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Some Records of its History. 

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FFR 8 199415 — \ 


FiChE ff 

7L18 81 Os 

G. S. j 

QALLjf _ i 

The Late R. S. T. AVacEwen. 




DEC 192B 


Glasgow : 

John Mackay, **The Celtic Monthly" Office, 
I Blythswood Drive. 







The following account of Clan Bwen is expanded 
from a series of articles contributed some years ago 
by the late Mr. R. S. T. MacEwen to the Celtic 
Monthly. The interest taken in the subject led Mr. 
MacEwen to make further researches, and at the 
time of his death in June, 1900, he had almost com- 
pleted his manuscript for publication in book form. 
As the volume has been denied the benefit of its 
author's final revision, errors may have crept in 
which his more competent editorship and wider 
knowledge would have detected. Yet it will have 
served its purpose if it has in any way illustrated an 
obscure chapter of clan history. 

The attempt to weave together the scattered 
threads of tradition and historical record by which 
the history of Clan Ewen may still be darkly followed, 
has not been easy. All the usual materials for a clan 
history are wanting. A broken and disrupted clan 
since the middle of the 15th century, it boasts few 
authentic memorials and even fewer traditions of its 
early history and subsequent misfortunes. The dis- 
persed clansmen had no bard-senachies to crystallize 
and hand down the story of their race, nor charter 
boxes to preserve the record of past possessions and 
spoliations. Even the customary wreath of legend 


and superstition has been denied to these * Children 
of the Mist.' Some grim Privy Council records, the 
genealogies and charters of allied or neighbouring 
clans, some vague local traditions, — these are prac- 
tically all the ' documents ' for a history of Clan 

The Editor of these pages desires to record 
his grateful acknowledgment of the information 
and assistance ungrudgingty given by Mr. R. D. 
M'EwExN, Glasgow; Mr. John C. M'^Ewen, Inverness; 
Mr. John M^Ewen, Girvan ; and many others. 

A. M. M. 

History of Clan Ewen. 

I. The Dalriada Scots. 

THE ancient Clan Bwen or MacBwen of Otter, 
Boghan na h-Oitrich, wliich once possessed a 
stronghold of its own, was one of the earliest of the 
western clans sprung from the Dalriada Scots. These 
Scots were among the assailants of the Roman 
province in Britain, but they did not finally settle in 
Argyllshire till the beginning of the sixth century. 
The year 503 is usually said to mark the commence- 
ment of the reign of their , first king in Argyllshire ; 
but little of their history is known prior to the found- 
ation of the Scottish Monarchy in the middle of the 
ninth century. Skene thinks they came more as 
colonists than invaders. The first leaders were the 
three sons of Ere — Lorn, Fergus, and Angus. These 
were the representatives of three or four tribes who 
frequently fought among themselves, and against the 
Britons and Saxons. Historians are of opinion that 
from 736 to 800 they were partly, if not wholly, sub- 
ject to the Picts. 


St. Columba, who was "one of them, established 
the monastery of lona in 563 a.d. He was sprung 
from the Royal House of the Northern Hy Neill, 
while in the female line he was connected with the 
Kings of Dalriada. According to Skene, the last of 
the old abbots of lona of whom there is any notice died 
in 1099, ^^^ thereafter, for upwards of sixty years, 
there is an unbroken silence regarding the Monastery. 
The Celtic Church had to give way before the invasion 
of one of the religious orders of the Roman Church. 
In the twelfth century, Somerled, who had lona for 
one of his possessions, attempted to restore the old 
abbey and offered it to the Abbot of Berry, but the 
Abbot of Armagh and the King of Ireland disallowed 
the proposal. In 1166, on the succession of his son 
Reginald, the monastery was re-built on a larger scale. 
Reginald is said to have been " the most distinguished 
of the Galls and of the Gaels for prosperity, sway of 
generosity, and feats of arms"; and the Church 
benefited largely by these qualities. Adopting the 
policy of the Scottish Kings he introduced to his 
territories the religious orders of the Roman Church. 
He founded three monasteries— one of Black Monks 
in lona, in honour of God and St. Columba ; one of 
Black Nuns in the same place ; and one of Grey Friars 
(Cistercian or White Monks) at Saddell in Cantire. 
It is of this later Roman Catholic Benedictine Monas- 
tery and Nunnery,* and not of the Columban build- 
ings, that the present ruins are the remains. The 
Western Celts continued to be Roman Catholics till 
the Reformation. But the original Celtic Church in 
Columba's time was not the Romish Church as repre- ' 
sented at the present day. Columba stands forth as 
♦Skene's "Celtic Scotland," Vol. II. 


the great founder of the Ionian Church, whence radi- 
ated the light which penetrated to England and a 
great part of the continent of Europe. 

Somerled, Regulus of Argyll, was the leader of 
the Scots in the middle of the twelfth century. He 
was a son of Gillebride, and grandson of Gille- 
Adamnan. Gillebride had been driven from the 
Scottish Dalriada by the Norwegians, and applied for 
help to his Irish kindred. He returned to Scotland 
with his son Somerled and a band of followers, who 
encountered and defeated a large force of Norwegians, 
and seized their territories. In 1153 the Scots rose 
against Malcolm IV., but Somerled was detached by 
an offer of the Isles, while some of his chiefs were 
imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle. In 11 64 he again 
rose and landed at Renfrew, but he was defeated and 
slain. He had married a daughter of Olave, the 
Norwegian King, and left four sons, Dubhgal, 
Reginald, Angus, and Olave. The eldest succeeded 
to his father's possessions on the mainland, while the 
second, Reginald, received the Isles, with the title of 
King of the Isles. Up to 1222 Argyll maintained 
semi-independence of the Scottish Crown, and it was 
not till 1266, in the reign of Alexander III., that the 
Hebrides and the Western Isles were annexed to the 

Hill Burton says the Celtic races were Christian 
when they first settled in Scotland, and had a literary 
language and a written literature in their own tongue, 
and were in a higher stage of civilization than the 
Picts, the Britons, or the Saxons. As to their 
religion, we know they were under the spiritual sway 
of lona. Whatever the cause, there can be no doubt 
of their success; they came, they saw, they conquered, 


they settled and spread, and eventually gave their 
name to the kingdom — Scotland. 

II. The MacEwens of Otter. 
Clann Eoghain na h-Oitrich. 

Up to the thirteenth century these Scots were 
divided into a few great tribes, corresponding to the 
ancient maormorships or earldoms. Skene, in his 
"Table of the Descent of the Highland Clans," 
divides the Gallgael into five great clans, from whom 
sprung nine smaller clans. The clan system of later 
times had not appeared before this date. From the 
S iol Gillevray, the second of the great clans, he gives 
the Clans Neill, Lachlan, and Kwen : Chiefs MacNeill, 
MacLachlan, and MacHwen. He shows the Clan 
Lamond to have sprung from Siol Eachern, although 
elsewhere it would appear that Ferchard and Ewen, 
the ancestors of the Lamonds and MacEwens, were 
brothers. The genealogies given by Skene are taken 
from the Irish MSB. and Mac Firbis. He considers 
the later portion of the pedigrees, as far back as the 
common ancestor from whom the clan takes its name, 
to be tolerably well vouched for, and it may be held 
to be authentic. 

Referring to the Maclachlans, MacEwens, and 
Lamonds, he says, "this group brings us nearer 
historical times. They are sprung from Aodha Alain, 
termed Buirche, called by Keltic De Dalan. This 
Aodha Alain, or De Dalan, was the son of Anradan 
and grandson of Aodha Allamuin (Hugh Allaman)' 
the then head of the great family of O'Neils, kings of 
Ireland, descended from Niall Glundubh, and the 


fabulous King Conn of the one hundred battles." 
Niall Glundubh lived between 850 and 900. 

Aodha Alain, whose death is recorded in 1047, 
had ^three sons : Gillachrist, Neill, and Dunslebhe. 
Gillachrist had a son, Lachlan, who was the ancestor 
of the Maclachlans ; Neill was the ancestor of the 
MacNeills. Dunslebhe had two sons, Ferchard, 
ancestor of the Lamonds, and Bwen, ancestor of the 
MacEwens. The four were kindred tribes ; but if 
Ferchard and Ewen were brothers, the Lamonds and 
MacEwens were originally more closely allied to each 
other than they were to the Maclachlans and Mac- 
Neills. " These clans were in possession, in the 
twelfth century, of the greater part of the district of 
Cowal, from Toward Point to Strachur. The 
Lamonds were separated from the MacEwens by the 
river Kilfinnan, and the IMacEwens from the Mac- 
lachlans by the stream which divides the parishes of 
Kilfinnan and Strath Lachlan. The MacNeills took 
possession of the islands of Barra and Gigha."* 

The MacEwens possessed a tract of country 
about twenty-five miles square, and could probably 
bring out 200 fighting men. " On the conquest of 
Argyll by Alexander IL, 1222, they suffered severely, 
and were involved in the ruin which overtook all the 
adherents of Somerled, except the MacNeills, who 
consented to hold their lands of the Crown, and the 
Maclachlans, who gained their former consequence by 
means of marriage with the heiress of the Lamonds."* 
But although the MacEwens suffered severely at this 
time, a remnant survived under their own chief at 
Otter, on the shores of Loch Fyne, where the last 
chief died two-and-a-half centuries afterwards. 
* Keltic, History of the Highland Clans, Vol. ii. 


