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www.maclean.org - Home to the Worldwide Family of Clan Maclean  

One Clan, Two Families

A note on the origin of the clan by Alasdair White, President of MacleanNet.
 
This story goes back to the romantic period of Scottish history when Robert The Bruce was King of Scots and was twisting the tail of the English King, Edward I. At the time (the late 1200s and early 1300s) the Maclean clan did not exist as a separate kindred nor was the name being used. However, in 1296 a certain Gilli Colium mac maoiliosa whose lineage is given as "son of Moal iose, son of Gille eoin (Gillean)" is identified as a vassal of Robert Bruce, Lord of Carrick, and the father of Robert The Bruce who became Robert I, King of Scots, in 1306.
Gilli Colium mac maoiliosa - or Malcolm son of Maoiliose - married Rignach, a relation of Robert Bruce, Lord of Carrick. This set up a dynastic link to the powerful Bruce family and from this marriage there appears to have been three sons Donald, Neil and John (Iain Dubh in Gaelic), all of whom were active in 1326 when they appear in the Exchequer Rolls of that year. The family link to the Bruce family must have benefited the emergent kindred or clan now calling itself MacGille eoin (Maclean) as Neil was appointed Constable of the royal castle of Scraburgh (possibly Tarbet) in 1329, while his elder brother, Donald, appears to have been a commander of the Kings galleys and John (Iain Dubh) can be found at Sael (Seil) Castle in Lorn - another royal stronghold.
According to early genealogical manuscripts dating from the 1400s, Donald appears to have had four sons and Neil three but no record of succeeding generations is mentioned in the Maclean genealogies and Gilli Colium was succeeded as chief of the kindred (clan) by his youngest son Iain Dubh. Now, if Donald and Neil and their sons were still alive, this succession of John as head of the kindred is an example of an important Celtic principle - that the head of the kindred (clan) fell to the one considered most capable of ensuring its success and survival. The law of primogenitor did not apply in the gaeldom until much later.