Clan Oliphant

Clan Oliphant is a Highland Scottish clan.


Origins of the clan

The earliest traceable member of this house is considered to be Roger Olifard, who witnessed a foundation charter to the Clunic priory of St. Andrew's, Northampton, by Earl Simon. The Charter was dated between 1093 and 1100 and Roger himself made a grant of 3 shillings yearly to this priory.

The Oliphants were a family of Norman origin who first held lands around Northamptonshire in England. In Domesday, Northamptonshire, there is a mention of "In Lilleford, Willelmus Olyfart", which land was held of the Countess Judith. Also in the Pipe Roll, 31 Hen. I is mention of a William Olifard of Northamptonshire as well as a Hugh Olifard of Huntingdonshire. William held five hides in Lilford (Lilleford) of the fee of the King of Scotland while Hugh Olifard of Stokes was a knight in the service of the Abbot of Petersborough before 1120; both appear in the pipe roll of 1130.

The progenitor of the Olifard family was "David Holyfard", godson of King David I of Scotland and in 1141 his protector; who was also in possession of Lilford (Lilleford) in Northamptonshire, showing the Northamptonshire family connection to Scotland. David was a son of William Olifard, mentioned in the pipe rolls of Cambridgeshire (1158), Northamptonshire (1163) and Huntingdonshire (1168 and 1169). He saved his godfather, David I of Scotland, from capture during the Battle of Winchester in 1141. David held the lands of Crailing and Smailholm, both in Roxburghshire, and served as the Justiciar of Lothian. He is not mentioned in records after 1170 and is supposed to have died shortly thereafter. One of David's sons was sent as a hostage for William the Lion.

David Olifard's son Sir Walter Olifard, the second Justiciar, in 1173 married Christian, the daughter of Ferchar, Earl of Strathearn; her dowry was the lands of Strageath.

Wars of Scottish Independence

The Oliphant name appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296 submitting to Edward I of England. However, like most of the Scots forced to swear fealty to the English king, the Oliphants soon took up the cause of Scottish independence.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Sir William Oliphant fought at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) and was captured and imprisoned at Devizes in England. He was released and appointed Constable of Stirling Castle. In 1304 Stirling was the final stronghold remaining in Scots hands. King Edward I of England laid siege to the castle for three months before they surrendered. Sir William was again captured and sent to the Tower of London. He was later released and appointed Governor of Perth by King Edward II of England. Perth was subsequently captured by King Robert the Bruce and Sir William was sent in chains to the Western Isles where it is presumed he died. There is no further mention of him in any records.

His cousin, whom he is sometimes confused with, William Oliphant, Lord of Aberdalgie also fought at the battle of Dunbar and was also captured and was sent to Rochester Castle where he was held, being released only after agreeing to serve King Edward I of England overseas. He returned to Scotland where he was second in command of Stirling Castle under his cousin, Sir William Oliphant. He was captured once again, this time being imprisoned at Wallingford Castle. Sir William was released at least by 1313 and served the Bruce in the continued struggle to defeat the English. He was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Arbroath on 6 April 1320 and his seal is still visible. He was subsequently rewarded with land at Gallery in Angus, Gask and Newtyle both in Perthshire. He was also given the lands of Muirhouse near Edinburgh in compensation for lands taken by King John de Balliol in Kincardineshire.

Sir William's son, Sir Walter Oliphant, Lord of Aberdalgie, married Princess Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of King Robert the Bruce.

15th century and clan conflicts

Sir John Oliphant was knighted by Robert II of Scotland while his son, Sir Laurence Oliphant of Aberdalgy, was created a Lord of Parliament in 1458 by James II of Scotland. He was later keeper of Edinburgh Castle.

In 1445, Sir John Oliphant was killed at the Battle of Arbroath, supporting the Clan Ogilvy in a clan battle against the Clan Lindsay.

16th century and Anglo-Scottish wars

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars, Sir Laurence Oliphant's grandson was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and his great-grandson was captured at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542.

The fourth Lord Oliphant supported Mary, Queen of Scots and fought for her at the Battle of Langside in 1568.

The chief's eldest son, another Laurence, was implicated in the conspiracy known as the Ruthven Raid led by the Clan Ruthven, to kidnap the young King James VI of Scotland and was therefore exiled in 1582. The ship in which he and his co-conspirator, the Master of Morton sailed in was lost at sea.

17th century court case and civil war

When the 5th Lord Oliphant died leaving a daughter but no son, the daughter's husband, a Douglas and brother of the Earl of Angus, claimed the Oliphant peerage in the female line. In court, Charles I of England created a new title of Lord Mordington for the daughter and husband, with the precedency of Lord Oliphant and created a new Lord Oliphant title on the nearest male cousin, Patrick Oliphant.

A number of the main branches of the Clan Oliphant were devoted to the Jacobite cause and Charles Oliphant, the ninth Lord Oliphant fought at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 and was afterwards imprisoned.

18th century and Jacobite risings

Patrick Oliphant's son, Charles Oliphant, the ninth Lord Oliphant strongly opposed the Treaty of Union in 1707 and joined his cousin, Oliphant of Gask in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The tenth and last Lord Oliphant played an active role in the Jacobite rising of 1745. After the defeat at the Battle of Culloden he escaped firstly to Sweden and then to France. He was allowed to return to Scotland in 1763 but did not relent his opposition to the Hanoverians.

Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne), daughter of the Oliphant Laird of Gask was a renowned Jacobite poet.

Modern times

Clan Chief

Clan Chief: Richard Eric Laurence Oliphant of that Ilk, Chief of the Name and Arms of Oliphant, is heir male to the three dormant Oliphant peerages of Lord Oliphant, Lord Aberdalgy and Lord Duplin created before 1460, to the Lords Oliphant emanating from the second creation of the Lordship of Oliphant on 2 June 1633 and, to the subsequent Jacobite peerage, created by Prince Charles Edward Stuart on 14 July 1760 in Rome for Laurence Oliphant.

The Chief is also Chieftain of the CONDIE branch. Scions of the latter include an Admiral; an Ambassador (author of "Ambassador in Bonds";) a Chairman of the Hon. East India Company who was also appointed by Queen Victoria as guardian to Maharajah Duleep Singh; a Chief Justice of Ceylon who, when coffee rust hit that crop, first created and planted a tea estate in the highlands from tea bushes in his garden, which gave rise to the country's tea industry today; two Generals; several knights, two Scottish MPs and Thomas Oliphant (musician and artist) (1799–1873) who wrote the chorale for the wedding of Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark (later Edward VII and his consort Queen Alexandra), and also wrote his own interpretation as the first English words to the Christmas carol "Deck the Hall(s) with Boughs of Holly" amateur composer, long time Secretary, then President, of the Madrigal Society and author, inter alia, of A Brief Account of the Madrigal Society, from Its Institution in 1741, up to the Present Period (1835), and La Musa Madrigalesca (1837). Other examples of his compositions appeared in the English Hymnal.

Further Chieftains

While the Clan Chief is also chieftain of Oliphant of Condie, there are three further chieftains:

  • OLIPHANT OF GASK: Laurence Kington Blair Oliphant of Ardblair and Gask is Chieftain of Gask in the female line. The Gask branch produced Scotland's greatest poetess, Carolina Nairne, Lady Nairne. Later descendants through the female line, going by the name of Kington-Blair-Oliphant or Blair-Oliphant, include an Air Vice-Marshal and two composers in film and television. Laurence lives at Ardblair Castle, a Clan Blair seat inherited by the Gask Oliphants by marriage to a Robertson of Struan. Ardblair contains not only the majority of the Gask Oliphant artifacts and portraits but also the Lords Oliphants' charters and known possessions, so remains hugely important to Clan Oliphant. With his surname including that of Blair, Laurence is also in the female line a Chieftain of that Clan, as BLAIR of ARDBLAIR and thereby is Chieftain of the nearby Blairgowrie Games;
  • OLIPHANT OF ROSSIE: Phillip Oliphant of Rossie is Chieftain in the female line of a branch which produced a Postmaster General of Scotland who appeared in Charles Lee's renowned 1847 painting "The Golfers" and, more recently, the late Betty Oliphant, co-founder of Canada's National Ballet School;
  • OLIPHANT OF BACHILTON: David Olyphant of Bachilton is Chieftain in the male line, which is one of the earliest offshoot branches and is most closely linked to the Oliphants of Culteuchar, large landowners in Fife. From the Culteuchar Oliphants descend the largest number of American Oliphants.
  • OLIPHANT OF KELLIE: The Kellie Castle branch, currently without a chieftain, produced Margaret Oliphant, the author.

Other branches

Other branches of Clan Oliphant do exist but as of today they still await rightful claimants for their chieftainly arms and the right to wear one or two eagle's feathers. These have produced a US General, the renowned Australian scientist Sir Mark Oliphant who was involved in the Manhattan Project, his nephew the influential cartoonist, Pat Oliphant and the Globe journalist, Thomas Oliphant.


Castles and clan seat

  • Kellie Castle was built and owned by Oliphants from 1360 to 1613.
  • Old Wick Castle and Berriedale Castle, held by Clan Sutherland in the 15th century, came to Sir William Oliphant of Berriedale (the progenitor of the Oliphant's of Berriedale) second son of the second Lord Oliphant, by his marriage to Christian, the daughter and heiress of Alexander Sutherland of Duffus in 1497.
  • Hatton Castle was built in 1575 by Laurence, the 4th Lord Oliphant and replaced the previous nearby wooden fortalice of Balcraig Castle. Hatton Castle was restored in the 20th century.
  • Following the decline in the Oliphant fortunes and the loss of Aberdalgie by the main branch of the family, by the 19th century the estates of Gask in Perthshire, Condie, Rossie also in Perthshire and Kinneddar were those most associated with the Oliphant Clan. Although the land at Gask was held by Oliphants from the mid 14th century and although no Castle was ever built there, it is the site of 'The Auld Hoose' in Carolina Oliphant's song.
  • There is no Clan Seat currently but Ardblair Castle, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire is the seat of one of the Clan Chieftains, the Oliphant of Gask. Ardblair contains the largest collection of Oliphant heirlooms and portraits today.

See also

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article "Clan Oliphant", released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.