Munro/Monroe Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Munro/Monroe Meaning
has it that the Munros were Irish mercenaries who came to Scotland in
the 11th century and fought against the Vikings under Donald Munro, son
of the Irish chieftain O’Caenn.  As a reward they were
granted lands in Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands.
Some say the Munro name was derived from the Gaelic Mac an Rothaich, meaning “man from
Roe,” where Roe is the Roe river in Ulster.   That would
support the supposed Irish origin of the Munros.  An alternative
version has Munro coming from the Gaelic maolruadh, meaning “bald and red.”
Munro spelling
are Munroe, Monro, and Monroe – with an “o”
supplanting the original “u” and an “e” added at the end.  Monroe
describes the fifth President of the United States and a famous
American actress.

Munro/Monroe Resources on

Munro/Monroe Ancestry

The Munro lands
around Foulis extended along the north side of Cromarty Firth in
Ross-shire and later into Sutherland.  Robert de Munro was the first chief of the clan to be recorded in
1350 by contemporary
evidence.  Disputes
with other clans
featured in the succeeding centuries,
although most of these were minor skirmishes.

Munros took a different path than other Highland clans in that they
were early
adopters of the Protestant faith.  John
Munro of Foulis, a devout Presbyterian, welcomed the Glorious
Revolution of 1689
and the Munro clan stood by the British Government in the Jacobite
risings of
1715 and 1745.  Although the Munros did
not suffer as did other clans in the aftermath of Culloden, this event
did in
fact mark the end of their traditional clan way of life.

The Munro tradition in warfare probably began
with those Munros – including Robert Munro, the black Baron – who
fought for
Protestant causes abroad in the early 17th century.
Some returned home to serve in the
Covenant armies or to join the Royalist cause.  Munros
later distinguished themselves as
generals in the British army in India during the 18th century.

The main cadet branches of the Munros have been
those of Milntown, Newmore, Teanininch, Balconie, Novar, Obsdale,
and  Auchinbowie.  The clan history was first
described in Alexander Mackenzie’s 1888 book
History of the Munros of Foulis.

America.  The Munro
spelling did not transfer to America, but Munroe and Monroe did –
principally because the Royalist Munros sent to America during the
English Civil War spelt their names that way.

New England.
William Munroe had been taken at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and
transported to Massachusetts as an indentured servant.  He married
three times and was the progenitor of a large New England Munroe
family. Munroe Tavern in Lexington, built in 1695, had a part to
play in the Revolutionary War and George Washington supped there in
1789.  James
Phinney Munroe
, a descendant, outlined the family lineage in
his 1890 book A Sketch of the Munro
.  An updated version was published by Richard S.
Munroe in 1966.

Virginia.  Andrew
Monroe meanwhile was sent to Maryland after his capture at the
Battle of Preston in 1648.  These Monroes became Virginia planters
in Westmoreland county.  Andrew’s great grandson James Monroe
fought in the Revolutionary War and became the fifth President of the
United States in 1816.

Canada.  John Munro had come
out to
America from Munro country as a soldier in the 1750’s and stayed.  He was one of the Loyalists who crossed the
border into Upper Canada in 1784.  His
son Henry joined the North West Company as a surgeon in 1796.  

Other Loyalists crossing
the border were Daniel Munro to Nova Scotia, Samuel Munro to Prince
Island, Hugh Munro to Bathurst, New Brunswick, and another Hugh Munro
Glengarry county, Ontario.  Philip Munro,
who was involved in the siege of Quebec in 1757, stayed and married
there.  His children were Monroes.

From Morayshire in Scotland came James and
Helen Munro in 1816 to take up a land grant in Nova Scotia.  Their son Philip
uprooted his family in 1881 for the long trek west to
homestead in Manitoba.  James Munro came
to Theorold, Ontario from Scotland in 1844 and prospered with a cotton
factory.  His house, Munro House,
still stands.

South Africa.  Alexander Munro
departed Aberdeen with his
wife on the Barossa in 1823 under
assumed names.  He was granted a seal
hunting permit at Mossel Bay and there he built a house and tavern. Apparently he gambled most of his money
away.  However, the tavern and Munros
remain in the area.

Australia.  Early Munros in
were convicts.  Some made good, such as
James Munro from London and Alexander
from Inverness.  James,
transported in 1800 to Sydney, became a skilled seaman who later
settled on
Preservation Island in the Bass Straits.
Mount Munro was named after him.
Alexander, transported in 1830, made his mark with his vineyard
in the
Hunter Valley.  Lydia Munro was a First
Fleeter who arrived on the Prince of
in 1788.

