In the event that the original copy of The Account of McLea ever disappears from the web, I decided to repost it here in its entirety. Thanks to Don MacLeay for posting it originally! I don't know if the internal links will work or not, but I'll post for now and edit later... Kyle=

An Account of the Name of McLea

By Thos McLea, Edinburgh Scotland

From a book…., (Verbatim, all spellings and grammar retained)

Research by Donald Macleay, Fredericksburg VA

(Footnotes are highlighted as hyperlinks to the bottom of the page.)


By the courtesy of the Lord Lyon this account of the McLeas is printed from a MS. In the Lyon Office. It gives a good deal of information about that clan.

 Copy from the original in the handwriting of Mr. Duncan McLea, Minister at Dull, furnished by Doctor Archibald McLea (1), Minister at Rothsay, his son, 26 May, 1806

 At Dull, Jan 3, 1743

Lindsaig or Leavinsaig in the Parish of Kilfinan, Lordship of Cowall and Sheriffdome of Argyle, is a six merk land of old extent, in the Baillrie of the twenty pound Land of Ardmernock (2) wherein are these lands, Rehleck, Barpuntag, Achnaha, Darinacoauch-more and Darinacoauch-beg, Lindsaid and Cramunichan which now belongs to Lindsaig but originally to the Maclachlans of Barpuntag and Achnaha, but was bought and adjoined to Lindsaig some little time ago by the McLeas of Lindsaig.

And I, Mr. Duncan McLea, Minister at Dull, being resolved to transmit to posterity what I know of the name of McLea as far as my own personal information leads me to, or knowledge can attain to; and I reckon it a piece of Justice to the House, and in particular to the family of Lindsaig, of whom I am lineally descended, to be as full and particular in the account that I am to give of them as I can. This family of the McLeas of Lindsaig have been in that corner without interruption for the most part, for the space of about seven hundred years before this time, and it is remarkable that there is no account who had the lands of Lindsaig in possession before that of the McLeas possest them, tho' they are but a Cadet of another family, as shall be told afterwards. And in giving an account of the McLeas, it may be thought proper to describe them in the first place by giving an account of the original of the name, their antiquity and descent, as far as my information leads me.--And first, as to the original of the name. In some old papers belonging to the Family of Lindsaig, if I remember right, it is written 'Leave' or 'McO Leave' Whether this way of expressing the name has proceeded from the Irish way of expressing the name, or from their manner of writing it at that time, I know not, tho' near this hundred years bypast, it is written and exprest by McLea.

  As to the Original of the name of McLea, (3) some derive it from Slee or Shavdh, from the place they lived in, in Ireland, they having come at first from Ireland, it being on a Hill or Mountain side that they lived there; and there have been some of the name called Dunslee, or Dunshavdh, or Dunslee McOLea, after the Irish way of expressing it, putting the Scots and Irish way together in the expression.

Others again derive the name from Leigh- Doctor, Physician or Surgeon: and for proof of this, there are some Surgeon's instruments drawn upon the Gravestones belonging to the McLea's of Lindsaig in the Kirkyard of Kelfinan upon the north side of the Kirk there, the designation of the Family being Barron McLea, and it was one of the Barrons of Lindsaig the last that was burried within the Kirk of Kilfinan under their own seat within the Kirk there. And after the Act of Parliament (4) discharging Burrials within the Kirk, they made choice of the northside of the Kirk in the Kirkyard just opposite to the lands of Lindsaig.

As also there was one McLea a Surgeon, who himself and his forebearers for several generations had been Physician in Ordinary to the Family of Lamont, whose house, yeard and kiln, the ruins and remains thereof, are yet to be seen where the mansionhouse of the family of Lamont was at that time at Inveryn, and which Surgeon had also in property the five merk land of Achnaskioch (5) which is now possest by one of the name of Stewart, and the present Achnaskioch is but the third of the name that possesses it since the Surgeon McLea sod it. And this present Lamont's Great Grandfather was the person that turned the then McLea of Achnaskioch off from his being his Surgeon and Physician in Ordinary, upon which McLea of Achnaskioch prophesied that there should never be another Lamont lineally descended after his son to succeed him. For this present Lamont is but a son of Lamont of Kilfinan who was a natural son of Lamont's. and who was married to Lamont of Stealag his eldest Daughter, which Stealag was Lamont's Brother's son, who had no Male Children but Daughters, and so this present Laird of Lamont is Lamont's and Stealag's Grandchild.

And after McLea, Surgeon to the Laird of Lamont, had sold the Lands of Achnaskioch, he bought the Lands of Finbaccan (6) in Strathechag, and thereafter sold these lands also, and went to Glasgow and practised Surgery there, and bought a Cless of Houses there, which being burnt in the great Burning that happened sometime ago at Glasgow, (7) and he dying without any Male Children to succeed him, the ground of the houses fell in to the City of Glasgow, and he leaving but two Daughters, they were left upon the King's charity and lived to a great age and both died unmarried at Edinburgh.

Others derive the name of McLea form Leavensitdh, a Reader, and thus several of that name have been in several stations in the Church, There was a Popish Bishop of the name of McLea that built the Castle of Auchindoun in Lessmore, the name and designation of the Popish and Praelatical Bishops of Argyle being called Bishops of Lessmore, Episcopus Lissmorensis, and the Kirk officer there, from Father to Son these several Generations bypast, is McLea, who hath heritably one half of a merk land for being Beadle or Kirk officer there, and who hath still the Bishop's club (8) akeeping and who is therefore called Baron Bachuill to this day and the last Popish priest that served at the Provostry of Kilmun in Cowal was McLea, and there are and have been several of the name of McLea Priests in Ireland.

It is very ordinary for the McLea's to call themselves 'Livingston" when they come or go to the low country.(9) What is or hath been the occasion of this, I cannot well tell, but it is very ordinary for the 'Livingstons' in the low Country to be very kind to the 'McLeas', and to reckon themselves to have come of the 'McLeas' in the Highlands, and it is alledged upon the Highlanders that for ordinary they have two names, as the McLea's have -- that of 'McLea' in the Highlands, and 'Livingston' in the low country. I remember to have seen one Malcolm McLea who at that time was called Callum Dall and begging, and who had been a Soldier at the battle of Philliphaugh where the Highlanders were defeat, and he being wounded and coming to the Callander, near Falkirk, as he was stragling homeward to the Highlands and begging, and being required what name he was of, answered that he was of the name of McLea; upon which the then Lord Callender (10) who also was Earl of Linlithgow and Livingston, ordered a Surgeon to be sent for from Falkirk, and he to be taken care of at the Callander and kept there for three-quarters of a year, until his wound was cured, and then sent him home to the Highlands and called his son, the then Lord Callander and Linlithgow, and told him that tho' their family at that time made a figure in the world, and that tho' the McLea's in the Highlands made no great figure there, yet that their family were descended of the McLea's in the Highlands, and that at whatever place he met with any of the name of McLea that he should always reckon them as his own name, Livingston, and that he should be kind to them.

It is further remarkable that the name of McLea are and have been scattered up and down the Highlands and elsewhere, and have taken to themselves several other names and designations wherever I have found them or heard tell of them, but all of them own themselves to be originally McLea -- The few of them that are in the head of Banffshire call themselves Mc o Lea or Mc o Lei. In and about Glasgow they call themselves McCloo; In Perthshire the few of them that are there, some of them call themselves McPhetie who, as I am told, take that designation from the first of their name who came to Appin of Dull and was a servant to the then Laird of Weem, and his descendants call themselves McPhetie, his name being Peter of Patrick; but all of them own themselves to be Livingston but own they are McLea's. Others also of them call and design themselves Gorm, the first of them that came to Perthshire having had that designation and yet also own themselves Livingston and that they are come of the McLeas of Argyleshire. And there are some others of them call themselves McKenzies, being in the Earl of Seaforth's Country and under his Lordship there, as shall be afterwards told in this account, yet own themselves originally to be McLea's.

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 been 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 and that the McLea's were always followers of the McDugalds, as shall be told afterwards in the proper place. (11)

I have heard that the McLea's possest Strathchonnen in the North and that they are always as yet in possession of it, and that the whole of that Strath are for the most part McLea's, both man and wife, or either the man or the wife, and that the McLea to whom Stratchonnen belonged, died without heirs male and had one only daughter, and who being heiress of Stratchonnen [sic] and that one of the Earls of Scaforth married this heiress, and that Stratchonnen [sic] now belongs to the Earl of Scaforth who, since that time, keeps the McLea's in their former possession of Stratchonnen,, who generally at this time call themselves McKenzies, tho' they own and acknowledge themselves to be originally McLeas. – There was also the family of Auchindoun in Lissmore of whom I suppose the Bishop McLea descended, who built the Castle of Auchindoun, of which family I can give no particular accounts, being utterly a stranger to it, and was never in that place of the Country, being never in Lissmore. – There was also the family of the McLeas of Faisnacloich (12) in Muckairn which is now called Stonefield, who wanting children, and a son of the family of Lochnell being yellfostered in his house (a common old custom in Argyleshire that sons of familys there of greater note used to be yellfostered in Gentlemen's houses of lower and enferior degree). He gave his Lands of Fcashnacloich to a son of Lochnell's who was fostered in the house, of whom the present Sheriff or [sic]Argyle (Campbell of Stonefield) is descended and who is designed as above. And it is said that the forty merk land of Lochnell belonged to McLea of Lochnell who, not having issue of his own, disponed his Lands of Lochnell to a son of the family of Argyle who was called John Gorm Campbell, of whom the present Lochnell is descended who is but the fifth or sixth out of the family of Argyle.

