"Clans and Families"

.....Quoting Mr.Cairney, from his excellent book;

"It is not my purpose here to glorify a particular place or race by calling attention to some mystical quality. The men of the tribes were just men, and the places where they dwelt were just places. If anything must be glorified, let it be the human spirit; the spirit of men and women who would build a hearth and defend a family against ever-present dangers in a wild land.

Think of the Gaelic tribes as an aspect of our Western heritage, for they have left us above all with a legacy of pride in the face of adversity, of family unity in the face of potential annihilation. This is the legacy of the tribes and clans, that men could unite with bonds of blood and friendship, to uphold their freedom, their chief and their way of life; that men could stand together with honor, and face their fears with dignity. Though often enough the Gael fell short of his best, yet more often he did not, and at the very least the scions of an heroic aristocracy could gather around a fire at night, and listen to their ancient tales, reaffirming the morals and values of their people."

Part I "The Identity of the Gaels"

This book is about the origins of the Irish and Scottish surnames of
millions of Americans and Canadians. Much of the genealogical and cultural
legacy of our Irish and Scottish ancestors has not been made available to the
common English-speaking culture of North America. This state of affairs
reflects the fact that much good scholarly work bearing on the subject has been
"locked away" in academic works, often very old, by either Irish or British
authors dealing primarily with their own respective geopgaphical or subject
areas. Specialized information from diverse academic sources (long overlooked
by North American writers) is presented here in a unified text for the benefit
of Irish and Scottish Canadians and Americans.

Though prior to the seventeenth century Ireland and Scotland were in many
ways a single cultural unit, scholars since have skirted this issue, along with
the issue of past Irish and Scottish Gaelic tribalism, and this is probably a
result of their not spending the time to break into the enigma of Gaelic
language and culture. As a result, they have tried to categorize Ireland and
Scotland separately, and generally as a backwater of English history. This book
provides a fresh, historically accurate treatment of the subject by considering
both Gaelic areas, Ireland and Scotland, at once, and in the light of the best
modern information from such fields as anthropology, history, folklore,
genealogy, heraldry, literature and linquitics.

Thomas Cairney
October, 1988

NOTE: Here are specify paragraphs referencing the "MacLaren Clan" in Mr.Cairney's book, here I'll jump to the specific sections that show how our clan was connected to Irish and Scottish history.

page 29...
"The mirror and comb symbols found on Classes I and II symbol stones show up later in medieval Scottish heraldry. A mermaid holding a mirror and a comb, known to local folklore as the "fish-goddess" of Loch Voil in South Perthshire, appears as the heraldic "beast" on the standard of the chief of the MacLarens, and also as one of the crests in the arms of the Murray dukes of Atholl: The MacLarens represent the Picto-Gaelic earls of Strathern (southern Perthshire) in the male line, as the Murray dukes do in the female.

page 41...
"An aggressive Anglo-Norman presence meant that Celtic custom was assailed at the official level, both royal and ecclesiastical. This meant that the privileges of the original Celtic earls were also threatened. The most important of these Celtic earls were the earls of Strathearn ("earl" translated the earlier Picto-Gaelic title of "mormaer," or "great steward," the rank held by dynasts or sub-kings under the Pictish and later Picto-Gaelic high-kingships). As earl of what had been the Pictish province of Fortriu (genitive "Fortrenn"), the Earl of Strathearn had the most clearly Pictish credentials of any of the royalty in Scotland. Together with the earls of Fife, who originally alternated the kingship of Albany with their cousins of royal house, these earls of Strathern had a long tradition of being, with the earls of Fife, peers of the kings of Albany and later of the kings of Scots, in the original sense of the word, that of equal.

In fact, they were paramount among the seven original Pictish earldoms or sub-kingdoms (Atholl, Angus, Mar, Moray, Caithness, Strathearn and Fife) from Pictish times, whose dynasts were known as "The Seven Earls of Scotland." and who, as late as 1290, still asserted the right to the power of "king-making," as peers, or equals, of the King, as per Celtic custom, thus we have the significance of their direct Pictish links. As earls of Strathearn, they held sway over a territory in the center of the kingdom which included Scone, the inauguration site of the medieval Scottish kings and of their Pictish predecessors."

page 57...
The South Albans descend from the original Pictish tribal population of Stirlingshire, Fife, and especially lowland Perthshire and Angus. They were originally known by the tribal designation "the men of Fortrenn" from the province of that name centered around Strathearn. By the seventh century their leading dynasty had monopolized the high-kingship of the Picts. This probably had something to do with the physical proximity of Fortrenn to the English Kingdom of the Northumbrians, who were the main threat to the security of the Picts and Dalriadic Scots as well (see Chapter IV). Out of this Pictish past came the medieval office of mormaer (earl) and the concept of thanage (barony-holding), both hereditary but territorial concepts to supplement the strictly tribal offices of the Gaels in the kingdom of Albany in the early Middle Ages. The families which emerge in the High Middle Ages include the Ogilvys, the Drummonds, and those descended from the House of Strathearn.

The House of Strathearn, which fell in the mid-fourteenth century, was made up of the families immediately connected with the earls of Strathearn. These earls were, together with the earls of Fife, foremost among the seven original Celtic earls who were peers of the King of Scots under the old high-kingship. They seem clearly to have represented the "tribe of the land" of Fortrenn, the Pictish kingdom on which the Pictish high-kingship had been based before the merging of that kingdom with Dalriada. The earls bore no surname other than the title of Earl of Strathearn, but their various branches throughout the High Middle Ages usually took surnames from their estates during the thirteenth century or later, as per Scottish custom. The only two exceptions to this rule were the MacLarens of the Clan Laurin, and the MacLeishes. The families of the House of Strathearn include the MacLarens, deBalquhidders, Tyries, Logies, Glencairnies, Duries, Strathearns and MacLeishes.

The MacLarens (Mac Labhruinn) take their patronymic from Laurence, who was the hereditary Celtic abbot (see Chapter II) of Achtow in Balquhidder in the thirteenth century. This line of abbots, being descended from the earl who founded Achtow, appears to have assumed the leadership of the earl's clan-family following the death of the last earl, who died about 1350. The clan was at that time reduced from being independant owners of their lands to being perpetual tenants under the new overlords, the Murrays of Tullibardine, Lords of Balquhidder and Stewards of Strathern. These Murrays, with their kinsmen the Morays of Abercairney in Strathearn, both remembered their descent from the Celtic earls through different heiresses in the female line (by whom they acquired their lands). The Clan Laurin, in the plural sense, were probably identical with the "Lavernani" who fought under Malise, Earl of Strathearn at the battle of the Standard in 1138. They held land in Balquhidder and Strathearn, and spread later, under the Murray earls of Atholl, into that district as well. In the fifteenth and especially the sixteenth century they were constantly at feud with the MacGregors. The MacLarens followed and supported the Stewarts of Appin in their struggles; this as a result of kinship, fosterage and alliance between their respective clans (see under Stewart of Appin in Chapter X). Thet also followed their Murray kinsmen, the Tullibardine branch of which became Dukes of Atholl (and we find some MacLaren families holding land in Atholl). The de Balquhidders, who appear in early records of ca. 1285-1305, were MacLarens (Duncan de Balquhidder appears in 1284, and Conan de Balquhidder in1296), probably from before the name MacLaren came into general use.

(In Construction)
Book by C. Thomas Cairney October, 1988 "Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland" An Ethnography of the Gael A.D. 500-1750 ISBN 0-89950-362-4 McFarland & Company Inc, Publishers

Return to Top!

Return to: MacLaren's of Greenwich PEI