Clan MacLeod

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Scotland Project > Scottish Clans > Clan MacLeod


Welcome to Clan MacLeod

Clan MacLeod Team
Team Leader
Team Members Patrice MacLeod, Bonnie Saunders, Deborah Compton, Ian Cruickshank, Lili Hammond
Clan Chief:
Slogan/War Cry:
Historic Seat:
Plant badge:
Pipe music:
Gaelic name:

Clan Team

Team Goals

The focus of this team's work is to identify, improve and maintain profiles associated with the Lairds and Chiefs of Clan MacLeod together with members bearing the name MacLeod, the related families and those recognised as septs of Clan MacLeod.

Team To Do List

This list will be developed by the Team. If you are working on a specific task, please list it here:

  • promoting the entries of those bearing the name MacLeod on Wikitree.
  • ensuring entries appearing on Wikitree are as accurate as possible, correcting mistakes once spotted.
  • encouraging interest in and study of Clan MacLeod.


Clan History

Clan Branches

Other Names Associated with the Clan

Allied Clans

Rival Clans

Clan Research and Free Space Pages

Source Material

Image Credits and Acknowledgements

Information below this line should be summarized and incorporated into this Team page. Detailed information should be moved to additional Clan pages.

Clan MacLeod

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Clan MacLeod Scottish Gaelic: Clann Mhic Leòid; is a Highland Scottish clan associated with the Isle of Skye. There are two main branches of the clan: the Macleods of Harris and Dunvegan, whose chief is Macleod of Macleod, are known in Gaelic as Sìol Tormoid ("seed of Tormod"); the Macleods of Lewis, whose chief is Macleod of The Lewes, are known in Gaelic as Sìol Torcaill ("seed of Torcall"). Both branches claim descent from Leòd, who lived in the 13th century.

The surname MacLeod means 'son of Leod'. The name Leod is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic name Leòd, which is thought to have been derived from the Old Norse name Ljótr, meaning ugly.[2] Clann means family, while mhic is the genitive of mac, the Gaelic for son, and Leòid is the genitive of Leòd. The whole phrase therefore means The family of the son of Leod.

It is often said that Clan MacLeod of Lewis claims its descent from Leod, who according to MacLeod tradition was a younger son of Olaf the Black, King of Mann (r.1229–1237). Skene, in his work on Celtic Scotland[1] suggests the tradition a complete fabrication created by Fraser in his work "The Earls of Cromartie." Skene's view is generally supported by modern historians and discussed below in Matheson's work.

The more accepted view of the true pedigree of the Macleods is contained in a surviving Irish MSS., and discussed by Rev. William Matheson, which places Leod in the thirteenth century, and makes him son of Gillemuire, son of Raice, son of Olbair Snoice, son of Gillemuire, whose mother is said to have been Ealga of the Fair Locks, daughter of Harold, king of Lchlan or Norway. They were Celtic in the male line, Norwegian in the female. Skene's translation of the manuscript is debated with the results summarised by Andrew MacLeod and published to the Society in November 2000.

Start of the Tradition

In the early 12th Century all of the western Isles, down to the Isle of Mann, and north to the Orkneys, were held to the Viking Kingdom of Norway. The western Isles were divided into two dynasties; that of Somerled in the south and that of Crovan in the north, under Guðrøðr Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles, who was based in Mann. Somerled defeated Godfred to claim title to King of the Isles and Godfred's son, Óláfr Guðrøðarson retained Mann and the Hebrides. Following the Treaty of Perth in 1265, Norway ceded the Kingdom to Scotland. Alexander III immediately moved to strengthen the Isles and the five great clans were born.

The MacLeod inherited the lands of the Crovan dynasty, including Skye, Harris, Lewis and the Hebrides while the MacDonald inherited the lands of Somerled, based on Islay. The MacLeans, strong supporters of Alexander and based near Perth, were provided with Mull, an ideal buffer between the two Norwegian clans. The Mackays remained in the northern and western seaboard and the Mackenzies introduced on the western seaboard controlling access to the Earldom of Ross.

