Clan MacLeod is a Scottish Highland clan. The original Gaelic form is Clann Mhic Leòid. Clann means children, while mhic is the genitive of mac, the Gaelic for son, and Leòid is the genitive of Leòd. The definite article (an or na) is usually omitted in Gaelic in a chain of genitives. The whole phrase therefore means "The children of the son of Leod".


Leod held Uist, Harris, Lewis and much of Skye due to his marriage, his father, grandfather and stepfather's connections. He 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.

Leod had two sons, Tormod and Torquil. Tormod founded Sìol Thormoid, which led to the MacLeods of Harris and Skye, while Torquil was the progenitor of the MacLeods of Lewis and Raasay, or Sìol Thorcuill. The MacLeods of Harris and Skye usually spell their name in the English language using a capital "L", while is seems to be traditional for Macleods from Lewis to spell theirs using a lower-case "l".

The protagonists of the Highlander films and series are both fictional MacLeods.

14th Century & Wars of Scottish IndependenceEdit

During the wars of Scottish independance, Norman, who became the 2nd chief of the MacLeods of Skye, assumed power around the year 1280. He is fought with KingRobert the Bruce when the English were defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In 1380 the Clan MacLeod along with Clan MacLean and Clan MacKinnon were defeated in battle by Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, who vindicated his right as Lord of the Isles.

15th Century & Clan ConflictsEdit

  • The Battle of Tuiteam-Tarbhach 1406. This battle was fought at Tuiteam-tarbhach in the south west part of Sutherland where it meets Ross-shire. Angus MacKay of Strathnaver married the sister of MacLeod of Lewis by whom he had two sons; Angus Dow MacKay and Rory Gald MacKay. When Angus died, he left the governing of his estate to his brother Uistean Dow MacKay. MacLeod of Lewis decided to visit his sister where he found that she was not well. As he was not happy about this, on his way home he decided to spoil Strathnaver and Brae-Chat in Sutherland. Robert Earl of Sutherland sent Alexander Murray and Uistean Dow MacKay to attack the MacLeods. The fight was long and furious. In the end the booty was recovered and nearly all the MacLeods were killed including the chief of the Clan MacLeod of Lewis.
  • Battle of Strathnaver 1407. The Clan Chief of Clan Sutherland and Earl of Sutherland was a leader of the Scots invasion of the west of England in 1388. He married Margaret Stewart, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Buchan, a younger son of King Robert II. During his long chiefship, there was a temporary alliance with the Clan MacKay against the Clan MacLeod who had invaded Strathnaver in 1407 on rumours that MacKay was mistreating his wife, a MacLeod heiress. Since both Sutherland and MacKay country were laid waste, the old rivals joined forces to pursue the MacLeods, catching them somewhere near Loch Shin where the invaders were killed except for the last man who escaped his pursuers by throwing away his sword and targe and out sprinting his pursuers over the hills. This day became known as "The Great Slaughter" and gave the Sutherlands the upper hand in dominating their local clan rivals.
  • The Clan MacLeod fought as Highlanders at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 preventing the Duke of Albany gaining power in Ross.
  • The Clan MacLeod successfully took Dunscaith Castle  from the Clan MacDonald led by Alistair MacLeod. They went on to besiege Knock Castle before withdrawing.
  • The Battle of Bloody Bay 1480, When William Dubh MacLeod was killed (or taken prisoner) supporting John MacDonald against his bastard son Angus Og Macdonald the flag was also said to have been unfurled in the Battle of Badh na Fola - the Battle of Bloody Bay. According to MacDonald cronicles William was taken prisoner by Angus Og and Allan Moidertach but had been so severely wounded that he died on his way back to Dunvegan. It is said by the Seanachie of Sleat that Ronald Bain, son of Allan the laird of Moidart seized MacLeods galley but an Irishman prevented it from being steered away by thrusting the blade of an oar below the stern post of the galley between it and the rudder. As already mentioned the flag was guarded by a dozen warriors and one after another of them was slain. There is a special account of one of them - Murchadh Breac (Murdo the pock-marked) who was struck by a spear and collapsed on deck of the galley but kept holding the flag up by sticking its pole into the gaping hole of his body until he was relieved of his charge by a comrade. On account of the Seanachie of MacDonald William Dubh was taken prisoner by Allan Moidertach and Angus Og. After the Battle of Bloody Bay the MacDonalds raided Skye on behalf of Clan Leod's part supporting John MacDonald against Angus Og. William Dubh must have been prisoner then as his son Alasdair was not yet chief of the clan when he withstood the raging MacDonalds and was severely wounded between the shoulders by a battleaxe from which he never really recovered. Thence he was hunchbacked and so comes his name Alasdair Crotach.

