Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

CLAN MACLEAN

BADGE: Cuilfhionn (ilex aquifolium) Holly

SLOGAN: Bas no Beatha, and Fear eil ' air son Eachainn Ruaidh

PIBROCH: Caismeachd Eachuin mhic Aluin an sop

There are various legends of the origin of the Clan Maclean - that its ancestor was a hero of the days of Fergus II, that he was a brother of Fitzgerald, the traditional progenitor of Clan Mackenzie, and that the race was one of the tribes driven out of Moray by Malcolm IV in the year 1161. As a matter of fact, however, from its earliest days the Clan Maclean has been associated with the island of Mull. Its progenitor is said to have been a noted warrior who flourished early in the thirteenth century. The story runs that one day, hunting on Ben Talla, he lost his way in a fog. Some days later his companions found him in the last stage of exhaustion lying beside his battle-axe, which he had stuck into the ground near a cranberry bush to attract attention. From this he became known as Gilleain na Tuaighe, the Lad of the Battle-Axe. With his redoubtable weapon this chief played a distinguished part at the battle of Largs.

Among the notables set down in the Ragman's Roll, who did homage to Edward I of England in 1296, appears "Gilliemoire Mackilyn", otherwise Gilliemoire MacGilleain or Gilmory Maclean. The son of this Gilmory, Eoin Dubh, appears in charters of the time of David II about 1330, as possessor of lands in Mull. This Eoin Dubh, or John the Black, had two sons, Lachlan Lubanach and Hector Reaganach. The former of these was ancestor of the Macleans of Duart, and the latter of the Maclaines of Lochbuie, and it has been a matter of dispute which of the two was the elder son. The brothers lived in the time of Robert II, and at first appear to have been followers of MacDougall of Lorn. Some trouble having arisen, however, they cast in their lot with Macdonald of the Isles. Lachlan Lubanach became steward to the Lord of the Isles, married his daughter Mary in 1366, and in 1390 received from him charters of Duart, Brolas, and other lands in Mull. These charters brought the Mac1eans into collision with the Mackinnons previously settled in the island, but, backed by the powerful alliance with the great house of the Isles, the fortunes of the Macleans never went back.

When Donald of the Isles marched across Scotland in 1411 to enforce his wife's claim to the great northern earldom of Ross, the second-in-command of his army was his nephew, Lachlan Lubanach's son, Eachuin ruadh nan cath, Red Hector of the Battles. In the great conflict at Harlaw in which the campaign ended, the Maclean Chief engaged in a hand to hand encounter with Irvine of Drum, a powerful Deeside baron. After a terrific combat the two fell dead together, and in token of that circumstance, for centuries the chiefs of the two families when they met were accustomed to exchange swords.

Meanwhile Red Hector's cousin Charles, son of Hector Reganach, settled in Glen Urquhart on Loch Ness, where he founded Clann Tchearlaich of Glen Urquhart and Dochgarroch, otherwise known as the "Macleans of the North" a sept which joined the Clan Chattan confederacy about the year 1460. Besides these Macleans of the North there were, before the end of that century, four powerful families of the clan. Descended from Lachlan Lubanach were the Macleans of Duart, the Macleans of Ardgour, and the Macleans of Call, while descended from Hector Reganach were the Maclaines of Lochbuie.

The forfeiture of the last Lord of the Isles, who died in 1493, seems to have affected the fortunes of the Macleans very little. The event made them independent of the Macdonalds, and at the battle of the Bloody Bay near Tobermory in 1484 the royal fleet was led by the galley of Maclean of Ardgour, The battle went against him and Ardgour was made prisoner, his life being spared only on the good-humoured plea of Macdonald of Moidart that if he were slain there would be no one left for the Moidart men to fight with.

Meanwhile the son of Hector of the Battles, Lachlan Bromach of Duart, married Janet, daughter of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, leader of the royal army which opposed Donald of the Isles at Harlaw, and which suffered defeat at the hands of Donald Balloch and the Islesmen at Inverlochy. The earl was the natural son of the Earl of Buchan, otherwise known as the Wolf of Badenoch, son of King Robert II, so that, although under the baton sinister, the Macleans inherited the blood of the Royal House of Stewart.