MacKwen I. of Otter, the earliest chief of the 
clan of whom there is any mention, flourished about 
1200. He was succeeded by Severan II. of Otter, 
who was probably the chief of 1222. The names of 
the third and fou'rth chiefs are lost. Gillespie V. of 
Otter assumed the chiefship about 13 15. From this 
date there were four chiefs ; Ewen VI., John VII., 
Walter VIII. , and Sufnee or Swene, the IX. and last 
of the Otter chiefs. So late as 1750 it is recorded 
in the "Old Statistical Account of the Parish of 
Kilfinnan " : — " On a rocky point on Loch Fyne there 
stood in 1 700 the ruins of Castle MacEwen (Caisteal 
]\IhicEoghain), the stronghold of the earlier lords of 
the Otter." On the same authority, quoted by Skene, 
this MacEwen is described as the chief of the clan 
and proprietor of the northern division of the parish 
of Otter, and in the MS. of 1450, which contains the 
genealog}^ of Clann Eoghain na h-Oitrich, or Clan 
Ewen, the AlacEwens are derived from Anradan, the 
common ancestor of the AlacLachlans and the MacNeills. 

In 1431-32 Swene MacEwen, IX. of Otter, granted 
a charter of certain lands of Otter to Duncan, son of 
Alexander Campbell. In 1432 he resigned the barony 
of Otter to James I., but received it anew from the king 
with remainder to Celestine Campbell, son and heir 
of Duncan Campbell of Lochow. After Swene's death. 
King James, in 1493, confirmed the grant to Archibald, 
Earl of Argyll, as heir to his father, Colin. In 15 13 
the barony of Otter was confirmed to Earl Colin by 
James V. In 1526 it was resigned by Earl Colin, and 
granted by James V. to Archibald, his son and heir 
apparent. In 1575 another Archibald Campbell ap- 
pears in a charter as " of the Otter " ; and in the Act 
of 1587 a Campbell is entered as "The Laird of 



Otter." So that after the middle of the fifteenth 

century the barony and estates of Otter passed and 

gave title to a branch of the Campbells, and the 

MacBwens became more than ever " children of the 


In consequence of their desperate condition the 

remnant sought new alliances, as a necessity of the 
times. Some remained in their own neighbourhood 
and joined the Campbells. In 1602 proof is allowed 
to Colquhoun of Luss to show that a number of 
MacGregors, MacLachlans, MacBwens, and MacNeills 
were " men " of the Barl of Argyll, and that the Barl 
was answerable for certain depredations committed 
by them and specified in the complaint. Others 
joined MacDougal Campbell of Craignish in Lome. 
Some of the latter are said to have settled in Lochaber. 
Besides those who joined the Campbells, some, no 
doubt, allied themselves to other western clans, for 
the name was common at one time in the Western 
Highlands and Islands, especially in Skye. Other 
colonies were formed in the Lennox country, in Dum- 
bartonshire and in Galloway, while the name is common 
in Lochaber in connection with the Camerons. This 
sept was known locally as the " Sliochd-Boghain." 
The Muckly family — said to be decended from the 
Lome-Macdougal branch — and other families, , and 
many bearing the name still in Argyll and the Isles, 
are descendants of the old clansmen.* 

III.— MacBwens as Bard-Seanachies. 

To the men of Otter, broken up as a clan, and 

bereft of chieftain and lands, the protection of a power- 

*As an instance of the complete dispersion of the clan, Mr. H. 
W. Ewen writes that his family have been settled in South Lincoln- 
shire since 1500. 



ful cliief became a desperate necessity. No doubt tbe 
majority of them existed in other clans as fighting 
auxiliaries, but there is evidence that a few of them 
found more peaceful occupations. The position of 
bard and seanachie was an honourable one, and the 
dispossessed clansmen who obtained these posts suffered 
no diminution of rank. 

Mr. Lovat Fraser in his Highland Chiefs'' says the 
MacEwens became hereditaiy bards of the Campbells ; 
and from old chronicles it appears there were other 
MacBwen poets and bards in different parts of the 
country. One lived in Inverness-shire. 

The Bard-Seanachies were important functionaries 
and officers in the Celtic system, and the most learned 
men in the clan. Originally, in the Druidical period, 
they were of the priestly and second order of Druids, 
and in later times they held a high place in the High- 
land clans, down to the beginning of the eighteenth 
century. They combined, in their own persons, the 
offices of Poet-Laureate, Genealogist, and Herald of 
Arms. They were educated in the science of genealogy, 
and their work was preserved in the form of rhymes. 
These they recited on important occasions ; just as a 
Herald of the College of Arms, in the present day, 
recites the titles of distinguished persons at great public 
functions. The office was hereditary. Logan says of 
them : " The Celtic bards were members of the priest- 
hood, and no class of society among the ancients have 
been more celebrated. . . . Whether we consider the 
influence which they possessed, their learning or poetic 
genius, they are one of the most interesting orders of 
antiquity, and worthy of our entire admiration. 
Their compositions commemorating the worth and 

* The Celtic Monthly. 


exploits of heroes were a sort of national annals, which 
served the double purpose of preserving the memory 
of past transactions, and of stimulating the youth 
to an imitation of their virtuous ancestors." They 
accompanied the clans to war, animating them by the 
chanting of heroic poems, while each great chief was 
constantly attended by a number who entertained him 
at his meals, and roused his own and his followers' 
courage by powerful recitations. "They also officiated as 
a sort of aides-de-camp to the chief, communicating his 
orders to the chieftains and their followers." "An im- 
portant part of their duty was the preservation of the 
genealogies and descent of the chiefs and the clan, 
which were solemnly repeated at marriages, baptisms, 
and burials. The last purpose for which they were 
retained by the Highlanders was to preserve a faith- 
ful history of their respective clans. . . . From their 
antiquarian knowledge the bards were called * Sean- 
achaidh,' from ' Sean,' old, a title synonymous with 
the Welsh 'Arvydd Vardd,' an officer who latterly 
was of national appointment, and whose heraldic duties 
were recognised by the English College of Arms. 
They attended at the birth, marriage, and death of all 
persons of high descent, and the marwnod, or elegy, 
which they composed on the latter occasion, 'was 
required to contain truly, and at length, the genea- 
logy and descent of the deceased from eight immediate 
ancestors ; to notice the several collateral branches of 
the family, and to commemorate the surviving wife or 
husband. These he registered in his books, and 
delivered a true copy of them to the heir, etc., which 
was produced the day of the funeral, when all the 
principal branches of the family and their friends 
were assembled together in the great hall of the 


mansion, and then recited with an audible voice. 
He also made a visitation called the Bard's Circuit, 
once every three 3'ears, to all the gentlemen's houses, 
where he registered and corrected their armorial 
bearings. . . . Some of their awards of arms are of 
as late a date as 1703. The Bard had a stipend 
paid out of every plough land, and the chief was 
called ' King of the Bards.' " '' 

Dr. Johnson's sceptical spirit refused to be satis- 
fied with the popular accounts of the bards and 
seanachies. He professed to have made searching- 
enquiries into their early history with very unsatis- 
factory results. "Neither bards nor senachies," he 
says, "could write or reiid:'—(/o7irney to the West- 
ern Islands.) For this daring calumny he has been 
brought to task by his critics. The Rev. Donald 
AlacNicol in his Re^narks on Dr. Samuel Jo hnso7is 
Jour7iey to the Highlands (1779), has some interesting- 
remarks on the matter. He tells us that "the 
AlacEwens had free lauds in Lorn in Argyleshire, 
for acting as bards to the family of Argyll, to that of 
Breadalbane, and likewise to Sir John Macdougall of 
Dunolly, in 1572. The two last of the race were 
Aime and his son Neil. I have now before me an 
elegy upon the death of Sir Duncan Dow Campbell 
of Glenurchy, composed by Neil MacEwen. The date 
which is 1630, is in the body of the poem. How long 
he lived after this I cannot take upon me to say, but 
as there is nuich of the history and genealogy of the 
family iutenvoven with the performance, he must 
certainly have been both bard and sennachie." And 
further on in the same book, he says, referring to Irish 
Gaelic : " We have a striking instance of this in the 
* The Scottish Gael, Vol. ii. 


elegy of Sir Duncan Dow Campbell . . . composed 
by the bard, Neil MacBwen, in 1630. This poem is 
in many places altogether unintelligible to most High- 
landers, though other productions of a much earlier 
date, as being composed in the Albion dialectic of the 
Celtic, are perfectly understood. . . . But MacEwen 
was one of those bards who resided sometimes in Ire- 
land. His poem is in the Gaelic character, and in his 
own handwriting ; and it is still preserved among the 
papers of the family of Breadalbane at Taymouth." 

