The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland
being an Account of their Annals, Separately & Collectively,
with Delineations of their Tartans,  and Family Arms
Thomas Smibert, Esq. 1850 (MDCCCL)




The family of MACLACHLAN, still represented by an undoubted head, the existing Laird of Strathlchlan, is a branch of the Coast-Gael which has never risen, through position and other circumstances, above a somewhat secondary place. yet it has taken part in many important events in the general annals of the Gaelic family; nor was it undistinguished of old by chieftains of renown and ability. An MS. of the presumed date of 1450, discovered by Mr. Skene, and rested on by him as a very important authority, traces the Maclachlans to Gilchrist, the son of Dedaalan, who was son of that Anradan from whom all the clans of this tribe are descended." This statement, however, refers to a period much too remote to be of sterling value. The simple fact seems to be, that the Maclachlans were clearly of the same prominent section of the Celts which was headed by the chiefs of the Somerled line. "Universal tradition asserts that they acquired their lands in Cowal by marriage with an heiress of the Lamonts, and the MS. apparently indicates the same fact." Such are the words of Mr. Skene; but as he ever expresses an invincible dislike to allow of all or any intermarriages with heiresses, where the bridegrooms were not Celts but strangers, we must be allowed to hold the present matter as not very fully decided. Certainly, there is far better evidence for the marriages of Norman and Saxon barons with Celtic heiresses, than there is for a union of the Maclachlans with the Lamonts. "Universal tradition" would settle three such marriages in the annals of the Campbells alone (Lorn, Glenorchy, and Cawdor). Nor could anything be more natural than that the Scottish kings, when calling in the aid of soutron lords and knights to keep down the high-spirited tribes of the west and north, should have fixed on the plan of rewarding these auxiliaries with the hands of heiresses, wherever the crown could so exercise its then important powers and privileges. No doubt, it even overstrained them often to effect the end in view. But, on the whole, the plan was the most feasible one imaginable for pleasing and satisfying all parties, and permanently insuring the peace of the country. This point will be recurred to in noticing the annals of other clans.

The history of the Maclachlans is involved and embraced in that of the Coast-Gael generally - of the race who took the Oared Galley for their special device. It is therefore so far devoid of interest individually; bu the members of the house will often be noticed in speaking of the career of other clans. The Maclachlans were always seated, seemingly, in that portion of Argyleshire called Cowal. It forms a peninsula in the south-eastern quarter of the county, and lies betwixt Loch Long and Loch Fyne, being intersected also by a lake called Loch Eck. The general name of Cowal is still borne by the entire district, but of this district the former lords possess now but a small portion. From them the name of Strathlachlan is given to the small remnant of territory in question, which lies on the upper and eastern shore of Loch Fyne.

The general descent of the Maclachlans has been adverted to, as well as the statement that they owed their landed acqusitions to a marriage with the Lamonsts. It may be generally recollected, however, that the name of Lochlin is a familiar one even in the Ossianic strains; and the Irish annalists distinctly attribute the origin of the Scottish house to the O'Loughlins of Meath. It is quite possible that the family may have come from Ireland to Scotland at an earlier date than the MacSomerleds, and indeed the assigned date is the second century of the Christian era. As to their being og the race of the Milesians, or Spanish colonists of Ireland, while the existence of such a people at all is very questionable, much more so is the Milesian connection with Scotland. It may be held as probable, nevertheless, that the Maclachlans sprung from the Gael of the Green Isle, or rather that they formed a very old branch of the stock of the Coast-Gael, largely commingled with immigrants from that country. The Lochlins of Ossian almost prove the mere antiquity of the family beyond disputing.

The venerable President of the Scottish Court of Session, Duncan Forbes, says of this family simply:- "In Gaelic called clan Lachlin. The Laird of Maclachlin is their chief. He can raise three hundred men." Though the family is neither extinct as yet in head nor in members, it is to be feared that these words, applicable shortly before 1745, are not so now. The present chief, Robert Maclachlan, Esq., of Maclachlan, inhabits Castle Lachlan, on the Loch Fyne shores, and near to the ancient but now ruinous mansion of his sires. Buchanan of Auchmar, in his account of his own and other clan families, notices the chief cadets of the Maclachlan line, and his account may be quoted, though, at this day, it may be but in part consistent with the truth. "The next to that (the chief's) family is colin Maclachlan, the present Laird of Maclachlan's uncle. There are also the Maclachlans of Craigintaiirrow, Inchconell, and divers others heritors of that surname in the said shire (of Argyle); as also Maclachlan of Anchintroig, in the shire of Stirling, in favor of Celestine Maclachlan, one of whose ancestors, Duncan, Earl of Lennox, confirms a charter, granted by Eugene Mackeesan of Garchels, to one of the said Celestine's ancestors, which confirmation is dated in the year 1394, and eighth year of the reign of King Robert III. There is another numerous sept of the Maclachlans residing in Morven and Lochaber, the principal person of these being Maclachlan of Corryuanan in Lochaber. Of this family is Maclachlan of Drumblane in Monteith, with others of that surname there. Those of this sept residing in Lochaber, depend upon the Laird of Lochiel."



