Western USA Branch
What is a Sept?
Sept is a term which comes to us from the Irish, which means "family." It is used to explain the variety of surnames of members of a clan or family. Two major Septs of the Clan MacLachlan are listed below. Evidenced by the fact that we have many people with these ties and surnames actively involved, they are every bit a part of our family. In fact, each has its own unique contribution to Scottish and Irish history and share a common ancestor with the MacLachlans.
Technically the MacEwens are a protectorate but commonly referred to as a Sept as well. In any event they are family.
Although of ancient origin, there are few authentic records of this clan. Records from 1450 show that the Clan MacEwen, together with the Clan Neill and the Clan Lachlan, formed the Siol Gillevray of the Gallgael. The genealogy proves that Clan MacEwen existed long before 1450 and that they were known as the MacEwens of Otter.
The Reverend Alexander McFarlane, minister of the parish of Kilfinan, writing in 1794, states that On a rocky point on the coast of Loch Fyne about a mile below the church of Kilfinan is seen the vestige of a building called MacEwens Castle. This MacEwen was a Chief of a clan and proprietor of Otter. The MacEwen lands were located on the southern shore of Loch Fyne with the Lamonts to the south, separated by the River Kilfinnan, and the MacLachlans to the north where the terrace slopes looked down onto Otter Spit and the stream divides the parishes of Kilfinnan and Strathlachlan.
Ewen of Otter, who gives his name to the clan, lived at the beginning of the thirteenth century. His name is derived from Eoghan which translates from the Gaelic as Born of the Yew Tree. Gillespic, 5th of Otter, flourished about a century later. In 1174, Malcolm MacEwen witnessed the charter by Malcolm, the Second Earl of Atholl, of the church of Dul to Saint Andrews. In 1219, Gilpatrik MacEwen was listed as one of the perambulators for the lands of Kynblathmund.
MacEwen tradition holds that the MacEwens supported Somerled in his stand against the Scottish crown's campaign to secure the western seaboard. They suffered severely when Alexander II campaigned against Argyll in 1222.
Swene MacEwen, 9th and last of Otter (the last Chief), granted, in 1432, lands of Otter to Duncan Campbell of Lochow in repayment for overdue loans, and resigned the Barony of Otter to James I. It was returned to him until his death with remainder to Celestine, son and heir of Duncan Campbell. In 1493, James V confirmed the barony of Otter to Colin Campbell, Second Earl of Argyll and thereafter Otter remained in possession of the Campbells.
The manner in which the Clan MacEwen lands were lost suggests that Swene MacEwen was a victim of the Campbell facility to exploit the law to their own benefit at the detriment of simpler neighbors.
Without lands, the MacEwens became a broken clan and found their way to many districts. Many settled in the lands of their cousins an neighbors - the MacLachlans. A large number are known to have settled in Lennox County while others went further afield to Lochaber, Perth, Skye and the Lowlands, including Galloway. Other MacEwens stayed where they were swearing allegiance to the Earl of Argyll, some eventually becoming hereditary bards and sennachies to the Campbell Chiefs of Glenorchy. Finally, other MacEwens settled along the shores of Loch Lomond, probably before the end of the 15th century. Records from around 1513 indicate that the MacEwens had been pretty well dispersed from their homeland. Another
MacEwen tradition claims that they fought on the side of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the battle of Langside in 1568. History does show that the last witch to be put to death in Scotland was Elspeth MacEwen. She was executed in Kirkcudbright in 1698. In addition, one MacEwen family held title to Barmolloch in Lorne around this time.
Gilchrist means "servant of Christ." The name spelled in Gaelic is "MacIllechriosd." Gillascop MacGilchrist had a charter of the five penny lands of Fyncharne and others in 1243 from King Alexander II. This charter is probably the oldest one in existence dealing with the lands in Argyllshire. Alun MacGillecrist was one of the witnesses to a charter by Moregrund, Earl of Mar. Duncan MacGilchrist of Levenaghes (Lennox) rendered homage in 1296 at Berwick-on-Tweed. At that date, Johan Enynsone MacGilchrist, one of the King's tenants in Perthshire, also rendered homage. Donenaidus Makgilkriste, dominus de Tarbard, granted to the Monks of Paisley the right of cutting wood within all his territory for the building and repair of their monastery. This charter is updated but probably is of the end of the thirteenth century. From this Donald, according to Crawford, are descended the M'Gilchrists of North Bar; Merquirhir McIlcrist was tenant in Cornekmoir, Tiree in 1541. Gillechreiste McIlChreist and Donald Beg McIlchreist in Glenlyon were fined for reset of fugitive members of Clan Gregor in 1613.
