Septs of the MacLeods
[From Donald N. MacKinnon, "Septs of the MacLeods," The Clan MacLeod Magazine, 1937, pp. 74-76.]
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Besides those who bore the Chief's name there were a number of Septs (minor bodies) dependent on each clan and, though bearing different names, they must be reckoned as clansmen.1. Those of the blood of the Clan who, in order that they might be better distinguished from others of similar names, adopted, or received, various cognomens or nicknames.
THE origin of the Clan Septs, and their names may be traced to a variety of causes, the principal of these being the following :--
2. Those who, though unconnected by blood with the Clan, had become bound to it by bonds of manrent; or being a small, or broken clan, became attached to it for protection.
Until comparatively recent times it was quite common in the Highlands for individuals to possess two surnames, one being the clan name while the other was a by-name. It can be easily seen that, especially after the abolition of the Clan System, and the scattering all over the world of the clansmen, many by-names were finally adopted by the Highlanders. The MacLeods, both Siol Thormaid and Siol Torquil, do not differ in this respect from other clans of the Scottish Highlands.
Mr. Frank Adam, a noted authuority, gives the following names (with varying spellings) as Septs of the MacLeods. They are here printed in alphabetical order, those of the Siol Tormod (MacLeods of Harris and Skye) being distinguished by an H, and those of the Siol Torquil (MacLeod of Lewis) by an L.
BEATON, BETHUNE, BETON, (of Skye).
Mr Adam tells us that "Tradition says the Beatons (of Skye) were descendants of one Beath who came from Ireland in the train of Lady O'Neil, who married Angus 0g of the Isles, the friend of Robert the Bruce." But the Rev. Thomas Whyte in his "Beatons of Skye," states they came of a Fifeshire family--the Bethunes of Pictochy, and Capeldray--and that one, Peter Bethune, a renowned physician, was invited by MacLead and McDonald to settle in Skye. Dr. Peter accepted the invitation, married a daughter of Clanranald, and had many descendants. Some adhered to the MacLeods, some to the McDonalds; so, Beatons of Skye may be septs of the MacLeods, or of the MacDonalds. Several members of this family made a considerable name for themselves as physicians in the Isles and on the mainland. There is a good article on the Beatons in Mr. MacGregor's "Over the Sea to Skye."--H
CALLUM, MACCALLUM, MALCOLM, MALCOLMSON.
"Callum" and "Malcolm" are the same, the first being the Gaelic and the other the English form of the name. The name pertains to the MacLeads of Raasay.
The first Chief of the Raasay family was born about the beginning of the sixteenth century. He was the second son of Callum (or Malcolm), ninth Chief of the Siol Torquil, and was also named Callum. His father gave him the Island of Raasay, off Skye, and Gairloch on the mainland, as a patrimony. His race became known as Mac-Gille-Callum; hence, Callums, MacCallums, Malcolms, Malcolmsons. (On the failure of the Chiefs of the House of Lewis the Heads of the MacLeods of Raasay became Chiefs of the Siol Torquil).-- L
Buchanan gives the Lewises as being at sept of the Siol Torquil, and adds, "some of which are in the shire of Stirling."--L
There are various accounts of these clansmen. Oric says they are descended from Askill, a King of Dublin. A rather fanciful one is that the name carries from the Gaelic "Cath-Gille" (Battle-Man), which name was bestowed by the MacLeods on one who was a leader in a great fight with the Frasers. The best authorities consider them to have been, originally, Norsemen -- the Norse name being "Asketill" or "Ansketill."
Mr. Adams says they were a sept of the Siol Torquil, that they had their main habitat in the Lewis, and were captains of the chief's galleys. Unfortunately, we have no records of these Lewis clansmen.
The MacCaskills however were also connected with the Siol Tormod, and we frequently find the name mentioned in the history of that branch of the clan.
The first mentioned was a William MacCaskili, foster-brother to Malcolm, third Chief of the Siol Tormod (early 14th century). He was Keeper of Dunvegan Castle, and a noted warrior--he who is said to have been named "Cath-Gille." And tradition has it that for generations the MacCaskills were lieutenants to the Chiefs of the Siol Tormod, both by sea and hand; and held large territorial possessions in reward for their services.--L and H
MACAULAYS of Lewis.
