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The Clan Macpherson House & Museum stands in a superb location giving views along the length of Newtonmore's Main Street. Its corner plot overlooks the main junction at the west end of the village, with the A86 to Fort William passing along one side of the museum, and the B9150 to the A9 and all points south passing along the other.
There is no shortage of on street parking in Newtonmore, and the museum also has its own small parking area, which includes disabled parking, accessible from the A86. You can enter the museum itself either from its car park or from an entrance on the other side, overlooking Perth Road. The museum you find yourself in appears to have little regard for the physical size of the solid, but by no means obviously large, building you see as you approach. Sympathetic extensions in 1970, 1985 and 2002 have resulted in a TARDIS of a building, which you immediately realise is larger that seems possible from the outside, and as you begin to explore appears to keep on getting larger.
The Clan Macpherson Museum is, as the name implies, a museum dedicated to the story of Clan Macpherson, a clan which since the 1100s has had strong roots in the Badenoch district of the Highlands: a district which has Newtonmore and nearby Kingussie at its heart.
The museum was the first clan museum in Scotland when it opened in August 1952. Its aim in the early days was straightforward. The contents of Cluny Castle, the traditional seat of the Chief of Clan Macpherson, were put up for public sale in 1943 and, despite being in the midst of war, an appeal to members of Clan Macpherson raised enough money to buy most of the clan's historical treasures. The museum was originally established to provide a home for the items saved from the sale. As already noted, continuing support from members of the Clan Macpherson Association throughout the world has allowed it to expand on a number of occasions since.
This is probably as good a moment as any to note that although the museum is of course an essential place of pilgrimage for any Macpherson, MacPherson or McPherson returning to explore their Scottish roots (or members of septs or associated families of the clan who might have a different surname), it is also a fascinating place to visit for the rest of us. The Macphersons have played a significant role in just about every episode of Scottish history for some 900 years. They were also especially active in travelling the world, and settling throughout it, as the British Empire grew in the 1700s and 1800s. Their story is in many ways also the story of Scotland and the building of the modern world, and of much wider interest as a result.
There are, at a conservative estimate, more than five times as many people who regard themselves as Scots living outwith these shores than in Scotland itself, and it seems reasonable to assume that as an especially well travelled clan, the Clan Macpherson Association also has many more members abroad than in Scotland. It is therefore very fitting that the Clan Macpherson Museum has made such outstanding use of technology: not so much within the museum itself, but rather on the museum area of the Association's website, linked above right. We have never before seen a museum with such a comprehensive website, which allows visitors to explore the museum via the different galleries, then the different displays within those galleries, and then at the level of individual items on display.
The museum itself is one that even a casual visitor could spend a considerable time exploring. On first entering you find yourself in the East Hall, home to the reception and shop. The South Hall is home to the early clan history. Here we learn that the clan name came from the Gaelic Mac-a-Phearsain meaning "son of the parson". It dates back to the appointment of Mhuirich Cattanach, the 4th Chief of Clan Chattan, as parson of Kingussie in the 1100s. His second son was the first person to carry the name Macpherson.
In the same part of the museum we learn about the clan's role in the Jacobite uprisings, and the subsequent recovery in their fortunes. The West Hall is the most open area of the museum, and has as an offshoot the Heraldry Hall with its impressive collection of Macpherson crests. Moving round, the North Hall covers the centuries of Empire and since, before moving on to the modern era. The museum also offers a small theatre area and a room in which temporary exhibitions can be accommodated.
All in all, an outstanding museum. Sometimes it is the smallest things which can impress the most. Easy to overlook within its protective display is the Black Chanter of Clan Macpherson. This is said to have, literally, been sent from Heaven during a battle in 1396 and is believed to bring great good fortune to the clan which possesses it.