Mac Fhearchair - the modern Gaelic spelling of the family name, means son of Farquhar. Farquhar or Fhearchair from the Gaelic 'Fhear' and 'chair' means 'Dear one'.
McKercher, McKerchar, McKeracher, McKerracher, McKerricher, McKericher, McEracher, McFarquhar and Farquharson - are all pronounced the same way in Gaelic. The spelling is simply a reflection of the adoption of localization in the spelling - with Anglicization. The finalization of the name spelling varied depending on time and location, but generally occurred following 1812. Prior to this, all the variants occurred in records, depending on who and what was being recorded. All of these families - with any of the spellings - belong to Clan Farquharson or Clann Fhearchair.
McKercher and McKerchar are generally the finalized highland spellings in official records, while McKerracher/McKerrachar is the finalized lowland spelling in official records - specifically for McKerchers from Perthshire. The descendants of these families who moved to the new world in the early 1800's or prior would finalize their names according to whether they came from the highlands or lowlands in most cases, while others chose differing variants. The use of 'Mac' or the abbreviated 'Mc' is most often interchangeable in Scotland, while it is fixed elsewhere.
Of the name variants, both McFarquhar and Farquharson are generally found outside of Perthshire, except for Farquharson in Atholl. Farquharson is the name and spelling adopted by those from Aberdeenshire, while McFarquhar is the name and spelling of those from Inverness-shire and Nairnshire. These families are not catalogued here, as they are related but separate branches to that of the McKerchers of Perthshire.
Origins from Clan Mackintosh
According to the traditional genealogy claimed by Clan Mackintosh and Clan Shaw, they - and the McKercher families of Perthshire as well as Clan Farquharson as a whole descend from Shaw MacDuff, the younger son of Duncan who was the 5th Earl and Thane of Fife in the 12th century. At that time, the Earls of Fife were the highest ranking nobles in Scotland and held the right to crown the King of Scots. The earldom was held by the MacDuff family by grant of King Malcolm III of Canmore in Parliament in 1057 until succeeded by the Stewarts in 1425. Prior to this act, the MacDuff family were Thanes of Fife, having been appointed in the year 838 by King Kenneth MacAlpin - whom they claim descent or kinship.
The claim is that Shaw MacDuff distinguished himself to King Malcolm IV, by leading an expedition to Moray against Norse invaders in 1163. The King granted him lands in Petty, as well as control of Inverness Castle. It was here that he became known as Mac an Toiseach, meaning the son of the Thane. Thus he also became the progenitor of both Clan Shaw and Clan Mackintosh by becoming the 1st Chief of Clan Mackintosh.
There is no proof to this claim in regard to MacDuff, as Duncan MacDuff was not in fact toiseach of Fife, he was moirmaer, so his son Shaw would have been titled Mac Mhoireir. There is also no evidence that Mackintoshes held land or control near Petty nor Inverness, as they more likely originated from Badenoch where they resided in the 12th century. The above claim by Clan Mackintosh and Clan Shaw is therefore unsubstantiated. Importantly, the word Toiseach can also be interpreted as steward or seneschal - a position where one works under a moirmaer or Earl.
The true genealogical account is that Shaw or Seaghdh Mac an Toiseach was the son of the senschal of Badenoch or possibly one of his descendants obtained the title. A Farquhar son of Shaw - supposed great-great-grandson of the above Shaw, is recorded in 1234 as a witness in an agreement to Walter Comyn, Earl of Monteith serving as 'Senescalli de Badenoch' - the steward of Badenoch. Farquhar would have been known as Fhearchair Toiseach. His children were subsequently known as Mac an Toiseach - Mackintosh. Farquhar is regarded as the 5th of Mackintosh, with the aforementioned Shaw being regarded as 1st. Whether through Shaw or Farquhar, this is the origin of Clan Mackintosh.
Mackintosh-Shaws of Rothiemurchus
Farquhar's son was Angus MacFearchar the 6th of Mackintosh. According to tradition, Angus married Eva - daughter of Gilpatric Dougall Dall, the 6th Chief of Clan Chattan in 1291 and resided later in Rothiemurchus. Through this marriage comes claims of lineage to the kings of Dál Riata. Angus is recorded in 1297 as being one of ninety nobles who submitted to Edward I of England. Following this the Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan backed Robert the Bruce for the crown - with Angus MacFearchar serving under Randolph, the Earl of Moray at Bannockburn in 1314. Their eldest son William carried forth the Clan Mackintosh, while their second son John carried forth the Mackintosh-Shaws of Rothiemurchus. Upon the death of Eva's father Gilpatric, Angus succeeded as Chief of Clan Chattan.
John's grandson Shaw Mhor Mac Ghillechrist Iain of whom Clan Shaw claim descent, established himself in victory over Clan Cameron at Invernahavon and later participated in the Battle of the Clans on 28th of September 1396 near Perth. Here Shaw and 29 of his Clan Chattan men battled 30 Camerons in front of an audience including King Robert III. With eleven men left standing against one remaining opponent they were awarded victory.
Alexander or Alasdair Ciar Mackintosh was the grandson of Shaw Mhor, the 5th Chief of Clan Shaw. He is recorded as obtaining the estate of Rothiemurchus by deed in 1464, as up until this time the family were merely tenents. He carried on the family as Thane of Rothiemurchus and had 5 sons. His eldest carried on the main Shaw line, while his siblings founded cadet branches of the family. His fourth son Farquhar would effectively establish Clann Fhearchair.
The Consequences of King James I
King James I ruled Scotland from 1424 to 1437, and during this period he upended the existing power structure of the highlands leaving lasting effects after his reign. At his ascension, Domhnall MadDonald Lord of the Isles dominated Argyll and Lochaber. The Albany Stewarts dominated the Central Highlands, including Alexander Stewart the Earl of Mar. In a power move to secure crown revenue and lands, he enacted laws to revoke patronage appointments. This restored lands to the King and severely reduced the numbers of Scottish earls and other nobility. He executed the Albany Stewarts in 1425 and then warred and subjugated the Lord of the Isles following.
This created a a power vacuum throught the Highlands. The Earldom of Mar was annexed to the King in 1435. Parts of Breadalbane and then Atholl in 1437. The Earl of Huntly was granted the Lordship of Banenoch in 1451. The Menzie chiefs succeeded Stewarts starting in 1430 and became tenants-in-chief of the crown in Breadalbane and Atholl. The Campbells and MacGregors moved into Breadalbane and Atholl, supplanting Stewarts. The dislocation of nobility created opportunity and generated movement of peoples as they seized advantage.