Our First Society Meeting

The 1st Annual General Meeting of the Clan MacAlpine Society is deemed a success!

Our 1st Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on July 21st and 22nd, 2000, and was pronounced a resounding success.

We had approximately 60 MacAlpines in attendance as we shared food, drink, and, of course, the sound of bagpipes. Many discussions arose about the history of our Royal Clan and the endeavors of the Society to bring us together and to regain recognition for our Clan. This two-day event consisted of a golf tournament on the 21st and a picnic with barbecue on the 22nd.

The golf tournament was held in Glencoe, Ontario, Canada, while the picnic was held at Maybury State Park in Northville, Michigan, USA. Eight hearty souls entered the golf tournament and Andrew Hugh McAlpine of Detroit was declared the winner.

Timothy (McAlpine) Smith, Staff Writer for the Farmington Observer, interviewed some MacAlpines at the picnic and documented our event. He wrote an article about our gathering that appeared in several newspapers the following month (see below). A copy of the article has been forwarded to The Lyon Court so that they will be kept informed of our gathering activities. Among other festivities, a one-year subscription to Scottish Life Magazine was given to one lucky attendee. We would like to thank the folks at this fine publication for their support and sponsorship of our event. We would like to offer a special thank you to the co-hosts of this event, James A. McAlpine, Advisors Committee, and Donald R. McAlpine, Michigan Commissioner, for their efforts in coordinating this two-day event.

While most of the people at this event were members of Clan MacAlpine, many were not yet members of the Society. Additionally, although this event was originally a family reunion for a particular branch of the Clan, many MacAlpines of no known relation to one another were in attendance making this a true Clan gathering.

May 2003 - First "MacAlpine" Arms

May 2003 - First Authentic Scottish "MacAlpine" Coat Of Arms Granted!

Below is the first Coat of Arms of the “MacAlpine” name ever granted by a Lord Lyon King of Arms and recorded in Scotland's Lyon Register since its inception in 1672. This grant of Arms represents a historic event for the “MacAlpine” name and an important step on the path to recognition of our Clan.

In Scotland, a Coat of Arms (Arms) belongs to an individual person rather than to every person who bears that surname. Similar to a signature, Arms are a pictorial representation of a particular individual's name. Arms are heritable property and are passed down from generation to generation forever. Individuals who hold title to Scottish Arms (Armigers) and certain Scottish landowners are considered to be "Nobles" in the Lyon Court of Scotland. A Clan in Scotland is defined, legally, as a "noble community." To gain recognition of our Clan, we must have at least nine "Nobles" (at least five of whom must be Armigers) to form a committee called an "ad hoc Derbhfine." That committee selects one of its members for consideration by the Lord Lyon King of Arms to become "Commander" of the Clan. Upon Commission of a Commander, the Clan is officially recognized. The following Arms represent the first of the minimum five needed. Due to the traditions of Scottish heraldry, it is likely that any "MacAlpine" Arms granted in the future will have a "shield" similar to the shield in these Arms. Thus, we proudly present the first authentic Scottish "MacAlpine" Coat of Arms.



John McAlpine



John Donald McAlpine, BA, CPA

Arms: Per bend Vert and Azure, on a bend Or a sword Gules in bend dexter, hilted Sable between in chief an antique crown Or and in base a bearded man's head Proper, severed at the neck 

Crest: a curlew Proper


Granted: The Court of the Lord Lyon, 4th December 2001. Lyon Register, Volume 83, Page 113.

Background Information

The Arms were granted for and in memory of John Duncan McAlpine and devolved to his only son, John Donald McAlpine. The Letters Patent trace through John Duncan's father, Duncan McAlpine, to his grandfather, Donald McAlpine, and the county of Argyll in Scotland. The Arms, which are the first "MacAlpine" Arms ever granted by the Lyon Court, depict the traditional story of the death of King Kenneth MacAlpin's father, King Alpin, who was captured by the Picts and beheaded in 834 AD. This event inspired King Kenneth's war cry "Cuinich bas Alpin" (Remember the death of Alpin) used in the later defeat of the Picts in 843 AD which also serves as the war cry of Clan MacAlpine. The field tinctures of vert and azure reflect the principal colors in the earliest recorded MacAlpine tartan. The distinctive curlew is closely associated with Scotland, as is the distinctive MacAlpine name, and it produces a haunting call that can be heard echoing through the mists of Scotland's lochs, as can the MacAlpine heritage.

Symbols of the Family

Gaelic Name: MacAilpein

(Son of Alpin)


Slogan/War-Cry: Cuimhnich Bàs Ailpein

(Remember the Death of Alpin)

Though not recorded in the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, this war cry has been identified as being associated with our Clan by a former and most respected Lord Lyon.


