Welcome to the home of

Torch Left     

     Torch Right

The Catti: Tribe of the Ancient Keiths

(The Catti tribe symbol)

        THOUGH Scotland, by reason of its soil, situation, and neighborhood with a powerful, and rival people, could not hitherto arise to that pitch of riches and grandeur to which other nations have arrived. Yet, for a long and uninterrupted race of monarchs, and the antiquity of its noble family, it can at least vie with any in Europe.  Of the nobility, some are originally Scots, and others, at different times came hither from foreign countries:  Of the last sort are the Keiths, the chief of whom is the Earl Marischal, whose origin was from Germany,  thus:

            After the Germans, under Augustus Cezar, had subdued all Germany on that side of the Rhine, they employed the army against the Chattie[1], a warlike people, bordering on the Saltus Hercynius, who had frequently triumphed over the Charusii, and their other neighbours, and put a stop to the Roman Conquest.  Augustus sent Germanicus Cezr, his sister’s grandson, and husband to his grand child Agrippina, on this expedition, with eight legions, commanded under him by C. Syllius, and A. Ciecina, to subdue that powerful people, who being assisted by the Cherusii Chanci, and other confederates, engaged in the common defense against the prevailing Romans, who could never be reduced entirely till the time of the Emporer Tiberius; when Germanicus marched against them with four legions, and double the number of auxiliaries, and gave Ciecina the command of other four legions, and five thousand auxiliaries, and he having appointed L. Apronins with a body of men to guard the passes, fell in with them and slew great numbers; the old men and children, with many of the women were taken prisoners, and the rest forced to secure themselves from the fury of the enemy, by swimming the river Adrana.

After this disaster, the Chatti offered terms of peace, but Germanicus refused the conditions they proposed, and burned Mattium, their capital city; upon which, a part of them under Arpus, submitted to the Romans, and retained possession of that country, now subject to the landgrave of Hesse Cassell, one of whose titles is Chattorim Priceps; but the rest of the Chatti reckoned this submission dishonourable; abandoned their country, and after they had sought shelter for sometime among the woods and mountains, and lost all hopes of returning into their country, fell down into Batavia, now Holland, expecting to find a safe retreat. 

Here they settled, and passed a course of years, but the natives afraid of a people who they heard were so warlike, and whom they observed to be so industrious and thriving, sent them orders to leave their country, and seek out one more spacious, and less populous.  This was very surprising to the Chatti, who durst not return to the continent, all now possessed by the Romans; and therefore, they desired assistance for transporting them beyond seas, which Battavia desirous to be rid of them, readily granted.  Being provided with ships, they set sail with their wives and children and by a storm were forced upon different courses; for some of the whom Cambden calls Chatti Euchness[2], were carried into the mouth of the Thames, whither they all probably designed as the nearest coast, but the greatest part by the tempest was driven to the northern parts of Scotland, which Fordon calls Chatti Malibosei, and landed in a country which ever since has been called Chatt-ness, or Caithness, where they resolved to settle; finding encouragement from the largeness of the country, and want of people to inhabit it.

            The Scots, alarmed with the arrival of strangers, enquired their original and design: The Chatti related their adventures, pleaded favour, because they had suffered by the Romans, whom the Scots had so vigorously opposed, and desired habitations, but the Scots either afraid of the neighbourhood of a people trained up in war, whose stubborn tempers might sometimes prove dangerous; or, suspicious that they might endanger their safety by joining their enemy, refused them any share of their country, and commanded them to depart; to which, the Chatti, unwilling to set to sea after the dreadful storm the had escaped, would not yield, but resolved to make good their settlement.  Whereupon the Scots being informed of their number being but small, sent a body of men against them.  The Chatti would willingly have declined fighting, but reckoned death preferable to sea danger, and finding that force sent against them was but very inconsiderable, they encountered the Scots, and defeated them.

