Clan MacAulay is a Scottish clan. The clan was historically centred around the lands of Ardincaple, which are today consumed by the little village of Rhu and burgh of Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute. The MacAulays of Ardincaple were located mainly in the traditional county of Dunbartonshire, which straddles the “Highland Line” between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. Clan MacAulay has been considered a “Highland clan” by writers and has been linked by various historians to the original Earls of Lennox and in later times to Clan Gregor. The MacAulays of Ardincaple, like Clan Gregor and several other clans, have traditionally been considered one of the seven clans which make up Siol Alpin. This group of clans were said to have claimed descent from Cináed mac Ailpín, King of the Picts, from whom later kings of Scotland traced their descent. The chiefs of Clan MacAulay were styled Laird of Ardincaple.

Clan MacAulay dates, with certainty, to the 16th century. The clan was engaged in several feuds with neighbouring clans. However, the clan’s fortunes declined in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the decline and fall of Clan MacAulay, which ended with the death of Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple in the mid-18th century, the clan became dormant. With the revival of interest in Scottish clans in the 20th century a movement was organised to revive Clan MacAulay. The modern organisation strove to unite the three unrelated groups of MacAulays, and all who bore the surname MacAulay, under one clan and chief. In 2002, the clan appointed a potential chief of Clan MacAulay, but his petition for formal recognition was denied by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Lord Lyon ruled that the petitioner did not meet two criteria: anyone without a blood link to a past chief must be Commander of the Clan for ten years before being considered for recognition, and that the chiefship in question was of the MacAulays of Ardincaple and not of all MacAulays. To date, Clan MacAulay does not have a chief recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and therefore can be considered an Armigerous clan.

There are many different groups, clans or septs of MacAulays from Ireland and Scotland who have no historical connection with Clan MacAulay. Other Scottish MacAulays include: the MacAulays of Lewis, the MacAulays of Ullapool and Loch Broom, and possibly the MacAulays of the Uists. Also, there are several Irish septs or clans of MacAulays with no connection with Clan MacAulay. These include: the McAuleys of County Offaly and County Westmeath, the McAuleys in Ulster (County Fermanagh), and the MacAuleys of the Glens (County Antrim). The MacAuleys of the Glens, however, have been thought to have been originally Scottish.





The origin of Clan MacAulay shares both land and names with the early medieval Earls of Lennox. The Classical Gaelic personal name Amhlaoíbh, (today Anglicised as Aulay), was a common christian name in the early families of the Earls of Lennox. Amhlaoíbh, a younger son of Alwyn, 2nd Earl of Lennox, is the subject of the lay Mairg thréigios inn, a Amhlaoíbh, which was dedicated to him by the poet Muireadhach Albanach. In the lay, Amhlaoíbh’s land is named “Ard nan Each” (”Horse Height” or “Height of the Horse”). His name appears in early records within the Lennox under several variations, including Auleth, Ameleth, Amelech, Amhlew, Hamelen, and Havel. Amhlaoíbh and his descendants held the lands of Fasselane (Faslane) and an extensive tract of land on the Gare Loch, which included the ancestral lands of Clan MacAulay. Amhlaoíbh had two known sons; Aulay de Fasselane (the elder son), and Duncan. Duncan appears as Duncano Macamelech in a grant to a cousin c. 1290. Aulay de Fasselane had an elder son named Walter de Fasselane who married a cousin, Margaret, Countess of Lennox, after which Walter became the de facto Earl of Lennox through his wife.

