Gilchrist, the younger son of Alwyn, the Celtic Earl of Lennox, settled on the shores of Loch Long at Arrochar at the end of the 12th century. His grandson Malduin assisted Robert the Bruce> when he was evading pursuit in that area and later fought at the Battle of Bannockburn. It was Malduin's son, Parlan (the Gaelic equivalent of Bartholomew), whose name began the Macpharlain or, later, MacFarlane clan.
King James I> executed the last Celtic Earl of Lennox but instead of granting the earldom to the MacFarlanes, it was awarded to John Stewart, Lord Darnley. Initially the clan opposed the Stewarts but later the 10th chief married a younger daughter of Lord Darnley.
The 11th clan chief fell at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. His son Andrew earned the nickname of "The Wizard" because of the sleight of hand tricks which he learned on the Continent. It is Andrew who is credited with composing the clan pibroch "Thogail nam bo theid sinn" (Lifting the cattle). The clan's abilities as cattle rustlers led to the moon being called "MacFarlane's Lantern" in the area.
The Earl of Lennox at one stage supported King Henry VII of England and the MacFarlane's loyally did the same but later opposed the English at the Battle of Pinkie where the 13th chief and his brother were killed.
The MacFarlanes opposed Mary Queen of Scots> and fought gallantly at the Battle of Langside in 1568, capturing three of the Queen's standards. The role played by the clan defending the crown of the infant King James VI>, Mary's son, is shown in the clan crest which illustrates a crown being defended by a swordsman (see above). Continued loyalty to the Stuart descendants resulted in them joining the Marquess of Montrose in support of King Charles I>. They participated in the victory at Inverlochy in 1645. But Cromwell later destroyed the clan castle of Inveruglas, on an island in Loch Lomond.
The 20th chief, Walter MacFarlane, was a scholar and historian and spent much of his life in Edinburgh, which may explain why the Macfarlanes did not participate to any great extent in the Jacobite Uprisings of 1715 and 1745. Even so, Walter was very much a Highland chief and objected to being called Mr MacFarlane by General Wade - "Mr MacFarlane may be said with equal propriety to many; but I and only I, am MacFarlane". When he died in 1767, the clan lands at Arrochar were sold. The direct male line of chiefs died out in 1886.
There was a branch of the clan in Aberdeenshire, in Braemar and into Strathspey.
The MacFarlane clan motto is "This I'll Defend".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the MacFarlane clan include Allan, Allanson, Bartholomew, Bryce, Caw, Kinnieson, Knox, MacAindra, MacAllan, MacCause, MacCaw, MacCondy, MacEoin, MacErachar, MacGaw, MacGeoch, MacInstalker, MacJames, MacNair, MacNider, MacNiter, MacRob, MacRobb, MacWalter, MacWilliam, Miller, Monach, Parlane, Robb, Stalker, Weaver, Webster, Wylie.
There is a MacFarlane clan Web site here> and here.
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