Clan MacLellan

Clan MacLellan
Clan MacLellan
Crest badge
MacLellan crest.png
Motto: Think on; and
Superba frango[1]
Region Lowlands
Gaelic name MacGille Fhaolain – (son of a servant of Saint Fillan)
Clan MacLellan has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Arms of Lord Kirkcudbright.svg
Arms of the last Chief of Clan MacLellan
Last Chief: The Rt. Hon. Camden Gray Maclellan
The 10th Lord Kirkcudbright
Died: 1832
Historic seat MacLellan's Castle

The name MacLellan is a Scottish clan name. The clan does not currently have a chief therefore it is considered an Armigerous clan.



Origins of the name

The name MacLellan has evolved from the Gaelic MacGille Fhaolain – 'son of a servant of Saint Fillan'. The name is Gaelic in origin. St Filan was a missionary of the old Celtic church, and there is a village in Perthshire named after him. The name Filan itself is derived from the Celtic ‘faelchu’, meaning ‘wolf’. The Maclellans were numerous in Galloway and gave their name to Balmaclellan in Stewartry. Chief Duncan MacLellan appears in a charter of Alexander II in 1217 which is now lost. The name MacLellan identified with Galloway as early as 1273.

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Maclellan of Bombie was among the close followers of Sir William Wallace when he left Kirkcudbright for France after the defeat at the Battle of Falkirk (1298).

15th century and clan conflicts

In the early fifteenth century it is said there were no fewer than fourteen knights of the name Maclellan in Galloway. Sir Patrick Maclellan of Bombie forfeited his estates for marauding through the lands of the Earl of Douglas, the Lord of Galloway.

King James II of Scotland restored the lands when Sir Patrick’s son, Sir William, killed Black Morrow, a supposedly "Moorish" bandit living near Kirkcudbright. Sir William carried the head of the brigand to the king on the point of his sword. When King James demurred regarding the restoration of the estate, Sir William displayed the brigand's head on his sword and advised the King to 'Think on this'. This is the origin of the clan crest of this family and the Think On motto.

In 1452, William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, captured Sir Patrick Maclellan, the tutor of Bombie and Sheriff of Galloway, and held him in Threave Castle for refusing to join a conspiracy against the king. Sir Patrick’s uncle, who held high royal office, obtained letters ordering the release of Douglas’s prisoner. When Douglas was presented with the royal warrant he promptly had Sir Patrick murdered while he entertained his uncle at dinner. Maclellan’s death was another example of Douglas’s contempt for royal authority which the king was later to repay by executing the earl at Stirling. Although there is little doubt that the celebrated Scots cannon, ‘Mons Meg’, which was made at Mons in Belgium, according to local tradition, that it was the Maclellans who brought the great gun to batter down Threave Castle as part of their revenge on the Douglases.

16th century and Anglo-Scottish Wars

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars Sir William Maclellan of Bombie was knighted by King James IV of Scotland but followed his king on the ill-fated invasion of England which ended at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513.

His son, Thomas, was killed at the door of St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh by Gordon of Lochinvar in 1526.

17th century and Civil War

The private coat of arms of Lord Kirkcudbright,[2] the last Chief of the Name and Arms of MacLellan.
armsargent two chevrons Sable;
crest— a naked cubit arm, supporting upon the point of a sword, erect, a moor's head, all ppr.;
supportersDexter: a chevalier in complete armour, holding in his right hand a baton, all ppr.; Sinister: a horse argent furnished gules;
MottoesThink on; and Superba frango

His great-grandson, Sir Robert, was a courtier both to James VI and Charles I, and in 1633 was raised to the peerage as Lord Kirkcudbright. The third Lord was such a zealous royalist that during the Scottish Civil War he incurred enormous debts in the king’s cause, and completely ruined the estates. The title passed from cousin to brother to cousin, with very few direct male heirs.

The Maclellans were from the earliest times staunch Royalists, and zealously supported the successive kings of Scotland in their contests with their turbulent and too powerful nobles. Sir Robert MacLellan, a direct descendant of the Laird of Bombie whom the Earl of Douglas murdered, was one of the Gentlemen of the Bed-chamber, and was raised to the peerage by Charles I., in 1633, by the title of Lord Kirkcudbright. The newly created peer fought gallantly on the royal side in the Great Civil War. John Maclellan, 3rd Lord Kirkcudbright, was very eccentric and hotheaded, and in his impetuous zeal on behalf of the royal cause, he compelled his vassals in a body to take up arms in behalf of the King, and incurred such enormous expense in raising and arming them as completely ruined his estates, which were seized and sold by his creditors. As nothing was left to support the dignity, the title was not claimed for nearly sixty years after the death of this luckless Royalist, and even then it was assumed only for the purpose of voting in a keen contest, for the position of representative peer, between the Earls of Eglintoun and Aberdeen.

18th to 19th centuries

The Edinburgh citizen who inherited, but did not assume, the titles of his family, had three sons. The eldest predeceased him; the third entered the Royal Navy, and was killed in 1782, in an engagement with the French, while in command of the Superb, the flagship of Sir Edward Hughes. The second son, JOHN, seventh Lord Kirkcudbright, on petition to the King, had his claim to the title allowed by the House of Lords in 1773. He entered the army and attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1801, leaving two sons. The elder, SHOLTO HENRY, became eighth Lord Kirkcudbright, and died without issue. The younger, CAMDEN GREY, ninth lord, had an only child—a daughter—and on his death, in 1832, the title became dormant.

MacLellans today

While MacLellans are found all over the world, there are particular concentrations in a few districts of Scotland. A small group has begun what is now Clan MacLellan, gathering members from around the world. The "Scottish Diaspora" dispersed MacLellans throughout the world; the largest numbers settled in Ulster, then Nova Scotia and the United States. Some made their way to Australia. The MacLellan clan was also represented at the 2009 Clan Gathering in Edinburgh, Scotland.


MacLellan's Castle, found in Kirkcudbright in south-west Scotland was the seat of the chief of Clan MacLellan. The castle's beginnings lie in the Reformation of 1560 which led to the abandonment of the Convent of Greyfriars which had stood on the site now occupied by the castle since 1449.

Other MacLellans

There are concentrations of MacLellans found in the Western Isles (especially in Eriskay and South Uist) and around Mallaig and Arisaig. The surname of the MacLellans of North Uist is represented in Scottish Gaelic as MacGilleFhialain; these MacLellans were also known in Gaelic as Clann Iain Mhoir.

See also

  • Black Morrow, traditional story of the crest used in MacLellan heraldry.

External links


  1. ^ electricscotland: Superba frango (Latin : I break down proud things)
  2. ^ A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire; p.44; By John Burke; Published by H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1832; link

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