Recorded as MacCleay, MacLae, MacLay, MacCley, MacLea, and the shortened forms of McCleay, McLae, McLea, McLay and McClay, this is a famous Scottish clan surname, which is also to be found in Ireland. It is understood to derive from the 13th century Gaelic surname Mac an Leigh, which is popularly believed to mean "The son of the doctor," although the ultimate origin is probably MacDhunnshleibhe, meaning rhe son of dark skinned one from the hill! The first name holder was one Ferchard Leche as spelt, who may well have been a doctor of sorts, and who in about the year 1380 held lands in Western Sutherland. However the name spelling thereafter and into the 16th century was usually M'Conleif. It seems that in the early days the clan were famous for their predatory habits, and charters and rolls of the period indicate that the name occured regularly in the far north, as they robbed and pillaged their neighbours. In 1498 King James111rd of Scotland issued a warrant against Kenyoch M'Conleif and Donald M'Conleif along with the Chisholms of Comar, demanding their capture for a raid on the lands of Hugh Ros of Kilrawok. It is claimed that the original seat of the clan was at Tor Achilty, near Cumrie in Strathconon. The first spelling of the name is what may be described as the modern forms, may be that of Donald M'Clae, given as being a town burgess of Glasgow in the year 1617.
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