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BADGE: Dearcag monaidh (Vaccineum uliginosum) bilberry

According to universal tradition the Macmillans are of the same blood as the Buchanans, and Skene in his Highlanders of Scotland derives both, along with the Monros, from the Sial O'Cain-the race of O'Cain, otherwise O'Cathan of Clan Chattan. According to Buchanan of Auchmar, the immediate ancestor of the Macmillans is believed to have been a certain Methlan, second son of Anselan, seventh chief of Buchanan, who flourished in the reign of Alexander II, in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Their original home, to which Skene thinks they must have been removed from North Moray by Malcolm IV, was at Lawers, on the north shore of Loch Tay, but from that possession they were driven in the reign of David II, the middle of the fourteenth century, by the Chalmerses, Chamberses, or Camerarii, who obtained a feudal charter to the lands, and who were themselves afterwards forfeited for the part they played in the assassination of James I. The Macmillan chief who was thus expelled had ten sons, certain of whom became progenitors of the Ardournag and other families in Breadalbane; but the chief migrated to Argyllshire, where he obtained a property from the Lord of the Isles in South Knapdale, and became known as Macmillan of Knap, Macmillan is said to have had his charter engraved in Gaelic on the top of a rock at the boundary of his land.

The Macmillans are believed to have increased their possessions in Knapdale by marriage with an heiress of the MacNeil chiefs, and there is evidence that they became of considerable importance in the district. One of the towers of Sweyn Castle on the loch of that name is known as Macmillan's Tower, and in the old kirkyard of Kilmorie Knap, where the chapel was built by the Macmillan chief, stands a cross more than twelve feet high richly sculptured with foliage, and showing a Highland chief engaged in a deer hunt, with the inscription, "Haec est crux Alexandri Macmillan".

Among traditions extant regarding these Macmillans of Knapdale is one of a certain Gillespie Ban. This individual was unfortunate enough while attending a fair to quarrel with a personage of some importance and to slay his man in hot blood. He fled and was instantly pursued. Managing to reach Inveraray Castle he rushed in, and making his way to the kitchen found the cook engaged in baking. Instantly procuring a change of clothes and an apron, he proceeded busily to kead barley bannocks, and when his infuriated pursuers came to the castle they took him for a regular domestic of the earl. The necessary respite being thus allowed him, a composition was made with the family of the man he had slain, and he was allowed to live thereafter in peace. He settled in Glendaruel, where his descendants were known, from the circumstances of his escape, by the patronymic of MacBacster, or "sons of the baker".

Another tradition runs that the line of the Macmillans of Knap ended with a chief who had a tragic experience. In order to defend the honour of his wife from the advances of a too powerful admirer he attacked and slew the man, and in consequence was forced to abscond.

The main line then becoming extinct, the chiefship was assumed, rightly, it is believed, by Macmillan of Dunmore, on the south side of Loch Tarbert. This family also, however, died out, upon which a contention arose between the Campbells and MacNeils as to possession of the Macmillan lands. The matter was finally arranged by means of mutual concessions, in favour of the Campbells, and in 1775 the estates were purchased by Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil.

Meanwhile, at an earlier day, a branch of the chief's house had settled elsewhere. The reason for this occurrence is the subject of a well-known tradition. A stranger, it appears, known as Marallach More, established himself in Knapdale and proceeded by his overbearing disposition to make himself objectionable to the Macmillans, He made himself especially obnoxious, it would appear, to one of the chief's sons, who lived at Kilcharnag. The affair came to an open rupture, and at last, either in a duel or in a general fight, Macmillan killed the aggressor, but in consequence had to leave the district. With six followers he migrated to Lochaber, when he placed himself under the protection of Cameron of Lochiel and was settled on certain lands beside Loch Arkaig.

Another tradition runs that die earliest seat of the Macmillans was on both sides of Loch Arkaig; that, on Lochaber being granted to the Lord of the Isles the clan became vassals of that powerful chief; and that, when the Cameron's obtained possession of the district, the Macmillans became in turn their dependants, in which situation ever after they remained. This tradition, however, seems to be negatived by the fact that Macmillan of Knap was recognised as Chief of the clan.

Latterly, according to Buchanan of Auchmar, the Macmillans in Lochaber, known from the district of their residence as the Clan Ghille Mhaoil Aberaich, dwelt in Muir Laggan, Glen Spean, and Caillie. Their military force was reckoned at one hundred fighting men; they were among the trustiest followers of Lochiel, and were employed by him generally in the most desperate of his enterprises. One incident is on record which shows the esteem in which they were held by the Cameron chief. Late in the seventeenth century some cause of trouble arose between them and the MacGhilleonies, a sept of the Camerons, and, in a fight with twelve of these latter, one of the Macmillan's was killed. In fear of consequences the twelve MacGhilleonies fled to the fastnesses of the hills, hoping to maintain themselves there till the Macmillans could be appeased. But the Macmillans demanded from Lochiel permission to pursue the aggressors, and threatened that if this permission were not granted, they would wreak their vengeance on the whole offending sept. Lochiel perforce gave leave, and the Macmillans set about the hunting of the fugitives with such energy, that in a short time, without the loss of life to themselves, though many of them were sorely wounded, all the twelve MacGhilleonies were either slain or captured.

In more recent times one of the Lochaber Macmillans returned to the south, and taking up residence at Badokennan, near the head of Loch Fyne, became ancestor of the Macmillans of Glen Shera, Glen Shira, and others.

Still another branch of the Macmillans have been for centuries settled in Galloway. According to tradition they are an offshoot of the Macmillans of Loch Tayside who went south when the chiefs of the clan were driven from Lawers by the Chalmerses. These Galloway Macmillans played a notable part on the side of the Covenanters in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and their doings are recorded by Wodrow, the chief historian of that page of Scottish history. The most noted of them was the Rev. John Macmillan, who published several controversial pamphlets, and was deposed for schismatic practices in 1703. He was the first pastor of the "Reformed Presbyterians", and ministered to the "remnant" from 1706 till 1743.

Even to the present time the Covenanters in Galloway are as often called Macmillanites as Cameronians.

Another noted member of the clan was Angus Macmillan, who emigrated to Australia in 1829, and discovered and explored the country south-west of Sydney, afterwards called Gippsland.

Celebrated in yet another way was Daniel Macmillan, son of a small farmer at the Cock of Arran, who with his brother Alexander founded the great publishing firm of Macmillan & Co. in the middle of the nineteenth century, publishing Kingsley's Westward Ho in 1855 and Tom Brown's School Days in 1857.


Baxter Bell Brown MacBaxter

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