Our Chiefs

Chief Ruairidh MacIain Domhnull Bhain MacLennan
On May 9th, 1645 King Charles’ representative, the Marquis of Montrose, confronted an army of Covenanters led by Sir John Urray, near the village of Auldearn, Scotland. Rain was falling as the battle commenced.  Among the 3,500 men on foot and 400 horsemen assembled under Urray’s command was Ruairidh MacIain Domhnull Bhain MacLennan (ID number i29041 in the Clan Records), Chief of the Clan MacLennan, defending the standard of Lord Seaforth.

A tall, rugged, red-bearded Highlander, he fought savagely and desperately in the ensuing battle, during which Urray’s forces were slowly overwhelmed by a flanking movement of the Gordon Cavalry. Chief Ruairidh and his two brothers were ultimately killed, along with many other MacLennans in that segment of the battle.

For the next 330 years Clan MacLennan had no official Chief. During 250 of those years, due to pressures political and financial, many remaining Clansmen and their descendants were either forced or chose to leave Scotland to seek survival in newly discovered lands.

Ronald George MacLennan (ID number i12866) declared his intention to claim the position of Chief in 1969. Thirty years of tenacious research were rewarded with the Matriculation of Arms – the acknowledgment of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland – and his installation as Chief of the MacLennan Clan at a ceremony in Inverness in 1978, the first such ceremony to be performed for at least two centuries.

Chief Ronald George MacLennan of MacLennan born in 1925 was the son of George and Helen MacLennan of Loanhead, a small mining village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. After attending School in Edinburgh, both Ronald and his younger brother Ian, joined the military – the Army and Royal Navy respectively. Ronald joined the Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) within a fortnight of attaining his 18th birthday in 1943. He served in Belgium, France and Germany reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant by the end of the war.

Ronald George MacLennan (2nd) with his parents and brother about 1942

Ronald George MacLennan (2nd) with his parents and brother about 1942

Following the war, he was attached to the Nigerian Regiment for over a year as their Physical Training Instructor (PTI). He developed a passion for all things physical and was in the Army boxing and swimming teams. Upon leaving the Army, he attended Fredensberg College of Physical Education, Denmark during which time he competed and represented Great Britain as an international athlete.

In the 1950’s Ronald took up a post as teacher of physical education in Harthill, a small mining village located halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. As well as his work in the School, he enthusiastically encouraged the youth of the area to embrace everything physical and soon had an active youth club formed. In addition, he founded and taught the Silver Thistle Scottish Country Dancers with whom he participated at events and competitions throughout Scotland. He often led youth club and dancing trips to Shieldaig on the west coast where he gave the youngsters opportunities to kayak, fish, climb mountains and play sports, many of which they were unable to do at home. He also had the dancers perform for the locals. The impact that his enthusiasm and determination had on the youth of the time is still talked about in Harthill.  In 1965, Ronald took a teaching post at Inchberry by Fochabers in Morayshire. From there he moved to the west coast where he taught at Schools in Gairloch, Ullapool and Achiltibuie. He had a passion for the west coast from an early age, most likely the result of family trips to Strathbran, Achanalt.

In the early 1960’s, after regular visits to the small coastal fishing village of Shieldaig, he acquired a small piece of land set in a small bay on the coast a short distance from the village. There he built a small timber building which became a bolthole for him during holidays and weekends and which is still a much loved family retreat to this day.

Ronald and Margaret - Wedding Day 1970

Ronald and Margaret – Wedding Day 1970

In the late 1960’s, at the peak of his research into the Clan’s history, he met Donald MacLennan of Dores, who was helping him with his research. Donald had a considerable family of eleven children and it was not long before the second eldest, Margaret Ann (ID number i37632), caught Ronald’s eye. Ronald and Margaret were married at Dores in 1970.

They lived at Ullapool then at Clachan, Inverbroom, some eight miles from Ullapool and had three children: Kirsteen Ruth, Lorna Louise and Ruairidh Donald George MacLennan.

Chief Ronald & young Ruairidh

Chief Ronald & young Ruairidh

Ronald dedicated considerable amounts of his time and energy to Clan research and the formation of an active Clan Association which saw the creation of branches worldwide. There was a near constant stream of Clan visitors to the family home from every corner of the world as Ronald continued his dream of re-uniting his Clanfolk. He travelled to many countries attending Highland Games’ and Clan Gatherings and inspired many people to not only join their Clan, but to actively recruit new members and form new Clan Associations globally.  He authored the book The History of the MacLennans which is available on our Clan Genealogy Histories collection.

Aside from Clan duties, his interests remained closely linked to physical pursuits. He became an enthusiastic kayaker and in the 1970’s he set up the Ullapool Canoe Club. Chief Ronald’s other interests involved gardening and after years of work at his small place by Shieldaig, the garden had become so exotic that the local School teacher would take the pupils down to the small bay to look at the wonderful garden he had created. The beach today is known by locals as “Ronnie’s Beach”.

