It is thought that this name derives from the lands named Cleland or Kneland in Dalziel, Lanarkshire. There were many branches of the family that lived in Lanarkshire.
The first of the name on record is Alexander Kneland of that Ilk. He married Margaret, who was sister of the independence leader and patriot William Wallace. Kneland was a follower of Wallace and fought in the Scottish Wars of Independence against the English. It is believed that he fought in the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. He was rewarded by Robert I with land, some within the barony of Calder in West Lothian, for his services.
Clellands continued to fight for Scotland throughout the centuries. Alexander Cleland of that Ilk, and William, his cousin, fought, and died, against the English at the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, which also saw the death of James IV
Alexander Clelland of that Ilk was implicated in the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots’ second husband, Lord Darnley (pictured top), in 1567. Clelland was a relation of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and Mary’s third husband.
Alexander Clelland’s grandson, also Alexander, married the sister of John Hamilton, Lord Bargeny. Their son inherited land that belonged to Hamiltons from his mother, and in turn sold the lands of Cleland to a cousin.
The family have been without a chief for over two hundred years, with the last recorded chief being William Cleland (1674 – 1741), whose son John Cleland (d.1789), wrote the novel ‘Fanny Hill’.