What follows is one version of many detailing the history of Clan Macfarane. For other accounts, please review the accounts on the ElectricScotland page here.
Story of the Clan
TThe ancestral MacFarlane Lands were located in the West Highlands at the heads of Loch Long and Loch Lomond. The MacFarlane Chiefs presided over this area for about five centuries. The earliest known ancestor of the family was the Saxon Arkil, son of Egfrith. Akril was a Northumbrian chief who fled to Scotland, like others, to escape William the Conqueror. He, received from Malcom Canmore the custody of the Lennox district, and became the first founder of the family bearing that title. Alwyn, son of Arkil, was created Earl of Lennox by the latter King
His son, another Alwyn, of the first Earl of Lennox being a minor at the time of his father's death, was too young to takeover the earldom, so William the Lion gave it to his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, but the young Earl recovered possession around 1199 AD. When he died in 1224 AD, he left no fewer than eight sons. Of these, Malduin, the eldest, became third Earl of Lennox, and Gilchrist, the fourth son, obtained from Malduin in 1225 AD the lands of Arrochar, and became ancestor of the MacFarlanes! Along with Clan Donachy, the MacFarlanes are said to have been the earliest of the clans to hold their lands by feudal charter.

Duncan, the second Laird of Arrochar, married Matilda, sister of Malcolm, fifth Earl of Lennox, who was the friend of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The Laird of Arrochar and his followers (all of whom are MacFarlane ancestors) fought under the Earl of Lennox at Bannockburn. The son of Duncan and Matilda was named Malcolm, probably after his uncle the Earl; and Malcolm's son the fourth Laird, was named Parlan. The name, Parlan, has been linked to Partholon, " Spirit of the Sea Waves", in Irish myths and legend. More usually, it is considered the Gaelic equivalent of Bartholomew. Gaelic grammar requires changes within a word to indicate possession. A "P" is softened to a "Ph", and an "i" is added to the last syllable. In this way, " son of Parlan" becomes Mac (son) Pharlain (of Parlan). It is from this individual that the family has since taken their surname of MacFarlane.


The lands of Arrochar were first given (by charter) to Malduin MacGhilchrist in approx. 1286. Iain MacPharlain received a charter confirmation to Arrochar in 1420.

The senior branches of the Lennox family came to a grisly end in 1425, when eighty-year-old Duncan, Earl of Lennox, had his grey head hacked off after being made to watch his own Stewart grandsons being put to death first, all to slake James I's hatred of the old nobleman's late son-in-law, the Regent of Albany. Thenceforward the MacFarlane chiefs claimed to be chiefs of the whole Lennox clan, as heirs male of the old earls. But the earldom of Lennox was later regranted to the Stuarts of Darnley, descended from Earl Duncan's youngest daughter; and we are told that MacFarlane opposition to them was overcome by the marriage of then chief, Andrew MacFarlane of Arrochar, to a daughter of the new earl.Thereafter the Macfarlanes followed the new Earls of Lennox in most of the major conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Andrew's son, the 11th chief, Sir Iain MacFarlane, who used the old-style chiefly title of 'Captain of Clan Pharlane'. He, it is said, fell under English arrows at Flodden in 1513, leading his clansmen in the rearguard commanded by the Earls of Lennox and Argyll. He was related to both earls, and the MacFarlanes had acquired lands in 1395 through Duncan MacFarlane of Arrochar's marriage to a sister of the 1st Lord Campbell, the then Mac Chailein Mor..
Ser Iain's son, known as Andrew the Wizard, was father of Duncan MacFarlane of that ilk, who was killed fighting for Scotland at Pinkie in 1547. His clansmen were earlier described as 'men of the head of Lennox, that spake the Irish and the English-Scottish tongues, light footmen, well armed in shirts of mail, with bows and two-handed swords'. Buchanan of Auchmar wrote: 'this Duncan, laird of MacFarlane was one of the first, of any account, who made open profession of the Christian religion in this kingdom' - but the errata in later edition runs 'for Christian read protestant.'

Ancient Macfarland crest After the murder of Henry Darnley, Mary, Queen of Scot's' second husband, the Macfarlanes opposed the queen and were noted for their gallantry at the battle of Langside in 1568. Andrew the Wizard, 14th chief, is said to have captured no less than 3 of Mary's standards. The valor of Andrew and his men was rewarded by the Regent, James, Earl of Moray with the Clan's original crest and motto. The crest and motto alludes to the defense of the Crown and Kingdom. Since Mary had abdicated previously in favour of her infant son, she was in rebellion against the Crown, Moray and James VI during these times.Later Chiefs modified the crest to the modern version.
For much of their history, the Macfarlanes were a turbulent lot. In 1589 the MacFarlanes caught Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss having an affair with their then chief's wife. They hunted him to Bannachra, set fire to his castle, and brought home to the poor lady an unspeakable portion of the Colquhoun chief's corpse - serving it up to her on a wooden dish with the obscene jest 'That is your share. You will understand yourself what it is.' By the Act of the Estates of 1587 they were declared to be one of the clans for whom the chief was made responsible; by another act passed in 1594, they were denounced as being in the habit of committing theft, robbery, and oppression.

In 1624 many MacFarlane clansmen were convicted of armed robbery. Their rallying cry, "Loch Sloy", signalled many a night raid to "collect" cattle from their richer neighbors to the south and east. Their march-piobaireachd "Thogail nam Bo theid sinn" (To Lift the Cows We Shall Go) gives ample notice of intent. They were so competent that the full moon is known as "Macfarlane's Lantern".

Modern Macfarland crest
Later Chiefs were quieter. They established homes on the Islands of Invergulas and Eilean a' Bhuth (now called Island I Vow). Walter MacFarlane was fined by the victorious Covenanters for having fought under Montrose for Charles I: and when the Cromwellian English invaded the still independent kingdom of Scotland, he held out against them - his castle of Inveruglas in Loch Lomond being destroyed bu the Roundheads. The other MacFarlane stronghold was Eilean-a-Vow (some of which is still existent) in Loch Lomond, while the chief's primitive house was at Arrochar on the shore of Loch Long.

Another Walter, the 20th Chief, (mid-18th Cent.) was a reknowned scholar and antiquarian. He was succeeded by his brother William, 21st chief, who lost all the clan lands to repay debt in 1785. He married Christiana, daughter of James Dewar of Vogrie. As stated above he sold Arrochar to Furgeson of Wraith in 1784. He died in 1787, and his eldest son and heir, Hugh Norman MacFarlane emigrated to America, and settled in Chenango County, New York, where he secured a vast tract of land. The name was changed to McFarland to conform to the almost universal spelling in this country. His great-grandson, William Wallace McFarland, born July 22, 1834, a very prominent lawyer, of Harford, Conn. and New York City, in 1871 purchased 200 acres of land at Clifton, Staten Island, which he made into a stately park, over whose gateway is the old historical name of "Arrochar". The clan has been chiefless since then. The ancestral home now forms the central part of the landmark Cobbler Hotel, near Arrochar.

At present, the Clan Chieftancy is dormant.

Plant Badge: European Cranberry
Slogan: Loch Sloy (Loch Sloidh-The Loch of the Host)
Motto: This I'll Defend
Crest: A demi-savage brandishing in his dexter a broad sword Proper and pointing with his sinister to an Imperial Crown or standing by him on the wreath.
Arms of the Chief: Argent, a saltire engrailed between four roses Gules
Supporters: (on a wavy compartment) Two Highlanders armed with bows and arrows, all proper.
[ Previous ] [ Home ]
[ Comments ]