According to one tradition the first MacAulay was a natural son of Olaf the Black, King of Man; hence the name MacOlaf, or MacAulay. Another tradition says he was a rather turbulent Norseman named Olver Rosta who, according to the Sagas, was driven out of the Orkneys by Swein Ashliefson and found his way to the Lewis, where he became the progenitor of the MacAulays there.--L
"Are forms of 'Mac-Torquil.' Tradition gives them a more ancient origin than the MacLeods. The name of Torquil is of Scandinavian origin and signifies 'Thor's kettle, or cauldron.' They are supposed to have owned at one time the whole northern shore of Loch Awe, from Avich to Ard-an-aiseig. Their association with the Siol Torquil, or MacLeads of Lewis, is, therefore, not clear, altlhough they are given by most authorities as a sept of that clan."--L
The name MacClure is derived from the Gaelic "Mhic-Gille-Leabbam." meaning son of the servant of the book; or, in other words, son of the tutor.
The name is mentioned in Scottish records in an entry in the Stirling Kirk Session book, dated 1604, where reference is made to one Robert MacClure, piper to the Laird of Buchanan. Tradition says that this Robert MacClure was a son of Tormod Mac-Gille-Leabhar of Kingsburgh, son of Donald, the guardian or tutor of his nephew Tormod, the eleventh Chief of MacLeod, both of whom were murdered in 1557 by the lain Dubh, the usurping 12th Chief. Robert MacClure was granted the lands of Glenboig, near Balfron, by Buchanan, and his descendants lived there until the middle of the last century, when they emigrated to Ireland, and where they are still represented.
There are many of the name of MacClure still in Skye, particularly in the Sleat district, who are surmised to be actual descendants of the above mentioned Tormod of Kingsburgh, through other sons who adopted their father's by-name.
In Boswell's "Tour of the Hebrides with Dr. Johnson," appears the following passage: "Captain MacClure, whom we found here (at the house of Macquarrie of Ulval), was of Scotch extraction, and properly a MacLeod, being descended of some of the MacLeods who went with Sir Norman of Bernera to the Battle of Worcester, and after the defeat of the Royalists fled to Ireland; and, to conceal themselves, took a different name." There is a considerable number of the name in Northern Ireland.--H
The origin of the MacCrimmons is not truly known, they are variously stated to be of Bardic, Irish, Norse, and Italian origin. The Bannatyne manuscript tells us they were land owners in the Harris islands before the advent of Leod ; but that on Leod inheriting the superiority of the land they became vassals, or septs, of Leod's clan. It is certainly true that from unrecorded times they have been clansmen of the MacLeods, and, as everybody knows, became the celebrated and hereditary pipers of the MacLeod Chiefs. Several MacCrimmon pipers became attached to other families, but all claimed clanship with the famous pipers of Dunvegan.--H
MACRAILD, MACRAILT, MACHAROLD.
The Macrailds, or MacHarolds were "nativi" of some of the earliest possessions of the Soil Thormaid. Leod the progenitor of the clan, married a daughter of Macraild Armuin, whose seat was where now stands Dunvegan Castle. Clan history tells us that with his wife Leod obtained possession of the lands of Dunvegan, Minginish, Bracadale, Lyndale, Trotternish, etc. in the Isle of Skye. It is said that there are still families of the name of Macraild living on the MacLeod estates.--H
The name MacCuaig, or MacCaig, is given as being derived from the Gaelic word "Cuthaig," a cuckoo, and here is the story: In early days it was thought to be lucky to name a new born child after the first living thing seen. Consequently when a son was born to a MacLeod clansman, the happy father, wishing his son to be fortunate went out of the house to look around. The first living thing he saw was a cuckoo, hence the child was named "Cuthaig," and his descendants are all MacCuaigs or MacCaigs-- We hope they are all fortunate.--H [However, see the Alick Morrison Article below. JA]
NICOL, MACNICOL, NICOLSON.
The Nicols are traditionally descended from one Mackrycul ("r" in the Gaelic having been pronounced like an "n"), a mainland Chief. The Mackryculs appear to have occupied Assynt in Sutherland, and the adjacent territory of Coigeach, in Cromarty.
The family of the Chief became extinct in the male line, and his daughter, and heiress, having married Torquil MacLeod of the Lewis, he, in her right, became lord of the Machrycul country. In the time of King David II. of Scotland, Torquil MacLeod obtained a Crown Charter of Assynt, which land he subsequently bestowed on a younger son of his own, from whom descend the MacLeads of Assynt.
A number of the Nicolsons are said to have crossed to the islands (Lewis and Skye), where they are believed to have retained an independence for a time, under a Head (or Chief) who had his residence on the margin of Loch Scorribreac, near Portree.
