McMillan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select McMillan Meaning
Macmillan is the anglicized form of the old Gaelic word Macghillemhaoil, later shortened to Machmaolain. The Gaelic mac means “son of,” gille “a servant” and maol “the tonsured one.”
The progenitor of the Macmillan clan was said to be Airbertach, a Hebridean prince of the old royal house of Moray. Airbertach had a son named Cormac and his son Gilchrist, or in Gaelic Gille Chrisosd, was the forebear of the clan an Mhaoil. He was a religious man
like his father and wore the tonsure (done by cutting his hair from
the scalp) which gave
him the nickname Maolan or Gillemaol.
Gillemor Macmolen was recorded as a juror in Lanarkshire in 1263.
The 15th century saw Macmolane and Macmilane spellings and Macmillan
gradually emerged.
Macmillan may be the older spelling today. But the McMillan
spelling is more common
in the UK and elsewhere.
Select McMillan Resources on The Internet

McMillan Ancestry

The Macmillan clan had established themselves at Lochaber in the
western Highlands in the 14th century. They became the MacMillans
of Murlagan and remained there for several centuries until dispersed by
the Camerons. Some MacMillans under Alexander MacMillan had moved
further south to
where they built Castle Sween and entrenched
themselves. They proudly boasted:

“MacMillan’s right to Knap shall be
As long as this rock withstands the sea.”

But that position too was lost and MacMillans moved
further south again, to the Isle of Arran and Galloway.
Many of the Macmillans in Galloway became Covenanters, to such an
extent that Covenanters there were often called “Macmillans.” And
were still later migrations to Ayrshire and to the new industrial
like Glasgow.

Ireland. McMillan links
with Ireland
began with the Scottish plantations of the 17th
century. One of the
leading planters in Ulster at that time was Robert McLellan of
Galloway. Many McMillans
from his estates were among the tenants of the new lands he was
granted in Ireland.

Later in the century, during the “killing times” in Galloway when the
restored monarchy attempted to impose an Episcopalian church on an
unwilling populace, many Presbyterians fled across the water to
join their cousins in Ulster. Prominent among them were the
“McMillanites” – followers of the Rev. John McMillan of Balmaghie, the
founder of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

. Daniel and Alexander Macmillan
two brothers
from Ayrshire with family roots as crofters in the Isle of Arran – came
to England in the 1840’s and started a bookshop in Cambridge. The
brothers soon started publishing books as well as selling them.
Daniel was the business brain, while Alexander laid the literary
foundation. After Daniel’s death in 1857, Alexander moved to
London to run
Macmillan & Co, soon expanding it into a worldwide publishing
organization. Daniel was the grandfather of British Prime
Minister Harold Macmillan.

America. Scots and Scots
Irish McMillans came to America in the 18th century. The
McMillans were particularly notable in North Carolina and North
Carolina still has the largest number of McMillans in the
country. Among the early arrivals were:

  • Malcolm McMillan, who came from Scotland in 1774.
    His descendants moved to south Georgia. Robert McMillan’s 1973
    book Record of McMillan and Allied Families
    described this line.
  • Neill McMillan, who was born in Bladen county in 1788. He
    fought in the War of 1812 and then moved onto Alabama and Missouri.
  • and John McMillan who was the first clerk of the court for Ashe
    county, North Carolina. These McMillans were farmers and
    merchants there for more than a hundred years.

John and Mary
Scotland for Ireland and then departed for America in 1758. They settled in Washington county, New York. Their story was narrated in W.F. and C.E.
McMillan’s 1908 book McMillan
Genealogy and History.

Donald L. Jones’s 1966 book McMillan/MacMillan
covered Scots Irish McMillans that came to America in the
18th century.

began to emigrate to
Canada by the late 1700’s after the Revolutionary War. Nova
Scotia came
to be favored
by the Glen Urquhart and Hebridean branches of the Macmillans; while
Ontario, or what was then Upper Canada, became the destination for many
Lochaber MacMillans. In 1802 Glengarry county, on Ontario’s
border with Quebec, received a particularly large influx of MacMillans
in their mass exodus from Loch Arkaigside.

Some of these new McMillan immigrants were to make names for

  • Angus McMillan, who had arrived
    in Prince Edward Island with his parents in
    1834, was a merchant, built ships, and participated in local
  • while
    two McMillans headed West to make it in Winnipeg: Daniel McMillan who became
    from his milling and grain business; and Hugh MacMillan a successful
    developer who later took his family to Florida during the land boom
    there in the 1920’s.

