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