Clan MacLeod is a Highland Scottish clan. The Gaelic form is Clann Mhic Leņid. Clann means children, while mhic is the genitive of mac, the Gaelic for son, and Leņid is the genitive of Leņd. The whole phrase therefore means The children of the son of Leod. The Clan MacLeod is made up of two branches, Siol Thormoid (the MacLeods of Harris and Skye) and Siol Thorcuil (the MacLeods of Lewis).





Origins of the clan

The surname MacLeod (pronounced mc-loud) (Scottish Gaelic: MacLeņid) means son of Leod. The name Leod is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic name Leņd, which is thought to have been derived from the Old Norse name Ljótr, meaning ugly. The Clan MacLeod of Lewis claims its descent from Leod, whom according to MacLeod tradition was a younger son of Olaf the Black, King of Mann (r.1229–1237). However, articles have been published in the Clan MacLeod magazine which suggest an alternate genealogy for Leod, one in which he was not son of Olaf, but a 3rd cousin (some removed) from Magnus the last King of Mann. In these alternate genealogies, using the genealogy of Christina MacLeod, great granddaughter of Leod, who married Hector Reaganach (McLean/McLaine) these articles suggest that the relationship to the Kings of Mann was through a female line, that of Helga of the beautiful hair. The dating of Christina’s genealogy and the ability to line it up with known historical facts lend a great deal of authenticity to the claims of the authors.

MacLeod tradition is that Leod who had possession of Harris and part of Skye, married a daughter of the Norse seneschal of Skye, MacArailt or Harold’s son. who held Dunvegan and much of Skye. Leod’s two sons, Tormod and Torquil, founded the two main branches of the Clan MacLeod, Siol Tormod and Siol Torquil. Torquil’s descendants held the lands of the Isle of Lewis until the early seventeenth century when the MacKenzies successfully overthrew the Lewismen, partly with the aid of the Morrisons, and the MacLeods of Harris (Siol Tormod). Younger branches of Siol Torquil held the mainland lands of Assynt and Cadboll longer, and the Isle of Raasay until 1846. Siol Tormod held Harris and Glenelg on the mainland, and also the lands of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

Leod, according to tradition, died around 1280 and was buried on the holy island of Iona, where six successive chiefs of the clan found a last resting-place after him.

A DNA project studying the Y-DNA of males bearing surnames associated with Clan MacLeod found that the vast majority of the men tested had a Haplogroup of R1b, which is the most common Haplogroup in the British Isles and considered to be “Celtic“. A total of 32 percent of all men tested, who were also in this R1b Haplogroup, also shared the same Haplotype and showed this group shared a common ancestor. According to the study, this 32 percent of MacLeods tested had a common ancestor within 1000 years (some will have a common ancestor earlier but all who match with another of the surname with 23/25, 33/37, 62/67 markers share the same more distanct ancestor), thus this Haplotype is considered to show the founding lineage of the Clan MacLeod. While the study could not prove a “Viking” origin of the clan, the study claimed the DNA of this group showed that the clan was founded by a man who could have originated in Scotland or the Isle of Man It should be noted however, that the R1b haplogroup is found at a percentage of 30 in Norway and that the studies of the haplogroup R1b are very fluid.



Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Norman, who became the 2nd chief of the MacLeods of Skye, assumed power around the year 1280. He fought with King Robert the Bruce when the English were defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In 1380 the Clan MacLeod along with Clan MacLean and Clan MacKinnon were defeated in battle by MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, who vindicated his right as Lord of the Isles. The MacLeods then submitted and became firm supporters of the Lord of the Isles and Clan Donald, only to become enemies again in the late 15th century.



15th century & clan conflicts

      Battle of Tuiteam Tarbhach, 1406, was fought between the Clan MacKay and the Clan MacLeod of Lewis. This battle was fought at Tuiteam-tarbhach in the south west part of Sutherland where it meets Ross-shire. Angus MacKay of Strathnaver married the sister of MacLeod of Lewis. MacLeod of Lewis found that his sister had been mis-treated and on his way home he decides to spoil Strathnaver and Brae-Chat in Sutherland. As a result the battle was fought in which the chief of the MacLeods of Lewis was killed.

      Battle of Harlaw, 1411, the MacLeods fought as Highlanders in support of Domhnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles, temporarily preventing the Duke of Albany gaining power in Ross.