Ardincaple (”cape of the horses” or “height of the horses”), the ancestral home of Clan MacAulay, is located on the shores of Gare Loch in the historical district of Lennox. In the Middle Ages, the Lairds of Ardincaple paid homage to the Earls of Lennox. According to the Scottish heraldist Alexander Nisbet (1657-1725), “Morice de Arncappel”, who appears in the Ragman Rolls swearing allegiance to Edward I of England in 1296, was the ancestor of the MacAulays of Ardincaple. His seal consists of a “Stag’s head cabossed; between the antlers a small animal and fleur-de-lys“. An early Laird of Ardincaple was Alexander de Ardincaple, who in 1473, served on the inquest of the Earl of Menteith. Another laird, Aulay de Ardincaple, was invested on a precept from John, Earl of Lennox, in the lands of Faslane adjoining Ardincaple in 1518. Aulay and his wife, Katherine Cunningham, had sasine of the lands of Ardincaple in 1525. Several historians have stated that the first Laird of Ardincaple to take the surname MacAulay was Alexander de Ardincaple, son of this Aulay de Ardincaple. Nisbet wrote that Alexander took the name “from a predecessor of his own of the name of Aulay, to humour a patronymical designation, as being more agreeable to the head of a clan than the designation of Ardincaple of that Ilk.” Alexander lived during the reign of James V (reigned 1513–1542). However, the antiquary Walter MacFarlane stated that the MacAulays derived their name from an Aulay MacAulay of that Ilk, who lived during the reign of James III of Scotland (reigned 1440–1488). There is record in 1536 of a Awla McAwla of Ardencapill; another Awla McAwla was clerk of the watch of Queen Mary’s guard in 1566.

During the 15th and 16th centuries in west Dumbartonshire, the clans MacFarlane, MacAulay, and Colquhoun raided and plundered each other’s lands and combined to sweep the lowlands of its flocks and herds. Other clans—among them the MacGregors, Campbells, Camerons and Buchanans—invaded the district later. In July 1567, after Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her infant son, James, Walter MacAulay of Ardincaple was one of the signators of the bond to protect the young prince. “The Laird of M’Cawla of Ardincaple” appears in the General Band of 1587 as a principal vassal of the Duke of Lennox. In 1594, the “M’Cawlis” appear in the Roll of Broken Clans.

Near the shores of Faslane (which today is consumed by Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde), there was a place called Cnoch-na-cullach (translation from Scottish Gaelic: “Knoll of the cock”). There is a legend that when a cock crowed beneath the branches of an old oak tree upon the knoll that a member of Clan MacAulay was about to die.



Feud with clans Buchanan and Galbraith



A facsimile of the Arms of “Mc: aula of Arncapelle”. Note the similarity to various Stewart Arms, perhaps hinting of an actual descent or dependence upon the Stewarts.

On 1 August 1590, Walter MacAulay, son of Allan MacAulay of Durling, was killed on the “Highway and street of Dunbarton” in a clash against a contingent of Buchanans, who were lead by Thomas Buchanan, Sheriff Depute of Dunbarton. Also wounded in the encounter was Walter’s brother, Duncan MacAulay, who was wounded through the “harn pan” (brain); John dhu MacGregor, who was wounded behind his shoulder blade so that “his lights and entrails might be seen” (lungs); James Colquhoun, who was wounded in the “wamb” (stomach); and others including a MacAulay, Miller, and MacGibbon. When a complaint was registered on 29 September, the defenders failed to appear and were “put to the Horn” (denounced as rebels). On 6 October 1590, Thomas Buchanan of Blairlusk, John Buchanan, his son John Buchanan Burgess of Dunbarton, and others were formally charged in Edinburgh with the murder of Walter MacAulay. The accused were ordered to appear before the Justice at Edinburgh on 21 December 1590. The case was then deferred to March and again the accused failed to appear. The following May saw the Bond of Manrent between Clan MacAulay and Clan Gregor, in which both chiefs swore an alliance to assist each other, their “kin and friends in all their honest actions against whatsoever person or persons the Kings Majesty being only excepted”.

In spring of 1593, Robert Galbraith, Laird of Culcreuch, purchased a Commission of Justiciary (or a commission of “fire and sword” used to legally attack and destroy another clan) to pursue Clan Gregor and “their ressetters and assisters”. The MacAulays and Colquhouns were suspicious of Galbraith’s real intentions and on 3 May 1593, the lairds of the two clans complained that Galbraith had only purchased the commission under counsel from George Buchanan and that Galbraith had no intentions of actually harassing the MacGregors. It seemed more likely that the Galbraiths, allied with the Buchanans, would direct their vengeance against the MacAulays and Colquhouns under the guise of hunting and clearing Clan Gregor from the Lennox. To complicate matters, the Laird of Ardincaple had married the Laird of Culcreuch’s widowed mother against his consent and Galbraith had “gevin vp kindnes, and denunceit his euill-will to him with solempne vowis of revenge” (given up kindness, and denounced his evil will to MacAulay with solemn vows of revenge). Ultimately, Robert Galbraith’s letter of commission was taken from him.



