Origins of the clan

The Clan MacMillan has its roots in an ancient royal house and from the orders of the Celtic church. The progenitor of the clan was Gille Chriosd, one of the six sons of Cormac, the Bishop of Dunkeld. As a Columban priest, his head would have been shaved over the front of his head, rather than in the more usual fashion. This distinctive tonsure is described in Gaelic as ‘Mhaoillan’. The name MacMillan is therefore “son of one who bore this tonsure”.



14th century

An early branch of the Clan MacMillan was to be found at Loch Arkaig in Lochaber. However, tradition states that the family moved from this area on the orders of King Malcolm IV of Scotland and moved to the crown lands of Loch Tay in Perthshire. It was at these lands that Robert the Bruce was sheltered by the Clan MacMillan chief after he stabbed John Comyn the “red Comyn”, chief of Clan Comyn. The Clan MacMillan again proved its loyalty to Bruce by fighting for him against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Chief Malcolm Mor Macmillan received the lands of Knapdale from the Lord of the Isles in 1360. The charter is said to have been inscribed on a rock on the beach at the Point of Knap.

It was reputed to have said:
”Coir MhicMhaolain air a Chnap
Fhad’s a bhuaileas tonn ri crag”

Which is translated from Scots Gaelic (gaidhlig) as:
”MacMillan’s right to Knap
As long as this rock withstands the sea”

(This was later destroyed by Campbell of Calder in 1615). As vassals of the Lord of the Isles, the Macmillans were caught up in the aftermath of the forfeiture of the Lordship and lost control of Knap forever. They did however manage to keep the adjoining lands of Tireleacham. Even so they were still harassed by the Campbells who had supplanted them. The Clan MacKintosh and Clan Cameron had long been at feud. The MacMillans supported the Clan Cameron and it is said that there were MacMillans among the 30 warriors representing the Clan Cameron who fought against 30 warriors from the Clan Mackintosh at a set battle known as the Battle of The North Inch in 1396. It is said that four MacKintoshes survived the battle but were all mortally wounded and one of Cameron’s survived by swimming across a river to escape.



15th century

The Clan MacMillan are also said to have been involved with the The Palm Sunday Massacre of 1430 between the Clan MacKintosh and the Clan Cameron. Alexander MacMillan is remembered in Knapdale for the tower he built at Castle Sween which he held for MacDonald the Lord of the Isles in the 1470s.



16th century

Following the demise of the Macdonald’s Lordship of the Isles at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the MacMillan’s lordship of Knapdale was given by the crown to the Clan Campbell, whose tenants the MacMillans thereafter became; and it was probably at this time that a son of the last MacMhaolain Mor a Chnap who remained loyal to the Lord of the Isles fled Kilchamaig in South Knap to re-establish a branch of the family in Lochaber, who became the Macmillans of Murlagan. The chief of the Clan Cameron who were the clan that had defeated the Chattan Confederation as the Lairds of Lochaber let Murlagan and the neighbouring farms on Loch Arkaigside to the MacMillans for sword-service, and Clann ‘ic ‘illemhaoil Abrach (”the Lochaber M’millans”) were among Lochiel’s most important and loyal followers from the time of the last risings in favour of the forfeited Lords of the Isles in the middle of the sixteenth century



17th century

Macmillan of Knap was considered chief of the clan and when the line became extinct in 1665, the title passed to the Dunmore branch, and from them to the Lagalgarve branch in which it is still vested.



18th century & Jacobite Uprisings

The Clan MacMillan are not noted as being a Jacobite clan however tradition states that there were two MacMillans who carried the Chief of Clan Cameron of Lochiel from where he fell at the Battle of Culloden. However the Clan MacBain also claim to have carried Lochiel of the battlefield at Culloden. Prince Charles Edward Stewart made his last stand from the Clan MacMillan home in Arkaig.



Clan castles & memorials

The Castle Sween includes a tower which stands as a memorial to the MacMillans. The other MacMillan memorial is a cross which stands in the churchyard at Kilmory. This cross is recognised as one of the finest surviving examples of Celtic art in Scotland, and shows a chief of the MacMillans hunting deer.



Clan Septs

Septs of the Clan MacMillan include: Baxter, Gibbon, Gibson, M’Ghille-Domhnuich, McMill, MacMill, McMull, MacMull, Bell, Beall, Lany, Lennie, Leny, M’Ghille-Duinn M’Noccater, M’Nuccator, Bleu, Blew, MacBaxter, Baker, M’Ghille-Guirman, M’Vaxter, Blue, M’Bell, M’Ghille-ghuirm M’Veil, Brown, Broun, M’Callum, M’Hannanich, Mellan, Millan, Callum, M’Calman, M’Igeyll, M’Igheil, Mellanson, Melançon, Calman M’Can, M’Cannie, M’Ildonich, Millan, Can, Cane, M’Channanich, M’Ilduin, Millanson, Cannan, Channan, M’Colman, M’Colmin, M’Iveil, M’Iyell, Milliken, Millikin, Coleman, M’Geil, M’Geyll, M’Kan, M’Kane, Milligan, Mulligan, Colman, Colmin, M’Gibbon, M’Gibson, M’Kean, M’Kenn, Mullan, Mullen, Connon, M’Gill, M’Maoldonich, Walker.



Clan Profile

      Gaelic Name: MacGhilleMhaolain.

      Motto: Miseris succurrere disco (I learn to succour the unfortunate).

      Plant Badge: Holly.

      Lands: Lochaber, Argyll and Galloway,Western Isles - Barra/South Uist

      Origin of Name: Gaelic, MacMhaolain (Son of the bald or tonsured one).

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