In the fourth century, the Roman Empire was in decline. The Irish kings took to the seas and made war on the remnants of once mighty Rome. The most famous of these kings was a half real, half legendary person known as Niall of the Nine Hostages (derived from the ancient tradition of capturing important persons and holding them for ransom). The powerful Ui’neill’s (O’Neill) who ruled Northern Ireland for nearly 800 years claim decent from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Lochlainn, (from which MacLachlan is derived) was a favorite forename in the Ui’neill family. About 563 A.D., a relative of the Ui’neill’s, Saint Columba, left Ireland and founded the first Christian church in Scotland on the island of Iona (this is the burial site of the kings of Scotland). Subsequent waves of immigrants followed and formed the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada which covered the area that is now Argyll (home of the MacLachlan clan) and Kintyre and some of the neighboring islands. Antrothan, a cousin of Aodh Ui’neill, (king of Ulster from 1030 -1033), was one of those immigrants. He married the daughter of the King of Dalriada and received lands. From that union arose a son named Aedh whose son was Gilchrist. (This was about the same time that McBeth ruled part of Scotland). In those days surnames were uncommon, and generally used only by people with wealth and power. When surnames began to be used, they were used to identify the person in relation to their leaders, saints or God. Gilli in Norse and Gilla in Irish were commonly used since in the Old Gaelic language it meant “man of” or “follower”. In the ancient Old Gaelic form, our name was either Giolla Chriost or Gilla (Gille) Criosd. It wasn’t until around the year 1000 that it began to appear as a single name, Gillacrist, and was used by Vikings and Celts alike.
Gilchrist, son of Aedh, mentioned above, was the father of Gilpatrick whose son was Lochlan Mor, credited with founding the MacLachlan Clan. In 1170 Gilbert, the son of Gille Criosd, First Earl of Angus, was granted the barony of Ogilvie, north of the Firth of Tay, near Glamis. From this arose the Ogilvie Clan. The MacFarlanes are descended from Gilchrist, brother of Maldowen, third of the ancient Earls of Lennox during the 13th century. A great-grandson of this Gilchrist was named Bartholomew (in Gaelic spelled “Parlan”). It is from him that the MacFarlanes take their name. The founder of the Kintail branch of the MacRae Clan was Fionnla Dubh MacGillechriosd who died in 1416.
The name “Gilchrist” in a variety of forms occurs as both a first name and as a last name in numerous early legal documents. The earliest of these is in 1132 when Gillecrist mac Finguni and Gillecrist mac Cormoic witnessed several grants made in behalf of the Abbeys of Paisley and Lennox. In 1230 Gilchrist MacLachlan witnessed a charter granted by Lomond, ancestor of the Lamond Clan. Gillecrist de lacu (of the loch) was one of the assessors of the lands of Dunduff in 1231. Gillascop MacGilchrist had a charter of the five penny lands of Fyncharne and others in 1243 from King Alexander II. This is probably the oldest existing charter dealing with lands in Argyllshire. In 1267 King Alexander III appointed Gilchrist MacNaughton and his heirs as keepers of the Castle of Fraoch Eilean in Loch Awe.
The St. Martin’s Cross in Columbas mission on the island of Iona, bears an inscription in Irish characters which translates to “a prayer for Gillacrist who made this cross”. The date of the inscription is unknown. It is believed to date from the seventh century but could have been made anytime up until the final Viking sacking of Iona on Christmas Day in 946 A.D. Gillechreiste McIlchreist and Donald Beg McIhchreist were fined in Glenlyon for harboring members of Clan Gregor in 1613. Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) was a member of this since John Knox lead the Scottish Parliament to declare the Presbyterian Church the national church of Scotland in 1560. King James I authorized a Gilchrist coat of arms in Ulster, Ireland in 1657.
In 1238, two Norse chieftains, Gospatrick and Gilchrist, son of M’Erchar, were directed by The King of Norway to go to the Isle of Man. Harald Gilchrist (some translations use the Norwegian spelling Gillikrist since “Christ” is spelled “Krist”) lead the Norwegians in a civil war in 1134-35 and the throne remained in the hands of his descendants for two hundred years. Gille Criosd, Earl of Angus whose son founded the Ogilvie Clan (above) was probably Norse.
Two clans – the MacLachlans and the Ogilvies, claim the Gilchrists. The Gilchrists who were vassals of the ancient Earls of Lennox almost certainly fought alongside the great Scottish hero, William Wallace (Braveheart), at his victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. They were likely with Robert the Bruce at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn when the Scots won their independence from England. The Gilchrists were probably at the Battle of Cullodin Moor in 1746 since both the MacLachlans and Ogilvies participated. Throughout history the Gilchrists have held many titles and held vast lands. Unfortunately, as a result of wrong political choices or having no male heirs, these land and titles passing to other families and clans. “Mac” is used to denote “son of” as in “MacLachlan” or “MacGilchrist”. The Gilchrists that exist today did not drop the “Mac” from their name. They continued to exist as the “Gilchrists” even after the MacGilchrists came into existence. A family profession? More Gilchrists have entered the educational profession as teachers, professors and educators that any other field.