The Bannatyne manuscript, however, says the Lewis Nicolsons were originally MacNaughtons, a powerful tribe of the Lewis, and a branch of the MacNaughtons of Argyll, who changed their names to Nicolson, or Clan Vic Naichal. Their power and estates terminated in Margaret, who was heiress of the name; she married MacLeod of the Lewis and the MacNaughton country fell to the MacLeods. A branch of these MacNaughtons occupied Waternish, in Skye, for some time. (Waternish belonged to MacLeod of the Lewis).--L
"Norman" is simply an Anglicised form of Tormod.--H
Tolmie is really a Skye name, and belongs to a distinguished Skye family; but Mr. Adams puts it down as a sept of the Lewis MacLeod; probably through the MacLeods of Raasay with whom they appear to have been connected. In the account of a clan conflict off Raasay in the year 1611, between the MacLeads of Raasay and the MacKenzies, mention is made of one John Tolmach, near cousin to the Laird of Raasay. The name is derived from the Gaelic "Tulm" a hillock, probably the name of the place where the family lived. Their proper designation might be MacLeods of TuIm--L
In concluding this summary of the Septs of MacLeod, both of Harris and Lewis, the writer wishes to record his indebtedness to Mr. Frank Adam's authoritative work, "The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands," published by Messrs W. & A. K. Johnston, Ltd., Edinburgh and London, from which much of the information given in this artide is derived.
Donald N. MacKinnon
Septs of the MacLeods
[From Alick M. Morrison, Glasgow, "Septs of the MacLeods,"; The Clan MacLeod Magazine, 1938, p. 128.]
HUGHSON, HUTCHEONSON, HUTCHESON, HUTCHINSON, HUTCHISON, MACHUCHEON, MACHUGH, MACHUTCHEON.
As Septs of the MacLeods are descendants from the MacLeods of Assynt (Siol Torquil) through Hucheon, son of Angus Mor, third of Assynt. The MacDonalds also acknowledge these names as Septs, descended from Hugh, or Huistein, MacDonald of Sleat.
The origin of the name MacCuaig as given [above] is entirely wrong.
In the first place it was not the custom of the Highlanders to take names from the names of birds or beasts; but from Scripture, Church Officials, Saints, Kings, Notable Tradesmen, Characteristic distinctions, Personal Christian names, etc. Secondly, I cannot conceive how any sensible MacLeod clansman would choose a name for his son from the first living thing he (the father) saw after his son's birth. This living thing might be, according to the Highlander's superstitions concerning certain animals, even more unlucky than a cuckoo -- a bird which is not always welcome at first to be seen or heard. Surely the said clansman had some relations, or a nobler source from which to get a name for his son. And, in the third place, the Gaelic name Cuthag is feminine; if, therefore, this clansman was a Gaelic-speaking man he would not give his son the name of a female.
The name MacCuaig is a variation of MacDhubhaig. In the Gaelic pronunciation MacDhubbaig is the same as MacCuaig; only the C in the later is more stressed, hence to a Gaelic speaker the change of spelling is easily understood.
The correct origin of the surname MacCuaig is as follows: A certain kinsman of the MacLeod of Dunvegan was known by the name "Dubhag," a word derived from the Gaelic "dubh;" (black) and the diminutive suffix "ag," meaning "little, or small." Now this man may have acquired that name through having a little black spot, or mole, on some part of his body; or he may have been a man who had black hair and beard, and under the common stature. Any one of these characteristics would naturally give the name Dubhag, that is "Blackie" -- the little black one.
Some time in the early clan period Dubhag MacLeod landed in a bay on the south-eastern part of the island of Islay. This bay was called, and is called to this day, "Leodamus" after him; that is "Leod,"; and "Camus" (Gaelic for "bay"). --The village of Port Ellen is now built around the bay. There is a hill not far distant from the head of the bay called Doire Dhubhaig, that is "Dubhag's Grove,"; where Dubhag probably took up his quarters. In the course of time his descendants (MacDhubhaig, or MacCuaig) multiplied and spread over the south-east portion of the island, until emigration to the colonies began, when most of this sept went, chiefly, to Canada, where they reverted to the surname of the Chief (MacLeod).
There is a place in the island of Mull called "Doire Dhubhaig" where Dubhag may have resided for a brief period, but few, if any, of the surname MacCuaig are known to have been there. [The surname MacCaig is not the same as MacCuaig.]
Alick M.Morrison, Glasgow
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