MacLean Clan

MacLean Clan Crest: A tower with battlements.

MacLean Clan Motto: Virtue Mine Honour.

History of Clan MacLean:

The ancestor of this Clan was Gilleain-na-Tuaighe, known as Gillian of the Battle Axe, was  a descendant of the Kings of Dalriada. This Gilean fought against King Haakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263, and his son, Gilean or Gilmore Maclyn rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296. The Clan thereafter supported Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and the first recorded mention of the Macleans of Duart is in a Papal Dispensation of 1367 which allowed Lachlan Lubanach Maclean, the MacLean Chief, to marry  Mary MacDonald, daughter of the Lord of the Isles.

This was said to be a love match, at first opposed by her father who relented after his having been kidnapped by Lachlan in an incident in which the Chief of the MacKinnons was killed.  The MacDonald dowry brought the MacLeans extensive  properties on the island of Mull. Although Lachlan's elder brother, Eachin Reganach, founded the MacLaines of Lochbuie, Lachlan's line was recognised through Tanistry as the Chiefly House. 

Eachin's son Charles was the ancestor of the MacLeans of Glen Urquhart and Dochgarroch, which became a Sept of the Clan Chattan Federation. From Lachlan descend the MacLeans of Duart,  Coll, and Ardgour. By the close of the 15th century, following the decline of the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles, the MacLeans had acquired the greater proportion of Mull, Tiree, Islay, Jura and Knapdale, with land in Argyll, Morvern and Lochaber.

Over this period there were violent inter-clan feuds, such as that which took place between Iain “The Toothless” Maclaine of Loch Buie and his son Eachuin. Eachuin was killed, and his ghost is said to be the Headless Horseman who rides to announce the forthcoming death of the MacLaine Chieftain of Lochbuie. Iain “The Toothless” was captured by Hector MacLean of Duart and imprisoned on the island of Cairnburg, far from any woman so as to prevent him from fathering another heir. However, Duart had overlooked a maidservant and Loch Buie had himself an heir, Murdoch the Stunted.

Hector Odhair Maclean of Duart submitted to James IV when he visited the West Coast islands and died fighting for his King at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Meanwhile, a useful alliance was forged with the Campbells of Argyll until Lachlan Maclean of Duart married the Earl of Argyll's sister, Catherine Campbell, and finding her incapable of providing him with and heir, abandoned her on a rock to be covered by the incoming tide. She was rescued by some fishermen, but in the meantime, Maclean had sorrowfully informed her brother of her death. The Campbells' revenge was swift, and Lachlan was murdered in his bed in 1523.

Over the 16th century, a feud developed with Clan Donald and Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean died in battle against them on Islay in 1598. Sir Lachlan Mor had negotiated with Elizabeth I, and this was used against the Clan leading to the sequestration of Duart in 1604. Four years later, Lord Ochiltree was sent by the King to subdue the troublesome island chiefs, and following an agreement the MacLeans were allowed to retain Duart.

The MacLeans supported Charles I against Oliver Cromwell. Sir Hector Ruadh Maclean and five hundred clansmen were killed at the Battle of Inverkeithing in 1651. The family had mortgaged its lands to support the Royalist Cause and the debts were bought up by the Campbells. In 1674, Letters of Fire and Sword were obtained by the Earl of Argyll to attack Mull. The Macleans surrendered, but following the fall of the 9th Earl of Argyll in 1681, their lands were returned to them.

Sir John Maclean of Duart fought for the Jacobites at the Battle of Killiecrankie,
giving the Campbells an opportunity to return to Mull and destroy Duart. In 1691, following the Battle of Cairburg Mór, the MacLean estates were forfeited by the Crown which, despite the castle being in a ruinous state, garrisoned it with Government troops.

With the death of Sir Hector Maclean, 5th Baronet in 1750, the direct line of the MacLeans of Duart became extinct, and the Honours and Chiefship devolved upon Alan Maclean of Brolas. In 1911, Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 10th Baronet and 26th Chief , realised a life-long ambition and re-acquired Duart for the Clan. He died aged 100 having restored the family seat to its former glory. His son, Lord Maclean of Duart (1916-1990), was Chief Scout of the Commonwealth and Lord Chamberlain to Her Majesty the Queen.

John MacLean (1822-86) was born at Portsoy and became the first Bishop of Saskatchewan in Canada, before founding Alberta University. John MacLean (d.1923) was a Glasgow-born Marxist revolutionary who was imprisoned following his appointment as Bolshevik Consul to Britain.  Sir Fitzroy MacLean of Dunconnel, 1st Baronet of Strachur and Glensluain (1911-  1996) was a writer and politician, and commanded  a British Military mission to the Yugoslav partisans in 1943. He was British Under Secretary for War from 1954-57, and wrote several books including Eastern Approaches, and Holy Russia.  Alistair Maclean (1922-87) was born in Glasgow and wrote a series of best-selling novels including When Eight Bells Toll, Ice-Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare.

Surname distribution in Scotland: The MacLean name is most common in the Outer Hebrides (the main islands include Lewis and Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula and Barra), Highland, Glasgow City, Dumbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.

Places of Interest:
Duart Castle, Isle of Mull. Dubh Ard in Gaelic means 'Black Point. 'The earliest part of this formidable fortress overlooking the Sound of Mull dates from 1250, but was largely embellished during the 15th century. Burned by the Campbells in 1691, it was rebuilt in the 20th century and remains the seat of the Chief of MacLean. It is open to the public from May to September.

Ardgour, This district, between Loch Linnhe, Morvern and Loch Shiel, was held by the MacLeans of Ardgour.

Breachacha Castle, Isle of Coll. A 15th century stronghold held alternately by the MacLeans of Coll and of Duart.

Castle Moy, Loch Buie, Isle of Mull. Ruined Keep of the MacLaines of Loch Buie. It was their headquarters for 500 years.

Associated family names (Septs): Beath, Beaton, Bey, Black, Gillan, Gilland, Gillian, Gillon, Gilzean, Huie, Lean, MacBay, MacBeath, MacBeth, MacBey, MacBheath, MacClane, MacClean, MacCormick, MacFadyen, MacFadzean, MacFayden, MacFetridge, MacGillivray, MacGilvra, MacIldowie, MacIlduff, MacIlduy, MacIlvora, MacLaine, MacLergan, MacPhadden, MacRankin, MacVay, MacVeagh, MacVey, Padon, Paton, Patten, Patton, Peden, Ranken, Rankine.

Clan MacLean membership certificates.