The Gentleman Adventurer Finds the MacLuinges

Posted on July 12, 2010 by


As some of you may know, I am a lover and voracious student of Scottish history. My bloodline is largely Scotch-Irish (MacClung, Thornton), with heavy elements of English (Stringers) and German (Gober) thrown in there for good measure. And of course, Rohlin is a Swedish name, so I can only guess that somewhere in the distant past some of my ancestors raided some of my other ancestors.

In any case, I love Scottish history, and long ago resigned myself to the dirk-wielding, kilt-wearing, swash-buckling tribe of would-be Scots. While we’ve always known we had some of the blood of Alba in us, it’s been a mystery for quite some time just how it came to be and just who our ancestors were. The fact is that MacClung is not a well-known Scottish name and there are no MacClung societies that set up tents at Scottish festivals, nor are there any well-known lords or ladies, nor do we have a tartan that can be purchased at any online tartan-purchasing websites. Alas, it seemed the McClungs were relegated to obscurium.

Today, though, the mystery has been a very little bit solved and the veil has been a little bit lifted. By sheer providence I stumbled across the little detail that MacClung was an anglicization (curses be heaped upon the English language) of MacLuinge – an old Gaelic name that meant “Son of the Ship” or “Son of the Longship” – in essence, a sailor. Incidentally, it was the name of Saint Columbia’s grandsire (though as far as I know he’s no relation).  Armed with this knowledge, I made a diligent search for information about the MacLuinge family – and upon doing so found a veritable bevvy of useful information about them. Fortunately it seems there was only ever on MacClung family on record anywhere, so there isn’t any doubt at all that these MacClungs are my MacClungs and not somebody else’s MacClungs. As I said, there were some interesting factual nuggets to be had, some of which I am about to share with you.

It seems the MacClungs were highlanders of an unknown clan or tribe who got whooped up on pretty badly on about the early 1600’s. This isn’t surprising since the highlanders all did a lot of fighting and more often than not they were outnumbered, out-equipped, and outmanned. One of the common terms of surrender in those days was that the losing side disbanded and then relocated under a different identity (read clan/family name).

So in in the very first decade or two of the Seventeenth Century, the MacLuinges came into being. They settled in Lowlands Scotland, in the Galloway region. Fast forward about seventy or eighty years, and the MacClungs are heavily involved with Protestant and Covenanter circles in the Grampian Mountains around Loch Lamond (yeah, the one from the song). At some point in the late 1680’s the MacClungs, along with several other Scots, left the area because of the religious and political turmoil (everybody was pretty much right in the middle of the Glorious Revolution) and by the early 1690’s the MacClung family had moved to Ireland.

Let me pause a moment and give you a couple of other interesting factoids. It would seem, from judicial and church records, that the MacClung family had some kind of a standing feud with the Agnew family. It seems a chap by the name of Patrick Agnew of Barmaill got together a bunch of friends and (for reasons unknown) attacked and attempted to kill (and nearly succeeded) Andrew MacClunguah, which is an alternate spelling of MacLuinge or MacClung. Later on, this same Patrick Agnew (again, for reasons unknown) accused four MacClung women of witchcraft. Both of these items are from the Privy Council Register, and took place in 1634 and 1644 respectively.

Just a few years later we find the MacClungs intermarrying with a branch of the Stuart line, which branch emigrated to the colony of Virginia. The MacClungs, along with other Protestant inhabitants of Ulster, emigrated to the new world (specifically Virginia and Pennsylvania) in search of religious freedom. Once there, the Quaker population of Pennsylvania got these fighting Ulstermen (the Quakers were pacifists) as far away from them and as close to the Indian frontier as possible. As it happens the MacClungs arrived more or less in time to get settled and start having kids before the American Revolution broke out, and these fighting Presbyterians passed the time of day (and night) by shooting redcoats, sticking redcoats with sharp objects, and generally being a pain in their collard necks.

Fast forward just a little bit in time, and my particular branch of the MacClung family seems to have intermarried with and thus been related to Gen. Sam Houston. A lot of them came to Texas and caused trouble for the Mexican army and were given land grants in and around the Houston area after the war.

Also, another branch of the MacClung family intermarried with the Speers back in Scotland. President James Buchanan is descended from this line.

But the heritage doesn’t stop there. In the not too-distant past my father’s great-uncle, John MacClung, founded the seminary at which both my father and my grandfather (on my mother’s side) graduated. That seminary is Jacksonville Baptists Seminary (did I mention he was also Mayor of Jacksonville?) in East Texas, and it has produced many ministers and missionaries of the gospel. The supremacy of the Word of God is still taught there, and God willing I will be a graduate student there myself some time in the not too-distant future.

So it is a colorful stock and it is a fighting stock and it is a deeply religious stock, and I am proud to know that the name is a very little bit mine.

Addendum: A word about kilts and tartans

The MacClung family, for reasons I am about to disclose, has no specific tartan. This was at first very frustrating to me, but as you are about to learn, it doesn’t actually mean that much. Tartans, while a nice way to celebrate our Scottish or Irish (or Welsh!) heritage, don’t actually have much in the way of historical significance. At least, not in the way you’d think.

You see, originally tartans patterns were expensive to make and only clan chieftains and their immediate family and retainers had one. It wasn’t like a uniform that everyone wore all the time so you could keep them straight. Well, it seems that after the THIRD failed Jacobite uprising (some people will never learn) Lord Cumberland banned the production of Tartans above the dividing line between highland and lowland Scotland, and apparently banned it pretty effectively. Since no one in lowland Scotland ever wore a tartan (since it was considered barbaric and uncultured by lowlanders – back when Kilts were really worn lowlanders would not have been caught dead in one), this pretty much meant that there was a long period in which no one was using them or wearing them to identify with their clans. That was the mid 1700’s.

On about 1860 or so, Queen Victoria visited the area and the organizers of the event asked everyone to dress up in their clan tartans. The problem was that no-one remembered what they were after more than a hundred years, so there was a scramble for all of the available patterns in the one remaining tartan mill in Scotland (it was in the Lowlands). Tartans got parceled out to all of the major families in time for them to turn out in style for the queen’s arrival. Since then, families, regiments, and even rugby teams have had “official” tartans.

That’s not to say wearing your clan’s Tartan isn’t cool or that you shouldn’t consider doing it to show off your Scottish pride. But don’t imagine that it was that same tartan that your sword-swinging ancestors wore while running about the Highlands and kicking the heads off of other highlanders in the first game of Soccer. The brutal fact is that most of our sword-swinging ancestors weren’t wearing anything so modest as a kilt.