Author Topic: CLAIMS versus FACTS.............YOU decide!  (Read 23393 times)


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CLAIMS versus FACTS.............YOU decide!
« on: September 10, 2013, 10:27:02 PM »
CLAIMS OR FACTS????  You decide………….

    Thomson is a popular patronymic name originating from Norse and Christian influence, and most notably, from the popularity of the English Sir Thomas Becket martyred in 1170. The earliest recorded surname ‘Thomson’ is John Thomson “a man of low birth, but approved valour,” who was a leader of the men of Carrick in Edward Bruce’s war in Ireland in 1318 (Hailes, u. p.102, 206). Adam Thomson appears as Lord of Kylnekylle, Ayrshire, c. 1370-80 (Laing, 64). The earliest Thompson (with intrusive p), also a John, is recorded in the Abbey of Whitby of Northumberland, 1349. Both surnames, with variant spellings, are found in a broad band north of a line connecting the Humber with Morecambe Bay and south of the Forth and Clyde.

      Thomson, MacThomas, and MacTavish are English surnames with a common meaning, but are separate and distinct names. I offer the following references:
-- The Scottish Nation, Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland, Vol II, by William Anderson, 1877 -  Numerous mentions of various Thomsons, but no mention of MacTavish, MacCawis, MacTammais, MacTamhais, MacCauis, or any other variation/form of the name MacTavish.

-- Scotland in the Middle Ages, by Innes, 1860, pg 88 – “By the middle of the twelfth century, the inhabitants of the southern counties of Scotland were practically English in speech.” Therefore, the surname Thomson would be of English, or a possible Norse origin, but not Gaelic.

-- History of Christian Names, by Charlotte Mary Younge, 1863, pg 67 -  English Thomas and Tom are the accepted version of the Scottish Thomas, Tam and Tamlane. There is no reference to MacTavish or any other Gaelic form.

-- Patronymica Britannica – Mark Antony Lower, 1860, Scotch Surnames - “In Scotland whoever joined a particular clan, no matter what his position or descent, assumes the surname of his chief, and this was accepted as an act of loyalty. Several Thomson surnames are listed but no MacTavish or Gaelic variants listed.

-- Genealogy and Surnames: With Some Heraldic and Biographical Notices, by William Anderson, 1865 -  “Robertson and Thomson, with their varied spellings, constituted the fourth and fifth most common surnames; The English forms of Robinson and Thompson being swamped by the great preponderance of the Scottish forms of these names. These two surnames may be regarded as equally prevalent in the population, and, as such, constituting 1 per cent of the population.” There is no mention of MacTavish.

-- A History of Clan Campbell, Volume 1, from Origins to Flodden, by Alastair Campbell of Airds, Unicorn Pursuivant, Edinburgh, 2000, pages 243 to 246 -  “…the Clan Tavish – not, be it noted, the Clan MacTavish – descends from Taius or Tavis Coir… “The name Tavis is Anglicized as Thomas, and nearly all the names here grouped together from the ‘official’ sept list mean either Thomas or ‘Son of Thomas’.”  “It is quite wrong to suggest that all sons of Thomas derive from the Argyllshire MacTavishes. Thomas or Tom was widely used as a Christian name across the English-speaking world, and a great number of totally unconnected users of the name exist including the Clan MacThomas, in Glenshee…”

-- History, Burgh of Dumfries, by William McDowall, 1867, pg 248 - Thomson is listed as one of the household names which “frequently appear in the ancient burgess rolls, showing that most of their owners have had “a local habitation” in the capital of Nithsdale for at least three hundred years.” There are no MacTavish or Gaelic variants listed.

-- Scottish Highlanders by Charles MacKinnon, 1995 - No MacTavish or variants listed.

-- The Law and Practice of Heraldry in Scotland, by George Seton, 1863 - In the year 1856 there were 2,108 Thomson indices (includes 135 Thompson), which equates to an estimated number of Thom(p)sons in the entire Scottish population of 31,808. Not enough MacTavish to be listed.

-- Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, by Henry B. Guppy, 1890, Scottish Appendix, pg 579 - Contains an alphabetical list of Scottish names that attain or exceed a rate of frequency of 10 in 10,000 of the population: Thomson is listed as 120 in 10,000; MacTavish is not listed at all.