16th Century & Clan ConflictsEdit

  • 1560 - The Gallowglass. The MacLeods along with Clan MacLean and Clan MacKay were part of the Gallowglass. A mixture of Scots and Vikings became a ferocious mercenary army who successfully fought for Shane O'Neill in Ireland
  • Battle of the Spoiling Dyke 1578. The Clan MacDonald of Uist barred the doors of Trumpan Church, or Kilconan Church as it was once known, east of the shores of Ardmore Bay. They then set fire to the church full of worshippers. No one escaped alive except one girl who although mortally wounded managed to give the alarm. On hearing the news, the Chief of Clan MacLeod and his men set off for Ardmore bay where a battle ensued. The MacDonalds were killed almost to a man. The corpses of the MacDonalds were dragged along and then buried in a turf dyke, thus the incident being known as the "Battle of the Spoiling Dyke". The atrocity by the MacDonalds was to exact vegeance on the MacLeods for their atrocity of the massacre of MacDonalds in cave on the island of Eigg a couple of years earlier. This again was a tit-for-tat revenge between the two feuding clans.

17th Century Clan Conflicts & Civil WarEdit

  • The Battle of Siol Thormoid in 1601. Donald Gorm MacDonaldof Sleat had married the sister of Sir Rory Macleod of Harris. For some reason Donald Gorm MacDonald did not like his wife. Sir Rory MacLeod sent a message to Donald Gorm MacDonald, asking him to return his sister. Donald Gorm not only refused to obey this request, but also divorced her. He then married the sister of Kenneth MacKenzie, Laird of Kintail. Sir Rory MacLeod took this disgrace (as he thought it) so highly, that, he assembled his men and invaded part of Donald Gorm MacDonald's lands on the Isle of Skye, which lands Sir Rory MacLeod claimed to be his. Donald Gorm MacDonald then assembled his forces, and invaded MacLeod's lands of Harris, which he wasted and spoiled, carried away their store and bestial property, and killed some of the inhabitants. Rory MacLeod and his men traveled with the Siol Thormoid (the MacLeods of Harris)to the Isle of North Uist (which was Donald Gorm MacDonald's). He sent his cousin, Donald Glas MacLeod, with some forty men, to spoil the island, and they also took valuable property which had been stored in a church. John MacIan-MacJames (a kinsman of Donald Gorm MacDonald), accompanied by twenty others, encountered Donald Glas Macleod. After a sharp skirmish, they killed Donald Glas MacLeod, with the most part of his company, and so rescued the goods. Sir Rory, seeing the bad success of his men, retired home for the time being. Both sides continued to steal and slaughter. In the end, Donald Gorm MacDonald assembled his whole forces in the year 1601 and invaded Sir Rory MacLeod's lands drawing them into a fight. Sir Rory Macleod was then in Argyll looking for advice from the Earl of Argyll against the Clan MacDonald. Alexander MacLeod (Sir Rory's brother) resolved to fight with Donald Gorm MacDonald, even though his brother was absent. The battle lasted for the most part of the day, both contending for the victory with great obstinacy. The Clan MacDonald, in the end, defeated their enemies, taking Alexander MacLeod prisoner. The two sides later made peace and Alexander MacLeod was released.

