300 AD to 1306

Sometime before 373 AD, the Clans of the Gaelic Nations came from the west coast of Spain and established themselves on the east coast of Ireland. They then moved on to the west coast of Scotland, and the Scots called them "Erinviene's". Erin - meaning from the west, Viene - meaning a brave, resolute, worthy man. The Erinviene's had close relations with the Kings of Scotland.  

Bonshaw TowerWhen time the Erinviene's stayed on the west coast of Scotland they, built Irving castle, which later became the Town of Irving, and named the Irving River after their clan. Today both the town and the river are called Irvine.

In 373 AD, the Erinviene's, together with other Scottish clans, fought against the Romans. King Eugenius died, and the Erinviene's and the rest of the Albion Scots fled to Scandinavia.  For many years the Scots tried to retake their land. In 404 AD, Fergus was made King. Fergus II led the return to Scotland and, along with the Erinviene's and other Clans, they drove the Romans out of Scotland.

Drum Castle CrestThree Erivine brothers - Erinus, Grim and Duncan - were grandsons of Duncan, the first of the Eryvine's, who was killed at Duncrub in 965A.D. Duncan is alleged to be the ancestor of the entire Irvine clan. Sometime before 1034, Duncan was named Prince of Cumberland by his grandfather, Malcolm II (c. 954 - 1018), King of Scotland. Malcolm had no children, so he named Duncan as his successor and to make sure Duncan became king, Malcolm had all of Kenneth III's male descendants killed. Macbeth the Usurper (c 1005 - 1057), who was also a grandson of Malcolm, resented Duncan's favour. Both Duncan and Macbeth derived their rights to the crown through their mothers.  Prince Duncan took several of the old Clans to the southern border to defend Scotland from England, and Prince Duncan's uncle brought his clan, the Erivine's, with him. They built the Towers of Bonshaw along the banks of the Kirtle. This branch of the Irvine's became the Irvings. King Malcom introduced the parish system in the 11th century, and the Irving lands became known as Irving Parish.

Drum Castle - High HallMalcolm II had no male heir when he was assassinated in 1034. Prince Duncan ascended the throne.  Little is known historically concerning Duncan's reign. He was king for only six years, and in that time, he sallied into northern England on several occasions. In an age when kings proved themselves in battle, Duncan was not a good king. Named as Karl Hundason, but probably Duncan, the Orkneyinga Saga mentions his failed attempt to take Caithness from Thorfinn. Duncan failed to take Durham in 1039, and he was defeated in his campaign against the Norsemen in 1040. Macbeth formed an alliance with their cousin the Earl of Orkney, and together they defeated and killed Duncan when he was returning from his defeat from the Norsemen in 1040.  Macbeth then assumed the throne. It is around Duncan's murder that Shakespeare's play Macbeth is based.  In 1045 Erinus was killed by Macbeth's forces while attempting to exact revenge for the murder of his son. 

Drum CastleIn 1046 Siward, Earl of Northumbria, unsuccessfully attempted to dethrone Macbeth in favour of Malcolm Erivine (c. 1031 - 1093), eldest son of Duncan I. By 1050, Macbeth felt secure enough to leave Scotland for a pilgrimage to Rome. But in 1054, he was forced by Siward to yield part of southern Scotland to Malcolm. 

After 17 years of hiding, Malcolm raised an army to challenge Macbeth in 1057. He defeated and executed Macbeth the Usurper that same year. Lulach, the stepson of Macbeth, reigned for a very short period before meeting his demise on March 17, 1058, when Malcolm defeated him. Malcolm reclaimed his father's throne and thence became Malcolm III.  After the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, in 1066, Malcolm gave refuge to the Anglo-Saxon prince Edgar the Aetheling and his sisters, one of whom, Margaret (later St. Margaret), became his second wife. 

Drum CastleMalcolm acknowledged the overlordship of William in 1072 but soon violated his feudal obligations and made five raids into England. During the last of these invasions, he was killed by King William II Rufus (reigned 1087-1100), near Alnwick, Northumberland, England. After Malcolm's death, the succession included David I 'The Saint' and William 'The Lion of Justice'. The line of succession ceased when Alexander III rode his horse over a cliff on a dark December night in 1286.

