The Irish Branch of Drum

by Alexander Staples Irwin


In this record a clew may be found to the John Irwin, born in the County of Tyrone in 1746, and came to America with his mother Agnes Irwin, who died in her son John's home, corner Fourth and Market Streets, in the City of Pittsburgh, Alleghany County, Pa., March 1st, 1811, at the age of 95 years.

This family when it left Ireland consisted of the father, mother and three sons, John, David and William, and a daughter, Jane. The father died at sea from a broken heart, caused by the sorrow he felt from leaving his old home, and only the mother, three sons and the daughter reached America. Also that of William Irwin and his brother, who came to America in the beginning of the 18th century and settled first in Duchess County, New York. William was at that time about 14 years of age. His brother's name is not known, but supposed to be either Joseph or Robert, and were born in the County of Antrim, Ireland, and connected with the Earl of Antrim.

These Irwins all claim the armorial bearing of Drum: Argent three holly branches, each consisting of as many leaves proper, banded together gules. The supporters are two savages, wreathed about the head and loins with hollies, bearing batons in their hands. The private badge being the one carried by King Robert the Bruce, three laurel leaves, with the words, Sub sole, sub umbra vircens.

I quote now from Col. J. B. Irving’s book, Book of the    Irvings:”

The following document is at Drumglass, Dungannon, County Tyrone, at present in possession of Rev. A. Staples Irwin. It was found thirty years ago in Dublin, in the house of Hugh King Irwin, in a chest that had not been opened for a hundred years. Robert Irwin, Hugh King Irwin’s great-grandfather, went out in 1745 with Prince Charlie (Robert Irwin was then of Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire). In 1746 he had to f1y for his life to Ireland and brought with him this chest, containing, besides this document, a miniature of Prince Charlie, presented by himself, and a painting on wood by Holbien of a former Irwin of Drum. It is like Rev. A. Staples Irwin, with a peaked beard and ruff of lace around his neck, painted in fifteen hundred and something. The manuscript is very clearly written, on thick, rough paper, rather like parchment, yellow with age, measuring 24 inches by 16 inches. It is apparently about two hundred years old, and perhaps more. I have copied the spelling as exactly as I am able.

Robert Irvine’s second brother adhered to King George and was rewarded with the grant of his elder brother’s property of Drum, but he appears to have behaved very well to his brother, and sent him a good sum of money, as he was able to buy property and settle and live in Ireland as a gentleman. Of this elder brother and his descendants, see later on. The document reads as follows:

The name and family is very ancient. Some antiquarians bring the name Ervine, now written Irvine, from the Celto-Scythicke word Ervine, or fiene, which signifies a stout Westland man, for Erin in old Gaelic or Welsh signifieth West and Vine or fein a resolute and, worthy man.

Ireland is at this day called Erin both by its ancient inhabitants and those of Albion, because its situation is west from Albion.

When the colonies of the Gauls came from the west coast of Spain and seated themselves in the east coast of Erin and in the west hills and islands of Albion, then the Ereviens came to both these islands.

The Silures of South Wales were of these colonies, as Tacitus affirmeth, and the Brigantes, both of Albion and Erin, were of the same.

These among them in Albion called Erevines had their seat in that part of the county now called Cunninghame. They gave their name to the river and to their own habitation, at present called the town of Erevine or Irvine.

The chief of them was Abathane of Dule, an honorable title of old.

John Major related that Erevine the Abathane married the only daughter of King Malcolm II, who began to reign in A. D. 1004.

Some of the family went to the South, and took up their dwelling upon the River Esk, at present called Castle Irvine, or Irvine Hall.

By marriage the eldest of the family acquired the lands of Bonshaw, which they as yet possess.

King Robert the Bruce, when he fled from Edward Longshanks, came to Bonshaw, and took thence the oldest son of the family, Sir William Irvine, to wait on him. He made him his secretary and armor bearer, and because of his remarkable fidelity to him in all adversities, this king gave him the lands of the Forest of Drum, and he himself having carried as a private badge three laurel leaves, with the words Sub sole, sub umbra vircens, gave this to William of Drum, predecessor, for arms three holly leaves, which is a kind of laurel, with the aforesaid motto, Sub sole, sub umbra virens. Thus the armorial bearing of the family is Argent, three holly branches, each consisting of as many leaves proper, banded together gales; the supporters are two savages, wreathed about the head and loins with hollies, bearing batons in their hands. This is vouched from the charters of the families and by Sir George MacKenzie in his book of Heraldry.

Some time thereafter the Laird of Drum married the daughter of Sir Robert Keith, Knight Marischal, whom he had by Margaret Hay, daughter of Gilbert, Lord Hay, First Constable of that family. This Sir Robert Keith was killed at the battle of Durham Arms, 1346.

The son of this Drum, Sir Alexander Irvine, commanded the Lowland forces at Harlaw, and in 1411 killed with his own hand MacLean, a chief commander of the Highlanders, and was there killed himself, as Hector Bocthius relates, saying that he was oburecipuum robur conspcuus.

His brother, named also Alexander Irvine, commanded, succeeded and was one of the commissioners sent by the    Estate of Scotland to treat anent the ransom of King James I and to bring him home, as Hector Boethius and Drummond Hawthorden testify.

John Major, in his History, sayeth he was knighted by this king in his second Parliament, holden at Perth.

This Sir Alexander married a daughter of the Lord Keith, Knight Marischal, by whom he had Alex. and another son, to whom he gave the land of Redmire and Whiterigs in the Means, holding as yet of Drum.

