Monday, July 8, 2019

MacLarens and the mermaid legend, a comedy of errors.

The modern Clan MacLarens clan history and heraldry is riddled with fiction and errors. Here is one example. The earliest account of the legend that the MacLarens came from a race of mermaids is from 'McIan's Costumes of the Clans of Scotland' by James Logan and Robert McIan, 1846. You probably have a copy on your coffee table.

In 1781 John MacLaurin Lord Dreghorn 1734-1796 became the clan chief the McLaurins. John's coat of arms heraldry included two Britons as supporters on each side of the shield, depicting what I believe to be St. Moluag's staff. The one that Naill Livingstone of Bachuill possesses. MacLea/Livingstone and McLaurin/McLaren YDNA is similar by the way.


At some point in the early 1800's, a heraldic artist depicted John MacLaurin Lord Dreghorn's coat of arms with two 'Tritons' instead of 'Britons", apparently misreading the written description of John MacLaurin's COA's, as you can see below.



In the 1840's, so-called Scottish historian James Logan mistook the 'Tritons' for 'Mermaids', they are similar in appearance and apparently he did not bother to double check John MacLaurin's COA's written description.

Logan and MacIan published the following.

"There is a traditional origin given of the Mac Laurins, with reference to a mermaid, which is among the most puerile of the many similar legends; but it was sufficient to induce the heralds to assign armorial bearings, allusive to the fancied occurance, when the eminent Lord Dreghorn, who claimed the chief ship, applied, in 1781, for matriculation of these family honours in the Lyon College of Arms." James Logan, 'McIan's Costumes of the Clans of Scotland' by James Logan and Robert McIan, 1846. You probably have a copy on your coffee table.


The Britons mistook for Tritons, then mistook for Mermaids, and now it is legend, etched in glossy full colour.







Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Clan MacLaren Society Rebuttal

A rebuttal to Clan MacLaren Society information found at Scottish Clan Festivals throughout the US.

The 15 Most Compelling Points of the MacLaren Story,  For Telling to Tent Visitors

1—MacLarens are an ancient clan, well over 1000 years old.

The surname MacLaren [MhicLabhruinn meaning son of Laurence] first appeared 600 years ago in the early 1400s. They were parish vicars with their followers, in what could be considered a family enterprise of reaping the reward of the parish tithes, by force of arms if necessary, then sending 25% of the collection/church tax to the Bishop of Argyll on the Isle of Lismore.

Sixteenth century Clanlaurane chiefs in Perthshire had surnames McRoberts, M’Olchallum, McAvrye,

Argyll MacLaurins were recognized as a clan by the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1781, John MacLaurin, Lord Dreghorn, of Ednburgh.

Balquhidder MacLarens were recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon as a clan in 1958 Donald MacLaren, of London.

2—MacLarens united both an ancient Pictish line of ancestry (through the mother’s line) and an ancient Scottish line of ancestry (through the father’s line).

The MacLaren Family tree DNA Group STR results pages clearly shows that there are at least a dozen different unrelated groups with surname McLaren or similar, they are Scots, Irish and Scandinavian primarily.

When compared to other Scottish DNA Groups, the clan MacLaren DNA administrators go out of their way to skew the results to enhance their narrative of a MacLaren peerage from Auchleskine, which is pure bunk. A myth that is based on a statement from Patrick Stewart in 18th century North Carolina.

3—MacLarens are a highland clan with an identifiable, beautiful clan homeland 
that is relatively easy to find and visit.

By all means, spend thousands of dollars to visit beautiful Disneyland er’ Balquhidder, where 19th and 20th century London MacLarens have fabricated a clan using primarily the fictional writings of Sir Walter Scott and James Logan.

Please do visit Upper Argyll, Appin and Ardchattan where the origins of the McLarens are to be found with some amount of looking on your part, there aren’t any plaques.

4—MacLarens are kinsmen of the Earls of Strathearn, who were among the ‘7 Earls of Scotland’, considered to be peers of the King.