It was the grandson of this pair, Hector Odhar Maclean of Duart, who led the clan at the battle of Flodden in 1513. It is said he fell in an attempt to save the life of James IV by throwing his body between the king and the English bowmen.

The son of this hero remains notorious in Island history for a very different act. For a second wife Lachlan Cattenach Maclean had married Elizabeth, daughter of the second Earl of Argyll. The marriage was not a success, and by way of getting rid of her he exposed the lady on a tidal rock in the Sound of Mull, expecting that nothing more would be heard of her. But, attracted by her shrieks, some fishermen rescued her, and on Maclean making his way to Inveraray to intimate his sad loss, he was to his horror confronted with his wife. The incident has been made the subject of poems by Joanna Bailie, Thomas Campbell, and Sir Walter Scott. Maclean fled to Edinburgh, but was followed there and stabbed in bed by the brother of the injured lady, Sir John Campbell of Cawdor. The event took place in the year 1523.

This chief's younger son was that Alan nan Sop, or Alan of the Wisp, whose story will be found in the account of Clan MacQuarrie, who as a freebooter became notorious for his use of the wisp in setting fire to the places he plundered, and who finally made conquest of Torloisk in the west of Mull, and founded the family of the Macleans of Torloisk.

Alan nan Sop's elder brother, Hector Mor, carried on the line of Duart. He married a daughter of Alexander Macdonald of Islay, but this connection did not prevent differences arising between the Macdonalds and Macleans, regarding which a bloody feud was carried on between the years 1585 and 1598, "to the destruction of well near all their country".

Hector Og, the son of Hector Mar, married in 1557, the Lady Janet, daughter of Archibald, fourth Earl of Argyll, and as the Campbells had for nearly three centuries been striving to supplant the Macdonalds as the most powerful family in the West, it may be understood that this alliance was not likely to discourage differences between these Macdonalds and the Macleans.

Hector Og's son, Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean of Duart, was a gallant and distinguished chief. He married a daughter of the sixth Earl of Glencairn, and in 1594 fought under his kinsman, the young seventh Earl of Argyll, in the disastrous battle against Huntly and Errol at Glenlivet. It was the policy of that Earl to sow strife among neighbouring clans, and then avail himself of their differences and weakened state for his own aggrandisement. In this way he incited the MacNabs and Macgregors to attack their neighbours, then with letters of fire and sword proceeded to seize their lands. Whether or not Argyll was at the bottom of the strife, the feud between the Macleans and MacDonalds came to a head in 1598. The immediate issue was the possession of certain lands on Loch Gruinart in Islay. Before setting sail with a strong force to seize these lands, it is said that Sir Lachlan consulted a famous witch as to his prospects of success. The witch told him that he must not land in Islay on a Thursday, and must not drink out of the Tobar Neill Neonaich, Strange Neil's Well. Unfortunately, being caught in a storm, he was forced to land on just that day of the week, and being thirsty he drank from a spring near the spot, which turned out to be just that well. The tragic issue was helped by another act of Sir Lachlan Mor himself. Just before the battle a dwarf from Jura offered his services to the Maclean Chief and was scornfully rejected. Burning with indignation the dwarf, Dubh-sith, offered his services to the opposite side, and received a hearty welcome. In the battle which ensued, being unable to fight on equal terms, the Dubh-sith climbed into a tree. Presently he saw, as Sir Lachlan climbed a knoll, the joints of his armour open, and instantly letting fly an arrow, he slew the chief. This battle of the Rhinns of Islay ended the feud, as along with their chief the Macleans lost eighty gentlemen and two hundred other clansmen.

Sir Lachlan's elder son, still another Hector Og, married a daughter of the eleventh chief of Kintail, and their son Lachlan was the first baronet of Duart. By a second marriage, with a daughter of Sir Archibald Acheson of Gosford, he had another son, Donald of Brolas, whose son Lauchlan became Member of Parliament for Argyllshire, and whose descendants were to inherit the chiefship as sixth and successive baronets.

Sir Lachlan Maclean was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, with the designation "of Morvern " by Charles I in 1632, and from that time onward, through the Civil War and all the troubles of the Stewarts, the Macleans remained,strong and faithful supporters of the Jacobite cause. Sir Lachlan himself joined the Marquess of Montrose, led his clan at Inverlochy, where he helped to win that signal victory over the Marquess of Argyll, and took part in the arduous campaign and battles which followed.

