The Clan MacFarlane

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The MacFarlane Lands are located in the West Highlands at the heads of Loch Long and Loch Lomond. For about five centuries the MacFarlane Chiefs presided over this area. Clan MacFarlane did not originate in the Highlands as you might think however. Like a number of other clans, they integrated into the great Scottish Highlands by a long residence among the mountains and the lochs, and by intermarriage with native families of Celtic decent. Many people wronfully try to derive the Clan's origins from the Celts, however it is noted that the earliest known ancestor of the family was the Saxon Arkil, son of Egfrith. Arkil, a Northumbrian chief who fled to Scotland to escape the devastations of William the Conqueror, recieved from Malcom Canmore the custody of the Lennox district, and became the first founder of the family bearing that title. Alwyn, son of Arkil, was created Earl of Lennox by the latter King. The son, another Alwyn, of the first Earl of Lennox being a minor at the time of his father's death, was too young to takeover the earldom, so William the Lion gave it to his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, but the young Earl recovered possession around 1199 AD. When he died in 1224 AD, he left no fewer than eight sons. Of these, Malduin, the eldest, became third Earl of Lennox, and Gilchrist, the fourth son, obtained from Malduin in 1225 AD a charter for the lands of Arrochar, and became ancestor of the MacFarlanes! Along with Clan Donnachaidh, the MacFarlanes are said to have been the earliest of the clans to hold their lands by feudal charter.

In short, the Macfarlanes are descended from Alwyn, Celtic Earl of Lennox, whose younger son, Gilchrist, received lands at Arrochar on the shores of Loch Long at the end of the 12th century. Gilchrist's son, Malduin, befriended and aided Robert the Bruce during his fight for independence from the English. The Macfarlanes are reported to have fought at Bannockburn in 1314. The clan takes its name from Malduin's son Parlan.

The name, Parlan, has been linked to Partholon, " Spirit of the Sea Waves", in Irish myths and legend. More usually, it is considered the Gaelic equivalent of Bartholomew. Gaelic grammar requires changes within a word to indicate possession. A "P" is softened to a "Ph", and an "i" is added to the last syllable. In this way, " son of Parlan" becomes Mac (son) Pharlain (of Parlan).

The lands of Arrochar were first given (by charter) to Malduin MacGhilchrist in approx. 1286. Iain MacPharlain received a charter confirmation to Arrochar in 1420. Duncan, the last Celtic Earl of Lennox was executed by James I. Although the Macfarlanes had a valid claim to the earldom, the title was given by the crown to John Stewart, Lord Darnley. The Macfarlanes sought to oppose the Stewarts but they proved too powerful and Andrew Macfarlane the 10th chief, married a younger daughter of Lord Darnley, forging a new alliance. Thereafter the Macfarlanes followed the new Earls of Lennox in most of the major conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The 11th chief and many of his clansmen fell at Flodden in 1513. The Macfarlanes later opposed the English at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 where Duncan the 13th chief and his brother were both killed.

After the murder of Henry Darnley, Mary, Queen of Scot's' second husband, the Macfarlanes opposed the queen and were noted for their gallantry at the battle of Langside in 1568. Andrew the Wizard, 14th chief, is said to have captured no less than 3 of Mary's standards. The valor of Andrew and his men was rewarded by the Regent, James, Earl of Moray with the Clan's original crest and motto. The crest and motto alludes to the defense of the Crown and Kingdom. Since Mary had abdicated previously in favour of her infant son, she was in rebellion against the Crown, Moray and James VI during these times.

For much of their history, the Macfarlanes were a very turbulent lot. Their rallying cry, "Loch Sloy", signalled many a night raid to "collect" cattle from their richer neighbors to the south and east. Their march-piobaireachd "Thogail nam Bo theid sinn" (To Lift the Cows We Shall Go) gives ample notice of intent. They were so competent that the full moon was known as "Macfarlanes' Lantern".

In 1608, they slew the Colquhoun of Luss and were outlawed. Later Chiefs were quieter. They established homes on the Islands of Invergulas and Eilean a' Bhuth (now called Island I Vow). This last was burned out twice during the Cromwellian invasions in the 17th century.

Walter, the 20th Chief, (mid-18th Cent.) was a reknowned scholar and antiquarian. His home now forms the central part of the landmark Cobbler Hotel, near Arrochar.

The clan lands at Arrochar were sold off for debt after Walter's death in 1767, and the direct male line of the chiefs failed in 1886.

At present, the Clan Chieftancy is dormant.

Information and images for the Clan MacFarlane was obtained from the Clan MacFarlane Home Page


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