There were also the McLeas of Achnacree (13) of whom the family of Lindsaig is descended, who were possest of the Lands of Achnacree for a long time, and who made the longest appearance in that corner of any of the McLeas there, until that McLea of Achnacree made a second marriage with one, Campbell of Dannah's daughter to whom he gave the lands of Achnacree in jointure, and he having six or sever sons by a former marriage, and he having not got his tocher with Dannah's Daughter and dying and leaving nothing to his sons and having given his Lands in jointure to his wife, They would not allow her to possess the Lands of Achnacree until they got payment of her Tocher, and she having complained to the then Ardkinglass who was her friend and relation and was at the time Sheriff of Argyle, and he doing diligence against them for possessing her of her jointurelands, McLea of Achnacree his sons went to Rosneath, which at that time belonged to Campbell of Ardkinglass and burnt his Lands there. Upon which, there being Letters of Fire and Sword raised against them, they were dispossessed of the Lands of Achnacree, and they were given to Campbell of Rahaen in Roseneath in Compensation of the lands that had been burnt to him, and Campbell of Rahaen gave the Lands of Achnacree to Lochnell in wadsett, which by virtue thereof, the present Lochnell possesses these Lands, and since that time that family is extinct. But before this happened, they tell a story that happened above more than one hundred years ago, as there were at and before that time in Cowal feuds betwixt several families in the Highlands, so the then McDugald and the family of Inveraw were at variance, and both the familys brought all their sons and strenth to the field to fight it fairly and to decide their quarrell by the sword. And both McDougalds and Inveraw with their families friends and followers having taken the field, the McLeas being the followers of McDugald, McLea of Achnacree brought with him four score of the McLeas to McDugald's assistance against Inveraw. But Campbell of Inveraw his eldest son, being Yellfostered in McLea of Achnacree his house (according to the common and antient custom that prevailed in Argyleshire) says to his Father Inveraw, that tho' he was out or at variance with McDugald, yet that he had no quarrell with his Foster-father Achnacree, and that if his Father would be satisfied, he would go to the McDougald's camp and would bring off Achnacree with his McLea's from McDugald. To which Inveraw agreed and said that his doing so would lessen McDugald's force against him and that he had no grudge or quarrell with Achnacree. Upon which Campbell younger of Inveraw went over to McDugald's Camp and brought off Achnacree his Foster father from McDugald and brought him to his Father's camp. And when he was bringing in Achnacree to his father's tent, a Brother of Invernaw drew his dirk and killed Achnacree betwixt his nephew's arms when he was putting him into his father's tent before him: upon which the Fray began, and both the McDugalds and Campbells fell upon one another, and Achnacree and his fourscore McLeas were killed that day upon that spot, and from that day to this time, the McLeas never made any head or appearance, and this was a very great loss to them, so many of them to be killed in one day.

