Clan MacMillan History

19th century depiction of Clan MacMillan by R.R. McIan

19th century depiction of Clan MacMillan by R.R. McIan

The Clan MacMillan has its roots in an ancient royal house and from the orders of the Celtic church. The progenitor of the clan was Gillie Chriosd, one of the sons of the Cormac, the Bishop of Dunkeld. As a Columban priest, his head would have been shaved over the front of his head, rather than in the more usual fashion.

This distinctive tonsure is described in Gaelic as ‘Mhaoillan’. The name MacMillan is therefore “son of one who bore this tonsure”.

An early branch of the MacMillan clan was to be found at Loch Arkaig in Lochaber. However, tradition states that the family was moved from this area by Malcolm IV and placed on the crown lands of Loch Tay in Perthshire. It was at these lands in Perthshire that Robert the Bruce, fleeing after the stabbing of the Red Comyn, was sheltered by the MacMillan chief. The family proved its loyalty to the Bruce by fighting at his side at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Finlaystone Castle, seat of the Chief of Clan MacMillan

Finlaystone Castle, seat of the Chief of Clan MacMillan

There are two enduring MacMillan memorials in Scotland today. One of these is a round tower, built as part of Castle Sween by the 12th chief of the MacMillan clan. Castle Sween itself is the oldest stone built castle in Scotland. The other MacMillan memorial is a cross which stands in the churchyard at Kilmory. This cross is recognised as one of the finest surviving examples of Celtic art in Scotland, and shows a chief of the MacMillans hunting deer.

The MacMillan family were not noted as Jacobites, but tradition states that two sons of John MacMillan of Murlagan carried the Lochiel from where he fell on Culloden field. Prince Charles Edward Stewart made his last stand from the MacMillan home in Arkaig.

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