Sir Donald MacLeod, 1st Baronet of SleatEdit

  • In 1608 after a century of feuding which included battles between the Clan MacDonald against the Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacLean all of the relevant MacDonald Chiefs were called to a meeting with Lord Ochiltree who was the King's representative. Here they discussed the future Royal intentions for governing the Isles. The Chiefs did not agree with the King and were all thrown into prison. Donald the Chief of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat was incarcerated in the Blackness Castle. His release was granted when he at last submitted to the King. Donald died in 1616 and then Sir Donald MacLeod, his nephew succeeded as the chief and became the first Baronet of Sleat.
  • After the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650 the defeated James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose surrendered himself to Neil MacLeod of Assynt at Ardvreck Castle. At the time, Neil was absent and it is said that his wife, Christine, tricked Montrose into the castle dungeon and sent for troops of the Covenanter Government. Montrose was taken to Edinburgh, where he was executed on 21 May 1650.
  • During the Civil War as many as 800 MacLeods fought as Royalists at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

18th Century & Jacobite UprisingsEdit

During the 1745 to 1746 Jacobite Uprising the main part of Clan MacLeod supported the British government however a small number of them supported the Jacobites. The chief MacLeod of MacLeod led 500 men of the Clan MacLeod in support of the British government at the second Battle of Inverurie (1745) on the 23rd December 1745. However approximately 120 men of the Clan MacLeod of Raasay fought for the Jacobites and the House of Stuart at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 where they were attached to the Clan MacLachlan and Clan MacLean regiment.The Raasay Macleods were to suffer greatly for their support of the Jacobites and the whole island was burned and pillaged by the redcoats. The MacLeod of Dunvegan Independent Militia harassed the Raasay islanders for many months thereafter.

19th Century, Crimean War & Major, John MacLeodEdit

1865 - During the Crimean War in India, An assault was led on the fortification of Sercunderbah. The Mutineers were the 2nd Battalion of Punjabis. The only Sikhs regiment to mutiny had repulsed 2 attacks by British forces. Sir Colin Campbell, the Gen. in charge, shouts out an order, “Bring out the Tartan, let my own lads at them!” It was the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, Sir Colin’s best-loved regiment. Seven companies led by Pipe Major, John MacLeod and seven other pipers ran forward playing the tune “The Haughs of Cromdell”. The attack carried the fort. David Mackay won the Victoria Cross by taking the colours of the Punjabis. Later in the day David was shot while attacking a second fort of Shah Neijeef. He was returned to Britain for recovery.

Clan CastlesEdit

The seat of the Chief of the Clan MacLeod has always been at Dunvegan Castle. However the MacLeods have also at one time or another owned and held several other castles, including Ardvreck Castle.

Crests & TartansEdit

Clansmen are identified by the MacLeod clansman's badge, worn as badges or brooches, and by which their loyalty is identified. The badge of MacLeod bears the motto 'HOLD FAST', while that of MacLeod of Lewis is 'I BIRN QUIL I SE', Lewis' motto means "I shine but I do not burn",or "I Burn,While I Watch" while the Harris' means "hold on" and is Norwegian. The badges do not show a separation of clanship, but rather a togetherness, and a shared loyalty to one another.

Clansman's badges are often referred to as "crests" or "clan crests", even though this isn't strictly accurate. A crest is the part of the Arms, worn upon a helmet. The actual crest is the centre part of the badge, the part surrounded by the strap-and-buckle. It is the "twist" (called a "torse") under the crest that attaches to the helmet.

Of course, only proper armigers (people authorized Arms by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms) are allowed to wear the crest alone - in this case, the Chiefs of MacLeod.

A bit about Arms - in Scotland, Arms belong to one person, and one person only - there is no such entity as a "Family Coat of Arms." Using someone's Arms without the permission of that person is punishable under the law, and known as "Usurping Arms." Not only is it morally and socially reprehensible, but to display someone else's Arms could result in significant legal issues. MacLeod clansmen are permitted to wear the "Clansman's Badge", consisting of the crest portion of the Chief's Arms, surrounded by a strap and buckle indicating that the wearer is not in fact the Chief, but beholden to him.

MacLeod of HarrisMacLeod of Lewis (Lewes)
"Hold Fast""I BIRN QUIL I SE"

MacLeod of Harris SeptsEdit


MacLeod of Lewis SeptsEdit








External linksEdit