Clan MacLean history - Scotland Magazine

Clan MacLean history

One of the oldest clans in Scotland, this family can trace its roots right back to the 11th century

The chief of Clan MacLean is Sir Lachlan Maclean, and his seat is Duart Castle on Mull. The clan takes it name from its first recognised chief, Gilleain na Tuaighe, meaning ‘Gilleain of the Battle Axe’, who was born in the early 13th century, though its roots can be traced back even further.

The MacLeans fought on the side of Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, though not all its battles were against the English. The MacLeans also fought the Mackinnons, the Camerons, the MacDonalds and the Campbells. 

To avoid conflict, inter-clan marriages were often arranged, such as the one between clan chief Lachlan MacLean and Catherine Campbell, daughter of the Earl of Argyll, in the 16th century. The marriage was an unhappy one, so much so that Lachlan marooned Catherine on a rock in the sea, hoping she would drown. However, she was rescued and returned to the Campbells. He was later murdered  by Catherine’s brother. 

Duart Castle, with its huge curtain walls, is a great place to learn more about the clan’s history. It is open to the public from April to October and a visit to Mull is always worth the short journey from Oban or Ardnamurchan.

The clan has two recognised tartans. The dress tartan bears a resemblance to the Royal Stewart tartan, but the MacLean version is older. The hunting tartan is Scotland’s oldest recorded tartan, and is predominantly green, with navy and white stripes.
The clan crest is a “tower embattled argent”, with the motto “Virtue Mine Honour”.

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