The MacColls are mostly considered to be descended from Clan Donald. In this large and powerful Clan the forename ‘Coll’ was common. It is also based on the evidence that they both have a sprig of common heather as their clan badge. According to the Gaelic manuscript of 1450 as quoted by W. F. Skene in his Highlanders of Scotland, the MacDonalds derived their earliest known origin from Colla Uais, an Irish king of the fourth century. This great Clan in it’s earliest form was known alternatively as Clan Colla and Clan Cuin or Conn, the latter name being derived from Constantine, the father of Colla. Coll has accordingly always been a very popular name among the MacDonalds.
The MacColls are also connected to other clans including the MacGregors and the Stewarts of Appin.
Clan MacColl have been historically associated with the lands around Loch Fyne, a sea loch in Argyll. This is Campbell territory and the MacColls of this area became involved with the Campbell/MacGregor feuds where they supported the MacGregors. This in turn brought them into conflict with the MacPhersons.
In 1602/1603 a group MacPhersons were enrote to help the MacGregors, but the victory had already been won by the MacGrerors in Glen Fruin so the MacPhersons had turned back and were making their way home to Badenoch when they encountered a raiding band of MacColls in Drumochter. A fight ensued and the out numbered MacColls lost most of their men, including their leader. This small clan in one day had lost most of their military force. One of the decimated clan, Angus Ban MacCoil, attracted special attention in the fight by his strength and dexterity. He was encountered by one of the most valiant of the Macphersons, and the two engaged in a mortal combat. This desperate struggle of the two continued till the MacCoIls were finally overcome and driven from the field. Then, seeing the odds overwhelming against him, Angus Ban fought his way, moving backwards, to a deep chasm in the hillside, and leaping the abyss backwards with astonishing agility effected his escape, none of his pursuers being inclined to risk the leap even in the ordinary way and with a run.
MacColls and The Stewarts of Appin
Another branch of the MacColls lived in the Appin area where they were loyal followers of the Appin Stewarts. So close was their relationship that when a Chieftain of the Achnacone Stewarts died it was customary that he should be buried where a MacColl lay on either side of him. The MacColls fought in the Appin Regiment during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Of the 109 Appin killed or wounded, 33 were named MacColl.
MacColls and the MacNaughtons
Monument to Gaelic poet, Evan McColl, who was born at Kenmore in 1808. He died in 1898 and this monument was unveiled in 1930 by the Duke of Argyll. He was the author of “Clarsach nam Beann” – the Mountain Minstrel.
The MacColls of Lochgilphead and Kilmory in Argyll are said to be more properly MacNaughtons. Probably descended from the Loch Fyne race was Evan McColl the Gaelic poet, born at Kenmore on Loch Fyne in 1808. Evan was the author of “Clarsach nam Beann” – the Mountain Minstrel. In 1930 a monument was erected there to his memory.
Among the most notable holders of it was the lieutenant of the Great Marquess of Montrose in the Civil Wars of Charles I., who was known as Colkitto, or Coil Ciotoch MacDonald. Of this Left-handed Coil, as his name implies, many stories are told. It was he who brought over the Irish contingent, and acted as its leader throughout the Marquess’ campaign. On his way along the coast after landing, he sent a piper to ascertain the defences of Duntrune castle on the shore of Loch Crinan. The piper not only found the stronghold in a complete state of defence but was himself made prisoner in one of the turrets. His pipes, however, were left to him, and he seized the opportunity to blow out the well-known tune “Shun the Tower.” Colkitto took the hint, and, leaving the piper to his fate, marched off to join Montrose. Later, when a prisoner, and about to be hanged from the mast of his galley at Dunstaffnage, he begged that he might be buried under the doorstep of the little chapel there, in order that he might “exchange a snuff with the Captain of Dunstaffnage in the grave.”