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To write the history of one of our leading Highland clans is a more arduous task than most readers of the Celtic Magazine are likely to realise, but the reception accorded to the histories of the Mackenzies, of the Macdonalds, and of the Camerons, written and published by us during the last six years, and the valuable aid extended to us by members of these families, and by those possessing information concerning the clans whose histories have already appeared, have emboldened us to begin a history of the ancient family of Macleod, in the full expectation and confidence that similar aid will be extended to us in our present task. We would, however, call attention to the fact that in a few instances, parties interested have not supplied us, until it was too late, with genealogical and other interesting family information which it was impossible to obtain from other sources, and it may be well to warn those interested in the history and genealogies of the Clan Macleod and its connexions against similar oversight, so that they may not, when the work is completed, have to complain, as some Mackenzies, Macdonalds, and Camerons have done, that their names or families have been overlooked and left out of the genealogical portion of the histories of their respective clans.
Having said so much, to obviate disappointment later on, and
respectfully asking the aid of everyone who is able to give any information-historical or genealogical—which will help us to produce a work worthy of this ancient clan, we proceed to discuss the various views as to the origin of the family and name.
It is not intended to give here a consecutive, complete history, but, first, as in the case of the other families already named, such an account as may prove interesting to the general reader, and at the same time enable us to procure additional information from the various sources, which, as on previous occasions, are sure to be opened up, or placed within our reach as we proceed.
ORIGIN OF THE CLAN.
The generally received theory in the case of the Macleods, as in that of most of the other Highland clans, is that they are of foreign origin—descended from the early Norwegian kings of the Isle of Man. This descent, said to have based on the Chronicle of Man, was universally acknowledged, until Skene, in his Highlanders of Scotland, declared against it, stating that, though few origins have been more strenuously supported than the alleged Norwegian origin of the Macleods, there is "not the vestige of authority" for it. The Chronicle of Man, which has been so repeatedly quoted by various genealogists in support of the assertion that the Macleods are descended from the Norwegian Kings of Man, is absolutely silent on the point, and no evidence whatever is available from that source, though quoted so often as an authority on the subject. Skene says that "it is a singular circumstance that that record is nevertheless destitute of the slightest hint of any such origin, or even of any passage which could be assumed as a ground for such an idea." And he further says, that the tradition of Norwegian descent does not “appear to be very old, for in a manuscript genealogy of the Macleods, written in the latter part of the sixteenth century, there is not a trace of such a descent," but, on the contrary, he maintains, they are deduced from one common ancestor with the Campbells, and “were certainly a part of the ancient inhabitants of the earldom of Garmoran.” * Leod, the eponymus of the Clan, we are told,
Ilighlanders of Scotland, Vol. II., p. 273.
cannot be placed earlier than the middle of the thirteenth century. Having so far given the opinion of the learned and high authority, Dr. Skene, we shall now state at length the Norwegian origin, claimed by the family themselves, and universally acknowledged by all the genealogists, up to within the last half century. It is as follows:
A certain Godfred Crovan, son of Harold the Black, of the Royal Family of Denmark, was appointed King of Man and the Western Isles of Scotland, by Harold, the Imperious, and, accompanied by a fleet and an army, he came and took possession of his kingdom in 1066, the superiority still remaining with the reigning Norwegian Kings. This Godfred, who reigned for sixteen years, died in the Island of Islay, leaving three sons, the eldest of whom, Lagman, in 1103, succeeded his father. The second son, Harold, raised a rebellion against Lagman, by whom he was defeated and taken prisoner, his eyes put out, and otherwise treated in the most barbarous manner. Lagman, for this cruel conduct towards his brother, was seized with remorse. He then renounced his Kingdom, and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he died, having only ruled for seven years. His brother, Harold, also died without issue, when the Island Kingdom fell to Godfred's third son, Olave or Olaus, then a minor. The government of the Kingdom, during this minority, was entrusted to Donald Mac-Tade, an Irish nobleman sent over to the people by Murchad O'Brien, King of Ireland, at their request, who behaved in such a tyrannical fashion, by oppressing his subjects, that after two years he was expelled, when he fled to Ireland; and Olaus, having by this time come of age, took charge of the government himself. He married Elfrica, daughter of the Lord of Galloway, at the time one of the most powerful nobles in Scotland. By his wife, Olave or Olaus, the Red, had one son, Godfred the Black, his heir. He also had three natural sons. Of several daughters, one, Ragnhildis, about 1140, became the wife of Somerled, Thane of Argyle and of the Isles, and progenitrix of all the Macdonalds, Macdougalls, and several other historical families in the Western Highlands and Isles. According to the Chronicle of Man, this marriage was the cause of the fall of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Isles, and was the
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* Celtic Scotland, Vol. Ill., p. 340,
foundation of the title of Kings and Lords of the Isles, afterwards assumed, and long maintained, by Somerled's descendants. Olave the Red is said to have been a good Prince, and to have entered into friendly leagues with the Kings of Scotland and Ireland. After reigning in comparative peace for about forty years, he was, in 1154, assassinated by his nephews, the sons of his illegitimate brother Harold, who claimed half his Kingdom of the Isles. His
son, Godfred the Black, was at the time in Norway, but, hearing of his father's death, he hastened to the Isles, where he was received by the people with great rejoicings as their lawful King. Having executed the murderers of his father, he proceeded to Ireland to share in the wars then going on in that Kingdom. Returning to the Isle of Man, he became so tyrannical that the nobles rebelled against his rule, and by the instrumentality of one of his nobles (Thorfinn), Dougall, the son of Somerled of the Isles, and Godfred's nephew, was proclaimed King of the Isles. After a fierce engagement between Godfred and Somerled, the Southern Isles (south of Ardnamurchan and Kintyre) were ceded to the latter; Godfred retaining the Isle of Man and the Northern Isles for himself. * Two years later Godfred was virtually driven out of Man, when he went to Norway and never returned. He died about 1187, leaving an only lawful son (Olave the Black), then only ten years old. The nobles of Man appointed his natural brother, Reginald, a very brave man, as their governor, during Olave's minority, but he soon usurped the crown for himself, and kept possession of it for thirty-eight years, giving his brother,
OLAVE THE BLACK, the legitimate heir, the Island of Lewis for his maintenance. He, however, afterwards succeeded, by the aid of Paul, Sheriff of Skye, in repossessing himself of the Norwegian Kingdom of Man and the Isles, about 1226. He died about 1237, having been thrice married ; first, to a daughter of one of the leading families of Kintyre, by whom he had three sons—Harold, Reginald, and Magnus, all of whom successively reigned as Kings of Man. But Magnus of Norway, and Superior of the Isles, having surrendered the Island Kingdom to Alexander II. of
* For a full account of these proceedings see Mackenzie's History of the
Macdonalds and Lords of the Isles, pp. 17-34.