Mr. J. F. Campbell, in his Tales of the West 
Highlands, furnishes an example of the work of one 
of the MacKwen bard-seanachies from a MS. which 
came from Cawdor Castle, and which contains the 
following preamble : " Genealogy Abridgement of the 
Very Ancient and Notable Family of Argyll, 1779 " ; 
wherein the writer explains that *' In the following 
account we have had regard to the genealogical tree 
done by Neil MacEwen, as he received the same from 
Eachern MacEwen, his father, as he had the same 
from Arthur MacEwen, his grandfather, and their 
ancestors and predecessors, senachies and pensioners 
to great families, who for many ages were employed 
to make up and keep such records in their accustomed 
way of Irish rhymes." 

IV. — The Lennox Sept. 
MacEwens, Ewens, Ewings, Etc. 
A considerable sept of the clan settled early in 
Dumbartonshire, on the shores of Loch Lomond, and 
in the Lennox country, owning allegiance to the 
Stewart Earls of Lennox, who were descended from 
Bancho, Thane of Lochaber, the ancestor of the Royal 
line. As early as the tenth century the Scots occupied 


Strath- Clyde, and Gaelic was the language from 
Renfrew to Galloway for several centuries. It has 
left its impress still strong in personal and place 
names in that region.'" It is not astonishing therefore 
that Arg3^1eshire Scots should at a later date migrate 
to the shores of the Clyde and to Galloway. Gaelic 
in time disappeared before the inroads of the Teutonic 
language in the districts bordering on the Highland line 
as it had done in the southern districts at an earlier 
period. The people in a few generations lost touch with 
the Highlands ; they no longer spoke Gaelic, they 
were incorporated with the southern inhabitants, and 
in character and sentiment they became a Lowland 
people, although originally of pure Celtic descent. 

The Lennox sept received grants of laud in the 
district to which they gave their name. Between 
1625 ^^^ 1680 there are at least four charters in which 
successive Dukes of Lennox and Richmond are served 
heirs in the lands of "MacKewin" and " M'^Bwin," 
as the name was then written. t But there is reason 
to believe their advent there was much earlier. Ac- 
cording to tradition, this sept, under a chieftain of 
their own, sought the protection of Levenach, the 
Celtic Earl, in the fifteenth centuiy. They are said to 
have joined the standard of Mary, under Lennox, and 
to have fought at Laugside in 1568, where they 
received a banner which seems to have gone the way 
of many other ancient clan banners. They were a 
powerful race of men and a story used to be told in 
connection with an old stone coffin which at one time 
lay in the MacBwen burying-ground, that a man of 

* Dr. Macbain in The Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic 

Society, Vol. xxi. 
t Report on the Public Records of Scotland. 


the clan carried the coffin under one arm, and the lid 
under the other, from the loch to the churchyard of 
Luss. A descendant of one of these families, who 
died in 1898 at the age of seventy-eight, writing 
in 1885, after referring to these traditions, said : 
''These MacBwens certainly belonged to Dum- 
bartonshire, on Loch Lomond, and had been there for 
many generations. The name in olden times was 
spelt with the a — M'^Kwan — and there was a paper in 
the family tracing them back to the Battle of Lang- 
side, where they won their colours (the standard 
referred to) fighting for Queen Mary. All the old 
tombstones not claimed by families living in the 
parish were destroyed years ago, so there is no 
memorial left of this branch of the old MacBwen 

Mr. Guthrie Smith, in his History of Strath- 
endrick, has the following account of the Glenboig 
family : " In 16 14 there was a charter granted by the 
Duke of Lennox to William Neaubog, alias Macewin, 
eldest son and heir of William Mackewin, alias 
Neaubog de Glenbog Wester. In 1691 the proprietor 
was James M'^Aine, called in 1698 James Macewan. 
In the Valuation Roll of 1723 the following appears : 
'John Williamson and Janet Ure, his spouse, their 
equal share of the five-merk lands of Wester Glenboig, 
£^6 14s. 4d. ; John Buchanan, maltman, and Jane 
Ure, his spouse, their equal half of the five-merk lands 
of Wester Glenboig, £\b 14s. 4d.' These Williamsons 
(if the first Williamson was not himself a William Mac- 
Bwan who changed his name after the fashion of the 
time) appear to have succeeded the Macewans of 
Glenboig. The greater part of the lands of Wester 
Glenboig was afterwards acquired by Napier of 


Eallikinrain. But in 1796 there was a William 
MacEwan of Glenboig, writer in Edinburgh, who 
received a grant of arms at that date from the Lyon 
office. Netherton, the other division of the estate, is 
(1890) farmed by Mr. James Ewing (another form of 
the name), who belongs to a family who have long 
heen tenants there." 

There are numerous families and persons bearing 
the clan name at the present day in Dumbarton, 
Stirling,''''' Clackmannan, Renfrev/, Lanark, Ayr, on 
the banks of the Clyde, and in the surrounding districts. 
Mr. William M'^Ewan, late M.P. for Central Edin- 
hurgh, the magnificent donor of the " M^Ewan Hall," 
belongs to a Clackmannan family. There have been 
in the past, and there are now, several Ewen and 
Ewing families of position and affluence in the Lennox 
country and the surrounding districts — the Ewens or 
Ewings of Craigtown and Keppock, of Glasgow, 
Levenfield, Ballikinrain, &c. 

V. — MacEwens in Galloway. 

According to tradition, this branch of the clan 

made its appearance in Galloway at an early period 

in the middle of the fifteenth century, — about the time 
of the dispersion from Otter. A descendant f of the 
family of High Mark, Wigtonshire, furnishes the 
following interesting account of the sept: 

" The late Sir Andrew Agnew, in his history of 

The Agnews in Gailozvay, states that about the middle 

of the fifteenth centuiy the Laird of Lochnaw was 

* The Stirlingshire branch is of considerable antiquity. Mr. R. 
MacEwen, Clifton, informs us that in his family burying-ground in St! 
Ninian's Churchyard, Stirling, a stone bears the date of 16 14. 

t Mr. John APEwen, Girvan, Ayrshire. 


Ijesieged in liis castle, wliicli was then situated on the 
island in the middle of the loch, by the retainers of 
the Black Douglas, with whom the Agnews had a 
feud regarding the Sheriffdom of Galloway. When 
the besieged were on the point of capitulation they 
were surprised to see, one da}^, that their enemies had 
heen attacked in the rear by another armed force, and 
they sallied out, and with the aid of their new allies 
routed the forces of the Douglas. To recompense 
these allies — who were the remnant of a broken High- 
land clan called M^Ewen — the Laird of Lochnaw gave 
them the tenantship of four of his farms — Knock, 
Maize, Achnoterach, and High Mark — and their 
descendants are in occupation of the two latter to 
the present day. 

"In a private letter to Mr. Robert M^Ewen, 
R.N., in 1840, Sir Andrew Agnew, while recommend- 
ing him to the Lords of the Admirality for a commis- 
sion, states that he could recommend him not only 
because he knew him personall}^ but also from the 
fact that ' his family had been tenants on his estates 
from time immemorial.' 

** One of the family (a Covenanter) was shot by 
command of Claverhouse at the village of Baor, in 
Ayrshire, and was buried, and a headstone was erected 
to his memory in the churchyard there. Another of 
the family at this time was ruling elder of the Parish 
Church of Leswaet, and through him the old church 
Bible which Richard Cameron (the Cameronian leader) 
had used and preached from, came into the possession 
of the family, and is now in that of the writer. 

" Early in the eighteenth century another of the 
family, Andrew M'^Kewan, was killed by command of 
the Earl of Cassils, for although 


Frae Wigtown tae the town o' Ayr, 
Portpatrick tae the Cruines o' Cree, 

Nae man can get a binding there 
Unless he court St. Kennedie. 

M^Kewan was too independent to give up His farm to 
a follower of Kennedy at the latter's request, and met 
his death as the result. When tried for the crime, 
Kennedy was ordered to pay the widow of M'^Kewan 
a large quantity of cattle to recompense her for the 
death of her husband. So much for the law and 
justice, and the value set on men's lives in those days. 
" At the time of the rebellion of the '45 Sir 
Andrew Agnew took the field for King George, 
accompanied by two dhuin vassals, John and Thomas 
iNPEwen from High Mark ; while two other brothers, 
Robert and Gideon, took the Jacobite side and fol- 
lowed the fortunes of Prince Charles. The story goes 
that when Sir Andrew Agnew was besieged in Blair 
Castle, going the rounds one day he passed John 
M^Ewen, and in looking out at the rebel forces he 
also saw the brother Robert, the Jacobite. Turning 
to John he said, * Jock, do you see Rab ? ' and on being 
answered in the affirmative, he ordered him to * Shoot 
the beggar,' a command which, it is needless to say, 
was not carried out, for after all ' blood is thicker than 
water.' This John M^Ewen aftenvards went to the 
Continent with Sir Andrew Agnew, and was present 
at the Battle of Dettingen, where Sir Andrew com- 
manded the North British Fusiliers. 

*' The grandson of John M'^Ewen, bom in 1766, 
and also John by name, ran away to sea when in his 
teens, and during his first voyage was pressed into 
the Royal Navy, and for seven years was in active 
service. When he received his discharge he sailed as 


first officer of the privateer * Mary,' of Liverpool, under 
Captain Thompson, who was mortally wounded in the 
first engagement. Before his death he handed the 
command of the vessel over to M'^Ewen, writing on 
the back of the Letter of Marque, * From James 
Thompson, commander, to John M^Ewen.' This 
document, signed by the Lords of the Admiralty in 
1793, is now in possession of the writer. After 
making some prize money in command of the 
privateer, M'Ewen bought the hull of a Government 
transport, and after fitting her out sailed with a cargo 
to the West Indies ; but on his return with a cargo of 
sugar he was wrecked on the north-west coast of Africa, 
losing all he had on board except his quadrant, now 
in the possession of his great-grandson. 

** Captain M^'Ewen left a son, Robert, who became 
a marine engineer and was the first to erect a steam 
engine in Russia, and was presented by the Czar 
Nicholas with a cup for his services. He was awarded 
the Isis Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Arts on 
two occasions: ist, for his safe mercurial steam 
guage; and, and, for his machine for hot pressing 
lace goods. The cup and medals are also in the pos- 
session of the writer. He received a commission in 
the Royal Navy, and died at Monte Video in i860 
on board H.M.S. ' Curacoa.' 

*' In the old family Bibles, and in the burying- 
place in Leswaet Churchyard, near Stranraer, the 
name is spelt in various ways, as M'^Kewan, M'^Keown, 
M^Ewine, M'Ewing, M^Ewan, and in later times 
M'^Ewen, the form now generally adopted. 

'* On the farm of High Mark, Leswaet, the names 
of the fields are evidently of Gaelic origin ; and there 
is also a cove on the shore called * Otter Cove,' pro- 



bably so named after the original home of the race. 
In the days of the * Free Traders ' it was no doubt a 
convenient shelter and landing place. A member of 
the family who got into trouble over his * trading' is 
said to have escaped to the Isle of Man, where he was 
joined by his wife and family, and became the ancestor 
of a family of the name in that island." 

There is an old seal in the family showing an 
oak tree springing into leaf again, with the motto 
*' Reriresco " over it. It was used by Robert M'^Ewen 
in his lifetime, but is of much older date.* 

There are, besides the writer, other descendants 
of these Galloway families." 

VI. — MacBwens in Lochaber. 

Sliochd Eoghain. 

Keltic, in his History of the Highland Clans, 
says the original seat of the MacBwens was in Loch- 
aber. This must have been before the thirteenth 
century, for we find them at Otter, in Cowal, in 1222; 
when, with other western clans, they suffered severely 
in the conquest of Argyll by Alexander II. Accord- 
ing to the manuscript of 1450, the Siol Gillevray — 
from whom theMacEwens, MacNeills, and MacLachlans 
are derived— are descended from a certain Gillebride, 
King of the Isles, ancestor of the MacDonalds. Skene 
doubts the Gillebride genealogy, and favours the 
descent from Anradan and Aodha Alain (De Dalan), 
as given in chapter ii., *' but, nevetheless, the tradi- 
tionary affinity which is thus shown to have existed 
between these clans and the race of Somerled at so 
early a period, he thinks seems to countenance the 
♦ See post on the subject of these family seals. 


notion that they had all originally sprung from the 
;same stock." * The MacNeills were certainly vaseals 
of the Lords of the Isles ; and according to Keltie, 
the Camerons were connected with the House of Islay 
in the reign of Robert Bruce, and their modem 
possessions, Lochiel and Locharkaig, belonged to 
the Lords of the Isles. They are said to have 
•deserted Alexander, Lord of the Isles, for James I. 
MacKenzie, in his History of the Camerons, also says 
that the MacLachlans of Strath-Lachlan are said to 
iDe descended from the Camerons and related to the 
MacLachlans of Coruanan, ** and this may have been 
the link which led Donald Dubh, the celebrated 
* Taillear ' Cameron warrior, to Cowal when he tired 
of a fighting life in Lochaber."t 

It is curious that tradition should have associated 
the three Siol Gillevray clans — which are western 
-clans — with the Camerons in Lochaber — which is a 
Moravian clan — if there was no connection existing 
"between them ; and that Donald Dubh should have 
£ed to and settled in Cowal, where the MacEwen and 
the MacLachlan territories lay, if he was not sure of a 
kinsman's welcome. Again, the name of Ewen is very 
•common in the Cameron family. It appears as early 
as 1 2 19, when Sir Ewen de Cambron, third son of 
the fourth chief, is mentioned in the Chartulary of 
Arbroath. Up to the close of the fourteenth century 
the history of the Camerons is meagre and imperfect, 
and the name does not appear again till we come to 
Ewen, eldest son of Allan, the ninth chief This 
Ewen became tenth chief (1390-96), and was the chief 
in 1396 in the fight on the North Inch of Perth. 

* Keltie, Vd. ii., p. 162. 
• t History of the Camerons, MacKenzie. 


Sir Walter Scott, in the preface to tlie 183 1 edition 
of The Fair Maid of Perth, quotes an opinion 
that Clan Qnhele of Wyntown were the Camerons 
"who appear to have, about that period, been 
often designated as MacBwens, and to have gained 
much more recently the name of Cameron, i.e., 
crooked nose, from a blemish in the physiognomy of 
some heroic chief of the line of Lochiel." They were 
apparently known as MacBwens before they were 
known as Camerons, but *' Camshron " (crooked nose) 
must have been adopted as their name much earlier, 
for in 1 2 19 we find the title Bwen de Cambro. From 
the end of the fourteenth century for a long period the 
name Bwen is common among the Camerons, both as 
a first or personal name, and as a surname with the 
prefix Mac. Since then, there have been four chiefs 
of the Dame, of whom one, Sir Bwen Cameron, seven- 
teenth chief, has a distinguished record. Among 
younger sons, and sons of cadets of the family, there 
are numerous Bwens. Bwen, the thirteenth chief, by 
his second wife, Marjory Mackintosh, had a son, also 
Bwen, the progenitor of the Brracht family, known 
as "Sliochd Boghain." Bwen ** Beag," fourteenth 
chief, met an early death. He had a natural son by a 
daughter of MacDougall of Lome, Domhnull Mac- 
Boghain-Bhig, Donald MacBwen Beg, better knowTi 
as "Taillear Dubh," and Mac-Dhomh'uill Duibh (Black 
Donald), a celebrated warrior. So successful was he 
that he was suspected of a fairy origin, which gave him 
a special charm, and he has been the subject of much 
romantic history. He it was, who, getting tired of 
fighting, retired for a time to a monastery in Cowal, 
but subsequently returned to the world, married and 
settled in that district, and left issue.^' The Rev. 
* Mrs. Mary Mackellar's Traditions. 


Malcolm Campbell Taylor, D.D., Professor of Churcli 
History, Edinburgli University, is said to be a 
descendant of his — tbe name Taylor being derived 
from "Taillear." 

Keltie also bas it that after the breaking-up of 
the Otter clan some followed MacDougall Campbell 
•of Oraignish into Lochaber. Could this have been 
the MacDougall of Lome — Donald MacBwen Beg — 
whose daughter was the mother of the "Taillear 

In 1576-77 we find one — "Allaster M'Ewin of 
Camroun," — applying to the Lords of Council for 
release from the Earl of Athole, who held him and 
others in confinement at Blair Athole. Again in 1598 
there was a raid by the Lochaber clans on the Dunbars 
of Moyness, which formed the subject of complaint to 
the Privy Council, and among those charged are a 
number of MacEwens. 

But these are not the only traditionary and his- 
torical instances of connection between the Camerons 
and the Western Celts . According to the best received 
Cameron tradition, the first Cameron, already referred 
to, was a western Celt from Dumbartonshire. An 
«arly tradition is that he was a younger son of the 
Royal Family of Denmark, who came over in 404 to 
assist Fergus II. ; that he married the daughter and 
heiress of MacMartin of Letterfinlay, and thus acquired 
the property and chiefship of the clan ; and that he 
was called " Camshron," in Gaelic, from his crooked 
nose.* The author of the Memoirs of Sir Ewen 
Cameron and modem clan authorities, however, favour 

• As to the way clan pedigrees were constructed in ancient 
limes, see Skene's Celtic Sccftland, and Clans Fast and Present in 
The Celtic Monthly for May, 1899, p. 148. 


