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Livingstone - MacLea

In Sir Ian Moncreiffe’s book Highland Clans he wrote “A small Highland clan in the Argyllshire district of Lorn and especially in Appin have long tended to English as ‘Livingstone’ their Gaelic name of Macleay, ie Mac Dhunnshleibhe or ‘Son of Dunsleve’. …… The present head of this sanctified clan is Alastair Livingstone of Bachuil…”.

As Moncreiffe pointed out, Livingstone is an anglicised version of the more ancient Gaelic name MacLea. The most plausible theory as to how this “Anglicisation” came about is that it was adopted as a defensive measure after the 1647 massacre of Dunavertie, in which many McLeas were killed supporting the MacDougalls. In 1641 King Charles I had granted James Livingston of Skirling, Baron of Biel, Keeper of the Privy Purse a lease of the lands and teinds of the bishoprics of Argyll and the Isles (not the abbey lands) . In 1648, when the King was a prisoner in England, they both found it wise to assign the lease to the victorious Marquis of Argyll who had been present at the Dunavertie massacre. At this time the McLeas adopted the practice of using the name Livingston(e) when in the lowlands.

Niall Campbell, later 10th Duke of Argyll argued that McLea is derived from the name McDunsleibhe and that it was possible that this was the Dunsleve ancestor of the Lamonts, MacLachlans etc.

There is further evidence to support the view that McLea is derived from McDunsleibhe as we can see an example in the Taymouth register which refers in 1557 to John M'Dunslaif of Achnacre . In later documents this becomes McLea of Achnacree and in turn becomes Livingstone of Achnacree . The McLeas certainly at one time possessed Achnacree in the Benderloch and although once again in the hands of Livingstones they were lost for a time. Two versions of how they were lost are given by Lord Archibald Campbell in Records of Argyll, pp. 114-17 which ties in the two references.

Last updated 22 May, 2008