Alliance with clan Gregor



The traditional descent of the seven clans of Siol Alpin. In 1591 the MacAulays signed a bond of manrent with the MacGregors, acknowledging the MacGregors as senior in line to the MacAulays. The MacGregors had signed a similar contract with MacKinnons in 1571.

Around the end of the 16th century Clan Gregor was involved in several disputes. In order to strengthen its position the clan proceeded to enter in alliances with clans who were reputed to share a common ancestry. One such alliance was concluded on July 6, 1571 between James Macgregor of that Ilk and Luchlin Mackinnon of Strathardill, and another alliance was formalised twenty years later, on 27 May 1591, with Clan MacAulay. This formal agreement, known as a bond of manrent, was between Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple and Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae. In the bond, the two chiefs promised to aid each other against anyone but the King, and MacAulay acknowledged being a cadet of the House of MacGregor and promised to pay the MacGregor chief his calp. The giving of calp, a tribute of cattle or the best eighth of a part of goods to a superior lord or chief, was a significant custom in Gaelic society. Prior to this bond of manrent, the chief of Clan MacAulay does not appear to have been involved with Clan Gregor in anyway. According to the 19th century historian Joseph Iriving even though the chief of Clan MacAulay was at feud with the Buchanans it is unclear how such an alliance would benefit his own clan. Irving wrote that the MacAulay chief must have known that any connection with Clan Gregor “would end (as it actually did) in a manner most disastrous to all connected with the turbulent Macgregors”.

This bond of manrent has been used as evidence of an ancestral connection between clans Gregor and MacAulay. A passage in the bond states: “Alexander M’Gregor of Glenstray on the ane part and Awly M’Cawley of Ardingapill on the other part understanding ourselfs and our name to be M’Calppins of auld and to be our just and trew surname” (Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae on the one part and Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple on the other part, understanding ourselves and our names to be MacAlpins of old and to be our just and true surname). From this statement the 19th century historian W. F. Skene discounted a descent from the old Earls of Lennox, and further concluded there was no doubt that Clan MacAulay was a member of Siol Alpin - a group of clans which could claim descent from Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín) whom Scots considered to be their first king. Later historians have shown that such bonds were used by the MacGregors to cement alliances with weaker clans, and that such a bond was likely to have been forced upon the MacAulays by the more powerful MacGregors.

Following the Battle of Glen Fruin, between Clan Gregor and Clan Colquhoun in February 1603, there was much public outcry against the rebellious MacGregors. By an Act of the Privy Council, on April 3, 1603, it was made an offence to bear the name MacGregor, or to give one aid or shelter. The Earl of Argyll, who was responsible to the Privy Council for the actions of the MacGregors, was entrusted to bring the force of the law against this lawless clan. Deeply suspicious of the Clan MacAulay chief and his relations with the Clan Gregor chief, one of his first moves was to bring acts against Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple. On 17 March 1603, Aulay MacAulay and his sureties were ordered to appear and answer for reset, supplying, and intercommuning with Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae and other MacGregors. He was also to answer for not “rising ye fray” and pursuing the outlawed clan Gregor in the Lennox. MacAulay was accused of bringing the MacGregor “thevis and rebells” to the Colquhoun lands of Luss and for their part in stealing from the Colquhouns of Luss.

It seems clear that the Duke of Lennox’s influence with the King is all that saved Clan MacAulay from suffering the same fate as Clan Gregor, who were outlawed and hunted down throughout the country. On 7 April 1603, James VI of Scotland wrote from Berwick to the Justice General and his deputies, stating; “And We, vnderstanding that the said Aulay M’cauley is altogidder frie and innocent of the saidis allegit crymes laid to his chairge ; and that he is to accumpany ws to our realme of Ingland, with our darrest cousing the Duik of Lennox, his maister” (And we, understanding that the said Aulay MacAulay is altogether free and innocent of the said alleged crimes laid to his charge; and that he is to accompany us to our realm of England, with our dearest cousin the Duke of Lennox, his master). The King’s order stopped all investigation against the Laird of Ardincaple, thus protecting the small Clan MacAulay from the powerful Earl of Argyll and his allies. By the time the time the King’s letter was received, MacAulay had left the Lennox as part of the Duke of Lennox’s train, which accompanied King James VI on his way to England to be declared King James I of England.