Australia and New Zealand.
MacMillan from Lochaber emigrated to Australia in 1837 and explored the
region of Victoria now known as Gippsland. Archibald and Flora
McMillan came out to Victoria with their family on the New Zealander in 1853.
Archibald lived to be ninety five. He died in 1871 after having
been hit by a bolting horse at the races.

McMillans also came to New Zealand. There was a Highland
contingent who had settled initially in Nova Scotia under Norman McLeod
and then migrated again in 1851 with other Highlanders to Waipu in New
Zealand. They had remained Gaelic in Nova Scotia. But once
in New Zealand they became New Zealanders.

William McMillan had arrived with his brothers from Ayrshire in
1865. He farmed at Lyttleton near Christchurch. John and
Catherine McMillan were in Christchurch at around the same time.
They ended up in Hokitika.


McMillan Miscellany

Macmillans at Lochaber.  Tradition has it that Clann ‘ic ‘illemhaoil Abrach (clan Macmillan of Lochaber) is the
oldest branch of the clan.  It seems that
some of the earliest descendants of Maolan were indeed “captains of
Chattan” when that ancient clan still ruled Lochaber.

The Macmillans of Murlagan and Glenpean held
their lands on the north and west of Loch Arkaig from at least the
century until the end of the 18th century.
Captain Ewen Macmillan of Murlagan led the Macmillan company in
Lochiel’s regiment at Culloden in 1746.

In 1802 Archibald Macmillan of Murlagan, together with Allan
of Glenpean, organized the mass emigration of Lochaber Macmillans to
in Canada.

July, with more
than 400 of his people in three ships, Archibald McMillan sailed from
William to Montreal, which was reached in September.  During the
the passengers had been given poor quality subsistence and at Montreal
they had
been forbidden by the ships’ captains to take with them what provisions
had saved.  McMillan successfully sued on their behalf.” 

Macmillans at Knapdale and Dunmore.  Alexander MacMillan is said to have built the square tower at Castle Sween when he was Constable
there in the 1470s; and it was his name that appeared on a
late 15th century cross at Kilmoray Knap.

“There is a stone cross in the old
churchyard of Kilmoray Knap, upwards of twelve feet high, richly
sculptured, which has upon one side the representation of an Highland
chief engaged in hunting the deer, having the following inscription in
ancient Saxon characters underneath the figure – ‘Haec est crux
Alexandri Macmillan.'”

second cross bore the names of Alexander’s son Malcolm and

the Campbells were
installed as the lords of Knapdale in the early 16th century the
there entered a period of relative obscurity.  One tradition
handed down was that the MacMillan line ended with a chief who had a
tragic experience.  In order to defend the honor of his wife from
the advances of a too powerful admirer, he attacked and slew the
man.  In consequence he was forced to abscond.

re-emerged in 1666 as the lairds of Dunmore by Loch Tarbert
may well have been the clan’s principal seat in Knapdale in centuries
past).  One of the MacMillan branches,
having been
engaged in the cattle-droving business, was able to purchase the lease
of part
of the clan’s old lordship from the Campbells.
In 1742 Duncan MacMillan of
Dunmore was recognized as “the representative of the ancient
of MacMillan of Knapdale,” in other words chief of the clan.

Macmillans in Ireland.  Macmillan links
with Ulster developed in the 17th century when the Scottish government
encouraging the settlement of Protestants in that hitherto
predominantly Roman
Catholic province.  When William Buchanan
of Auchmar wrote his account of the Macmillans in 1723 he reported that:

are a great number also of Macmillans in the parishes of Leud and Armuy
in the
County of Antrim and other places of Ireland.
The persons of best account of them in that kingdom is
Lieutenant John
Macmillan of Killre in the county of Derry, having an estate of five
pound sterling per annum; also Doctor Macmillan in Lisburn, a person of
repute and circumstances; and Macmillan of Glenseise and others.”

Kirkpatrick Macmillan and His Pedal Bicycle.  Kirkpatrick Macmillan was born in Dumfriesshire, the son of
a blacksmith.  As a young boy he saw a
hobbyhorse being ridden along a nearby road and decided to make one for
himself.  Upon completion, he realized
what a radical improvement it would be if he could propel it without
his feet on the ground. Working at his
smithy, he completed his new machine in 1839.

