This surname is probably derived from the Old Parish of Meathie or Mathie, united to that of Inverness in 1612, and suppressed in June 1667. It may also be a diminutive of Mathew, but the surname is more likely to have arisen from the place in Scotland. The Clan MacMathan or Matheson are from the same source as the MacKenzies and as the chief of the Mathesons is reported in 1427 to have had 2,000 men, the Clan Matheson was then as powerful as the more famous MacKenzies. The clan was divided into two main branches, those of Lochalsh, and those of Shiness in Sutherland. Of the former was John Dubh Matheson, who was Constable of Eilean Donan Castle when Donald Gorm of Sleat attacked it in 1539. Donald Gorm was killed by an arrow of the defenders and John Dubh by an arrow of the besiegers. From John Dubh's son, Murchadh Buidhe, of Fernaig and Balmacarra are descended the families of Bennetsfield, Iomaire and Glas-na-Muclach. The Mathesons of Sutherland were an offshoot from the Lochalsh family are are mentioned in the 15th century. They are represented by the Mathesons of Shiness, Achany and the Lews. John Matheson of the Lochalsh family purchased Attadale in 1730. John, 4th of Attadale, married Margaret, daughter of Donald Matheson of Shiness, and their son Alexander, born in 1805, was the first baronet of Lochalsh. Sir Alexander made a large fortune in the East, and on his return he purchased estates in Ross-shire extending to over 220,000 acres at a total cost of seven hundred and seventy three thousand pounds and spent three hundred thousand pounds in land improvement and building. James Sutherland Matheson, of the Shiness family born in 1796, was one of the founders of the firm of Jardine, Matheson and Co. He purchased the island of Lewis in 1844 and was created a Baronet in 1851 for his munifence to the people of Lewis during the famine of 1845-46. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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