Clan MacLeod of Lewis History

The MacLeod clan claims its descent from Leod, a younger son of Olaf the Black, one of the last Norse kings of Man. Leod married a daughter of the Norse steward of Skye, which brought the family to Dunvegan. From there, the clan divided into two main branches, the MacLeods of Skye, and the MacLeods of Lewis, the “Siol Torquil”. The progenitor of this branch was Torquil, a son of Leod.

Remains of Ardvreck Castle, Assynt, built by the MacLeods around 1590

Remains of Ardvreck Castle, Assynt, built by the MacLeods around 1590

In the fourteenth century David II granted a charter to Torquil MacLeod for the barony of Assynt in Sutherland. This estate, along with other acquisitions of land, gave the Siol Torquil the power to rival their cousins, the Siol Tormod in importance. On these grounds they long disputed the chiefship of the clan.

The MacLeods of Lewis were an ambitious branch of the clan and assisted Donald Dubh MacDonald in his rebellion to obtain the Lordship of the Isles. When his attempt failed, the estates of the MacLeods were forfeited, and were not to be restored for a further five years.

In the sixteenth century the Siol Torquil were involved in a succession of feuds with neighbouring clans, and with members of their own clan. However in the early seventeenth century the main line of the Lewis MacLeods became extinct, and the chiefship of this branch passed to the MacLeods of Raasay.

Finally the MacLeods of Lewis were forced to accept the ascendancy of their cousins at Dunvegan.

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