I'd like to know the thoughts of some of the veteran genealogists in the lowlands on this theory...
I had always thought because of the surname, my Maclean/Maclaine ancestry originated in the highlands and they had probably been redshanks in Ulster but as some of my fellow researchers told me: "Don't assume anything!" After the past few months of researching my ancestors in Dumfriesshire (they left for Stewartstown, Co Tyrone abt 1620) , I'm a little stumped on their possible origins and it seems their name could be geographical as opposed to patronymic. Reading up on lowland surnames, it seems a greater proportion have arisen independently by tenants or lairds taking the names of their estates. Even though there was really no wrong way to spell your name back then, I've found something interesting about the actual pronunciation.
In Scotland and in Ulster pre-1660 all the records of them have their names pronounced "Mack-Leen" as opposed to the later "Mack-Lane". Their spelling wasn't really standardized until circa 1700 (Macklaine>McLaine>McLain by 1800) Parish and burgh records of Dumfries show them as Maclyne, Macleine, M'Lene, M'Cleene, M'Klein, M'Clene. Not only that but they were merchant burgesses of the town and my ancestor's 1624 testament reveals him as a man of property (inventory totaling 188 pounds, I believe that would be close to 50,000 pounds today). The earliest reference to them is a "John M'Clein" witnessing a land transaction in Dumfries in 1549. Since society was feudal and there was zero upward mobility, being a member of upper-middle class burghers must have been inherited (or so I believe from what I've read in Leyburn's book "The Scotch-Irish: A Social history").
I recently came across information about a rare surname: a variant spelling for the village of Mauchline in Ayrshire. It seems to be scattered across the lowlands and borders by the 16th century. A John Knoy de Maghlyn is present in the freeman rolls of York England in 1394 while a Scot named Richard Maghlyne is listed in 1408 as being given safe passage to England by Henry IV. A William Malynne is the abbott of Glenluce in 1512, and a Sir Patrick Machlyne sat on Scottish parliament in 1530 and resided in Edinburgh. This name would certainly explain the amount of macleen/maclane-sounding names across the lowlands in the early 1600s particularly the significant population of in Newcastle, Northumberland at that time as I've been told that highlanders didn't really "go down" nor did lowlanders "go up".
Aside from records of my ancestors in Dumfriesshire, of the pre-1650 parish registers that survive I find McClene, McKleine, Machline, McCleine, Mauchline, Machlen all in the vicinity of Edinburgh; McLeine, Machline, Makclene, Macleyne around Perth, Fife, Berwick, and a considerable number of of Mickline, Mackleane, Mackline on both sides of the border This pronunciation is much more prevalent than anything referencing Maclean or Maclaine.
Would my thinking that this origin is more likely be valid? And that my ancestors surnames only developed the patronymic "Mac" prefix because of it's pronunciation? I wonder how many other Macleans and Maclaines may falsely believe they are of highland stock.