Clan MacLea History

The Clan MacLea, also known as the Highland Livingstones originate in Cowall and Lorn in Argyll. There are two schools of thought concerning the derivation of the name MacLea.

Niall Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll wrote that MacLea derived from Dunshleibe son of Aedh Alain, giving rise to the MacDunsleves.
Another theory is that it comes from the name Mac Duinnshleibhe, which is closely connected with the Royal Family of Ulster.

img_historyThe current Chief, Niall Livingstone of Bachuil is descended from the hereditary abbots of Lismore Cathedral and Barons of Bachuil.  On the death of Saint Moluag, who preached on Lismore in the 6th century, the McInlea (or MacLea) Chief was made successor and custodian of the saint’s crozier, known as the Bachuil Mohr.
This Bachuil Mohr is still kept by the Clan Chief and is said to possess magical qualities, giving strength in battle and healing the sick.  The Macleas were later given a barony of a small estate on the island and this title is said to be the oldest in the UK.

The clan were formally recognised in 2003, when Alastair Livingstone of Bachuil became chief thanks to the efforts of his son Niall. In Lorn the MacLeas had a great deal of land around Loch Etive, from Benderloch to Dalness near Glencoe, but much of this land was lost to the Campbells as well as the MacDonalds of Glencoe.

There were MacLeas living in Ross-Shire in the 1400’s, but they were virtually wiped out at the Battle of Bealach na Broige in 1452 against the Munroes and Dingwalls.

In 1557, the  McLeays of Achnacree near Connel also suffered defeat, losing 80 men supporting the MacDougalls of Lorn against the Campbells of Inverawe.
Almost a century later (1647) the same clans were involved in the Dunvarty Massacre, again losing to the Campbells of Inverawe.

Around the middle of the 17th century the MacLeas began using the surname Livingstone.  Although we don’t know the exact reason, it is believed to be connected with the arrival of James Livingston of Skirling in 1641, who had been given a lease of land and tithes of the bishoprics of Argyll and the Isles.  James Livingston lived for a while on Lismore where he would have met the MacLeas.  After the Dunvarty Massacre the Macleas may have begun using this name in order avoid trouble with the Campbells of Inverawe.  By the late 18th century the name Livingstone was commonly used by the clan.

The MacLeas were followers of the Stewarts of Appin and fought with them at Culloden.  Among the Livingstones guarding Charles Stewart was Donald Livingstone, aged 18 at the time.  He distinguished himself by rescuing the White Banner of the Stewarts during the battle and returning it to Appin.  This was the only one of twelve banners of the highland clans to return from Culloden – the rest were burned at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh.

The most famous Highland Livingstone is Dr. David Livingstone, the famous explorer and missionary.  He is directly descended from the Lismore Barons of Bachuil, the family resemblance being so strong that several times he was mistaken for both Baron Alexander Livingstone of Bachuil and Robert Livingstone of Achnacree.

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