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Clan MacIain
An address given at the 1995 family reunion by Harold 'Sandy' McKeen
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I would like to start off this evening by telling you how privileged I feel to share this reunion with you. And, I thank you for the privilege.

Just a couple of days ago, I visited the Clan Donald monument just north of here, in Pictou. On that monument is inscribed the words: "Remember those from whom you came". So, I thought it fitting and proper to speak tonight on those from whom we came. Too, quite surprising and curious to me, at the reunion five years ago, Wilma referred to McKeens as "bluebloods", a term I usually associate with nobility. I would also speak of nobility. Then, I will ask that you share a hope with me.

Our Celtic heritage goes back many thousands of years. So, there are many interesting places I could begin. I have chosen to begin with Somerled, the first Lord of the Isles and a man who had a profound, and very far reaching, impact on Scottish history. Seumus Mac Thomas, a respected seanachie, tells of Somerled in his book, The Royal Clans of Scotland. Though no clan bears his name, Seumus writes, there is no doubt that Somerled is the greatest founder of clans in Scotland's history. The MacDougalls, MacDonalds, MacAlisters, Alexanders, MacDonnells, MacIains, MacRanalds, and others can trace a provable link to this remarkable man. Even the Royal House of Stewart and its heirs have a link through an heiress to Somerled.

Somerled was born around 1100 and is most noted, even though he was partly Norse himself, for booting the Norsemen out of the western islands and establishing himself as the first Lord of the Isles. He was also responsible for striking the steel to spark what was to blaze into a brilliant and noble Gaelic culture and polity that burned brightly for centuries.

Now, Somerled's grandson was Donald, the patronymic for Clan Donald and Donald's grandson was lain Sprangach, or John the Bold, the patronymic for our Maclains of Ardnamurchan. lain lived around the late 1200's and, like Somerled before him, encountered the Norsemen.

Charles MacKain of Elgin, Scotland, wrote some 50 years ago of lain's arrival in Ardnamurchan. "There is a well supported Clan tradition", Charles wrote, "that, prior to the MacIains, Ardnamurchan was under the sway of a Norwegian lord of dark character who made himself so obnoxious that the inhabitants rose up against him and put him to death. They sent to Angus Mor Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, for protection against the wrath of the Norsemen. He at once sent his third son, lain Sprangach, to take possession of Ardnamurchan."

And take possession lain did. No Norsemen has set foot on the peninsula since. The Maclains eventually became the most powerful branch of Clan Donald. It was here on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula that Mingary Castle was built and still stands to this day. Sir Walter Scott describes this, our ancestral homeland, in his poem, Lord of the Isles as

"On its own dark cape reclined, and listening to its own wild wind,
From where Mingary sternly placed o'Erawes the woodland and the waste."

Stand, if you will, say 600 years ago, more or less, on that "dark cape reclined" and imagine seeing the Maclains clad in their quilted surcoats emblazoned amorally with the Clan motto, "In hope I byde".

They embarked in their great galleys of more than 20 oarsmen in the bay below - perhaps underway for lona, that mystical, noble, hallowed island some 30 miles to the south, or to Finlaggan Island, that revered ancient council site of Clan Donald. The event is the inauguration of clansman, Macdonald, as Lord of the Isles.