Category Archives: Scotland

Convoluted family links

The more research I do, the more confused I get about our family history. For instance, I am trying to make the leap “across the pond” from our American Kirkpatrick immigrants to specific families in Scotland. Not going so well.

The Alexanders and the Georges and the Jameses I am looking for seem to have nearly-identical families with identical names, all in the same area. And none of them left good records, that I can find. Or maybe I’m not looking in the right places…

But it’s a good mystery. One I can sink my teeth into. And if I can prove the lineage, I can link us to very ancient and sometimes royal family ties.

I know it’s been awhile since I posted but I am back in the research saddle again, so keep an eye on this little blog.

Sandy Kirkpatrick’s pictures, Part III

And today I will post the last two pictures Sandy sent me that he took while in Scotland recently. They’re gorgeous images and I just had to share. Thanks again, Sandy!

Sandy says: Closeburn Castle is back in Kirkpatrick hands after 300+ years. Needs some work!

Sandy says this plaque is on the main square of Dumfries, opposite the statue of Robert Burns. Notice that the wording is almost identical to the mural I posted yesterday.

Sandy Kirkpatrick’s pictures, Part I

Mr. Sandy Kirkpatrick from Florida responded to one of my posts recently. He very kindly offered to share some photos he took while he was in Scotland. He has just returned from there, so his pictures are of sunny spring days – not like my rainy, wet ones from a couple of years ago.

I’ll share one a day for the next few days, sharing my and Sandy’s thoughts. Enjoy!

Today, it’s Caerlaverock Castle. Click on the images to see larger versions.

Sandy says: Most histories (we visited the Dumfries library) say that this impressive castle (built as early as the 1100s and rebuilt many times since) was in Kirkpatrick hands for a brief period in the 1350s, awarded to them for their efforts in taking it back from the English. A Kirkpatrick, maybe Sir Roger's son or grandson, is said in legend to have been murdered there in revenge for the 1306 church murder.

Here's a lovely detail of the spring grasses and the water.

I wonder if Sandy noticed he had captured what looks like a girl in the upstairs window!

Wallace’s House

Going through all the family history material I have amassed over the years, I find treasure now and then. This has to do with Wallace’s House, which is, I believe, sometimes confused as “Watties Neach” in Kirkpatrick history.

In an 1869 publication called The Bruce and Wallace, I found this little bit of history that even names a Kirkpatrick (quoting an ancient poem called Wallace or The Life and Acts of Sir William Wallace of Ellerslie by Henry the Minstrel):

In the Knok wood he lewyt all bot thre. – V. 735.

In the parish of Kirkmichael, county of Dumfries, there is “a small fort in the Knock Wood, called Wallace’s House, said to have been thrown up by Sir William Wallace, after he had slain Sir Hugh of Moreland and five of his men, at a place still named, from that event, the sax corses, i.e. the six corpses.” Stat. Acc. I. 63. It has been ingeniously remarked, that “the sax corses more probably signify six crosses, in allusion to some religious monument so decorated.” Kerr’s Hist. Bruce, I. 125.

Ane Kyrk Patryk, that cruell was and keyne,
In Esdaill wood that half yer he had beyne.
With Ingliss men he couth nocht weyll accord. – V. 920

This, it appears, was the ancestor of the Kirkpatricks of Closeburne, who appear on record so early as the year 1141. Alexander II. grants a confirmation charter of Closeburne to one of this name, A. 1332, which is still in the possession of the family.

Interesting! This is the same Wallace’s House that I searched for near Garvald. Apparently, it is only a pile of rubble now. I was not successful in finding it – maybe next time.

There is more mention of “Kyrk Patryk” in this lengthy poem, in which he seems to be fighting with Wallace and they seem to be “kyn” (kin). However, I only have a bit of it printed out so I’ll have to do some more study of it when I get a few minutes.

Read more about my Wallace’s House debate here.

Skull wearing glasses, Part II

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may recall an entry I wrote about a carving of a skull I found in a Kirkpatrick mausoleum. The skull appeared to be wearing glasses.

Is this a skull wearing glasses?

I searched and searched online and could find nothing about any other such carvings and thought it was probably just a one-off – a tribute to the great Kirkpatrick sense of humor.

However, some kind soul recently dug up a link for me in answer to a query I posted on

Here is a link to the page in question. If you scroll down to the Kirkliston Graveston bit, you can see another carving of a skull wearing glasses – also in Scotland!

Those wacky Scots. What were they trying to tell us? Perhaps the person the skull represented was educated? Perhaps they wore glasses when they were alive? The mystery is far from solved but I find it oddly comforting to think that the Kirkpatrick skull was not the only one thus decorated!

Kirkpatrick mausoleum at the old Closeburn kirkyard

From the book Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick, C.B., C.B.E.:

When the loch [at Closeburn Castle] was drained in 1859, a number of relics were found. Amongst those, was an oak canoe 12 feet long in a good state of preservation. This was sent to the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh. The tradition is it was used to carry the dead of the Kirkpatricks across the loch to the family tomb in Closeburn kirkyard.

