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The Scottish Nation

MACLAURIN, the surname of a clan, commonly spelled Maclaren (badge, the laurel,) said to have been derived from the district of Lorn in Argyleshire, the Gaelic orthography of which is Labhrin, pronounced Laurin, hence the Maclaurins are called the clann Labhrin. That district took its name from Lorn, one of the three sons of Erc, who, in 503, arrived in Argyleshire from Ireland, and founded there the Scoto-Irish kingdom of Dalriada, a word borne by the Maclaurins as a motto above their coat of arms.

      From Argyleshire the tribe of Laurin moved into Perthshire, having, it is said, acquired from Kenneth Macalpin, after his conquest of the Picts in the 9th century, the districts of Balquhidder and Strathearn, and three brothers are mentioned as having got assigned to them in that territory the lands of Bruach, Auchleskin, and Stank. In the churchyard of Balquhidder, celebrated as containing the grave of Rob Roy, the burial places of their different families are marked off separately, so as to correspond with the situation which these estates bear to each other, a circumstance which so far favours the tradition regarding them.

      Among the followers of Malise, earl of Strathearn, at the battle of the Standard in 1138, were a tribe called “Lavernani,” supposed by Lord Hailes to have been the clan Laurin. Of those Scottish barons who swore fealty to Edward I. in 1296, were Maurice of Tiree, an island in the county of Argyle which formerly belonged to the Maclaurins, Conan of Balquhidder, and Laurin of Ardveche in Strathearn, all of the clan Laurin. When the earldom of Strathearn became vested in the crown in 1370, the Maclaurins were reduced from the condition of proprietors to that of ‘kyndly” or perpetual tenants, which they continued to be till 1508, when it was deemed expedient that this Celtic holding should be changed, and the lands set in deu, “for increase of policie and augmentation of the king’s rental.” The Maclaurins were among the loyal clans that fought for James III. at Sauchieburn in 1488. They were also at Flodden and at Pinkie. In the well-known rolls of the clans possessing chiefs, dated in 1587 and 1594, “the clan Lauren” are mentioned.

      A sanguinary encounter once took place between the Maclaurins of Auchleskin and the Buchanans of Leny, arising out of the following circumstance: At the fair of St. Kessaig held at Kilmahog, in the parish of Callander, one of the buchanans struck a Maclaurin of weak intellect, on the cheek, with a salmon which he was carrying, and knocked off his bonnet. The latter said he would not dare to repeat the blow at next St. Georg’s fair at Balquhidder. To that fair the Buchanans went in a strong body, and on their appearance the half witted Maclaurin, who had received the insult, for the first time told what had occurred at the fair at Kilmahog. The warning cross was immediately sent through the clan, and every man able to bear arms hastened to the muster. In their impatience the Maclaurins began the battle, before all their force had collected, and were driven from the field, but one of them, seeing his son cut down, turned furiously upon the Buchanans, shouting the war-cry of his tribe, (“Craig Tuire,” the rock of the boar,) and his clansmen rallying became fired with the miri-cath, or madness of battle, and rushed after him, fighting desperately. The Buchanans were slain in great numbers, and driven over a small cascade of the Balvaig stream, which retains the name of Linan-an-Seicachan, “the cascade of the dead bodies.” Two only escaped from the field, one of whom was slain at Gartnafuaran, and the other fell at the point which, from him, was ever afterwards known as Sron Lainie. Tradition variously fixes this clan battle in the reign of one of the Alexanders, that is, between 1106 and 1286, and in the 16th century.

      About 1497, some of the clan Laurin having carried off the cattle from the Braes of Lochaber, the Macdonalds followed the spoilers, and, overtaking them in Glenurchy, after a sharp fight, recovered the “lifting.” The Maclaurins straighway sought the assistance of their kinsman, Dugal Stewart of Appin, who at once joined them with his followers, and a conflict took place, when both Dugal and Macdonald of Keppoch, the chiefs of their respective clans, were among the slain. This Dugal was the first of the Stewarts of Appin. He was an illegitimate son of John Stewart, third lord of Lorn, by a lady of the clan Laurin, and in 1469 when he attempted, by force of arms, to obtain possession of his father’s lands, he was assisted by the Maclaurins, 130 of whom fell in a battle that took place at the foot of Bendoran, a mountain in Glenurchy.

      The clan Laurin were the strongest sept in Balquhidder, which was called “the country of the Maclaurins.” Although there are few families of the name there now, so numerous were they at one period that none dared enter the church, until the Maclaurins had taken their seats. This invidious right claimed by them often led to unseemly brawls and fights at the church door, and lives were sometimes lost in consequence. In 1532, Sir John Maclaurin, vicar of Balquhidder, was killed in one of these quarrels, and several of his kinsmen, implicated in the deed, were outlawed.

