An ancient family, the Clan Macleans’ history is as long as it is rich and colorful. Sir Allan Maclean famously said, “Ged tha mi bochd tha mi uasal; buidheachas do Dhia is ann de Chlann ‘Ill Eathain mi,” translated from Scots Gaelic, “Though I am poor, I am noble; thank God I am a Maclean”—a sentiment that echos throughout the ebb and flow of Maclean history.

The Clan Maclean takes its name from its first chief, Gilleain na Tuaighe.1 When anglicized, the means “Gillean of the Battle-Axe.“ The first name “Gilleain” means “the Servant of [St.] John;” in Scots Gaelic the prefix “mac” means “the son of” thus Maclean literally means means “Children of the Servant of [St.] John,”2 or the “Children of Gilleain.”

Although the certainty of ancient origins from which the Clan Maclean descended are lost to history, the clan’s senachies, or historians, have maintained traditional claims of descent from Loarn mac Erc, King of Dálriata,3 and the Cenél Loairn (Lorn kindred).2 Erc is traditionally regarded as the ancestor of the Kings of Scotland.4

The Maclean Chiefs trace their lineage with confidence as far back Gillean’s 5th great-grandfather, Old Dugald of Scone.1 Born around 1050, during the reign of Macbeth, Dugald of Scone served as a Judex (or Judge) and was believed to be a Councillor to David I, King of Scots. With far less certainty, the last senachie of the Clan Maclean, Dr. Beaton, traces the linage further back, identifying Gillean’s 34th great-grandfather as Àengus Turmhi-Temhrac, a King of Dál Cuinn believed to have lived in 384 BCE.

The Ardgour Regalia created c1871 for Alexander Maclean, 15th Laird of Ardgour

Eras of Maclean History

4th Century BCE — 13th Century

13th Century — 14th Century

14th Century — 15th Century

17th Century — 18th Century

18th Century — 19th Century

20th Century — Present


  1. 1.  MacLean, J. P. A History of the Clan MacLean from Its First Settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the Present Period. Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1889. 1p22-34, 1bp160, 1cp243. Print.
  2. 2.  Sinclair, Alexander Maclean. The Clan Gillean. Charlottetown: Haszard and Moore, 1899. 2p29-42, 2bp50.
  3. 3.  Maclean-Bristol, Nicholas. Warriors and Priests: The History of the Clan Maclean, 1300-1570. East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland: Tuckwell, 1995. p2-12, 6bp162. Print.
  4. 4. Francis John Byrne, Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press. 2nd edition, 2001.