YDNA data clearly shows that none of the dozen or so groups of the McLaren surname are related to any of the three different families that held the title ‘Earl of Strathearn’.

Another example of the popular romantic 19th century need to be related to the Monarch. Especially after Victoria’s visit to Scotland in the early part of that century.

5—Because of this connection with one of the ‘7 Earls’, MacLarens are entitled to use the royal colors of red and gold in their beautiful tartan, of which there are several great versions to choose from.

The MacLarens were assigned what could be considered a royal tartan. “The present tartan appears under this name in Mclan's plate for Clan MacLaren. Wilsons of Bannockburn were producing it before 1820 - but only under the name of 'Regent'. The Regency ended when George IV succeeded the throne in that year, the name of the tartan then becoming outdated, but production of the sett continued.” Scottish Tartan Society So it became MacLaren.

6—MacLarens endured hard times, loss of lands, massacres…but kept their identity, and their Chief. 

That would be true for all of Scotland, a persons surname changed often, depending primarily on the type of contemporaneous document the surname is found in.

The Perthshire 16th and 17th century Campbell of Glenurchy Bonds, which would withstand a judicial review of the period, clearly state that Campbell of Glenurchy is the Clanlaurane and V’Laurane clan chief, not a McLaren. 

Almost one-hundred men of clanlaurane in Breadalbane (where the largest group of  McLarens lived, not Balquhidder, which had a much smaller population of McLarens) had surrendered their manrent and calpes over many decades to the string of Campbell of Glenurchy chiefs. Then they became vassals of the Duke of Atholl, supervised by his MacGregor factors. The first MacLaren Clan Chief according to the Court of the Lord Lyon did not appear until 1958 with Donald MacLaren of MacLaren.

7—MacLarens are the maternal ancestors of the Stewarts of Appin.

There is no DNA evidence whatsoever that this is true. 

The beginnings of this myth is found in the novel “Rob Roy” by Sir Walter Scott, it was embellished greatly in 1880 in “The Stewarts” were they composed a ‘wedding poem’ in 19th century gaelic then claiming is from the 1400’s, a problem identified by an imminent Gaelic scholar. The Stewarts in 1880 were also the first to place Ardveich, Loch Earn as the home of Dougal McLaurin Stewart 1st of Appin. Later R. L. Stevenson used the alliance story in “Kidnapped”

This fictional tradition, along with a fake Donald McLaren of Invernenty sword and a fat American Society checkbook were instrumental in the carving of the surname ‘MacLaren’ on the Stewart of Appin Culloden Battlefield Marker over a decade ago. A travesty orchestrated by MacLaren glory-hunters.

8—MacLarens are constant, loyal supporters of the Appin Stewarts, and of the Stewart Kings.

The Indigenous McLaurins in Appin (who have unique YDNA STR Markers) were tenants in arms of the Appin Stewarts. Before the Stewarts arrived in Lorn, they were followers of the McDougall Lords of Lorn.

MacLarens in Perthshire were loyal to as we have seen above the Glenurchy Campbells then later the Dukes of Atholl, who were Chamberlains to the Hanoverian Monarchs of England and Scotland.

The exception in 1745/46 when Donald MacLaren of East Invernenty led a handful of Balquhidder MacLarens in the exiled Duke of Atholl’s  “Atholl Brigade”, possibly at Culloden, they were later captured and disarmed by British troops.

9—MacLarens were staunch Jacobites in all the Risings, and fought with Prince Charlie at Culloden.

See above

10—MacLarens are legendary as fierce warriors.

Whatever!  In Scandinavian Hanakon chronicles, the Scots were recorded in the 13th century impaling Isles men terrified writhing babies and children on their spears, their blood running down their arms.

11—MacLarens figure prominently in Scottish literature—including Sir Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped.

Correct, fictional novels, that is where the Clan MacLaren history is to be found.

