Some Basic Information

Anyone starting out in any organization needs to learn a good deal about the organization rather quickly, and Clan MacColin is no exception. In the event you are joining us at the beginning of the Ren Faire, it's going to be doubly difficult. Therefore, here is much of the needed information in one package, condensing from a number of sources. The first part is basic identifying information as to who we are and what we do. The second deals with how we do it, and the third some cultural background material. The last section is appendices including our regular handout sheets and forms. These include our press releases, Clan in the Sixteenth and Twentieth Centuries, the Sumptuary Law, and some basic requirements documents.

Who and What is Clan MacColin


We are here to learn, participate in, and theatrically portray the people, activities and culture of Highland Scotland and in Ireland in the mid-1500's. We specialize in costuming, crafts demonstrations, military drill, and music and dance shows. Our mission is ultimately educational- we want people to see and understand something of a time and a set of values that contributed to the development of the world today, and in many ways still exists. We are also here to find friends, new skills, and pleasant pastimes.

Who Are We?

Clan MacColin of Glenderry is a historical, theatrical, and social organization dedicated to researching and portraying the daily life of a sixteenth century Hibernio-Scottish Clan. For over a decade our family, Clan MacColin (spanning at least three generations) has demonstrated the period dances, arts, crafts, values, and life that contributed to the development of today's society. We use and preserve a sixteenth century clan structure to learn about and show others what we have learned. We make much of our own goods, starting from shearing, through spinning, dying, and weaving, to making clothes, making tools, chain mail, and whatever we can.

Each of our members develops a period "persona" or character to portray, suitable to the household of a Western Highland Chief. Costume, weapons, and personality soon follow, making the persona a three-dimensional representation of our period, the ultimate product of our efforts: a piece of living history. Clan in the Sixteenth and Twentieth Centuries addresses this subject.


We are the Clan MacColin of Glenderry (Gaelic: Mac Coilean na Gleannadoire).
Meaning and Derivation of the Name

Our Clan, like most in the Scottish Highlands, is named for its ancestral Chief. We were originally a cadet line of Clan Colin, whose Chief is styled "The Colin." Our chiefly line descended from the sons of Colin, or Mac Colins, and when our Clan was granted autonomy and moved from the Colin homeland to Glenderry, our Chief kept his designation as "The MacColin." To distinguish ourselves from any other MacColin lines, we add the name of our present homeland.

The Chief's Name and Titles

Each Chief of Clan MacColin has his own given name and patronymic, but as the Chief is considered the most direct "son" of the first Chief, he also uses the name "MacColin," or "The MacColin." By those of equivalent or greater rank, he may be addressed thus, or by the name of his clan lands (as the Duke of York would be addressed as "York"); our Chief might be called "Glenderry" by the King. We of the Clan may call him "Chief," "mo Tighern," or if you forget the proper titles, as least "Sir."

The position of Chief of a Highland Clan is equivalent to the status of a Baron in the peerage, so our Chief is presented at court as "Baron Glenderry." The present Chief also has a title in Ireland, and among the Irish peerage is known as Baron Clonmines (High Sheriff, Wexford).

His name is Stiofan mac Yarl mhic Roich mhic Geordie A Giollain Maccaolin na Gleannadoire, Ceann Cinnidh na Clanna Maccaolinn an Baran.


Gleannadoire (Glenderry), meaning "Valley of the Oaks," is the area chosen by the Clan, when it began, as our mythical Scottish homeland. We use the name to refer to the whole area of East Loch Ewe, including the Isle of Ewe and the Gruinard Peninsula. In the 16th century, the area was held by Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacLeod. At the present time, this geographical area is part of Wester Ross, in the Ross and Cromarty district of Scotland.

We are quite far north at around 58º North, rather close to the arctic circle, with a very short winter day and daylight until 2300 hours in summer. We have less wind than Harris, due west of us, due to our hills and mountains, and there is a botanical garden in the area that is able to grow some small palm trees! This area remains remote even today.


In the 16th century, our Clan persona includes descendants of the MacColin settlers, MacKenzies, MacLeods, and other neighbors who have joined or married into the Clan, Irish relatives and refugees, and "broken men" (those with no Clan) who have pledged their loyalty to our Chief in return for his protection.

In the 20th century, membership is extended to those who wish to share our mission of historical work through Clan MacColin and keep their dues current. There is no requirement that members be of Scottish or Irish descent- only that they be interested in furthering Clan MacColin's Mission.