Some later Munro free
settlers in Australia from the Scottish Highlands were:

  • Donald
    Munro who came to Sydney with his
    family from the Black Isle in Scotland to Sydney on the John Gray in 1848.
    He started cattle ranching in the Hunter
    valley ten years later.  It was his son
    Alec who started the breeding of shorthorn cattle under the
    Weebollabolla name.
  • Hugh
    Munro who came with his brother Joseph
    to Victoria from Golspie in Sutherland in 1851.  Later
    Munros in Hugh’s family were jockeys, including Darby
    Munro, one
    of Australia’s greatest jockeys.
  • Donald
    and Catherine Munro who arrived in Melbourne under the Bounty Scheme
    from Skye in
    1854.  After Donald’s early death in
    1865, Catherine moved the family to new farming lands in NSW.
  • James
    Munro, a descendant of the Munros of
    Foulis, left Sutherland for Melbourne with his family in 1858.  He made money from the building society he
    started there and became Premier of Victoria in 1890.
    However, his business practices were dubious
    and he is remembered as one of the corrupt politicians of the land boom
  • and
    two Munro brothers, Archibald and Donald,
    who left their home at Barnaline in Argyle for Queensland in 1871.  They set up a timber mill on the banks of
    Gehan Creek and later were early users of locomotives there.


Munro/Monroe Miscellany

Munro and Variants.  The Munro spelling predominates today, except in America where the main spelling is Monroe.

Numbers (000’s) Munro Munroe Monro Monroe Total
UK 20     1 1 1 23
Canada    16     1     1    18
America     2     2    15    19
Elsewhere    12     1     1    14
Total    50     5     2    17    74

Munro Country.  The country of the Munros lies on the
north side of the Cromarty Firth.  Known
as Ferindonald from the traditional founder of the chief’s family
land or Fearainn Domhnuill in Gaelic)
these lands comprised the area of the two adjoining parishes of
Kiltearn and
Alness.  The clan occupied the fertile
coastal strip alongside the firth, with access mainly by sea, and
spread up the
river valleys into the uplands around Ben Wyvis.  In
time the Munros held lands as well east of
the river Alness and also in the Black Isle on the other side of the

According to a late tradition,
the forest of Wyvis was held on a ‘whimsical tenure’ of delivering a
on any day of the year, if asked: but the earliest recorded duty was
the more
usual nominal one of a pair of white gloves or a silver penny.

was at the heart of Munro
country.  By the 1550’s the chief’s lands
had been incorporated into the barony of Foulis, giving him a
jurisdiction with power of ‘pit and gallows’ (drowning for women,
hanging for
men) for the more serious offences.

The Munros and the Mackintoshes at Clachnarry.  In
1454, after the Munros had made a
raid into Perthshire, they were returning home through Mackintosh
country and
were obligated to pay “road collop” or passage money as was the custom.  A dispute arose over the amount.
The Munros sent their spoils ahead, but were
hotly pursued by the Mackintoshes who overtook them at Clachnarry.

John Munro of Foulis, leader of the band, was
– according to one account – left for dead on the field.
He was said to have been found by an old
woman after the battle who nursed him back to health.
He was subsequently returned to his own
people.  However, he had had his hand so
severed or mutilated in the affray that he was known from that time on
as John Bachlach. 

The Scottish Munros.  Sir Hugh Munro, the son of a Scottish landowning family, lived from 1856 to 1919.  He led an active
life.  But what he is most remembered for is the
“Munros,” his list of mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet which was published in 1891.

This was the result of
exhaustive work with the large scale Ordnance Survey maps then
supplemented by Munro’s own extensive experience in the mountains.  Munro’s Tables listed 538 tops, of which 283
were considered by him to be separate mountains and soon became known

Munro’s failure to set out
clear objective criteria for deciding when a top could be counted as a
mountain has been a cause for debate. Indeed he was working on a
revised set of
tables at the time of his death that would have changed these numbers.  Since his death the lists have been revised
on a number of occasions, most recently in 1997.  There
are now 284 Munros and a further 227
tops over 3,000 feet.

