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BADGE: Muilleag (Oxycoccus palustris) Cranberry bush

SLOGAN: Loch Sloidh

PIBROCH; Spaidsearachd Chlann Pharlain

One of the loveliest regions in the West Highlands at the present hour is the district about the heads of Loch Long and Loch Lomond, which was for some five centuries the patrimony of the Chiefs of the MacFarlan Clan. With the waves of one of the most beautiful sea lochs of the Clyde rippling far into its recesses, and the tideless waters of the Queen of Scottish Lochs sleeping under the birchclad slopes on another side, while high among its fastnesses, between the towering heights of Ben Arthur and Ben Voirlich, shimmers in a silver lane the jewel-like Loch Sloy, this ancient territory could not but in the course of centuries produce a race of men instinct with the love of the mountains and the moors, and all the chivalrous qualities, which go to make the traditional character of the Highlanders of Scotland. This is nothing less than fact in the case of Clan Farlan, for in origin the Clan was not Highland at all, and only became so, like a number of others, by long residence among the mountains and the lochs, and by intermarriage with native families of Celtic descent.

It is true that many tellers of the story of the clan seek to derive its origin amid the silver mists of a mythical Celtic past. According to one account, the clan takes descent from a hero who arrived in Ireland with the first colonists from Spain, and whose descendants afterwards settled in Scotland. MacIan, who mentions this tradition, wisely concludes that it "must be classed among the Milesian Fables". This tradition was amplified in a paper read by the Rev. J. MacFarlane Barrow at a meeting of the London branch of the Clan Society, and printed in the Clan MacFarlane Journal for January, 1914. Quoting from a Manuscript of the monks of Glenmassan, this writer declared that in the veins of the MacFarlans ran "the blood of Earls, and not Earls only, if it came to that, but of Kings, for was not Alwyn Mor, first Earl of Lennox, the great-grandson of Mainey Leamna, the son of Corc, King of Munster, who was fifth in descent from Con of the Hundred Battles, King of Ireland ?"

To descend from these misty altitudes of vague tradition, however, to the realm of ascertained fact. It is recorded by the greatest of Scottish archaeologists, Chalmers, in his Caledonia, quoting from the twelfth century Simeon of Durham, that the ancestor of the family was the Saxon Arkil, son of Egfrith. This Arkil, a Northumbrian chief who fled to Scotland to escape the devastations of William the Conqueror, received from Malcolm Canmore the custody of the Levanax or Lennox district, and became first founder of the family bearing that title. Alwyn, son of Arkil, was a frequent witness to the charters of David I and Malcolm IV, and was created Earl of Lennox by the latter King. The son, another Alwyn, of the first Earl of Lennox being a minor at his father's death, William the Lion gave the earldom in ward to his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, but the young Earl recovered possession before the year 1199. When he died in 1224, he left no fewer than eight sons. Of these, Malduin, the eldest, became third Earl of Lennox, and Gilchrist, the fourth son, obtained from the latter in 1225 a charter of the lands of Arrochar, and became ancestor of the MacFarlans. Along with Clan Donachy, the MacFarlans are said to have been the earliest of the clans to hold their lands by feudal charter. Like other vassals of the Earls of Lennox, the MacFarlan chiefs exercised their rights under the stipulation that all criminals condemned by them should be executed on the Earl's gallows at Catter.

One of the earliest traditions connected with the family has to do with the great Norse invasion of Hakon, which ended at the battle of Largs in 1263. Previous to that battle, Hakon sent Olaf, King of Man, with sixty ships, up Loch Long. The Norsemen drew their vessels across the narrow isthmus of the MacFarlan country, between Arrochar and Tarbet on Loch Lomond, and the spot is pointed out, at the milestone midway, where the Laird of Arrochar hid his family from the fierce Norse raiders. Duncan, the second Laird of Arrochar, married Matilda, sister of Malcolm, fifth Earl of Lennox - he who was the friend of Wallace and Bruce, who fought at Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn, and fell at Halidon Hill, and there is reason to believe that the Laird of Arrochar and his followers fought under the Earl of Lennox at Bannockburn. It was to the country of Duncan of Arrochar that Bruce escaped on the memorable occasion when he crossed the narrow waters of Loch Lomond, and recited to his men the great romance of Fierabras; and it is pretty certain that Duncan would be one of the little group of the Earl's hunting party which shortly afterwards met the King, and hospitably entertained him and his little army, in the hour of their need, with the fruits of the chase.