-- - Their statement - “ Information supplied to us by Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, on 29th March 2000 is” - “THERE IS NO CLAN THOM(P)SON and, therefore, you should not have a “Clan Thom(p)son” listed under your Scottish Clans and Families. If a Thom(p)son root is Scottish, they ARE MacTamhais (MacTavish).” A typical example of the deliberate false claims widely disseminated by MacTavish. A Scottish descendant of Thom(p)son is not connected to the Gaelic MacTamhais because Thomson is of English origin. There is no basis in fact (just Dugald’s opinion) that any and all individuals with the Scottish surname of Thomson, or any of its variants, belong to Clan MacTavish.

-- The Surnames of Scotland, by George F. Black, 1999 – (multiple quotes) “The custom of naming appears to have commenced with the beginning of the fourteenth century. The first Scottish people to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners. In 1473, the convent of Coupar – Angus let the land of Morton to Thom Soutar and his three sons, called by the names of David Thomson, John Thomson, and Thom Thomson. The father’s surname was then dropped and his Christian name, with “son” appended, became the surname of his descendents.” (Rental book of Cistercian Abbey of Cupar – Angus, v. 1. p. 191). “The almost complete swamping of Gaelic by Lowland Scots in south Kintyre is due primarily to the big Lowland immigration in the 17th century, from 1640 onwards. There were at least four big waves during this century and the inflow has gone on at intervals ever since right down to the 40’s and 60’s of last century.”  “Many families and small tribes of Breadalbane in the sixteenth century renounced their natural heads, and took Campbell of Glenurquhay for their chief. To this custom, is due the limited number of current Gaelic surnames.  When a person changes his name to that of some other clan or powerful chief, he was said to accept the name and clanship.” We have found no records of any Thomsons changing their name to MacTavish, and thus indicating their acceptance of a MacTavish chief.

-- The Surnames of Scotland, by George F. Black, 1999 - The following surnames mean ‘son of Tammie, Thomas, Thom, or Tom’ :
1.   MACVISH, Maccause, Maccavish, Maccawis, Maccaws, McAwis, G. MacThomhais.
2.   MACCOMB, Maccombe. From G. MacThom, often Englished Thom.
3.   MACCOMBICH, Macchombich. G. MacThomaidh ‘son of Tommie (diminutive of Thomas).
4.   MACCOMBIE, Maccombe, Maccomie, Macomie. G. MacComaidh, a contracted form of MacThomaidh,’son of Tommie or Tommy.  In Perthshire frequently Englished Thomson.
5.   MACOMISH, Maccomish. G. Mac Thomais.
6.   MACTAVISH. From G. Mac Tamhais, a form of MacThamhais, ‘son of Tammas,’ the lowland Scots form of Thomas.
7.   MACTHOM. G. MacThom.
8.   MACTHOMAS. G. Mac Tomais.
9.   THOM. A diminutive of Thomas.
10.   THOMAS. A COMMON Anglo-Norman personal name. It is from the Syriac teoma, Heb. toam, ‘twin,’ rendered by Greek Didymus in St. John, xi:16. In Gaelic it assumes the form Tomas, Tomhus.
11.   THOMASON, Thomasson,
13.   THOMPSON, ‘SON OF Thom, q.v. with intrusive  P .
15.   THOMSON.


     “I myself know of Thoms who claim descent from MacThomas in Angus.” I find such ancestry to be unremarkable in that ‘Thom’ is a diminutive of Thomas. I request that you refer to the article ‘Clan MacThomas-MacTavish-Thomson Mixup’ printed in the 5th (Clach A’ Choilich) MacThomas Society magazine, written by Roger F. Pye. It is posted on the Clan MacThomas website and states, “Now the name MacTavish, like MacThomas simply means ‘son of Thomas,’ with the difference that it is taken from the braid Scots form Tamas, rather than from the (English) form Thomas. We have always (and rightly) insisted that the MacThomases and MacTavish had nothing to do with one another and were utterly different and distinct clans. The former deriving from the MacKintoshes and dwelling in Glenshee on the Perthshire Angus border and the latter dwelling in Argyll as dependents, and possibly descendants, of the Campbell lords of that country.”
     Certainly the confusion between MacThomases and MacTavishes has been one of the major handicaps which our clan society has had to face, for all the popular text books on clans and tartans, even when published under the auspices of presumed authorities who might be expected to have expert knowledge of the subject, have simply lumped the two together, and the Thomson in with them, as though they were all one, and MacThomas and Thomson are both treated as if they were all part of the tiny Clan MacTavish.
     The same books normally allocate all the Thomsons to Campbell of Argyll, despite the fact that Thomson is one of the most common surnames in Scotland and accounts for rather more than one percent of the entire population.”
    Clan MacThomas has documented their non-Argyll and non-MacTavish beginnings, as have the Thomsons.  Mr. Pye has clearly stated the problem: Some modern, presumed authorities have lumped all ‘sons of Thomas’ together under the umbrella of the tiny Clan MacTavish with no credible evidence or justification except the revisionist history authored and provided by Clan MacTavish.

