This surname was derived from the Gaelic MacPharlain, the son of Parlan. Loch Lomond district was the home of several war-like clans, and none more war-like than the MacFarlanes, who claim the moon as their lantern, and who trace their descent from Gilchrist, brother of Maldowen, 3rd of the ancient Earls of Lennox in the 13th century. Duncan, 6th chief of the clan, obtained the lands of Arrochar from the Earl of Lennox, and in 1395 he acquired the adjoining lands by marriage. On the death of the last of the Old Earls of Lennox, without male issue, MacFarlane claimed the title and lands. The conferring of the Earldom on Sir John Stewart of Darnley, led to a long enmity between the contesting families that terminated only when a cadet of the MacFarlanes married a daughter of the Earl of Lennox in the 15th century. In the following century the clan found an outlet for their war-like spirit in supporting the Earls of Lennox, and Duncan MacFarlane of Tarbet, who was afterwards killed at the Battle of Pinkie,is described as being in command of 150 men who spoke Gaelic (Irish) and the English-Scottish tongue, well armed in shirts of mail, with bows and two-handed swords. The MacFarlanes distinguished themselves at the Battle of Langside fighting against Queen Mary, and claim to have captured three of the Queen's standards.
Walter, 20th chief, who died in 1767 was one of the most famous antiquarians and genealogists of his time. Alba, the country which became Scotland, was once shared by four races; the Picts who controlled most of the land north of the Central Belt; the Britons, who had their capital at Dumbarton and held sway over the south west, including modern Cumbria; the Angles, who were Germanic in origin and annexed much of the Eastern Borders in the seventh century, and the Scots. The latter came to Alba from the north of Ireland late in the 5th century to establish a colony in present day Argyll, which they named Dalriada, after their homeland. The Latin name SCOTTI simply means a Gaelic speaker.
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