On 18 January 1604, the chief of Clan Gregor, Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, was apprehended by the Earl of Argyll after almost a year in hiding and was brought to stand trial in Edinburgh. Before his execution two days later, MacGregor accused the Earl of Argyll of trying to persuade him to kill the Chief of the MacAulays: “I Confess, befor God, that he did all his craftie diligence to intyse me to slay and destroy the Laird Ardinkaippill, Mckallay, for ony ganes kyndness or freindschip that he mycht do or gif me. The quhilk I did refuis, in respect of my faithfull promeis maid to Mckallay of befor” (I confess, before God, that he did all his crafty diligence to entice me to slay and destroy the Laird of Ardincaple, MacAulay, for any gain of kindness or friendship that he might do or give me. That which i did refuse, in respect of my fateful promise made to MacAulay before).



Feud with the Earl of Argyll

The Earl of Argyll suspected the Laird of Ardincaple, among others, of involvement in a conspiracy which resulted in the murder of the John Campbell, Laird of Calder in 1591. Argyll’s evidence pointed to a larger conspiracy which had designs on the assassination of himself, his brother Colin Campbell of Lundy, the Earl of Moray, and John Campbell of Calder. It seems the conspirators’ goal was to replace the Earl of Argyll with his kinsman, Campbell of Lochnell, who followed his brother Colin in the line of succession to Argyll, and to divide the vast estates of Argyll amongst themselves. When Argyll discovered MacAulay was somehow involved in the plot, he took action and invaded and took Ardencaple Castle from the MacAulays by May 1594. The Duke of Lennox, taking Argyll’s action to be a direct assault on himself, demanded that Argyll return the lands of Ardincaple.

As stated before, in the confession of Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, he stated that the Earl of Argyll attempted to convince MacGregor to slay Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple. This was not the first time the earl had been accused of such an act, in the Treasurer’s Books, dated November 1602, reads: “Item, to Patrik M’Omeis, messinger, passand of Edinburghe, with Lettres to charge Ard Earle of Argyle to compeir personallie befoir the Counsall, the xvj day of December nixt, to ansuer to sic things as salbe inquirit at him, tuiching his lying at await for the Laird of Ardincapill, vpone set purpois to have slain him, xvj li”.



Feud with the Captain of Carrick



Clan Macaulay Armorial Shield, as found in the gallery of Scottish Clan Armorial Shields, in St Columba’s Church, Glasgow.

A bitter feud began at the end of the 16th century between the MacAulays of Ardincaple and Campbells of Carrick, who were based at Carrick Castle on the shores of Loch Goil (about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) northwest of Ardincaple). Though the origins of the feud are unclear, the first documented evidence of trouble occurred in 1598. Duncan Campbell, Captain of Carrick, registered a bond of 300 merks for each of his men in Rosneath, to keep from harming “Awlay McCaulay of Ardingapill.” Another bond of 2000 merks was registered for Campbell of Carrick to not harm “McCaula” and his followers.

In 1599, the Duke of Lennox legally evicted Donald Campbell of Drongie and several of his followers from the lands of Mamoir, Mambeg, and Forlancarry along the banks of the Gare Loch. In retaliation, a combined force of Campbells of Carrick and Drongie assembled at Rosneath, on the opposite shore of the Gare Loch from Ardincaple, and returned laid waste to the Duke’s new acquisitions. When the case was presented to the Privy Council on 17 May 1600, Campbell of Carrick and Campbell of Drongie were denounced as rebels.

Evidence was brought forth to the Privy Council of an attempt on Aulay MacAulay’s life on 24 September 1600. The evidence pointed to the Captain of Carrick’s men coming at night to Ardincaple and attacking followers of the Laird and killing one, Malcolm Galbraith. A second attempt on the chief of the MacAulays’ life was carried out at night as he was staying at Nether Greenock. Aulay MacAulay, Patrick Dennestoun (one of Ardincaple’s servants), and Archibald Connel were all shot in the encounter. Again the Privy Council denounced the Captain of Carrick and his men as rebels.