The son of Duncan and Matilda was named Malcolm, probably after his uncle the Earl; and Malcolm's son, the fourth Laird, was named Pharlan, which has been translated Bartholomew. It is from this individual that the family have since taken their surname of MacFarlan. Pharlan's son Malcolm had a charter confirming him in possession of the lands of Arrochar in 1354, and his son Duncan, the sixth Chief, married Christian, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow, and died shortly before 1460. His son John married a daughter of Sir James Mure of Rowallan, and sister of Elizabeth Mure, first wife of King Robert II. The next Chief, Duncan, was served heir to his father in 1441, and the next, Walter, married a daughter of the second Lord Livingstone.

Meanwhile the original house of Lennox had suffered a tragic catastrophe. Donald, the sixth Earl, had left only a daughter, Margaret. She married her cousin, Walter de Fassalane, on the Gareloch, who, as the earldom appears to have been a female fief, became seventh Earl in right of his wife. The son of this pair, Duncan, eighth Earl, was again the last of his line. His daughter Isabella became the wife of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, grandson of King Robert IL, and for a time Regent of Scotland. On the return of James I from his long captivity in England, Duke Murdoch, his two sons, Walter and Alexander, and his father-in-law Duncan, Earl of Lennox, were all arrested, tried, and executed on the Heading Hill at Stirling. Afterwards, on the death of the Duchess Isabella in 1460, her youngest son's son, Lord Evandale, held the earldom in liferent till his death. Upon that event occurred the Partition of the Lennox; one-half of the territory went to the daughters of Earl Duncan's second daughter, Margaret. These daughters were married respectively to Napier of Merchiston and Haldane of Gleneagles. The other half went to Elizabeth, Earl Duncan's youngest daughter, married to Sir John Stewart of Darnley, In 1473 Darnley obtained a royal precept declaring him heir, not only of half the lands, but of the title of Earl of Lennox.

Meantime the heir-male of the old Earls of Lennox was the Chief of MacFarlan, and some writers on the Clan suppose that the latter took the field in order to assert his claim, and suffered the loss of his territory in consequence. But there appears to have been no break in the line of the Chiefs. The idea that a cadet assumed the chieftaincy appears to have arisen from a later Latin charter in which Sir John MacFarlan was styled "Capitaneus de Clan Pharlane". This, Skene in his Highlanders of Scotland took to mean Captain of Clan Farlan, but Dr. MacBain, editor of the latest edition of the work, points out that Capitaneus is really the Latin for Chief. As a matter of fact, Andrew MacFarlan of Arrochar married a daughter of John, first of the Stewart line of the Earls of Lennox, and his successor, Sir John MacFarlan already alluded to, was knighted by James IV, and fell along with the Earl of Lennox himself at Flodden Field.

The Chiefs of MacFarlan, indeed, appear to have been zealous supporters of the Lennox Earls. It was probably in this character that, shortly after Flodden, the MacFarlans attacked the castle of Boturich on the south shore of Loch Lomond, which was part of the ancient property of the earldom that had fallen to the share of Haldane of Gleneagles. The incident is narrated in Sir David Lindsay's well-known poem, "Squyer Meldrum". The Laird of Gleneagles had fallen at Flodden, and the Squyer was making love to his widow in Strathearn when news came that her castle of Boturich was being attacked by the wild MacFarlans. Forthwith the valiant Squyer got his forces together, and rode to the rescue, driving off the marauders and securing the fair lady's property.

The next Chief, Andrew the Wizard, has recently been made the hero of a romance, The Red Fox, by a member of the Clan. He married a daughter of the Earl of Glencairn, and his son Duncan, who married a daughter of Lord Ochiltree, was an active supporter of the Regent Lennox during the childhood of Queen Mary, The MacFarlans, indeed, were among the first of the Highland clans to accept the Protestant form of worship. When Lennox, afterwards father of Queen Mary's husband, Darnley, took arms in 1544 to oppose the Regent Arran and the Catholic party, the MacFarlans, under Walter MacFarlan of Tarbet, joined him with 140 men. These were Cearnich or light-armed troops, provided with coats of mail, two-handed swords, and bows and arrows, and it is recorded that they could speak both English and Erse, or Gaelic. Three years later, in 1547, the Chief himself fell, with a large number of his Clan, at the battle of Pinkie.