Bonshaw towerAlexander III outlived his heirs, and after his death, the succession was cast into dispute. Thirteen claimants then declared their right to the throne, all having some relation to the line of Irvine. The claimant with the most standing was John Balliol, who was the great great great- grandson of David I. His most serious contender was Robert the Bruce, the great great great great-grandson of David I. Edward 'Longshanks' of England then chose Balliol to be King of Scotland, who had to promise subservience to London. 

When Balliol could no longer tolerate following the direction of the English, he was imprisoned in London. Two contenders, John 'Red' Comyn, Balliol's nephew, and Robert the Bruce, were in contention for the throne. The two met at the Church of the Grey Friers in 1306 to resolve their dispute. During the meeting, Robert killed Comyn when he thrust a dagger through his heart. Longshanks then issued a warrant for the arrest of Robert the Bruce. 


1306 to 1600

Drum CastleRobert the Bruce frequently received help and refuge from the Irvines of Bonshaw during his famous, protracted fight with the English. William de Irwyn was one of his principal aides. As legend has it, King Robert was suddenly put to flight by his enemies with only a few of his aides to assist him. During the exhausting flight, Robert slept under a holly tree while William stood guard. This event is alleged to be the source of the Irvine coat of arms. Holly leaves are now a prominent feature in the Irvine coat of arms. 

William supported Robert at the famous battle of Bannockburn in June of 1314 (one of the few battles where the Scots defeated the English). In 1323, for his meritorious service, William was granted 10,000 acres of land that previously belonged to John Comyn, the Royal Forest of Oaks in Aberdeenshire and Drum Castle. Thenceforth Drum Castle remained in possession of the Irvines for over 650 years. 

Bonshaw TowerSir William de Irvine married a granddaughter of Bruce, the daughter of Robert Douglas, Earl of Buchan. For twelve generations, starting with the third Laird of Drum, a successive line of Irvines all beared the name Alexander. 

Sir Alexander Irvine, Third Liard of Drum, who was the grandson of William de Irwyn, accompanied the Earl of Mar in the French wars and was one of the chief commanders of the King's army at the Battle of Harlaw, A.D. 1411, fought only 20 miles from Drum. He was a brave champion. Alexander led the forces of Aberdeenshire with his cousin, the Earl of Mar, to meet the invaders from the Hebrides. During the battle, Alexander met the ferocious Chief of the MacLeans of Duart in Mull, known as 'Red Hector of the Battles'. After 'noble and notable single combat' the two lay dead upon the field, killed by mortal blows struck upon each other. Legend has it that all Irvine adult males died in the battle of Harlaw. This battle marked the last challenge by the Lords of the Isles to royal authority.

Bonshaw TowerBefore the battle, Alexander made his younger brother Robert swear that Robert would assume his baronial right at Drum Castle if Alexander should be killed. After Alexander's death Robert carried out his oath. He changed his name to Alexander and married his Alexander's fiancée, Elizabeth de Keith. Robert, the 4th Liard, was heavily involved in the negotiations which ransomed the release of James I from the English, for which he was knighted. After the King was murdered in 1437, Alexander de Irwyne took control of the city of Aberdeen to try to restore order. The Irvings lost control of most of their large Bonshaw estate after the battle of Arkinholme in 1455.

Irvine Coat of ArmsThe Irvines were known as troublesome neighbours. The Irvines had a long- running feud with their neighbours the Keiths. In 1402 the Irvines slaughtered in invading Keith warband at the battle of Drumoak. Robert Irvine married Elizabeth Keith, thus ending the long-running feud. Robert is believed to have exchanged swords with on son of Red Hector in a gesture of friendship between their families. It is believed that Robert built St Ninian's chantry in St. Nicholas Church in Aberdeen.

Other Irvines of note include the sixth Laird of Drum, who was rewarded by James V in 1547 for arresting "rebel thieves, reivers, sorcerers and murderers". The Dumfries branch rose to prominence in the 16th century - Christopher Irving of Bonshaw and a son were killed at the battle of Flodden in Sept. 9, 1513, while leading light horsemen against the English. It is alleged that many Irvines died in this battle and the ensuing English raids, which laid waste to the area.


