Clan MacLellan

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Clan MacLellan
MacGille Fhaolain – (son of a servant of Saint Fillan)
Motto Think On
Region Lowlands
Arms of Lord Kirkcudbright.svg
Clan MacLellan has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
The 10th Lord Kirkcudbright
Historic seat MacLellan's Castle
Last Chief The Rt. Hon. Camden Gray Maclellan
Died 1832

The Clan MacLellan is a Lowland Scottish clan.[1] The clan does not currently have a chief therefore it is considered an Armigerous clan.[1]



The name MacLellan is Scottish Gaelic in origin.[1] It is derived from MacGille Fholain which means son of the servant of St Fillan.[1] St Fillan was a missionary of the old church of Celtic Christianity.[1] There is also a village in Perthshire named after him and the name Fillan is derived from faelchu which means wolf in the Celtic language.[1] The MacLellans were numerous in Galloway.[1] The first MacLellan on record was Duncan MacLellan who appears on a charter of Alexander II of Scotland in 1217.[1]

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Maclellan of Bombie was among the close followers of Sir William Wallace when he left Kirkcudbright for France after the defeat at the Battle of Falkirk (1298).[1]

15th century and clan conflicts

It is said that during the early 15th century there were no fewer than fourteen knights in Galloway of the name MacLellan.[1] Sir Patrick MacLellan of Bombie's estates were forfeited as a result of marauding through the lands of the Clan Douglas.[1] However James II of Scotland restored the estates when Sir William MacLellan, son of Sir Patrick captured the leader of a band of gypsies who had been terrorizing the district.[1] William carried the head of the brigand to the king on the point of his sword.[1] This story is one explanation for the MacLellan clan crest, however a Moors' head has also been considered as an allusion to the Crusades.[1]

In 1452 Sir Patrick Maclellan of Bombie who was the Sheriff of Galloway was captured by William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas.[1] Douglas held MacLellan in Threave Castle for not joining a conspiracy against the king.[1] Sir Patrick's uncle held high royal office and obtained letters ordering Douglas to release his prisoner.[1] However Douglas had Patrick murdered when presented with the royal warrant, whilst he entertained his uncle at dinner.[1] There is a tradition that in revenge, the MacLellans used the celebrated Scottish cannon Mons Meg to batter down Threave Castle, of which there is little doubt.[1]

16th century and Anglo-Scottish Wars

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars Sir William Maclellan of Bombie was knighted by King James IV of Scotland but was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 fighting for the king.[1] William's son, Thomas, was killed in Edinburgh at the door of St Giles' Cathedral by Gordon of Lochinvar in 1526.[1]

17th century and Civil War

The private coat of arms of Lord Kirkcudbright,[2] the last Chief of the Name and Arms of MacLellan.
armsargent two chevrons Sable;
crest— a naked cubit arm, supporting upon the point of a sword, erect, a moor's head, all ppr.;
supportersDexter: a chevalier in complete armour, holding in his right hand a baton, all ppr.; Sinister: a horse argent furnished gules;
MottoesThink on; and Superba frango

Sir Robert MacLellan, was a courtier both to James VI and Charles I.[1] In 1633 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Kirkcudbright.[1] During the Scottish Civil War the third Lord was such a zealous royalist that he incurred enormous debts in the king’s cause.[1] As a result, the estates were completely ruined.[1]

18th to 19th centuries

There were two claimants to the chief's title at the beginning of the 18th century and the dispute was finally settled by the House of Lords in 1761.[1] However the title became dormant again when the ninth Lord died in Bruges in 1832.[1]


MacLellan's Castle, found in Kirkcudbright in south-west Scotland was the seat of the chief of Clan MacLellan. The castle's beginnings lie in the Reformation of 1560 which led to the abandonment of the Convent of Greyfriars which had stood on the site now occupied by the castle since 1449.

Other MacLellans

There are concentrations of MacLellans found in the Western Isles (especially in Eriskay and South Uist) and around Mallaig and Arisaig. The surname of the MacLellans of North Uist is represented in Scottish Gaelic as MacGilleFhialain; these MacLellans were also known in Gaelic as Clann Iain Mhoir.

See also

  • Black Morrow, traditional story of the crest used in MacLellan heraldry.
  • Variants of MacLellan include names such as McLellan, McClellan and McClelland.

External links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 424 - 425.
  2. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire; p.44; By John Burke; Published by H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1832; link