Does the MacLea or McLea family in Scotland form a "Clan"?


The Highland Clan MacLea, as it is known, is also referred to as the Clan MacOnlea, Clan Mac Dhunnshleibhe or the "highland Livingstone" clan. The term "highland Livingstone" is used in order to distinguish MacLea clan Livingstones from the many lowland families who carry the same surname.

The clan seat is Bachuil, Isle of Lismore, Argyll, Scotland. Bachuil is named after the Bachuil Mor or Great Staff of St. Moluag who arrived on Lismore in 562. The clan is centred on the old abbey lands of Lismore and Appin.

The clan Chief is, currently in 2006, Alastair Livingstone of Bachuil, Chief of the Highland Clan MacLea, Coarb of St Moluag, Hereditable Keeper of the Great Staff of St. Moluag, Baron of the Bachuil 'by the Grace of God,' Alasdair Mconlea na Maconlea agus Bachuil, Baran a’ Bhachuill and is so recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, chief heraldic officer of Scotland.

There are several branches, or cadets, of the Clan MacLea. They are:

  • Livingstone/MacLea of Achnacree

  • Livingstone/MacLea of Lochnell

  • Livingstone/MacLea of Achnacloich

  • McLea of Lindsaig, descended from the McLeas of Achnacree

  • McLea of Ach na skioch

  • McLea of Strathconnon

It is my current hypothesis that our MacLeas descend from the MacLeas of Bute, who are believed to be descended from the McLeas of Lindsaig and in turn the MacLeas of Achnacree. You can read more about this theory on the Ancient Origins page.

The clan is descended from the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, represented by the Scottish lion ("Or, a lion rampant gules" in the first quarter of the Chief's arms). Saint Moluag, who came from within this kingdom, passed his staff and authority down through his tribe in traditional Brehon succession, and the keepers of this staff became the MacLea clan (represented as "Argent, a dexter hand couped at the wrist Gules, holding a cross crosslet fitchée Azure," the blue cross being the symbol of St. Moluag, in the second and third quarters of the Chief's arms).

"As to the antiquity of the name of McLea, it is generally thought that they are amongst the eldest of the Macks that came from Ireland to Scotland when the Scots first possest Scotland, and they are at this time so old that they are almost worn out. It is commonly reported that they came over from Ireland with the McDonalds who are reckoned to be amongst the eldest Macks in Scotland. I remember to have seen in Company several years ago where McDugald of Dunollich whose ancestors were called McDugalds of Lorn or Lairds of Lorn, Lamont of Stealag who afterwards became Lamont of that Ilk, and McAlister of Tarbert, and several of these were present, where the said McDugald owned, by the best accounts that ever he had or had heard, that the McLeas were three hundred years older in Lorn than the McDugalds had been; and the reason why I mention this, is because that the McDugalds of Lorn were the greatest family of note and made the greatest appearance in the world in their time in Lorn ….." Extract from the McLea manuscript written by Mr. Duncan McLea, Minister at Dull, at Dull, Scotland, January 3, 1743.

For information on the origin of the name MacLea, read its own page.
More information is available on its spelling and pronunciation, as well.