It was the next Chief, Andrew, who became famous by the part he played in fighting on the side of the Regent Moray at the battle of Langside in 1568. According to the historian Holinshed, "The valiance of ane Heiland gentleman named MacFarlan stoode the regent's part in great stede, for in the hottest brunte of the fighte he came up with 200 of his friendes and countrymen, and so manfully gave in upon the flankes of the Queen's people, that he was a great cause to the disordering of them. This MacFarlane had been lately before condemned to die for some outrage by him committed, and obtayning pardon through the suite of the countess of Moray he recompensed that clemencie by this piece of service now at this batayle". MacFarlan's neighbours, Colquhoun of Luss and the Laird of Buchanan, also fought on the side of the Earl of Moray at Langside. For his part, MacFarlan received from the Regent the right to wear a crest consisting of a demi-savage proper, holding in one hand a sheaf of arrows, and pointing with the other to a crown, with the motto, "This I'll defend".

This was the most turbulent period of the Clan's history, when the frequent raids made by its members upon the lowlands brought them an unenviable notoriety. From the fact that these raids usually took place on clear nights, the full moon came to be known over a considerable part of the western lowlands as "MacFarlan's lantern". Further, the Clan's "gathering" was significantly "Thogail nam Bo", "lifting the cattle". The slogan of the Clan was "Lochsloidh", "The Loch of the Host", so named from the fact that the gathering-place of the MacFarlans was upon the shores of that sheet of water. The Laird of MacFarlan appears in the rolls of chiefs made out in 1587-94 with a view to enforcing the law which made each chief accountable for the peaceful conduct of his followers. In the latter year they appear along with the MacGregors in the statute for the punishment of theft, reiff, oppression, and sorning. The MacFarlans also have been accused of a part in the assassination of Sir Humphrey Colquhoun in his castle of Bannachra in Glenfruin in 1592, though, according to the diary of Robert Birrell, burgess of Edinburgh, quoted in Irving's History of Dunbartonshire, the assassination was the work of Colquhoun's own brother John.

In July 1624, many of the Clan were tried and convicted of theft and robbery. Some were punished, some pardoned, and a number were removed to the uplands of Aberdeenshire and to Strathaven in Banffshire. Among other septs of the Clan are the Allans or Mac-Allans settled in Mar and Strathdon, and a large number of others are enumerated by the Loch Lomondside chronicler Buchanan of Auchmar. They assumed the names of Stewart, M'Caudy, Greisock, MacJames, M'Innes, and others.

The origin of one of the names of septs of the Clan, that of the Mac-an-Oighres or Macnaires of the. Lennox, is said to have been as follows. One of the chiefs left his second wife a widow with one son, while the heir by his first wife was vain and a little weak-minded. The younger brother owned a beautiful grey horse, and on one occasion, the elder, setting out for Stirling, desired to ride it in order to make a good appearance. The stepmother, a Highland Rebecca, refused the loan on the pretext that the steed might not come safely back, and at last the young Laird signed a deed agreeing to forfeit the lands of Arrochar to his half-brother if the horse were not returned. The stepmother thereupon bribed the groom to poison the horse while away. This was done, and her son entered upon possession of the estate. The Clan, however, refused to accept him as their Chief, and some years later the treacherous document was legally annulled and the lands restored to the rightful heir. From this incident certain MacFarlans were known to a recent time as Sloichd an Eich Bhain, "descendants of the white horse", while those who supported the heir took the name of Clann an Oighre.

