MacPHERSON was derived from the Gaelic Mac A Phearsain or Mac A Phearsoin ' the son of the parson '. The first people in Scotland to aquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Early records of the name mention Alexander Makfersan, baillie to the Bishop of Aberdeen in 1447. Bean Makimpersone witnessed a bond between William of Rose and Duncan Makintoshe, captain of Clancattane, 1490. A small sept of Campbells in the neighbourhood of Glassory, Argyllshire, in the 14th and 15th century, bore the name MacPherson. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
The associated arms are recorded in Cluny, Co. Inverness.
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