1600 to 1850

Drum Castle CrestDuring the Covenanting Rebellion, the royalist Irvines supported Charles I. Drum Castle was plundered three times. Sir Alexander, a Royalist, was forced to conform to the Covenant and was appointed Sheriff of Aberdeen in 1634. Alexander, 10th Laird of Drum, Robert Federett and his two sons, were imprisoned at the Tolbooth in Edinburgh several times. His son Robert died there in 1646. 

When Charles became King in 1660, he offered Sir Alexander's son, the tenth Laird of Drum, an earldom as a reward for his staunch support, which he turned down because the king wouldn't pay to repair damage sustained to Drum Castle while the family had supported him. 

Irvine BadgeThe fourteenth Liard (a Jacobite) fought at Sheriffmuir in 1715, which ended in a stalemate.  The Laird received a severe head wound which left him insane.  The Irvines continued to support the Jacobite cause. The XVIIth Laird joined Lord Pitsligo in the rising of 1745, which supported Bonny Prince Charlie.  After the disastrous battle of Culloden, the Laird, with a warrant for his arrest, returned to Drum Castle, where he went into hiding in a secret room with the assistance of his sister, Miss Mary Irvine. The Liard hid in a secret room in the castle.  The XVIIth Laird was tried in absentia and eventually acquitted on a technicality. The 22nd Laird fought with the Grenadier Guards in the First World War.

Variations of the Irvine Name

Drum Castle LibraryThe  present name of Irvine is believed to have originated in Dumfriesshire between 1124 and 1165. Irvin, Irvine, Irwin and Erwin are identical names belonging to the same family. Until the 11th century, the most common spellings were Eryvine, Erivine and Erevine. After the Norman invasion, the dominant spelling became de Irwyn. Apparently, the "de" prefix was in vogue in the 14th century. The Irvings are associated with Bonshaw Tower in Scotland. This area of Scotland became known as Irving lands, and the lands around Drum became Irvine lands. Irvings are based in Dumfrieshire and the Irvines in Aberdeenshire. The split follows the unification of Scotland under Robert the Bruce. Robert was, in fact, a Norman with the family name de Bruis; his family were allocated the Ervine lands in SW Scotland and the Ervines, became loyal supporters and took on the name de Irwyn. William de Irwyn became the "armour bearer" to Robert, and following Bannockburn, was gifted the Drum estates. Later it was deemed politic to anglicise family names, so the name became Irvings around Bonshaw and Irvines around Drum . In the latter part of the 14th century, the name changed from de Irwyn to Irving in the southern part of Scotland near Bonshaw and to the Irvines in the northern area near Drum. The wide range of variations is attributed to medieval census takers who relied on spoken pronouncements of the name. 

Irvine TartanIn the past 1500 years the original family Erinviene name has been altered into many different versions: Curwing, De Irwin, D'Irevigne, D'Orvin, Eirryn, Erevine, Erewynis, Erin, Ervin, Ervine, Erving, Ervinge, Erwin, Erwine, Erwing, Erwyn, Eryvine, Eryvinus, Eurwing, Hierewine, Hirevigne, Hirevigne, Hurven, Irevigne, Irewin, Irewing, Irewyn, Irrewing, Irrewings, Irruein, Irruen, Irruwing, Irrwin, Irrwing, Irrwingis, Iruin, Iruine, Iruing, Iruwyn, Irveyn, Irvin, Irvine, Irving, Irvinge, Irvinn, Irvinus, Irvyn, Irvyerins, Irwan, Irwaynes, Irwein, Irweing, Irwen, Irwenis, Irwin, Irwine, Irwing, Irwinge, Irwyn, Irwyne, Irwynn, Irwynnis, Irynagio, Orruein, Ourine, Ouron, Urin, Urwen, Urwens, Urwin, Urwine, Vrwin, Yrwens, Yrwin, Yrwins. 

Written by Eric Irvine © 2001.  Revised 27 Aug 2021

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