There is conjecture as to the origin of Leod. What is depicted, currently, on wikitree, is a derivation of the Kings of Mann theory. This source is debated vigorously within the Genealogical Research Centre of the Clan and is, in the main, no longer taken seriously. Significant, and rigorous, research was published in 1981 by Rev. William Matheson which challenged the traditional belief. Matheson died soon after and his work was later refuted by Alick Morrison in 1986 and supported in part by W. D(avid). H. Sellar. The work was summarised by Andrew MacLeod and published to the Society in November 2000. Andrew MacLeod makes it clear that " In short, there is no historical reason to believe that Leod was the son of Olaf the Black." Andrew MacLeod notes that "Gaelic tradition about the origin of the MacLeods almost never mentions the name Olaf. Instead, there often appears in Gaelic sources the name Olvir, thus in elegies on Iain Mór MacLeod of Dunvegan (d. 1649) and on Sir Ruaidhrí Mór MacLeod of Dunvegan (d. 1626) we find “Crú Olbhuir” (‘stock of Olvir’), “aicme Olbhuirsi” (‘race of Olvir’), “í Olbhair” and “ó Olbhair” (‘descendant of Olvir’), and “síl Olbhair” (‘seed of Olvir’). In vernacular Gaelic the name became ‘Olgar’, as in the poetry of Mairi nighean Alasdair Ruaidh, e.g. “Olgharach thù” (‘one of Olgar’s race art thou’) and “de shliochd Olghair nan Iann” (‘Of the race of Olgar of sword-blades’)." Matheson argued the case that Olvir is clearly a different name from Olaf. Andrew MacLeod suggests that "the MacLeods are of the Sliochd Olbhuir and their royal Norse ancestry comes not from Olaf the Black but from Olvir’s ancestress Helga, sister of Godred Crovan."

Modern historians now generally agreed that Leod married the daughter and only child of Macraild Armine, said to be a Norwegian knight and Lord of Dunvegan who held considerable property amongst the islands; including Mogenish, Bracadale, Durinish, Dunvegan, Lindell, Waterness and part of Trotternish, all presumably on Skye. His name may have been Paal Baalkeson, the hereditary sheriff of Skye, under the rule to the King of Mann, or his son. He is known to have held Sleat, Trotternish, Waternish, and Snizort on Skye, all of which will come to Leod. Baalkeson was killed in 1231, according to Norse manuscripts. The name Armuinn being a Norse title suggesting Steward (Gaelic: Armann), Macraild meaning son of Harold. Most histories of the family suggest Leod was brought up by this person likely indicating that he was a relative. Matheson[2] conjectures that Leod's wife may have been a relative of Magnus Olafson, king of Man, died in 1265 who was a member of the Norwegian Crovan dynasty, which seems a reasonable supposition.

Following the death of Baalkeson, Leod inherits his titles and possessions and, around 1265, has possession of the lands of the Crovan dynasty. It is he that manages the family through the transition to Scottish rule. Leod, according to tradition, died around 1280 and was buried on the holy island of Iona, where six successive chiefs of the clan found a last resting-place after him.

Legacy of Leod

There is still conjecture regarding his legacy. Tradition stated that Leod's two sons, Tormod and Torquil, founded the two main branches of the Clan MacLeod, Siol Tormod and Siol Torquil. William Matheson believes there was only one son, Tormod (Eng: Norman), that inherits all titles and that Torquil was a grandson to Leod and title to Lewis occurs later. However this (wikitree) site notices Bain's work; History of Ross[3] where he mentions that Dorothea, daughter to William, 4th Earl of Ross, married Torquil MacLeod, 2nd "baron of the Lewis". This Earl, William, was the overlord to Leod for his lands on Skye, after 1265. He thrived between 1260 and his death in 1322 thus suggesting the division of title; between Skye and Lewis, had occurred within the lifetime of Leod.

