The surname of MACLAGAN was derived from the Gaelic M'Gill Adhagain 'the servant of Adocan' a diminutive of Adamnan. In Strathtay the spelling is MacLathagain. The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Early records of the name mention Donald Makclaagan who was one of an assize concerning the lands of Garntulie in the year 1529. In 1556 there is recorded a renewel of a bond of manrent (a written agreement whereby a free person becomes a follower of a patron or defender) for 'Sythment and Recompens' of slaughter of John M'Gillenlag. George M'Lagane is recorded in Dunkeld in 1587 and William mcGlagane and John McIlglegane were fined for reset of Clan Gregor in 1613. Duncan M'Clagane was minister of Logierait in 1632. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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