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The Scottish Nation

MACLACHLAN, the surname of a clan of great antiquity in Argyleshire; badge, the mountain ash. They possessed the barony of Strathlachlan in Cowal, and other extensive possessions in the parishes of Glassrie and Kilmartin, and on Loch Awe side, which were separated from the main seat of the family by the arm of the sea called Loch Fyne.

      The clan Lachlan (in Gaelic Lachuinn) was one of those great Agryleshire clans, which, during the existence of the Celtic kingdom of Argyle and the Isles, formed by Somerled in the 12th century, composed a body of powerful tribes under his sway, and after the forfeiture of the last Lord of the Isles, occupied an independent position. They were one of those Gaelic tribes who adopted the oared galley for their special device, as indicative of their connexion, either by residence or descent, with the Isles. An ancestor of the family, Lachlan Mor, who lived in the 13th century, is described in the Gaelic MS. of 1467, (the date 1450 usually ascribed to it having been found to be wrong,) as “son of Patrick, son of Gilchrist, son of Aida Alain, called the clumsy, son of Henry or Anradan, from whom are descended also the clan Neill.” From the genealogy of the clan Lachlan being given with much greater minuteness than that of any other of the clans, the author of the MS. is supposed to have been a Maclachlan, and it seems probable that it once formed a part of the well known collection of ancient MSS., so long preserved by the family of Maclachlan of Kilbride (see Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, page 60), and eventually purchased by the Highland Society of Scotland.

      By tradition the Maclachlans are said to have come from Ireland, their original stock being the O’Loughlins of Meath.

      According to the Irish genealogies, the clan Lachlan, the Lamonds, and the M’Ewens of Otter, were kindred tribes, being descended from brothers who were sons of Aida Alain above referred to, and tradition relates that they took possession of the greater part of the district of Cowal, from Toward Point to Strachur at the same time; the Lamonds being separated from the M’Ewens by the river of Kilfinan, and the M’Ewens from the Maclachlans by the stream which separates the parishes of Kilfinan and Strath Lachlan. Aida Alain, the common ancestor of these families, is stated in ancient Irish genealogies to have been the grandson of Hugh Atlaman, the head of the great family of O’Neils, kings of Ireland.

      About 1230, Gilchrist Maclachlan, who is mentioned in the manuscript of 1467 as chief of the family of Maclachlan at the time, is a witness to a charter of Kilfinan granted by Laumanus, ancestor of the Lamonds (see Chartulary of Paisley.)

      In 1292, Gillleskel Maclachlan got a charter of his lands in Ergadia from Baliol. (See Thomson’s Scott. Acts, vol. i. p. 91.)

      In a document preserved in the treasury of her Majesty’s Exchequer, entitled “Les petitions de terre demandees en Escoce,” there is the following entry, “Item Gillescop Macloghlan ad demande la Baronie de Molbryde juvene, apelle Strath, que fu pris contre le foi de Roi.” From this it appears that Gillespie Maclachlan was in possession of the lands still retained by the family, during the occupation of Scotland by Edward I. in 1296. (See Sir Francis Pulgrave’s Scottish Documents, vol. i. p. 319.)

      In 1308, Gillespie Maclachlan sat in the first parliament of Robert the Bruce at St. Andrews, and his signature and seal tag are attached to the roll of that parliament. (See Thomson’s Scott. Acts, vol. i. p. 99.)

      In 1314, Archibald Maclachlan in Ergadia, granted to the Preaching Friars of Glasgow forty shillings to be paid yearly our of his lands of Kilbride, “juxta castrum meum quod dicitur Castellachlan.” He died before 1322, and was succeeded by his brother Patrick. The latter married a daughter of James, Steward of Scotland, and had a son, Lachlan, who succeeded him. Lachlan’s son, Donald, confirmed in 1456, the grant by his predecessor Archibald, to the Preaching Friars of Glasgow of forty shillings yearly out of the lands of Kilbride, with an additional annuity of six shillings and eight-pence “from his lands of Kilbryde near Castellachlan.” Muniments Fratrum Predicatorum de Glasgu. (Maitland Club.)