      Battle of Bloody Bay, 1480, the Clan MacLeod fought in support of John of Islay, Earl of Ross. William Dubh MacLeod, chief of Clan MacLeod was killed (or taken prisoner) supporting John of MacDonald Islay, Earl of Ross and chief of Clan Donald against his bastard son Angus Og Macdonald.

      By 1495 the chief of Clan MacDonald’s title as Lord of the Isles had been revoked. Soon afterwards the Clan MacLeod successfully took Dunscaith Castle from the MacDonalds led by their chief Alistair Crotach MacLeod. They went on to besiege Knock Castle before withdrawing and in 1498 the MacLeods captured Duntulm Castle from the MacDonalds.



16th & 17th century clan conflicts



Ardvreck Castle built by the MacLeods in 1590

      In 1560 the MacLeods along with the Clan MacLean and Clan MacKay became part of the Gallowglass. A mixture of Gaels and Norsemen who became a ferocious mercenary army who successfully fought for Shane O’Neill in Ireland.

      In 1566 the Clan MacLeod of Assint and Clan MacKay together raided and burned Dornoch.

      Battle of the Spoiling Dyke, 1578, was fought between the MacDonalds of Uist and the Clan MacLeod.

      Battles of Allt Camhna and Leckmelm, 1586, involving the Clan MacLeod, Clan MacKay, Clan Gunn, Clan Sinclair and Clan Sutherland.

      In 1588 William MacLeod of Dunvegan, the 13th chief, bound himself and his heirs in a bond of manrent to “assist, maintain, and defend, and concur with Lachlan Mackintosh of Dunachton, Captain and Chief of the Clan Chattan, and his heirs.”

      Battle of Siol Tormoit, 1601, Fought between the Clan MacDonald of Sleat and the Clan MacLeod.



Sir Donald MacLeod, 1st Baronet of Sleat



Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye. Dunvegan has been home to the same MacLeod family for over 700 years.

      In 1608 after a century of feuding which included battles between the Clan MacDonald the Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacLean all of the relevant MacDonald Chiefs were called to a meeting with Lord Ochiltree who was the King’s representative. Here they discussed the future Royal intentions for governing the Isles. The Chiefs did not agree with the King and were all thrown into prison. Donald the Chief of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat was incarcerated in the Blackness Castle. His release was granted when he at last submitted to the King. Donald died in 1616 and then Sir Donald MacLeod, his nephew succeeded as the chief and became the first Baronet of Sleat.



17th century & Civil War

      During the Civil War, after the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650 the defeated James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose surrendered himself to Neil MacLeod of Assynt at Ardvreck Castle. At the time, Neil was absent and it is said that his wife, Christine, tricked Montrose into the castle dungeon and sent for troops of the Covenanter Government. Montrose was taken to Edinburgh, where he was executed on 21 May 1650.

      By 1651 the Scottish Covenantor government had become disallusioned with the English parliament and supported the Royalists instead. As many as 800 MacLeods fought as Royalists at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.



18th century & Jacobite uprisings

During the 1745 to 1746 Jacobite Uprising the main part of Clan MacLeod supported the British government however a small number of them supported the Jacobites. The chief MacLeod of MacLeod led 500 men of the Clan MacLeod in support of the British government at the second Battle of Inverurie (1745) on the 23rd December 1745. However approximately 120 men of the Clan MacLeod fought for the Jacobites and the House of Stuart at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 where they were attached to the Clan Maclachlan and Clan MacLean regiment.



Clan chiefs



The Chiefs of Clan MacLeod.

      Leod Leņd (c.1200-1280)

      Norman Tormod (1260-1320)

      Malcolm Calum cas Reamhar MhicLeoid (1296-1370)

      John Iain Ciar (1320-1392)

      William Cleireach (1365-1402)

      John Iain Borb (1392-1448)

      William Dubh “Long Sword” (1415-1500)

      Alexander Alasdair Crotach (1450-1547)

      William (1512-1552), succeeded in 1541

      Mary (1543-1602)

      Donald (1514-1556), succeeded in 1556

      Norman Tormod (1516-1585), succeeded in 1559

      William (1560-1590)

      John (1580-1595)

      Sir Roderick Ruairidh Mor (1562-1624)

      John Iain Mor (1600-1649), succeeded in 1626

      Roderick “The Witty” Ruairidh Mor (1636-1664)

      John Iain Breac (1637-1693)

      Roderick Ruairidh og (1674-1699)

      Norman (1685-1706)

      John (1704-1706)

      Norman “The Red Man” (1706-1772)

      Norman “The General” (1754-1801)

      John Norman (1783-1835)

      Norman (1812-1895)

      Norman Magnus (1839-1929)

      Sir Reginald, KCB (1847-1935)

      Dame Flora Louise Cecilia, DBE (1878-1976)

      John (1935-2007)

      Hugh Magnus (b. 1973)

The heir presumptive is Elena Mary Wadezhda (b. 1977), daughter of the 29th Chief.



