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The Wounded Cateran by Robert Carrick The Wounded Cateran by R. Carrick, Exhibition of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, from the "Illustrated London News" MET DP841105.jpg
The Wounded Cateran by Robert Carrick

The term cateran (from the Gaelic ceathairne, a collective word meaning "peasantry") historically referred to a band of fighting men of a Scotland Highland clan; hence the term applied to the Highland, and later to any, marauders or cattle-lifters. [1] An individual member is a ceithernach or catanach, but Walter Scott calls an individual a cateran (e.g. in Rob Roy , Chronicles of the Canongate ). According to Randy Lee Eichoff it derives from Old Celtic 'cat' (battle, war) and 'nach' (man, fellow) Catanach means war-man, warrior. Its plural is ceithern or ceithrenn or caithereine or kettering or kettenring and several other spellings.

They are mentioned in the Dunkeld Litany:

A cateranis et latronibus, a lupis, et omnia mala bestia, Domine libra nos.

From caterans and robbers, from wolves, and all evil creatures, Lord, deliver us.

Magnus Magnusson states that some Highland chieftains retained substantial private armies of professional soldiers, known as 'ceatharn', to be used against their neighbours [2]

Problems arose when the third royal son of King Robert II, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan (the King's Lieutenant for areas of Scotland north of the Moray Firth) began using a force of 'caterans' himself. Subsequently, the word 'cateran' came to refer to those Highland bandits or malefactors.

Caterans feature in many Scottish novels and short stories, notably Hamish MacTavish Mhor in Walter Scott's 'The Highland Widow'.

Stories of the Cateran cattle-raiding tradition of the Scottish clans can be found in 'School of the Moon' by Stuart McHardy.

See also

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  1. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cateran". Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 512.
  2. Magnusson, Magnus (2000) Scotland, The Story of a Nation, page 211