Clan MacLeod history - Scotland Magazine

Clan MacLeod history

The MacLeods or Lewis and the MacLeods of Harris

Clan MacLeod is descended from a man named Leòd, who was said to belong to the Norse family that ruled the Isle of Man in the 13th century. He owned lands on Harris and Skye, and married a daughter of the Norse ‘seneschal’, or governor, of Skye, who owned the lands round Dunvegan. 

There are two main branches, the MacLeods of Lewis, which acquired land on the mainland as well as the island of Raasay, and the MacLeods of Harris, who acquired Glenelg on the mainland, and built Dunvegan Castle on Skye. 

The best known artefact in Dunvegan is the Fairy Flag, said to have been given to a clan chief by his fairy lover, and which legend says can be used to summon up magical powers when needed. Tradition states that it was used to defeat the MacDonalds in battle. 

The MacCrimmons were the hereditary pipers to the chiefs of the clan at Dunvegan. They were so famous that they founded a piping school at Boreraig on Skye, now a deserted township.

Famous MacLeods have included Scottish biochemist John James Rickard Macleod, co-discoverer of insulin. The present clan chief is Hugh Magnus MacLeod of MacLeod. 

The clan has two main tartans. The MacLeod of Lewis (pictured), also known as the MacLeod Dress, and the MacLeod of Harris, also known as the MacLeod Hunting. The latter is derived from the Mackenzie tartan.
The clan crest is a “bull’s head cabossed sable, horned Or, between two flags gules, staved at the first”. The clan motto is “hold fast”.

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