The only way to untangle this web of deceit is to closely examine the claims of MacTavish supremacy. I fear you will find much in our disclosures distasteful and that is why we had previously avoided, to the greatest extent possible, any discussion about MacTavish:

Claim: “Whilst Thomson of that Ilk on the Border is regarded as a remotely connected or indeterminate connection of the MacTavishes,” - Thompson is MacTavish, Steven MacTavish, 2008, pg 2,

 1.  Lyon has stated that “Thomson of that Ilk” is, based on Workman's Manuscript, Henry Thomson, Lyon King of Arms, 1504-12, who held lands in the barony of Dirleton in East Lothian, not on the Border.
 2.  ‘Remotely connected’ as in far apart, slight or faint; unlikely: not a remote chance.
 3.  ‘Indeterminate connection to the MacTavishes’ as not determinate; not precisely fixed in extent; indefinite; uncertain; not clear; vague; not established.
 4.   No supporting evidence or providence is provided.
Conclusion: The claim contains erroneous material and, in itself, contradicts any idea that MacTavish is regarded as related to the Borders or to Thomson. The use of the words ‘indeterminate’ and ‘remotely connected’ shows there is no documented basis for a claim on any Thomsons outside of Argyll - and that predominantly by Campbells.

Claim: “The MacTavishes, Tawessons, Thompsons, etc., are said to derive their origin from Taus Coir,” published on  Patrick L. Thompson, Clan MacTavish Seannachie, webpage, “A Clan MacTavish Official Website sanctioned by the Chief of Clan MacTavish” at:

1.  The references I listed above show that the surname Thomson and all its English derivative spellings had its origin as an English patronymic name from a root of Tom/Thomas.
Further, the origins of the Thomson names are primarily located in the Lowlands and Border regions of Scotland and England.
2. This is contradicted by the pre-eminent scholar, G.F. Black, who does not include Tawesons or Thompsons as descending from Taus Coir.
3. This is again contradicted by Alastair Campbell, Unicorn Pursuivant and Archivist for Clan Campbell for 13 years, in his “A History of Clan Campbell, Volume 1, from Origins to Flodden” – “…the Clan Tavish -  not, be it noted, the Clan MacTavish – descends from Taius or Tavis Coir…”
Conclusion:  The casual lumping of the surname Thomson with MacTavish has neither merit, nor basis in fact.  

Claim:  “…however, that the name Thom(p)son arises anciently from the Gaelic MacTamhais and the Anglicized form of MacTavish has been stated in respected historical record,” Position Statement, written by Steven MacTavish and posted on his website at , 2008.

1.  The Surnames of Scotland by G. F. Black, pg 566 - Emphatically states that the surname ‘MacTavish’ is from a G. Mac Tamhais, a form of MacThamhais.
2.  Black does not document a link from Mac Tamhais or MacThamhais to either Thomson or Thompson.
3.  Alastair Campbell, page 243, of A History of Clan Campbell, Volume 1, Origins to Flodden - “It seems highly probable that this Sir Thomas (Cambel) was the ancestor of the later MacTavishes of Dunardry……if not the actual eponym from which they took their name…It seems probable that later compilers of the official genealogy, Ane Accompt, did not know of Sir Thomas and were anxious to insert the MacTavishes into the account somehow.” A direct contradiction of Steven MacTavish’s claim.
4.  Steven MacTavish provides no references or supporting historical records.
5.  We can find no source, respected or not, that states that Thom(p)son derives from MacTavish.
6.  The surname Thomson has a long history (over 600 years) of established use in the English language and no history as a Gaelic name.
Conclusion:  This blatant and false claim, published on, can serve no purpose other than to deliberately deceive uninformed Thomsons, as well as the public at large.

