Friday, 16 October 2009

Iona and Mull

Prioress Anna Maclean

I have just been away for a week staying on the Isle of Iona in the Inner Hebrides and was able to spend one day visiting the new Heritage Centre on the Ross of Mull at Bunessan, called Tigh na Rois. It is in the rebuilt Millbrae Cottage. I had taken with me a chart showing the names of three MacKechnie second cousins. The staff member in charge was able to confirm that they were all deceased and that their Memorial Inscriptions were published in a new production by the centre, Kilpatrick Burial Ground. However, she knew that there were descendants and she kindly phoned a 'senior' MacKechnie lady in the village who was able to see me and tell me the name of four offspring, who of course are my 3rd cousins. I can now write to them to introduce myself - I wonder if they will want to know?

I was able to do something else. The connection was through my grandmother, Margaret McLean who married William McIlhagga in Liverpool in 1892. She was the daughter of the eldest son of a large family that was born on the Isle of Coll, the Macleans of Auchnasaul, who in the late 1800s moved to the Isle of Mull where they were tennant farmers. Mull is of course the home of the chief of the clan Maclean, at Duart Castle. And there have also been Macleans living on Iona until quite recently. Now there is a famous Memorial Stone in the Abbey Museum on Iona, of Anna Maclean. She was Prioress of the Nunnery on the Island 1508-19. The stone is a product of the Oronsay School of Carving, c. 1550. Anna died in 1542. I asked the volunteer at the Iona Heritage Centre if ever people enquire how Anna fits in to the Maclean Clan. To my surprise she was uncertain whether there had ever been such an enquiry. I had learned a lot from a visit to Coll a couple of years ago and as a result have been able to trace my M(a)clean line back to include Anna. She turns out to be my first cousin, fifteen times removed (15 generations back!). I didn't tell the Heritage Centre the personal bit, but I did leave them a chart of Anna's family, descending from her grandfather Charles Maclean of Kingairloch, and down five generations. They are going to submit it to their consultant historian and hopefully I will have my research either confirmed or corrected.


  1. My wife Anne was born Anne McLean. When we visited Iona in 2007 she was deeply moved by the peace and tranquility of the island. Our favorite place was the lovely but ruined Nunnery.

    I was personally fascinated by the carved gravestone of Prioress Anna McLean, which is unique in church gravestones because it includes the Prioress' two pet dogs.

    It would be nice to know if Anne is related to Anna McLean

    1. Good to hear from you Derek. Anna MacLean was/is my first cousin, 15 times removed. Do write to me at to see if we can explore Anne's relationship.