history of the clan maclean from its first settlement in the isle of mull, to the present period, j.p. maclean, 1889

Location: Mull and Iona
gaelic language and placenames

The legendary Ailean Nan Sop

Ailean nan Sop (Allan of the Straw) was the nickname given to the second son of the great MacLean Chief Lachlan Mòr, because of his habit of setting fire to the buildings he plundered with straw.

Many stories are told about him, including one that he was born at 24 months with all his teeth, another that he had his hands burnt on a steaming hot bannock by MacLean of Torluisk. As to the Mull placename Urraigh Ailean nan Sop (Allan na Sop's Shelf), it relates to the story of him pursuing so violently the daughter of MacLean of Barra, a girl of great beauty, that she ran to the nearest precipice to escape him.

She was saved by a servant who hurled Allan headlong over the precipice. Fortunately for him, he was caught on a rock shelf where he had to remain until he had begged the lady's forgiveness. After successfully taking to the high seas as a pirate for a while, Allan became involved in many of the conflicts of his time, supporting Donald Dubh, then James of Islay, acquiring Gigha lands in Knapdale and Tarbert Castle in the process.

As Allan laid dying at an advanced age in 1551, he was reminded in his last moments that he had engaged during his life in nineteen successful campaigns, upon which he replied that had he known that, he would have made it a score! His was such an eventful life that Walter Scott featured it in his ‘Tales of a Grandfather’.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.