Clan Lachlan Association of Canada 

& Clan MacLachlan Society



Clan Information Tartans Origin of Clan Spelling of Name Genealogy Heraldic Symbols  Clan History Membership Clan Magazine Clan CD Branches

Clan History

Who are the MacLachlans?

Origins in Scotland.  

The MacLachlans originate in Scotland from Cowal of Argyllshire which comprises the parishes of Strathlachlan, wherein lies Castle Lachlan home of the Chief, Strachur, Kilfinan, Kilmodan, Inverchaolin, Dunoon and Kilmun. The area is bounded on the east by Loch Long and the Firth of Clyde, on the south by the Kyles of Bute and to the west by Loch Fyne. In fact MacLachlans lived on both sides of Loch Fyne including the parishes of Kilmichael-Glassary, the Knapdales and Kilmartin, all at the mainland end of the of Kintyre. The men of Argyll were always, by necessity, seamen and the waters between the peninsulas and islands were less barriers to social and commercial intercourse than were the hills. A look at a map of Scotland shows the high proportion of coastline to land mass in Argyll.

MacLachlans were to be found two hundred years ago in other parts of Scotland. Migration eastward had settled MacLachlans across into Perthshire where the spelling is MacLauchlan (pronunciation the same). Many of the families in Stirlingshire were probably associated with the MacLachlans of Auchintroig in the parish of Drymen at the border of Stirlingshire with Dumbartonshire.

Many dwelt on Mull , in Morvern and along the shores of Loch Linnhe. Merchants and sailors settled early in the Clyde towns of Glasgow and Greenock. In the middle of the last century many Irish immigrants settled on Clydeside and in southwest Scotland and many district registrars spelt surnames the Scottish way and so some McLaughlans became McLachlan or McLauchlan and were never altered back again. There was always a two-way movement between south-west Scotland and northeast Ireland and it would be very difficult to be certain whether or not the forebears of some immigrants from Ireland had gone in the reverse direction a century or so before.


  Spellings of the name are significant to only a limited extent. Mac and Mc were used indiscriminately until the commencement of compulsory registration in 1855 when most Argyll registrars used "Mac" while the Clydeside and inland parishes used "Mc". Those families higher up the social scale frequently insisted on being recorded as MacLachlans. The inclusion of the "u" indicates an east coast family or a possible Irish descent and spelt with a "g" the name almost certainly is from Ireland. Of course many McLaughlans are more Scottish than most by series of marriages with old Scots families.

Clan System.   

Highland chiefs, lairds and tacksmen were wealthy only in terms of their social conditions relative to those of ordinary Highlanders. The feudal clan system broke up when the commerce and methods of government of the rest of the United Kingdom penetrated effectively the more remote parts of Scotland. Retributive measures by the government after 1745 hastened this process. The property of the chief's family was confiscated for their part in the Rebellion in which Lachlan 17th chief of MacLachlan was killed at Culloden. The lands were later restored to his son.

Up to that time a territorial chief sub-let land through tacksmen who were "platoon" and "company" commanders in the chief's "battalion" in times of strife. The holders of tacks were members of the Highland middle class and all the while their children were brought up with the children of their neighbours there were no class barriers. The power of the chiefs and tacksmen was in the allegiance of the families living on their land.

With the decline in the clan system the tacksmen, who leased but owned little or no land, were among the first to leave Scotland. Many went to North America where most settled and to the West Indies where many died or made a fortune and came home or to London. Alexander and Dougald, sons of Lachlan MacLachlan of Fassafern in Lochaber, went to Jamaica in the middle of the 18th century and retired to live in the south of England later in the century. Their wills show that they had owned plantations in the West Indies and mention, in one case, a son by a freed slave for whom provision was made.

Families after the End  of the  Clan System. 

The sons of these families entered the army or became lawyers or merchants in English or Scottish cities and other parts of the world. Some, less venturesome and less astute, tried to eke out a gentlemanly existence without money in the area in which they were born. Examples were Colin and Ewan sons of Ewan MacLachlan of Laudale in Morvern parish who succeeded to the property. In her memoirs a neighbour wrote of them, "In an evil moment they went security for some relative, with the result that their property had to be sold to meet the demand, and little indeed was left for them to live upon. They used to arrive as if to make a call, but it was well understood that a visit of a week or two was intended". They never married and spent their later life as house servants near Oban.

