__________________Some History___________________

Clan MacEwen - Both A Clan and A Protectorate

The Story of Clan MacEwen

Although of ancient origin, there are few authentic records of this clan. Records from 1450 show that the Clan MacEwen, together with the Clan Neill and the Clan Lachlan, formed the Siol Gillevray of the Gallgael. The genealogy proves that Clan MacEwen existed long before 1450 and that they were known as the MacEwens of Otter.

The Reverend Alexander McFarlane, minister of the parish of Kilfinan, writing in 1794, states that On a rocky point on the coast of Loch Fyne about a mile below the church of Kilfinan is seen the vestige of a building called MacEwens Castle. This MacEwen was a Chief of a clan and proprietor of Otter. The MacEwen lands were located on the southern shore of Loch Fyne with the Lamonts to the south, separated by the River Kilfinnan, and the MacLachlans to the north where the terrace slopes looked down onto Otter Spit and the stream divides the parishes of Kilfinnan and Strathlachlan.

Ewen of Otter, who gives his name to the clan, lived at the beginning of the thirteenth century. His name is derived from Eoghan which translates from the Gaelic as Born of the Yew Tree. Gillespic, 5th of Otter, flourished about a century later. In 1174, Malcolm MacEwen witnessed the charter by Malcolm, the Second Earl of Atholl, of the church of Dul to Saint Andrews. In 1219, Gilpatrik MacEwen was listed as one of the perambulators for the lands of Kynblathmund.

MacEwen tradition holds that the MacEwens supported Somerled in his stand against the Scottish crown's campaign to secure the western seaboard. They suffered severely when Alexander II campaigned against Argyll in 1222.

Swene MacEwen, 9th and last of Otter (the last Chief), granted, in 1432, lands of Otter to Duncan Campbell of Lochow in repayment for overdue loans, and resigned the Barony of Otter to James I. It was returned to him until his death with remainder to Celestine, son and heir of Duncan Campbell. In 1493, James V confirmed the barony of Otter to Colin Campbell, Second Earl of Argyll and thereafter Otter remained in possession of the Campbells.

The manner in which the Clan MacEwen lands were lost suggests that Swene MacEwen was a victim of the Campbell facility to exploit the law to their own benefit at the detriment of simpler neighbors.

Without lands, the MacEwens became a broken clan and found their way to many districts. Many settled in the lands of their cousins an neighbors - the MacLachlans. A large number are known to have settled in Lennox County while others went further afield to Lochaber, Perth, Skye and the Lowlands, including Galloway. Other MacEwens stayed where they were swearing allegiance to the Earl of Argyll, some eventually becoming hereditary bards and sennachies to the Campbell Chiefs of Glenorchy. Finally, other MacEwens settled along the shores of Loch Lomond, probably before the end of the 15th century. Records from around 1513 indicate that the MacEwens had been pretty well dispersed from their homeland. Another

MacEwen tradition claims that they fought on the side of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the battle of Langside in 1568. History does show that the last witch to be put to death in Scotland was Elspeth MacEwen. She was executed in Kirkcudbright in 1698. In addition, one MacEwen family held title to Barmolloch in Lorne around this time.

Five Hundred Years of Protection

As with any refugee population, many of the displaced MacEwens turned to their relatives for assistance. This included the MacLachlans, who, historically, are direct cousins. Five hundred years ago, the Chief of Clan MacLachlan offered protection to their homeless kin in exchange for allegiance to the Clan. For the past 500 years, Clan MacLachlan has continued to serve in this role as protectorate to their MacEwen cousins.

To this day, unless a particular MacEwen family can be shown as not having sought protection from the MacLachlans, MacEwens desiring to join Clan MacLachlan will be openly accepted as part of Clan MacLachlan. This relationship has recently been confirmed by Sir Malcolm of Edingight, the Lord Lyon.

Why a Protectorate and Not a Sept?

As can be seen in the above history, Clan MacEwen was independent until Swene MacEwen used the lands of Otter, and his title, as collateral for a loan he was ultimately unable to repay. As a result, these lands were forfeited upon Swene's death. The situation is made more tragic since no record of Swene's having an heir can be found.

The loss of both the lands and the Chief's title meant that Clan MacEwen was to become a broken clan upon Swene's death.

During this period in Scotland's history, the Highlands were a feudal state. Land "ownership" as associated with the Chief - and not the general populace. If the Chief was displaced, so were all of the clan members. Swene MacEwen's loss of his land resulted in the loss of the right to live on the land for all of the clan members. (Individuals that were forced to leave their homes in this manner are sometimes referred to as children of the mist.

Without a Chief to lead and speak for the displaced MacEwen families, no oath of allegiance could be made between the MacEwens and the Chief of another clan. Without this formal oath, the displaced MacEwen families could not create the traditional sept relationship.