From this second son descended the Irvines of Lenturke. Alexander, married Abernathy, daughter to the Lord Saltoun, by whom he had Alexander Irvine of Drum, who married Katherine Forbes, daughter of the Lord Forbes. By her he had three sons, Alexander, Richard of Creightoun, from whom are descended the Irvines, Hilltoun, and Henry, and a daughter, Lady Wardes. Alexander married Allardice, only daughter of Allardice of that ilk, by whom he had a son, Alexander Irvine of Drum, who married Catherine Balbeaus, and another to Frazer of Machal, the predecessor of the Lord Fraser. Alexander married Ogilvy, daughter to the Laird of Failator, who was killed at Pinky in 1547. He left six sons and three daughters—Alexander, William of Aidlogy, Robert of Tillibair, from whom forty is descended; Gilbut of Callairley, who had three sons, Alexander, Gilbert and John of Murthill.

From John of Murthill, now mentioned, are descended the Irvings of Murthill and Cults. Alexander, the eldest, married kith to the Earl of Marisichal, by whom he had five sons and four daughters, the eldest married to Uury, the second to Keith of Craig Inverugy, third lo Ogilvy of Boys, and the fourth to Menzies of Pitfoddels. The sons were: Alexander, the eldest; second, Robert of Fornet or Moncaffer (Extinct); third, James of Brucklaw, the predecessor of Shaphock; fourth, William of Beatty (also extinct); and the fifth, John of Ardtamford, the predecesor of Crimmond and Ardtamford. That this James was the third son and John the fifth was instructed by the two original charters granted by Drum, their father, to them—the one dated February 5th, 1598, and the other March 27th, 1602, and the custody of Mrs. Irvine of Shaphock.

Alexander, the son of this Drum, married Marion Douglas, daughter of the Earl of Buehan. He had two sons—Alexander and Robert of Fedderate, and five daughters—eldest, Lady Bamff; second married to Urquhart of Leathin; third to Douglas Glenberry; fourth to Ogilvie of Inverwharity; and fifth to Graham of Morphy. Robert, the second son, married Camphall, daughter to Glenorchy. He had two sons, Alexander and Robert, and two daughters—one married to Gordon of Gight and the other to Fraser of Strichen. Alexander, Lady Elizabeth Ogilvie, daughter to the Earl of Finlater.

This Drum mastified four bursaries to the Grammar School of Aberdeen at 80 lib. Scots each, to the university there four of philosophy at 100 lib. Scots, and two of divinity at 200 marks each. His lady endowed a hospital for relief of poor widows—of all which Drum is patron.

His eldest son, Sir Alexander Irvine, was Sheriff Principal of Aberdeen. He married Magdalen Scrimgeous, daughter to Daddop, Constable of Dundee, and had five sons, Alexander, Robert, James, Charles and Francis (four younger died without isue), and six daughters Marion, married to the Viscount of Frendraugh; Anne, to the Earl of Aboye ; Elizabeth, Jane, Isabel and Margaret.

Alexander married Lady Mary Gordon, daughter to the Marquis of Huntley, and had by her three sons, Alexander, Robert and Charles, and four daughters Mary, married to Patrick, Count Leslys of Balquahain; Margaret, to Menzies of Pitfoddles; Jane, to Irvine of Murthill, and Henrietta, to Pitcaple. By his second marriage he had a son named Charles, and three daughters; the younger sons died without issue. This Drum received from King Charles I a patent creating him Earl of Aberdeen, but the civil wars then arising, it was never expiated through the seals. In these wars he suffered much. When in prisonment and confiscation he tailed his estate (1687), upon deathbed, failing heirs male of his body, to the Irvines of Murthill, Ardtamford and Cults, and their heirs male in order, excluding thus the nearest male heirs, to whom the succession by the ancient investitures was provided. His eldest son, Alex., died in 1695 with out issue to him. Alexander Irvine of Murthill, in the right of the tailie, succeeded. He died 1719, leaving one son, Alexander, and two daughters.

James Irvine of Brucklaw, mentioned as the third son of Drum, married Lucretia Irvine, his uncle’s daughter. He had two sons, John, who died without male issue, and Gilbert of Altree, who married Janet, daughter to the Irvines of Untoch, brother to the Laird of Innes, and had two sons, John Irvine of Saphock, and James. Mr. John Irvine of Saphock married Birny, sister to Bromhill, and left three sons, Alexander, John and James.

Alexander Irvine of Saphock, his son, as descended from James of Brucklaw, is the nearest lineal heir male now existing, and consequently the representative of the family of Drum for the Irvines Murthill and Cults had come of the family before Bucklaw, Ardtamford, at the same time with him, being the fifth and youngest son, and all the male descendants since then had failed.

As is observed, these other families in the North descended from Drum, as the Irvines of Kingeousy, Glassit of Esterceune and Conrybaugh.

 "True copy taken from the original by me, John Beaufin Irving of Bonshaw, at Drumglass House, Drumganon, County' Tyrone, on 5th and 6th of January, 1906. Rev. Alexander Staples Irwin, the present owner of the original, and the descendant of the original owner, Robert Irvine (his great-great-grandfather), who brought it with him when he had to fly from the estate of Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, after the failure of Prince Charlie Edward’s rising in 1746, being present.


In proof whereof, Rev. A. Staples Irwin appends his signature hereto.


Dated the 8th day of January, 1906.


Robert Irvine, born about 1677, was the great-great-grandfather of Rev. Alexander Staples Irwin, and took a leading part in Prince Charlie’s abortive rebellion in 1745-1746. In order to save his life he fled to Ireland, settling at Moree, County Tyrone.

Alexander, older brother of Robert Irvine, Sr., took King George’s, side, and thus got the Drum estates, which his descendants inherited. Alexander must have shared his good fortune with Robert, however, for Robert was able to buy land in Ireland, built a nice house, and live like a gentleman.

Robert had four sons, Robert, Alexander, Hugh and John. Alexander Staples Irvin was a great-grandson of John.