THE origin of this clan is difficult to determine, but Skye seems to be their native place. The Nicolsons held the lands of Scorrybreck, Skye, from about the middle of the eleventh century. A history of the MacDonalds, written in the reign of Charles II, makes mention of MacNicol of Portree. In 1263, at the battle of Largs, Sir Andrew Nicolson, a Danish knight from the Isle of Skye, commanded one of Haco’s ships. Members of the family settled at Lonfeaon, Penefiler Aird, and elsewhere in Skye, but Nicolson of Scorrybreck was always looked upon as the head of the clan in the west. Norman Nicolson of Scorrybreck emigrated to New Zealand, and his descendants still subsist there. The arms of the Chief representative of Scorrybreck are duly recorded in Lyon Register. The late Alexander Nicolson, LL.D., advocate, distinguished himself in the Celtic field. Born at Hugobost, Skye, in 1827, called to the Bar in 1860, he was commissioned to report upon the state of education in the Highlands in 1865. He was also a member of Lord Napier’s Commission appointed in 1883 to inquire into the condition of the crofters.
THE MacLeods are Norse, and are descended from Tormod, son of Leod, who was the son of Olave the Black, King of Man. They were vassals of the Lords of the Isles, but became independent when that Lordship was forfeited. The Harris Chief is variously styled “MacLeod of MacLeod, MacLeod of that Ilk and of Harris.” Tormod received Glenelg from David II (Charter, 1344). His descendants held Harris, St. Kilda, and vast estates in Skye. In 1577 MacLeod of Dunvegan suffocated the entire population of Eigg in a cave. Rory More, outlaw, then trusted Royal servant (1595-1626) and Ian Breac (seventeenth century), a model Chief, were MacLeods of Dunvegan. Of Dunvegan also was General MacLeod of MacLeod, who raised the second battalion of the 42nd. Dunvegan Castle is still the abode of the MacLeods of that Ilk. The 27th Chief, Sir Reginald MacLeod of MacLeod, K.C.B., died in 1935, and was succeeded by his daughter Flora, Mrs. MacLeod of MacLeod, 28th chief of the clan.
THE MacLeods of Lewis (like the MacLeods of MacLeod) are of Norse origin, and were owners of the Lewis and of Waternish in Skye. They had also the lands of Assynt on the mainland by charter of the Crown 1340. They received charters of their insular possessions in the fifteenth century. Along with the clansmen of the Harris branch they fought on the right wing at Harlaw in 1411. At the close of the sixteenth century the male line of the MacLeods of Lewis became extinct. The lands of Assynt passed to the Earl of Seaforth in 1660. The story of how this came about is one of the darkest and bloodiest pages in the troubled history of the Highland clans. Their estates were transferred to MacKenzie of Kintail, and MacLeod of Raasay became the male representative of the ancient race. In the nineteenth century the Raasay family also lost their lands, but continued to be the principal cadet of Siol Torquil. The MacLeods fought for Charles II at Worcester, but took no active part in future Jacobite risings. Among the many scions of the Clan MacLeod, many members have risen to distinction. Foremost, perhaps, are the MacLeods of Morven, to which house belongs the famous Dr. Norman MacLeod.
THE Macfies are Celts, and are supposed to be of the race of Alpin. In Gaelic the clan name is Dubhsithe the dark featured tribe. The English form Duffie has passed into MacDuffie, and further, into Macfie, spelt variously Macafee, Macfee, and Macphee. In 1549 the island of Colonsay, in Argyll, is recorded to be under the sway of “ane gentle Capitane called MacDuffyhe.” His descendants, the MacDuffies or Macphees, held the island until the middle of the seventeenth century. Their burial place was the island of Oronsay. The effigies on their tombstones represent them either as warriors or churchmen. In 1645 Coll MacDonald and followers were charged with the murder of Malcolm Macphee of Colonsay. Subsequently the Macphees were dispossessed, and, as a “broken clan,” were merged into clans more powerful. Some followed the MacDonalds of Islay; others sheltered under Cameron of Lochiel, and became conspicuous for their courage; while the remainder settled on the shores of Clyde, and even in Ireland, where they were called Machaffie or Macafee. The Macfies, along with the Camerons, charged desperately at Culloden. They were Royalists; and the motto Pro rege was recorded as in the arms of Macfie of Dreghorn.
THE name Campbell first appears in 1216, in connection with a proprietor of lands in Stirling; but the first of importance was Neil Campbell, who, in 1296, was made King Edward’s Baillie over lands in Argyll. His great-grandson was created Lord Campbell by James II, and was the first of the family to take the title of Argyll. His grandson, Colin, was made Earl of Argyll in 1457, and Baron of Lorn in 1470. The Marquis of Argyll was the great leader of the Covenanters during the Civil Wars in the reigns of Charles I and Charles II. The 8th Earl was created Duke of Argyll in 1701. The Peerages and estate descended to John, second Duke of Argyll and Earl of Greenwich (died 1743). He was succeeded by his brother, who died without issue, and so the title devolved upon his cousin, General John Campbell of Mamore. Inveraray Castle is the seat of the Campbell Chiefs, whose designation is MacCailein Mhor.