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