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CLAN MACLACHLAN

BADGE: Faochag, no Gillefuinhrinn (Pervinca minor) lesser periwinkle

PIBROCH: Moladh Mhairi

From its location on the western coast of Scotland, Clan Lachlan might straightway be assumed to be either of early Scottish or of Norse origin. Its name might point to the latter source. Lochlin or Lochlan was the name under which the Norwegian invaders of the early centuries were known to the people of western Scotland. They appear constantly under this name in the poems of Ossian. Further, in the traditions of the clan, and in a manuscript of 1450, published by the Iona Club, the MacLachlans are closely associated with the Lords of the Isles. The usual traditional account of the origin of the Clan, however, is that they are descended from the early Scottish race in the north-east of Ireland. There are many references to them in the Annals of the Four Masters, and from this it is believed they were the elder branch of the Irish Hy Niall, who were kings in Ireland for a thousand years. The Iona Club manuscript already referred to, which was preserved in the family of the MacLachlans of Kilbride, gives the early genealogy of the race as follows:

"Kenneth, son of John, son of Lachlan, son of Gille Patrick, son of Lachlan Mor, son of Patrick, son of Gille Christ, son of Dedalan, son of Andadan, from whom are descended also the children of Niall". The probability is that they were among the early Scottish settlers who came over from Ireland with the renowned Fergus and his two brothers, in the early years of the sixth century, to make the first beginnings of the little Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, and give the part of the country in which they settled its new name of Earrha Gael, Argyll, the Land of the Gael. According to one tradition, dealt with at length by Buchanan of Auchmar in his famous work, the earliest settlement of the MacLachlans was in Lochaber, where for several centuries the senior cadets of the clan, the MacLachlans of Coire-Uanan, held the hereditary office of standard-bearers to the Lairds of Locheil, tradition of the MacLachans of this region is recounted in MacIan's Clans of the Scottish Highlands as follows:

"A story is told of one of this branch which we do not recollect having met with in any publication. A quarrel having arisen between a young man and one of the Camerons of Glen Nevis, he took his revenge by the slaughter of his enemy, which was accomplished in a somewhat singular manner. Glen Nevis passing the fold where the young women were milking the cattle, he was presented, according to custom, with a draught. MacLachlan, who had been lying in wait for him, and was celebrated for his skilful archery, let fly an arrow which simultaneously split Cameron's head and the vessel which contained the milk. MacLachlan instantly fled, and was obliged to wander through the Highlands and isles for many years, in constant dread of being captured or slain by his enemies. During this time it was his practice to sleep in caves, or the least accessible mountains, and even when in the shelter of a house, he always rested his head on his naked dirk, a weapon peculiarly convenient in case of sudden or close attack. He is represented as having been the last of his family, and perhaps was therefore more reckless of his life; however, in process of time, he ventured to revisit his native hills, and as he passed by the house of Glen Nevis, he observed by looking through an open window, a very fine gun, which he resolved to appropriate to himself. A broad ditch intervened between him and the building, but, being remarkably athletic, he cleared it at a bound, and silently entering, seized the gun. At the moment when he was retreating by the window, Glen Nevis entered the room, and, pouncing on the depredator, seized him by the arm with an iron grasp, exclaiming, "You are now in the talons of the mountain eagle, and a death struggle alone shall disengage them". A minute's portentous pause ensued, when MacLachlan, with unsuspected dexterity, stabbed Cameron with his dirk, and then, relieved from his hold, leaped across the ditch and escaped. The gun, a very curious piece, is still preserved by Glen Nevis".

There is a tradition that when King Alexander II, in the thirteenth century, was making his way into the West Highlands in prosecution of his campaign against the Norsemen, in which he declared his intention to plant his standard on the walls of Thurso, he ordered the MacLachlan chief to send him his tribute by the swiftest messenger. MacLachlan, it is said, complied by tying the bags of tribute to a roebuck, which he despatched by a trusty and swift-footed messenger to the king, at which Alexander was so impressed that he conferred upon the chief a pair of roebucks as supporters to his coat of arms.

There was long treasured in the family of the MacLachlan chiefs a custom which was said to have taken its origin during one of the crusades. Upon that crusade, it is said, the chiefs of Strath Lachlan and of Strachur, who were close friends as wen as neighbours, made a promise to each other that, if one of them were slain in battle, the other would see to it that his body was carried home and duly laid in the family burying-place. For centuries afterwards the custom remained that when a Laird of Strath Lachlan or a Laird of Strachur died his neighbour laid his head in the grave.