Claim: “Many of the Argyllshire MacTavishes now make Thomsonsof themselves,” Thompson is MacTavish, on the official Clan MacTavish website sanctioned by Steven MacTavish at 2008 and related statements are published on Patrick L. Thompson, Clan MacTavish Seannachie, webpage sanctioned by the Chief of Clan MacTavish at:
         “The use of an anglicized name such as Thomson, Thompson, or Taweson, has left many with an understanding that these families were not MacTavish by descent. This is a false understanding, as evidenced in not to(sic) few MacTavish – Thompson genealogies.” “Families in Skipness who were MacTavish, used the Thomson name interchangeably, as noted in the parish records.” “Those who style themselves as Thom(p)sons (Tawesons, Thomeys, Tavishes, MacTawes, or even Thomas, etc.,..) are not just apart of Clan MacTavish, not a sept, not merely akin to Clan MacTavish, they are the clan. (Italics by Mary.) Apparently, the redundancy of the article on linked, self-reinforcing websites is intended both to magnify it’s importance and it’s ‘probable’ veracity.

1.  The word ‘many’ is vague and not quantified.  It implies a significant number or even a majority of MacTavish now make Thomsons of themselves.  The earliest census is the 1694 Hearth Tax Roll of Knapdale reprinted by Heather McFarlane.  The Tax Roll lists a total of 16 McCavish dwellings in all of Knapdale.  For perspective there were: 33 Campbell,  29 McNeil, 23 McIlenock, 18 McMillan, and 17 McFarlane.  Mrs McFarlane has proposed an estimated 7 individuals at each dwelling. That would provide about 112 men, women, and children named McCavish.  One hundred years later The Statistical Accounts of Scotland in 1796 showed a slight decrease in total Knapdale population by 267. There are very few MacTavish in the world let alone Knapdale.
2.  The records of the 14 churches in the Skipness parish over the above period show only 7 Mc/MacTavish surname marriages. Of these there is one and only one individual listed as having a Thomson/MacTavish surname. The single entry reads Archibald Thomson/McTavish m. Mary Livingston, 22 Feb 1803. (He is later identified as the son of Archibald McTavish buried at Altagalvash Farm). Even if the number of McTavish conversions to Thomson increased tenfold; the percentage would still be less than 1%.  To say 1% of Argyllshire MacTavish now make Thomson of themselves carries no statistical significance. If MacTavish converted to Thomson to avoid persecution as claimed elsewhere, why would Archibald wait 50 years after Culloden to do so? His claim that “Families in Skipness who were MacTavish used the Thomson name interchangeably, as noted in the parish records,” is a complete fabrication.
3.  The churches record 71 Mc/MacTavish grave markers. None of these grave markers show a combined Thomson-MacTavish name or any transition of MacTavish to Thomson.
4.  We could find no records anywhere that show Thomsons converting to MacTavish.
5.  We could find no records that show the two names being used interchangeably.
Conclusion:  A few MacTavish may have changed their surnames to Thomson in the 19th century, but this was long past the heydays of the clans. As referenced by G.F. Black, (and others) there were 4 major waves of migration of Lowland Scots into south Kintyre after 1640. This contradicts the MacTavish claim that the MacTavish surname spread from Kintyre to the Lowlands. In the 1841 census, and since that time, the MacTavish surname consistently accounts for less than 1,000 families in all of Scotland. MacTavish can ‘claim many’ conversions to Thomson, but there is simply no proof to support such a claim.  When MacTavish says the ‘Thomsons are the clan,’ he voids the established precedent that a clan consists of members having the same basic surname as the chief – in this case, MacTavish.  

Claim:   “Thompson is MacTavish”, article on websites sanctioned by Steven MacTavish (see claim above) - He includes Surnames of Scotland, by G. F. Black; Scottish Surnames, by Donald Whyte; Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, by Frank Adam, and Scottish names 101 by Sharon L. Krossa as reference sources.

