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MacMillan


Of the origin and history of the Macmillans, little seems to be known. According to Buchanan of Auchmar, they are descended from the second son of Aurelan, seventh laird of Buchanan. According to Mr Skene, the earliest seat of the Macmillans appears to have been on both sides of Loch Arkaig, and he thinks this confirmatory of a clan tradition, that they are connected with the clan Chattan. The Macmillans were at one time dependent on the Lords of the Isles, but when Loch Arkaig came into possession of the Camerons, they became dependent on the latter. "Another branch of this clan", says Skene, "possessed the greater part of southern Knapdale, where their chief was known under the title of Macmillan of Knap; and although the family is now extinct, many records of their former power are to be found in that district". We take the liberty of quoting further from Mr Skene as to the history of the Macmillans.

"One of the towers of that fine ancient edifice, Castle Sweyn, bears the name of Macmillan's Tower, and there is a stone cross in the old churchyard of Kilmoray Knap, upwards of twelve feet high, richly sculptured, which has upon one side the representation of an Highland chief engaged in hunting the deer, having the following inscription in ancient Saxon characters underneath the figure - 'Haec est crux Alexandri Macmillan'. Although the Macmillians were at a very early period in Knapdale, they probably obtained the greater part of their possessions there by marriage with the heiress of the chief of the Macneills, in the 16th century. Tradition asserts that these Knapdale Macmillans came originally from Lochtay-side, and they were driven by Chalmers of Lawers, in the reign of David II.

"As there is little reason to doubt the accuracy of the tradition, it would appear that this branch of the Macmillans had been removed by Malcolm IV from North Moray, and placed in the crown lands of Strathay. Macmillan is said to have had the charter of his lands in Knapdale engraved in the Gaelic language and character upon a rock at the extremity of his estate; and tradition reports that the last of the name, in order to prevent the prostitution of his wife, butchered her admirer, and was obliged in consequence to abscond. On the extinction of the family of the chief, the next branch, Macmillan of Dunmore, assumed the title of Macmillan of Macmillan, but that family is now also extinct.

"Although the Macmillans appear at one time to have been a clan of considerable importance, yet as latterly they became mere dependants upon their more powerful neighbours, who possessed the superiority of their lands, and as their principal families are now extinct, no records of their history have come down to us, nor do we know what share they took in the various great events of the Highland history. Their property, upon the extinction of the family of the chief, was contended for by the Campbells and Macneills, the latter of whom were a powerful clan in North Knapdale, but the contest was, by compromise, decided in favour of the former. It continued in the same family till the year 1775, when, after the death of the tenth possessor, the estate was purchased by Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverniel".

There have been a considerable number of Macmillans long settled in Galloway, and the tradition is that they are descendants of an offshoot from the northern Macmillans, that went south about the time the Knapdale branch imigrated from Lochtay side. These Macmillans are famous in the annals of the Covenanters, and are mentioned by Wodrow as having acted a prominent part during the times of the religious persecution in Scotland. Indeed, we believe that formerly, if not indeed even unto this day, the modern representatives of the Covenanters in Galloway are as often called "Macmillans" as "Cameronians".

Another account of the Clan

BADGE: Dearcag monaidh (Vaccineum uliginosum) bilberry.

MacMillanACCORDING to universal tradition the Macmillans are of the same blood as the Buchanans, and Skene in his Highlanders of Scotland derives both, along with the Monros, from the Siol O’Cain—the race of O’Cain, otherwise O’Cathan of Clan Chattan. According to Buchanan of Auchmar, the immediate ancestor of the Macmillans is believed to have been a certain Methlan, second son of Anselan, seventh chief of Buchanan, who flourished in the reign of Alexander H., in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Their original home, to which Skene thinks they must have been removed from North Moray by Malcolm IV., was at Lawers, on the north shore of Loch Tay, but from that possession they were driven in the reign of David II., the middle of the fourteenth century, by the Chalmerses, Chamberses, or Camerarii, who obtained a feudal charter to the lands, and who were themselves afterwards forfeited for the part they played in the assassination of James I. The Macmillan chief who was thus expelled had ten sons, certain of whom became progenitors of the Ardournag and other families in Breadalbane; but the chief migrated to Argyllshire, where he obtained a property from the Lord of the Isles in South Knapdale, and became known as Macmillan of Knap. Macmillan is said to have had his charter engraved in Gaelic on the top of a rock at the boundary of his land.

The Macmillans are believed to have increased their possessions in Knapdale by marriage with an heiress of the MacNeil chiefs, and there is evidence that they became of considerable importance in the district. One of the towers of Sweyn Castle on the loch of that name is known as Macmillan’s Tower, and in the old kirkyard of Kilmorie Knap, where the chapel was built by the Macmillan chief, stands a cross more than twelve feet high richly sculptured with foliage, and showing a Highland chief engaged in a deer hunt, with the inscription, "Haec est crux Alexandri Macmillan."

Among traditions extant regarding these Macmillans of Knapdale is one of a certain Gillespie Ban. This individual was unfortunate enough while attending a fair to quarrel with a personage of some importance and to slay his man in hot blood. He fled and was instantly pursued. Managing to reach Inveraray Castle he rushed in, and making his way to the kitchen found the cook engaged in baking. Instantly procuring a change of clothes and an apron, he proceeded busily to kead barley bannocks, and when his infuriated pursuers came to the castle they took him for a regular domestic of the earl. The necessary respite being thus allowed him, a composition was made with the family of the man he had slain, and he was allowed to live thereafter in peace. He settled in Glendaruel, where his descendants were known, from the circumstances of his escape, by the patronymic of MacBacster, or "sons of the baker."

