According to Mr Skene, MacAulay or clan Aula
belong to the Siol Alpine. Many formerly held that the MacAulays 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 Ragmans Roll as having sworn fealty to Edward
I in 1296. According to Skene, these Aulays were of the family of De Fasseslan, who
afterwards succeeded to the earldom.
The MacAulays 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 MacAulay 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 acknowledgement or superiority. In 1694, in a
similar bond given to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, they again declared themselves
MacGregors. "Their connection 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 MacAuleys 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, and seems inclined to believe in their
descent from the Earl of Lennox. He says, "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 MacAulay, as stated in the
Historical and Critical Remarks on the Ragmans Roll, "to humour a patronymical
designation, as being more agreeable to the head of a clan than the designation of
Ardincaple of that ilk".
When the MacGregors fell under the ban of the law, Sir Aulay MacAulay, the then chief,
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 succeeded by his cousin-german, Alexander.
Walter MacAulay, the son of Alexander, was twice sheriff of Dumbarton.
With Aulay MacAulay, 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 one large possessions. Although 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 MacAulay, the twelfth and last chief of the MacAulays, having seen the patrimony of
his house sold, and his castle roofless, died about 1767. Ardincaple had been purchases by
John, fourth Duke of Argyll, and now belongs to the Argyll family.
About the beginning of the 18th century, a number of MacAulays settled in Caithness and
Sutherland. Others went into Argylshire, and some of the MacPheiderans of that county
acknowledged their descent from the MacAulays.
A tribe of MacAulays were settled at Uig, Ross-shire, in the south-west of the island of
Lewis, and many were the feuds which they had with the Morrisons, or clan Alle Mhuire, the
tribe of the servant or disciple of Marg, who were located at Ness, at the north end of
the same island. In the reign of James VI, one of the Lewis MacAulays, Donald Cam, so
called from being blind in one eye, renowned for his great strength, distinguished himself
on teh patriotic side, in the troubles that took place, first with the Fifeshire colonies
at Stornaway. Donald Cam Macaulay had a son, Fear Bhreinis, "The Man", or
Tacksman "of Brenish", of whose feats of strength many songs and stories are
told. His son, Aulay MacAulay, minister of Harris, had six sons and some daughters. Five
of his sons were educated for the church, and one named Zachary he bred for the bar.
One of the Aulay MacAulay's sons was the Rev. John Macaulay, A.M., who was grandfather of
the celebrated orator, statesmean, and historian, Lord Macaulay. One of his sons entered
the East India Company's military service, and attained the rank of general.
Another son, Aulay Macaulay, was known as a miscellaneous writer. In 1796, he was
presented to the vicarage of Rothley, by Thomas Babington, Esq, M.P., who had married his
sister Jane. He died February 24, 1819.
Zachary, a third son, was for some years a merchant at Sierra Leone. On his return to
London, he became a prominent member of the Anti-slavery Society, and obtained a monument
in Westminster Abbey. He married Miss Mills, daughter of a Bristol merchant, and had a
son, Thomas Babington Macauley, Lord Maccaulay, author of "The History of
England", "Lays of Ancient Rome", &c, and M.P. for the city of
Another Account of the Clan
BADGE: Giuthas (pinus sylvestris) pine.
considerable doubt exists as to the origin of the MacAulay clan. The name
itself might suggest descent from a Norwegian source, as it might mean
"Son of Olaf," and the situation of the ancient stronghold of
the chiefs, Ardincaple, at the mouth of the Gareloch in Dunbartonshire,
might be used to support this theory. A similar sea-eyrie, Dunollie near
Oban, on the Argyllshire coast, is said to have been the "Fort of
Olaf." Ardincaple is perhaps rather far up the Firth of Clyde to have
been a fastness of the bold Norse conquerors who built, the castles of
Rothesay and Dunoon, but this fact in not conclusive against the
suggestion. Another theory regarding the origin of the name MacAulayas
of Dunollieis that it was derived from "ollamh," a physician.
But whatever may be the resources of a Harley Street specialist at the
present day, it is extremely unlikely that a medicine-man of the Highlands
in the time of Somerled or Hakon, or even Robert the Bruce, would be able
to build himself a stronghold like either Dunollie or Ardincaple.