the later tradition, that the first Cameron was a Celt and 
not a Dane ; and the chief has been handed down in 
history as of Celtic origin. The '* crooked nose," as we 
shall see, had no connection with a Prince of Denmark^ 
The later tradition will be found set out at length 
in Mackenzie's History of the Camerons, Shortly 
stated, it is this: — "The first Cameron was much, 
renowned for feats in arms and prodigious strength, 
marvellous instances of which are given. He entered 
the lists with the most famous champions of his day. 
In one of these encounters he received a violent blow 
on the nose, which set it awry, and from this circum- 
stance he was called * Camshron,' or Cameron, ' Knight 
of the crooked nose.' The name was, therefore, not 
Danish, or a first or personal name, but a Gaelic 
sobriquet arising out of the injury to his nose." The 
tradition proceeds : — ** Our hero was now arrived at 
the thirty-fifth year of his age, and had given many 
signal proofs of his valour, so that his name became 
terrible all over the country. But having little or na 
paternal estate, he began to think it highly necessary 
for him to join himself to some great and powerful 
family, the better to enable him to distinguish himself 
more eminently than it was possible for him to do as 
a single man, without friends or relations, or at least 
such as were of little or no account. He had spent 
his life in the shire of Dumbarton ; but as he had no- 
family or inheritance to encumber him, he resolved to- 
tr}' his fortune in the world and go in search of a 
wife. He ^t out accordingly, and happened to light 
on that part of the country where Lochiel's estate now 
lies. Here he informed himself of the character and 
circumstances of the chief who resided there, and 
understood that he was a man of a large estate, and 


liad a great number of friends and dependents, and 
withal iiad a fair and excellent young lady to his 
daughter. This was a foundation sufficient for our 
Crooked-Nose Klnight to build his hopes and future 
expectations upon. He made himself known to the 
chief, and as his fame as a warrior and man of great 
strength had preceded him, he was well received and 
hospitably entertained. This chief was MacMartin, 
Baron of Letterfinlay, and chief of a clan in Lochaber 
at that time. In short, a bargain was soon struck for 
the daughter, who was as well pleased as the father 
with the offer of a husband so much to her liking ; for 
strength of body, vigorous and sinewy limbs, and 
undaunted courage, were in those days the best quali- 
fications to recommend a man to the affections of a 
lady. Having married the daughter and led the 
clan in all their battles against neighbouring tribes 
and enemies with conspicuous success, he eventually 
attained to the chiefship." This is the story which the 
Highland bards have recorded of this great progenitor 
of the Camerons. 

Here we find not a Danish Prince of 404, arriving 
under kingly protection, and with an introduction 
from Fergus II., but a Celtic adventurer, many cen- 
turies later, from Dumbartonshire. Of his family 
history nothing is stated, but he was without estate or 
powerful relatives or friends. He was a soldier of 
fortune, and he was successful. From the time he 
assumed the chiefship, the Clan MacMartin and its 
dependent septs became known as Clan 'Camshron' or 

This chief was not only skilful in war, but was a 
man of powerful physique and giant strength. Dum- 
bartonshire in early times appears to have been the 


home of Celtic giants. We have this Cambro able to 
lift a 5oolb. stone with the greatest ease. In the New 
Statistical Account of Scotland (Parish of Luss), we 
are told it was a place of refuge for the Highlanders 
from the earliest times. A powerful tribe of Celts 
lived at Dumfin, where there are traces of an ancient 
fortification. The chief, Fian M'Cuel, or Fingal, and 
his associates are represented as giants, of whom the 
most extravagant feats are related. An enormous 
stone or mass of rock is pointed out, which, it is said, 
Fingal, standing on the top of Benbui, took upon his 
little finger to throw to the top of Shantran Hill, a 
distance of several miles, but that not being rightly "^ 

balanced, it fell into a small brook midway between 
the two ! Then there is the tradition of the MacEwen 
giant who carried a stone coffin from the loch to the 
churchyard at Luss — having the coffin under one arm 
and the lid under the other. There is a curious . 
similarity in these various feats of strength. Allowing 
for the necessary amount of fiction attaching to legends 
of the kind, we may fairly assume that these early 
western Celts were a powerful race, so distinguished 
for athletic performances as to render these worthy of 
transmission in Celtic folklore. It seems not improb- 
able, too, having regard to the Cameron tradition, 
that Cambro was of this race of Celtic giants. 

It is not stated when Cambro appeared in Loch- 
aber, but it is evident that it could not have been so 
early as the time of Fergus II. (404), nor even many 
centuries later, nor yet so late as the close of the 
14th century. It is more likely to have been in the 
twelfth century. Originally the septs of Clan Chattan 
and Clan Cameron followed the Maormor of Moray ; 
and, according to Gregory, separated about the middle 


of the fourteentli century. Mackenzie points out that 
Gregory, who agrees with the other authorities, states 
that the Camerons, as far back as he could trace, had 
their seat in Lochaber, and appeared to have been 
first connected with the Macdonalds of Islay in the 
reign of Robert the Bruce — that is to say, in the 
beginning of the fourteenth century. 

In 1396, according to MacKenzie, there were 
four septs or branches of the clan, viz. : Gillanfhaigh 
or Gillonie (Camerons of Invermalie and Strone), the 
Clan Soirlie (Camerons of Glen Nevis), MhicMhartain 
(MacMartins of Letterfinlay), of which Cambro had 
been chief, and the Camerons of Lochiel. There were 
also dependent septs, the principal being Mhic Gilveil, 
or MacMillans. It is said to have been the head or 
captain of the first of these, Gillanfhaigh (MacGillonies) 
or Maclanfhaigh — 'Fhaigh' in its aspirated form being 
represented by ' Hay ' or ' Kay ' of the Chroniclers — 
who led the Camerons at the Inch of Perth. 

Bancho (Shakspeare's Banquo), who was Thane 
of Lochaber in the time of King Duncan, and was 
slain by Macbeth because he was foretold that Bancho's 
posterity would be kings of Scotland — a prophecy 
which was fulfilled — had a sister Marion who married 
Angus, the first of the Cameron chiefs of whom there 
is any mention. From Bancho's grandson Walter, 
Great Steward of Scotland — an office which became 
hereditary and was turned into a surname — the Royal 
Stewart family and the Stewart Earls of Leunox were 
descended. Then, at a much later period, viz., in 
1546, we find ' Bwen Eoghain MacAilein,' the 13th 
Cameron chief, supporting the then Stewart Earl of 
Lennox in his rebellion, for which he was tried and 
executed. Here we have another instance of close 


connection between the Lochaber and Dumbartonsliire 
chiefs and clans. 

All these traditions and historic incidents point to- 
a very eariy connection between the western clans and- 
those known at a later period as Camerons. If Keltie 
and the historian quoted by Sir Walter Scott be 
correct, the MacBwens in their early wanderings had 
first settled in Lochaber, and were the progenitors of 
the later Camerons. This would account for the name 
among the Camerons as early as the 13th century. 
Cambro was of the same race, and may have been of 
the same tribe. The name Bwen, while it has been 
common in the Cameron families and in Lochaber, is 
rare among the neighbouring clans of the district who 
were connected with the Camerons under Moravian 
rule. It is not a common name among the Mackin- 
toshes, or the other septs of Clan Chattan or the 
Moravian clans. It is of western origin, and common 
among the western clans. In later times, the families 
of that name in Lochaber appear to have derived it, in 
some cases, from the Cameron Bwens, according to 
Celtic custom, for the " Sliochd Eoghain" were the 
children and descendants of the first Bwen, chief of 
Erracht. In others, it doubtless had its origin in the 
later connection with the Macdougall Campbells of 
Lome; and the " Sliochd Boghain" was probably 
composed of the descendants of both. 

The Privy Council Records afford further evidence 
of this close intermixture of MacBwens and Camerons. 
In 1576 we find Allister Dow Mc Allane Vc Bwin 
Camroun and John Camroun, his brother, denounced 
for the slaughter of Donald Dow McKewin. In 1598, 
there was a complaint before the Council at the 
instance of George Dunbar in Clunes and others 


against B\vne McConeill Vc Ewne Coneill of Blar- 
maseylacli, John Badach Mc Vc Ewne of Errach, his 
brother Ewne, Duncane Mc Martin of Letterfinlay, 
and many other MacEwens, who are described as 
" 200 brokin hieland men and someris, all bodin in 
feir of weir." The charge against them gives a pic- 
turesque view of the occupations of our ancestors. 
Armed ** with bows, darlochs, and twa-handit swords^ 
steil bonnetis, haberschondes, hacquebutis and pis- 
toletis," they are accused of having " come under 
cloud and silence of night be way of briggandice " to 
the house of the said George Dunbar, where they 
committed sundry offences of which the discreet 
historian need make no mention. Some years later 
we find these MacEwens allied with the outlawed 
MacGregors. In 16 12 there is an order to denounce 
John Camroun Mc Vc Ewne in Errach and others 
for refusing to concur with Lochiel against " the 
rebellious thieves and lymmaris of the Clan Gregour." 
Again, in the same year, several MacEwens are fined 
for resetting and defending Clan Gregor. In the 
following year there is a solemn proclamation against 
Allan Cameron of Locheil for not taking measures 
against the MacGregors, the preamble declaring that 
*' he has made shipwraik of his faith and promisit 
obedience, shaking off all feir of God and his prince 
and reverence of the law; and preferring the mis- 
chevious and unhappy course of his bypast wicked 
lyff to godliness, civilite, good reule and quietness." 
As associates in this " mischevious and unhappy 
course of bypast wickedness " are enumerated several 
MacEwens, whose affection for the 'lymmaris' of 
Clan Gregor would seem to have been incorrigible. 
In consequence of an old feud between the 


Camerons and the Robertsons of Struan, Sir Ewen 
Cameron, in 1666, marched with 80 men to Stnian's 
lands in Kinloch, and raided the Robertsons. Among 
them were two MacEwen Camerons, John and Duncan* 
dhuine vassals. This formed the subject of a trial 
before the Privy Council. 