Two years after his death, his son, Sir Hector Maclean, fell fighting in the cause of Charles II at Inverkeithing. It was after the defeat of the army of the Covenant by Cromwell at Dunbar. The Scottish forces fell back on Stirling, and to prevent them drawing supplies from Fife, Cromwell sent a force of four thousand men under General Lambert across the Forth at Queensferry. To encounter this force the Scots sent Holborn of Menstrie with twelve hundred horse and fifteen hundred infantry, and an encounter took place at Inverkeithing on Sunday, 20th July. At the beginning of the battle Holborn, who was both a coward and a traitor, fled with his cavalry, and the little force of infantry under Sir Hector Roy Maclean of Duart and Sir George Buchanan, chief of his clan, were shortly hemmed round and cut to pieces. The English made a continuous series of attacks on the spot where Sir Hector stood, severely wounded but still encouraging his men. The clansmen who survived, flocked round their chief, and again and again, as an attack was aimed at him, another and another gentleman of the clan sprang in front of him with the cry "Fear eil' air son Eachuinn" "Another for Hector" to be cut down in turn. When no fewer than eight gentlemen of the name of Maclean had given their lives in this way Sir Hector himself fell, covered with wounds. As the ballad has it:

Sir Hector Roy, the stout Maclean,
Fought one to ten, but all in vain,
His broad claymore unsheathing.
Himself lay dead 'mid heaps of slain,
For Charles at Inverkeithing.

It is from this incident that the clan derives one of its slogans, "Another for Hector !" The proceeding was used with telling effect by Sir Walter Scott as a feature of the combat on the North Inch, in his romance, "The Fair Maid of Perth".

Sir John Maclean, the fourth baronet, led his clan under Viscount Dundee in the cause of the Stewarts at the battle of Killiecrankie, and also, twenty-six years later, under the futile Earl of Mar at the battle of Sheriffmuir.

His son, Sir Hector, the fifth baronet was arrested in Edinburgh in 1745, on suspicion of being in the French service, and of enlisting men in the Jacobite cause. He was confined in the Tower of London for two years, till liberated by the Act of Grace in 1747. Meanwhile the clan was led throughout the campaign by Maclean of Druimnin, and fought, five hundred strong, at Culloden, where at least one of the" mounded trenches among the heather may be seen at the present day marked with the name "Maclean".

Sir Hector died unmarried at Rome in 1750, and the chiefship, baronetcy, and estates then went to the great-grandson of Donald Maclean of Brolas, half-brother of the first baronet. Sir Allan died in 1783, also without male issue, and was succeeded in turn by two grandsons of the second son of Donald of Brolas. The latter of these, Sir Fitzroy Jeffreys Grafton Maclean, was colonel of the 45th regiment, and a lieutenant-general, and was present at the capture of the West Indian islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. His grandson is the present chief, Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, Baronet, K.C.B. Born in 1835 Sir Fitzroy served, as a young man, in Bulgaria and the Crimea, and was present at the battle of the Alma and the siege of Sebastopol. Through lack of food and shelter he fell into dysentery and fever, and would have died had he not been discovered by a friend of his father, who carried him on board his ship. He lost a son in the South African War. One of the most memorable days of his life was when he returned to Mull in August 1912, and took possession of the ancient seat of his family, Duart Castle, amid the acclamations of Maclean clansmen from all parts of the world, and unfurled his banner from the ramparts. The castle dates from the thirteenth century, and was repaired and enlarged by Hector Mor Maclean, who was Lord of Duart from 1523 till 1568. In 1691 it was besieged by Argyll, and Sir John Maclean, the chief of that time, was forced to surrender it. After that date, though occasionally occupied by troops, the stronghold gradually fell to ruins, and the Duart properties passed to other hands till Sir Fitzroy repurchased Duart itself in 1912.

SEPTS OF THE MACLEANS OF DUART

Beath Beaton Black Bowie Lean MacBeath MacBeth MacBheath Macilduy MacLergain MacRankin MacVeagh MacVey Rankin

SEPTS OF THE MACLAINES OF LOCHBUY

MacCormick MacFadyen MacFadzean MacGilvra Macilvora

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com