The Murrays trace their heritage back to the second quarter of the 12th century and probably take their name from the great province of Moray, once a Pictish kingdom. During this time, Freskin son of Ollec was one of the Flemish knights sent to Moray by King David I to establish order in the wild area. Freskin and his sons intermarried with the house of Moray. The senior line of the house of Moray took the surname of Sutherland and became Earls of Sutherland by 1235. The chiefship of the Murrays went several directions through scattered branches of the family until the 16th century when the Murrays of Tullibardine in Strathearn had assumed leadership of the clan. The Murrays first acquired the lands of Tullibardine when Sir William de Moravia, married Ada, daughter of Malise, Earl or Seneschal of Strathearn. Balquhidder was part of the ancient princedom of Strathearn and the heraldic device associated with the district is the mermaid. In 1606, Sir John Murray became the 1st Earl of Tullibardine.
His son, the 2nd Earl of Tullibardine married Lady Dorothea Stewart. Because her father, Sir John Stewart 5th Earl of Atholl had died without a male heir, the earldom reverted to the crown. William the 2nd Earl successfully petitioned the king to grant the title of Earl of Atholl to their son John 1st Earl of Atholl. The 1st Earl's son became the 2nd Earl of Atholl as well as the 5th Earl of Tullibardine. The 2nd Earl of Atholl's son became the 1st Duke of Atholl. Thus was established the Murrays as the Dukes of Atholl. The Murrays continue to be the Dukes of Atholl to this day. The seat of the Murray Dukes of Atholl is Blair Castle. For a time the Murray chiefs were also Sovereign Lords of the Isle of Man, with their own coinage and parliament.
The present Duke and chief of the Murrays is John Murray the 11th Duke of Atholl. He became the 11th duke of Atholl upon the death of his cousin George Iain Murray, the 10th Duke of Atholl in 1996 and was confirmed by the Lord Lyon in 2000. John Murray the 11th Duke of Atholl was born and raised in rural South Africa and still resides there. Although he had only visited Scotland once before becoming Duke, he now makes yearly visits to Blair Castle in order to take the chief's salute at the annual Atholl Highlanders parade. The Duke of Atholl maintains the 100 member force consisting of infantry and a celebrated pipe band. In 1845, Queen Victoria presented a pair of colors to Atholl Highlanders making them the only remaining private army in Europe. The principal duty of the Atholl Highlanders is to furnish sentries and Guards of Honor for royal visitors to Blair Castle. Officers of the Atholl highlanders come from the chieftans and lairds of Perthshire (where Blair Castle is located).
The most famous Murrays were Sir Andrew Murray and Lord George Murray. Sir Andrew Murray was the brilliant strategist who was probably the true hero in the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 where he shared joint command of the Scottish forces with William Wallace. Unfortunately, William Wallace received most of the credit for this victory. Sir Andrew later died of wounds sustained during the battle. Lord George Murray was Bonnie Prince Charlie's Lt. General during the Uprisings of 1745.
Calling of the Clans