the surname of a clan, commonly spelled Maclaren (badge, the
laurel,) said to have been derived from the district of Lorn in
Argyleshire, the Gaelic orthography of which is Labhrin, pronounced
Laurin, hence the Maclaurins are called the clann Labhrin.
That district took its name from Lorn, one of the three sons of Erc,
who, in 503, arrived in Argyleshire from Ireland, and founded there
the Scoto-Irish kingdom of Dalriada, a word borne by the Maclaurins
as a motto above their coat of arms.
From Argyleshire the tribe of Laurin moved into Perthshire,
having, it is said, acquired from Kenneth Macalpin, after his
conquest of the Picts in the 9th century, the districts
of Balquhidder and Strathearn, and three brothers are mentioned as
having got assigned to them in that territory the lands of Bruach,
Auchleskin, and Stank. In the churchyard of Balquhidder, celebrated
as containing the grave of Rob Roy, the burial places of their
different families are marked off separately, so as to correspond
with the situation which these estates bear to each other, a
circumstance which so far favours the tradition regarding them.
Among the followers of Malise, earl of Strathearn, at the
battle of the Standard in 1138, were a tribe called “Lavernani,”
supposed by Lord Hailes to have been the clan Laurin. Of those
Scottish barons who swore fealty to Edward I. in 1296, were Maurice
of Tiree, an island in the county of Argyle which formerly belonged
to the Maclaurins, Conan of Balquhidder, and Laurin of Ardveche in
Strathearn, all of the clan Laurin. When the earldom of Strathearn
became vested in the crown in 1370, the Maclaurins were reduced from
the condition of proprietors to that of ‘kyndly” or perpetual
tenants, which they continued to be till 1508, when it was deemed
expedient that this Celtic holding should be changed, and the lands
set in deu, “for increase of policie and augmentation of the king’s
rental.” The Maclaurins were among the loyal clans that fought for
James III. at Sauchieburn in 1488. They were also at Flodden and at
Pinkie. In the well-known rolls of the clans possessing chiefs,
dated in 1587 and 1594, “the clan Lauren” are mentioned.
A sanguinary encounter once took place between the Maclaurins
of Auchleskin and the Buchanans of Leny, arising out of the
following circumstance: At the fair of St. Kessaig held at Kilmahog,
in the parish of Callander, one of the buchanans struck a Maclaurin
of weak intellect, on the cheek, with a salmon which he was
carrying, and knocked off his bonnet. The latter said he would not
dare to repeat the blow at next St. Georg’s fair at Balquhidder. To
that fair the Buchanans went in a strong body, and on their
appearance the half witted Maclaurin, who had received the insult,
for the first time told what had occurred at the fair at Kilmahog.
The warning cross was immediately sent through the clan, and every
man able to bear arms hastened to the muster. In their impatience
the Maclaurins began the battle, before all their force had
collected, and were driven from the field, but one of them, seeing
his son cut down, turned furiously upon the Buchanans, shouting the
war-cry of his tribe, (“Craig Tuire,” the rock of the boar,) and his
clansmen rallying became fired with the miri-cath, or madness
of battle, and rushed after him, fighting desperately. The Buchanans
were slain in great numbers, and driven over a small cascade of the
Balvaig stream, which retains the name of Linan-an-Seicachan,
“the cascade of the dead bodies.” Two only escaped from the field,
one of whom was slain at Gartnafuaran, and the other fell at the
point which, from him, was ever afterwards known as Sron Lainie.
Tradition variously fixes this clan battle in the reign of one of
the Alexanders, that is, between 1106 and 1286, and in the 16th
About 1497, some of the clan Laurin having carried off the
cattle from the Braes of Lochaber, the Macdonalds followed the
spoilers, and, overtaking them in Glenurchy, after a sharp fight,
recovered the “lifting.” The Maclaurins straighway sought the
assistance of their kinsman, Dugal Stewart of Appin, who at once
joined them with his followers, and a conflict took place, when both
Dugal and Macdonald of Keppoch, the chiefs of their respective
clans, were among the slain. This Dugal was the first of the
Stewarts of Appin. He was an illegitimate son of John Stewart, third
lord of Lorn, by a lady of the clan Laurin, and in 1469 when he
attempted, by force of arms, to obtain possession of his father’s
lands, he was assisted by the Maclaurins, 130 of whom fell in a
battle that took place at the foot of Bendoran, a mountain in
The clan Laurin were the strongest sept in Balquhidder, which
was called “the country of the Maclaurins.” Although there are few
families of the name there now, so numerous were they at one period
that none dared enter the church, until the Maclaurins had taken
their seats. This invidious right claimed by them often led to
unseemly brawls and fights at the church door, and lives were
sometimes lost in consequence. In 1532, Sir John Maclaurin, vicar of
Balquhidder, was killed in one of these quarrels, and several of his
kinsmen, implicated in the deed, were outlawed.
