Malise mac Gilleain

2nd Chief

As the the son of Gilleain na Tuaighe, Malise was the first of many to truly be recognized as a “Maclean,” or “Son of Gillean.”1 Born around 1250, Malise mac Gilleain became the second chief of the young clan that bears his father’s name some time before 1263,2 and in short order he brought international recognition and honor to it.1

Despite varied historic references to Malise’s name, its meaning “the Servant of Jesus” remains consistent. In Scots Gaelic, the prefixes “Maol” and “Gille” both mean “the servant of,”4and “Iosa” means “Jesus.”4 Some of the variations include Gille-Iosa,1 Maulis4 (1467 Manuscript), Maolisa4 (MacFirbis), mhaoilisa4 (MCR 40), and Maoiliosa4 (O’Clery Genealogies), and Gillise MacGillean (as recorded in Haco’s Expidetion, a Norse text translated 1782).1 When anglicized, the name, Malise, is much shorter yet retains the intended meaning.

When Malise assumed leadership of the young clan the Scottish–Norwegian War was at its height. Around 800 A.D. the Norse Kings sent Vikings to raid and harass the Gaels in the Western Highlands and the Hebrides hoping to eventually colonize the area and expand the Norway’s territory. In the 1240’s, the Norse King Håkon Haakonsson declared the Hebrides Norse territory. Alexander III, King of Scots demanded the full withdrawal of the Norse in Scottish lands. When Håkon refused Alexander III’s demands, Armies of the two nations settled the dispute at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The hard-fought battle itself proved inconclusive but led to the Treaty of Perth which effectively expelled the Norse from Scottish territories in 1263.1

It is well known that Malise lead a contingent of Macleans at the Battle of Largs under the command of Alexander III1. Malise’s leadership and heroic exploits were conspicuous enough to earn the admiration of the Icelandic historian and chieftain Sturla Þórðarson, who mentioned Malise in the Norse account of Håkon’s life, Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar1 (The Saga of Haakon Haakonarson) written the late 1260’s.

Tradition asserts that Malise held land in Kintyre2. Though this assertion cannot be substantiated, it is reasonable, as the Kintyre was part of the territory controlled by the Carricks, with whom the Macleans enjoyed a long alliance. It is believed that one of Malise’s son, Gilmore (‘Servant of Mary’) Maclean, signed the Ragman Roll as “Gillemoire Mackilyn,” swearing fealty to Edward I of England.2 Although this son of Malise potentially succeeded him as chief (or at least his heir apparent to the chiefship) Gilmore would have been left out of genealogies if he died without heir despite having represented the Clan.2 When Malise died in 1300,1 it was another of his sons, Malcolm, succeeded as the third chief of the clan.1


  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. p33-35. Print.
  2. 2.  Sinclair, Alexander Maclean. The Clan Gillean. Charlotteown: Haszard and Moore, 1899. p41-42.
  3. 3.  Seneachie. An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Clan Maclean. London: Smiht, Elder, and Co. Corrnhill, 1838. 2p4, 2bp220. Print.
  4. 4.  Maclean-Bristol, Nicholas. Warriors and Priests: The History of the Clan Maclean, 1300-1570. East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland: Tuckwell, 1995. p165. Print.
  5. 5.  Skene, William F. Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban. Vol. iii. Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1890. p343. Print.

Article added May 18, 20014