In 1983, Chief Ronald was diagnosed with leukaemia. The family left Ullapool to be closer to hospital in Inverness where he would receive regular treatment, buying a house in the village of Dores on the shores of Loch Ness some eight miles from Inverness. Margaret’s father and many of her brothers and sisters lived in or near the village. Ronald continued to lead a relatively healthy life for a further six years, undertaking further Clan research, organising gatherings and transforming the garden at Dores into another one of his beautiful colourful creations. He died in November 1989 and was buried in Dores on 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. By the time of his death, he had put the relatively small MacLennan Clan on the map by creating an active and proud Clan.

He was survived by his wife Margaret Ann and children, Kirsteen, Lorna and Ruairidh.

After a long battle with cancer Margaret died and was buried alongside Chief Ronald on her 57th birthday, 4th May 1993.

Chief Ruairidh Donald George Maclennan of MacLennan (ID number i59176)
In 1989, at the age of 12, Ruairidh Donald George MacLennan of MacLennan became Scotland’s youngest Clan Chief.   Ruairidh’s young age created a media whirlwind. Television documentaries about his new role as a Clan Chief at the age of 12 and wide press coverage.

Aged 13, Ruairidh was appointed Head Chorister of St Andrews Cathedral Choir in Inverness.  Ruairidh attended boarding School at Fettes College in Edinburgh for the next 5 years. He was a keen bagpiper and became pipe major of the School band in 1994.

Chief Ruiaridh - aged 13 by Loch Ness

Chief Ruiaridh – aged 13 by Loch Ness

Upon leaving Fettes in 1995 he spent a year at Knox Grammar School in Sydney, Australia, where his duties included helping the pipe band and Army Cadets. He was granted a Commission in the Australian Cadet Force and had responsibilities in the boarding houses.

From 1996, Ruairidh undertook studies at the University of Aberdeen and attained a Master’s degree in Geography in 2000 followed by a post graduate Masters in Land Economy in 2002. He continued piping throughout this time and was a member of the Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps, where he trained as a soldier as well as playing with the pipe band. After University, he transferred to 51st Highland Division (Territorial Army) pipe band which later became the 7th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland.  Following his graduation from University he trained with Strutt & Parker in Aberdeenshire and CKD Galbraith in Inverness-shire before qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor.  Ruairidh then became a District Valuer with the Valuation Office Agency, part of Her Majesties Revenue & Customs, carrying out a range of property valuation work throughout the Highlands & Islands. In 2016 Ruairidh transferred across to Forestry Commission Scotland (now Forestry & Land Scotland) as area land agent for the north of Scotland”.

A keen piper, hill walker, kayaker and landscape photographer, Ruairidh has represented the Clan at events in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States of America as well as at home in Scotland. He has been guest of honour at the Fergus Highland Games, Ontario and Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta. He piped at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Nova Scotia Royal Military Tattoo, Luxembourg Tattoo, in the presence of the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at Holyrood Palace and Birkhall, on the Bridge of HMS Edinburgh, Gibraltar rock, the Malmo Tattoo in Sweden, Basel Tattoo in Switzerland and also in the middle of Loch Ness – to encourage his sister Lorna, who was competing in a charity swim across the loch.

A keen piper, hill walker, kayaker and landscape photographer, Ruairidh has represented the Clan at events in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States of America as well as at home in Scotland. He has been guest of honour at the Fergus Highland Games, Ontario and Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta. He has played the bagpipes at more than 100 weddings and funerals on a non-commercial basis and often says, “It is amazing how many friends you have when you play the pipes”. He piped at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Nova Scotia Royal Military Tattoo, Luxembourg Tattoo, in the presence of the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at Holyrood Palace and Birkhall, on the Bridge of HMS Edinburgh, Gibraltar rock, the Malmo Tattoo in Sweden, Basel Tattoo in Switzerland and also in the middle of Loch Ness – to encourage his sister who was doing a charity swim across the loch.

Chief Ruairidh and Jillian - Wedding Day 2014

Chief Ruairidh and Jillian – Wedding Day 2014

Ruairidh married Jillian Ferguson of Netherton Farm, Harthill, in September 2014 at Shieldaig, Ross-shire.  Following their marriage they settled in Inverness, where Jillian continued her work in forestry management and GIS mapping.

Daughter Rosie Margaret MacLennan of MacLennan was born on 1st September 2016 and is presently heir apparent to the Chiefship.

On the 26 July 2019, a second daughter, Annabel Jean MacLennan of MacLennan was born.

The family now live in Farr, Strathnairn some 8 miles south of Inverness.

Chief Ruairidh family