      Lauchlan, the 15th chief, dating from the time that written evidence can be adduced, was served heir to his father, 23d September 1719. He married a daughter of Stewart of Appin, and was killed at Culloden, fighting on the side of Prince Charles. The 18th chief, (1862) his great-grandson, Robert Maclachlan of Maclachlan, convener and one of the deputy-lieutenants of Argyleshire, married in 1823, Helen, daughter of William A. Carruthers of Dormont, Dumfries-shire, without issue. Next heir, his brother, George Maclachlan, Esq., married, issue 3 sons and a daughter. The family seat, Castle Lachlan, built about 1790, near the old and ruinous tower, formerly the residence of the chiefs, is situated in the centre of the family estate, which is eleven miles in length, and, on an average, a mile and a half in breadth, and stretches in one continued line along the eastern side of Loch Fyne. The effective force of the clan previous to the rebellion of 1745, was estimated at 300 men.

      In Argyleshire also are the families of Maclachlan of Craiginterve, Inchconnell, &c., and in Stirlingshire, of Auchintroig. The Maclachlans of Drumblane in Monteith were of the Lochaber branch.

MACLACHLAN, EWEN, a Gaelic poet and scholar, was born in 1775 at Torracalltuinn, in Lochaber. His forefathers came originally from Morven. He was the 2d youngest son of a weaver, and in his youth was engaged as a tutor in several families in the Highlands. Several pieces of Gaelic poetry composed by him were published about 1798, in a volume printed at Edinburgh for Allan Macdougall, or Ailean Dall, (Blind Allan,) musician at Inverlochy, afterwards family bard to Col. Ranaldson Macdonnell of Glengarry. In the following year Maclachlan was introduced by Dr. Ross of Kilmanivaig to that truly Highland chief, by whose assistance he was enabled to fulfil a long-cherished desire of going to college. After a very strict competition, he succeeded in obtaining the highest bursary at King’s college, Old Aberdeen. On taking the degree of A.M., he entered the divinity hall, having been, through the good offices of his friend, Dr. Ross, presented, in 1800, to a royal bursary in the gift of the barons of exchequer. About the same time he was appointed assistant to Mr. Gray, librarian to King’s college, and teacher of the Grammar school of Old Aberdeen. He was subsequently made a free burgess of that town, and for some time was custodier of the library attached to the divinity hall of Marischal college. To add to the scanty income which his various offices brought to him, he devoted several hours every day to private teaching.

      Besides being an accomplished scholar, Mr. Maclachlan was well versed in oriental literature and in the languages of modern Europe. Of the Iliad of Homer he translated nearly seven books into Gaelic heroic verse, which still remain in MS. Having begun to collect materials for a Dictionary of the Gaelic language, he was, by the Highland Society of Scotland, conjoined with Dr. Macleod of Dundonald, in carrying on the national Dictionary, compiled under their patronage. The department assigned to him was the Gaelic-English, and in the Preface to the work published by Drs. Macleod and Dewar, he is thus mentioned: “Mr. Maclachlan of Aberdeen especially brought to the undertaking great talents, profound learning, habits of industry which were almost super-human, an intimate acquaintance with the Gaelic language, and devoted attachment to the elucidation of its principles.”

      In 1816, Mr. Maclachlan published at Aberdeen a volume of poetry, in various languages, entitled ‘Metrical Effusions.’ An ode, in the Greek language, ‘On the Generation of Light,’ contained in it, gained the prize given by Dr. Buchanan of Bengal to King’s college, for the best ode on the subject. Among the contents, also, were an elegant Latin ode addressed to Dr. Beattie the poet, on whose death, in 1810, Maclachlan had composed an elegy in the Gaelic tongue, and an English ode, entitled ‘A Dream,’ being an apotheosis on his deceased friend.

      In 1819, Mr. Maclachlan succeeded Mr. Gray as head master of the Grammar school of Old Aberdeen, and also principal session clerk and treasurer of the parish of Old Machar. He was likewise secretary to the Highland Society of Aberdeen, and, we are told, wore the full Highland garb when officially attending the meetings of the Society, and on other particular occasions. In 1820 he became a candidate for the office of teacher of the classical department of the Inverness academy, but was unsuccessful, local politics, it seems, having ruled the appointment. He died 29th March 1822, aged 47. A Memoir of his life and some of his Gaelic pieces are inserted in Mackenzie’s Beauties of Gaelic Poetry (Glasgow, 1841).

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