1. Thomson and MacTavish both mean ‘son of Thomas,’ as do the more than 27 other names in Scotland, but none has pre-eminence. Concerning your example of Buchanan of Auchmar – that ‘Thomson is an equivalent of MacTavish’ - Webster’s dictionary defines ‘equivalent’ to have equal meaning, i.e. ‘Son of Thomas.’ Equivalent does not mean identical. Despite the apparent desire to label Thomson as a Gaelic surname, all of our research and resulting references clearly prove that Thomson is a Scottish form of an earlier English surname.
  2.  Ms Krossa’s article addresses the question “What’s a good name for a Scottish medieval persona/character.” NOT a scholarly treatise by any stretch of the imagination. The entire portion referenced by MacTavish, “Name Transformation or Translation” is annotated by Ms. Krossa as ‘awaiting revision and may be in error.’ It has NO reference to any form of ‘son of Thomas’ in Gaelic, English, Scots, or any other language. The reference to her work, but not it’s inclusion, appears to be an attempt to add veracity to a subject unable to stand up to scrutiny. It was written to develop a persona/character for play acting!
 3.  The sources he lists consistently record that there are 29 names that mean ‘son of Thomas’.
 4.  The crux of the matter is that MacTavish has subtly manipulated the terms of the debate to imply that the names Thomson and MacTavish can be used interchangeably or can be freely substituted whenever ‘son of Thomas’ is intended. No government, agency, organization or individual has the right to arbitrarily change a person’s name.
5.  As noted on the MacThomas web page, MacThomas and MacTavish have been lumped together as have Thomson and MacTavish.
6. MacTavish is already an English translation from the Gaelic. How do you further Anglicize an English word? Certainly not by calling it Thomson!  
7.  If it is a valid argument that Thomson is MacTavish, then is it not also true to say that MacThomas is MacTavish? Then, which clan is superior? MacThomas because they were recognized by the Parliament Act in 1587, as were the Thomsons, and MacTavish was not? MacThomas because it was recognized earlier in the 20th century than  MacTavish? To officially allow free substitution or claim interchangeability of surnames because of such similar meanings is an invitation for unintended consequences, i.e., Clan MacThomas could no longer be a separate clan, as MacThomas as a ‘son of Thomas’ would now also have to be MacTavish.
8. Lyon Robin Blair wrote on September 13th 2006 that “Every person who has the same surname as the chief is deemed to be a member of the clan.” He also told Chief MacTavish, at the Glasgow, KY, games hosting multiple chiefs,  to remove the Thom(p)son name from clan banners and any publications because he was the chief of only one name, MacTavish. Apparently, Robin Blair did not ascribe to the belief that Thomson and MacTavish are interchangeable.  
9.  There is no evidence anywhere to support a conclusion that there has been a widespread transition of MacTavish to Thomson as a more ‘polite’ and recognizably English form. MacTavish is an established and recognizable English name!
10.  If it is a valid argument that Thomson may be substituted for MacTavish, the corollary must also be true…..I could now state that there is a Clan Thompson, but Steven MacTavish cannot be the chief because he has a different name.  

Conclusion:  There are many ‘son of Thomas’ surnames in Scotland. Each of them is utterly unique, different and distinct – they simply have a similar meaning. Your opinion that there has been a transition from MacTavish to Thomson, from a basically Gaelic surname to a more “polite” and recognizably English form is repudiated by all evidentiary standards. To persist in this conviction does, in fact, give the appearance of prejudicing any Petition which may yet come before you in this matter.

       There are no records supporting Argyll MacTavish have anglicized their surname as Thomson. There is one, and only one, case of a MacTavish changing his name to Thomson, but that is a name change, not an “Anglicization” of an already English name. As you noted, there are several cases where a Gaelic surname has changed form and/or spelling when translated into English. However, those examples have no relevance to a conversion of MacTavish into Thomson, as neither name is Gaelic. The preponderance of evidence has shown that there is no correlation, other than similar meaning, between the surnames MacTavish and any of the Thomson variants. Such unsubstantiated statements, regardless of the source, are not proof.
   The essential question is: Can the free substitution of one surname for another be allowed (basically) because a clan chief wishes it? The only source for such an absurd proposition are the  numerous articles written by MacTavish propagandists for dissemination and Chief MacTavish’s website None of those sources provide evidence that MacTavish, Thomson and MacThomas are interchangeable surnames.  However, numerous articles comprising a ‘history’ were written and proclaimed by the previous Chief MacTavish and his aides specifically for that purpose (see Dugald MacTavish’s abbreviated ‘history’ sent to and published on This ‘history’ was accepted by Scottish scholars, authors and websites at face value and without critical analysis of its facts, based on the presumed integrity and authority of a clan chief. Most important is the fact that, while some of those sources provide sound research, they certainly provide no support that intermingling of surnames is warranted or, in truth, even possible…just necessary for the growth of Clan MacTavish. The Chief seized upon another surname, based on etymological similarity, as a means to an end – an available large supporting base comprised of misinformed Thom(p)sons, because there simply weren’t enough MacTavish to be a viable membership pool. It is a membership based on fabrications from a source whence you expect better - which may explain why there are very few MacTavish families in his clan.

« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 09:24:25 PM by Mary »


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Re: CLAIMS versus FACTS.............YOU decide!
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2013, 11:23:20 AM »
Yep, Mary's got it right.

"Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see." - Mark Twain


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Re: CLAIMS versus FACTS.............YOU decide!
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 04:07:54 PM »
I'll second that.