I have pieced together this information from various sources such as the McLea manuscript and the Records of Argyll by Lord Archibald Campbell. I hope that more will come to light from old valuation rolls. There are three main centres, the first in Lorn, the second in Cowal and the third in Strathconnon.
McLea /Livingstones of Achnacree (North Shore Loch Etive)
This family seem to have been the principal cadets owning substantial tracts of land on the North Shore of Loch Etive from Achnacree at the Mouth of the Loch in Benderloch right up to Dalness, near Glencoe. This land is terminated by the massive Buachaille Etive More. Family legend has always described this as the border of our land.
“They possessed peat rights in both Kingairloch and Benderloch at one time: indeed it is held that no one could stop them if they even now sought to take peat from the Moss of Achnacree” Lismore in Alba p 3. This confirms the close connection.
Bearing in mind that the whole of Lismore was considered to be a bout 80 merk lands the McLeas of Achnacree must have possessed much the same – or even more. In 1557 the McLeays of Achnacree were almost wiped out, losing 80 men supporting the MacDougalls of Lorn against the Campbells of Inverawe in a clan battle.
“Donald Livingstone, Bun-a-mhuilinn, Morvern, was of the Livingstones of Achnacree, Benderloch. These Livingstones of Achnacree had been the keepers of the Royal Forest of Dail-an-eas till this was wrested from them by the Macdonalds of Glencoe.
The Livingstones of Achnacree were of the same line as the Livingstones of Bachuill, Lismore, keepers of the Staff of Saint Moluag. The two families separated many centuries ago, yet they still resemble one another, physically, mentally, and characteristically.” The Celtic Review Volume VI July 1909 pp340-348, Incidents of the Jacobite Risings
“There were also the McLeas of Achnacree 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….. 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 strength 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. …. 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.” McLea manuscript in Lyon Office
McLea of Lochnell (2m East of Oban 5 m S of Loch Etive)
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. (McLea Manuscript)
This was a substantial tract of land amounting to approx 8 square miles.
McLea of Achnacloich (South Shore Loch Etive)
A McLea of Stonefield (formerly called Achnacloich) in Muckairn who, wanting children, gave his lands to a son of Campbell of Lochnell's who was fostered in the house. (McLea Manuscript)
McLea of Lindsaig (Cowal -Overlooking Loch Fyne near Otter)
On 26 December 1634 Archibald M'Enlay obtained from Lord Lorn a precept for infefting him in the six merk land of Lindsaig. The McLeas of Lindsaig are descended from the McLeas of Achnacree. (McLea Manuscript)
McLea of Ach na skioch (Cowal)
The five merk land of Achnaskioch was held by a family of surgeons, who had for several generations had been Physician in Ordinary to the Family of Lamont of Inveryn. (McLea Manuscript)
According to the Irish genealogies, the clan Lachlan, the Lamonds, and the MacEwans of Otter, were kindred tribes, being descended from brothers who were sons of Dedalan and tradition relates that they took possession of the greater part of the district of Cowal, from Toward Point to Stacher at the same time; the Lamonds being separated from the MacEwans by the river of Kilfinan, and the MacEwans from the Maclachlans by the stream which separates the parishes of Kilfinan and Strath Lachlan.
McLea of Strathconnon
An Earl of Seaforth married the heiress.
See The Maclays of Lurgan, Edgar Maclay, 1889.
I recently corresponded with David Sellars who wrote “I think I was mistaken as regards the Macleays of the North: the late Willie Matheson (perhaps the greatest 20th century Highland genealogist) told me that he disagreed with me about this, and I think that, as so often, he was right. Whether or not these northern Macleays are related to the Argyllshire Macleays, it would seem that they did indeed take their surname from an ancestor named “Donnsleibhe”, and not, as I suggested, from one of the Beaton physicians.”
Walter Maclay writing in September, 1997 on http://members.fortunecity.com/kgoofy7/EarlyMaclayHistory.htm
It is not possible too trace the genealogy of individuals at this early time, but the roots of the Clan Maclay can be traced using the Lyon Conjectural Tree back to Eochu, head of the pagan sacral Iron Age royal family of the Gaels who lived in the year 360 in Ireland.
The Maclays in Contin
The Maclays were a minor clan with little recorded history after the influx of the Stewarts [of Appin] forced them to migrate to the parish of Contin. Today, Contin is a very tiny town of two or three dozen buildings. It is located just east of Loch Achilty at the west edge of a small farming valley surrounded by small hills. See pictures of Contin and the valley at the end of this document.
So we find that the Maclays migrated to what was probably the edge of civilization. The church appears to be the oldest building, although there are some buildings neat the church that are in use as farm buildings that are clearly hundreds of years old. ‘The Maclays of Lurgan’, a genealogy with which many of us are familiar, states that:
"The Mac Leays or Clan Laigh were an independent Tribe and inhabited the country around Loch Achilty, in the Parish of Contin, County of Ross. In the earliest and most important of the known events in their history we find them associated with the Clan Ivor and said to be under the command of Donald Garve M'Ivor (Anderson's History of the Frasers p. 53), and on page 361 of the Transactions of the Iona Club de rebus Albancies, is the Genealogy of MacLeod, in which the name Ivor occurs several times. And as the M'Ivors to this day inhabit some of the oldest lands of the Clan Leod, may they not be of that race and 'Laigh the Strong' (from whom are named the Clan Laigh), son of Fergus of the Red side (Mic laidare, or Clan h MicFergusa liet dearg [be] the ancestor of this Clan Laigh or Macleay."
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