The Land of Leask

Are you familiar with the Land of Leask? In an area approximately 20 miles north of Aberdeen City there are a number of “Leask” named places including Byreleask, Knapsleask, and Nether Leask (or Netherleask).

The Land of Leask (Leskgoroune), Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The Land of Leask (Leskgoroune), Aberdeenshire. (source: Ray Leask’s Clan Leask website)

In early times, families were often known by the name of the place they came from, hence the belief that the Leask name may have originated from the Aberdeenshire Lands of Leask, (map below) Leskgoroune. Adriane C. Grant, author of Scottish Clans: Legend, Logic & Evidence believes that the origin of the name Leask is geographical.  He said “I have spoken with Neil MacGregor, the expert on Gaelic placenames and I am left in no doubt that the real basis of “Leskgoroune” is actually ‘Lois Eodhnaon’ – (St) Adamnan’s chapel yard”.

He continued, “this is a reference to the church dedicated to St Adamnan at Knapsleask.  It seems to me likely that the whole of the Leask estate will have been assigned to the upkeep of the chapel whenever it was founded. So Leask is really Lois – chapel yard. We are not 100% sure where the intrusive -kg- came from – but you may be aware that “g” has the value “k” in Gaelic.” This specultation is questioned by others, who do not see Lois Edhnaon as the translation of Leskgoroune.

We do know that around 1345 William Lesk received a charter of confirmation to his lands of Leskgoroune or Leskgaranne from David II of Scotland, son of Robert the Bruce. He might be the same William Lesk who was recorded in the parish records of the church at Ellon, Aberdeenshire as: Willelmi de Lask (also spelled Laysk), the Elder, Lord of that Ilk, who bequeathed a pound of wax yearly to the alter of the Holyrood in the church of St Mary of Ellon.

The Chapel of Leask dates back to the earliest of times. It is thought that a Colomban Oratory stood on this land about the end of the sixth century. The ruins of the present building, constructed about the thirteenth century, stand on the site of the ancient chapel.

The Ruins of Chapel Leask.
(source: Ray Leask’s Clan Leask website)

Despite having their own Chapel, it is recorded in the Parish records of the Church at nearby Ellon, that the Leask Chief, his family, and retainers, were regular attenders at St. Mary’s Church. Thus in 1380 the parish records reveal that Willelmi de Lask, the Elder, Lord of that Ilk, bequeathed ‘one stone of wax from the Lands of Logy, together with twelve pence of silver in order that candles might be burned for ever, for himself and his wives, Alice de Rath and Mariota de Saint Michael, and for the salvation of his sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, on the Sabbath and other feast days, on their tomb’.

Over the years the Lands of Leask steadily expanded beyond the boundaries of Slains Parish, partly by inheritance, partly by exchange of lands, and by purchase. The Estate included the Home Farm, Mains of Leask, Moss Leask, Byreleask, Knapsleask, Nether Leask, Milton of Leask, and Mill of Leask.

In 1390 the second known chief of Clan Leask, ballie of the barony of Findon, inherited half of the lands of Henry de Brogan, Lord of Achlowne.

In 1456 Ulfrid or Wilfred Lask of that Ilk, signed a ‘Band of Manrent’ to William Earl of Erroll, of the Clan Hay, and resigned the lands of Leask and Auchlethin in favor of his son Thomas Lask. In this deed Thomas is designated ‘armiger’ to his superior, Sir William Hay.

Ray Leask has a section of his website dedicated to the Hills of Leask (Leskgourgone) with a great set of photos covering KnapsLeask, the Chapel of Leask, Mains of Leask, Mill of Leask, Milltown of Leask, Moss Leask, Nether Leask, and the Manor House. Be sure to check it out and use the dropdown navigation to see each sub-section!

Y-DNA Surname Study August 2014 Update

At the end of August we are hosting a Clan Leask Gathering at the Virginia Scottish Games in The Planes, Vigrinia. We are creating a few handouts and mailings. Eventually we will put the full content on our websites, but one step at a time. I just sent the Y-DNA Surname Study – August 2014 Update brochure to my editor (a.k.a. my wife who is an English teacher) and am very excited about what we pulled together. Here is the introduction/summary from the brochure to give you a taste of what has been going on:



There are many known spellings of the name Leask: Leisk, Liesk, Lisk, Lesk, Lesh, Laesk, Lask, Leysk, Laysk, and Lusk (underlined names have participated in the Leask Surname Y-DNA Study to date). The testing thus far has proven Leask, Lisk, Leisk and some of those whose name is spelled Lusk are related and therefore are all members of the Clan Leask.

Through the Leask Y-DNA Surname Study, three distinct lines have been discovered for Clan Leask. Groups #1 and #2, though different are closely related; they are likely to have a similar geographic origin and a common ancestor within 1200 years. Group #3 has a greatly different genetic code and appears to have a much different geographic origin.

Three distinct lines of Leasks have been discovered through Y-DNA testing for the Clan – two related and one unique.

The Y-DNA study indicates the answer for most of the Leasks tested so far is that their origin is either Norwegian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon or Danish; the tested Leasks are likely to have originated in either Ancient Friesland or Jutland. Ancient Friesland was located in what is today Northern Holland, Northern Germany and Western Denmark.  Group #3 suggests a potential linage from Iberia.

More about this study, including instructions to join it and references for this article, can be found at our genealogy research site,


Clan Leask USA Announces First-ever USA Clan Leask Gathering

We are very excited to announce the first ever Clan Leask Gathering in the United States! We will have a tent at the Virginia Scottish Games in The Plains, Virginia on August 30th and 31st!

We’re hoping this games, so near our nation’s capital, will offer a great meeting place for US-based Leask’s to shake hands with some potential long-lost (and distant) relatives. There are multiple airport options and The Plains is easily accessible by major cross-country highways.

We are planning to bring materials to help those interested in learning more about our shared heritage. Come talk with USA Genealogy expert, Mac Leask, to learn about our varied last names, where your branch of the clan may have come from, and the status of our Y-DNA testing- including how you can join the testing to see where your branch of the family may connect with others who have joined the research!

Keep an eye on the USA Gathering 2014 page for more information about this years games and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly!