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Clan MacFarlane

Coat of arms of andrew of ardess small file.jpg

Clan MacFarlane are a Scottish clan or kin-group which does not have a chief recognised by the Lyon King of Arms and is therefore considered an armigerous clan


This name is taken from the Old Irish word 'Partholon', which may have some connection with the Hebrew name Bartholomew.<ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 211</ref>

According to Plean and Squire, the MacFarlanes are descended from Alwyn, Earl of Lennox, whose younger son Gilchrist received lands at Arrochar at the end of the twelfth century. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 420</ref>According to the nineteenth century antiquary William Forbes Skene, the ancestor of the MacFarlane clan was Gilchrist.<ref>Frank Adam, Clans, Depts and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (A.K. Johnston, 1934) 73-4</ref> They are said to be the only clan where an ancient Celtic descent can be proved by charter evidence.<ref>Adam, Clans, 73-4</ref>

Middle Ages

Gilchrist's grandson, Malduin, sheltered Robert the Bruce when he was forced to flee into the Western Highlands.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>The MacFarlanes also fought at Bannockburn in 1314.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref> Maduin's son, Parlan, provided the family name.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref> Iain Macpharlain recieved a charter of confirmation to Arrochar in 1420.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>

In 1373 the execution of Donald, Earl of Lennox, by James I left the chief of Clan MacFarlane the claimant to the Earldom.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref><ref>Adam, Clans, 73-4</ref>However the title was given to John Stewart, Lord Darnley.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref> The MacFarlanes attempted to oppose the Stewarts but they were too powerful, and the tenth chief forged an alliance through marriage with them instead.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>

Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

The clan became followers of the Earls of Lennox through the conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref> The eleventh chief and many of his clansmen died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>

The clan supported the Earl of Lennox against the Scottish Crown and captured Bute and Arran.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>In 1544, Mac Pharlain lead three hundred of his men, and joined Lennox and Glencairn at the Battle of Glasgow Muir, where they were narrowly defeated.<ref>Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>The Mac Pharlains were affected by the forfeitures that followed, though were saved by their very powerful friends, and the chief obtained a remission for his lands.<ref>Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>After the defeat, the Earl of Lennox was forced to flee to England, and married a niece of Henry VIII, and afterward returned to Scotland with a huge force supplied by the English king. For fear of further repercussions, the chief of the clan didn't personally support Lennox, but instead sent a relative, Bhaltar MacFarlane of Tarbet, with four hundred men, in support of the Earl.<ref>Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>

The MacFarlane clansmen are said to have acted as light troops, and as guides to the Earl's main force. The sixteenth century, English chronicler, Raphael Holinshed described this MacFarlane force as follows: "In these exploytes the Erle had with him Walter McFarlane of Tarbet, and seven score of men of the head of Lennox, that spoke both Irishe and the English Scottish tongues very well, light footmen very well armed in the shirtes of mayle, with bows and two-handed swords; and being joined with the Scottish archers and shotte, did much avayleable service in the streyghts, marishes, and mountayne countries'.<ref>Nisbet, Alexander. A System Of Heraldry. (Vol. 2). Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1816, 60-61</ref>

They later opposed the English at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, where Duncan, the thirteenth chief, was killed.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 420</ref>The clan, led by Duncan's son, Andrew, fought under the Regent James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, against the forces of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the Battle of Langside in 1568. <ref>The Scottish Clans and Their Tartans, With Notes, Library Edition. (W. & A. K. Johnston, Ltd) 49</ref>he clan's part in the battle is related to by Holinshed: "In this battayle the vaiancie of an Hie-land gentle-man named M'Farlane, stood the Regent's part in great steede; for in the hottest brunte of the fight, he came in with three hundred of his friends and countrymen, and so manfully gave in upon the flanke of the queen's people, that there was great cause of the disordering of them".<ref>Nisbet, Alexander. A System Of Heraldry. (Vol. 2). Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1816, 60-61</ref>After the battle, the clan also boasted of capturing three standards of the Queen's army, which were preserved as trophies for a long time afterwards.<ref>Nisbet, Alexander. A System Of Heraldry. (Vol. 2). Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1816, 60-61</ref>

For his clan's aid, Andrew was awarded the crest of a "demi-savage proper, holding in his dexter hand a sheaf of arrows, and pointing with his sinister to an imperial crown, or, with the motto, This I'll defend", by the Earl.<ref>Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>

However, in 1594, the Crown denounced the clan for committing theft, robbery, murder, and tyranny. Later, in 1624, after the battle of Glen Fruin when the MacFarlanes and their friends the MacGregors killed about 80 members of Clan Colquhoun and their allies, several members of the clan were tried and convicted of such acts, with some being pardoned and others executed.<ref>Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>

Seventeenth Century

Several of the clan left and settled in Ireland, as part of the force of their superior the Earl of Lennox when he took up his 3000 acre landholding during the plantation (resettlement) of Ireland in the reign of James VI, and the leading representative of this branch, McFarland of Hunstown House, from Dublin, made claims (unsuccessful) to the chiefship of the clan.<ref> Maclauchlan & Wilson & Keltie, 173–175</ref>

In 1624 many of the clan were tried and convicted of theft and robbery.<ref>Adam, Clans, 74</ref>Many others were removed to Aberdeenshire and Strathaven in Banffshire, where they assumed the names M'Caudy, Greisock, M'James and M'Innes. Some to fled to Ireland, and with the potato famine there, emigrated further to America where the surname would evolve to McFarland. Many of these individuals were said by Buchanan of Auchmar to form a sept called Allan or MacAllan, after an Allan MacFarlane who moved north.<ref>Adam, Clans, 74</ref>

Nothing is known of Andrew's son, though his grandson, Walter MacFarlane was a supporter of Charles I. The clan fought with the Marquess of Montrose at Inverlochy in 1645.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref> When Oliver Cromwell conquered Scotland the MacFarlane seat at Inverglass was burned to the ground.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref> The claim declared support for William of Orange and Mary III in 1688.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref>

Eighteenth Century

The clan do not seem to have played any part in the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref> The twentieth chief, Walter, was a noted antiquary who lived in Edinburgh for most of his life.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref> He is said to have earned the approval of James Boswell by taking exeption to being called 'Mr. MacFarlane', asserting that he was simply 'MacFarlane'.<ref>Dorward, Surnames, 211</ref> The remaining lands at Arrochar were sold following Walter's death in 1767.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref>


The direct chiefly line failed in 1886 and there is at present no chief.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 421</ref> In 2010 a North American based Clan MacFarlane Society was established with the aim of preserving kin identity and building links with the traditional clan lands.<ref> (accessed 25th June 2014)</ref>