When Colin MacLachlan of Craiginterve died in 1804 his long-established landed family was declining socially and economically. They had been hereditary leeches to the Earls and Dukes of Argyll for several generations, and had intermarried with families of Campbells. Colin's heir was his daughter, Lucy, wife of Archibald Bell, a writer in Inverary, then the administrative centre of the county of Argyll. Archibald and his two sons changed their surname to MacLachlan to preserve the "title". His grandson. William Campbell Bell MacLachlan, was a plumber in Helensburgh before succeeding to Craiginterve. The property finally passed out of the family's hands during the lifetime of his son John Bell Maclachlan who owned 2,900 acres in Argyllshire in 1872 when he was 14 years old but when he died at Eastbourne in the south of England in 1949 his effects were worth only 737 pounds sterling.

Within a few miles of Craiginterve is Killinochanach, the Moaning Woods, once home of another MacLachlan family. Neil the son of Donald and grandson of Kenneth MacLachlan of Killinochanach was born around 1767 living a long and respectable life to die in Lochgilphead, a new-grown town, in 1862. He was a captain in the Argyll Militia and a Justice of Peace, but none of his family left male heirs in Scotland. His eldest son, Lachlan, earned renown as "Bendigo Mac"after being appointed a magistrate in the Australian gold fields.

Another neighbouring family were the MacLachlans of Dunadd, hereditary seneschals of the Chief on that side of the Loch, only a mile from Killinochanach and five from Craiginterve. Robert was a captain in the Argyll Fencibles, a forerunner to the Militia, and was the son of Kenneth, grandson of Duncan and grandnephew of Dougald, all of Dunadd. Early in the last century the family had to sell up at Dunadd and moved to the far north of the county to the parish of Morvern. Here he held the tack of the farm of Rahoy. His granddaughter's journal says that, of a family of thirteen only one, her mother, had children. One son died as a soldier in India and another, a doctor died in nearby Tobermoray in 1873 about 110 years after his father's birth. Doctor John MacLachlan is still remembered as a famous singer of Gaelic songs.

Besides having the effect of dispossessing most of the tacksmen and many of the minor lairds, the social change had another effect on the ordinary people. The greater ease of communication allowed individuals to change their abodes and expanding commerce allowed men, who would have died as shepherds or cottars at home, to achieve reputation and substance elsewhere. Charles MacLachlan was born in Greenock in 1794 the son of Duncan, a sailor, and Margaret Turner both of whom had come across the Firth of Clyde from Kilmun near Holy Loch. He went out to the West Indies as a clerk with a Scottish trading company, later transferring to Hobart in Tasmania then known as Van Diemen's Land. Later he became a director of the island's bank and a member of the legislative council with property in New South Wales and a stylish house in London's Belgravia.

Thomas MacLachlan was enrolled as a private soldier in the 44th regiment of Foot in 1780, serving at Quebec in 1783 being discharged ten years later. He re-enlisted as an ensign (2nd lieutenant) in the 3rd West Indian Regiment in 1795 and reached the rank of captain. His son became a doctor of medicine and a Justice of the Peace in Rothesay; his grandsons included two doctors, a minister of the church and major-general.

Another Thomas (1829-1900) was a pioneer of the Transvaal and Swaziland and one of South Africa's successful gold prospectors. He was described as a tall and lanky Scotsman and was born in the Perthshire parish of Caputh into the family of Robert, a successful farmer, and his wife Janet McNaughton.

Two brothers James and Donald MacLachlan, the sons of an army captain, were merchants and served as consuls or consular agents to Queen Victoria in the Dutch East Indies. Both married Dutch women. James died at Cheltenham, England in 1903 worth a quarter million pounds.

After fighting the British government forces in the 1745 Rebellion, many former rebel highlanders and their sons joined British Highland regiments. Their fighting tradition, their ability to live in rugged surroundings on short rations and their family pride made them excellent soldiers. 

A commission in the British Army at that time was obtained either by purchase, by quota of men or by nomination by a senior officer who had rendered a distinguished service. Lachlan MacLachlan was appointed an ensign in the 48th Foot regiment in 1796 at the behest of his mother's brother General James Campbell. The unusual feature of this appointment was that Lachlan was only six years old at the time. He never actually saw service and remained on half pay for most life, but his four brothers James, Archibald, Alexander and Robert served to become a colonel, major-general, Lt. general and captain respectively. The last died in Spain in the Peninsular wars of Napoleon and Wellington. They were the nephews of Lachlan, the Jacobite Chief who died at Culloden in 1746 at the hands of their predecessors in the British Army.

Although six years was too tender an age to actually serve in the army of the time, ten or twelve years was not. James Augustus McLauchlan went to Canada in 1811 to join his father, a Royal Engineer captain. On arrival in New Brunswick he found that the captain had been previously ordered to the West Indies. The 104th Regiment adopted him in the rank of ensign. He remained in New Brunswick and married and his descendants are still in Maritime Canada with a tradition of military service.

