The name MacLean is derived from the Gaelic "mac gille Eoin" - son of the servant of John. The spelling "MacLaine" is perhaps a better guide to how it should be pronounced. In its early days, the clan was known as Clan Gillean (which gave rise to the surname Gilzean, more often found in the Lowlands). "Gillean of the Battleaxe" is said to be the founder of the clan and he fought at the Battle of Largs against the Vikings in 1263. His great-great-grandson settled in Mull and in 1390, Donald, Lord of the Isles gave land to his two brothers-in-law, thus starting the two main branches of the clan - MacLean of Duart and MacLaine of Lochbuie (both on the island of Mull where the name is still frequently found). The clan extended its influence to other Hebridean islands such as Tiree and Islay and onto the mainland. "Red Hector of the Battles" from Duart fought for the MacDonald Lord of the Isles at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 and Lachlan of Duart was killed at the Battle of Flodden.
Sir Lachlan Maclean was made a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1631 and he brought his clan to support the Marquis of Montrose> campaign on behalf of King Charles I>. The clan was often in conflict with the Campbells> and in 1679 the Campbells gained possession of Duart when the MacLeans fell into debt.
The MacLeans rose in support of the Jacobite Uprising> in both 1715 and 1745 - the clan chief was killed at the Battle of Culloden.
Castle Duart>, the traditional home of the MacLeans, fell into ruins but was restored early in the 20th century by Sir Fitzroy Donald MacLean and is once again the seat of the clan chief.
The exploits of soldier and diplomat Fitzroy Hew MacLean, who parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist the resistance in WW2, are said to have been the origins of Ian Fleming's James Bond and 007. Sorley Maclean, born in 1911, is a distinguished poet. Novelist Alistair MacLean> is known for books such as "HMS Ulysses" and "The Guns of Navaronne"
The clan motto is "Virtue mine honour".
The Beath, Black, Clanachan, Garvie, Gillon, Lean, MacBeath, MacBeth, MacCormick, MacCracken, MacVeagh, MacVey, Paton, names are regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the Mackenzie clan.
MacLean was the 46th most frequent surname at the General Register Office> in 1995.
There are MacLean clan Web sites here> and here.
Return to Index of Clans/Family Histories.
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar 2014>
Places to Visit>