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Brief History of the Clan

It has been said by some that the Clan MacFarlane traces its history to ancient Ireland among Celtic heroes who came originally from Spain.In a paper read by the Rev.J.MacFarlane Barrow at a meeting of the London branch of the Clan Society, later printed in the Journal for 1914, quoting from a MS of the monks of Glenmassan, he declared the veins of the MacFarlanes carried the blood of royalty.For Alwyn Mor, first Earl of Lennox was said to be the great grandson of Mainey Leamna, the son of Corc, King of Munster, himself fifth in descent from Con of the Hundred Battles, King of Ireland.

Having said this, Chalmers, the great Scottish archaeologist, in his work Caledonia, quoting the twelfth century Simeon of Durham, said the ancestor of the family was the Saxon Arkil, son of Egfrith, who having fled from the Norman invasion settled in Scotland.He received from King Malcolm Canmore the custody of the Levanox or Lennox district.Alwyn, son of Arkil was created Earl of Lennox by Malcolm IV.Alwyn’s son, another Alwyn, was a minor at his father’s death and William the Lion gave the Earldom to his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon.Alwyn recovered possession by 1199.He died in 1224 leaving eight sons; the eldest Malduin became the third Earl of Lennox.The fourth son Gilchrist obtained from his brother a charter of the lands of Arrochar in 1225, thus establishing the Clan in the Arrochar district.

The second Laird of Arrochar, Duncan married Matilda, sister of Malcolm the fifth Earl.Duncan’s grandson, the fourth Laird, was named Pharlan (Bartholomew).It is from Pharlan the family name has sprung.Pharlan’s son Malcolm had a charter confirming his possession of land of Arrochar in 1354.

The Lennox earldom, which appeared to have been a female fief, fell on tragic times.Duncan the eighth earl was the last of his line.His daughter Isabella married Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, and grandson of King Robert II and for a time Regent of Scotland.When James I returned from captivity in England, Murdoch, his two sons and father in law were arrested, tried and executed on the Heading Hill at Stirling.

When Isabella died in 1460, her grandson Lord Evandale held the earldom until his death.At this time the Partition of the Lennox took place.One half of the territory went to Earl Duncan’s second daughter Margaret.The other half went to his youngest daughter Elizabeth, who married Sir John Stewart of Darnley.Their grandson, another Sir John, in 1473 obtained a royal precept declaring him heir of half the land as well as the title Earl of Lennox.

The MacFarlanes were among the first of the Highland clans to accept the protestant form of worship.When Lennox, the father of Darnley, Queen Mary’s husband took arms to oppose the Regent Arran and the Catholic Party in 1544, the MacFarlanes under Walter of Tarbet, joined him with 140 men.Three years later at the battle of Pinkie the Chief himself fell along with many of his clan.

We now move to the battle of Langside in 1568 where Andrew, the Clan Chief fought at the side of the Regent Moray.He so distinguished himself with two hundred followers at the battle he received a pardon from the death sentence previously imposed.Further, for his part in the battle he received the right to wear a crest consisting of:

a demi-savage proper, holding in one hand a sheaf of arrows, and pointing with the other to a crown, with the motto “This I’ll Defend”.

The arrows were later replaced by a sword as we see in the current Clan Crest.

The Suaicheantas, or badge is Muileag, Cranberry bush.The Cath-ghairm, or war cry is Loch Slòigh, Loch Sloy.

Loch Sloy, a rallying point for the Clan, is now a hydro-electric powerhouse with Clan lands beneath the waters of the dam built for this purpose.  The pipes take water from Loch Sloy.

This was a turbulent period in the Clan’s history, when frequent raids were undertaken on the Lowlands, giving the Clan an unenviable notoriety.As these raids usually took place on clear nights, the full moon became known as ‘MacFarlane’s Lantern’.This name has been adopted for the newsletter of the Clan MacFarlane Society, Australia Inc.

For more information about our Society, please email for a complimentary issue of the Australian ‘MacFarlane’s Lantern‘.

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