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The Scottish Nation: Or the Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical
History of the People of Scotland
By William Anderson 1862

MACFARLANE, the name of a clan descended from the ancient earls of the Lennox, the distinc­tive badge of which was the cypress. In ancient times the land running the western shore of Loch Lomond, from Tarbet upwards, and the greater part of the parish of Arrochar, was inhabited by " the wild Macfarlane's plaided clan." From Loch Sloy, a small lake near the base of Ben Voirlich, which formed their gathering place, they took their slughoni or warcry of ―Loch Sloy! Loch Sloy!‖ In Gaelic Loch Sluai signifies "the Lake of the host or army."

The remote ancestor of this clan was Gilchrist, a younger brother of Malduin, third earl of Lennox. By a charter of the latter, still extant, he gave to his brother Gilchrist a grant " de terris de superiori Arrochar de Luss," which continued in possession of the clan till the death of their last chief, Gil­christ's son, Duncan, also obtained a charter of his lands from the earl of Lennox, and appears in the Ragman Roll under the name of Duncan MacGilchrist de Levenaghes. A grandson of this Duncan was named Bartholomew, in Gaelic abbreviated into Parian or Pharlan, and from him the clan adopted the surname of Macfarlane...

From that period the Macfarlanes invariably supported the earls of Lennox of the Stewart race. In 1544 Duncan, the then captain of Macfarlane, at the head of 300 of his clan, joined Matthew, earl of Lennox, and the earl of Glencaim (see page 649 of this volume), who had taken arms against the regent Arran, and was present with his followers when Glencairn was defeated at "the Butts" on Glasgow-muir, near where the infantry barracks of that city now stand.

With the others, Macfarlane was forfeited, but, through the intercession of powerful friends, his es­tate was restored, and he obtained a remission under the privy seal. Lennox was forced to retire to England, where he married a niece of Henry VIII., and on his return to Scotland, with a consider­able English force, Duncan sent to his assistance his relative, Walter Macfarlane of Tarbet, with seven score of his clan, who joined him at Dumbarton. These troops are said to have spoken both Gaelic and English. They were light footmen, well armed with coats of mail, bows and arrows, and two-handed swords, and were of much service to Lennox. Duncan fell at the battle of Pinkie in 1547, with a great number of his clan. Andrew, his son, took a prominent part on the side of the re­gent Moray, and from his attachment to the house of Darnley, he and 300 of his followers fought against the queen at the battle of Langside, being almost the only Highland chief who did not range himself under the banners of the unfortunate Mary. He is said to have shown great valour on the occasion, and to have " stood the regent's party in great stead," for, as we are told by Holinshed, " In the hottest brunt of the fight, he came in with friends and countrymen, and so manfully gave in upon the flank of the queen's people, that he was a great cause of disordering them." " The clanboast of having taken at this battle three of Queen Mary's standards, which, they say, were pre­served for a long time in the family." All the reward, however, that the chief got was an addition to his arms, the regent having bestowed upon him the crest of a demi-savage proper, holding in his dexter hand a sheaf of arrows, and pointing with his sinister hand to an imperial crown, Or, with the motto, "This I'll defend." Although a small clan, the Macfarlanes were as turbulent and preda­tory in their way as their neighbours the Macgregors. By the Act of the Estates of 1587 they were declared to be one of the clans for whom the chief was made responsible; by another act passed in 1594, they were denounced as being in the habit of committing theft, robbery, and oppression ; and in July 1624 many of the clan were tried and convicted of theft and robbery. Some of them were punished, some pardoned, while others were removed to the highlands of Aberdeenshire, and to Strathaven in Banffshire, where they assumed the names of Stewart, M'Caudy, Greisock, M'James, and M'Innes. Walter Macfarlane, grandson of the chief who fought at Langside, adhered to the cause of Charles I. He was twice besieged in his own house by the parliamentary forces, and his cas­tle of Inveruglas was afterwards burned down by the English. Of the lairds of Macfarlane there have been no fewer than twenty-three. . . Of one eminent member of the clan, the following notice is taken by Mr. Skene in his work on the Highlands of Scotland : He says, " It is impossible to con­clude this sketch of the history of the Macfarlanes without alluding to the eminent antiquary, Wal­ter Macfarlane of that ilk, who is as celebrated among historians as the indefatigable collector of the ancient records of the country, as his ancestors had been among the other Highland chiefs for their prowess in the field. The most extensive and valuable collections which his industry has been the means of preserving, form the best monument to his memory; and as long as the existence of the ancient records of the country, or a knowledge of its ancient history, remain an object of interest to any Scotsman, the name of Macfarlane will be handed down as one of its benefactors. The family itself, however, is now nearly extinct, after having held their original lands for a period of six hun­dred years."