Clan castles

      Dunvegan Castle has always been the seat of the Chief of the Clan MacLeod, where the clan also holds the legendary Fairy Flag.

      Ardvreck Castle is among several other castles which have been owned by the MacLeods.

      Dunscaith Castle castle was fought over fiercely between the MacLeods and Clan MacDonald with both clans taking possession on several occasions.



Fairy Flag of Dunvegan

A relic of the Clan MacLeod is the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, held at Dunvegan Castle. The legend surrounding the flag is that it was given to a MacLeod chief by his wife, a Fairy princess. The flag is said to have the power to save the clan three times, and has been used twice already, once to win a battle and once to stop an epidemic which threatened the starvation of the clan. A modern legend is that during World War II, MacLeods carried a picture, or pieces of the Fairy flag with them in the Battle of Britain, and not one of the pilots were lost. Also, there is a legend that the chief offered to stand atop the Cliffs of Dover, and wave the flag in the event of the Germans invading England.



Crests and tartans



MacLeod tartan, which appears in the early collections of Logan (1831) and Smibert (1850).



MacLeod tartan, as first published in 1842, in the Vestiarium Scoticum.



Clan crest

      MacLeod of MacLeod: Hold fast.

      MacLeod of Lewis: I birn quil I se. (Latin: Luceo non Uro). (I burn but I am not consumed).




The earliest appearance of a MacLeod tartan was in the Vestiarium Scoticum, published in 1842. The Vestiarium Scoticum composed and illustrated by the dubious “Sobieski Stuarts” is the source for many of today’s Clan tartans. Today the work of the “Sobieski Stuarts” have been proven to be a forgery. One critic of the Vestiarium Scoticum even likened the MacLeod tartan’s design to that of a horse blanket. The green tartan was the battle tartan while the yellow was the dress tartan.



Clan septs

Septs are clans or families who were under the protection of a more powerful clan or family. Scottish clans were largely collections of different families who held allegiance to a common chief.



Septs of Clan MacLeod of Harris and Skye

      Beaton (Betha, Bethea, Bethune, Beton).

      Harold (Harald, Haraldson, Harrold, Herrald, MacHarold, MacRaild).

      MacAndie (Andie, MacHandie, MacKande, MacKandy, Makcandy).

      MacCaig (MacCoig, MacCowig, MacCrivag, MacCuaig, MacKaig, MacQuigg).

      MacClure (MacAlear, MacClewer, MacLeur, MacLewer, MacLur, MacLure, McClure).

      MacCrimmon (Cremmon, Crimmon, Grimmond, MacCrummen, MacGrimman, MacGrymmen, MacRimmon). (see MacCrimmon (piping family)

      MacWilliam (McCullie, MacKilliam, MacKullie, MacWilliams, MacWillie, MacWylie, Williamson).

      Norman (Normand, Norval, Norwell, Tormud).



Septs of Clan MacLeod of Lewis

      Allum {Callam, Callum, Challum, Gillecallum, MacAllum, MacAlman, MacCallum, MacCalman, MacGillechallum, Malcolm, Malcolmson}.

      Lewis (MacLewis).

      MacAskill (Askey, Caskey, Caskie, Kasky, MacAsgill, MacCaskie, MacCaskill, MacKaskill, Mackaskill, MaKasky, Taskill).

      MacAulay (Aulay, Calley, Caulay, Coll, MacAllay, MacAlley, MacAuley, MacCaulay, MacCauley, MacCorley).


      MacCorkill (Corquodale, MacCorcadail, Maccorke, MacCorkill, MacCorkindale, MacCorkle, MacCorkle, MacCorquodale, MacKerkyll, MacKorkyll, MacOrkill, MacThorcadail, McCorkie, McKurkull).

      Nicol (deNicole, MacNichol, MacNickle, McNychol, Necolson, Nichol(s), Nicholl, Nicholson, Nickle, Nicoll, Nicollsoun, Nicolson, Nuccol, Nuckall, Nucolsone).

      Norie (Noray, Nore, Norn, Norrey, Norreys, Norrie, Norris, Norye).


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