ARMS. Four coats quarterly; First, Or, or as some, argent, a lion rampant, gules. Second, argent, a hand cooupee fessways, holding a cross crosslet fitchee, gules. Third, Or, a galley, her oars in saltyre, sable, placed in a sea, proper. Fourth, argent, in a base undee, vert, a salmon naiant, proper.
SUPPORTERS. Two roebucks proper.
MOTTO. Fortis et fidus (Brace and Faithful).
BADGE. Mountain Ash (by others said to be Broom).




This small Clan is one of undoubted antiquity and standing in the region yet so far possessed by its chiefs. The Lamonts have held possessions in Argyle-shire almost literally from time immemorial; or at least, they can trace their ancestry back to the era of the very earliest Celtic colonisation of the west of Scotland. How they came to be so utterly severed from the Gael in point of name, it would be difficult to say. They are traced by Mr. Skene to a certain Angus Macrory; though really, when one considers the casual origin of all Highland names, much stress cannot be laid on the testimony adduced. Still it is founded on the best documents which tradition, song and history have left to us, and must be accepted as the most rational that can be obtained. Besides, we have here the evidence of actual and solid charters to vindicate the truth of the close of the story, which is told as follows by our predecessor in this walk of literature, who seems certainly forgetful on the occasion, however, of his rule to acknowledge no marriage of a newcomer with an heiress of the Celtic race. Macrory, we need scarcely say, is but a synonym for Macdonald.

"There are few traditions more universally believed in the Highlands, or which can be traced back to an earlier period, than that the Lamonts were the most ancient proprietors of Cowall, and that the Stewarts, Maclachlans, and Campbells obtained their possessions in that district by marriage with daughters of that family. At an early period we find that a small part of Upper Cowall was included in the sheriffdom of Argyle, while the rest of the district remained in the shire of Perth; it is plain, therefore, that the Lord of Lower Cowal had, on the conquest of Argyle by Alexander II., submitted to the king, and obtained a crown charter. Towards the end of the same century, we find the High Steward in possession of Lower Cowall, and the Maclachlans in tht of Strathlchlan; and as it appears that, in 1242, Alexander the High Steward married Jean, the daughter of James, son of Angus Macrory, ssaid to be Lord of Bute, while the manuscript of 1450 informs us, that about the same period Gilchrist Maclachlan married the daughter of Lachlan Macrory, it seems probable that this Roderic or Rory was the person who obtained the crown charter of Lower Cowall, and that by these marriages the property passed to the Stewarts and Maclachlans. The identity of these facts with the tradition at the same time indicate that Angus Macrory was the ancestor of the Lamonts.

"After the marriage of the Stewart with his heiress, the next of the Lamonts whom we trace is 'Duncanus filius Ferchar,' and 'Laumanus filius Malcolmi nepos ejusdem Duncani,' who granted a charter to the monks of Paisley of the lands of Kilmor near Lochgilp, and of the lands 'quos nos et antecessores nostri opud Kilmun habuerunt.' In the same year there is a charter by Laumanus filius Malcolmi, of Kilfinan, and this last charter is confirmed in 1295 by 'Malcolmus filius et haeres domini quondam Laumani.' That this Laumanus was the ancestor of the Lamonts is proved by an instrument, in 1466, between the monastery of Paisley and John Lamont of that ilk, regarding the lands of Kilfinan, in which it is expressly said that these lands had belonged to John Lamont's ancestors. From Laumanus the Clan appear to have taken the name of Maclaman or Lamont; and previous to Laumanus they unquestionably bore the name of MACERACHAR, and Clan ic Earachar. There is one peculiarity connected with the Lamonts, that although by no means a powerful Clan, their genealogy can be proved by charters, at a time when most other Highland families are obliged to have recourse to the uncertain lights of tradition and the genealogies of their ancient sennachies; but their great antiquity could not protect the Lamonts from the encroachments of the Campbells, by whom they were soon reduced to as small a portion of their original possessions in Lower Cowall as the other Argylshire Clans had been of theirs. As a Clan, the Lamonts were of very much the same station as the Maclachlans, and, like them, they have still retained a part of their ancient possessions."

