time in centuries, John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan was appointed as the true heir and chief of the Buchanan Clan.  As the leader of a global community of over five million members, and one of Scotland’s oldest and most prestigious clans, the newly inaugurated chief pledged to lead the clan into the modern era. This historic Clan Chief’s Inauguration ceremony was based on existing resurrected ancient Celtic rituals and customs.

The Buchanan, John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan.

This unique event took place at Cambusmore, Callander, the modern seat of Clan Buchanan and the chief’s ancestral home. International representatives of the clan’s diaspora celebrated alongside the chiefs and other representatives of ten ancient Scottish clans. The last Buchanan chief, John Buchanan, died in 1681 without a male heir. Identifying the new chief required decades of genealogical research conducted by the renowned genealogist, the late Hugh Peskett. The inauguration event drew on Scottish traditions dating back prior to the coronation of the first King of Scots, Kenneth MacAlpine, in 843 AD. Heralded in by trumpet fanfare and accompanied by a procession of pipers and banner bearers, the chief was officially named and presented by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, Dr Joseph Morrow.

Clansfolk from around the world.

The ceremony cemented its place in Scottish history as the first for many hundreds of years, and the new chief swore an oath to protect and champion the Buchanan Clan. His first act as chief was to restore the Clan Parliament, for the first time in over 350 years, in order to explore the future of Clan Buchanan and discuss how its traditions can be celebrated in the modern day. The chiefly family was joined by several hundred clansfolk from across the globe, members of the Clan Buchanan Society International and heraldic expert Sir Crispen Agnew. The chief was honoured with the Letters Patent, which confirmed the Court of the Lord Lyon’s acceptance and legitimacy of his claim as chief.

The world’s oldest clan society

Lucy Buchanan with the crown.

He was ‘crowned’ in traditional chiefly fashion with the ‘Balmoral Bonnet’ hat featuring three golden eagle feathers, the more contemporary style of headwear now used by Scottish clan chiefs. He was then presented with painstakingly recreated ‘clan jewels’ based on those historically thought used for this type of ancient inauguration ceremony. This included the Chief’s Signet Ring bearing The Buchanan coat of arms, representing family heritage, eternity and the Clan unification. The Chief of Clan Buchanan said: “This is a turning point in our clan’s history. For centuries our traditions were confined to the history books so it’s truly humbling that members of Clan Buchanan and our good friends from other clans have reunited to celebrate with us.  I have pledged to bring Clan Buchanan into the modern era by restoring our ancient traditions and championing the values, relevance, and importance of the global community we represent. For centuries our clan had no chief or Clan Parliament, so this is the start of a new era for Clan Buchanan.”

While Clan Buchanan can be traced back to 1010 AD in Scotland, its global community includes members across Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa among many other countries. Over 120 affiliated family surnames are recognised as part of the clan including Watson, Morris, Richardson, Coleman, Gilbert, Walter and Harper. They are represented by the world’s oldest clan society, the Buchanan Society, which was established in 1725 to support members of the clan in times of hardship, and the worldwide Clan Buchanan Society International.  Kevin (Buck) Buchanan, Vice President of Clan Buchanan Society International based in California, said: “It’s fantastic to be here representing Clan Buchanan’s members from the USA. Our clan is spread across the globe but today we’ve united to make it relevant in the modern day while restoring our ancient traditions. This has been such a historic moment in Scotland – I’m proud to be part of it.”

Did you know?

-The Buchanan is the manager of Cambusmore Estate in the Southern Highlands near Callander. He has four children with his wife The Lady Buchanan including, Angus, Bruce, Lucy, and Rory.

-As well as those with the surname Buchanan, clansfolk also include those with Scottish roots and surnames such as Bohannon, Coleman, Colman, Cormack, Dewar, Dove, Dow, Gibb, Gibbon, Gibb, Gibson, Gilbert, Gilbertson, Harper, Masters, Masterson, Morris, Richardson, Rush, Rusk, Walter, Walters, Wasson, Waters, Watson, Watt, Watters, and Weir. In the modern day, these are known as affiliated families but were previously known as septs of the clan.

-Clan Chiefs must be approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Lord Lyon has full judicial powers to enforce use of heraldry and coats of arms in Scotland through the Lyon Court, the last surviving ‘Court of Chivalry’ in the world. Its powers are governed by an Act of the Scots Parliament from 1672. Many features of the inauguration ceremony came from a book by the late Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Learney of Innes’ who wrote The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands.

-The inauguration celebration took place on Saturday 8 October at Cambusmore and was followed by the Clan Parliament meeting at Cambusmore Chapel and in the walled garden.

-Further information about the uniquely reconstructed ‘clan jewels’ are available at

Main photo: The Lady Buchanan with The Buchanan.

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