Another tradition runs that the line of the Macmillans of Knap ended with a chief who had a tragic experience. In order to defend the honour of his wife from the advances of a too powerful admirer he attacked and slew the man, and in consequence was forced to abscond.

The main line then becoming extinct, the chiefship was assumed, rightly, it is believed, by Macmillan of Dunmore, on the south side of Loch Tarbert. This family also, however, died out, upon which a contention arose between the Campbells and MacNeils as to possession of the Macmillan lands. The matter was finally arranged, by means of mutual concessions, in favour of the Campbells, and in 1775 the estates were purchased by Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil.

Meanwhile, at an earlier day, a branch of the chief’s house had settled elsewhere. The reason for this occurrence is the subject of a well-known tradition. A stranger, it appears, known as Marallach More, established himself in Knapdale and proceeded by his overbearing disposition to make himself objectionable to the Macmillans. He made himself especially obnoxious, it would appear, to one of the chief’s sons, who lived at Kilchamag. The affair came to an open rupture, and at last, either in a duel or in a general fight, Macmillan killed the aggressor, but in consequence had to leave the district. With six followers he migrated to Lochaber, when he placed himself under the protection of Cameron of Lochiel and was settled on certain lands beside Loch Arkaig.

Another tradition runs that the earliest seat of the Macmillans was on both sides of Loch Arkaig; that, on Lochaber being granted to the Lord of the Isles the clan became vassals of that powerful chief; and that, when the Cameron’s obtained possession of the district, the Macmillans became in turn their dependants, in which situation ever after they remained. This tradition, however, seems to be negatived by the fact that Macmillan of Knap was recognised as Chief of the clan.

Latterly, according to Buchanan of Auchmar, the Macmillans in Lochaber, known from the district of their residence as the Clan Ghille Mhaoil Aberaich, dwelt in Muir Laggan, Glen Spean, and Caillie. Their military force was reckoned at one hundred fighting men; they were among the trustiest followers of Lochiel, and were employed by him generally in the most desperate of his enterprises. One incident is on record which shows the esteem in which they were held by the Cameron chief. Late in the seventeenth century some cause of trouble arose between them and the MacGhilleonies, a sept of the Camerons, and, in a fight with twelve of these latter, one of the Macmillan’s was killed. In fear of consequences the twelve MacGhilleonies fled to the fastnesses of the hills, hoping to maintain themselves there till the Macmillans could be appeased. But the Macmillans demanded from Lochiel permission to pursue the aggressors, and threatened that if this permission were not granted, they would wreak their vengeance on the whole offending sept. Lochiel perforce gave leave, and the Macmillans set about the hunting of the fugitives with such energy, that in a short time, without the loss of life to themselves, though many of them were sorely wounded, all the twelve MacGhilleonies were either slain or captured.

In more recent times one of the Lochaber Macmillans returned to the south, and taking up residence at Badokennan, near the head of Loch Fyne, became ancestor of the Macmillans of Glen Shera, Glen Shira, and others.

Still another branch of the Macmillans have been for centuries settled in Galloway. According to tradition they are an offshoot of the Macmillans of Loch Tayside who went south when the chiefs of the clan were driven from Lawers by the Chalmerses. These Galloway Macmillans played a notable part on the side of the Covenanters in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and their doings are recorded by Wodrow, the chief historian of that page of Scottish history. The most noted of them was the Rev. John Macmillan, who published several controversial pamphlets, and was deposed for schismatic practices in 1703. He was the first pastor of the " Reformed Presbyterians," and ministered to the "remnant" from 1706 till 1743. Even to the present time the Covenanters in Galloway are as often called Macmillanites as Cameronians.

Lawers, Loch Tay, original seat of the MacMillan chiefs

Another noted member of the clan was Angus Macmillan, who emigrated to Australia in 1829, and discovered and explored the country south-west of Sydney, afterwards called Gippsland.

Celebrated in yet another way was Daniel Macmillan, son of a small farmer at the Cock of Arran, who with his brother Alexander founded the great publishing firm of Macmillan & Co. in the middle of the nineteenth century, publishing Kingsley’s Westward Ho in 1855 and Tom Brown’s School Days in 1857.

Septs of the Clan: Baxter, Brown, Bell, MacBaxter

Another account of the Macmillans

Few Scots families can have occupied such varied and widely separated areas of the country than the nomadic Macmillans. There are many theories on their origin but the most popular view is that they are descended from the Siol O'Cain, an ancient Pictish tribe of Moray. The name Macmillan is ecclesiastical in origin, Mac Gillem-haoil "Son of the Tonsured servant", and commemorates descent from an old family of Celtic abbots. An Gillemaol, the Tonsured servant in question was living around 1132 near Elgin where he was listed as witness in the Book of Dear, the oldest Scots religious record. It is believed the Macmillans were transplanted from Loch Arkaig to Crown lands on Lawers near Loch Tay by Malcolm IV around 1160. There they remained for two centuries until once again they were driven from their home and the clan scattered to many regions of Scotland. The main branch to Knapdale, others to Lochaber (many of this line emigrated to Canada during the 19th century), another branch to Galloway spreading later throughout Aryshire and Dumfriesshire and some to the Western Isles; Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, was descended from the Arran branch. Malcolm Mor Macmillan received Knapdale from the Lord of the Isles in 1360. The charter is said to have been inscribed on a rock. (This was later destroyed by Campbell of Calder in 1615). As vassals of the Lord of the Isles, the Macmillans were caught up in the aftermath of the forfeiture of the Lordship and lost control of Knap forever. They did however manage to keep the adjoining lands of Tireleacham. Even so they were still harassed by the Campbells who had supplanted them. Macmillan of Knap was considered chief of the clan and when the line became extinct in 1665, the title passed to the Dunmore branch, and from them to the Lagalgarve branch in which it is still vested.


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