/tgus account of the Lamonts is the best which it is in our power to give, and to Mr. Skene are thanks due for this general notice. His words have been quoted almost literally. but who can fail to see that they were a Clan either crushed by the weight of the encroaching Lowlanders, or absorbed in that race and the more fortunate Gael around, like so many others in the same circumstances? They were of the pure Gaelic blood, it seems most probable; but they were located (as the Yankees say) too near to the Lowlands to have a chance of maintaining their place against the mingled inhabitants of that district. They fell with others of the Gael; and that singular race, the Campbells, who have ousted so many families from the shires of Argyle and Perth, obtained the main lands of the Lamonts as well as of their neighbours. The "Campbells are coming" is a song that might truly be sung with painful feelings by many Highland houses, though all the difference betwixt them lies in more successful adventure, we believe, on the part of Argyle, Breadalbane, and Cawdor (Calder). And yet there is something very curious in the position of this family of the Campbells. Argyle and Perth, two great shires, have been half engulphed by its fortunate encroachments. True it is that the men, and even the gentry, bearing the name - itself a mystery, as we shall see in due time - are certainly not all Campbells, but Gaelic houses of varied denominations, enlisted into its ranks through necessity, or because they could not help themselves otherwise. Bu the wonder still remains, that this name and race have been able to swallow up so many others, lands and all, leaving but to a few, like Lamont and Macdougal, a corner of the ancient patrimonies of their families. For the name of Lamont, we must either conclude that it originated in some chief of the hills (De Le-Mont), who had gained celebrity in his day and generation, or that the name of Lamont is simply a version of Lomond, near to which lake they dwelt.

Nisbet, who certainly is honest, though not always correct, says that "this family is from Ireland," and gives us the following account of their arms, which are in very bad Latin. We give the fairest sense.



AZURE, a white lion rampant.
CREST. A hand coupeed at the wrist, proper.
MOTTO. Ne pereas, nec sprenas (Neither destroy nor despise).
BADGE. Crab-apple tree.




The list of the leading clans of the western isles and coasts approaches completion. But the CLAN MACNEIL, now to be noticed, is one of the best known of all, though never one of the most powerful in point of mere numbers. The first of the Macneil chieftains, it is said, appears in the authentic records of the fifteenth century, and was then lord of a strong castle and other property in Knapdale, on the mainland of Argylshire. As this castle was named Castle Swen - plainly a Norse term - it seems to us probable that the family of the Macneils had either been installed in some of the possessions of the Norwegian colonists - since the isles and coasts of the west were at the very date ceded, and in part evacuated, by the rovers from the north of Europe - or, as it is not less possible, that the Macneils were themselves in part of Norse descent, and kept their lands permanently. The arguments used relatively to the Macleods apply so far, in short, to the Macneils. The clan, it must always be held in mind, was in any case largely Gaelic to a certainty. We speak of the fundamental line of the chiefs mainly, when we sy that the Macneils, like the Macleods, appear to have at least shared in the blood of the old Scandinavian inhabitants of the western islands. The names of those of the race first found in history are partly indicative of such a lineage. The isle of Barra, and certain lands in Uist, were chartered to a Macneil in 1427; and, in 1472, a charter of the Macdonald family is witnessed by Hector Mactorquil Macneil, keeper of Castle Swen. The appellation of "Mac-Torquil," half Gaelic, half Norse, speaks strongly in favour of the supposition that the two races were at this very time in the act of blending into one people. After all, we proceed not beyond the conclusion, that, by heirs-male or heirs-female, the founders of the house possessed a sprinkling of the blood of the ancient Norwegian occupants of the western isles and coasts, interfused with that of the native Gael of Albyn, and also of the Celtic visitants from Ireland. The proportion of Celtic blood, beyond doubt, is far the largest in the veins of the clan generally. Buchanan of Auchmar calls them wholly Irish Celts of the O'Neil tribe, but we agree no with him here, for the reasons given.

[part omitted]


Quarterly. First, azure, a lion rampant argent. Second, Or, a hand coupee, fess-ways, holding a cross crosslet fitchee, in pale azure. Third, Or, a Lymphad (Oared Galley), sable, Fourth, parted per fess, argent and vert. to represent the sea, out of which issueth a rock, gules.

CREST. A rock, gules.
SUPPORTERS. Two Fishes like Salmons.
BADGE. Sea Ware.
MOTTO. Vincere vel mori (Conquest or Death).