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The Scottish Nation
M'Aulay


M’AULAY, the name of a minor clan, claimed as one of the seven great branches of the Siol Alpin, undoubtedly the purest and oldest of the Gael. Their badge of distinction was the pine. It was held at one time that the M’Aulays derived their origin from the ancient earls of Lennox, and that their ancestor was Maurice, brother of earl Maldouin and son of Aulay, whose name appears in the Ragman Roll as having sworn fealty to Edward I. in 1296. According to Skene, (Highlanders, vol. ii. page 164,) these Aulays were of the family of De Fasselan, who afterwards succeeded to the earldom.

      The M’Aulays consider themselves a sept of the clan Gregor, their chief being designed of Ardincaple from his residence in Dumbartonshire. That property was in their possession in the reign of Edward I. They early settled in the Lennox, and their names often occur in the Lennox chartulary, hence the very natural supposition that they sprung from that distinguished house. In a bond of manrent, or deed of clanship, entered into between MacGregor of Glenstrae and M’Aulay of Ardincaple, of date 27th May 1591, the latter acknowledges his being a cadet of the former, and agrees to pay him the “calp,” that is, a tribute of cattle given in acknowledgment of superiority. In 1694, in a similar bond given to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, they again declared themselves MacGregors. “Their connexion with the MacGregors,” says Mr. Skene, “led them to take some part in the feuds that unfortunate race were at all times engaged in, but the protection of the earls of Lennox seems to have relieved the M’Aulays from the consequences which fell so heavily on the MacGregors.”

      Mr. Joseph Irving, in his ‘History of Dumbartonshire,’ (p. 418), states that the surname of the family was originally Ardincaple of that ilk, a name absurdly said to signify in the Gaelic “the promontory of the mare,” but in this he is wrong, as it, truly and correctly means “the chapel in the wood,” arden signifying trees, and caple the slightly changed form of the Latin capella. He adds, “A Celtic derivation may be claimed for this family, founded on the agreement entered into between the chief of the clan Gregor and Ardincaple in 1591, where they describe themselves as originally descended from the same stock, M’Alpins of auld,’ but the theory most in harmony with the annals of the house (of Ardincaple of that ilk) fixes their descent from a younger son of the second Alwyn, earl of Lennox.” Alexander de Ardincaple, who lived in the reign of James V., son of Aulay de Ardincaple, was the first to assume the name of M’Aulay, as stated in the Historical and Critical Remarks on the Ragman Roll (Nisbet, vol. ii. App.), “to humour a patronymical designation, as being more agreeable to the head of a clan than the designation of Ardincaple of that ilk.”

      His son, Walter M’Aulay, after the battle of Langside, was one of the subscribers to the bond for the government being carried on in the name of the infant James. Walter’s son, Sir Aulay M’Aulay, was the chief who entered into the alliance with the clan Gregor above mentioned. When the MacGregors fell under the ban of the law, he became conspicuous by the energy with which he turned against them, probably to avert suspicion from himself, as a bond of caution was entered into on his account on Sept. 8, 1610. He died in Dec. 1617, and was succeeded by his cousin-german, Alexander.

      Walter M’Aulay, the son of Alexander, was twice sheriff of Dumbarton. He was cautioner, along with Stirling of Auchyle, that Alester Macgregor, of the house of Glenstrae, should keep the peace.

      With Aulay M’Aulay, his son and successor, commenced the decline of the family. He and his successors indulged in a system of extravagant living, which compelled them to dispose, piece by piece, of every acre of their once large possessions. Aulay’s son, Archibald, was nominated a commissioner of supply in 1615. He was also a commissioner of justiciary for the trial of the Covenanters of the district. Although, however, attached to episcopacy, he was by no means a partisan of James VII., for in 1689 he raised a company of fencibles in aid of William and Mary.

      Aulay M’Aulay, the 3d in succession from Archibald, was a commissioner of supply of Dumbartonshire in 1764. This the 12th and last chief of the M’”Aulays, having seen the patrimony of his house sold, and his castle roofless, died about 1767. Ardincaple had been purchased by John, 4th duke of Argyle, and now belongs to the Argyle family.

      About the beginning of the 18th century, a number of M’Aulays settled in Caithness and Sutherland. Others went into Argyleshire, and some of the MacPheiderans of that county acknowledged their descent from the M’Aulays.

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      For the Lewis MacAulays, and THOMAS BARINGTON MACAULAY, LORD MACAULAY, see SUPPLEMENT.


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