Clan Members

The goal of this project is to ... offer a focal point for all members interested in the Lairds and Chiefs of Clan MacLeod together with members bearing the name MacLeod, the related families and those recognised as septs of Clan MacLeod.

Here are some of the tasks that I think need to be done. I'll be working on them, and could use your help.

  • promoting the entries of those bearing the name MacLeod on Wikitree.
  • ensuring entries appearing on Wikitree are as accurate as possible, correcting mistakes once spotted.
  • encouraging interest in and study of Clan MacLeod.

Will you join me? Please post a comment here on this page, in G2G using the project tag, or send me a private message. Thanks!

Clan Chief: Hugh Magnus MacLeod of MacLeod, 30th Clan Chief of Clan MacLeod representing the Associated Clan Societies, recognised by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and Chief of the Name and Arms of MacLeod. Succeeded his father in 2007.

Crest: A bull's head cabossed sable, horned Or, between two flags gules, staved at the first

Motto: Hold Fast

District: Inner Hebrides
Plant badge: Juniper
Pipe music:
Gaelic name: Clann Mhic Leòid

Coat of Arms

Ian Borb MacLeod is noted as the first of the Clan to be recorded as bearing arms, about 1420.[4] He is stated to be le Sir de Bes in the Armorial de Berry which dates to the mid 15th Century. The blazon is azure, a castle triple-towered argent. The supposition, le Sir de Bes, is noted in Stoddart.[5]

Interestingly, and not mentioned in any discussion on the topic, is the fact that a Le Sir de Bene appears on the same Armorial Roll and above Dunvegan. This must have been Torquil MacLeod. Le Sir de bene is noticed as carrying: Or, a rock Azure in flames Gules. Later, in the Scots Roll,[6] this family will carry; Makloyd - Or, a rock Sable in flames Gules, the difference being the change to black for the tincture of the rock. It doesn't take much of a stretch of imagination to envisage that the rock in flames may represent the danger to the house. It is interesting to note that this blazon is very similar to the clan badge of Clan MacKenzie (a mount in flames proper).

It is worth pointing out that there is no representation of Mann in these early arms; that is a much later addition.

Clan Branches

Clan Macleod of Lewis

Rival clans:

Clan MacDonald of Sleat


Beaton, Betha, Bethune, Beton. (There is also an independent Clan Bethune.) Harald, Haraldson, Harold, Harrell, Harrold, Herrald, MacHarold, MacRalte, MacRaild. Andie, MacAndie, McCaskill, MacHandie, MacKande, MacKandy, Makcandy. MacCaig, MacCoig, MacCowig, MacCrivag, MacCuaig, MacKaig, MacQuigg. MacAlear, MacClewer, MacClure, MacLeur, MacLewer, MacLewis, Lewis, MacLur, MacLure Cremmon, Crimmon, Griman, Grimman, Grimmond, MacCrimmon, MacCrummen, MacGrimman, MacGrymmen, MacRimmon. See MacCrimmon (piping family). MacKilliam, MacKullie, MacWilliam, MacWilliams, MacWillie, MacWylie, McCullie, Williamson. (Also attributed to Clan Gunn.) Norman, Normand, Norris, Norval, Norwell, Tormud.

Names associated with the clan:

Castles associated with the clan:

Clan Name Crest Badge Arms of MacLeod Lands MacLeod of Lewis MacLeod of Harris MacLeod of Raasay
CLAN MACLEOD ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??


  1. Celtic Scotland; Skene, vol 3, page 355
  2. William Matheson, provides critical research in the family of MacLeod, particularly of Lewis.
  3. Bain; History of the ancient province of Ross (The County Palatine of Scotland) from the earliest times to the present time; page 69
  4. MacLeod, Andrew P. (2000). "The Ancestry of Leod".
  5. Stodart, R. R. Scottish Arms Being A Collection of Armorial Bearings, A.D. 1370-1678, Reproduced In Facsimile From Contemporary Manuscripts, With Heraldic And Genealogical Notes. Volume 1. Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1881.
  6. The Scots Roll

See Also


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Categories: Clan MacLeod