The Clan was designed, and is run, on the model of a 16th-century Scottish-Irish Clan, and extended tribal family. The Chief's word is law. Officers are appointed and serve until they resign, die, or are asked to step down. All Clan members have access to the ear of any officers and the Chief, but the rights of rank are observed.

Two inner mechanisms complement each other and frequently overlap- the Households and the working groups. Households are based on persona kinship and historical interests, while the working groups center around the daily tasks and skills necessary for the presenting our shows and taking care of ourselves. This can be confusing, especially from the points of view of command and theatrical direction.

Above all, we are a family. We take care of each other; everyone contributes and everyone benefits.

Why Our Chief?

We formed with the structure of a 16th century Scottish-Irish Clan with a very distinct intent. This has advantages and disadvantages inherent. It is alien to our 20th century lives, and is difficult for some to relate to, but this also meant that it also becomes a visceral teaching tool, showing where our current society came from.

The Celts migrated across Europe with this structure. When the leader of our heroic society was sharp and strong, none could stop us, and we prospered. When the leadership was weak, things degenerated quickly and it was time to move on. It was and is dynamic, with change constant.

In the 20th century, this means no voting, no committees, and no divided aim. The Chief's word is law, and what he decides is final, and as a result, we can get much done very quickly. If the Chief says "Go cordon off a pathway for the ambulance" we do it without debating whether we have enough people on hand, or want to, or want to do something else at the time; we just do it. It may be a great success, or a great failure, but we are not paralyzed in debate and voting, and vacillating power blocks, and have a task accomplished before other groups can decide. This also means that we are the result of one coherent view, a mural instead of a crazy quilt, if you will. Leadership must always get as much input as is can to decide what the best path is to reach what goal, but once decided we can pursue that course with full vigor, without debate and equivocation.

The wisdom of this model becomes apparent in that as a voluntary organization, the leadership must lead, or the organization ceases to exist, with all voting with their feet. Our current Chief has been in office for over a decade, when most historical reenactment organizations are unable to survive a few years. We have been called stubborn, prideful, hammy, clannish, and willful, and are sought by far more events than we could ever participate in.

MacColin Household System

We have organized our household structure to make the job of running the Clan easier and recreate the historic pattern. The various households have been assembled into the Grand Households (The Grad Flaith Households) of the primary tenants of the Chief. Each of these households have several subhouseholds, which may or may not have a particular flavor to them, as suits the members and our history.

If you've been working with us a while, you should know your household.. This may or may not be the household with which you have the closest kinship ties. From a historical perspective you may have married into it, or been fostered into it, or have joined it because there was more opportunity to practice your special talents there. From a 20th century point of view you would be part of a Grand Household because of location, special interests, friendships, or any reason that works for you.

The Grad Flaith households: The Chief's (Steve Gillan), the Tannist's of the Isle of Ewe (Jessica Gillan), Slaggen (Bill Voorhes), 'An Doire (Sean Paul Mohney), Tournaig (Norman Montgomery), Dun Cormac (Curt Cotter), Kinlochewe (Bill Jacobs).


To further our aim of recreating a full 16th century family life, we have created some symbols drawn from history and our own lore.

Rallying Cry

"An Darach Mor" ("The Great Oak")- much used in marches.

Motto and Slogan (Sluggan) or War Cry

"Demimid iarract niòs fearr" transliterated: "We do the attempt more better" or "We try harder."

Plant Badge

The Oak. Anyone may wear oak leaves as a cap badge, and the oak leaf and acorn designs are favorites for crafts and decorations.

Animal Badge

The Selkie (or Silkie), legendary water creature who swims the sea in a sealskin but may take it off and walk upon the earth as a man. A selkie was the traditional ancestor of the Colin line, and therefore of our Clan. We neither kill nor eat seals, though others in the 16th century commonly did so.

Clan Badge

Our clan badge is a Selkie (or Silkie), with sealskin on lower half, bearing sword, bow, and arrows in a wreath of oak leaves. The wreath is used instead of the belt to avoid offending members of some clan societies

Other Badges, etc.

Areas of responsibility within the Clan (catering, water carriers, medics, etc.) may wear appropriate tokens or ribbons. The Clan has established awards of merit, but these and other awards are only worn at 20th-century events.