In November 1600, the Captain of Carrick and 100 followers invaded the lands of Ardincaple, armed with “hagbuts, pistolets, bows, darlochs and habershons.” After taking prisoners, the invaders eventually fled the wood they were waiting in for fear of being pursed from men of the district. The Campbells then retreated after destroying houses, hamstringing animals, and making off with livestock belonging to other tenants of the Duke of Lennox. For this action, the participating Campbells were again denounced as rebels.



After 1600

In 1597, Aulay MacAulay was suretor to Lachlan MacLean of Coll who had to give up the house a Brekoch when required by the king. After the episode at Glen Fruin between clans Gregor and Colquhoun in 1603, western Dumbartonshire slowly became more “settled” or peaceful. The MacGregors ceased to exist as a clan and the resident clans of MacAulay, MacFarlane, and Buchanan became less powerful as their lands slowly passed into the hands of strangers. In 1614, Angus Og MacDonald of Dunyvaig seized Dunyvaig Castle, which had been held by the Bishop of the Isles. Sir Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple, with twenty of his men, accompanied the Bishop to Islay to demand the surrender of the castle.

On 26 March 1639, Covenanters captured Dumbarton Castle to prevent it from being used as an Royalist base in the event of an invasion from Ireland. Once secured, the Earl of Argyll placed Walter MacAulay, Laird of Ardincaple, as keeper of the castle with a garrison of forty men. In 1648, the parish of Row (modern Rhu) was created at the instigation of Aulay MacAulay, Laird of Ardincaple, who wanted to separate from the parish of Rosneath on the opposite side of the Gare Loch. He built the first parish kirk a year later and provided land for the kirk, minster’s manse, and garden.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 saw the overthrow of the Roman Catholic, James II of England, in favour of the Protestant, William III of Orange. Though most of the English accepted William, Jacobites within Ireland and Scotland opposed him in favour of the deposed James. In 1689, the Earl of Argyll’s offer to raise a regiment of 600 men in aid of William was accepted. Argyll’s regiment was to consist of 10 companies of about 60 men each. That same year, Archibald MacAulay of Ardincaple raised a company of fencibles in aid of William. William and his wife Mary were crowned King and Queen of Scotland as William II and Mary II on 5 November 1689. In 1690, “Ardencaple’s Company” within the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment was commanded by Captain Archibald MacAulay of Ardencaple, Lieutenant John Lindsay, and Ensign Robert MacAulay “Anshent” (ancient). Later in 1694, Archibald’s younger brother, Robert, is listed as Captain Robert MacAulay in the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot. Even after the revolution had succeeded there was still a fear of invasion in Dumbartonshire by adherents to the expelled Jacobite king. Local parishes were required to muster their men. An example of the size of one particular muster around 1693 is as follows: in Kilmaronock, fifty men and ten guns; in Gleneagles, seventy-four men and three-score swords; in Luss, seventy men “with arms conforme”; in Cardross, one hundred men and thirty stand of arms; and in Rhu, there were eighty-men and fifty-six firelocks. At first the individual parishes selected their own officers, but at general musters they were divded into two companies—one containing those above Leven, and those living below in the other. At a shire mustering at Kilpatrick in 1696, MacAulay of Ardincaple was selected as Captain of the company above Leven, with Noble of Ferme, Lieutenant, and Dugald MacFarlane of Tullibintall, Ensign.

At the beginning of the 18th century, a group of MacAulays migrated to the former counties of Caithness and Sutherland.



Fall of the clan and loss of Ardincaple



Ardencaple Castle c. 1879, then occupied by H. E. Crum-Ewing of Srathleven, Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire.

See also: Ardencaple Castle

The power of Clan MacAulay and the fortune of the Lairds of Ardincaple diminished from the 17th century into the 18th century. Successive lairds were forced to divide and sell, piece by piece, the lands once governed by the clan. As the laird’s resources dried up, their lands fell into decay, and the once expansive lands of Ardincaple shrank to only a few farms.

The last Macaulays seem to have been a perfect type of the true old Celtic school of men who thought much of their Chiefery, of their old connection with Clan Gregor, and of the retainers whom they could send out to fight or reive in alliance with them, but who thought nothing of the acres under their own power which could be made to bear the fruits of industry and of peace.

George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, Scotland As It Was and As It Is.

