Clan tribute to man who revived title

A CLAN which was without a chief for 250 years is again leaderless, following the death of the man who fought to claim the dormant title.

Iain MacMillan MacAulay, 83, died on Saturday, while he was visiting a friend in his home village of Drumbeg, Sutherland.

Mr MacAulay was credited with re-establishing the MacAulay clan and was appointed commander, or interim leader, six years ago.

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Only last year, after a lengthy campaign to become the 13th clan chief, he was eventually elected to serve for a five-year term.

He attended the MacAulay clan gathering in Rhu, Dunbartonshire, at the beginning of this month and he and his wife, Nina, were already planning to go to the next North American gathering in Williamsburg, Virginia, in September next year.

Mr MacAulay’s funeral will be held tomorrow, at Lochinver Church, and clan members from across the country and abroad are expected to attend.

A memorial fund is being set up in his honour which could help to pay for a clan cairn in Ross-shire, or help with work being undertaken on the remains of Ardencaple Castle, a former clan stronghold.

The clan now faces the task of electing a new chief, with Mr MacAulay’s eldest son, Diarmid, one of the possible candidates.

Hector MacAulay, the clan’s organiser, said: "It’s sad after his efforts to become chief, but at least he enjoyed a year in the position.

"He deserves credit as the person who got the ball rolling in setting up an organisation which was as important to him as becoming chief. It was a very difficult task, as it was not just about getting people together here, but also setting up the structure overseas."

He added: "There was no link in the past and now we have organisations in Canada and America and one developing in New Zealand.

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"It developed over a six-year period, and that’s all down to him and his wife.

"Iain was in his mid-70s when he started this, and he achieved an awful lot.

"He was determined to see the organisation set up and was pleased to see it come to fruition."

Hector MacAulay said the clan would now have to elect a new chief and would invite nominations.

"We don’t want the clan to be without a chief again," he said.

Yesterday, Nina MacAulay said of her husband: "His dream was to reunite the clan and now it’s happening right around the world."

She said that their son, who is already active in the clan, may be a candidate to be the new chief.

She added: "If he does go forward to follow in the footsteps, it will all be done democratically.

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"The correct chief will emerge in time and take his place, although it’s a bit early for that yet."

Iain MacAulay served with the RAF between 1938 and 1966 and was latterly a squadron leader.

He spent more than three years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp after being captured in Java.

He was made a military MBE in 1963.

After leaving the service he lived and farmed in Sutherland where he became a councillor and was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

He made his claim to the MacAulay chieftainship after years of research through clan histories failed to find a direct descendant of the last hereditary chief.

His priority then became to unite each of the three separate groups of MacAulays in Scotland.

He said at the time: "All three groups of MacAulays have their own separate history.

"But I am hopeful of getting them into a common clan, each with their own distinct history, but in one family group under the name MacAulay."

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The Clan MacAulay claims its descent from Kenneth MacAlpin, the 29th Dalriadic and the 41st Pictish king, who ruled between the years 841 and 860 AD.

The clan fought at the Battle of Largs in 1262 and was also present at Bannockburn and Flodden.

The three distinct branches of MacAulays originated in Ardencaple, Lewis and Lochbroom, near Ullapool.

In 1587, Sir Aulay MacAulay of Ardencaple was principal vassal of the earls of Lennox, but the fortunes of the family declined and the estate was sold in 1767, when the last chief died landless, penniless and without an heir.

In the intervening years, no direct descendant came forward to lead the clan, despite worldwide appeals.

In 1997, Mr MacAulay was appointed commander. Clan members supported his claim to be recognised as the 13th chief in 2001 after a challenge from Iain Davidson MacAulay, a newspaper industry consultant.

The Lord Lyon, King of Arms, later rejected the decision, saying that ten years must elapse after the appointment of a commander before a proposal for chief can be considered.

However, the clan decided to elect Mr MacAulay as its chief last year.

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