The 3rd Baronet [Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick] had the family coat of arms carved over the gateway of the tomb, with the Grierson fetlock impaled (his wife’s coat of arms; the addition conforming to heraldic custom).

The words engraved on the stone, read;- “vanitas omnia vanitas” [vanity, all is vanity], and inside, on the walls over the gateway, is inscribed:-

“Nos, nostraque Morte dobemus
Majoribus posterisque
De Closeburn Baronetus
Extratruendum curavit. 1742″.
“Sic transit gloria mundi”.

Signifying, Sir Thos. Kirkpatrick Baronet of Closeburn caused this to be created A.D. 1742.

“We and our relatives
have all to die.”
Thus earthly glory passes”.

Hardly an original thought, but a true prophecy, for his house went up in flames six years later, and he lost all his possessions.

Detail of one of the engravings on the Kirkpatrick mausoleum at the old Closeburn kirkyard.

This is the same mausoleum I wrote of in this post – the one of the skull wearing glasses!

Robert the Bruce

Kirkpatrick family researchers have read the story many times about how Sir Roger Kirkpatrick aided Robert the Bruce in killing Comyn in Greyfriars Church. But could we have spun the story just a little? Could it be that the great Bruce was in fact an opportunist and that things didn’t happen exactly the way we have handed the story down through the ages?

The records are pretty explicit about how our family crest was given to us by the Bruce in gratitude for our loyalty (the Kirkpatrick and Bruce families had been close for generations), and perhaps the words “Mak siccar” were actually uttered by Sir Roger, but what about the circumstances surrounding the murder itself?

Undiscovered Scotland, in its article on Robert the Bruce, paints a slightly less than flattering picture:

By the end of 1305 there were signs that Edward I believed that Bruce was plotting against him: but Bruce’s repeated switching of sides meant he was also little trusted by many in Scotland. Bruce, it seems, was planning to seize the arguably vacant crown of Scotland for himself. His main obstacle in Scotland was John III Comyn. On 10 February 1306 the two met to discuss their differences in the safe and neutral Church of the Grey Friars in Dumfries. It seems they disagreed, either because both wanted the Scottish crown for themselves, or because Comyn refused to lend his support to Bruce’s planned uprising against the English. Robert Bruce drew a dagger and stabbed Comyn in front of the high altar of the church. Bruce fled the church, telling waiting comrades outside what had happened. One of them, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, went back in and finished off the seriously wounded Comyn.

It is unlikely that Bruce had gone to the meeting intending to murder the leading member of the most powerful family in Scotland: and certainly not in a place that caused revulsion in an age well used to savagery. But the die was cast and Bruce had no choice but to press on with his plans, in very different circumstances to those he had hoped for. His first move was to take the strongholds of the Comyns in Southern Scotland. His second was to confess his crime to the Bishop of Glasgow and receive absolution, on condition that as King he would be suitably respectful of the church. There is strong evidence that Bruce’s plans – the murder of Comyn aside – were supported in advance by many in the Church in Scotland.

And this segment from the fabulous A History of Scotland series from BBC tells a similar story.

So, which is it? Did Sir Roger voluntarily and impulsively state “I make sure” before finishing off Comyn? Or did the Bruce send him in afterward, possibly at the urging of the clergy, to do the dastardly deed? And does it really matter? After a faulty start, Robert the Bruce went on to become one of Scotland’s great heroes who did much to garner her independence from England.

A mystery – what does it mean, this skull wearing glasses?

Is this a skull wearing glasses?

When I was in Scotland I found an old mausoleum that had some carvings around the inside wall. One of them was of a skull that seemed to be wearing glasses. I have searched the ‘Net and can’t seem to find an explanation – does anyone know anything about this type of carving?

Around the walls there was also an inscription that said in Latin, Sic Transit, Gloria Mundi, which apparently means, “And so the glory of this world shall fade.”

Interesting puzzle, no? Any input would be welcome! By the way, the mausoleum was apparently erected in 1742.

Urban agriculture in Edinburgh

Sir Walter Scott memorial in Edinburgh

One of the highlights of our trip to Scotland last year was Edinburgh. We happened to hit town during the Fringe Festival and the music, people and vibrant sights are burned in my memory (and stored on my harddrive) forever.

The Scots are brilliant and resourceful, so it comes as no surprise that they are eying urban agriculture as an important way to address “the many problems associated with the globalisation of the food system, urbanisation and increasingly intensified agriculture.”

According to the summary of Jake Butcher’s dissertation to the University of Edinburgh, a “recent increase in urban food production has been stimulated by both the recognised advantages which it brings in terms of health, recreation and urban sustainability and by the solution which it represents to the many problems associated with the globalisation of the food system, urbanisation and increasingly intensified agriculture.”

Read more here

Edinburgh’s “Allotments” program in more detail

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