Plant Badge: Giuthas

(Scots Pine)

Though not recorded in the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, this plant badge has been identified as being associated with our Clan by a former and most respected Lord Lyon.


Crest Badge: No Official Crest Badge

No MacAlpine Chiefly Arms, of which a crest would be a part, have ever been recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland by the Court of the Lord Lyon. Therefore, the Court has advised us against the use of any crest in a strap and buckle. A former Lord Lyon did describe the Clan's ancient crest as a boar's head. Also, a crest in common useage today is that of a bearded man's severed head dripping blood which is taken from "Fairbairn's Book of Crests." Again, because no MacAlpine Chiefly Arms have ever been recorded in the Lyon Register, either crest is considered by the Court to be "fictitious" and, accordingly, we strongly advise against the use of these crests. A Clan's Crest Badge is necessarily related to the Armorial Bearings (Coat of Arms), of which the crest is a part, of its Chief and represents the clansman's loyalty to a particular individual. Members of the Clan are permitted to wear the Chief's crest in a "Strap and Buckle Crest Badge" as a show of loyalty to their Chief. Without a recognized Chief, there is no officially recognized Clan crest badge. Our Society is working toward the official recognition of a Clan MacAlpine Leader. Hopefully, this will some day result in the granting of Chiefly Armorial Bearings including a crest that will be available for wear as a crest badge by Clan members. Until that time, we suggest that our Clan Plant Badge be worn to show your allegiance to our Clan. A sprig of pine in your cap or on your sash or shirt is a perfectly appropriate way to send the message of your ties to Clan MacAlpine!


Clan Tartans: Two Are Officially Registered

These tartans are recorded in the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans. The Register is maintained by the Scottish Tartan Society.


Lands Held (Anciently)

The area is Dunstaffnage in Argyll, near Oban. There is also a picture that presents a view of the Dunstaffnage area with Dunstaffnage Castle, built in later years by the MacDougals, in the background. Other areas under direct MacAlpine control included the Royal Palace at Forteviot (For-tev-ee-ot); King Kenneth moved his capital here after defeating the Picts and in the face of increasing Viking raids in Argyllshire.

Copyright Clan MacAlpine Society

Lord Lyon's Guidance on a Derbfine or Family Convention

Guidance as regards the holding of a Derbfine or Family Convention

Derbfine was the name given in Old Irish Law to a four generation agnatic kin group of importance in determining succession and the ownership of property.  More recently the term has been used to describe what might be termed a Family Convention, held when the identity of the Chief or Head of a historic Family or Name is in doubt, the object of which is to recognise a new Chief or Head of the Family or Name; or to indicate a suitable Commander for a term of years.

A Family Convention should be composed of the leading members of the Family or Name in question.  It has not proved easy to define who exactly qualify as leading members, but the term certainly includes the heads or representatives of leading branches of the family.  In the past the term has been defined in terms of armigers and substantial landowners.  Although being an armiger does suggest a certain status and a degree of commitment to the Name, this definition has not proved entirely satisfactory, being on the one hand too exclusive and on the other open to abuse.  For example, such a definition might exclude non-armigerous heads of leading branches; also, in theory at least, definition in terms of a given number of armigers may make a Family Convention open to “packing”.  There is also the possibility that someone unconnected to the Name in question, might adopt that name as his or her surname and become an armiger.  It is not appropriate that someone in this position should then be regarded as a leading member of the family.  It does seem appropriate, however, to consult with a well established clan or family association where such exists.

There are a number of circumstances in which it would seem appropriate to hold a Family Convention:

(1)   Where a blood link to a past Chief or Head of Name is likely but is not conclusively proven and it is wished to propose a particular person in that situation to be recognised as Chief.

(2)   Where the main line of descent from a past Chief has died out and it is wished to recognise the Representer of a cadet line as Chief.

(3)   Where neither blood link to a past Chief nor Representer of a cadet line can be identified but it is wished to propose a particular person of the surname as Commander.  It is generally desirable that such a Commander should live in Scotland.

It should be noted that the Lord Lyon is unlikely to recognise a person recommended by a Family Convention as Chief or Head of a Family or Name, unless that recommendation is unopposed or, at the very least, has been approved by a substantial majority of the Family Convention.

The Family Convention should take place in Scotland although members outwith the jurisdiction may participate by video link or similar.

It is anticipated that the number of those participating in a Family Convention will be relatively small, of the order of ten to twenty-five people.

The Conduct of a Family Convention

It is desirable that one of HM Officers of Arms, or some other person approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, be appointed to supervise the Family Convention.  The supervising officer’s role is to act as an impartial Chairman and to make an objective report to Lyon.

In case of dispute, the supervising officer will determine which individuals shall comprise the Family Convention and, in reporting back to Lyon, shall also take into account the views of any well established clan or family association.