We carry the national flags of St. Andrew and St. Patrick on marches: St. Andrew's Cross, for Scotland, is a white saltire (diagonal cross) on a blue field; St. Patrick's Cross is a red saltire on a  white field.

The Chief has a personal banner bearing his motto and his personal arms. Households also have their own banners.

We also carry our own painted and embroidered Saints banners of Saint Patrick, Saint Andrew, and Saint Maolrubha, our patron saint.


Clan Tartan

There is none! Family tartan setts were not in use in the 1500's. The Chief favors green, brown, and white (our heraldic colors), but he and his Clan wear what they can make or get.

Clan Surname

These were not used in the 16th century, either. Our personas, the theatrical characters we each develop, use patronymics ("mac Ciaran" -son of Ciaran; "nic Eoghann" -daughter of Eoghann) and descriptive names ("Iain Ruadh" - Red Iain; "Mairi Og" - Young Mary) in addition to our given names. Only the son of a man named Colin would use the name "mac Colin".

Events and Celebrations of Note

We have a very full year, with meetings not involving an event when we can. Burns Night is an event for poetry, and St. Patrick's Day never goes unnoticed. Our own patron Saint Maolrubha has holidays in both April and August, apropos to a Saint known for curing the insane. Every spring we remember our dead, as fits a family that Christens, marries, and buries its own, and every such occasion marked by a celebration. We participate in several Fairs throughout the year.


We celebrate Hogmanay (New Year) with an annual Victorian feast in full formal Victorian dress. This is where the Chief gives the State of the Clan Address, and it also serves as our formal awards banquet.

Renaissance Faire

The single most significant event of our year is our participation in the annual Renaissance Faire, now held in Devore. It dominates our calendar with planning for it from early in the year, and continues as the major consideration until tare down ends in June. It is our single largest exposure as a theatrical group, with about three stage shows a day, and continuous craft demonstration through the day.


Traditions are a constant part of the process of living. You will often hear the line "Once by accident, twice by habit, three times by tradition." This reflects human nature, then and now.

We eat by precedence, with the Chief served first, the daoine uasail (Household heads and Gentles) next, and the rest of us, though if dinner is late we may serve the children first, by his order.


We are theatrically Catholic, after the demise of the Celtic Catholic Church. While we honor our saints in ways different from what the Pope might expect, we are very Catholic. Being both Irish and Scottish, we have a number of patron saints. When at "Faire", we do not show this much as it is illegal at this time in England, and Catholics are a target.

Pun Tax

Established by our founding Chief, we have a "pun tax" of twenty-five cents for any pun which the Chief hears a groan to, including his own groan (and he will!). It has become a matter of pride with many to have paid large sums. One historic punfest about "beer" went to two hundred seven puns! The Chief occasionally declares a "Pun Amnesty Day", usually at Hogmanay, at which members can pun with impunity and get some of the worst ones off their chest. There is an additional tax for the use of props in a pun, which is frequently paid on the Chief's birthday for a truly magnificent pun with props (fish, livestock, Scotchguard cans -- ask about them)!


We have accumulated a musical tradition as well. We close a day of Fair with singing Amazing Grace, and our last day antics for opening parade include a musical parody. We also have a "fight song" with words written by our members. Our observance of Memorial Day concludes with song.



Every society and organization has its own body of laws, rules, and policies. We have adopted our structure, and the related rules from the sixteenth century, as stated before. The twentieth century does impinge on what we do, so we have a very limited set of related laws. We try to limit these as much as we can, and publish them in the Seannachie, or have them in the standard available paperwork.

The Membership Requirements deal with accepted and expected behavior. Minimum Goods deals with the minimum kit needed to participate in Clan activities. The Sumptuary Laws deal with our clothing and what is acceptable and expected. Please read the costuming information in the next section.

A Membership Directory is published annually for passing news, arranging rides, and other modern concerns, however, this is for family use only, and may not be used for any non-Clan use, especially commercial. Members may request to be omitted from this. Information from the Clan Membership Application other than contact information remains confidential, being used by our medical corps, for First Aid, lost and found, and internal use. Common courtesy is expected in calling family members.

The Clan  Membership Dues Policy covers dues, used to pay for the Seannachie and defray other Clan expenses to enable us to pursue our mission. Other special assessments may be made for special projects, if needed, by the Chief's decree.