Western USA Branch
There is an old, charming legend that states the reason why the MacLachlan Chief's coat-of-arms is supported by two roebucks (deer). In 1249, when King Alexander II made his great show of strength in Argyll, he ordered the local chiefs to send their money (taxes) by the fastest messenger, and Lachlan Msr (the younger) tied the moneybags to the horns of a roebuck. Not only is this a demonstration of the ingenuity of the early MacLachlan's chief, but also shows his thoughts regarding having to pay taxes in general.
The MacEwen Massacre - A Popular Legend
History has embellished the story of Clan MacEwen's loss of title and lands to include both deception and treachery on the part of the Campbells. While the historical facts do not agree with this legend, its telling is amusing and worth presentation here.
It seems that Swene was suffered from many of the vices common to his day. He had a weakness for whiskey, wine and wagering. As a consequence to his unsatiable appetite for these vices, he quickly squandered his Clan's inheritance and needed to borrow money. So, he turned to the only Clan that was willing to loan him money - the infamous Campbells.
The Duke of Argyll, realizing he was dealing with a weak individual, refused to loan Swene any money unless Swene agreed to use his lands and his title as collateral. He also insisted on a repayment schedule that was essentially impossible to meet. Being desperate, Swene finally agreed to these devastating terms hoping the future would change his luck.
Realizing he was rapidly sinking into financial ruin, Swene decided to examine the only options left to him. Since he could not afford to continue repaying the outlandish duties forced upon him by the Duke, he decided to withhold payments and try to negotiate with the Duke for better terms. When the Duke refused to renegotiate the terms, Swene decided to withhold payments to force a renegotiation. This only succeeded in angering the Duke further. After a period of time, the Duke decided the time had come for him to meet with Swene in an effort to convince the Chief of the MacEwens it was time to pay his debts.
Since the MacEwen stronghold at Otter and the Duke's home at Inverary were some distance apart, the meeting of these two Chiefs represented a lengthy journey that would require planning and an overnight stay. The Duke proposed that Swene and his MacEwen entourage should travel to the Campbell stronghold to discuss Swene's financial plight. Swene, thankful to have a chance to finally present his case, was confident he could work out a compromise. He quickly agreed to the meeting.
On the evening following the MacEwen's arrival at Inverary, the Duke held a Ceilidh (feast) to honor their guests. While at the feast, the MacEwens were encouraged to imbibe freely of the whiskey and wine, which they did. After the MacEwens had become intoxicated beyond resistance, the Campbells proceeded to massacre them. With most of the MacEwens having been murdered, the Campbells were free to march into Otter and take possession of the lands with minimal resistance.
Those few MacEwens that survived fled their homes and sought protection from their neighbors, the MacLachlans.
Of course, one must also add the lesson learned from this story:
If you are ever invited to the home of a Campbell for dinner, beware!
Legends of the Clan's Brounie
It was the belief throughout the Highlands of Scotland that every castle had a brounie to watch over the Chief and his family. Clan MacLachlan was no exception. The MacLachlan's brounie, known as both Harry and Munn, has been associated with the clan for so many generations that no one really knows when the brounie first appeared. While most often mischievous, the MacLachlan's brounie is reputed to be also benevolent. (Harry is one of two that are spirits of goodwill. The other resides in Foulis Castle in the north of Scotland.)
Two legends of the brounie involve the marriage between a member of the Chief's family and the Campbells . Another recounts a dire warning the brounie gave to a MacLachlan chief during a very unsettled time and the last recounts the brounie's first encounter with trousers.
MacLachlan of Strathlachlan, seeing that his territories were surrounded on all sides by Campbells, decided to contract himself in marriage to a daughter of one of the families nearby related to the Campbells. He proposed and was accepted and made great preparations for the marriage feast at Strathlachlan and put himself to great expense to make a suitable display. The lavishness of the preparations of the young Chief perturbed the guardian spirit or brounie who disapproved of any alliance with a girl of a clan who for long centuries had been the rivals and enemies of his house. Nothing however would deter the young Chief who caused his Castle on Loch Fyne to be decorated as it had never been during all its history. The banquet was prepared in the Great Hall and the members of the two clans were seated according their exact rank in pairs all down the Hall.
