This most interesting Scottish clan surname, with variant spellings MacAlester, MacAlister, MacAllaster, Mac Allister, etc., is arguably not really Scottish at all! It derives from the personal name 'Alexander', a name which is not recorded in Britain before the 12th century. Developed from the Greek 'Alexandros', meaning 'defender of men', nowhere is the name so thoroughly national as in Scotland. It is claimed that it was introduced by Queen Margaret, wife of King Malcolm Canmore (1057-1093), a lady who was of Hungarian origin. A more likely explanation is that it was introduced by the Crusaders who used Greece as a base for their intended invasions of the Holy Land. What is certain is that as 'Alexander' it was recorded in England in the Danelaw Rolls of Lincoln in 1150, and as a surname in 1283 when Thomas Alexander was recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk. The early recordings in Scotland include Alexander Makalester in the registers of the Black Isle in the year 1500, whilst John Makalester had a 'precept of remission' in 1542. Angus McAlester was a follower of Murdow McCloyd who 'lead an attack on the galley of the laird of Balcomie' in 1601, whilst Ferquar MacAllister is recorded in Dunzean Croy in 1603. In London, Lydia, the daughter of Oliver and Lydia McAllester, was christened on February 16th 1746, at St. Annes Church, Westminster. The blazon of the coat of arms has a red eagle displayed on a gold field, a bordure of black charged with three silver cross crosslets at the points. The crest is a hand holding a silver dagger, point up. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ranald Makalestyr, which was dated 1455, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1264 - 1600. during the reign of King James 11, of Scotland, 1437 - 1460. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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