Clan MacLaren has, along with Ferguson and Stewart of Ardvolich, occupied the lands in Balquhidder and Strathearn since the 12th Century, where they were the predominant clan. The name derived from Labhran (Laurin) of Achtoo who was hereditary Abbot of Achtus in Balquhidder in the 13th Century. The MacLarens signed the Ragman’s Roll in 1296. In the 14th Century they became Crown tenants without actual ownership of the land. The MacLarens were a warlike clan with strong ties to the Stewarts of Appin. The Clan fought at Flodden in 1513, and suffered severely at Culloden with the Jacobites, on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie, in 1746. Sir Walter Scott visited Balquhidder on legal business, which he describes in the introduction to “Rob Roy”. In “Redgauntlet” he describes the escape of MacLaren of Invernenty after Culloden.
In 1672, after many official records were lost, an Act of Parliament ordained that all nobility and gentry in Scotland register their armorial bearings with the Lord Lyon. Because of the earlier loss of the legal title to Clan lands, the then chiefly head of the Clan Labhran, and his successors, did not trouble to register his arms. The result was that the Clan became officially chiefless and landless pending compliance with the Act. Of course the Clan continued to recognize its own chiefs, and during the Jacobite rising came out as a Clan. In 1957, Donald MacLaren (father of the current Chief) finally complied with the Act by recording the ancient Arms in the Lord Lyon Register. The Chief also acquired title to a small part of the traditional Clan lands including the ancient gathering site of Creag an Tuirc) and the stigma of “chiefless and landless” was removed.
The heartland of the Clan MacLaren lies in and around the parish of Balquhidder, and the hills that slope north from Loch Voil and Loch Doine, which are known as the famous Braes o’ Balquhidder. The parish is 18 miles long and 7 miles wide, and includes the west end of Loch Earn and most of Loch Lubnaig. The ruined Kirk of the village is dated 1631, and lies near the site of an even earlier church. The present church was built in 1855. Graves in the kirk yard date from 1685 and include that of Rob Roy MacGregor. The ancient rallying place of the Clan was Creag an Tuirc (The Boar’s Rock), which is on a small hill overlooking the Kirk, and can be approached by a fairly steep path. In 1987 the Clan Society erected a cairn to commemorate the founding of the Society.
Another branch of the Clan was connected with Tiree and included the distinguished mathematician, Professor Colin MacLaren. This branch is now dormant.
Chief of Clan MacLaren
The current Chief of Clan Labhran is Donald MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine. Donald, who was a member of the British Foreign Service, succeeded his father as Chief of the Clan at his father’s death. Donald and his wife, Maida, have five children, Donald Og, Florian, Louis, Iona, Marina. Donald and Maida live at their Kirton Farm in Balquhidder Glen. The Coat of Arms of MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine is reserved solely for the use of the Chief. The “crest badge” consisting of the belted MacLaren Chief’s Crest with laurel leaves and the motto “Creag an Tuirc” on the belt is worn by all clan members. This “crest badge” is reproduced, in an approved form, on printed matter in black and white and also in a colored version which has been approved for use by the Chief and the Lord Lyon’s court.
Clan MacLaren Societies
Donald MacLaren, father of the current chief, conceived the idea of a Clan MacLaren Society in Scotland (CMSS). The Clan MacLaren Society was organized in Scotland in 1962. The Clan MacLaren Society in Scotland is the International Body of the Society with more than 12 countries having clan society members registered. Any Clan member may join this group.
As interest in Clan MacLaren spread, the Clan MacLaren Society USA was chartered in Texas in 1967. The Clan MacLaren Society USA was strictly focused on genealogy, and they compiled a vast amount of information. The Society dissolved in 1979, having met the original goal of assembling a storehouse of MacLaren genealogy. The Clan MacLaren Society of North America (CMSNA) was chartered in Georgia in 1981. The Clan MacLaren Society of Australia was founded in 1985.