I come now to give an account of the family of Linsaig, the only family of McLea extant in the Highlands. (14) – The last Barron that was upon that interest, as I told formerly, was burried in the Kirk of Kilfinan under his own seat there, who had three sons; and the family of Linsaig being fast friends to the noble family of Argyle and their superiors, went alongst with the then Argyle (15) when he went to reduce the Marquis of Huntly, and they having both met and fought the battle of Altchoinachan in Glenlivet in the head of Banffshire where the then Argyle was defeat, and the Marquis of huntly went immediately after the Battle to King James the Sixth, the then King of Scotland, and got a remission form him. And thereafter the then Argyle that was defeat, went abroad and served for some time as a General under the then King of Spain in his Army, and brought the three sons of Barron McLea of Linsaig alongst with him, who never returned again to Scotland. And Their Father, the then Barron McLea , dying, that Barron's Brother, Donald McLea , being drowned at sea, he left two sons Archibald and Donald McLea, and at that time, they having no friends to take care of them, they were left upon the Minister of Kilfinan one Mr. James Campbell his care, who dying about three-quarters of a year thereafter, after their father Donald McLea's death, who was drowned at sea, all that those two sons got of their uncle's and father's gear and substance, was only but three dollars, according to the money that was then current and in use in Scotland. And both these sons grew up to man's age; Archibald the eldest settled in Campbelltown of Kyntyre, and Duncan the youngest settled in Rothsay in the Isle of Bute. –Upon Argyle's returning to Scotland and being again restored to the King's favour, Linsaig by this time having fallen into the family of Argyle's hands, and all the Lands in Argyleshire descending to heirs male, Argyle sent to the two Brothers desiring that the one or the other of these two Brothers should enter themselves heirs to their uncle, the deceast Barron McLea, and both declining, still expecting that their cousins German, the Barron's Sons, would return home to Scotland, Argyle disposed of the said lands of Linsaig to Dugald Campbell of Glensaddell, and after the family of Argyle and Glensaddell had possest the lands of Linsaig for the space of Forty years or thereby, Archibald McLea says to his eldest son, Donald McLea, Purchase and buy you the Lands of Lindsaig from Dugald Campbell of Glensaddell, and that he would give him a thousand merks to help him. Whereupon Donald McLea , the said Archibald McLea's eldest son, bought it again from Dugald Campbell of Glensaddell, and got a Charter of confirmation of the purchase from Argyle who always had a great favour for Donald McLea of Linsaig, as also the late Duke of Argyle as shall be told in…(16)

Here ends the original manuscript, the rest of it being lost, and Dr. McLea says he could never find it. But from what is here related the following conclusions may be drawn, namely,

That the McLea's came originally from Ireland, alongst with the McDonalds. That their chief place of settlement was in the district of Cowal in Argyleshire. That they were Cadets, or rather followers, of the McDougalls of Lorn. That McLea of Linsaig in the parish of Kilfinan in Cowal seems to have been the chief or head of the Clan, That the Livingstons and McLeas claim alliance to one another, accounting their names synonymous, That McLea is an Irish or Gallic word, some Gallic Interpreters rendering it in English, 'The living son' from which Livingston is derived, and others render it 'the Physician's son' . But there are no arms in Heraldry for McLea properly so termed, so that the arms of Livingston seem to be those that fall to be adopted or the name, and in order to combine therewith the other interpretation of the word, Physician's son (by which the McLea of Linsaig distinguished themselves in the figures of their Gravestones), some chiurgical Instrument or Instruments may be added, such as a Lancet and Phial, or any other medical Insignia that may occur with these word below—Alt—'McLea '—vie 'Living-son,'—vie 'Physician's son.'

The Livingston's of Westquarter, as representing Livingston, Earl of Callander and Linlithgow, attainted, are now the chief of that name and family.

I have often made enquiry about the origin and Etymology of the name and word McLea , and always found the solution to resolve into the above definition.—From the part of the Country in which my own predecessors were settled viz. Killearn and Balfron Parishes in the Southwest parts of Stirlingshire, and from any tradition I could pick up there, I am led to think that they came from Cowal in Argyleshire and were of the McLeas originally settled there.

N.B. The aforesaid Mr. Duncan McLea , Minster at Dull, had three sons, all ministers at one and the same time in one and same Presbytery, viz. Denoon in Argyleshire, -- John (who was reckoned the bigest man in the Country, in so much that hardly any horse could carry him and he was obliged to sit when he preached), Archibald the present minister of Rothsay in Bute who has no children, and Duncan (17)(now deceast) who left Children, one of whom is now at St. Petersburgh in Russia as an Engineer, in high favour with the Emperor Alexander, who is about to confer some title of Honour upon him in the view of which he wished for having enrolled the proper arms of the name.

(Signed) Thos McLea , Writer in Edinburgh.



1. The author was the son of Archibald Maclea in Rothesay. Prior to 1700 he was schoolmaster of Kilmodan, and then of Inveraray. He became minister of Dull in 1717 and died in 1749. He had three sons, of whom the eldest became minister of Lochgoilhead and the youngest minister of Inverchaolain. The second son, Archibald, born in 1738, became minister of Rothesay in 1765, married Isabella Macleod, grand-daughter of Hector Bannatyne of Kames, and died in 1824. The source from which this history of the family emanates is thus to be treated with some respect, though the importance of the sept seems considerably exaggerated. click-back to text

2. Between 1309 and 1326 John de Menteth (the false Menteith) granted to Ewen, son of Finlay (Lamont of Ardlamont), the two penny lands of Lynsay beg and Lynsay more then within his vaussarage of Ardmernog held by him of the Steward of Scotland and that for the service of one bowman in the Common Army of the King of Scotland (Inventory of Lamont Papers, p.9, Scot. Record Soc.). In 1536 these lands were sold by John Lamont to Argyll (ibid., p.44).