A deadly feud existed between the Maclaurins and their
neighbours, the Macgregors of Rob Roy’s tribe. In the 16th
century, the latter slaughtered no fewer than eighteen householders
of the Maclaurin name, with the whole of their families, and took
possession of the farms which had belonged to them. The deed was not
investigated till 1604, forty-six years afterwards, when it was thus
described in their trial for the slaughter of the Colquhouns: “And
sielyk, John M’Coull cheire, ffor airt and pairt of the crewall
murthonr and burning of auchtene houshalders of the clan Lawren,
thair wyves and bairns, committit fourtie sax zeir syne, or
thairby.” The verdict was that he was “clene, innocent, and acquit
of the said crymes.” The hill farm of Invernenth, on “The Braes of
Balquhidder,” was one of the farms thus forcibly occupied by the
Macgregors, although the property of a Maclaurin family, and in the
days of Rob Roy, two centuries afterwards, the aid of Stewart of
Appin was called in to replace the Maclaurins in their own, which he
did at the had of 200 of his men. All these farms, however, are now
the property of the chief of the clan Gregor, having been purchased
about 1798, from the commissioners of the forfeited estates.
The Maclaurins were out in the rebellion of 1745. According to
President Forbes, they were followers of the Murrays of Athol, but
although some of them might have been so, the majority of the clan
fought for the Pretender with the Stewarts of Appin under Stewart of
Ardsheil. Among them was Maclaurin of Invernenty, who was taken
prisoner after the battle of Culloden, but made his escape in a very
singular manner from the soldiers who were conducting him to
Carlisle. The incident has been introduced by Sir Walter Scott into
‘Redgauntlet,’ where “Pate-in-Peril” is the hero of it. On the way
to England the party had reached the well-known “Devil’s Beef
Stand,” otherwise called “Johnstone’s Beef Tub,” a deep and gloomy
hollow near Moffat, so named from its having been employed, in the
reiving times of old, as a hiding-place for stolen cattle. It was a
misty morning, and Maclaurin, taking advantage of the opportunity,
suddenly threw himself down the sides of the declivity, knowing that
the soldiers, ignorant of the locality, would not dare to follow
him. Gaining a morass, he immersed himself up to the neck in water,
and covering his head with a turf, he remained there until night. In
the disguise of a woman he afterwards lived undiscovered in
Balquhidder, until the act of indemnity was passed in 1747.
The chiefship was claimed by the family to which belonged
Colin Maclaurin, the eminent mathematician and philosopher, and his
son, John Maclaurin, Lord Dreghorn, memoirs of whom follow. In the
application given in for the latter to the Lyon court, he proved his
descent from a family which had long been in possession of the
island of Tiree, one of the Argyleshire Hebrides. His
great-grandfather, Daniel Maclaurin, author of Memoirs of his Own
Times, removed from Tiree to Inverness, of which he became a very
an eminent mathematician, youngest son of the Rev. John Maclaurin,
minister of Glenderule, author of an Irish version of the Psalms,
was born in the parish of Kilmodan, Argyleshire, in February 1698.
Having lost his father in infancy, and his mother before he was nine
years old, he was educated under the care of his uncle, the Rev.
Daniel Maclaurin, minister of Kilfinnan. He was sent to the
university of Glasgow in 1709, and took the degree of M.A. in his
fifteenth year, on which occasion he composed and defended a thesis
on ‘The Power of Gravity.’ In 1717, after a competition which lasted
for ten days, he was elected professor of mathematics in the
Marischal college, Aberdeen. In the vacancies of 1719 and 1721 he
went to London, where he became acquainted with Sir Isaac Newton,
Dr. Hoadley, Dr. Samuel Clarke, Mr. Martin Folkes, and other eminent
philosophers, and was admitted a member of the Royal Society. In
1722, having provided a competent person to attend to his class for
a time at Aberdeen, he travelled on the Continent as tutor to the
Hon. Mr. Hume, son of Lord Polwarth; and during their residence at
Lorraine, he wrote his essay on the Percussion of Bodies, which
gained the prize of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1724. On the
death of his pupil at Montpelier he returned to Aberdeen; and in
1725 he was chosen to succeed Mr. James Gregory as professor of
mathematics at Edinburgh, where his lectures, commenced November 3
of that year, contributed much to raise the character of that
university as a school of science. In 1733 he married Anne, daughter
of Mr. Walter Stewart, at that time solicitor-general for Scotland,
by whom he had seven children. A controversy with Bishop Berkeley
led to the publication, in 1742, of his greatest work, the ‘Treatise
on Fluxions,’ in 2 vols. 4to.