      A deadly feud existed between the Maclaurins and their neighbours, the Macgregors of Rob Roy’s tribe. In the 16th century, the latter slaughtered no fewer than eighteen householders of the Maclaurin name, with the whole of their families, and took possession of the farms which had belonged to them. The deed was not investigated till 1604, forty-six years afterwards, when it was thus described in their trial for the slaughter of the Colquhouns: “And sielyk, John M’Coull cheire, ffor airt and pairt of the crewall murthonr and burning of auchtene houshalders of the clan Lawren, thair wyves and bairns, committit fourtie sax zeir syne, or thairby.” The verdict was that he was “clene, innocent, and acquit of the said crymes.” The hill farm of Invernenth, on “The Braes of Balquhidder,” was one of the farms thus forcibly occupied by the Macgregors, although the property of a Maclaurin family, and in the days of Rob Roy, two centuries afterwards, the aid of Stewart of Appin was called in to replace the Maclaurins in their own, which he did at the had of 200 of his men. All these farms, however, are now the property of the chief of the clan Gregor, having been purchased about 1798, from the commissioners of the forfeited estates.

      The Maclaurins were out in the rebellion of 1745. According to President Forbes, they were followers of the Murrays of Athol, but although some of them might have been so, the majority of the clan fought for the Pretender with the Stewarts of Appin under Stewart of Ardsheil. Among them was Maclaurin of Invernenty, who was taken prisoner after the battle of Culloden, but made his escape in a very singular manner from the soldiers who were conducting him to Carlisle. The incident has been introduced by Sir Walter Scott into ‘Redgauntlet,’ where “Pate-in-Peril” is the hero of it. On the way to England the party had reached the well-known “Devil’s Beef Stand,” otherwise called “Johnstone’s Beef Tub,” a deep and gloomy hollow near Moffat, so named from its having been employed, in the reiving times of old, as a hiding-place for stolen cattle. It was a misty morning, and Maclaurin, taking advantage of the opportunity, suddenly threw himself down the sides of the declivity, knowing that the soldiers, ignorant of the locality, would not dare to follow him. Gaining a morass, he immersed himself up to the neck in water, and covering his head with a turf, he remained there until night. In the disguise of a woman he afterwards lived undiscovered in Balquhidder, until the act of indemnity was passed in 1747.

      The chiefship was claimed by the family to which belonged Colin Maclaurin, the eminent mathematician and philosopher, and his son, John Maclaurin, Lord Dreghorn, memoirs of whom follow. In the application given in for the latter to the Lyon court, he proved his descent from a family which had long been in possession of the island of Tiree, one of the Argyleshire Hebrides. His great-grandfather, Daniel Maclaurin, author of Memoirs of his Own Times, removed from Tiree to Inverness, of which he became a very useful citizen.

MACLAURIN, COLIN, an eminent mathematician, youngest son of the Rev. John Maclaurin, minister of Glenderule, author of an Irish version of the Psalms, was born in the parish of Kilmodan, Argyleshire, in February 1698. Having lost his father in infancy, and his mother before he was nine years old, he was educated under the care of his uncle, the Rev. Daniel Maclaurin, minister of Kilfinnan. He was sent to the university of Glasgow in 1709, and took the degree of M.A. in his fifteenth year, on which occasion he composed and defended a thesis on ‘The Power of Gravity.’ In 1717, after a competition which lasted for ten days, he was elected professor of mathematics in the Marischal college, Aberdeen. In the vacancies of 1719 and 1721 he went to London, where he became acquainted with Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Hoadley, Dr. Samuel Clarke, Mr. Martin Folkes, and other eminent philosophers, and was admitted a member of the Royal Society. In 1722, having provided a competent person to attend to his class for a time at Aberdeen, he travelled on the Continent as tutor to the Hon. Mr. Hume, son of Lord Polwarth; and during their residence at Lorraine, he wrote his essay on the Percussion of Bodies, which gained the prize of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1724. On the death of his pupil at Montpelier he returned to Aberdeen; and in 1725 he was chosen to succeed Mr. James Gregory as professor of mathematics at Edinburgh, where his lectures, commenced November 3 of that year, contributed much to raise the character of that university as a school of science. In 1733 he married Anne, daughter of Mr. Walter Stewart, at that time solicitor-general for Scotland, by whom he had seven children. A controversy with Bishop Berkeley led to the publication, in 1742, of his greatest work, the ‘Treatise on Fluxions,’ in 2 vols. 4to.