Not only is the “clan” history fiction so is most of Donald MacLaren of MacLarens genealogy. The early entries are McLavertys from the west coast of Scotland, generations are skipped and there are two 16th century Finlay McNeils which his claimed ancestor has been confused with.

Donald MacLaren should be held to the same genealogical standard as the rest of us.

12—The father of our Chief rose up and was officially recognized by the Heraldry Court 
of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms. 

In 1958, after the publication of the glossy color covered (thats the best to impress) “The MacLarens” a work of complete fiction in most cases. Written by Margaret MacLaren of MacLaren. When was she clan  chief? :0)

13—Our Chief’s family and clan once again possess the Boar’s Rock, the ancient gathering place of the clan. “Creag an Tuirc”, the Gaelic name of that ancient gathering place (which sounds mysterious and dramatic), makes the ideal clan rallying cry.

The contemporaneous records show that the heated kirk in the glen was the gathering place, not some cold windy elevated rock face, that is not where they would meet.

The Boar’s Rock refers to the ‘Boars Head’ clan badge of the Campbells, signifies the Campbells controlled the area, nothing to do with MacLarens.

14—Our Chief is dynamic, charismatic, prominent, and passionate about his clan. 
He is a leader within the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, and a member of the British Foreign Service, having served as British Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia.

“Our Chief is dynamic, charismatic, prominent, and passionate about his (BASED ON FICTION) clan.” even to the point of stretching the truth. Hard to define Donald, but I commend him for elevating glory-hunting into a fine art.

15—MacLaren Clan Societies are thriving worldwide, and are experiencing a renaissance in modern times.


All MacLaren Clan Society memberships are shrinking. The focus of the Clan MacLaren Societies should not be on the chief as it is currently, “the chief did this the chief did that”, an entire annual newsletter with nothing but Donald MacLaren news, smacks of idolatry. It should return to research and helping clans-folk connect with their roots in Scotland. Emphasizing one individual is a mistake, especially Donald MacLaren with his highly questionable clan history and genealogy.


Compiled by LJKascht, CMSNA October, 2015 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to his Brother-in-law John McLaurin in Richmond County, NC

“Duncan is full of the Idea that I will Visit No Ca next winter
I was more desirous last fall on account of my not being enga-
-ged only in the crop all my inter valls were to me lost time as I
could not be at any thing to enhance the value of my own
place then not known, tho it may not be impossible for me
to See no – ca next winter If Betsy can effect a Sale of her
place and wish to move here I will try to go of course but you
known every one that has a place can find something to do
on it — it would be highly gratifying to me to see you all
but my little matters call my attention here…”
Found at  the 'From Ballachulish to South Mississippi' Blog, Letters from Duncan McKenzie to his Brother-in-law John McLaurin in Richmond County, NC


John McLaurin’s tombstone in Stewartsville Cemetery, Laurinburg, NC. In Memory of John Son of Hugh & Catharine McLaurin Born Sept. 1789. Died March. 22. 1864. (The name S. Buie appears at the bottom and may refer to the monument maker.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Limited Edition MacLaurin of Dreghorn clan badges are now available, made in USA.


"Bi' se mac an t' Slaurie" pre standardized gaelic meaning “Take control of the chain”, referring to the hearth chain that held the cooking pot. The deeper meaning is open to ones interpretation. Perhaps a quote from Ossian? It is not found in the Bible.

Clan Chief's Crest matriculated by John MacLaurin, Lord Dreghorn in 1781 the son of Colin MacLaurin the noted mathematician, educator and historian who collected the genealogies of Western Argyll found in Manuscript:1467. "Crest a Lady from the middle upwards ifouing out of the Wreath
in her arms a Child both proper and habited Vert" In use long before the modern Clan MacLaren was created in 1958 with it's motto "Creag an Tuirc".

Limited edition run from Baker Art Foundry.
Raised crest bonnet badge or plaid brooch.
Solid polished pewter with pin back app. 2" diameter.

