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History of MacLeod of Lewis



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Clan MacLeod of Lewis

©He/She who stealeth my written words, stealeth my soul
and my attorney will go soul searching.©


Clan Motto: I Shine, Not Burn


MacLeod of Lewis: Pronounced Mac-Leod, emphasis on the L in Leod.

Sometimes written and pronounced MacCloud in the U.S.A.

Clansmen's Crest: The sun in his splendor, proper.
Moto: Luceo non uro (I shine, not burn).
Gaelic Name: MacLeoid
Origin of Name: Gaelic MacLeoid (son of Leod, from Norse Ijot, ugly).
Badge: Red whortleberry.

Septs or members of the original Torquil MacLeod family are:
In alphabetical order:

Askey, Mulay, Callam, Caskey, Caskie, Lewis, MacAllum, MacAskie, MacAskill, MacCabe, MacAulay, MacCallum, MacCaskie, MacCaskill, MacCorkill, MacCorkindale, MacCorkle, MacCorquodale, MacGillecallum, MacLewis, MacNichol, MacNicol, MacNicoll, Malcolmson, Nicholl, Nicholson, Nicol, Nicoll, Nicolson, Norie, Norrie, Tolmie.

The Siol Torquil branch of the Clan MacLeod is descended from Torquil, son of Leod, who was son to Olaf the Black of Norway and the Orkney.

In the 14th Century King David II granted to Torquil MacLeod a charter of the barony of Assynt in Sutherland. Lewis was given to Torquil by his father, Leod of Norway descent. MacLeods had been held as vassals of the MacDonalds, and with the acquisition of other lands in Raasay, Waternish and Gairloch, the Siol Torquil rivaled the Siol Tormod in importance and disputed the chiefship of the clan. Torquil,had enough clan members to become his own Clan Chief , and he did so. There was no animosity between the brother Clans' and both were Chief's of each's own Clan.

Tormod became MacLeod of Harris, Torquil became MacLeod of Lewis.

Torquil, who was chief of the Lewes or Lewis MacLeods, had his estate forfeited in 1506 for assisting Donald Dubh MacDonald in his rebellion to obtain the forfeited Lordship of the Isles. The forfeited estate of Lewis was restored to Malcolm, brother of the attainted Torquil in 1511. In the 16th Century the history of the Siol Torquil became a succession of feuds, not only with other clans, but between members of their own clans, and when the main lines of the Lewis MacLeods became extinct (due to war),in the early 17th century, the chiefship of this branch passed to the MacLeods of Rassay, and Assynt, and afterwards to the MacLeods of Cadboil, who are the oldest cadets of the MacLeods of Assynt.

So, to sum it up a bit, Torquil MacLeod owned lands not only on Lewis, but also on the Isle of Skye, (several areas), in addition to the sites on western mainland of Scotland -- the Rassay area, the Waternish,Gairloch, and Assynt.

The King of Scotland forfeited Torquils land for helping Donald Dubh MacDonald defend his land from takeover by the Scottish king, James, but..... it was restored to Malcolm, brother of the 'attainted' Torquil in 1511. After the Torquil lines became extinct in the early 17th century, the chiefship passed to MacLeods of Rassay, then to MacLeods of Assynt.

These were warlike Norse who were related to Olaf the Black, founder of the Gunn Clan of Caithness and the Orkney. Olaf the Black was the father to Leod of MacLeod and and grandfather to Tormod and Torquil. [Thus the Gunn, MacLeod of Lewis connection.] All Norse, all ferocious, intermarried with the Celts and Picts to form a formidable clan.

Due to the plan of fosterage, some Gunn infants were raised by the MacLeods, and the same was done by the MacLeods, - thus the close MacLeod of Lewis and Gunn connections. It was a clan practice to make the ties between different clans, as tight as their own clan, and it worked.

Another source book states:

The clan of Torquil early became so powerful as to dispute the superiority of the Harris (brother Norman) chiefship, attaining at least an independent status. Always friendly with MacLeod of Harris (his brother) Tormod, Torquil rivaled his brother in clan members and formed MacLeod of Lewis. Important branches were the MacGillecallum or MacLeods of Rassay, and those of Assynt. The MacNicol (Nicolson) were originally and independent clan of the Assynt district; they moved to the Portree corner of Skye after a 14th-century MacLeod had married their Chief's heiress. The MacNicol have worked hard to become their own clan again, and I will have to look up the records to see if the Lord Lyons have accepted this. As far as Ancient Clan history is concerned, the MacNicol, were a part of Clan MacLeod.

Another source states:

Some authorities represent the Clan MacLeod as having a Celtic orgin, but the larger number favour the tradition of a Norse ancestory. The latter theory seems to us as by far the nearly undesputable, and the names of the two great branches of the clan (Siol Tormod or Norman) and Siol Torquil (or Orkill or Orchill) would seem to bear out the theory of their Norse descent.

According to their officially certified descent (and the ministerial decision of the Lord Lyon in such 'Diplomae Stemmatis' is, according to their preamble, "conclusive" and is so received in all courts of Honour and Ancestry), the progenitor of the MacLeods was Leod, son of Olave (Olaf)The Black , brother of Magnus, the last King of Man. The present son of Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod, is reckoned 28th from Leod and 36th from Godfred, surnamed Crovan, son of Harold the Black, of the Norwegian Royal Family, in the year 1066. The MacLeods thus rank as a "Royal Race" amongst the princely houses of Norway, in Western Europe.

By marriage Leod's marriage with the daughter and heiress of Macarailt, Armuin of Dunvegan, Leod acquired Dunvegan, and Tormod inherited also the famous stronghold on the northern coast of Skye. This stronghold is now shared by both branches Harris & Lewis, although MacLeod of MacLeod is the owner, and it is his home. It is the longest held (and continually occupied by the original owners); castle in Scotland.

Nancy MacCorkill,F.S.A. Scot USA
Author, Poet
Clans Gunn, MacLeod of Lewis, (Marshall) Keith and Wallace.
Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland
Sources: Clans of Scotland by Innes OF Innes of Learney
Clans and Tartan, M Bain,
MacNaughton, Clans of Scotland
Scottish Clans, Innis
Lord Lyons Office, Agent of the Queen
[Credits] Standard Disclaimer Researched
(C)opyrighted: "All Rights Reserved 1997- thru 2003 N.A.MacCorkill"


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