Coll was for many generations a favourite personal name among the Gaels of the north-west Highlands and Islands and also in Ireland.  Its exact meaning is unclear and the act of trying to determine the etymology is hampered by the numerous choices.  Coll is the third letter of the Gaelic alphabet and as with all such letters is named after a tree, in this case Hazel.  It is probably the same root that gave us the word in Gaelic for a wood, ‘coille’.  Kollr is an Old Norse personal name, and the close links between the Norse and Scotland and Ireland could have led to its introduction in certain cases.  

Cairbre Riada, 117th King of Ireland and founder of Dalriada is said to have had three sons all named Coll.  The c300 indicates that the name predates the Norse invasions.  MacColl simply means ‘son of Coll’.  The Clan name of this name claim to be a branch of the MacDonalds and wear the same plant badge, Froach Gorm (Common Heather).  However, their home was traditionally around Loch Fyne, where they followed their neighbours the Campbells and also in Appin around Ballachulish, where they were followers of the Stewarts of Appin.  It is with this latter clan that they are more often associated.  So intimate was the connection between the Stewarts and the MacColls, that is was the custom that when a chieftain of the House of Achnacone died, he should be buried in a spot where a MacColl lay on either side of him.

During the Rising of 1745 when the Stewarts of Appin were out for the Stewarts, the casualties of the Appin Regiment amounted to 91 killed and 65 injured.  Nineteen different names were recorded in the regiment, of which the MacColl quota of the above was 18 and 15 respectively.  

Probably the most famous person of this name was Sir Alexander MacColl (a MacDonald of Colonsay) commonly called Kolkitto (Coll Coitach – the left handed), Lieutenant-General to the Marquis of Montrose.  

Another family of the name gave us Evan MacColl, a famous Gaelic poet whose most famous work was ‘Clarsach nam Beann’, Mountain Harp.  In addition to MacColl tartans, the name links to the MacDonald, Campbell or Stewart of Appin tartan.  The name MacCall comes from the Gaelic ‘MacChathail’, son of Cathal, from the Celtic ‘Katu-Valo-s’, meaning ‘war-wielder’.  This family was frequently found in Ayrshire and other parts of the lowlands.  They are said to have been MacAulays who settled there c.1500.  Neither the MacCathals nor MacAulays have any connection with the MacColls.