$25 includes US shipping

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

John MacLaurin Lord Dreghorn, 18th century Chief of Clan MacLaurin

John MacLaurin, Lord Dreghorn

In 1781 John MacLaurin, Lord Dreghorn of Edinburgh, matriculated chiefly arms with this description. “BEARS Argent a Sheepherds Crook Sable, CREST a Lady from the middle upwards ifouing out of the Wreath in her arms a Child both proper and habited Vert, MOTTO Bi'se mac ant' Slaurie, SUPPORTERS two Britons proper Matriculated. Rc Boswell Lyon Dep"

The lady with child in a green habit is the ‘Mother Church and children’

John McLaurin’s "Sheepherds Crook Sable" is a reference St Moluag’s Crozier” on the Isle of Lismore. Heraldsnet.org more accurate description "a bishop's crook in pale sable--M'LAURIN, Dreghorn", eludes to his ancestor Laurence de Ergadia on Lismore circa 1300, as the Keeper of St. Moluag’s Crook.

John MacLaurin was well versed in family history, his father Colin MacLaurin, had hand delivered to the Advocate Library in Edinburgh, what is known today as MS:1467, which he had collected that contained his ancestors genealogy “Clann an Aba Uaine”, ‘the Children of the Green Abbot’.

"Mr. MacLaurin presented to the Society from the Reverend Mr. Malcolme an old Irish Manuscript ", "This is a clear description of the 1467 ms," Ronald Black, 2011

John’s direct lineage contained a long line of Protestant Reverands from the University of Glasgow. My ancestors were the Episcopalian cattle droving Jacobite sympathetic Appin and Ardchattan McLaurin cousins.

Seventeenth century testaments in the National Records of Scotland and other legal documents including John’s matriculation, link these contradictory McLaurin families who fought against each other during the siege of Edinburgh in 1745. Colin MacLaurin a volunteer cannoneer aiming at the invading twenty-seven Appin McLearans in the Stewart of Appin Clan Regiment.


A Family Divided

Three branches by the mid 1500's

In 1470 the Lordship of Lorne, where the soon to be called 'McLaurin or son of Laurence' ecclesiastical families had lived for centuries was divided by Colin M’Gilleasbaig M’Conochy Campbell, first Earl of Argyll between Dougal M’Iain M’ Robert Stewart of Appin I and Colin M’Conochy Campbell of Glenorchy I, this declaration, divided the family Labhruinn's territory and eliminated many of the MacDougal holdings in Appin and parts of Ardchattan.

In the early and mid 1500's many McLaurin families were induced to move into Perthshire, with most living on the Tay River from Strathfillan then northeast to Atholl. A few families were placed in Balquhidder by the Glenorchy Campbells.

It was Grey Colin Campbell of Glenurchy who first assigned the Makolcallums’ as part of the kin-group he described as V’Lauranes in a 1559 Bond of Manrent. Because of Glenorchy, we have a fairly complete four generation genealogy of McLaurin men contained in three Clanlawren Bonds of Manrent. The 1559 bond contains the descendants of the first McLaurins to arrive in Balquhidder in 1512 and perhaps Malcum M’Olchallum one of the three sons.

First McLaren arrives in Balquhidder in 1512. Malcolm M’Olcallum V’Laurane settled at Invernenty, Balquhidder in 1512 along with four MacIntires who are also from Lorn. It appears that Malcolm Maklawryn and Gilbert Makyntyr are paying a reduced rate for the woodlands which other tenants have the right to use without destruction. A forest conservation program in place by the Campbells. The Clann Dubhghaill Cheire MacGregour’s also lived at Invernenty and nearby Drumlich, the two families would intermarry frequently, but there were problems, the MacGregors attempted to displace Invernenty MacLaurins with violence and perhaps were successful in the 1550s. Resulting in the Coule Keir MacGregors required to sign a Bond of Calpes to Campbell of Glenurchy in 1559 as punishment.