Born in Glasgow's Gorbals in 1807, the son of a shoemaker, Daniel McLachlan attended Glasgow Grammar School and qualified as a doctor of medicine at Edinburgh in 1827. He entered the army as a hospital assistant and then served as a regimental surgeon. His last 23 years of military service were as principal medical officer at the Royal Hospital, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners. His two surviving sons were army officers, one dying in the Crimea.

The migration of Scotsmen of the time are illustrated by nine master mariners and mates named McLachlan born in Scotland in the first half of the last century. Although all did not end their days on dry land, five had their homes in Liverpool at the time of their deaths, one in London and three in Scotland. Of thirteen MacLachlan army officers of the last century born in Scotland who died outside active service only three ended their days there and one of those had probably never been out of the country. Of the remainder one died in Ireland, one in New Zealand and another in Australia and the rest in England.

MacLachlan doctors of medicine were more inclined to stay at home. Of thirty three born in Scotland, sixteen died there. The remainder died in England (12), India (2) and one each in Australia, South America and South Africa.

Clan Records.  

Like other bearers of Scots Highland surnames, we MacLachlans are to be excused our pride in our forebears past and the wish to know more about them is understandable. One of the finest attributes in the Highlandman was his respect for his kin and his overwhelming desire to earn and retain their respect for him. Most families in any area of the Highlands were related in one way or another and every member knew his relationship with everyone else and would stand by his father's second cousin or his mother's aunt if the need arose.

People like the late Hugh McLachlin of Burlington, Ontario have created extensive records of their co-descendants. His ancestor, Hugh, with his wife, Janet McLean, left Kilmallie parish on Scotland's west coast, early in the last century and settled first in western Quebec before moving into Ontario. Hugh traced the many hundreds of descendants of that couple which included Daniel, the famous lumber boss of Renfrew County.

  Much of this work can be done now while there are people alive who remember family stories of past migrations. When these Clan "elders" are gone no amount of research among records will adduce the information they could have given. As it is, countless generations to come will never know the name of thei last ancestor to come out of Scotland. Whether that ancestor was a near impecunious tacksman or a totally impecunious crofter is not of importance. The act of emigration and the challenge of survival in pioneer conditions usually required a person of sterling character and their name and origin are worthy of preservation by their family, present and future.

There is so much to be recorded in this history of the MacLachlans and so little on record. Not only are the events prior to 1745, when most of our ancestors lived in the Highlands, of considerable interest, but many occurrences since make good reading. If you are not one of the families that made the long journey across the Atlantic or to the Southern Hemisphere under sail, you have cousins whose families did.

 Ours is not among the larger clans but is one of the oldest and most respected and we are represented at the clan gatherings all over the world. Ninety per cent of our membership is now outside Scotland and there are now strong Branches of the Society in Australia, Canada , New Zealand and the United States exchanging information and finding long-lost cousins.

Prompted by the late Madam Marjorie Maclachlan , the 24th chief , a small group met in Glasgow on 24th March 1979 and resolved to form the Clan MacLachlan Society to fulfil the functions suggested in the foregoing paragraph. The major medium of communication is a journal "Clan Lachlan" published twice a year.

 Every family that has migrated has a story to tell and although one may be excused for not holding all one's relations in universal esteem, it is a good experience to read of, hear from, or to meet someone who shares forebears. Individual members throughout the world now communicate more and more through E mail. 

The Story of individual Families are now recorded for all time in the "Clan Lachlan" CD which is updated every year and is stored in the National Library of Scotland. Add the story of your Family to our Clan records. See Order Form . 

The name is the same whether it starts Mac, Mc, or M', and continues Lachlaine, Lachlan or Lauchlin or Claflin or a sept such as Gilcrist. We have all known our name to be subject to considerable abuse as to spelling, but it would be a bold man who claimed his to be the only correct way. The founder members agreed to use the version similar to that of the Chiefs family when referring to the Clan generally, but every effort is made to use the spelling preferred by an individual or a family when referring to them.

Euan Maclachlan of Maclachlan, the 25th Chief succeeded his mother on her death in October 1996 and lives at Castle Lachlan in the parish of Strathlachlan, Strachur, Argyll on the shores of Loch Fyne, a few hundred yards from the ancient castle damaged  by a disabling action by General Campbell's soldiers departing after their occupation in the year that his great great great great grandfather was struck down at Culloden.

Clan Information Tartans Origin of Clan Spelling of Name Genealogy Heraldic Symbols  Clan History Membership Clan Magazine Clan CD Branches

Web Master. E mail:

, the Clan MacLachlan Society & the Lachlan Trust of Canada: Reg. 87231-0503-R0001