Heraldry

Characteristic heraldry belonging to the Clan Maclean, its chiefs, and its chieftains closely resembles that of many other clans of Scotland’s Western Highlands and Isles. Per custom and heraldic law, titles and arms are the property of the individual, or armiger, to whom they have been granted. The vast majority of Macleans armigers were hereditary recipients of arms such as chiefs or chieftains; however there are a few notable individuals received a grant of arms by distinguishing themselves through extraordinary accomplishment.

As hereditary property, an achievement of arms may often go unchanged for several generations especially if the eldest son inherits his father’s arms. Occasionally the achievement of arms will be re-matriculated if the the new recipient has personally achieved a level of notoriety that should be reflected in their heraldry.

Through the past few centuries the supporters, crest, and other aspects of the achievement of arms have varied slightly as they were re-matriculated for the Duart chiefs, the primary charges of the escutcheon have remained steadfast. These charges—a rock, red-hand holding a cross, a lymphad, eagle heads, and a salmon—have been symbols of the Macleans since before they appeared in Hector Mor’s seal in 1546.

Tartan Suit (Duart) 1810
Suit in the Duart Tartan, 1810

The arms, armorial bearings and banners of the Maclean chiefs and chieftains are their personal property and are exclusively for their personal. Under Scottish heraldic law it is inappropriate and illegal to use anthers’ arms as your own. Any arms displayed on this site are for educational purposes related the histories of the individuals to whom they belong, and how those histories are woven into the overall history of the Clan Maclean.

Seal of Hector Mor, 1545

Rather than misusing the Chief’s arms to demonstrate membership and allegiance with the chief, members of the Clan Maclean may use a heraldic device known simply as the Clan Maclean’s Badge. This badge is devised by encircling the crest from the chief’s achievement of arms in a strap and buckle. All members, allies, and supporters of the clan are encouraged to wear, use, and display the Clan Maclean badge proudly.

A subtle and very popular form of heraldry today is the wearing of Clan Maclean’s tartans. Tartan is a fabric whose specific pattern is used to identify fellow clans-folk. The Macleans has four primary tartans— the regular or dress tartan which is red and a hunting (or casual) tartan which is green or blue.

The Oldest record of the Maclean Chief’s arms is from the Lindsay Manuscript of 1542. While they differ from the arms we recognize today, all the modern elements are present.

The arms in the Lindsay Manuscript include an arched rock feature near water, this is likely the Carsaig Arches which are on the Ross of Mull on the south of the Isle of Mull. In time this charge replaced the tower embattled on the escutcheon with a rock we know today. Whether the significance of the arches was lost to time, or the imagery of a rock was chosen for other reasons will forever be a mystery.

The Seton Armorial demonstrates that by 1591, the Chief’s arms final form had been established.