At least six month’s notice of the intention to hold a Family Convention should be given to the Lord Lyon to be posted, at a minimum, on the Lyon Court website.

About King Kenneth MacAlpin

Our Clan Society takes it's name from King Kenneth MacAlpin.

However, ancient records are very few and almost nothing is known about persons living between MacAlpine's reign and about 1100 AD. Although we can probably presume that Kenneth's direct male line ruled Scotland for 200 years, there is no clear picture of his descendants following that time. By some point in time, probably by 1300 AD, the MacAlpines had become landless and there is no Chiefly line. There is no Chief today.

In early times, a Clan Chief picked his successor in accordance with the Gaelic practice of "Tanistry." The Chief would select the most able candidate within the "derbhfine" (an extended kinship group normally consisting of the male descendants of a common great-grandfather) but, usually a close relative, such as a brother, son, cousin, nephew, etc. Today, Tanistry has given way to the practice of passing the title directly from father to eldest son, and so on. In addition, today, any person claiming to be Chief of a Scottish Clan must petition the Lord Lyon in Scotland for a Coat of Arms and legally prove in Lyon Court they are entitled to be recognized as Chief.  Lord Lyon has established guidelines and procedures that can be followed to form an "Ad Hoc Derbhfine" or "Family Meeting", and find a new Clan Leader (called a "Commander") who might ultimately be recognized as Chief, thereby establishing a new Chiefly bloodline.

 Given our  ancient and unrecorded history, it is not expected that any individual can prove to Lord Lyon's stringent requirements direct descent from a former Chief. Thus, we must follow Lyon Court's guidelines and procedures to form an Ad Hoc Derbhfine for the purpose of finding a new Clan Leader, a Commander, who might ultimately become our new Clan Chief.


History of the MacAlpines

The history of the MacAlpines is ancient. The MacAlpines reached their peak of power and influence at a time when no written record was kept, leaving only the vague history of tradition. This has led some to conclude, that a Clan MacAlpine never existed. Yet, the voices of the bards (ancient oral historians) cannot be silenced and evidence of the Clan's existence and significance abounds.

Kenneth MacAlpin became the first King of Scotland in AD 843 when he united the Scots and the Picts. He was the son of King Alpin and the descendant of a long line of Dalriadic Kings. His direct male descendants ruled Scotland for the next 200 years and every Sovereign of Scotland since, including Queen Elizabeth II, today, has had his Royal blood coursing through their veins. It is from him that our Society takes its name.

The history of the MacAlpines is shrouded in Scotland's distant past; it is debated by scholars and will likely never be clear. Capturing that history is currently a work in-progress of the Society.

King Kenneth undoubtedly brought many of his family advisors and kinsmen with him when he moved his capital from Argyllshire, the traditional seat, to Scone, in Perthshire, leaving behind others to look after the interests in Argyll. Perhaps thusly was ultimately created a Chiefship of Clan MacAlpine separate from the Kingship of Scotland. The Clan seat in Argyll may have become an outpost on the old frontier of a New Kingdom.

In his book, "The Scottish Tartans," Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms, refers to the claim that this Royal Clan is the most ancient in the Highlands. He states that the Clan MacAlpine is Celtic and that records indicate that, for 25 generations, the Kings of Scotland were of MacAlpine lineage. He also states that the ancient crest was a boar's head, the war cry being "Cumbrich Bas Ailpein" or, "Remember the death of Alpin," and that the traditional home of the MacAlpines was Dunstaffnage, near Oban, Argyll. This former Lord Lyon is one of the most respected Lyons to serve Her Majesty and, therefore, his description of the Clan, its history, and its symbols is considered to be authoritative.

There is an old Gaelic saying: "Cnuic `is uillt `is Ailpeinich" ("Hills and Streams and MacAlpine", which signifies the origin of the MacAlpines was contemporary with the origin of the hills and streams, that is, the earth.)

"Tradition claims MacAlpin or MacAlpine as the oldest and most purely Celtic of the Highland Clans, of royal descent from the dynasty of Kenneth MacAlpin who united the Picts and Scots into one kingdom from the year 850, and transferred his capital to Perthshire from Dunn Add in Dalriada (beside Loch Crinan.)" (From "Scots Kith & Kin," page 49.)

Regarding the name MacAlpine, one of the earliest records of an early form of the name appears when John MacAlpyne witnessed a charter by Malise, earl of Stratherne, of the lands of Cultenacloche and others in Glenalmond, c. 1260 (Grandtully, I, p. 126.) Monaghe fiz Alpyn of the county of Perth rendered forced homage to Edward I of England in 1296. (From "The Surnames of Scotland" by George F. Black.)

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