Erskine

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Clan Erskine is a Scottish chiefly family

(Badge copyright Gaelic Themes Ltd.)

Origins

The surname Erskine was originally derived from the lands of Erskine, which is an area to the south of the River Clyde in Renfrew. <ref>George Way of Plean, Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia (Glasgow, Harper Collins, 1994) 132 </ref> The name is believed to be ancient or Old British for green rising ground.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>

Middle Ages

As early as the reign of Alexander II of Scotland, Henry de Erskine was proprietor of the barony.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> In about 1226 Henry was a witness to a charter by the Earl of Lennox of the patronage and tithes of Rosneath to Paisley Abbey. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> John de Irskyn was amongst the Scottish nobles who submitted to Edward I of England and appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> His son, another Sir John de Irskyn had three daughters.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> The eldest daughter married Thomas Bruce, the brother of king Robert the Bruce. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>Sir John de Irskyn's second daughter married Walter, the High Steward of Scotland.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> The Erskines were supporters of the Bruce family and Sir Robert de Erskine was appointed Constable of Stirling Castle by David II. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>In 1371 he was one of the nobles who established the succession of Robert II as the first Stewart king. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> Robert de Erskine was the founder of several Erskine dynasties- his grandson acquired the Earldom of Mar, while a younger brother founded the House of Dun near Montrose. <ref>Dorward, Surnames, 87</ref>A cadet branch became Lords of Cardross. <ref>Doward, Surnames, 87</ref>

Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

In the mid 15th century when Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar died the Clan Erskine chief claimed Earl of Mar title, which was one of the great Celtic titles.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> Stewart had claimed the title through his wife, the Countess of Mar. Sir Robert Erskine, who had been created Lord Erskine claimed the title through his descent from the Countess of Mar.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> Erskine's claim was refused by the king who said that the title belonged to the crown because the last male holder had been a Stewart. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> However the Erskines became guardians to the young James IV of Scotland despite of this dispute with the king. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>Five successive generations of Erskines were guardians of the royals.</ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>

In 1497 Alexander Erskine, third Lord Erskine constructed Alloa Tower, a massive tower that would be the seat of the clan chiefs for the next three hundred years. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>The third Lord Erskine's son was killed in 1513 at the Battle of Flodden. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>John Erskine, fifth Lord Erskine was guardian and tutor of James V of Scotland. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> Mary, Queen of Scots had spent the first five years of her life around Alloa and Stirling Castle. She later bestowed upon Lord Erskine the title of Earl of Mar. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref> Lord Erskine took part in the Raid of Ruthven in 1582, in which the young James VI of Scotland was placed in the hands of an extremist faction of Protestant nobility for nearly a year. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>As a result Erskine was exiled but was later restored to royal favour and in 1616 was made Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 132</ref>

Jacobitism

John Erskine, Earl of Mar

John Erskine, Earl of Mar was known as bobbing John due to his change of political allegiance in accordance with the needs of survival that was not unknown to the Scottish nobility. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref> He had been a supporter of the Union, however when he attended court in London in 1714 he was not offered the post of Secretary of State for Scotland, which he considered to be an insult.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref>

He returned to his ancestral lands and raised the standard of James VIII (The Old Pretender), he called out his own clansmen and all loyal supporters of the House of Stuart. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref>Erskine had soon gathered an army of over ten thousand clansmen. The earl led his army of Jacobites at the Battle of Sheriffmuir against the Duke of Argyll, which was fought on the 13th November 1715. Mar proved an incapable military commander. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref> The battle was inconclusive and Argyll claimed victory. The Jacobite rising was a failure and Erskine, Earl of Mar fled to France. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref> His title and lands were forfeited and in 1724 were purchased by another branch of the family.<ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref>The earl had received the Jacobite title of Mar but this was abandoned in 1824 when the Erskines were restored to the earldom of Mar. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref>The earldom of Kellie became united with the earldom of Mar in 1835. Kellie had originally been bestowed in 1619 on a younger son of the chiefly line. <ref>Way of Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 133</ref>

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Mary Erskine, born in Clackmannanshire in 1629 was a pioneer of girl's education. <ref>Dorward, Dictionary, 86 </ref> Ebenezer Erskine founded the Scottish Succession Church in 1740, <ref>Dorward, Dictionary, 86 </ref> A number of family members were jurists- Charles Erskine, was Lord Justice Clerk in 1748, John Erskine of Carnock authored 'Institutes of the Law of Scotland' and Thomas Erskine, of the Cardoss branch of the family, became Lord Chancellor in 1806 in the 'Ministry of All the Talents' <ref>Dorward, Dictionary, 86 </ref> <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Erskine,_1st_Baron_Erskine</ref>

Thomas Erskine

Twentieth Century

Poster for a political meeting addressed by Erskine of Mar

Ruairidh Erskine of Mar was a member of the aristocratic Erskine family, who became a prominant Gaelic language activist and eventually, a Scottish Republican. He learned to speak Gaelic from his nanny and maintained a lifelong passion for the language. He founded the first Gaelic language journal in Scotland, in 1904 he formed the Guth na Bliadhna (Voice of the Year) publication and used it to advocate independence and a coming together of the Gaels of both Scotland and Ireland to aid each other in a campaign to establish their respective languages as the official language of their country. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairidh_Erskine_of_Mar</ref>He also used the magazine to call for the formation of a political party to campaign for independence.<ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairidh_Erskine_of_Mar</ref> Despite his aristocratic background, Erskine had links with the socialist figure John Maclean who was himself an advocate of an independent (socialist) Scotland. Erskine had at one stage described socialism as "a predatory creed", but by the time of the First World War he was becoming more politically radical and finding sympathy with the cause of figures such as Maclean<ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairidh_Erskine_of_Mar</ref>

He championed the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916, and attempted to foster links with the Irish nationalist community by attempting to set up a joint Scottish-Irish Celtic newspaper with Art O'Brian the president of the Irish Self Determination League. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairidh_Erskine_of_Mar</ref> Erskine attempted to get independent representation for Scotland at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the First World War. In this he was ultimately unsuccessful, but it did attract the support of figures such as James Maxton, a prominent figure in the Independent Labour Party at the time. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairidh_Erskine_of_Mar</ref> Erskine and Gillies led the SNL into joining with other groups to form the National Party of Scotland (NPS) in 1928, a precursor to the Scottish National Party. However, the gradualist and moderate approach taken by the new party led to alienation from its leadership, and Erskine left politics for a lengthy retirement in France.

Clan Chiefs

Due to a disputed succession during the Nineteenth Century, caused by a restoration of the previously attained Jacobite title there are now two separate Chiefdoms. The current Chief of Clan Erskine is James Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar who descends from the Earls of Mar, seventh Creation (1565) (as deemed by the House of Lords in 1875). He is chief of the name and arms of Erskine. The Clan Mar now has a separate chief; Margaret of Mar, 31st Countess of Mar who descends from the Earls of Mar, first creation (1404) (as deemed by Act of Parliament in 1885). She is chief of the name and arms of Mar.

References

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