Clan chief of ancient lineage;

Born: April 14, 1926; Died: January 11, 2013.

James Macnab of Macnab, the 23rd chief of Macnab, who has died aged 86, claimed lineage back to the Celtic era of an early Abbot of Glendochart in Perthshire, Mac an Aba meaning "son of the abbot". Succeeding as 23rd chief in 1970, James Charles Macnab was styled The Macnab, following the Scots custom of employing the definite article to denote chiefship of an important family.

The Macnab took his clan duties diligently, meeting clansfolk, playing an active role for many years in the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. He was involved in both the International Gathering of the Clans in 1977 and the subsequent Gathering at the Scottish Homecoming of 2009.

The Macnab made his home at Kinnell, by Killin, centre of Macnab territory, taking a lively part in local life. In days when the Lochearnhead Games was the local gathering (Killin Games did not start until years later), he is particularly remembered for being what a fellow chief affectionately termed "a dominant character" at the Lochearnhead Games, being chieftain on several occasions.

Death duties of a predecessor meant that in 1978, he had to sell the family home of Kinnell House, but he remained by his beloved Loch Tay at Finlarig, just outside Killin, until the death of his wife's parents in 1985 when he moved to Leuchars.

Macnab was born in London as James Macnabb, a seventh consecutive eldest son named James (with his son and grandson maintaining the tradition). His father Lt-Col James Macnabb (sic), de jure 21st Macnab of Macnab, won Olympic gold in rowing in the coxless fours at the 1924 Games in Paris.

Accumulated burdens saw not only clan lands passing into the House of Breadalbane, but the succession to the chiefship itself became tangled after 17th chief Archibald died without a direct heir in 1860. It took almost a century of research before Archibald Corrie Macnabb (sic) – who successfully strove to buy back the immediate Macnab estate – was recognised as 22nd chief by Lord Lyon Sir Thomas Innes of Learney in 1954. James, his great-nephew and heir, changed his surname from Macnabb to Macnab, becoming James Macnab, Younger of Macnab, succeeding to the chiefship in 1970 as 23rd Macnab.

Educated at Radley College, Oxfordshire, young James was evacuated from London to Canada at age 14 in 1940, returning aged 18 in 1944 as a volunteer, and seeing active service in the closing year of the Second World War in India, Java and Singapore before being commissioned into the Seaforth Highlanders. His transfer in 1948 to the Federation of Malaya Police Force for nine years meant much to him, and he attended London reunions of the Malaya Police Association until last year. He was involved in several gunfights against guerrillas, on one occasion rescuing Ian Tedford, a Ghurka officer. Col Tedford later retired to Scotland, always crediting The Macnab with saving his life.

The Macnab combined running the family acres at Kinnell with public office, serving for 21 years from 1961, first with Western District Council of Perthshire, and then for 14 years until local government reorganisation in 1975 as a county councillor with Perth and Kinross, and finally as a member of Central Regional Council. He maintained service with the Seaforths (TA) until 1964, as well as duties as a Justice of the Peace for 18 years until 1986. For a decade until 1992, he held an appointment with the investment company Hill Samuel as a consultant. A keen shooter, he cut a colourful figure on the hill, always in the kilt.

History shows that Clan Macnab survived somewhat against the odds. Known as a "considerable clan" before the reign of 13th-century King Alexander III, the then Macnab chief fought against King Robert Bruce, having his lands and possessions ravaged in return.

Further lands were lost when 6th chief Finlay Macnab mortgaged a great portion of territory to the Campbell of Glenorchy ancestor of the Marquis of Breadalbane. Support for the Royalist cause of Charles I led to Covenanters burning Macnab lands, and the clan was saved from extinction possibly only by support for the Hanoverian cause in the 1715 and 1745 Risings. The Macnab had a long and happy marriage to the Hon Diana Anstruther-Gray, elder daughter of Lord Kilmany, and when she died in January last year, it was his wish that their ashes be interred together on Innis Bhuide, the island in the Falls of Dochart in Killin that has been the burial place of Macnab chiefs for centuries. This is due to take place after a memorial service in Killin Kirk on March 15.

He is survived by his four children Virginia, Jamie, Geoffrey and Katie; and eight grandchildren. James, born 1963, becomes 24th Macnab.