Clan MacEwen

Clan MacEwen
Crest badge suitable for members of Clan MacEwen.

Clan MacEwen is a Highland Scottish clan. The clan does not have a chief recognized by Lord Lyon King of Arms and as such the clan can be considered an Armigerous clan. The principal clan with the name MacEwen was Clan MacEwen of Otter that was centred on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll.[1] The MacEwens of Otter's traditional ancestry is entwined with several local clans such as Clan Lamont, Clan Maclachlan, Clan MacNeil of Barra, and the MacSweens, all claim descent from Anrothan O'Neill, who left Ireland for Kintyre in the 11th century. All of these clans can claim a further descent from the legendary Niall Noigíallach, High King of Ireland, who lived from the mid 4th century to early 5th century. In the 15th century the MacEwens of Otter lost their lands to the Campbells, and since then the line of chiefs has been untraced. The MacEwens were then known as a broken clan (landless) and followed Clan Campbell.


Clan MacEwen of Otter


Clan MacEwen of Otter claims a descent from Donnsleibhe,[2] who was said to be a descendant of an Irish prince of the O'Neill dynasty named Ánrothán Ua Néill, who left Ireland for Kintyre in the 11th century. He was a son of Áed, son of Flaithbertach Ua Néill, King of Ailech and Cenél nEógain, died 1036. There are several other Argyll clans which claim a descent from this prince—Clan Lamont, Clan Maclachlan, Clan MacNeil of Barra, and also the MacSweens who left Scotland to settle in Ireland in the 14th century.[1] From this descent, these clans claim a further decent from the legendary Niall Noigíallach, High King of Ireland, who lived from the mid 4th century to early 5th century.[1]

The only genealogy to survive, regarding Clan MacEwen of Otter, is the so-called MS 1467, now held in the National Library of Scotland. The Gaelic manuscript was written in 1467 and contains the genealogies of many Scottish clans. Unfortunately for the MacEwens of Otter, today their genealogy within the manuscript is practically unreadable in places.[2] The MS 1467 was uncovered by W.F. Skene in the early 19th century, who transcribed and translated it. The following is his translated transcription for the MacEwens of Otter:

Walter son of, John son of, Ewen son of, Gillespic son of, --- son of, --- son of, Saveran son of, Dunslebhe son of, Aeda Alain called Buirche son of, Anradam son of, Flaherty.[3]

Celtic Scotland

Contradicting Skene's transcription (above), Niall Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll considered the MacEwens of Otter as a branch of the MacSweens, and thus descended from Dugald, son of Suibne (who is thought to have left his name to one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland—Castle Sween).[2]


The chiefs of the clan lived at Otter, on Loch Fyne.[2] Their castle was located on the rocky shore of the loch, near Kilfinan. In 1431–2, during the reign of James I of Scotland, Sween MacEwen of Otter resigned the destination of the Barony of Otter to the heir of the chief of Clan Campbell, after which on Sweens death the barony passed into the hands of the Campbells.[1] From that time on with the loss of their land the MacEwens as a broken clan were dependants on Clan Campbell.[1][4] Since the death of Sween the line of chiefs of the MacEwens of Otter have been untraced.[1] In an Act of Parliament of 1602 the MacEwens are listed beside the MacLachlans and McNeils, as vassals of the Earl of Argyll and answerable to him for their behaviour.[4]

According to the 19th century historian James Logan, in General Wade's statement of the Highland forces engaged in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, the Mac Ewens of the Isle of Skye were recorded with 150 men.[5]

Modern clan symbolism

The MacEwen tartan is very similar to the tartans of the Campbells.[6]
Crest badge

Today, members of Clan MacEwen are permitted to wear a crest badge which shows their allegiance to the clan. Crest badges are of relatively recent origin, and usually consist of strap an buckle surrounding the clan chief's heraldic crest and motto. However, in the case of Clan MacEwen, the crest badge is not derived from the arms of a previous chief of the clan.[1] The crest badge suitable for a member of Clan MacEwen contains the Latin motto: REVIRESCO, meaning "I grow strong again"; and the crest of a trunk of an oak tree sprouting Proper.[7] This modern crest badge is derived from the crest and motto that make up the Arms of the McEwen Baronets (McEwen of Marchmont and Bardrocha).[1][4] These McEwens held lands in Bardrochat in Carrick.[1] The McEwen Baronets may not have any connection with Clan MacEwen of Otter.[1]


The history of Clan MacEwen is very much connected with Clan Campbell. In 1431-2 the lands of MacEwan of the Otter were annexed to the Campbells, and the clan was absorbed by Clan Campbell.[1] Later in the 17th century, the chief of the Campbells, the Earl of Argyll, was made answerable for the actions of his vassals which included the MacEwens. Perhaps not surprisingly the MacEwen tartan resembles that of the Campbells—in particular it similar to the Campbell of Loudon tartan (except for the red stripe).[6][8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Iain (1967). The Highland Clans. London: Barrie & Rocklif. pp. 99–100. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sellar, W.D.H. (1971). "Family Origins in Cowal and Knapdale". Scottish Studies, Vol. 15, Edinburgh. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  3. ^ Skene, William Forbes (1886). Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban. 3. Edinburgh: D. Douglas. p. 474. 
  4. ^ a b c "MacEwen". Archived from the original on 18 April 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  5. ^ Logan, James (1850). The Scotish Gaël (sic!) (5th American ed.). Hartford: Silas Andrus and Son. p. 77. 
  6. ^ a b "Tartan - MacEwen /MacEwan". Scottish Tartans World Register. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  7. ^ Way of Plean, George; Squire, Romilly (2000). Clans & Tartans. Glasgow: HarperCollins. p. 182. ISBN 0-00-472501 8. 
  8. ^ Stewart, Donald Calder (1974). The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, with descriptive and historical notes (2nd revised ed.). London: Shepheard-Walwyn. p. 74. ISBN 0 85603 011 9. 

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