This notable surname, with spellings of MacLean, Maclean, MacLaine, McLean, Mccleane, McLane, and others, is widely recorded in Scotland and Ireland. It is a developed form of the Old Gaelic name "Mac gille Eoin", which translates as "the son of the devotee of (St) John", from "Mac", meaning son of, and "gille", literally translating as servant or follower", but used here in the transferred sense of devotee, and the saint's name "Eoin or Ian", the classic Gaelic form of John. John derives ultimately from the Hebrew Yochanan, meaing "Jehovah has favoured me (with a son)". In Gaelic manuscripts dated 1467, the surname is spelt as Gilleain, and in the M'Vurich manuscripts as "Giolla-eoin": In the modern spelling the l is now all that remains of the fused "gille". Early examples of the surname recording include John and Neil, the sons of Gilhon, who were mentioned in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland in 1326. Further early recordings include: Nigel M'Gillon, the custodian of the castle of Scragburgh in 1329, and Walter Malynne, the abbot of Glenluce, from 1517 to 1545. The Macleans connection with Ireland began with their employment by the MacDonnels of Ulster as gallowglasses or mercenary soldiers in the 16th Century. Notable bearers of the name were John Maclean, the son of the laird of Dowart, who was ennobled by Queen Christina of Sweden in 1649, Sir John Maclean (1811 - 1895), archaeologist, and keeper of ordnance records in the Tower of London, 1855 - 1861, and Sir Donald McLean, 1820 - 1877, the first minister and statesman of New Zealand. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donald M'Gilhon, whose ship made a circuit of "le Mole" later called Mull, in 1327. This was during the reign of King Robert 1st of Scotland, known as "The Bruce", 1306 - 1329.
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