Just as the Chaplain was about to say the grace, everything vanished in a mist from the table to the consternation of the guests. The Chief knew full well that Master Harry, the brounie, was the author of this theft and stammering an apology, he commanded his servants to follow him to the vaults where not a trace of the brounie or his stolen goods could be found; all was dark and silent. Overcome with rage, he shouted to the brounie and threatened wildly. A faint jingle of silver spoons fell on his ear, and changing his tone, he remonstrated more calmly with his invisible servant, saying that his conduct would leave a disgraceful stain on the ancient and honorable Clan MacLachlan, and on the brounie himself -- if the Campbells had but some scraps to feast on.
The brounie's gruff voice was immediately heard muttering -- 'Aye, Aye the Campbells may get the braw rivers -- the fairest and the fattest that the woods and waters of Strathlachlan can produce, it will not be long till the greedy Campbells enjoy the fair lands of Strathlachlan itself.' The various dishes suddenly were thrust into the hands of the servants who speedily carried them back to the hall, and placed them before the wondering guests. The feast went on without further incident and the marriage itself was consummated.
But it was not long before the brounie's disregarded warning began to appear true. The young Chief's profusion at the time of his marriage had to be kept up in a similar degree afterwards. Money difficulties began to crowd upon him.
The second legend involving the brounie and a pending marriage recounts a time when the Chief of the MacLachlans arranged the marriage of his daughter to a Campbell gentleman. As with all unions between the Campbells and the MacLachlans, Harry did not approve of this match. On the eve before the wedding, Harry crept into the main hall of the castle and upset all the tables to such an extent that the Chief had to postpone the wedding. During the postponement, facts became known that changed the Chief's mind about the suitability of the marriage. The Chief learned that the Campbells wanted to use the marriage to take over the lands of the MacLachlans thereby breaking the clan. Harry had thus saved the clan from extinction, an act for which the Chief was most grateful.
The third legend comes from the era of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Like other desperate men of the time, the Chief of Clan MacLachlan took part in the attempt to restore the Stuarts to the throne of Scotland. One night in the summer of that year, wishing to draw aside the dark curtain which overhung the era, the Chief descended into vaults to seek an interview with the faithful and far seeing brounie. (Master Harry had confined himself wholly to his cell, mourning over the unavoidable downfall of the house that he had guarded and loved for unnumbered generations.) On the Chief's approach, he burst into tears.
'What is the cause of your grief, Master Harry?' said the young Chief, 'have any of the servants been annoying you?'
'No, my Chief, none.'
'Then what is the cause of your bitter lamentation?'
'Ochone! My Chief, ochone! There is a stranger arrived this day in the North, whose fortunes you will follow and never return!'
'What,' cried MacLachlan, 'has the Prince indeed arrived? Then the crisis of my misfortunes has arrived also. I shall now either live in a way becoming the descendent of an ancient and honorable race, or else I shall die gloriously in the best of causes -- the restoration of my rightful King to the throne of his ancestors.'
Without delay, the MacLachlan sent forth the Feiry Cross to call together his clan and with all his retaines and vassals was among the first to join the Prince on his march to Edinburgh.
MacLachlan was one of the few Jacobite Lairds to fall at the fatal battle of Culloden. Thus was fulfilled the doleful prophecy of the brounie of Castle Lachlan.
The fourth legend is set in the eighteenth century when a well-meaning member of the clan decided it was time for Munn to change his attire and made him a pair of brown trousers. The trousers were carefully laid over a chair one night to insure Munn would notice them during his nocturnal wanderings. When Munn arrived, he took one look at the trousers and cried out in disgust, "Ach, it's time Munn wis nae here". Munn was so offended at being offered the trousers that he vanished for over a hundred years. No one saw or heard him during this period. Munn has been seen since, running about the castle, begrudgingly wearing his trousers.