VII.— MacEwens in Perthshire, Inverness, 

AND Skye. 

From an early date, a branch of the MacEwens 
appears to have been settled in Perthshire, probably 
in the Kenmore district, and a curious legend is con- 
nected with their early history. The original head of 
the clan in Perthshire died, leaving two sons. He left 
also a beautiful white horse, the possession of which 
occasioned a dispute between the two sons. The 
matter was decided by a singular test, namely, who 
could roll a millstone down a certain mountain by 
means of a straw rope passed through the hole in the 
centre. The one son accomplished the feat and 
obtained the horse. The other, being unsuccessful, 
betook himself to Ayrshire, where he founded another 
branch of the family.* However unsound the story 
may be as a genealogical explanation, it points to 
a traditional relationship existing between remote 
branches of the family at a time when their early 
origin was lost in tradition. 

From Perthshire or' Lochaber the MacEwens 
spread northwards. At an early date the name 
appears among the Mackintosh genealogies. " About 
this time (circa 1370) also lived Kenneth Macewn, 
*This legend has been kindly furnished by Dr. David MacEwan! 
^ho obtamed U m 1847 from an octogenarian soldier of the narre o 


father of Parson. This Kenneth came from Lochaber 
in Badenoch, and dwelt first at Tullocher. He was a 
tenant and retainer of Lauchlan, laird of Mackintosh. 

But his brothers, John, Murrach, and Gillies, came 
thither long before that time. This Lauchlan, 8th 
laird of Mackintosh, passed away from among the 
living in the year of Christ 1407."* A daughter of 
Ferquhard, 9th laird of Mackintosh, married Duncan 
Mackynich vie Bwen (commonly called Parson). To 
Malcolm, loth laird of Mackintosh (died 1470), Charles 
MacKwen vie Volan subscribed for himself and his 
posterity as hereditary servant. In 1569 the laird of 
Mackintosh leased to Donald MacBwen alias Cameron 
and John, his brother, the lands of Glenlui and Loch- 
arkaig. In 161 8 there was a complaint to the Privy 
Council by Lord Gordon against Sir Lauchlan Mac- 
kintosh in the matter of *' a riot and tumult at the 
ford of Culloden" to prevent Lord Gordon exercising 
his right to collect the teinds of the parish of Inver- 
ness. MacBwens were conspicuous among the followers 
of Mackintosh, who, to quote the report, ** in a grite 
rage, tumult, and furie, attacked Lord Gordon's poore 
hairmless men." 

A considerable body of MacBwens appear to have 
been settled in Skye at one time. It is not stated 
when their first settlement there took place ; but from 
General Wade's Statement of the Highland Clans in 
1 71 5, there were 150 MacBwens then in the Island, 
who fought for King James in that year. The colony 
may have been derived either from the Otter or 
Lochaber families, or both. There is a tradition, 
unsupported however by documentary evidence, that 
1 20 of the Skye MacBwens fought for Prince Charlie 
* Macfarlane' s Genealogical Collections (Scot. Hist Soc.) 

0201 qyc} SALT UKE CITY, UTAH 84150 


at Culloden. If this be true it is curious that there is 
no record of an event so comparatively recent. In the 
List of Persons Concerjied in the Rebellion of 174^ 
(Scot. Hist. Soc), the strength of the clan in rebellion 
is given at 5, and of the four MacEwens mentioned by- 
name, two hail from Stirling, one from Perth, and one 
from Dundee. The List is obviously incomplete, as 
the total number of the clans is only given as 780.* 

VIII.— The Clan Name. 
The name Bwen is a distinctive, ancient, and not 
ver}^ common name, derived from the Gaelic Eo^han, 
meaning ' kind natured ' (latin Eugenius). Clan names 
were derived from the personal or first name of the 
ancestral chief, with the prefix 'Mac' In later times, 
for special or fanciful reasons, the ' Mac ' was often 
dropped, and the personal name became the surname. 
This was more particularly the case when persons of 
Highland descent, bearing clan names, settled in the 
Lowlands. The name MacGregor is a good instance 
of this change. When the clan name became pro- 
scribed, the clansmen called themselves Gregors, 
•Gregs, Doos, and other forms of the name. Mr! 
Adam says: "two reasons have contributed towards 
rendering obscure the origin of Highland names of 
clan ongm ; the villainous and erratic spelling of 
our ancestors, and the clothing of a Highland 
name m a Lowland garb, either by dropping the 
prefix Mac or by othenvise transmogrifying the 
ongmal name.f A distinguished Gaelic scholar and 
* In a note to R.dgauntkt, Scott says that he beheves that the 
adventure ascnbed to Pate-in-Peril. in 1745, was actually undertaken 
hy a gentleman of the name of MacEwen or Macmillan. 

t What is my Tartan 1 Frank Adam, F.S. A., Scot. 


^writer on the subject points out tliat surnames 'largely 
■depend on individual and local history, being subject 
to local caprices and * pet ' changes.' In a work on 
the subject he gives the derivation of this name as 
.above stated.* It would, however, be ridiculous to 
hold, at the present day, that all persons bearing a 
•clan name are necessarily descendants of the old 
clansmen. In the majority of cases they probably 
are : in others the name may have been derived from 
.a different source or taken by an ancestor for a 'special* 
or 'fanciful' reason. In later times surnames have 
often been derived from the Christian name of the 
parent, as Mac William and Williamson. Some Mac- 
Kwen surnames may have had this origin, or in some 
instances may have been derived from Ian, Ivan, or 
Kwan in the same way. But in the absence of family 
histories showing the origin and course of a name, in 
•each case, it is possible to treat the subject only 
generally, having regard to the localities where the 
name is common, and to any traditions or information 
which connect it with these localities. Where the 
name is of clan origin and still common in the clan 
territory, and where septs and families can be traced 
by tradition or otherwise from the original home to 
•other localities where the name is found, while the other 
names common to those localities are different, — in 
iDoth these cases there is a prima facie presumption 
that the name has been handed down from the original 
source, and that those who bear it are the descendants 
and representatives, — remotely, no doubt, — of the 
immigrant clansmen. Clan Bwen was a small clan 
"which was dispersed at a remote period, and therefore 
the only means of identifying present day holders of 
* Personal Names and Surnames in Inverness : A. Macbain. 


the name is by tracing the old clansmen to the districts 
and localities where the name survives. 

Lord President Forbes described a 'Highland 
clan' as a * set of men all bearing the same surname, and 
believing themselves to be related the one to the other, 
and to be descended froni the same stock.' Originally 
Clan Ewen answered this definition — one which is still 
true, subject to the above considerations. According 
to Lower, surnames and the practice of transmitting 
them to descendants came gradually into common use 
in England as early as the nth and three following 
centuries. Other, equally good, authorities hold that 
not till the time of the Reformation did surnames 
become established on something like their present 
footing in England and the lowland counties of 
Scotland, and at a later period in the Highlands, and 
there have always been the difficulties connected with 
spelling, to the confusion of antiquaries and genea- 
logists. This name alone furnishes several variations, 
viz. : Ewan, Ewen, Ewing, MacEwan, MacEwen, 
McEwan, T^^IcEwen, Macewin, MacKewan, McKewan, 
McKeown, McEwing, McAine, etc. The original 
clan name, of course, is Ewen, and Skene and the 
other authorities so spell it, and the later forms of the 
name, and those most common at the present day, are 
Ewen and Ewing, MacEwan and MacEwen, and the 
abridged form of the two latter : K is the common Irish 
form. The same variations in spelling have occurred 
in places widely apart, as Argyll, the Lennox, Galloway, 
and Lochaber, all of which are associated with the 
clan. Sometimes i is used in place of a or e, in the 
last syllable ; and where k has been used in early, it 
has been dropped in later, times. Uniformity was the 
last thing thought of: in the case of father and son, 



or in the same family, it was not considered necessary. 
As a rule, spelling was phonetic, and to this fact 
may be ascribed the frequent introduction of the K; 
rather than to any recent Irish connection. Bxcel- 
lent examples are furnished in the Galloway and 
Glenboig families. In the former the name appears 
in the family Bibles and on the tombstones in the 
various forms stated : in the latter we have first 
Macewin, then in 1691 AIcAine, and the same man 
in 1698 as Macewan, while the family history shows 
continuous descent and succession.'" 

X. — Evidence of Heraldry. 

Heraldry is usually a safe and reliable guide in 
cases of pedigree and enquiries into family histories. 

* Uniformity in spelling was not practised by even the best 
English writers, e.g., Dryden and Driden, Jonson and Johnson. An 
ingenious American has discovered 4,000 variations of the name 


There are nine grants of Arms by tlie Lyon Office in 
Scotland to persons bearing the clan name. Six of 
these are Ewings and three McEwans. 

