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Clan Maclean Tartans, Crests, Symbols, Etc.

Battle Axe Crest, usable by all branches of Clan Maclean.

The Maclean of Duart Crest.

The Maclean of Duart Hunting Tartan is recognized as the oldest tartan in the world.

The Maclean of Duart Dress Tartan.

The MacLaine of Lochbuie Crest.

The MacLaine of Lochbuie Dress Tartan.

The MacLaine of Lochbuie Hunting Tartan.

The Maclean Dancer Tartan.

As a clan we have a number of different symbols. The most recognizable is the Tower crest with the motto "Virtue Mine Honour". This is the one that most sellers of clan "gear" seem to use. It is the designated Chief's crest, and is most properly used by members of the Duart, Pennycross and Drimnin branches of our Clan, although any loyal Maclean can use it.

In an article on Maclean heraldry, (Magazine of the Clan Maclean Association, Volume 11, Number 2) Elizabeth Roads, the Lyon Clerk, and keeper of the records at the court of the Lord Lyon) points out that "Although it does not appear in the crest of the Chief the most common crest for the Macleans is the battle-axe between cypress and laurel and this clearly commemorates descent from Gillean of the Battle-Axe". I have seen this crest with two different mottos, - "Altera Merces", and "Vincere vel Mori", - both apparently meaning Victory or Death, or To Conquer or Die! Laurel for victory and cypress for death.

"Altera Merces" is the accepted motto of the Clan as a whole, and "Vincere Vel Mori" is used by the Lochbuie Maclaines, and the Kingairloch and Dochgarroch Macleans. The exact kind of battle-axe seems to differ, with one having a curved, almost upside down "u" shaped back, while the other has a point going straight back. I gather there has been some debate as to which is most proper, but I think they probably just represent different evolutions of the battle-axe. I note that the two flags caught in the portrait of the last Gathering of Macleans in 2002, both displayed Battle-axe emblems!

F.Y.I. the Chief's (or Chieftains's) crest is displayed in a plain circlet. The one most of us are used to seeing has the crest/badge in a belt/strap and buckle. This symbolizes that the person is a follower of the Chief or Chieftain. The Chief himself has a most interesting hat badge that has both crests on it!

Plant badges are the other symbol which was used, to show, primarily in battle, who was a clan member, and for which clan. For the Macleans there are three plants: the holly, crowberry and blaeberry. The holly, which most of us are familiar with, represents the Ardgour, Coll, and Dochgarroch branches. The crowberry represents the Duart, Pennycross and Drimnin Macleans. I confess I was asked if this would survive our rather harsh Canadian climate and I didn't know, so I asked Malcolm Maclean, the esteemed secretary of the Clan Maclean Heritage Trust. His response is as follows: Hi Ian, I have more gardening reference books than I have garden. Crowberry (proper name Empetrum), Latin name Empetraceae. A genus comprising 2 or about 16 species, (depending on who does the classification.) SPECIES CULTIVATED E. Hermaphoditum, crowberry, N Europe and mountains south, arctic Siberia, W. Greenland, Canada. Secondly E. Nignum, crowberry, northern temperate zone and Arctic. I therefore have no doubt that it will be the specie E. Herm which also appears to be native to Canada.

Ian MacLean