Historians believe that the clan system has existed for 1,000 years emerging in the 11th century in Scotland. The word clan comes from the Scottish Gaelic clann, which means kindred. A huge part of the tradition of Scottish festivals and games is the gathering of the Clans. Each Clan has a unique tartan with a pattern that belongs exclusively to them.

Were my ancestors part of a clan?

Visiting the festival is the perfect opportunity to learn whether your surname or that of one of your ancestors is connected with a Scottish clan. Clan hosts can help you learn more about a clan, including their tartans, as well as welcome you into membership should you decide to officially join a clan.

In addition to more than 50 Scottish clans participating, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games features a number of cultural heritage organizations that can also help you become better acquainted with the history of the Scottish immigrants and Scots-Irish in east Tennessee.

Scottish clans with their tartans
Honored Clan for 2024

Clan MacLaren Society of North America

Clan MacLaren is one of the oldest Scottish clans with a history dating back 1000 years. Members can trace their origins back to the traditional lands from the Braes of Balquhidder to Loch Earn in the heart of Scotland.

Clan Chiefs were cadets of the Celtic dynastic house of the Earls of Strathearn. In the early 1200s, Abbot Labhran (Laurence) of Achtow lent the Clan MacLaren its name. The Clan was influential until the 16th century following a campaign of pressure from the Campbells.  In spite of the Campbell campaign, Clan MacLaren remained the predominant clan in the Balquhidder area.

Without a Chief or lands, the Clan MacLaren was unable to produce a legal title to their ancestral homelands and formally became ‘chiefless and landless’. From the Battle of Bannockburn onwards, the Clan fought for the Scottish crown and supported the Jacobites until the devastating Battle of Culloden. The Clan’s fortunes remained mixed until the 20th century when its status was firmly re-established.

In 1957, the Clan’s label ‘chiefless and landless’ was removed when Donald MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine successfully matriculated his Arms at the Lyon Court, and purchased land in Balquhidder. Creag an Tuirc or ‘The Boar’s Rock’, the traditional MacLaren rallying point, was part of that land and remains an important landmark today. A few years later, the Society was established to support the Clan’s interests and help bring together members from across the world.

Following his death in 1966, Donald MacLaren was succeeded by his son, Donald MacLaren of MacLaren and Achleskine, 25th Chief of the Clan MacLaren, who served as chief for 57 years until his sudden death in July of 2023. He was a distinguished former British diplomat with postings in Berlin, Moscow, Havana, Kiev and Tbilisi, Georgia. Donald is expected to be succeeded in the chiefship by one of his sons.