            This loss the Scots designed to revenge, and repair, by employing a greater force, and entirely cutting off the Chatti; but, considering that the country they had possessed, was neither well inhabited, nor very valuable, and that they could not be driven out without very much blood; they therefore, resolved to wait a more convenient opportunity, and so suffered them to prepare habitations and settle themselves.  The Chatti increased, and spread themselves over the coast country, till their number and power raised the jealousy, and awakened the envy of the Scots, who marched against them with a great army, and falling unexpectedly, after great havock, drove them from the coast to the mountainous parts of the kingdom, where they found such shelter from the hills and woods, as secured and defended them from the rage of the Scots. 

             It was about this time that the Prince of the Chatti, whose name was Gilly Chattan Moir, having married the daughter of Brudus, king of the Picts, began to be suspected of favouring his father-in-law, against Alpinus, who was then the Scots king: But when his son Kennethus the 2nd , came to the throne, he being desirous to revenge his father’s death, who had been defeated and slain by the Picts[3], declared war against them; and among the rest of the nobility, he likewise summoned old Gilly Chattan Moir, prince of the Chatti, to attend his standard.  He being loath to appear in arms against his father-in-law, and yet willing to show his allegiance to his own king, stayed at home himself, but sent his eldest son with a body of men to king Kennethus, which was so glorious to the Scots, and proved the utter extirpation of the Picts.  The youngest son of this Gilly Chattan Moir[4] succeeded his father as prince, or head of the clan, and it was in his time that the Chatti were driven to the wilds of Lochaber, and the neighbouring mountainous shires, where they spread into the famous families of Mc.Intoshes, Mc. Phersons, &c. all acknowledging for their head, or chief, the lineal descendant of that surviving son of Gilly Chattan Moir’s; who, at this day, is the representative of the family of Keith.[5]

            The Chatti, having for a long time continued a distinct people from the Scots, being governed by their own prince and laws, living in the highlands, till the Scots observed them to be a just and industrious people, made a peace, and settled a friendship with them: Yet they continued under their prince and laws, not being permitted to marry, or form any relation with the Scots, till the reign of Malcolm the 2nd, king of Scotland, about the year 1005.

            We shall satisfy ourselves with the general sketch given above; after they were admitted to join and unite themselves with the Scots.  The histories and public records of the nation, give a more particular and exact relation of those who have been chiefs of that race, since their union with the Scots: The first of whom was – ROBERT.

[1] Chattie, or Cattie, an ancient people of Germany, in the country of Hesse and modern Thuringia where Cassel or Castellum Cathorum is. They fought a great battle in Tiberius’s reign against the Hermondures, for a little river, whose water turned into salt, and which both parties would have in their own country.  The Catti were worsted, and their misfortune was the greater, that the conquerors vowed their spoils to Mars and Mercury, which was a kind of consecrations, or vow, by which all was to be destroyed, men, horses, and cattle.  The Catti went into the Isle of Batavia, now called Holland, where is yet Catwick-op-zee upon the sea side, and Catwick-op-den Rhein upon the Rhine.

[2]  Many of their posterity are to be found in England to this day, in different families, and under different names, but all retaining in some measure, a kind of affinity to the sound of their ancestors name, Chatti.

[3] His head was fastened to a pole and carried up and sown the Pictish army.             

[4] He was the grandson to the king of the Picts by the mother side: Vide nineteenth stanza of HARDYKNUTE, an old heroic balla, which says:

Syne he has gane far hynd, out ower
Lord Chattan’s land sae wyde;
That lord a worthy wicht was aye
Whan faes his courage seyd;
Of Pictish race, by mother’s side:
Whan Picts ruled Caledon,
Lord Chattan claimed the princely maid
When he sav’d Pictish crown.

[5] The family of Keith was among the most ancient in Europe.  In 1010 the Scots gained a complete victory over the Danes at Camus town in Angus; King Malcolm the 2nd , as a reward for the signal bravery of a certain young nobleman who pursued and killed Camus the Danish general, bestowed on him several lands particularly the Barony of Keith in East Lothian, from which his posterity assumed their surname.  The King also appointed him hereditary great Marshal of Scotland, which high office continued in his family till the year 1715, when the last Earl engaged in the rebellion, and forfeited his estate and honours; and thus ended the family of Marshal, after serving their country in a distinguished capacity above 700 years.


Encylcopedia Brittanica.


Information obtained from "The Ancient and Noble family of Keith"
written by P. Buchan, 1820.