Origins of the clan
The origins of the clan are uncertain but by tradition the MacLarens are descended from a man called Lorn who was the son of Erc who landed in Argyll in 503 A.D. However there is no concrete evidence of Lorn being the progenitor of the family. A more likely origin of the clan is that they are of Celtic stock and take their name from a 13th century abbot called Laurance of Achtow. This theory is also supported by the MacLaren rallying cry which in gaelic is: “Creag an Tuirc” which means “Boars Rock”. The rock in question is near Achtow in Balquhidder. The Clan MacLaren’s lands are in Perthshire.
It is also believed the MacLarens were followers of the ancient Earl of Strathearn and were cadets of that ancient house when they fought at the Battle of the Standard under King David I of Scotland in 1138.
Wars of Scottish Independence
During the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan MacLaren fought for King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
15th century & clan conflicts
The MacLarens were a warlike clan and had many feuds with their neighbouring clans. However they forged a powerful alliance with the House of Stuart or Clan Stuart when a daughter of the MacLaren family married a Stuart Lord of Lorn in the 15th century. The first son of this union was called Dougall and went on to become the progenitor of the famous Clan Stuart of Appin.
In 1463 Sir John Stewart was murdered outside the church, just as he was about to marry his MacLaren wife. He was murderd by Alan MacCoul, an ally of the Clan MacDougall. However his murder was avenged in 1468 when the Clan Stuart and Clan MacLaren together defeated the Clan MacDougall at the Battle of Stalc which took place opposite Castle Stalker. In 1469 The Clan MacLaren assisted Dugel Stewart of Appin, son of John Stewart when he attempted by force to obtain possession of his father’s lands. 130 MacLarens were killed when the battle took place at the foot of the mountain called Bendoran.
In 1488 the Clan MacLaren fought at the Battle of Sauchieburn in support of King James III of Scotland.
In 1497 some of the Clan MacLaren stole cattle from the Braes of Lochaber from the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch. The MacDonalds followed them and overtook them at a place called Glenurchy where a battle took place. The MacDonalds won and recovered their cattle. The MacLarens then looked for assistance from Dugel Stuart of Appin. Another battle then took place where the MacLarens were now joined by the Stuarts against the MacDonalds. During the battle Dugel, the chief of Clan Stuart and the chief of Clan MacDonald of Keppoch were both killed.
On the day of a fair where the Clan MacLaren were busy buying, selling and enjoying themselves word came that the Clan Buchanan were marching up towards them through Strathyre. There was no time to lose and the Clan MacLaren rushed to arms. The MacLarens had not all come in by the time the Buchanans arrived, however they were not daunted and attacked the Buchanans. At first the Buchanans were faring better and drove the MacLarens back. The Chief of MacLarens saw one of his sons cut down and being suddenly seized with battle madness turned and shouted the MacLaren battle cry “Creag An Tuirc” and whirling his Claymore rushed furiously at the enemy. His clansmen followed him and the Buchanans were cut down like corn. Only two escaped by swimming the River Balvaig but even they were followed. One was cut down at Gartnafuaran and the second was cut down at a place since known by the circumstance as Sron Laine.
By the end of the 15th century many MacLarens had emigrated to serve in the military of France and Italy and by the time of the 16th century they were described as a broken clan.
16th century & Anglo-Scottish Wars
During the Anglo-Scottish Wars the Clan MacLaren fought for King James IV of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 against the English. The Clan MacLaren also fought for Mary, Queen of Scots at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.
In 1558 a deadly feud took place between the Clan MacLaren and the Clan MacGregor when the MacGregors slaughtered no less than 18 MacLaren men along with their entire families, and took possession of their farms. This incident was not investigated until 1604 when the MacGregors were on trial for slaughtering many men of the Clan Colquhoun. However the MacGregors were cleared of doing anything against the Clan MacLaren.
17th century & Continental Thirty Years War
In the 17th century although the Clan MacLaren had reduced in numbers a branch of the clan distinguished itself in Sweden by the time of the Continental Thirty Years’ War. The modern writer Carl G. Laurin is one of many who carry the name in Scandinavia.
18th century & Jacobite Uprisings
In the 18th century the Clan MacLaren supported the Jacobite House of Stuart and fought at the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715. The clan also fought in the 1745 to 1746 Jacobite Uprisings at the Battle of Prestonpans and the Battle of Falkirk (1746). They also fought at the Battle of Culloden in the Appin regiment under Lord George Murray. After the battle clan chief Donald MacLaren remained a fugitive until the amnesty of 1757.
The current chief of Clan MacLaren is Donald MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine. Donald who is a member of the British Foreign Service succeeded his father as Chief of the Clan on his father’s death.
The Clan Seat is in the Trossachs at Balquhidder. There is the “Creag an Tuirc”, the Clan’s meeting place. Clan meetings are End of July every year at the Lochearnhead Highland Games.
There is a Clan MacLaren on the island of Tiree also.