The favourite tradition of
the MacAulays themselves is that they are a branch of Clan Alpin, and
therefore kin to the MacGregors. The only evidence in support of this
idea, however, is the action of MacAulay of Ardincaple in 1591 and his
descendant in 1694. In the former of these years the chief signed a bond
of manrent with MacGregor of Glenstrae, in which he acknowledged himself a
cadet of the MacGregor family, and agreed to pay Glenstrae the "calp,"
or tribute of cattle, in token of his superiority. And a century later, in
1694, in a similar bond to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbriae, the
MacAulay of that time acknowledged the same descent from the House of
It looks, however, as if
rather much reliance had been placed on these statements. The chief of
1694 seems merely to have copied the statement of his predecessor of 1591,
and there is considerable reason to believe that the earlier statement may
have been made for other reasons than mere zeal to elucidate a Highland
genealogy. In 1591 the MacGregors were threatening to make things more
than uncomfortable for their neighbours on the shores of Loch Lomond,
Gareloch, and Loch Long. They secured the alliance of MacFarlane of
Arrochar, and it was possibly only to protect himself from their vengeance
that MacAulay in 1591 found it prudent to sign the bond of manrent. He
escaped, at any rate, from the fate which befell his neighbours, the
Colquhouns. In the following year the MacGregors and MacFarlanes raided
Colquhouns lands, shut the chief up in his castle of Bannachra, and,
aided by Colquhouns servant when lighting his master up a stair, shot
him dead through a loophole. Eleven years later the MacGregors, in still
greater force, again raided the lands of Luss, defeated the Colquhouns
with great slaughter in Glenfruin, and destroyed all the Colquhoun
From such attacks the bond
of manrent saved MacAulay and his lands of Ardincaple on the other side of
the hill. The action of the Government of James VI. which followed, seems
to have recognised the fact that MacAulay, in signing the bond of manrent
with MacGregor, had merely done so under force majeure, for, while
MacGregor was executed and his clan proscribed, Sir Aulay MacAulay of
Ardincaple and his clan were exempted from retribution.
For this exemption,
according to Skene, MacAulay was indebted to the protection of the Earl of
Lennox. The fact may be taken as evidence of a very different origin of
the clan. Joseph Irving in his History of Dunbartonshire, states
that the surname of the family was originally Ardincaple of that ilk.
"A Celtic derivation," he says. "may be claimed for this
family, founded on the agreement entered into between the chief of the
clan Gregor and Ardincaple in 1591, when they describe themselves as
originally descended from the same stock, MAlpin of auld; but
the theory most in harmony with the annals of the house (of Ardincaple)
fixes their descent from a younger son of the second Alwyn, Earl of
Lennox." Alwyne or Aulay was a common Christian name in the Lennox
family. The second and third of the early race of earls bore this name.
The MacAulays, further, repeatedly appear in the deeds in the Lennox
chartulary, and their relations with that house appear to have been fairly
personal and close. If,as seems likely, they were really cadets of
the Lennox family, they could claim kinship with James VI. himself, who
was the actual head of that house, and this would largely account for the
fact that they escaped prosecution after the battle of Glenfruin, when
their quondam allies, the MacGregors, were being everywhere relentlessly
Another clan proved by
undeniable documentary evidence to be descended from the Lennox family was
that of MacAulays neighbours, the MacFarlanes, who in similar fashion
were coerced into an alliance by the MacGregors, and similarly escaped
punishment after Glenfruin.
As if to show still more
unmistakably that the statement of kinship with the MacGregors inserted in
the bond of manrent of 1591, was no more than a convenient fiction, Sir
Aulay MacAulay, when the MacGregors were proscribed for their evil deeds,
was one of those who took up their prosecution with most energy.
In view of all the facts it
would seem that the tradition attributing the origin of the house of
Ardincaple to a younger son of an Earl of Lennox, has the chief weight of
evidence on its side. In any case the family was of consequence as early
as the thirteenth century, for the name of Maurice de Arncaple appears on
the Ragman Roll. Nisbet (vol. ii. appendix, p. 35) in his Historical
and Critical Remarks on the Ragman Roll, states that MacAulay was not
adopted as a surname till the time of James V. Alexander de Ardincaple,
son of Aulay de Ardincaple, then adopted it as more suitable for the head
of a clan than the feudal designation previously borne, of Ardincaple of
Sir Aulay MacAulay, of the
time of the battle of Glenfruin, died in December, 1617, and was succeeded
by his cousin-german Alexander. This chiefs son, Walter, was twice
sheriff of Dunbarton. The sheriffs son, Aulay, MacAulay, though a
member of the Episcopal Church, was by no means a Jacobite, but on the
contrary, at the Revolution in 1689, raised a company of fencibles for the
cause of William and Mary.
It was with this chief that
the decline of the family began. He and his successors, as a result of
their extravagant habits, were forced to part with one possession after
another, till every acre of their once great territories was gone. Aulay
MacAulay, twelfth and last chief, sold his roofless castle to John, fourth
Duke of Argyll, and died a poor man about 1767.