John, the son and successor of the Chief who fought at Langside, founded an almshouse at Bruitfort on Loch Lomondside, opposite Eilean Vow, and endowed it as a hostelry for passing travellers. His son Walter was a strong supporter of Charles I in the Civil War, and in consequence had his castle destroyed by Cromwell's men, and was fined 3,000 merks, John, the grandson of Walter, again, took part against the Stewarts in the Revolution of 1688, and was Colonel of a volunteer force raised in his neighbourhood. His son and successor, Walter, was famous as an antiquary, and among other works the Lennox Chartulary survives only in his transcript. When he died in I767, his library was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates, and is still of much use to antiquarian students. His materials were used by Douglas in his Peerage of Scotland, and his portrait hangs in the museum of the Society of Antiquaries. Alexander MacFarlan, the brother of the antiquary, was a successful merchant in Jamaica, becoming one of the assistant judges of the Island, and a member of the Legislative Assembly. He was an eminent mathematician and Fellow of the Royal Society, and at his death in 1755 left an interesting collection of instruments to Glasgow University.

William, the Chief who succeeded the antiquary Walter in 1767, was a physician in Edinburgh. He had three sons and three daughters. John, the eldest, who succeeded, married Katharine, daughter of James Walkinshaw of Walkinshaw, and, among others of a family, he had Margaret Elizabeth, who died 12th May, 1846, aged 29. A monument on the west side of Grey Friars Church, Edinburgh, narrates that "at the period of her decease she was the lineal representative of the ancient and honorable house of MacFarlan of that Ilk".

It was in 1785, in the time of the last-named Chief, John, that the Arrochar estate was brought to a judicial sale. It was purchased by Ferguson of Raith for £28,000, and at a later day was acquired by Colquhoun of Luss for £78,000.

The extinction of the house of the Chiefs is associated by tradition with a curious incident. MacFarlan, it is said, had on the waters of Loch Lomond a famous flock of swans with which the luck of the family was associated. In the time of the last Chief, one Robert MacPharrie, who had the second sight, declared that the days of the Chiefs of Arrochar were numbered, and that the sign of this event would be the coming of a black swan to settle among MacFarian's swans. Strangely enough, soon afterwards, a black stranger was seen among the other birds on the loch, remaining for three months before it disappeared, and it was very shortly after this that the barony passed out of the hands of the MacFarlan Chiefs for ever.

Among the many distinguished later members of the clan was Principal Duncan M'Farlane of Glasgow University, Moderator of the Church of Scotland at the time of the Disruption, who had the honour of conducting Queen Victoria over Glasgow Cathedral and College in 1842. While he was minister of Balfron, he was among the guests invited to meet Sir Walter Scott at Ross Priory on Loch Lomondside. On that occasion he happened to narrate to the novelist a folk-rhyme connected with Buchlyvie, then part of his parish. This ran:

"Baron of Buchlyvie,
May the foul fiend drive thee
And a' to pieces rive thee
For building sic a toun,
Where there's neither horse meat nor man's meat,
Nor a chair to sit doun"

The authorship of the Waverley novels was then a secret; a few weeks later, when Rob Roy was published, and Mr. MacFarlane saw his verses at the head of the twenty-third chapter, he must have had a shrewd guess as to the authorship.

The main stronghold of the Chiefs of MacFarlan was of course the castle of Arrochar, nothing of which now remains but a fragment of wall. The later Arrochar House, by which it was replaced, is still to be seen embedded in the modern mansion of the name on the shore of Loch Long. Besides this stronghold the Chiefs owned castles on the island of Inveruglas and on Eilean Vow in Loch Lomond, fragments of both of which still remain.

The most recent chapter in the history of the Clan has, been the formation of a Clan MacFarlan Society in Glasgow and London. The Society has Mr. Walter MacFarlan, D.L., Glasgow, as its Honorary Vice President, while its acting President is Mr. James MacFarlan, representative of the Gartartan branch of the ancient family of the Chiefs, descended from Sir John MacFarlan, who fell at Flodden. One of the tasks which the Society has set itself is the investigation of claims to the chiefship, which has been obscure for more than a century.


Allan Allanson Bartholomew Caw Galbraith Griesck Gruamach Kinnieson
Lennox MacAindra MacAllan MacCaa MacCause MacCaw MacCondy MacEoin
MacGaw MacGeoch Macgreusich Macinstalker MacJames MacNair MacNeur MacNider
MacNiter MacRobb MacWalter MacWilliam Madock Miller Monach Parlane
Robb Stalker Thomason Weaver Weir

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