The story of the Maclaren clan

Maclaurin, more commonly spelled Maclaren, is the name of a small clan belonging to Perthshire, and called in Gaelic the clann Labhrin. The name is said to have been derived from the district of Lorn, in Argylshire, the Gaelic orthography of which is Lubhrin. The Maclaurins bear the word  Dalriada, as a motto above their coat of arms.


From Argyleshire the tribe of Laurin moved into Perthshire, having, it is said, acquired from Kenneth Macalpine, after his conquest of the Picts in the 9th century, the districts of Balquhidder and Strathearn, and three brothers are mentioned as having got assigned to them in that territory the lands of Bruach, Auchleskin, and Stank. In the churchyard of Balquhidder, celebrated as containg the grave of Rob Roy, the burial places of their different families are marked off separately, so as to correspond with the situation which these estates bear to each other, a circumstance which so far favours the tradition regarding them.


When the earldom of Strathearn became vested in the crown in 1370, the Maclaurins were reduced from the condition of proprietors to that of "kyndly" or perpetual tenants, which they continued to be till 1508, when it was deemed expedient that this Celtic holding should be changed, and the lands set if few, "for increase of policie and augmentation of the king's rental".



About 1497, some of the clan of Laurin having carried off the cattle from the Braes of Lochaber, the Macdonalds followed the spoilers, and, overtaking them in Glenurchy, after a sharp fight, recovered the "lifting". The Maclaurins straightaway sought the assistance of their kinsman, Dugal Stewart of Appin, who at once joined them with his followers, and a conflict took place, when both Dugal and Macdonald of Keppoch, the chiefs of their respective clans, were among the first slain. This Dugal was the first of the Stewarts of Appin. He was an illegitimate son of John Stewart, third Lord of Lorn, by a lady of the clan Laurin, and in 1469 when he attempted, by force of arms, to obtain possession of his father's lands, he was assisted by the Maclaurins, 130 of whom fell in a battle that took place at the foot of Bendoran, a mountain in Glenurchy.


The clan Laurin were the strongest sept in Balquhidder, which was called "the country of the Maclaurins". Although there are few families of the name there now, so numerous were they at one period that none dared enter the church until the Maclaurins had taken their seats. This invidious right claimed by them often led to unseemly brawls and fights at the church door, and lives were sometimes lost in the consequence. In 1532, Sir John Maclaurin, vicar of Balquhidder, was killed in one of these quarrels, and several of his kinsmen, implicated in the deed, were outlawed.


A deadly feud existed between the Maclaurins and their neighbours, the Macgregors of Rob Roy's tribe. In the 16th century, the latter slaughtered no fewer than eighteen householders of the Maclaurin name, with the whole of their families, and took possession of the farms which had belonged to them.


The deed was not investigated till 1604, forty-six years afterwards, when it was thus described in their trial for the slaughter of the Colquhouns: "And siclyk, John M'Coull cheire, for airt and pairt of the crewall murthour and burning of auchtene houshalders of the clan Lawren, their wuves and bairns, committit fourtie sax zeir syne, or thairby". The verdict was that he was "clene, innocent, and acquit of the said crymes". The hill farm of Invernenty, on "The Braes of Balquhidder", was one of the farms thus forcibly occupied by the Macgregors, although the property of a Maclaurin family, and in the days of Rob Roy, two centuries afterwards, the aid of Stewart of Appin was called in to replace the Maclaurins in their own, which he did at the head of 200 of his men. All these farms, however, are now the property of the chief of clan Gregor, having been purchased about 1798 from the commissioners of the forfeited estates.


The Maclaurins were out in the rebellion of 1745. According to President Forbes, they were followers of the Murrays of Athole, but although some of them might have been so, the majority of the clan fought for the Pretender with the Stewarts of Appin under Stewart of Ardsheil.


The chiefship was claimed by the family to which belonged Colin Maclaurin, the eminent mathematician and philosopher, and his son, John Maclaurin, Lord Dreghorn. In the application given in for the latter to the Lyon Court, he proved his descent from a family which had long been in possession of the island of Tiree, one of the Argyleshire Hebrides.




The history of the origins of the Clan MacLaren remains speculative although it is generally agreed that the homeland of the MacLarens was the Braes of Balquhidder, the district round Loch Voil. There appears in fact to be two quite distinct races of this name; the MacLarens of Perthshire and the MacLaurins who were alleged at one time to have owned Tiree. In the Ragman Roll of 1296 three MacLarens were recorded swearing fealty to Edward I, all said to be cadets of the Earls of Strathearn.

When the Earldom of Strathearn was seized by the crown in 1370, the MacLarens were reduced to tenants, they were loyal to the crown and fought for James III at Sauchieburn in 1488, James IV at Flodden, 1513, and Queen Mary at Pinkie in 1547.

They were also engaged in frequent feuds with their neighbours the MacGregors who in 1558 slaughtered no fewer than eighteen entire MacLaren families and seized their lands.


However, in 1587 and 1594 they are still recorded as having a chief of their own although later appear as followers the Stewarts of Appin or the Murrays of Atholl. Dugal, progenitor of the Stewarts of Appin was the son of one of the Stewart Lords of Lorne and a daughter of the MacLaren of Ardveche. In 1745 the clan were "out" under Appin and suffered severely, MacLaren of Invernenty who was taken prisoner made a daring escape and is portrayed in Sir Walter Scott's novel "Redgauntlet". In 1797 John MacLaren of Dreghorn was raised to the bench as Lord Dreghorn having proved his claim to chiefship in 1781 through his descent from the minor family, the MacLarens of Tiree who had long held the island.




Septs   : McLaren, MacLaurin, MacLaurin, MacLauren, McLauren, McLarin, McCLarin, MacLaran, McLaran, MacLaruan, MacLeran, MacLaurie, McLaurie, Laurence, Lawrence, Law, Lawson, Low, Lowe, Lawrie, Laurie, Lowery, Lowry, Faed, Patterson, Paterson, Peterson, McPater, Patrick, MacPatrick, MacRory, McCrory, McGory, MacRuari, Wright, MacGrory, Peterkin and Borison.