Meanwhile, early in the
eighteenth century, forced to migrate, probably, by the impoverished state
of their chief, a number of MacAulays settled in Caithness and Sutherland,
while others passed into Argyllshire, where some of their descendants were
afterwards known by the name of MacPheideran. A number also migrated to
Ireland, where their chief owned the estate of Glenarm in Antrim. Already,
however, at an earlier date, another tribe of emigrants from Garelochside
had moved farther afield. It was from this race that the chief distinction
of the clan was afterwards to come. Settling at Uig, in the southwest of
Lewis, they engaged in constant feuds with the Morrisons of Ness at the
north end of the island. In the days of James VI., when the Fife
Adventurers settled at Stornoway, in the first of those attempts to bring
prosperity to the Lewis, of which the attempt of Lord Leverhulme is the
latest example, an outstanding part in the strife that ensued was played
by one of these MacAulays. This individual, known as Donald Cam, from his
blindness in one eye, was renowned for his strength. His son, "the
Man " or Tacksman, of Brenish, has had his feats commemorated in many
songs and tales. His son again, Aulay MacAulay, was minister successively
of Tiree and Coil and of Harris. Of the ministers six sons, five were
educated for the ministry and one for the Bar. One of these sons, Kenneth,
minister of Ardnamurchan, wrote the History of St. Kilda, praised
by Dr. Johnson. Another, the eldest, the Rev. John MacAulay, A.M., was
minister of Inveraray, where he encountered Dr. Johnson, and afterwards of
Cardross on the Clyde. He had three distinguished sons. One became a
general in the East India Companys service. Another, known by his
literary works, was made vicar of Rothley by Thomas Babington, M.P., who
had married his sister. A third, Zachary, became notable as a member of
the Anti-Slavery Society, under its auspices became Governor of Sierra
Leone, and had his efforts recognised by a monument in Westminster Abbey.
Zachary married Selina Mills, the daughter of a Bristol bookseller, and
their son was Thomas Babington, Lord MacAulay, M.P. for Edinburgh, author
of Lays of Ancient Rome, The History of England, and some of the
most brilliant essays in the English language.
Septs of Clan MacAulay:
Another account of the clan...
are two clans of this name which have no family connection with each other. Firstly there
are the MacAulays of Ardencaple, Dunbartonshire who are believed to be of Irish origin and
claim to be descendants of the Siol Alpin. It has been suggested that they are descended
from a son of Alwyn, Earl of Lennox. Alexander de Ardincaple who lived during the reign of
James V was the first to adopt the name MacAulay. In 1591 the chief of these MacAulays
entered into a bond of manrent with Macgregor of Glenstrae which acknowledged the clan as
a cadet branch of the Macgregors. Several generations later in 1694 the then chief again
signed a bond of manrent, this time with Sir Duncan Campbell of Achinbreac where they
again state they are Macgregors. In 1613 John Dow McAlwa and his son Awla McAlwa were
fined for the reset of members of the Clan Gregor. The line ended with the 12th Chief
Aulay MacAulay who in 1767 sold the lands of Ardencaple to the Duke of Argyll. After this
many of the clan settled in areas as far apart as Argyll, Sutherland and Caithness. The
Hebridean MacAulays trace their descent from Aula or Olave "the black", last
King of Man and the Isles who lived during the early 12th century. The MacAulays held Luig
on the Isle of Lewis where they were followers of Siol Torquil, the Macleods of
Lewis and were bitter enemies of the Morrisons. Although little has been written of
this clan the Lewis MacAulays appear to have faired better than their southern namesakes.
Among their numbers were Lord MacAulay (1800-59) the famous essayist and historian,
several notable clergymen and a general in the East India Company.
in The Herald on 3rd August 2001
Clan to choose first chieftain in 250
THE post of chieftain of the ancient Clan MacAulay, which has been vacant
for almost 250 years, may soon be filled.
A special court will meet in Dingwall today
to decide who should be the new chief, ending more than two centuries of
doubt and sometimes heated discussion.
The court, known by its traditional name of
a Derbhfine, will meet in Tulloch Castle, Dingwall, when the Lord Lyon
King of Arms will consider submissions.
The main case will come from the clan
elders and from landowners associated with the clan. It has been without a
chief and effectively dormant since the last leader died, destitute
through drink and excess, in the eighteenth century.
Iain MacAulay, 80, a Japanese
prisoner-of-war camp survivor, is front-runner to become the 20th chief of
However, fellow clan association member
Iain McAulay, 59, is opposing the selection of the great-grandfather and
former RAF medical orderly.
He wants to see the honour go to someone
who can prove to be of direct descent from the last clan chief, and argues
the selection should be delayed for five years while further searches are
But the clan association believes that,
after 10 years of fruitless searching for someone with a direct line to
the former chief, it is time to choose a new head.
The elder Mr MacAulay, who lives in a
semi-detached house in Drumbeg, Sutherland, was commissioned as Commander
of the Clan at its first modern assembly in Perth three years ago.
He put his name forward for consideration
as chief in the absence of finding anyone who is directly related to the
former head of the clan.
His rival, a newspaper industry consultant
who now lives in Chester but comes from Helensburgh, believed he could
show he was a true descendant of the last chief, but was unable to produce
The Lord Lyon gave him a year and a day to
prove that link, but he failed. The consultant insisted he does not want
the honour of leadership himself. "I don't want to be chief of the
clan. I had my lineage investigated for the clan and for my own family's
benefit," he said.
"I would suggest we should wait five
years before any chief is appointed - put a time limit on it. We have
lasted 200 years without a clan chief - what difference will another
However, the clan's position is that anyone
who came forward and could prove a right to the chieftainship after the
new chief is chosen in August would be welcomed as leader.
Mr MacAulay, from Assynt, who has been
fighting to revive the clan for more than 30 years, said: "Mr McAulay
has been offered a place at the annual general meeting on August 4 to put
his case forward to the members. He is a man who has interfered with the
smooth running of the clan."
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