One of the earliest is Ewen or Ewing of Craig- 
toiin, whose achievement appears on a tombstone of 
1600 in Bonhill Churchyard. These arms belonged 
originally to Br3^son of Craigtoun. In Nisbet's System 
of Heraldry (1722), one of the best authorities on 
ancient Scottish Heraldry, it is said that these arms 
are carried by John Ewen, Writer to the Signet ; and 
further on, with reference to Bryson of Craigtoun, that 
"this family ended in two daughters : the eldest married 
Walter Ewing, Writer to the Signet : they were the 
father and mother of John Ewing, Writer to the 
Signet, who possesses the lands of Craigtoun which 
belonged to his grandfather by the mother's side, and 
by the father's side he is the male Representer of 
Ewing of Keppoch, his grandfather, in the Shire of 
Dumbarton ; which lands of Keppoch were purchased 
by a younger son of the Family, who had only one 
daughter, married to John Whitehill, whose son 
Thomas possesses the lands of Keppoch, and is 
obliged to take upon him the name of E\vang." 

These arms then came into the Ewen or Ewine 


family with the lands of Craigtoun by the marriage 
of Walter Ewen or Ewing, Writer to the Signet, with 
the eldest daughter of Bryson. The arms, themselves, 
throw no light on the family history of the Ewens or 
Ewings : but the father of Walter Ewen or Ewing 
was of the Keppoch family in Dumbartonshire. We 
therefore find this much : (i) that the name was then 
spelt both ways, and that Ewing or Ewen were 
interchangeable : and (2) that the family belonged to 
Dumbartonshire where the clan name was common. 


Again, all tlie arms of the later Ewings of 
Keppoch, Glasgow, Levenfield, Loudon, and Balli- 
kinrain, which are recorded, are founded on and 
connected with those of the first Bwen or Bwing of 

The three M'^Kwen families return similar results. 
The Muckly family, in addition to its name and place 
of settlement in Argyll, claims descent from the Mac- 
Dougalls of Lome, who were joined by a sept of Clan 
MacKwen of Otter. Macewan of Glenboig belonged 
to the Lennox sept. M'^Ewan, Glasgow, belonged to 
a Renfrewshire family of the same sept, descended, on 
the female side again, from a daughter of Campbell 
of Craignish in Lome. So that so far as name, 
localities, and other circumstances go they all point, — 
in the absence of other evidence, — to one and the 
same conclusion, viz., that these families are descended 
from different septs of the ancient Clan Bwen. 

There is another circumstance of some importance 
in this connection, which, although not having modem 
heraldic sanction, is of the same character. In early 
times, when writing was not an ordinary or common 
accomplishment, documents of moment were attested 
by seals. This practice was common up to 1540 and, 
as Nisbet says, ' contributed much to the regularity of 
arms.' It continued down to a much later date, and 
for some purposes is still in force. These seals bore a 
device, an animal, tree, shrub, flower, leaf, or other 
symbol, and sometimes a motto. The devices, again, 
in later times, became common to connected families 
and persons of the same name who recognised a clan 
relationship, until at last they have come to be spoken 
of and used as * clan crests.' But their original purpose 
was altogether different. Seals were handed down from 


father to son or heir. In some instances the devices 
were chosen as crests when a person of the name 
took out arms. The case of M'^Bwan, Glasgow, is an 
instance in point. His arms were granted in 1847. 
The escutcheon displays emblems of his profession and 
pursuits, while the crest and motto, — an old stunted 
oak, putting forth new branches and fresh foliage, with 
the motto * Reviresco,'— have been in use on seals by 
MacEwens everywhere from a very much earlier 
period. This seal has been used b]/ individuals and 
families of the name in different parts of the country, 
in Argyll, Galloway, the Lennox, Renfrew, Glasgow, 
and other places, by persons who could only have 
recognised a clan relationship and must, personally, 
have been unknown to each other. It was evidently 
the emblem of the clan ; a symbol of family kinship 
and clan origin which testified to common misfortunes 
and common aspirations. It was in use at a period 
long before the modem fashion of ' clan arms ' and 
' crests ' — a custom without heraldic sanction — came 
into being, and was employed for purposes not of 
show and display but of business. The Lyon Office ' 
is unable to fix the origin or date of these seals, but 
states they are 'common to the name.'* So that this 
quasi heraldic device is another link between the past 
and the present of an ancient, shattered, but reviving 
race. For this is what the device and motto signify. 
It has been well chosen as an epitome of the history 
of the clan. It is not uncommon to find different 
families and members of different clans bearing the 
same crest, but there is no other instance of this device 
being carried except by MacEwens. 

* See Note to Appendix. 


XI. — MacEwen Tartan. 

Tartan has been the dress of the Celtic Highlander 
and of the Lowland Clansman from time immemorial, 
and particular 'setts' or patterns are of great antiquity, 
but it has been found impossible to assign dates to any 
of them. Distinctive clan tartans as now worn are 
of comparatively recent date In a work on Clan 
Campbell,* it is stated that *'the adoption of peculiar 
tartans by entire clans is referable to the civil wars 
of the Earl of Mar and Prince Charles Edward, as 
the sources of the custom of wearing distinctive clan 
tartans." Long before that time we know from Logan 
and others that "every strath and every island differed 
from each other in the fancy of making plaids, as to 
the stripes in breadth and the colours, while family, 
tartans were in a great measure dependent on indi- 
vidual taste." Since the abolition of the Act against 
the wearing of tartan, many old tartans have been 
revived, and in the present reign many new ones have 
been designed. The MacEwen tartan is a handsome 
blue and green check, Math red and yellow lines alter- 
nately on the green bars of the check. It somewhat 
resembles the Farquharson and MacLeod tartans ; or 
if in place of the white lines in the ' Campbell of 
Loudon' red lines be substituted, we get the MacEwen 
tartan exactly. The ground -work of the MacEwen 
tartan is the same as that of the 'Black Watch,' which 
was the original Campbell tartan. The MacEwen has 
the double l>ack lines running through the blue 
gi-ound as in the ' Black Watch,' the distinguishing 
feature between the two being that for the black cross 
lines (over-checks) of the ' Black Watch ' there is a 
* The Clan Campbell : J. Menzies & Co., Edinburgh. 


red and yellow line alternately in the green ground of 
the MacEwen. The colours are brighter in the latter 
than in the former. In the work on Clan Campbell 
above referred to we are told that *' the original name 
of the * Black Watch ' arose from the tints of their 
tartans, in which black and green predominated, as 
they yet do in those of the Campbells. The majority 
of the Western tribes, traceable all to one source, 
adopted nearly the same colours, and indeed there can 
be little doubt but that the distinctions now perceivable 
are of comparatively recent adoption. The * Black 
Watch' tartan contains all the really fundamental 
parts of every variety of that species of garb. The 
difference of hues and the intermingling lines and 
divisions appear to be a later addition to the tartans 
of the separate tribes, and should be ascribed to the 
era of the later rebellions." The Campbells have had 
and still have several different " setts " : Argyll, 
Breadalbane, Cawdor, Loudon, Strachur, and there 
may be others : but the late Duke of Argyll has 
gone back to the ' Black Watch ' as the original clan 
tartan. The similarity of the MacEwen tartan to the 
* Black Watch ' and the ' Campbell of Loudon ' (red 
in lieu of white lines) points to the early connection 
of the clan with the Campbells, just as in heraldry 
ensigns and cadences point to connection and distinc- 
tion in families. In early times the tartan took the 
place of the heraldic shield. 



* Scale of Colours in MacEwen Tartan. 

Jth of 






































































For illustration purposes, suitable to the size of this volume, the scale of the 

tartan frontispiece has been reduced to about half usual size, 

such as would be worn for a scarf. 

XII. — Summary. 

The foregoing investigations and enquiries point 
to the following conclusions : — 

I. — That Clan Bwen or MacBwen was originally 
a western clan, descended from the Siol Gillevray, one 
of the Celtic tribes of the Dalriada Scots. 

II. — That they possessed territory, and were 
settled under a chief of their own in Argyll, on the 
shores of Loch Fyne, from the 13th to the middle of 
the 15th century, when the clan was finally broken up. 

III. — ^That previous to the latter date they had 
suffered severely in the wars of the times, and both 
before and after the death of the last chief remnants 

* This, and other information, has been kindly supplied by 
Mr. John C. M'Ewen, Inverness. 


souglit new alliances and homes in Argyll, the Lennox 
Country, Dumbartonshire, Galloway, and elsewhere. 

IV. — That at an early period of their history they 
became connected with Lochaber, if it was not (as 
Keltic asserts) their original settlement: that a second 
incursion took place from Lome at a later period : that 
the settlers became incorporated with the Camerons, 
the principal clan in the district, and that the name of 
Ewen has been common among the Camerons and in 
the district from the earliest times of which there 
is any record. 

V. — That the name is distinctly of Gaelic and 
clan origin, and that except where particular family 
histories and other evidence point to a dififerent 
conclusion, persons bearing the name and traceable to 
the localities known to have been occupied by the 
early clan, its septs and descendants, are of the same 
race and probabl}'- sprung from the MacBwens of 
Otter. In the Lowland districts the blood has mixed 
largely with that of the Lowland inhabitants. 

