MacMillan is a clan with an ancient royal heritage - one 12th century chief was a descendent of Macbeth, King of Scotland and inspiration to Shakespeare.
The MacMillans’ namefather was a 12th century descendant of Macbeth, the famous Scottish king later immortalised in Shakespeare’s famous play. He was known as Maolan (“Tonsured-One”) or An Gillemaol (“Tonsured Servant”). Early MacMhaolains appear in 1228 in Badenoch, and c.1310 in the Glenkens of Galloway. They were part of the original Clan Chattan and contested its captaincy in 1396 at “The Battle of the Clans” in Perth.
In 1411 their chief Lochluinn MacGillemhaoil was killed at Harlaw fighting for the Lord of the Isles; and after fleeing the “Palm Sunday Massacre” of 1430, his grandson Alexander became the Constable of Castle Sween in Knapdale and raised the MacMillan Cross at Kilmory.
Alexander’s immediate descendants became crown tenants in Kintyre following the collapse of the Lordship of the Isles. Those MacMillans remaining in Knapdale became Campbell tenants, while others returned to Lochaber to hold Murlagan and Glenpean from the Camerons.
In 1666 Archibald MacMillan became the laird of Dunmore, and in 1742 his grandson Duncan matriculated arms as “representative of the ancient family of MacMillan of Knapdale”. The present chief is descended from Duncan’s brother.
At the time of the Jacobite uprisings in the mid-18th century, the MacMillans in Knapdale and Galloway were mostly Hanoverians supporting the government of the day, but the Lochaber and Glenurquhart MacMillans fought at Culloden with the Camerons in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Lochaber chiefs took many of their clan to Canada in 1802.
In more recent times, there have been many notable members of Clan MacMillan. The bicycle was invented in Galloway in 1839 by Kirkpatrick McMillan, and the charity now known as Macmillan Cancer Support was founded in 1911 by Douglas MacMillan, who was also Bard of the Clan MacMillan Society (founded 1892). Harold Macmillan, whose ancestors came from the Isle of Arran, was UK Prime Minister in the late 1950s.
Finlaystone House in Renfrewshire is the clan seat and the location of the Clan MacMillan International Centre, and its rolling grounds, play areas and activities make for an enjoyable family day out.
This ruined, but still impressive stronghold, clings to a cliff on the shore of Loch Sween. Walk through its atmospheric courtyard and it’s easy to imagine your ancestors going about their daily lives in the buildings or walking the battlements, watching out for raiders. The castle was originally built by the MacSweens but was held by the Clan MacMillan in the late 15th Century. The castle has a tower named The MacMillan Tower. While you’re here, you should also visit the Kilmory Knap Chapel nearby, which houses the MacMillan Cross, a rare piece of Celtic art.