Mar 2020 Issue of Scotland Magazine
The 24th Chief of Clan Macnab, Jamie Macnab of Macnab, shares memories of his childhood as the clan's first direct heir since the 1800s
Where were you born?
I was born in Edinburgh. I was the first direct heir to the Chiefship of Clan Macnab since the old line died out in the 1800s and a pipe band greeted my arrival when I was taken home to Killin in Highland Perthshire, where the Macnabs once dominated. My great uncle re-established the Chiefship in the 1950s and it had passed to my father and then to me.
What do you remember most vividly from your childhood? I remember a very rural childhood with my brother and sisters in Killin with lots of dogs and ponies. My parents were very social and had lots of house parties. We went to Killin Primary School and had many friends there. It was tough being sent away to boarding school aged eight and removed from this close circle of family, friends and dogs.
Is there a particular place that holds warm memories for you? I feel very nostalgic for Killin, the village I grew up in and where the Macnabs originate from. It is a scenic spot at the west end of Loch Tay, with Ben Lawers towering high above it. I n ancient times the Macnabs would have dominated vast areas of land around Killin. Now all we have left is Innis Bhuidhe (the yellow island) in the Falls of Dochart. The Island is the site of two Iron Age forts and the burial place of the Chiefs of Clan Macnab.
It is an utterly beautiful and spiritual place and a point of focus to clansfolk scattered around the world.
Where do you live now?
I live and work in Edinburgh. We brought up our two children in the Georgian New Town. I have worked for Savills as a country house agent for 33 years. I operate in the east of Scotland, covering Fife, Perthshire, Stirlingshire, the Lothians and Borders. I know parts of these areas very well - almost house by house.
If not at home, where else do you most like to spend time in Scotland? My mother's family is from Fife and my greatest privilege is to be a member of the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club) in St Andrews. I love spending time there and playing golf. St Andrews was Scotland's Christian centre for hundreds of years and is home to our oldest university. It is a magical, ancient place with a stunning coastline.
Where do you want to explore further? There are a lot of layers to life in Scotland and there is lots I have yet to do. I am interested to learn more about the origins of Scots. The Macnabs are one of the Dalriada clans, the original Scots who superseded the Picts. I plan to visit some of their ancient Pictish sites in Perthshire and on the west coast of Argyll.
What do you miss about Scotland when you are away? I have been lucky enough to see quite a lot of the world, but while travelling I miss the scenery and air so fresh you can almost drink it. I am bred for the Scottish climate and struggle in the heat. My fair skin is not suited to too much sunshine. I also miss the people; the dry humour and my understated, genuine friends.
Where would you recommend visitors go? I would urge them to look beyond the obvious tourist hotspots. There are many beautiful places off the tourist trail where you will get a much more genuine experience. Most people live in the central belt. If you go north to the Highlands and islands or south to the Borders you will find more peace and seclusion.