By the early 1750s, even the roof of Ardincaple Castle, seat of the clan chief, had fallen in. The overall condition of the castle had deteriorated to such an extent that the next laird was forced to abandon it and live in nearby Laggarie. The bulk of the Ardincaple estate ultimately passed into the hands of John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll. The last chief of the MacAulays, Aulay MacAulay, died at High Laggarie (now encompassed by the tiny village of Rhu) landless and without an heir to succeed as chief in about 1767. In 1794, Lord Frederick Campbell (brother of John, 5th Duke of Argyll) supervised the draining of the marsh and bog-ridden former lands of the Lairds of Ardincaple. The poor state of the lands of Ardincaple before that year is illustrated in the statement by George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll: that much of the land couldn’t bear the weight of a cow, and local men of the time remembered when horses would be lost in the bogholes prevalent in the area.



Modern era: clan associations

Since the death of the last chief, in the 18th century, the clan ceased to exist. Though with a revival of Scottish interest in the 20th century several MacAulays unsuccessfully attempted to prove a genealogical link to the last chief, and a movement was organised to revive the clan. In 1997 Iain McMillian MacAulay was made interim leader, or Clan Commander. Later in 1998, during its first assembly, the organisation’s objectives were determined: to unite three unrelated groups of MacAulays under one chief - Clan MacAulay (the MacAulays of Ardincaple), the MacAulays of Lewis, and the MacAulays of Ullapool and Loch Broom. This new chief would then, in effect, be chief of all MacAulays. In 1999 MacAulay intended to petition the Lord Lyon King of Arms to be recognised as chief but was challenged by Iain Davidson MacAulay, originally a native of Helensburgh who claimed a direct bloodline to the chiefs of the clan.



Ardencaple Castle, located near Helensburgh, Scotland. Today, all that remains of the grand turreted mansion is a solitary tower.

In 2001, an ad hoc derbhfine took place at Tulloch Castle, Dingwall in Easter Ross with the intention of nominating a person to petition Lyon Court to become a recognised clan chief. Prior to the derbhfine Ross Herald wrote to six armigers and ten landowners supplied by the Clan MacAulay Association, who would be involved in the voting. The derbhfine, which was supervised by Ross Herald, took place in front of 50 clan members, and the voting was carried out by only 11 members. The derbhfine ruled that Iain McMillan MacAulay, and 80-year-old armiger, should lead the clan. After being nominated as leader, MacAulay then petitioned the Lord Lyon King of Arms for the right to receive the Undifferenced arms of the last chief of Clan MacAulay, legally making him clan chief. Later in 2002, the Robin Blair, the Lord Lyon King of Arms rejected MacAulay’s petition. He ruled that a petitioner without a genealogical link to a past chief would have to rule as Commander of the Clan for ten years before being considered for recognition as a chief. Following this, The Scotsman reported that the reasoning behind his ruling was that recognising MacAulay as chief would discourage any further research into finding a blood link to the chiefs of the clan. And that such research was unnecessary. The Lord Lyon also stated, that with no historical evidence linking the MacAulays of Lewis and Clan MacAulay (the MacAulays of Ardincaple), “there does not seem to be any firm basis for considering the present Petition other than in the context of the Ardincaple MacAulays alone.” Later in 2002, clan members then decided on a democratic process to select a clan chief. It was decided that a potential chief would have to be elected by all clan members for a duration of five years at a time, before being re-elected again. At the time it was also debated over whether a potential chief should have to be a resident in Scotland, however a decision on this could not be agreed upon. Following Iain McMillan MacAulay’s death in 2003 his son, Diarmid Iain MacAulay, was elected by members as chief of Clan MacAulay. The present Clan MacAulay does not have a chief recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and therefore can be considered an Armigerous clan. According to the Clan MacAulay Association in Scotland website, there will be a “clan gathering” held in Edinburgh during the International Gathering of the Clans festivities which will take place from July 25July 26, 2009.