In 1745, having been very active in making plans, and
superintending the operations necessary for the defence of the city
of Edinburgh against the Highland army, Mr. Maclaurin was, upon
their entering the city, obliged to withdraw to the north of
England, when he was invited by the archbishop of York to reside
with him. On his journey southward he had a fall from his horse, and
the fatigue, anxiety, and cold to which he was exposed on this
occasion, laid the foundation of a dropsy, of which he died soon
after his return to Edinburgh, June 14, 1746. His portrait, from an
engraving in Smith’s Iconographia Scotica, is subjoined:
[portrait of Colin Maclaurin]
His works are:
Geometer Organic, side Description Liberum Curvarum,
Universalis. Lond., 1720, 4to. The same, with the Life and Writings
of the Author, by Pat. Murdoch. Lond., 1748, 4to.
Piece qui a remporte le Prix de l’Academie royale des Sciences
proposé pour l’année mil sept cens vingt-quatre, selon la
Foundatione fait par feu M. Rouille de Morlay, Ancien Conseiller an
Parlement de Paris. Par. 1724, 4to.
A complete System of Fluxions; with their application to the
most considerable Problems in Geometry and Natural Philosophy. Edin.
1742, 2 vols. 4to.
Account of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophical Discoveries,
published from his MS. papers; with an Account of the Life and
Writings of the Author, by Pat. Murdoch. London, 1748, 4to.
Treatise of Algebra, in three Parts. To which is added, An
Appendix concerning the General Properties of Geometrical Lines.
Lond., 1748, 8vo. 1766, 8vo.
On the Construction and Measure of Curves; by which many
infinite series of Curves are either Measured or reduced to Simple
Curves. Phil. Trans. Abr. vi. 356. 1718.
A New Universal Method of describing all kinds of Curves, by
means of Right Lines and Angles only. Ib. 392. 1719.
Concerning Equations with impossible Roots. Ib. Abr. vii. 145.
On the Description of Curve Lines. Ib. viii. 41. 1735.
Rule for finding the Meridional Parts to any Spheroid, with
the same exactness as in a Sphere. Ib. 515. 1741.
Of the Basis of the Cells where the Bees deposit their Honey.
Ib. 709. 1743.
Cause of the Variation of the Obliquity of the Ecliptic. Ess.
Phys. and Lit. i. 174. 1754.
Concerning the sudden and surprising Changes observed on the
Surface of Jupiter’s Body. Ib. 184.
MACLAURIN, JOHN, LORD DREGHORN,
an able lawyer, son of the preceding, was born at Edinburgh,
December 15, 1734, old style. He received the rudiments of his
education at the High school, and subsequently went through the
usual academical course at the university of that city. On 3d August
1756 he was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates at
Edinburgh, and after practising at the bar for many years with much
reputation, he was, on 17th January 1788, raised to the
bench, when he took the title of Lord Dreghorn. He died December 24,
1796. ‘A Dissertation to prove that Troy was not taken by the
Greeks,’ read by him before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which
he was one of the original members, was inserted in the Transactions
of that Society in 1788. He kept a journal of the various important
events that happened in Europe from 1792 to 1795, from which,
shortly before his death, he made a selection, with the view of
publication. His works, in a collected form, were published at
Edinburgh in 2 vols, in 1798. At a very early period, as we learn
from the Life prefixed, he displayed a natural turn for poetical
composition, and among his school-fellows was distinguished by the
name of ‘the poet.’ His poems, however, do not rank very high. Most
of them were thrown off from a private printing press of his own for
circulation among his friends. He was the author of the following
Observations on some Points of Law; with a System of the
Judicial Law of Moses. Edin. 1759, 12mo.
Considerations on the Nature and Origin of Literary Property.
Edin. 1767, 8vo.
Information for Mungo Campbell, late Officer of Excise at
Saltcoats, in a Criminal Prosecution before the High Court of
Justiciary in Scotland, for the alleged Murder of the late Alexander
Earl of Eglinton. London, 1770, 8vo.
Arguments and Decisions in Remarkable Cases before the High
Court of Justiciary, and other supreme Courts in Scotland. Edin.
A Dissertation to prove that Troy was not taken by the Greeks.
Trans. Edin. Soc. i. 43. 1788.
Works. Edin. 1798, 2 vols. 8vo.
He also wrote three dramas of no great merit, entitled
‘Hampden,’ ‘The Public,’ and ‘The Philosopher’s Opera.’ Several of
his pieces will be found in Donaldson’s Collection, printed at
Edinburgh in 1760.