      In 1745, having been very active in making plans, and superintending the operations necessary for the defence of the city of Edinburgh against the Highland army, Mr. Maclaurin was, upon their entering the city, obliged to withdraw to the north of England, when he was invited by the archbishop of York to reside with him. On his journey southward he had a fall from his horse, and the fatigue, anxiety, and cold to which he was exposed on this occasion, laid the foundation of a dropsy, of which he died soon after his return to Edinburgh, June 14, 1746. His portrait, from an engraving in Smith’s Iconographia Scotica, is subjoined:

[portrait of Colin Maclaurin]

      His works are:

      Geometer Organic, side Description Liberum Curvarum, Universalis. Lond., 1720, 4to. The same, with the Life and Writings of the Author, by Pat. Murdoch. Lond., 1748, 4to.

      Piece qui a remporte le Prix de l’Academie royale des Sciences proposé pour l’année mil sept cens vingt-quatre, selon la Foundatione fait par feu M. Rouille de Morlay, Ancien Conseiller an Parlement de Paris. Par. 1724, 4to.

      A complete System of Fluxions; with their application to the most considerable Problems in Geometry and Natural Philosophy. Edin. 1742, 2 vols. 4to.

      Account of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophical Discoveries, published from his MS. papers; with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, by Pat. Murdoch. London, 1748, 4to.

      Treatise of Algebra, in three Parts. To which is added, An Appendix concerning the General Properties of Geometrical Lines. Lond., 1748, 8vo. 1766, 8vo.

      On the Construction and Measure of Curves; by which many infinite series of Curves are either Measured or reduced to Simple Curves. Phil. Trans. Abr. vi. 356. 1718.

      A New Universal Method of describing all kinds of Curves, by means of Right Lines and Angles only. Ib. 392. 1719.

      Concerning Equations with impossible Roots. Ib. Abr. vii. 145. 1726.

      On the Description of Curve Lines. Ib. viii. 41. 1735.

      Rule for finding the Meridional Parts to any Spheroid, with the same exactness as in a Sphere. Ib. 515. 1741.

      Of the Basis of the Cells where the Bees deposit their Honey. Ib. 709. 1743.

      Cause of the Variation of the Obliquity of the Ecliptic. Ess. Phys. and Lit. i. 174. 1754.

      Concerning the sudden and surprising Changes observed on the Surface of Jupiter’s Body. Ib. 184.

MACLAURIN, JOHN, LORD DREGHORN, an able lawyer, son of the preceding, was born at Edinburgh, December 15, 1734, old style. He received the rudiments of his education at the High school, and subsequently went through the usual academical course at the university of that city. On 3d August 1756 he was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates at Edinburgh, and after practising at the bar for many years with much reputation, he was, on 17th January 1788, raised to the bench, when he took the title of Lord Dreghorn. He died December 24, 1796. ‘A Dissertation to prove that Troy was not taken by the Greeks,’ read by him before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he was one of the original members, was inserted in the Transactions of that Society in 1788. He kept a journal of the various important events that happened in Europe from 1792 to 1795, from which, shortly before his death, he made a selection, with the view of publication. His works, in a collected form, were published at Edinburgh in 2 vols, in 1798. At a very early period, as we learn from the Life prefixed, he displayed a natural turn for poetical composition, and among his school-fellows was distinguished by the name of ‘the poet.’ His poems, however, do not rank very high. Most of them were thrown off from a private printing press of his own for circulation among his friends. He was the author of the following works:

      Observations on some Points of Law; with a System of the Judicial Law of Moses. Edin. 1759, 12mo.

      Considerations on the Nature and Origin of Literary Property. Edin. 1767, 8vo.

      Information for Mungo Campbell, late Officer of Excise at Saltcoats, in a Criminal Prosecution before the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland, for the alleged Murder of the late Alexander Earl of Eglinton. London, 1770, 8vo.

      Arguments and Decisions in Remarkable Cases before the High Court of Justiciary, and other supreme Courts in Scotland. Edin. 1774, 4to.

      A Dissertation to prove that Troy was not taken by the Greeks. Trans. Edin. Soc. i. 43. 1788.

      Works. Edin. 1798, 2 vols. 8vo.

      He also wrote three dramas of no great merit, entitled ‘Hampden,’ ‘The Public,’ and ‘The Philosopher’s Opera.’ Several of his pieces will be found in Donaldson’s Collection, printed at Edinburgh in 1760.

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