The MacEwen Massacre - A Popular Legend

History has embellished the story of Clan MacEwen's loss of title and lands to include both deception and treachery on the part of the Campbells. While the historical facts do not agree with this legend, its telling is amusing and worth presentation here.

It seems that Swene was suffered from many of the vices common to his day. He had a weakness for whiskey, wine and wagering. As a consequence to his unsatiable appetite for these vices, he quickly squandered his Clan's inheritance and needed to borrow money. So, he turned to the only Clan that was willing to loan him money - the infamous Campbells.

The Duke of Argyll, realizing he was dealing with a weak individual, refused to loan Swene any money unless Swene agreed to use his lands and his title as collateral. He also insisted on a repayment schedule that was essentially impossible to meet. Being desperate, Swene finally agreed to these devastating terms hoping the future would change his luck.

Realizing he was rapidly sinking into financial ruin, Swene decided to examine the only options left to him. Since he could not afford to continue repaying the outlandish duties forced upon him by the Duke, he decided to withhold payments and try to negotiate with the Duke for better terms. When the Duke refused to renegotiate the terms, Swene decided to withhold payments to force a renegotiation. This only succeeded in angering the Duke further. After a period of time, the Duke decided the time had come for him to meet with Swene in an effort to convince the Chief of the MacEwens it was time to pay his debts.

Since the MacEwen stronghold at Otter and the Duke's home at Inverary were some distance apart, the meeting of these two Chiefs represented a lengthy journey that would require planning and an overnight stay. The Duke proposed that Swene and his MacEwen entourage should travel to the Campbell stronghold to discuss Swene's financial plight. Swene, thankful to have a chance to finally present his case, was confident he could work out a compromise. He quickly agreed to the meeting.

On the evening following the MacEwen's arrival at Inverary, the Duke held a Ceilidh (feast) to honor their guests. While at the feast, the MacEwens were encouraged to imbibe freely of the whiskey and wine, which they did. After the MacEwens had become intoxicated beyond resistance, the Campbells proceeded to massacre them. With most of the MacEwens having been murdered, the Campbells were free to march into Otter and take possession of the lands with minimal resistance.

Those few MacEwens that survived fled their homes and sought protection from their neighbors, the MacLachlans.

Of course, one must also add the lesson learned from this story:

If you are ever invited to the home of a Campbell for dinner, beware!