VI. — That, subject to the same exception, those 
bearing clan names in Argyll and the Western High- 
lands and Islands are presumably the descendants of 
the men who joined the Campbells and other Western 
clans, before and after the dispersion, in the 15th 

VII. — That those traceable to the Lennox 
country, Dumbartonshire, the neighbouring Eastern 
and Southern Counties and Galloway are descendants 
of the Lennox and Galloway septs. 

VIII. — That those traceable to Lochaber are more 
immediately descended from the ' Sliochd Eoghain^ 
while those who settled in Skye may have had the 


same origin or have been descended from the men of 

The clan has had a hard and checkered existence 
from its earliest days ; it was wiped out as a territorial 
clan in the middle of the 15th century. From that 
date it has been scattered in groups in different parts 
of the country, the largest number having migrated 
to the fertile regions of the South, where the clan 
names are now more numerous than they are in the 
Highlands. In this respect the history of the clan 
is not exceptional. It is more remarkable that, 
considering its early dispersion and subsequent 
vicissitudes, it is still possible to speak of ' Clan 
Bwen.' Few clans can offer such scanty material to 
their would-be historian. Clan Bwen was broken up 
as a clan during one of the darkest ages of our history, 
when chroniclers were few, and such an event was too 
common to excite their interest. In later times the 
evidence of family papers and contemporary records 
is singularly scanty ; even family and local traditions 
—those unfailing resources of the clan historian— are 
all but wanting. In other clans allegiance to a recog- 
nised chief has been and still remains a powerful bond 
of union ; but it would bafRe the patience of the most 
unwearied genealogist to discover on whose shoulders 
the mantle of the lords of the Otter has now descended. 
More tantalising still is the absence of personal records. 
Now and again some ancient document gives us a list 
of names ; but what manner of men these were, of 
what physical or mental complexion, we can but dimly 
imagine. The scenes which the lurid light of Privy 
Council records reveal to us tell of the licence of an 
age rather than of individual character, and if there 
were some who " preferred the mischevious and un- 



happy course of bypast wickedness," there were others 
— bards and senachies and honest gentlemen — who 
sought "godliness, civilite, good reule, and quietness." 
But despite lack of chief and lands and ancient records, 
Clan Ewen still preserves — if not its unity— at least 
a sense of union and clanship. 

At the present time there are many bearing 
the Clan name in Scotland and in England and the 
Colonies. Some are men of affluence and propert3^ ; 
many hold prominent and influential positions in 
the learned professions, the army, commerce, and 
agriculture. If the descendants of the ancient Clan 
Ewen could be mustered to-day they would make a 
a goodly show as compared with the " 200 fighting 
men " of old. 

^.'RSCTJK\,..V , .^t^aiiJsS^ 




Arms pertaining to Persons and Families bearing Clan Ewen or 
MacEwen names, as recorded in the Lyon Court of Scotland. 


EwiNG (on a tombstone in 
Bonhill Churchyard, 1600. 
Supposed to be Ewing of 

EwiNG (Keppoch, County of 
Dumbarton, descended of 

Ewing (Glasgow, descended 
of Keppoch). 

Ewing (Levenfield, County 
of Dumbarton). 


Ewing (Loudon). 

A chev. between three stars, with 
the sun in base. 

Ar. a chev. embattled az. ensigned 
with a banner gu. Charged with a 
Canton of the second, thereon a 
Saltire of the first, all between two 
mullets in chief, and the sun in his 
splendour in a base of the third. 
Crest: a demi lion ramp, in his 
dexter paw a mullet gu. Motto : 

Audaciter. dee illustration on page 33.) 

Quarterly, first and fourth, as the 
last, within a bordure az. ; second 
and third, ar. a bend gu. between 
three banting birds ppr. for Bontine. 
Crest and viotto same as last. 

Ar. a chev. gu. ensigned with a 
banner of the second, charged with 
a Canton az, thereon a Saltire of 
the first, all between two mullets in 
chief, and the Sun in his splendour 
in base of the second, a bordure 
indented, also of the second, charged 
with three crescents of the first for 
diff. Crest: a demi lion ramp, hold- 
ing in his dexter paw a mullet gu. 
Motto: Audaciter. 

As the last, the bordure charged 
with three mullets az. 




EwiNG (Ballikinrain, County 
of Stirling). 

M'EwAN (Mackewan, Muckly, 
County of Argyll, descen- 
ded of the Macdougals of 

M'EwAN (Macewan, Glenboig, 
County of Stirling). 

M'EwAN (Glasgow, of a Ren- 
frewshire family, descended 
on the female side from a 
daughter of Campbell of 


As Levenfield, the bordure charged 
with three mullets ar. 

Per fess az. and or. in chief a lion 
ramp. ar. gorged with an antique 
crown vert, in base a garb of the 

Ar. a Sheaf of arrows ppr. banded 
az. between four roses in a Saltire 
gu. Crest : a dexter arm coupled at 
the shoulder, the elbow resting on 
the wreath and grasping a scymitar 
all ppr. Motto : Pervicax recti. 

Az. on a fess ar. between a lion 
ramp, in chief of the second, and a 
garb in base or., a ship in full sail 
on the sea between a thistle and a 
stalk of sugar cane, both slipped 
ppr., a bordure gyronny of eight of 
the third and sa. Crest : the trunk 
of an oak tree with a branch sprout- 
ing forth on either side ppr. Motto : 


IsTO T E. 

All the Ewingarms are founded on those of the first Ewen orEwing 
of Craigtoun. He belonged to the family of Keppoch in Dumbarton- 
shire, and by marriage with the eldest daughter of Bryson of Craigtoun 
obtained that estate and took the arms of Eryson. The other Ewings 
obtained grants at different and later dates, founding them on those 
of Craigtoun, with the proper heraldic differences. . 

The Muckly (Argyll) and M'Ewen (Glasgow) families both claim 
relationship to Lome families which were joined by MacEwens of 
Otter. • 

The Glenboig (Stirling) family belonged to the Lennox sept, as 
also did M^Ewan, Glasgow. 

M^Ewan, Glasgow, took for his crest and motto a device and 
motto which had been common to MacEwans everywhere for a long 
time previous, and had been used as a badge on seals, of which there 
are specimens extant in MacEwan families. The Lyon Office states 
they are 'common to the name.' 

A coat of arms is the exclusive property of the grantee, and 
descends to his eldest lineal representative. Younger children are 
not entitled to their father's arms, but are required to 'matriculate' 
them in the Lyon Court with their proper differences. 

A modern practice has arisen of assuming 'clan arms' and 
' crests ' : it has no heraldic sanction and is absurd on the face of it ; 
because arms were originally the devices by which one person was 
known from another when in armour, which would lose its purpose 
if everybody had the same arms on his shield : it follows that 
members of a clan are not entitled to use the arms of the chief. 

On the subject of crests. Woodward in his work on Heraldry has 
the following : " In Great Britain the crest has become the part of 
the armorial insignia most generally employed. We find it divorced 
not only from the coat of arms but from its helm, doing the duty of 
a badge on furniture, plate, buttons, panels of carriages, the harness 
of horses (and he might have added note paper). It need hardly be 
said that all this is an entire departure from the original idea of the 
crest as the ornament of a knightly helm ; and that to speak (as 
people who ought to be better informed often do) of a whole achieve- 
ment, — arms, helm, crest, and motto, — as " our crest," is as absurd 
as it would be to call a suit of clothes a tiara." These crests are 
really the work of the modern ' heraldic ' stationer. 


On the other hand individuals, families, members of clans, may 
use a badge if they desire to use a distinctive mark. This was a 
common practice in ancient times, the device and motto being 
displayed in seals. Woodward says : " Badges were the earliest form 
of hereditary insignia, preceding shield or coat armour, and commonly 
used as seals. It was distinct from a crest, although family badges 
were sometimes used as crests. It is described as a subsidiary family 
ensign, occasionally accompanied by a motto, borne by adherents 
(clansmen), dependants, or retainers. It is entirely different from 
the species of badge, unrecognised by heraldic authority, which has 
gradually sprung up among the Highland clans, namely a leaf or 
sprig of some tree or shrub, usually carried along with two eagle's 
feathers in the bonnet which the Chief wears." 

The MacEwen badge was probably one of these old statutory 
seal badges described by Nisbet, who says it was enacted by sundry 
statutes that every Freeholder should have his proper seal. It had 
to be produced when required at the head Court of the Shire, and 
duplicates in lead were often kept by the Clerk of the Court for 
reference in case of need. 

A badge differs from an armorial crest inasmuch as the latter 
nearly always rests on a cushion, whereas a badge has no cushion, 
and the seals almost invariably bore the initials of the owner for the 
time being. 

A badge may always be used as a mark of distinction if people 
desire it, but it should be distinguished from an armorial crest. This 
badge is not a crest except in the single instance of M'Ewen, 
Glasgow, who chose it for his own, and as such it belongs only to 
his representative ; but as a badge it is common to all clansmen. As 
such it is more interesting and valuable than any modern crest ; for 
it is not a borrowed ensign or assumed plume, but an original, 
ancient, and unique device, containing an historical epitome, which 
crests do not. 

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