This first pedal bicycle was propelled by a horizontal reciprocating
movement of the rider’s feet on the pedals.  This
movement was transmitted to cranks on the
rear wheel by connecting rods; the machine was extremely heavy and the
effort required to ride it must have been considerable.

Macmillan quickly mastered the
art of riding it on the rough country roads and was soon accustomed to
the fourteen-mile journey to Dumfries in less than an hour.  His next exploit was to ride the 68 miles into
Glasgow in June 1842.  The trip took him
two days and he was fined five shillings for causing a slight injury to
a small
girl who ran across his path.

He never
thought of patenting his invention or trying to make any money out of
it, but
others who saw it were not slow to realize its potential, and soon
copies began
to appear for sale.

Daniel and Alexander Macmillan.  Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, who went on to found the Macmillan book publishing empire
in London, came from humble Scottish Highland stock.
Their father was a peasant farmer – deeply
religious, strong-willed and hard-headed – who died from overwork and
when the brothers were still young.

recalled his upbringing in later life in a letter written in 1850:

September 13th I shall be thirty
seven.  It is now nearly thirty seven
years since I made my first appearance on the stage of this world.  The
scene was laid in a most humble house on
the brow of a hill overlooking the sea and getting, on clear days, a
clear view
of the Ayrshire coast.  High mountains
covered with snow lay behind this little house.
The flocks of sheep with the hoggets were gathered into the fold
by the
shepherd’s care and the Almighty Shepherd watched over my mother and me.  He allowed her to train and help the
formation of my spirit for twenty years.
She is gone from this world but her influence will never die.”

Macmillan and McMillan.  Macmillan may be the older spelling today.  But the McMillan spelling is more common in
the UK and elsewhere.

Numbers (000’s) Macmillan McMillan
UK    6 16
Elsewhere    9   33

The Story of John McMillan and His Two Brothers.  The
family legend has it that in 1758 John McMillan, with his brothers Donald and Arthur,
sailed from Ireland bound for the New World.  The
vessel on which the brothers sailed was wrecked
in mid-ocean.  The brothers were
separated, but were all eventually picked up and carried to land, each
supposing the others lost.

John landed
at New York, and travelling on the Hudson came to Charlotte (now
county, making his home in what is now the town of Salem.  The
next year he returned
to Ireland for his wife and children and brought them to his new home
in the
wilds of America.

One brother Donald
landed at Philadelphia and his descendants were later to be found in
south.  The other brother Arthur was
carried to Quebec and made his home there.
However, more recent investigation seems to demonstrate that the
legend of
the shipwreck and the three brothers was not founded upon fact.

Daniel McMillan in Winnipeg.  Daniel McMillan
from Whitby in Ontario served as a young man with the Canadian
Volunteers on
the Niagara Frontier during the troubles of
1864.  He then came west as a Captain of
1st Ontario Regiment in the Wolseley Expedition at the time of Red

However, he soon left the
army to build a milling and grain business in Winnipeg with his brother
William.  The Winnipeg City Mill was
operating in 1877 and ten years later he was running the first
mill in the town.  He was the first
President of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange and subsequently started the
Grain Elevator Company.

Like other
successful businessmen, he turned his attention to politics and served
as the
Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba from 1900 to 1911.
He died – as Sir Daniel McMillan – in 1933 at
the age of 87, after suffering a fall at his home in Winnipeg a few
days earlier.



McMillan Names

  • The Rev. John McMillan of
    Balmaghie was the founder of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland.
  • Kirkpatrick Macmillan was the Scottish blacksmith credited with the invention of the pedal
    bicycle in 1839.
  • Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, two brothers from the Isle of Arran, founded Macmillan Publishers in 1843.
  • Harold Macmillan was British
    Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.
  • Whitney MacMillan was the
    American businessman from Minnesota who by 1995 had developed Cargill into being the largest grain company in the world and the largest privately held company.

Select McMillan Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select McMillan and Like Surnames

The Scottish Highlands were Gaelic-speaking and their clan names appeared first in Gaelic and only later in an English version.  Each clan controlled its own local territory and frequently fought with neighbors.  Many, however, took the clan name in order to receive clan protection.

The clan downfall came following the 1715 and 1745 uprisings with the Battle of Culloden when the clan culture was broken up and clan tartans banned (although they came back into fashion with Queen Victoria a hundred years later).  The Highland clearances, supplanting people for sheep, was a further blow and many Highlanders were forced into emigration, still speaking their native Gaelic, to Canada and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Here are some of the clan surnames that you can check out.





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