DNA study: separate clans, unrelated septs

In 2003 the Clan MacAulay Society decided to undertake a DNA project to determine how people with the surname, including its many variants, were related to each other. There have also been several other DNA projects involving the MacAulay surnames, including one for MacAulays with ancestral links to North Uist. An analysis of the combined results, 54 members as of November 2007, showed that there were nine separate blood-lines of “MacAulays” and 8 members who could not be attached to a blood-line. Of these nine distint groups, three were determined to represent known clans or septs, however these clans/septs have no historical link with Clan MacAulay: the MacAuleys of Fermanagh (Ireland); the MacAulays of North Uist (Western Isles); the Macaulays of Lewis (Western Isles). The other blood-line groups could not be attached to any particular clan, as well as the 8 members without a blood-line group, and as such no DNA group or member has yet stood out as representing a Clan MacAulay blood-line.



In Ireland

See also: Plantation of Ulster

During the early 17th century, Clan MacAulay was involved in the Plantation of Ulster, as King James I began colonising regions of Ireland with English and Scottish settlers. Several MacAulays were transplanted from Scotland to Ulster during this era. The Duke of Lennox was the chief undertaker in the precinct of Portlough (eastern County Donegal) and his resident agent was Sir Aulay MacAulay. In the same precinct, Alexander MacAulay of Durling (also known as “Alexander M’Awley, alias Stewart”) was alloted 1,000 acres (4.0 km²), called Ballyneagh. By 1617, the MacAulay-controlled Ballyneagh consisted of a stone house, a bawn of lime and stone, two freeholders, nine lessees, and was able to produce thirty men with arms. Alexander MacAulay, alias Stewart later succeeded Sir Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple as chief of Clan MacAulay, and sold his lands in Ireland.



Irish MacAuleys

Today many of the McAuleys (and other various spellings of the name) living in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are descendants of Clan MacAulay of Ardincaple, though there are several different clans or septs of native Irish MacAuleys who are unrelated to one another and also have no link with Scotland at all.



Map of Ireland.

The McAuleys of County Offaly & County Westmeath derive their name from Amhalgaidh (Old Irish), who lived in the 13th century. They are of native Irish descent, with an ancient descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Their lands were in western County Westmeath and northern County Offaly; the heartland of the sept was near Ballyloughnoe, County Westmeath, known in Elizabethan times as “MacGawleys Country.”

The McAuleys in Ulster get their name from Amhlaoibh, a Gaelic personal name derived from the Old Norse names Áleifr and Óláfr. These McAuleys trace a descent from Amhlaoibh, son of the first Maguire King of Fermanagh, Donn Carrach Maguire. The Mac Amhlaoibhs are said to have conquered southern Fermanagh for the Maguires and have left their name on the area in Clanawley.

The MacAuleys of the Glens are thought to be of Scottish descent. Located in the Glens of Antrim, the MacAuleys were allies of the MacDonnells in the 16th century. The MacDonnells held parts of Clannaboy while the MacAuleys, MacGills, and MacAllisters occupied the northeast coast of Antrim. On the plain of Bun-na-mairgie, near Ballycastle, the MacDonnells (lead by Sorley Boy MacDonnell) fought the MacQuillans. Before the battle, the MacQuillans appealed to the O’Neills of Lower Claneboy and to the MacAuleys and MacPhoils of the middle Glens of Antrim for assistance against the MacDonnells. The two small clans (the MacAuleys and MacPhoils) were two days late to the battle; when they arrived, they were only spectators to a battle which was near its climax. Sorley Boy MacDonnell then rode out to the chief of the MacAuleys and persuaded him to join his ranks, as did the MacPhoils. Their combined force then drove the MacQuillans to the banks of the river Aura, where they were finally defeated and the chief of the MacQuillans slain in what is known as the Battle of Aura. Festivities lasted for several days after the battle and a cairn, called “Coslin Sorley Boy”, was raised on the mountain Trostan.

A branch of the MacAulays of Ardincaple settled in County Antrim, with the leading member of the family owning the Glenarm estate for some time until it passed to the MacDougalls in 1758.



Clan profile



Origin of the name

As stated, the clan surname MacAulay (and its numerous variations) has been thought by some to descend from the family of the Earls of Lennox. George F. Black wrote that this name originated from the Gaelic patronymic name MacAmhalghaidh (”son of Amalghaidh“). The Old Gaelic personal name Amalghaidh, pronounced almost like “Aulay” or “Owley”, is of uncertain meaning. Several unrelated “MacAulay” clans or septs, such as MacAulays from the Western Isles, and MacAuleys from County Fermanagh, derive their name from a Gaelic form of an Old Norse personal name.



