Scotland's Dunvegan Castle, towering above the rugged coastline of Loch Dunvegan on the northwestern corridor of the Isle of Skye (a Norse word meaning "misty island"), pays silent homage to the romance and history of the MacLeod of MacLeod Clan, the progenitors of the Mighty McClures. The fortified enclave, surrounded by picturesque gardens, rolling hills and waterfalls, and on the ocean side by a colony of seals, has withstood the trials and tributions, the ebb and flow of eight hundred years of triumph and tragedy.
Antiquating the edifice itself, perhaps by as much as a thousand years, the castle walls protect the spirtual heritage of the MacLeods: the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan. By some accounts, the mysterious flag was made from a silken robe that was once worn by an early Christian saint. No true MacLeod can ever begin to doubt its magical or supernatural powers. As is written on page 35 of the official Dunvegan Castle book, "Legends, however far-fetched they may appear to be, are rarely without some trace of historical fact. When a relic survives to tell its own story, that at least is one fact it is impossible to ignore. The precious Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, the most treasured possession of the Clan, is just such a relic."
Geneologies trace the origins of the McClures and the MacLeods to a thirteenth century fellow named Leod (1200-1283), the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man, who in turn was the descendent of the eleventh century Norse King Harald Hardrada. Leod married Lady Macarailt, an heiress to Dunvegan, the birth of their two sons (Tormond and Torquil) marking the entry of the MacLeods into Dunvegan and the pages of history. Very simply, "Mac" is a Gaelic word meaning "son of," with Tormond fathering the MacLeods of Harris, and Torquil begetting the MacLeods of Lewis. (Incidentally, the McClure's are the descendents of Tormond.)
The original MacLeods of Dunvegan oversaw the writing of a whole new chapter of Caledonian or Scottish history, totally unprecedented in scope. On page 3 of the official Dunvegan Castle book, the tale reverberates: "The reason for this immense cultural change lay in the political upheaval caused by the unexpected defeat of the powerful Norse King, Haakon, at the Battle of Largs in 1263 by the young King, Alexander III, of the comparatively young kingdom of Scotland. The defeat broke the direct hold of the Norse power on the Hebrides, and Clan MacLeod's Gaelic period of recorded history began."
Clan MacClure (McClure) is a sept of Clan MacLeod, which as I understand it, entitles our family to all the privileges bestowed upon a MacLeod -- including the right to wear the Clan Tartan. According to my research, a number of MacLeods fled to Ireland during the sixteenth century, where the surname was changed from MacLeod to McClure.
Thus ends the abbreviated story of our family's ancestry.
written 2003 by Bruce McClure
For photos click here.