What Does “McClellan” Mean?

Someone recently arrived at my blog by googling “what does mcclellan mean.” It’s an interesting story, so I thought I’d share it. The most traditional spelling, MacLellan, is based on a Gaelic phrase, Mac Gille Fhaolain, which means “son of the servant of St. Filan.” Filan is based on a Celtic word for “wolf.”

My ancestry is first attested in Galloway, Scotland, in the 13th century. A charter from 1217 that is now lost is said to mention Duncan MacLellan. The MacLellan castle still stands in Kirkcubright, but it’s fairly gutted and doesn’t belong to the clan anymore. During William Wallace’s time in France after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, MacLellan of Bombie was a close supporter.

The coat of arms to the left shows the motto, “Think On,” which also has an interesting story behind it. In the 15th century, Sir William MacLellan hunted down and killed a notorious criminal called the Black Morrow. There are several theories as to who this was, but despite the Moor’s head on the coat of arms, the Black Morrow doesn’t seem to have been a Moor. According to the tradition, Sir William brought the head of Black Morrow to the king, demanding the reward for his capture. When the king said he didn’t think there was a reward offered, Sir William responded, “Think on!”

The clan maintains a cohesive membership to this day. Their website is here. When I finish my degree at Oxford my family and I are planning a trip up to Galloway to find some official tartan, go visit MacLellan castle, and then shoot over to St. Andrews to play the Old Course and see if I can get out of Hell Bunker.


4 responses to “What Does “McClellan” Mean?

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