Clan symbols: crest badge and clan badge

A scottish crest badge is a heraldic badge used by clan members to show allegiance to a specific clan and its chief. Crest badges are made of metal, usually silver in colour, and are worn on a bonnet. In most cases crest badges are made up of the clan chief’s heraldic crest, surrounded by a strap and buckle which contains the chief’s heraldic motto or slogan upon it. However, in the case of Clan MacAulay, no coat of arms of a chief of the clan has ever been matriculated by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The crest badge appropriate for a clan member of Clan MacAulay contains the Latin motto DULCE PERICULUM (”Danger is sweet”). The crest within the badge is an antique boot, couped at the ankle, proper. In 1608 Sir Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple was a Shire Commissioners for Dumbartonshire (prior to the Acts of Union 1707, a Shire Commissioner was the equivalent of the English office of Member of Parliament). Sir Aulay was one of two commissioners who were tasked with regulating the price of boots and shoes.

Another clan symbol is a clan badge or plant badge. Clan badges were originally plants worn from a bonnet or tied to a spear or pole. There have been two clan badges attributed to Clan MacAulay: Cranberry (Scottish Gaelic: A’Muileag, and Scots Pine (Scottish Gaelic: Giuthas). Both Clan MacAulay and Clan MacFarlane have been attributed with Cranberry. Clan MacFarlane, also a west-Dumbartonshire clan, claims a descent from Alwyn II, Earl of Lennox. The clan badge of Scots Pine has been attributed to all seven clans of Siol Alpin: Clan Grant, Clan Gregor, Clan MacAulay, Clan Macfie, Clan MacKinnon, Clan MacNab, and Clan MacQuarrie.




There have been four published tartans associated with the surname MacAulay:

Tartan image



MacAulay or Comyn/Cumming: This tartan was first published by James Logan as a MacAulay tartan and was illustrated in Logan and R. R. McIan’s joint work The Clans of the Scottish Highlands in 1845. An almost identical tartan, listed as a Cymyne (Comyn) tartan, appeared in the 1842 work, Vestiarium Scoticum, by the infamous Sobieski Stuarts. In the 1850 work of W. & K. Smith, it is listed as Cumming tartan; the Smiths claimed the tartan had the sanction of the head family of Cumming.


MacAulay: This shortened version of the tartan published by Logan is first found in 1881 by M’Intyre North, who had copied (possibly erroneously) Logan’s thread counts. The tartan then appears in James Grant’s work of 1886, with Logan’s original MacAulay tartan being listed again as a Comyn (Cumming). There are several theories as to how the shortened version came to be; a copyist’s error could have left out four lines from Logan’s count to produce this version, or manufacturers seeing Logan’s design listed as a Cumming in the Smith work may have made the change to eliminate confusion. This shortened version looks similar to the MacGregor tartan, with whom the MacAulays have been associated. Frank Adam, in his The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, claimed that this is the tartan of the MacAulays of Ardincaple. Also, that the MacAulays of Lewis, who were dependent on the MacLeods of Lewis, wear the MacLeod tartan.


MacAulay: This tartan shows a definite similarity to the MacGregor tartan. It was first published in the The Baronage of Angus and Mearns in 1856. The Baronage of Angus and Mearns describes the tartan as “12 red, 1/4 blue, 6 green, 1/4 blue, 2 1/2 red, 1/4 blue, 3 green, 1/4 black, 1 white, 1/4 black, 3 green, 1/4 blue, 2 1/4 red, 1/4 blue, 6 green, 1/4 blue, 24 red.”


Hunting MacAulay: this modern tartan conforms to the early MacAulay tartan recorded by Logan (top).



Clan septs

The Clan Campbell sept of MacPhederain (Anglicised as MacPhedran, McPhedran, Patterson, and Paterson) were descended from a MacAulay, according to William Buchanan of Auchmar. The MacPhedrans traditionally held the lands of Sonachan on Loch Awe, in what was largely Campbell territory. The earliest account of the MacPhedrans is in 1439, when “Domenicus M’Federan” was granted confirmation for the lands of Sonachan by Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe.

According to David Sellar the MacArthurs of Darleith descend from the MacAulays of Ardincaple. Darleith is located quite close to the old MacAulay seat at Ardincaple, about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi).

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