Clan Muirhead and Bertram De Shotts
“Over the past nine hundred years, the Muirheads of Bothwell, Cumbernauld, Lauchope and Bredisholm, and their descendants, have served their deity and their fellow man with devotion, courage and humility. Our surname, Muirhead, like many others, came from the place where our ancestors lived – from the muirs, or moors, of Scotland. More particularly from the head, or edge of the moor”.
In his highly authoritative book, “The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origin, Meaning, and History”, first printed by the New York Public Library in 1946, Dr. Black had this to say about our surname:
“MUIRHEAD, Morehead. From one or other of the many localities of the name in the southern counties, perhaps from Muirhead in the barony of Bothwell. The lands and town of Mureheid in the diocese of Ross are mentioned in 1578 (RPC.), but the surname is not likely to have originated there. The first of the name on record is said to have been Sir William Muirhead of Lachope, end of the fourteenth century. Probably the same person as William de Murehede who witnessed a charter in lands of Cranshaws in 1401. (Swinton, p. xvii). Andrew Morheid was assizer in Lanark in 1432 (RAA., II, 65), David de Murhed, cleric in diocese of Glasgow, is recorded in 1471 (REG., 395), Ricardus Mwreheid, canon of Dunkeld, 1484 (RAA., II, p.211) may be Richard Murhede, dean of Glasgow in 1491 (AAPS., II, p. 270), Wilyame of Murehede is recorded in 1484 (Peebles, 31), and Thomas Murhede was parson of Lyne in 1504 (Trials, I, p*43). Thomas Murehead, quarryman at Dunkeld, 1505-15, appears in record as Moirhed, Moirheid, and Mored (Rent, Dunk.), David Muirheyd was assizer in Gowane (Govan) in 1527 (Pollock, I, p. 268) and David Mourheid was merchant burgess of Dumfries, 1668 (Inquis., 938). In common speech pronounced Murheed, Mooreheid 1624, Morheid 1691, Mureheid 1620, Muirhed 1513, Murehed 1503, Muyrheid 1498, Mwirheid 1577, Mwreheid 1484, Mwrhed 1493, Mwrheid, Mwrhied, and Mwrheyd 1522.”
The above information was recently corroborated by Lieutenant Colonel Howard C. Paterson, TD, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland, in a letter to our Clan President, Raymond Lee Morehead, Esq.
As can be seen from the paragraph above, the pronunciation and spelling of our surname was changed, in some cases, to Muirheid, Morehead, Moorhead. These changes occurred as the descendents of the family moved to other locales, e.g., to the southwest of Scotland, to Ireland, and as in the case of James and John Muirhead-banished, in 1685, to the English colonies in North America because they refused to swear allegiance to King Charles II, an avowed Papist, and had fought against the British crown for their religious freedom as Covenanters at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge .
In his book, “A System of Heraldry”, Nisbet states, “The first charter I have seen of any note concerning the ancient family is a deed granted by Archibald, Comte de Douglas Galovidiac et Bothwell ,dicto soutiforo, Sieur Willielmo deMuirhead in Baronia de Bothwell in 1393, being a gentleman of mettle and spirit, he had the honour of Knighthood conferred on him by King Robert III.”
Legend tells us that the king knighted William Muirhead and awarded him the lands of Lauchope as a reward for having brought him the head of one Bertram deShotts, a ferocious killer who had terrorized the region for years. The king had issued a proclamation which said that whoever rid the area of this killer would be rewarded. Muirhead cut and stacked a large pile of heather near the spot where Bertram used to go to get a drink of water. As time passed, Bertram, initially wary of the heather pile, became accustomed to its presence. William Muirhead, with his big, two handled sword, hid in the pile of heather, and as Bertram lay on the bank of the stream to get a drink of water, Muirhead quickly advanced upon him and with his sword, slashed Bertram’s hamstrings – behind his knees, so the mad giant was helpless. Bertram laughed at Muirhead, who is reported to have said to him before he beheaded him with his sword, “Lauch up, for its yer last laugh!” . Thus we get the name of Lauchope.