At Stirling, on the first of June in the 512th year [ie 1512]. Innernenty; £6 13s 4d, with the consent of William Stewart who had the same in fee-farm, is now assessed to the underwritten tenants just as is particularized above, that is to say,
To Donald Makyntyr, £5 for two marklands and a half, to be paid in respect thereof annually, with part of the marts,
To John Makyntyr, £5 for two marklands and a half, to be paid in respect thereof annually, with part of the marts,

To Gilbert Makyntyr, £5 for two marklands and a half, to be paid in respect thereof annually, with part of the marts,

To Duncan Makyntyr, 1s for one markland and a 40 shillings land, to be paid in respect thereof annually, with part of the marts,

And to Malcolm Maklawryn, 1s for one markland and a 40 shillings land, With this condition, that the rest of the tenants of the Lord of Buchquhiddir shall have licence to take timber for their necessities, without destruction [of the woodland], And for entry of a new infeudation £40, out of which sum £13 6s 8d is to be paid by the said tenants, and £26 13s 4d by the said William Stewart. (transcribed from Rotuli scaccarii Regum Scotorum Vol. VIII, Pg. 638)

It appears that Malcolm Maklawryn and Gilbert Makyntyr are paying a reduced rate for the woodlands which other tenants have the right to use without destruction. A forest conservation program in place by the Campbells.

Malcolm’s son Malcolm M’Olcallum elder and grandsons (with the same names of course) are in the 1559 bond, with their great grandsons in a 1606 bond to Campbell of Glenurchy, which gives us where they lived. In the 1559 Bond, there are six other family groups of V’Laurane the MacPatricks, the MacAllens, the MacDougalls, the MacEwens, the MacDuncans and the MacJohns, with John the servant of Cristine the last of name are all the clan MacLaurin. You can track the names, in the three bonds, most names contain three generations such as Nicoll M'Ane VTatrick Moir (Nicol son of John son of big Patrick) in the 1573 ClanLawren Bond to Glenurchy. The Balquhidder MacLaurin history is for another time.


8 November 1559 Clanlaurane homage transferred. This very important legal document pertaining to Clanlaurane and the only one written in the royal burgh of Sterling, on 8 Nov 1559 confirms that several McLaurane families from Kilmartin Parish south of Loch Etive in Argyll, had moved into Perthshire. Two weeks later on 21 November 1559 at Balloch on Loch Tay in Perthshire, Alexander McLaurane and his followers from Kilmartin parish gave their Bond to Colyne Campbell of Glenurchy. This document is one of two, that directly contradicts the legend that McLarens had been in Perthshire since the time of Kenneth McAlpine, it also eliminates any notion of a Strathearn origin for Clanlaurane before the early 1500’s.

“WE Archibald Erie of Ergyle . . . grantis ws to haif gevin ... To our traist cousyng Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhay and his allis male the manrent homage and sendee quhilk our predecessouris andwe had and hes of the haill kyn and surname of the Clanlaurane and their posterite togidder with the uptaking of thair calpis . . . Prowyding the said Colyne obtene . . . thair consent . . . thairunto . . .

In witnes of the quhilk thyng to thir presentis subscriuit with our hand our propir seill is affixt at the burgh of Sterueling the aucht day of Nouember the yeir of God M v and fifty nyn yeiris befoir thir witnes Johne Campbell off Inuerlevir Johne Corswell persone of Kilmartyne and Andro Quhit. And this we gif for the gud and faythfull sendee that the said Colyne hes done to ws. ARD. ERGYLL.” Black Book of Taymouth

In the 18th century many of the indigenous Appin McLaurins that had remained in the original homeland, along with related Livingstones, MacKenzies, MacDougalls, MacColls and Stewarts, including a handful of "Culloden Veterans" emigrated to Richmond County, North Carolina in 1790 where they flourished. North and South Carolina where there are more Scots living today than in Scotland itself.

