Descended from the Ancient Celts of Ireland, the ancestors of the MacMillan Clan would arrive in Scotland as they landed on the Isle of Iona with the Irish price, St Columba.
As the Columban Church allowed its priests to marry, many families would emerge with deep Christian roots, perhaps none more so than the family of Gillie Chriosd, the MacMillan Clan’s progenitor. Gillie was a devout Christian and would shave his hair over the front of the head, a traditional way of showing devotion in Celtic society. The name for this particular tonsure would be ‘Mhaoil-Iain’, which roughly translates as ‘that of St John’, and it would be from here that the clan would take their name.
Eventually moving to the shores of Loch Archaig in Lochaber, the family would become well established by the end of the thirteenth century, as they sheltered the future King Robert the Bruce, after his murder of John Comyn. Staying with the King when he returned to claim the throne, the clan would fight alongside him during his crucial victory at Bannockburn, helping Scotland to regain its independence. This co-operation with the monarchy would not last, however, as the family would be expelled from their traditional lands around 1360, after they decided to back the Lord of the Isles, an opponent of the King.
This would perhaps be a blessing in disguise for the clan, as they were instead granted lands at Knapdale by the Lord of the Isles. It is here that the clan would build their historic seat, Castle Sween. The clan would make this part of Scotland their home for many years, until the direct line of the cheifship became extinct in 1742. It would then pass to MacMillan of Dunsmore, whose lands lay at Loch Tarbert, further south on the peninsula.
The clan would only play a minor part in the Jacobite rising, as a small MacMillan force fought on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. However, they would suffer in the aftermath as Donald MacMillan of Tulloch was transported to the Carribean without trial. This would be the last controversy the clan would face, as many subsequent MacMillans would become important faces in the Scottish legal world.
This lack of controversy would lead to the history and traditions of the clan being forgotten over the coming years and they would only be revived in the 20th century by the father of the current chief, General Sir Gordon MacMillan. Strangely, the history of the family had been lost to such an extent, he was not even aware that he was the chief of the clan until conducting research to matriculate arms to fly over Edinburgh Castle, where he had been appointed governor. After this amazing discovery, Sir Gordon would establish the clan’s modern seat at his home in Renfrewshire, Finlaystone House. It is here that his son George, the current chief, resides – as he actively encourages clan activities from his home on the banks of the River Clyde.