The ancestor of the MacColmans was Colman, third son to Anselan, third of that name, and seventh laird of Buchanan, being brother to Gilbert, who first assumed the surname of Buchanan, and to Methlan, ancestor of the MacMillans. Colman was an ordinary Christian name of old in this kingdom; as, for instance, Colman, bishop of Lindisfarn in Northumberland, and afterwards abbot of Icolmkill, in the reign of king Ferquhard I. Also one of the Scottish nobility, who made an oration against concluding the league with France, in the reign of Achaius.
The time and cause of this Colman’s son’s going to Argyllshire is not very evident, but it seems very probable to be in the reign of king Alexander III. within a short space of his cousin MacMillan’s going into that country, whose good reception there might have been the principal motive of his cousin MacColman’s following him.
The only written document I find relating to the MacColmans is a charter, or life-rent-right, granted by Duncan MacPharlane, of part of his lands, to Christian Campbell, daughter to Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow his lady, dated in the year 1395, and in the reign of king Robert III. The trustees employed by Sir Colin to see this right completed, were John Campbell, dean of Argyll, and John MacColman.
I had an account of the MacColmans transmitted to me by that judicious and learned gentleman, the reverend Mr. Alexander MacColman, minister of Lismore and Appin, which justly deserves the greater regard and credit, seeing it exactly agrees with that sent me by MacMillan of Dunmore, near the same time, in relation to his clan, as also with a written document, which came not to my hands several years after receipt of the said account. That delivered me by Mr. Alexander MacColman concerning the origin of that sept, asserts, that the ancestors of the MacMillans and MacColmans were brethren of him who first assumed the surname of Buchanan, though the same be not testified by any written document, but by a continued and inviolable tradition handed down from one generation to another, with which they are satisfied, always cheerfully acknowledging their original descent to be of the family of Buchanan, though they cannot so very distinctly tell the manner and circumstances of the same.
There is also a very great evidence of the MacColmans’ blood-relation to the name of Buchanan, from this, that notwithstanding of the great distance betwixt the respective residences of these two names, and upon that account the seldomness of their mutual converse, or correspondence with one another, yet they have the same inviolable love and entire respect for the name of Buchanan, that they have for one another of their nearest relations, although no preceeding acquaintance or good offices intervene.
Moreover, although the MacColmans have resided in Mucarn, and other adjacent places in Argylleshire, upwards of four hundred years, yet they never gave any bond of Manrie, or other acknowledgement, to, or had the least dependence upon, any person or clan in these parts, though there is no other sept in the same circumstances in all those countries, but what are obliged to give some such bond or acknowledgement. The principal places in which these reside are in Mucarn, and Benedera loch in Upper Lorn, in the shire of Argyll. The men of best account of them are Mr. John MacColman, son to the said Mr. Alexander, who hath a little interest in Lismore; also another Mr. John, brother to the same Mr. Alexander, who hath ten sons, all men of good repute.
Besides these, there are sixty effective men of that name in these parts.
There is another sept of these MacColmans in Kintail, in the earl of Seaforth’s land, descended of one Mr. Murdo, (or, as the Irish term it,) Murcho MacColman, who went from Argyllshire into that country, near two hundred years ago. These are termed in Irish MacAmhaisdirs, or Mastersons, but term themselves in English Murchisons, from Murcho, their ancestor’s ancient name. The principal man of these is Murchison of Ouchtertyre, in the parish of Locheilg in Kintail. These term themselves Dowes when in the Lowlands, and assert the Dowes upon Forth and other places to be descended of them, which Dowe of Arnhall, the principal person of that name, in a great measure owned, there being upon that account great intimacy betwixt the late laird of Buchanan and him; but both their estates being gone to other families, through want of male issue, that correspondence betwixt the two names is ceased.