The following History of the Clan Ewen by the late R.S.T. MacEwen,
Barrister-at-law, Lincoln's Inn, and sometimes Recorder of Rangoon.
Published in Glasgow. 1904. John Mackey. the Celtic Monthly. Office: I
Blythewood Drive.*******************The ancient Clan of Ewen or MacEwen of
Otter, Eoghan na-h-Oitrich, which once possessed a stronghold of its own,
was one of the earliest of the western clans sprung from the Dalriado Scots.
The year 503 is usually said to mark the commencement of the reign of their
first king in Argyllshire; but little of their history is known prior to the
foundation of the Scottish monarchy in the middle of the ninth century. The
MacEwens possessed a tract of country about twenty five miles square, and
could probably bring out 200 fighting men. MacEwen I of Otter, the earliest
chief of the clan of whom there is any mention, flourished about 1200. so
late as 1750 it is recorded in the "Old Statistical Account of the Parish of
Kilfinnan". "On a rocky point on the Loch Fyne there stood in 1700 the ruins
of Castle MacEwen (Caist Mhic-Eoghain), the stronghold of the earlier lords
of the Otter." Skene quotes in the manuscript which contains the genealogy
of clan Eoghain na-h-Oitrich, or Clan Ewen, the MacEwens are derived from
Anradan, the common ancestor of the MacLachlans and MacNeills. In 1431-32,
Swene MacEwen IX of Otter granted a charter of certain lands of Otter to
Duncan, son of Alexander Campbell. In 1575, another Archibald Campbell
appears 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 Campbell's, and the MacEwens became more than ever "children of the
mists." Mr. Lovat Fraser, in his "Highland Chief" in the Celtic Monthly,
says the MacEwens became hereditary bards of the Campbells. There were other
MacEwen poets and bards in the different parts of the country. One lived in
Inverness-Shire. The bard had a stipend paid out of every plough land, and
the chief was called "King of the Bards." The name was spelled MacKewin and
McEwen between 1625 and 1680. In 1568, they are said to have joined the
Standard of Queen Mary. The Lennox Sept received grants of land in the
district of which they gave their names. Under Lennox they are said to have
fought at Langside in 1568, where they received a banner which seems to have
gone the way of many other ancient clanbanners. 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 McEwen burying grounds that a man of the clan carried
the coffin under one arm and the lid under the other from the lock to the
churchyard of Luss. A descendant of one of these families who died in 1898
at the age of seventy-eight said, "These McEwens certainly belong to
Dumbartonshire on Loch Lomond and had been there for many generations .The
name in olden days was spelled with the A--McEwan. All the old tombstones
not claimed by families living in the parish were destroyed year ago, so
there is no memorial left of this branch of the old McEwen race. "There are
numerous families and persons bearing the clan name at the present day
(1945) in Dumbarton, Stirling, Clackmannan, Renfrew, Lanark, Ayr, on the
banks of the Clyde, and in the surrounding districts .In the family burying
ground in St. Ninian's churchyard, Stirling, a stone bears the date of 1614.
In the old family Bibles and in the burying place in Leswaet churchyard,
near Stranraer, the name is spelled in various ways, McEwen, Mc-Keown,
McEwing, McEwan, and in late times McEwen, the form now generally adopted.
There is an old seal in the family showing an oak tree springing into leaf
again with the motto "Reviresco" over it. It was used by Robert McEwen in
his lifetime, but is of much older date. If Keltie and the historian, quoted
by Sir Walter Scott, are correct, the MacEwens in their early wonderings had
first settled in Lochaber, and were the porogenitors of the later Camerons.
This would account for the name among the Camerons as early as the
thirteenth century. Cameron's was of the same race, and may have been from
the same tribe. The Ewen, while it has been common in the Cameron families
and in Lochaber, is rare among the neighboring clans of the district who
were connected with the Cameron's under Moravian rule. The Privy council
Records afford further of this close intermixture of McEwens and Camerons.
some years later we find these MacEwens allied with the outlawed
Mac-Gregors. In 1612, there is an order to denounce John Cameron McVc Ewen
in Errach and others for refusing to concur with Lochiel against the
rebellious thieves and lymmaris of the Clan Gregor. Again in the same year,
several McEwens are fined for resetting and defending Clan Gregor. In the
following year there is a solemn proclamation against Allen Cameron of
Licheil, for not taking measures against the MacGregors, the preamble
declaring that he made shipwraik of his faith and promisit obedience,
shaking off all feir of God and his prince and reverence of the lae. In
consequence of an old feud between the Camerons and the Robertsons of
Struan, Sir Ewen Cameron, in 1666, marched with eighty men to Struans lands
in Kinloch, and raided the Robertsons. Among them were two MacEwen
Camerons, John and Duncan, dhuine vassels. This formed the subject of a
trial before the Privy Council. From an early date, a branch of the MwEwens
appears to have been settled in Perthshire, probably in the Kenmore
district, and a curious legend is connected 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 center. 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. This legend has been
kindly furnished by Dr. David MacEwan, who obtained it in 1847 from an
octogenarian soldier of the name of MacEwan. 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. About this time (circa 1370) also lived
Kenneth Macewn, father of Parson. In 1569, the laird of Mackintosh leased to
Donald MacEwen, alias Cameron, and John, his brother, the lands of Glenlui
and Lockarkaig A considerable body of MacEwens 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 1715,
there were 150 MacEwens 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 by documental evidence,
that 120 of the Skye MacEwens fought for Prince Charlie at Culloden. The
name Ewen is a distinctive, ancient, and not very common name derived from
the Gaelic Eoghan, meaning "kind-natured" (Latin, Eugenius)> Clan names from
the personal or first names 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. It would, however, be ridiculous
to hold at the present day that all persons bearing a clan name are
necessarily descendants of the old clansman. Clan Ewen was a small clan
which was dispersed at a remote period, and therefore the only means of
identifying present day holders of the name is by tracing the old clansmen
to the districts and localities where the name survives. This name alone
furnishes several variations---viz., Ewan, Ewen, Ewing, MacEwan, MacEwen,
McDwan, Macewin, MacKewan, McKewan, McKeon, McEwing, McAine, etc. The
original clan name, of course, is Ewen. Skene and the other authorities so
spell it, and the later forms of the same name, and those most common at the
present day, are Ewen, Ewing, MacEwan, and MacEwen, and the abridged form of
the two latter. K is the common Irish form. 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 McEwan, Glasgow, is an
instance in point in his arms was granted in 1847. The escutcheon displayed
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 much
earlier period. The MacEwen tartan is a handsome blue and green check with
red and yellow lines alternately on the green bars of the check. It somewhat
resembles the Ferquarson and MacLeod tartans, or if in place of the said
white lines in the "Campbell of Loudon" red lines be substituted, we get the
MacEwens' tartan exactly. the groundwork of the MacEwen tartan is the same
as the "Black Watch", and the Campbell of Loudon (red in lieu of white
lines) points to the early connections of the clan with the Campbell's, just
as in the heraldry ensigns and cadences point to connection and distinction
in families. In early times the tartan took the place of the heraldic

Some Views of McEwen Castle Site on the Shores of Loch Fyne