This surname MacNAB was derived from the Gaelic Mac an Aba, meaning the son of the abbot. The early chiefs of the Clan Macnab were probably lay abbots of Glendochart, in which glen lay the lands of the clan, and in which there was formerly a great Celtic monastery. In the 17th century St. Fillan founded a monastery in the glen, the upper part of which took its name of Strathfillan from him, and in the reign of William the Lion we find that the abbot of Glndochart ranked as an equal with the earls of Atholl and of Menteath. Early records of the name mention that a Mathew McNamb was a tenant of the earl of Douglas in Brekauchbeg in the barony of Buittle in 1376, and Maurice M'Nab was a tenant in Glenwaldy in the barony of Prestoune in the same year. Robert Gynnab, a Scots prisoner of war was released from prison in Colechester in 1396. In the early Celtic church the abbot of a monastery usually belonged to a leading family of the tribe or tuath, and in that family the office was hereditary. In course of time this system gave rise to great abuses; the monastery grew rich in lands, and the energies of the abbot or some other leading officer, were directed to temporal rather than spiritual management. In fact, latterly he became a mere layman, holding the abbacy in his family by direct descent and, delegating his clerical duties to a monk, he himself took to rearing a family in which the monastic lands were hereditary. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.Leading figures of the name include Francis, 12th chief of the MacNab clan, and he was the subject of Raeburn's painting 'The MacNab'. Sir Allan MacNab, Ist baronet, who became Prime Minister of Canada in the 19th century. MacNab of MacNab (died 1881) was the distinguished ambassador and Governor in India. The MacNabs are descendants of the Abbot of Glendochart who lived at the time of David I (c.1080-1153).
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