Modern “Munro
Baggers” tend to go for the Munros without worrying too much about the
tops.  Munro’s untimely death in France
meant that he fell fractionally short of climbing all of his own list
of peaks
and tops (he managed 535 out of 538).  But
he came rather closer than most will ever manage.

James Phinney Munroe’s Mistake.  In 1889 the Lexington Historical Society commemorated the
100th anniversary of
the Presidential visit to Munroe Tavern.
They invited James Phinney Munroe, the great grandson of Colonel
to speak on the public dinner from a family perspective.
As the young graduate from MIT couldn’t find
any family letters about the visit, he made up a letter that he said
written at sixteen by his great-aunt Sarah.

To his great surprise the letter sparked an interest and in the
years he had to send corrections to newspapers that quoted the letter
as a
solid fact. Finally, in his book sketching the Munroe family history,
included the forged letter as part of a
public penance.

Philip Munro’s Westward Trek to Manitoba.  In 1881, at the age of 54, Philip took his wife and six children for the long trek westward from Nova Scotia to
homestead in Manitoba.  They arrived by
barge at Brandon and then travelled upriver to settle some twelve miles
of Minnedosa.  They chose a site which
them of their Nova Scotia home.  They
had to start from scratch in Manitoba, building a log home and
providing food for the family.  It was said
that they nearly froze and starved to
death the first years in their drafty old cabin.

In 1886 a terrible prairie fire from across
the river swept up the valley and north east over the hills destroying
many of
the settlers’ homes.  Philip’s home was
saved by his son Charles plowing a headline with the oxen led by
grandson David
Munro, then a boy of only ten.  He later
“I was never so frightened in all his life.”  Twenty
years later the Munros themselves lost
their barn and stock in a valley fire.

these pioneer communities, the wife generally stayed at the farm with
children to take care of the cattle.  The
husbands and older sons would go out to help during harvest and then
work in
the bush camps until spring.

In 1884,
the All Saints Anglican Church was built three miles north of the
village of
Clanwilliam.  Henry and Agnes Munro were
married there in 1903.  And Philip Munro,
patriarch of the family, was buried in the cemetery in 1911.

Alexander Munro of Singleton, NSW.  Alexander’s
beginnings in Inverness in
Scotland were unpromising.  By the time
he was fourteen his father had died and he was caught thieving.  Despite his youth he was sentenced to
transportation to Australia.

He made
good in Australia.  Meerea Park in the Hunter valley can trace its
winemaking roots to the 1850’s when Alexander Munro started his Bebeah
at Singleton.  He was at one time the
largest and most successful winemaker in New South Wales.
He built Singleton’s first hotel and was its
first mayor.

in fact spent much of his life trying to atone for his early mistake.
paragraph from Munro’s Luck perhaps
summarized his life and achievements.

Munro died in his home, Ardersier House at Singleton, on 26 January
1889.  He was described as a vigneron, ‘a
philanthropist and one of nature’s gentlemen’ and ‘the father of
Singleton,’ in
the lengthy obituaries published in the Maitland Mercury and Singleton Argus.

funeral cortege, which stretched for half
a mile, was led by Masons and Oddfellows in their regalia and wound
through the
streets of Singleton before his burial in the Glenridding cemetery
which he had
donated to the town.  A tall but simple
granite column, which Alexander Munro himself had purchased and
imported from
Scotland, was erected in his memory, to his wife Sophia, who died later
in the
same year and to the family of his adopted daughter Harriet.

inscription on the memorial stated:
‘After life’s fitful fever, they sleep well.’  Was
the reference to ‘life’s fitful fever’ an
allusion to their conviction and transportation?”


Munro/Monroe Names

  • Donald Munro of Foulis, who died in 1039, was considered in tradition the first chief of the Munro clan.
  • James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States.  He is best-known for having formulated the
    Monroe doctrine in 1823.
  • H.H. Munro was an English short-story writer who went under the pen-name of Saki.
  • Sir Hugh Munro was a
    mountaineer best known for his “Munros” Scottish mountain classification.
  • Matt Monro was an English
    ballad singer of the 1960’s.
  • Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean
    Mortensen, was the famous American actress of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
  • Alice Munro is an acclaimed
    Canadian short story writer.

Select Munro/Monroe Numbers Today

  • 23,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Perthshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Munro and Like Surnames 

These surnames originated from the northern part of Scotland, either the northeast of the country, the Scottish Highlands, or in one case (the surname Linklater) the Orkney isles north of Scotland.




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