Clan MacBrayne History
The name MacBrayne comes from the Gaelic Mac a’ Bhriuthainn, which means ‘son of the judge’. A judge would have absolute power and the office was hereditary. MacBrayne was an anglicised form of the Gaelic Name, another evolution of the name points to Broun/Bown so some Brouns are connected to MacBrayne.
The name was from early times found on Islay where they held land. MacBrayne was used as a surname since the 16th Century.
The MacBraynes from Islay or Kintyre were part of the powerful Clan Donald (MacDonald). Padruig Mac a’ Bhriuthainn was an Islay based judge, who is known for the power he wielded but also because he was illiterate and couldn’t even write his name. Other MacBraynes can be part of Clan MacNaughton, another powerful Clan who claim descent from early Pictish rulers of the Mormaer of Moray. They held lands around Argyll.
The name MacBrayne is found in many ancient Scottish manuscripts, we have records for instance of a Eugenius MacBrehin who was a student at St. Andrews in 1525. There is also an Anna MacBreynr in Gortenagor in 1672. Archibald Mcbrain and Duncan Mcbrain were both noted rebels in Argyllshire in 1685.
Some MacBraynes were amongst the early settlers in America, not all by choice. Lachlan McBrayne, a Jacobite, was transported to South Carolina in 1716 and Murdoch McBraine settled in Bladen Country, North Carolina, in 1740.
Also recorded is an employee called MacBraine in Mackintosh’s ‘secret work’ in the making of cudbear, sold the secret of manufacture to an English company around the end of the 18th century.
In 1878, a David MacBrayne became the owner of a number of vessels which provided ferry services to parts of the Western Isles. The company quickly expanded and became the main suppliers of both passenger and freight ferry services from the Scottish mainland to most of the islands. The company remained in the MacBrayne family until it went bankrupt in 1928, and ownership was spilt between a private company and a state owned company. By 1970 the whole company was state owned, and then at the beginning of 1973 it merged with Caledonian Steam Packet Company, and formed under the new name of Caledonian MacBrayne. Today it remains a major ferry company providing services to over 20 of the major islands in the Western Isles from the mainland.
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