The Douglas Seanachaidh

Centuries ago each Highland community and clan had its Seanachaidh, Shenachie or Sennachie who was a recorder and reciter of family history and genealogy. Proper respect for one's genealogy and ancestors was important in all dealings and in warfare between Highlanders.

The Clan's Sennachie is a personal appointment by the Chief. Today he or she is the custodian of genealogies, records and histories of the Clan and its Chiefs, and members within the greater clan family. His or her responsibility is to ensure the myriad ties of the lines and families of the clan family are both secure and accurate as they progress and evolve through the fullness of time.


The Douglas Seanachaidh

There is no evidence that I have seen that indicated that the Douglases ever had a Seanachaidh, but here in the Douglas Archives we aim to do a bit of storytelling, record the deeds of the extended family and its genealogy.  Of course, the Douglases do not have a clan chief to make that appointment; nor can a clan chief be appointed without a sennachaidh to conduct the ceremony, so we do have a problem in this area!

The Many Roles of the Seanachaidh: Keeper of Clan History and Tradition

The Seanachaidh (also spelled Sennachy or Sennachie) played a vital role in Scottish clan history, serving as a genealogist, historian, bard, orator, and more. This article explores the various duties and responsibilities of this ancient position.

Origins and History

The Seanachaidh's roots can be traced back to the Picts and Gaels, where they held positions similar to Druids. These early Seanachaidh were responsible for preserving knowledge through oral tradition, including genealogies, laws, and historical accounts. With the rise of Christianity, the role transformed, with some evolving into Royal Heralds and others remaining as tribal bards.

Duties of the Seanachaidh

* Genealogist: The Seanachaidh maintained the clan's genealogical records, ensuring the accuracy of lineages and family histories.
* Historian: They served as the clan's living memory, recounting past events and traditions.
* Bard/Orator: The Seanachaidh composed and delivered poems, songs, and speeches at clan gatherings and ceremonies, such as inaugurations.
* Inaugurator: During the inauguration of a new chief, the Seanachaidh played a crucial role, verifying the lineage and officially installing the leader.
* Herald (in smaller clans): In some clans, the Seanachaidh also acted as the herald, making announcements and carrying out ceremonial duties.
* Keeper of Heraldry: The Seanachaidh understood and preserved the clan's heraldry, including coats of arms and badges.

The Seanachaidh in the Modern Era

While the clan system has changed, the role of the Seanachaidh remains relevant. Today, they strive to:

•  Preserve Clan History: Modern Seanachaidh utilise various means, including written records and electronic databases, to document and share clan history.
•  Foster Clan Connections: They help maintain a sense of community and belonging among clan members worldwide.
•  Promote Clan Identity: The Seanachaidh works to keep clan traditions, customs, and language alive for future generations.

The Seanachaidh is a vital link between the past, present, and future of a clan. By upholding traditions and sharing knowledge, they ensure the enduring legacy of the clan identity.


Perhaps the Sennachaidh might have told these stories?

This page was last updated on 24 April 2024

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