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From Bardic Dynasty to Family Society to Arts Foundation

Scotland and Ireland have been home to many bardic families through the centuries. The most influential of them all – royal in lineage, and leaders in the study and composing of heroic literature in the ancient gaelic world – has been the Learned Kindred of court poets known as the MacMhuirichs

The founding father of this great Irish Bardic dynasty was the famed Muiredach O’Daly – an outstanding Gaelic poet in the 12th century who had studied for many years at Ireland’s world-renowned colleges. His lineage (as supported by latest advances in DNA testing) can be traced back through the Royal Race of Ireland to Conn of the Hundred Battles, 110th High King of Ireland in 177 AD.

It all began with a blow from an Axe

According to the 17th century Annals of the Four Masters, Muiredach began his Bardic service in Ireland, but when the Steward to the Chief of the powerful O’Donnell clan asked Muiredach for rent, Muiredach, himself descended from royalty, found this request an effrontery, and took a battle ax to the Steward’s head. Further shocked by the outrage with which his action was received, Muiredach had to flee to Scotland, expressing his own outrage in the verse:

Trifling was our quarrel with the man,

A clown to be abusing me,

And me to kill the churl,

Dear God, is this the cause for enmity?

The MacMhuirich (pronounced MacVurich) bards went on to serve at the highest levels of Irish and Scottish nobility for 700 years, most notably as arch poets to the all-powerful Lord of the Isles, as well as to the MacDonalds of Clanranald.

The end draws near for the master race of Gaelic Bards

It was in the service of the MacDonalds that successive generations of MacMhuirich bards produced one of Gaelic Scotland’s greatest literary treasures, "The Red Book of Clanranald." This monumental work, which celebrates in verse the ancestral deeds of the Clan Donald from prehistoric times through the 17th century, is a literal masterpiece, legendary in every sense of the word.

In 1636 Cathal MacMhuirich wrote the poem, The Song of Cathal for the MacDonald Chiefs. Written to mark the deaths of four MacDonald lords, it is at its heart a lament over the passing of all the ancient clan ways– including that race of noble poets who were the Gaelic bards:

The heroes of the Race of Conn are dead

how bitter to our hearts is the grief for them!

We shall not live long after them,

Perilous we think it to be bereaved of the brotherhood.

Because the men of Clanranald have gone from us,

we poets cannot pursue our studies.

It is time for the chief bard to depart after them,

now that presents to poets will be abolished.

An end - and a new beginning

The poem proved to be prophetic, and by the 18th century the feudal system in Scotland and Ireland that supported the Gaelic bards (or ‘fili’) effectively ended.

At that time many old Highland names became Anglicized – sometimes replaced by an English name whose sound faintly resembled that of the Gaelic original.

The name MacMhuirich began to appear in many forms including MacMureach, MacVurich and MacCurry. In the Uists, Benbecula, Colonsay, and Arran many of the MacMhuirich Kindred saw their names changed to MacPherson, MacMillan and even Murray.

Eventually the majority of MacMhuirichs – one of the oldest families of the Scottish Highlands – took on the name Currie and other related spellings such as Curry, Currier, and MacCurry.

While the name MacMhuirich belongs to an age long-since past, the heirs and descendants of this historic dynasty, recently recognized as the Learned Kindred of Currie, have continued the great bardic tradition of preserving and promoting their Highland and Gaelic heritage, producing programs, events, exhibitions and documentaries which honor Scotland’s rich culture and ancestry.

New Discoveries & New Appreciation

In recent years the Curries themselves have engaged in researching and writing family histories, hosting clan gatherings, sponsoring Scottish music and arts scholarships through the Clan Currie Society, and expanding their family connections around the world and through a variety of community expressions.

Their efforts and growth have been recognized by the Scottish Diaspora as well as leading cultural heritage and clan figures within Scotland.

Interestingly, at the same time as the Curries were growing their cultural influence, scholars outside the clan were re-discovering and exploring the history of this ancient family.

The past 30 years have seen the publication of multiple scholarly histories, research papers, poetry collections, and documentaries featuring the MacMhuirichs, lending outside weight to the historical influence of the Learned Kindred of Currie.

Rebirth and Renewal

In 2018, after over a quarter century of revived and expanding cultural engagement, a

gathering of Curries from around the world held a Family Convention in Glasgow under the leadership of Rev. Dr. David Currie, following which the Rt. Hon. Dr. Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms commissioned Dr. Robert Currie as Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie.

As we in the Learned Kindred of Currie enter our next 30 years, our goals include strengthening the Society itself by electing a Chief, building a new engagement-based member website, and establishing a permanent clan centre in Scotland, as well as increasing our growing influence on and service to the Scottish arts through continued historical and archaeological research, educational programs, and arts and music scholarships. All of this will require strengthening our financial base.

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Clan Currie Society/Learned Kindred of Currie as a non-profit arts and heritage organization.

Click here to follow the timeline to see

how far we've come!