McLaurin, MacLaurin, McLaren, McLerran, McLarran, McLarine, McClaren and more are all found in historical and genealogical records for the same persons surname, especially in the United States. This makes research more difficult, compared to researching names Campbell, McDonald, Stewart, McColl or McCall for example. And like Sherry says, "they are all named Hugh".

In ancient days on the Isle of Lismore

"When the line of Lord Dreghorn [John MacLaurin] came to an end the clan remained without a chief until, only a few years ago, the representative of the Auchleskine branch was recognized as MacLaren of MacLaren. These circumstances do not inspire confidence that much is known for certain about the identity of the MacLaren chiefs during the period when their office played a meaningful part in Highland life". Ian Grimble Ph.D., F.R. Hist.S. 1973.

Back in the 1970's, Grimble's public comment perked my interest, a respected Scottish scholar whose notoriety far surpassed  other 20th century Clan MacLaren writers. Grimble was questioning a decision by The Court of the Lord Lyon of Scotland, so I set out to find out what he was referring to and also double check the sources cited in "The MacLarens, A History of Clan Labhran" since it is the official Clan MacLaren history. What I found, was a VERY DIFFERENT family history.

My interest began in 1967 with a letter from Banks McLaurin Jr., who along with James Hudson McLaurin formed the Clan MacLaren Society U.S.A. to publish their and other contributors research into a cohesive, readily available to all family history. Over the next decade they published forty-four “Quarterly's", typically of about 30 pages in length. It was not long into the project that they realized that the name “MacLaren” had been a poor choice for the Society as they found that the primarily Virginia and Carolina McLaurins from the west coast of Scotland, had little if anything to do historically with the McLarens in Balquhidder.

"In ancient days the Bishops of Argyle made Lismore their fertile and peaceful abode, and there the forefathers of Duncan McLaren lived for generations." Duncan McLaren, MP, 1800 -1886.

Duncan McLaurin’s clergy ancestors lived at Balimackillichan, just to the northeast of St. Moluag’s Cathedral property on the Isle of Lismore. Laurence the Bishop of Argyle was an abbot from the indigenous tribe of Lismore and the adjoining abbey lands called Appin, this tribe described as the “slaves of Christ”, MacVicars, M’Olchallums, then later also MacLay and McLaurin lives as far as the parishes of Ardchattan Kilmichael and Kilmartin to the north shore of Loch Awe.

This clergy tribe of Loarn, is now thought to be the heirs of Saint Moluag the patron saint of Cenél Loairn. Nearby are the ‘Laity’ readers, known as the Mhic Laeich who descend from ‘Fin’ the ‘lay son of Fearchar’ who probably lived at Bachuil, where Niall Livingstone of Bachuill lives, “Keeper of St. Moluag’s Crozier” and Chief of the McLeas’ and Livingstones’. Niall Livingstone of Bachuill, the only Saint Columba heir, out of thousands from the district of Loairn, to be recognized as a Clan Chief within the Cenél Loairn. Quite an honor.

“Dominican bishops such as ‘Laurentius Dei gratia epifcopus Ergadie’ and Andrew were, like Màrtainn of Argyll, probably local men who were unlikely to have regarded the western seaboard of Scotland as ‘missionary’ territory.” MacDonald, Iain. The Northern World : Clerics and Clansmen : The Diocese of Argyll between the Twelfth and Sixteenth Centuries (1). Leiden, NL: Brill, 2013.

Laurentius Dei gratia epifcopus Ergadie’s descendants and followers in Argyll and Kintyre included:
Vicar Laurancii at Kilmartin, 1355
Vicar Laurancii at Ardchattan, 1420
Vicar  Dugal Cristini Laurencii at Kilmichael, Glassary, 1436
Vicar Donald Dominici Maclaurante at Kilkerran, Kintyre, 1456
Vicar Johannes M’Lern, 1466.