is moving to
Please choose a site:
Mobile Friendly
More Choice
No Scotweb Points (Yet)
Familiar Look
Wide Range in Stock
Scotweb Points

MacNeacail or MacNicol

Clan MacNeacail or Clan MacNicol is Scottish clan long associated with the Isle of Skye, and were also a sept of the Clan MacLeod. In the 1980s Sir David Nicolson, 4th Baron Carnock was recognized by Lord Lyon King of Arms as Chief of Clan Nicolson. Not content with this Ian Nicolson, an Australian, petitioned Lord Lyon to be chief of the Nicolsons of Scorrybreac, and in 1988 was regonized as Ian Norman Carmichael MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac, Chief of the Highland Clan MacNeacail.






“Mac Nicol”. A Victorian era romanticised depiction of a member of the clan by R. R. McIan, from The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, published in 1845.




MacNeacail (Scottish Gaelic), is anglicized as MacNicol, Nicholson/Nicolson and literally means “Son of Nicol.” Nicol, a diminutive of Nicholas (Greek: Νικόλαος “Victory People“), was first brought to the British Isles by the Normans, and was a very common medieval name.

The supposed progenitor of the Clan MacNicol is first recorded as Mackrycul.

The MacNicols are thought to have originally inhabited the lands on the west coast of Ross, Scotland. By the early fourteenth century they had lost their lands, between Loch Maree and Loch Torridon, through the marriage of a MacNicol heiress to a member of the MacLeods of Lewis. It is thought that it was about this time that the MacNicols removed to the Isle of Lewis, following the MacLeods. Later on, as the MacLeods moved south to the Isle of Skye, the MacNicols were among them and settled mainly in the northern central side of the island, surrounding the area of Scorrybreac near Portree.

It is otherwise stated, in several sources to be found in various clan histories, that the MacLeods gained the land of the MacNicols by means of slaughtering the clans male heirs and abducting the females, forcing them into a marriage that by today’s standards would be illegal.



Isle of Lewis

There was a tradition that the MacNicols were situated in Lewis in ancient times. The Indweller of Lewis wrote around 1678 and 1688 of such tradition. He stated that the first and most ancient inhabitants of Lewis were three men of three different races; Mores, Iskair MacAulay, and Macnaicle. Also, it was through marriage to Macnaicle’s daughter that the Macleods became dominant in Lewis.

On Lewis the ravine separating Dłn Othail from the mainland is called “Leum Mhac Nicol” (translation from Scottish Gaelic: Nicholson’s Leap). Legend was that a MacNicol for a certain crime was sentenced by the chief of Lewis to be castrated. In revenge he ran off with the chief’s only child to the ravine and leaped across the chasm. MacNicol threatened to throw the child into the sea unless the chief himself agreed to be mutilated as well. Attempts at rescuing the child failed and the chief finally agreed to the mans terms. Just as the chief consented MacNicol leaped over the cliff and into the sea with the child crying out in Gaelic. “I shall have no heir, and he shall have no heir.”



Isle of Skye

A tradition from Skye is that a chief of the MacNicol clan, MacNicol Mor, was engaged in a heated discussion with Macleod of Raasay. As the two argued in English a servant, who could speak only gaelic, imagined that the two leaders were quarrelling. The servant, thinking his master in danger, then drew his sword and slew MacNicol Mor. To prevent a feud between the two septs, the clan elders and chiefs, of the two septs, then held council to determine the manner in which to appease the MacNicols. The decision agreed upon was that the “meanest” of Clan Nicol would behead Macleod of Raasay. Lomach, a lowly maker of pannier baskets, was chosen and accordingly cut off the head of the Laird of Raasay.

During the sixteenth century MacNicoll of Portree was part of the sixteen member of “The Council Of The Isles” of the Lordship of the Isles, in Finlaggan in Islay.



Clan profile



MacNicol/Nicolson tartan. The historian James Logan, who travelled the Scottish Highlands collecting tartan in the early nineteenth century admitted he could not find an authentic MacNicol/Nicolson tartan.

      Gaelic Names: MacNeacail (Surname) & Clann ‘icNeacail (Collective).

      Crest badge: Note: the crest badge is made up of the chief’s heraldic crest and motto,

                        Chief’s Crest: A hawk’s head erased, gules.

                        Chief’s Motto: Scorrybreac.

      Clan Badge: Trailing azalea.

      Clan Chief: John MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac. The chief resides in Ballina, NSW, Australia.




The MacNicol/Nicolson tartan that appears in the 1845 work The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, by James Logan and illustrated by R. R. MacIan, represents a woman wearing a tartan shawl. Logan even admitted they had never encountered a tartan for the MacNicols/Nicolsons, and that “it is probable they adopted that of their superiors” - the MacLeods.



Associated names

The following is a list of names considered by the modern clan to be associated with Clan MacNeacail. Clan membership not only includes variations of the surname Nicolson or MacNicol, but also anyone who accepts the current chief of the clan to be their chief.
































Category posts

Search the Information Centre.

Need help? See our Search Tips