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Scotts and Scots - Who Are They?

SCOTTS 'R' US- Who are we, and where are we from?

Two good questions, to be shortly answered, but firstly to legends and how our family name is tied into Scotland's rich history. Legend has it that the Scots originally came from the Eastern Mediterranean, moving firstly to northern Spain, lugging Jacob's pillow, the celebrated Coronation Stone(or Stone of Destiny), with them before arriving in Ireland. One school of thought has even nominated them as the Lost Tribe of Israel!! Oh well, it is a legend...

Anyways, the Scotti, (or Scotti-Irish pirates) may then have crossed the Irish sea to Scotland's western seaboard in Argyll  in what became known as Dalriada, as early as the fourth century, where we were then to find them in league with the more northern Picts, harassing the Roman provinces of Britain. It is said that it was the Romans who actually gave these Irish raiders their distinctive tribal name. The latin word “scotti” was used originally to denote the Irish Celts, whilst the Gaelic word “sgath”- (meaning to cut or to carve), may also have arisen from these early warriors habit of cutting and tattooing their bodies with blue woad dyes.      

The Scottan, or scotti, or Scott may then have come to be applied as a surname to any Scotsmen who had left their own country and wandered into England (at one time Scott was a more common surname in northern England than in Scotland!) If, as some historians argue, the family had taken its name from the race of Irish Scots, then it follows that all branches of the modern family or clan are not necessarily descended from the same ancestor, since a name that is descriptive of origin may well have been adopted by more than one group independently. Of all the clans of Scotland, none could be more closely identified with their nation's name than this Scott dynasty who had now taken the name of Scott.


However, the bibliographer and historian George Fraser Black rejects that as the origin of the surname and notes in his "Surnames of Scotland" that the earliest certain record of the name was that of Uchtred Filius Scot (Uchtred, the son of a Scot) who appears as a witness to the foundation charter of Selkirk in the time of King David I, around 1120. (See also below).



It was in the early 1100's when we encounter the individual Uchtred Filius Scoti, the first recorded member of our great house, as a witness to David 1's charter to Holyrood Abbey in 1128 and 1130. Uchtred had a son - Richard Scott, who witnessed a charter by the Bishop of St Andrews to the Abbey of Holyroodhouse about the year 1158.


Richard had two surviving sons:


1. Richard, who married Alicia, daughter and heiress of Murthockston of that Ilk and succeeded to these lands in Lanarkshire in the reign of Alexander II. Richard became Sir Richard Scott, Lord of Rankilburn and died around 1320. His descendants later adopted the name Buccleuch (there is a Buccleuch Burn close to the Scott castle/manor house) west of Hawick and they eventually became the Buccleuch line we know today.


2. Sir Michael, who acquired property in Fife and from whom the Scotts of Balweary and Ancram are descended. He died fighting the English at the Battle of Durham in 1346. He left two sons, the eldest of whom carried on the family; the second was the founder of the Scotts of Harden.


As was often the case in those days, the Scott descendants by a combination of judicious marriages,  finding favour with the monarchs of the day and by valiant defence of their assets, established themselves in the Scottish Borders (although one branch settled in Fife as the Scotts of Balwearie).


Afterwards, the "Scott Country" which began in the Ettrick Forest, lay between the rivers Teviot and Yarrow and they had the greater part of Upper Teviotdale with several possessions on the Yarrow and a footing in Eskdalemuir. On the forfeiture of Francis Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, they came into possession of wide domains in Liddesdale.

But the real cradle of the Scotts, however, was at Scotstoun and Kirkurd in the county of Peebles. There is clear evidence that the Holy Cross Kirk in Peebles was the burial place of the Scott chiefs for many generations. Even as late as 1492, David Scott of Buccleuch, who died at Rankilburn, left instructions in his will that his body should be buried in this Peebles church even though the Scotts had long ceased to live at Scotstoun. (Graphic of Holy Cross Church, Peebles copyright Kevin Rae via Wikimedia).

Borders Clan Map2

In Scotland, the name was particularly common in the Borders where they were amongst the most prominent and numerous of families. The most senior of these families  in Scotland were those of Buccleuch in the Borders and Balweary in Fife, both families descended from Richard and Michael Scott, both grandsons of the afore- mentioned Uchtred-the son of Scoti who had lived during the 12th century.


In the 15th century, at the height of the Reiving era, the Scotts grew in strength and could raise over 500 men in the form of what was in effect a private army.  Many were mounted on small tough horses and adopted the philosophy of “best riding by moonlight”. The armorial bearings of the Clan, adopted the crescent moon and stars symbols (borrowed from the barony of Murthockston/Murdostoun).


Towards the end of the 16th century "Bold Buccleuch" (Walter Scott, 1st Earl of Buccleuch, later Lord Buccleuch) stood up to an angry Queen Elizabeth I in London and so impressed her that he won her over and the charges against him for rescuing a member of the Armstrongs from prison in Carlisle were quietly dropped.





In the 17th century, Anne Scott (pictured here) succeeded to the Scott estates and married the Duke of Monmouth, the natural son of King Charles II. He assumed the surname of Scott and the couple were created Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. After her husband had been executed for attempting to overthrow the monarch, Ann was able to retain her titles - and subsequently married 3rd Baron Cornwallis and her titles passed to her grandson Francis. The 3rd Duke of Buccleuch inherited the Dukedom of Queensberry. The current  family seats are Bowhill House, three miles outside Selkirk, representing the Scott line; Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, representing the Douglas line; and Boughton House in Northamptonshire, England, representing the Montagu line.


Scotts have made a major contribution not only to Scotland but also around the world. There are many famous individuals bearing the family name, not least of whom is the great literary genius Sir Walter Scott. Abbotsford House near Galashiels is a national monument of interest and tribute to this great writer who changed how Scots saw their country - only a few decades after the slaughter of Culloden and the banning of tartan in Scotland he masterminded the visit to Scotland of the Hanoverian King George IV to Scotland and not only had the Scottish clan chiefs pledging allegiance but had the king dressed in a tartan kilt.


Others bearing the name include Gilbert Scott the architect who designed  Glasgow University and Robert Falcon Scott the Antarctic explorer and father of Sir Peter Scott the naturalist and painter.

Scott is a very common surname in the United States. When the United States Census was taken in 2000, there were about 420,091 individuals with the last name "Scott," ranking it number 36 for all surnames.

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