The name originates from the Gaelic ‘MacGillie Ffaolain’ or ‘son of the servant of St Filan’. The name Filan actually derives from the celtic ‘faelchu’ which means ‘wolf’. St Filan lived around c.700, travelling widely around Scotland and built a church at Strathfillan.
The clan has a very long history, being mentioned in a charter of King Alexander in 1217, and is associated with Galloway from 1273.
Maclellan of Bombie was a close follower of William Wallace, and after the defeat at Falkirk in 1298, he accompanied Wallace to France in order to enlist the help of King Philip in their efforts against Edward I.
By the fifteenth century the clan had expanded, and become fairly wealthy. At this time fourteen Maclellan Knights are recorded living in Galloway.
The clan were royalist throughout their history, an early example being that of Sir Patrick Maclellan of Bombie. Having forfeited his estates to the Earl of Douglas, they were later restored to him by King James of Scotland when his son, Sir William killed a bandit who had been terrorising the area. This story is the inspiration for the image on the MacLellan clan crest – when William killed the bandit he carried the head on the point of his sword to the king.
In 1452, William, eighth Earl of Douglas imprisoned Sir Patrick Maclellan, Sheriff of Galloway at Threave Castle in order to persuade him to join a plot against the King. A Royal order was sent for his release, to which the Earl responded by having Sir Patrick murdered.
A local tradition of Threave has it that the canon ‘Mons Meg’ was made on the orders of King James II in order to defeat the castle and exact revenge on the Douglases.
Sir William Maclellan of Bombie, after being Knighted by James IV, followed the king on his ill-fated invasion of England, and died at Flodden Field in 1513.
His son, Thomas Maclellan was killed by Gordon of Lochinvar at the door of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1526.
Sir Robert Maclellan was Sir William’s great-great grandson and a courtier of both King James IV and Charles I. He was made Lord Kirkcudbright in 1633, and supported the King during the Civil War. John Maclellan, the third Lord Kirkcudbright was so zealous in his support for the King, it eventually resulted in the financial ruin of the clan, and after the death of the fourth Lord Kirkcudbright, the estate had to be sold.
The Title was passed among various descendants until 1761, when the title was reclaimed by James Maclellan, becoming dormant again in 1832 when he died.
Clan members can be found in various parts of the world, particularly Nova Scotia and the United States via Ulster.
MacLellan Clan History