Most early Clan histories are based on oral tradition and it should be remembered that it was the job of the Clan Bard or Seanaichd to relate the heroic deeds of the ancestors and to make the Clan's origins as old or as 'honourable' as possible.
In the case of the Munros their origins have been described as one of the problems of Clan history, but they have three main traditional accounts which relate to 1) the founder; 2) the origin of the Clan name; and 3) early Chiefs.
1) The Founder: The name of the district in the heart of Munro territory is Ferindonald (Fearainn Domhnuill meaning Donald's Land) and consists of the modern parishes of Kiltearn and Alness. It probably preserves a genuine folk memory of the original Donald as founder of the Chief's family. Ferindonald in Ross' is first mentioned as early as 1375 and by that time the Munros would have been well established in the area. The name 'de Monro' first appears in a charter dated between 1350-71 and is used until at least 1491 which could also suggest a surname with a territorial origin.
2) The origin of the Clan name: 'Rothach', 'Roich', or 'Mac an Rothaich' is the Gaelic form of the name, meaning 'Ro - Man', and backs the tradition that they were Men from the River Ro in Derry, N.Ireland, but this theory only first appears in writing in the second half of the C17th and is sometimes associated with the arrival in Scotland of Angus MacDonald of Islay (a contemporary of Robert Bruce) and his wife Aine or Agnes. A case has also been made that they came from Moray but this has been dismissed by some historians.
3) Early Chiefs: Whilst tradition and a family tree dated 1734 has the founder Donald dying around 1034 and eight succeeding generations culminating in George killed at Halidon Hill 1333, it has been shown to be suspect. The first Chief authenticated by record evidence was killed in defence of the Earl of Ross in 1369 indicating at least, that the Clan was by then well established. Thereafter the Clan's history and that of their Chiefs is well documented, and the family has preserved a remarkable series of local and national records.
© 2010 The Clan Munro Association of Canada