The first to use the name McGehee (spelled MacGehee at that time) was Thomas MacGehee, who was born sometime before 1701 (when he and other outlawed Scotsmen petitioned for land in Virginia). In legal documents, he signed his name “Thomas MackGehee one time James MackGregor, of the old countrie.” He signed his will this way on July 27, 1727.
The Proscription Order
Following the MacGregor massacre of more than 140 Colquhouns – and a party of schoolboys who came to watch – at the Battle of Glen Fruin in 1603, King James VI outlawed the MacGregor Clan. Under the Proscriptive Acts of Clan Gregor, which came into force on the 3rd of April 1603 the name MacGregor “altogidder abolished” and bearing the MacGregor name was punishable by death.
MacGregor women were branded and their children were given to other families. MacGregors couldn’t travel in groups of more than two and couldn’t cut meat with a blade. The men were executed, the women were stripped bare, branded, and whipped through the streets, and women and children were sold into slavery for Britain’s new colonies in North America. MacGregors were denied food, water and shelter. They were denied the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, marriage, and last rites. They were hunted with dogs like vermin. And MacGregor heads could be sold to the government to attain pardon for thievery and murder. It was a licence to kill – and for big rewards: 1,000 for the clan’s most important members.
There is good reason that the Sir Walter Scott poem MacGregor’s Gathering includes the following:
If they rob us of name, and pursue us with beagles,
Give their roofs to the flame, and their flesh to the eagles!
While there’s leaves in the forest, and foam on the river,
MacGregor despite them, shall flourish for ever!