3. The oldest form of the name is Maconlea. In a note contributed to Highland Papers vol. Ii p.258, the Duke of Argyle wrote:--'The Maconleas were originally M'Dunleas. The D disappears through euphonistic elision in Gaelic and there is little doubt that their eponymic ancestor was Dunsleve, the son of Aedh Alain, who through his son Suibhne or Swene was also ancestor of the Mac Suibhnes or M'Ewens, the ancient lords of Otter In Cowal and Argyll and of Castle Sween in Knapdale.'

4. This was not an Act of Parliament, but merely an Act of the General Assembly passed in August 1558, and followed by others.

5. On 5 May 1568 Duncan Lamont of Inveryn granted to Robert Stewart his 5 merk land of Auchnaskey on the resignation of John Leiche M'Douiff [sic ]. Crawford MSS. Cited, ibid., p.426.

6. Near Sandbank on the Holy Loch.

7. 1652. In this year there was a great fire in Glasgow by which a great part of the houses in the Saltmarket, Trongate, Gallowgate, and Bridgegate were destroyed. It began on Thursday, 17 June, at 1 o'clock P.m. and lasted till Friday (Glasgow, Ancient and Modern, edited by I.F. S. Gordon, D.D., p. 171).

8. This is the pastoral staff of St. Moluag, known as the bachuill more, which was apparently carried in battle by the Lords of Lorne. A representation of it is given in the Origines Parochiales, vol. ii. p.163, along with a reference to the hereditary keepers and their holding in Lismore.

9. It is curious that the MacanLeighs and the MacGillemichaels of Lismore have both Anglicised or Scotticised their names, the one into Livingston and the other into Carmichael.

10. This seems to have been Alexander, second Earl of Linlithgow: the first Earl of Callendar was his younger brother, Whatever truth there may be in this story, there is no basis in fact for the idea of blood relationship between the McLea's and the Livingstons of Callendar.

11. Several McLea's (McOnlea) were, with numerous MacDougalls, among those prisoners massacred by the Covenanters at Dunaverty at the instigation of the Reverend John Nevoy (vide Highland Papers, vol. ii. P.257).

12. Fasnacloich is in Appin, so this seems a mistake for Achnacloich, which is in Muckairn. This Achnacloich, which belonged to the abbey of Inchaffray, passed into the hands of Archibald Campbell of Lochnell and after him to his grandson by a son of his fourth marriage. This grandson and his descendants were known as the Campbells of Achnacloich or Stonefield, a name which they transferred to lands which they acquired in Knapdale and still possess.

13. According to tradition the McLeas certainly at one time possessed Achnacree in the Benderloch, and tradition is confirmed by the appearance on record of John M'Dunslaif of Achnacre in 1557 (O.P.S. , vol. ii. P.155). They probably held originally under the Lords of Lorne and thereafter under Campbell of Lochnell. Two other versions of how they were disponed are given by Lord Archibald Campbell in Records of Argyll, pp. 114-17

14. In the Valuation of Argyll for 1751 Alexander M'Lea of Lindsaig appears as proprietor of the 3 merk land of Cramunachan, the 2 merk land of West Lindsaig, and the 3 merk land of East Lindsaig and Tayinluig and the Corn Miln of Linsaig, the total valued rent being L16, 25s.

15. Gilleasbuig Gruamach, the seventh Earl. For information about him vide Highland Papers, vol. iii. p.93. Having returned to the Catholic Church he was forfeited and had to leave the country. Although his forfeiture was rescinded, he never returned to Scotland. He died in London in 1638.

16. On 26 December 1634 Archibald M'Enlay, eldest son and heir of Donald Moir Maconlay, obtained from Lord Lorne a precept for infefting him in the 6 merk land of Lindsaig. On 4 January 1647-8 Katharine Uchiltree, spouse to Donald Mor M'Onlay, was infeft in Lindsaig on precept by Archibald, Marquis of Argyll.


17. According to the Fasti Ecalesine Scoticanae, vol. iv. P.27 Duncan M'Lea, the minister of Inverchaolain, had a son Duncan in service of Emperor of Russia, born 2 Jan. 1773.

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