Lachlan Mor Maclean

Sir Lachlan Mór Maclean (1558 – 5 August 1598) or Big Lachlan Maclean, was the 14th Clan Chief of Clan MacLean from late 1573 or early 1574 until 1598.[1] Mór or Mor translates as big in English, or magnus in Latin, when added to a name in Scottish Gaelic.[2]

Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean, 14th Chief
14th Clan Chief
10th Laird of Duart
In office
Preceded byHector Og Maclean, 13th Chief, father
Succeeded byHector Og Maclean, 15th Chief, son
Personal details
Died1598 (age 40)
Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart
Cause of deathKilled in action
Spouse(s)Margaret, daughter of William Cunningham, 6th Earl of Glencairn
ChildrenHector Og Maclean, 15th Chief
Lachlan Og MacLean, 1st Laird of Torloisk
ParentsHector Og Maclean, 13th Chief


He was born in 1558 to Eachuinn Og Maclean. Sir Lachlan became the 14th Maclean Clan Chief at the death of his father in 1573 or 1574.[1]

"He was called 'Big Lachlan,' both on account of his stature and the greatness of his mind. He was the most accomplished and warlike chief that ever held sway in Duart. His military talents were of a very high order; his chivalrous character commanded the respect of his most inveterate foes, and his personal interest for and kindness toward his followers endeared him to his clansmen. So great were his qualities that historians have been forced to pay tribute to his memory."[1]

In September 1588 a ship from the Spanish Armada carrying 300 troops and silver plate for the use of noblemen was wrecked or run aground on the coast of Islay or Mull. Lachlan sent news of the ship to James VI at Stirling Castle. Lachlan became friends with the crew and borrowed two cannon and 100 soldiers to besiege the house of Angus MacAulay, leaving a hostage as a pledge. After this, a man called John Smallet set a fuse made up lint in the gunpowder store and blew the ship up.[3]

In 1588, he was charged with massacring 18 members of the MacDonald clan who formed the wedding party of his new stepfather.[4] Because he failed to appear to answer the charges, he was denounced as a rebel.[5]

Maclean fought for the king at the Battle of Glenlivet. He was forgiven of all his former alleged offences by James VI of Scotland in person at Holyrood Palace on 15 June 1596.[6]

Marriage and children

He married Lady Margaret Cunningham of Glencairn, daughter of William Cunningham, 6th Earl of Glencairn.[7] They had the following children:[1]


He died on 5 August 1598 in the Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart on the Island of Islay. He was killed by the forces of Sir James MacDonald, 9th of Dunnyveg.[8][9]

His remains were left on the battlefield. A day or two after the battle, it is said that two women, of whom different accounts are given — some calling them strangers, some clanswomen, some relations of the dead — grieving to think that the body of so notable a chief as Sir Lachlan Mor should be unburied and uncared for on the moorland, came from a distance in search of it. They hired a vehicle, the only one to be had in the neighborhood, and having found the corpse, proceeded to carry it to the nearest burying-grounds, about six miles distant. The way was rough, and the driver looking behind him saw the head of the great chief, which extended beyond the car, nodding to him at every jolt, as if it had life, and were giving him directions. At the next heavy rut he looked again to please his savage soul with ferocious enjoyment. But this time the elder female, who had watched him, acted as described in the ballad, and killed the brutal driver with the chieftain's dagger. Then, along with her companion, she brought the mortal remains of Sir Lachlan to the place where they still lie buried.[1]

Sir Lachlan Mor MacLean was buried in the churchyard of Kilchoman on Islay, near the south wall of the church, and over his grave is laid a great stone. There is a churchyard, Kilnave, near the battle-field; but the body was taken to Kilchoman that it might be more honored, for he was buried inside the church, and when a new church was built there, around 1829, the wall was so constructed that the grave was left outside the church.[1]


The plaque that marks the spot where he died says: "This cairn indicates the spot where, on the 5th August, 1598, Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean of Duart fell in a desperate encounter with his nephew Sir James Macdonald of Knockrinsay. The battle of Traigh Ghruinneart is the best known incident in the feud between the Macleans and the Macdonalds for the Rinns "[10][11]


Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean's ancestors in three generations
Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean Father:
Eachuinn Og Maclean
Paternal Grandfather:
Eachuinn Mor Maclean
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Lachlan Cattanach Maclean
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Katherine, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll
Paternal Grandmother:
Mary MacDonald of Islay and the Glens
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Alexander MacDonald of Islay and the Glens
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Janet Campbell of Argyll
Maternal Grandfather:
Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
Colin Campbell, 3rd Earl of Argyll
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Jean, daughter of Alexander Gordon, 3rd Earl of Huntly
Maternal Grandmother:
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-Grandmother:


 This article incorporates text from A history of the clan Mac Lean from its first settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the present period: including a genealogical account of some of the principal families together with their heraldry, legends, superstitions, etc, by John Patterson MacLean, a publication from 1889 now in the public domain in the United States.

  1. MacLean, John Patterson (1889). A History of the Clan MacLean from Its First Settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the Present Period: Including a Genealogical Account of Some of the Principal Families Together with Their Heraldry, Legends, Superstitions, etc. R. Clarke & Company. Sir Lachlan Mor became chief. He was called "Big Lachlan," both on account of his size and the greatness of his mind. It is recorded that he was the most accomplished and warlike chief that ever held sway in the castle. This assumption might be owing to the nearness of his time, whilst those remote might grow dim as ages melt away. His military talents were of a high order; his chivalrous character everywhere commanded respect, and his devoted interest in behalf of his people endeared him to all. Historians have written of him in unstinted praise. His reign covers a very interesting period, though varied and much given to tumult. He fell in a clan battle with the MacDonalds of Islay, on August 5, 1598 ... His issue by Margaret, daughter of William Cunningham, sixth earl of Glencairn, was Eachann Og, his eldest son and successor, Lachlan Og, of whom the family of Torloisk was descended, Gillean, married to Mary the elder, Allan, married to Mary the younger, both daughters of John Dubh of Morvern, and Charles. The only daughter married Hector MacLean of Lochbuy, the first Protestant of his family also.
  2. "Mór". MacBain's Dictionary. Retrieved 17 April 2009. great, Irish mór, Old Irish mór, már, Welsh mawr, Old Welsh, Cornish maur, Breton meur, Gaulish -mârós; Gothic -mêrs, famed, mêrian, proclaim, Old High German mâri, famed, -mar in Germanic names German märchen, a tale, Norse moerr, famous; Slavonic -meru (Vladimir, etc.); Latin merus, English mere. A shorter form of the stem (mâro-) appears in mò, greater (mâ)
  3. William Boyd, Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 9 (Edinburgh, 1915), pp. 618-9, 627-9, 635.
  4. Massacre of Glencoe#Aftermath
  5. MacLean, J. P. (May 2009). A History of the Clan MacLean from Its First Settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the Present Period, Including a Genealogical Account of Some of the Principal Families Together with Their Heraldry, Legends, Superstitions, Etc. ISBN 9780788413162.
  6. Register of the Privy Council of Scotlland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1882), p. 295.
  7. "Lady Margaret Cuninghame". Retrieved 30 August 2009. Lady Margaret Cuninghame is the daughter of William Cuninghame, 6th Earl of Glencairn and Janet Gordon. She married Sir Lachlan 'Mor' Maclean of Dowart.
  8. Reverend Angus Macdonald and Reverend Archibald Macdonald (1900). The Clan Donald, Volume 2. A fierce battle was fought at a place called Traigh Ghruinneart, at the head of Loch Gruinneart. ...
  9. Conflicts of the Clans: The Death of Sir Lauchlan Maclean in 1598. Foulis Press. 1764. Sir Lauchlan Maclean's ambition, together with his desire of revenge, thrust him on to claim the inheritance of the whole Isle of Islay, being always the possession and ancient inheritance of the Clan Donald, all which Maclean thought easily now to compass, Sir James Macdonald (the just inheritor thereof) being young, and his father, Angus Macdonald, aged. ...
  10. NR2767 : Lachlan Mor Maclean of Duart Fell Here. geograph. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  11. Cairn - Flickr flickr. Retrieved 26 January 2015
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