According to tradition the chiefs of Clan Lachlan at one time owned very extensive lands in Argyllshire, and even yet their possessions run eleven miles along the shore of one of the most beautiful parts of Loch Fyne, Their present estate is said to have been acquired by marriage with the daughter and heiress of one of the chiefs of Clan Lamont. The manuscript above mentioned puts it that "Caitrina, the daughter of Duncan MacLamain, was the mother of Kenneth, Patrick, and Gille Easpuig, and Agais, daughter of MacDonald, was mother of John, and Culusaid, daughter of the Maormar of Cowal, was the mother of Lachlan Oig". In whatever way their present possessions on the western coast of Cowal were acquired, the MacLachlan chiefs are believed to have possessed Strathlachlan since the eleventh century. The first documentary evidence of their ownership appears in 1292, when the lands belonging to Gilleskel MacLachlan were recorded as included in the Sheriffdom of Argyll or Lorne, and King John Baliol granted Gilleskel a charter of them. The same chief also received a charter later from King Robert the Bruce, and appears on the roll of the Scottish magnates who sat in the first Parliament of Bruce at St.Andrews. The chief's name also appears on one of the seal tags of the letter sent by the Scottish barons to King Philip of France. From Gilleskel the direct line of the chiefs is declared to be clearly traced to the present day, and, though they never played a leading part in the great affairs of the realm, their history has not been without its tincturing of adventure, heroism, and romance.

During the disorders of the Douglas Wars in the reign of James II, when Lauder, the Fifeshire Bishop of Lismore, was endeavouring to dominate the clansmen with the law of the Church, Sir Gilbert MacLachlan and Sir Morier MacFadyan, respectively chancellor and treasurer of the diocese, raised the whole strength of Clan Lachlan, attacked the bishop and his train on the way to his cathedral, stripped them of their robes, plundered the church of its treasures and charters, and forced the bishop himself to promise to make no reprisals.

Archibald MacLachlan of Strath Lachlan appears in the Rolls of 1587 and 1594. The chiefs were Jacobites, and as their possessions were situated in the midst of the territory of the powerful Campbell race, who were upon the other side, their position must at all times have been precarious, and their opinion must have required more than the usual courage and loyalty to express.

During the civil wars, when the Marquess of Montrose raised an army for King Charles I in the Highlands, Colonel MacLachlan was one of his most active officers. At the battle of Alford he led a regiment of foot, and routed the enemy's cavalry. His fate was as grievous as it was undeserved. After the surprise and defeat of Montrose's little royalist army at Philliphaugh, he was taken prisoner, carried to Edinburgh, and executed by the Covenanters.

After the Revolution in 1689 the Chief of MacLachlan took the field with King James's general, Viscount Dundee, and as a result he figures in the curious Latin poem of the time, "The Grameid". Fifty-six years later, when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Stewart standard in the Highlands for the last time, Lauchlan MacLachlan, the fifteenth chief, raised his clan and marched to join him. This chief had evidently all the courage of his convictions, for, notwithstanding the danger of the proceeding, with the Campbells at his door, he is said to have proclaimed his intentions at Kilmichael market, where he openly summoned his clan; and it says much for his leadership that he made his way successfully through the heart of the Argyll country, to join the Prince in the north. The military and other esteem in which he was held may be gathered from the fact that he acted as aide-de-camp to Prince Charles; and his career ended in the gallant fashion such a brave man might desire, for he was killed at Culloden.

A pretty story is told in connection with this event.

The chief, it is said, owned a favourite dun horse. When he was slain at Culloden this dun horse escaped, and made its way home to Strath Lachlan where it was the first to bring the terrible news. A few months later the castle was bombarded and destroyed by a Government frigate, but the horse took up its quarters in one of the ruined apartments, which, from that fact, is still known as The Dun Horse's Stable.

As a result of the part taken in the Rebellion by the chief, the lands of Strath Lachlan were forfeited, but the next heir succeeded in recovering them in 1749.

It says much for the finer spirit of the clan in a rude and warlike time that they were among the few who cherished the literary memorials of their race's past. When James Macpherson produced his translation of Ossian in the sixties of the eighteenth century, the erudite and unbelieving Dr. Samuel Johnson declared in scorn that there was not in the Highlands a Gaelic manuscript more than a hundred years old. Among the evidences which were forthcoming to refute this statement was a wonderful collection of ancient manuscripts which had been preserved by the MacLachlans of Kilbride. Besides the manuscript of 1450 above quoted, this collection included many details throwing light upon Highland history and the authenticity of the Ossianic poems. It attracted much attention at the time, and was eventually purchased by the Highland Society and deposited in the Advocates' Library.

A few years later Clan MacLachlan itself produced a Gaelic poet and scholar of considerable repute. Ewen MacLachlan, headmaster of Aberdeen Grammar School, was the author of at least two volumes of poetry, published in 1807 and 1816. And in more recent days Thomas Hope MacLachlan, barrister of Lincoln's Inn, abandoned law for the painter's art, in which he attained considerable reputation. His picture, "Ships that pass in the night", has a place in the National Gallery.

In recent times the MacLachlans have also won distinction in other ways. In 1810 Captain MacLachlan of the Royal Marines distinguished himself in the Basque Roads at the storming of the battery on the Point du Chee, where with conspicuous bravery he spiked the guns.

The present head of the Clan is one of the most popular of the Highland chiefs, an enthusiast for all things pertaining to the traditions and welfare of the Gaelic race, and possessor of perhaps the most characteristic designation and address of any landowner in the Highlands - MacLachlan of MacLachlan, Castle Lachlan, Strath Lachlan, Argyllshire.

SEPTS OF CLAN MACLACHLAN

Ewen Ewing Gilchrist Lachlan Lauchlan MacEwan MacGilchrist MacEwen

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