Ewing Family Association

Clan Ewing of Scotland
Elbert William R. Ewing, A.M., LL.B., LL.D.

Chapter VI

The Ewings of the Lowland Stock

back to Reading Room
to Home Page

There is, except in the one West Virginia sept, no reliable tradition or other evidence in the family of which I write so much as suggesting Highland ancestry. I have found no such tradition in any family springing from our earliest American Ewings of Maryland, Virginia, or among their Tennessee and Kentucky and other descendants. There is tradition of our Lowland origin.

Naturally, therefore, and the more so because Ross does not tell us the descent of Ewen de Ergadia, King Ewen and other distinguished Ewing ancestors of the Alexander Ewing clan, which early dwelt along the waters of Loch Lomond, the section from which our ancestors came, we turn to the traditions and records of the Lowlands, and so to the Brythons or Britons, a race dwelling mainly south of the Clyde and the ancestors of which were found in what is now Scotland by the Romans, and whose race integrity survived Roman domination.

Ross names as one of Ewing clan ancestors, standing on a par with the others, Eugenius–a name which is but another of the early forms, each proper in the tongue of its day and race, from which has been evolved the present family name. As the equivalent of Ewin or Ewen or Ewing, the form Eugenius is not found in any roster of either the Picts or Dalriada kings. The Eugenius Ross had in mind, clearly, was an early person of authority of royal descent and probably of royal functions. We do not find such a person who became either the actual or reputed ancestor of any Highland clan bearing our name.

Eugenius, we find, though, is a name not infrequent in the Cymric annals of the Strachclyde (sic) states–the Lowland country.

Either kings of Strathclyde or kings of the small nations once autonomous within the Strathclyde country, from time to time bore the name Eugenius. When the first Eugenius reigned or where is not certainly known. But it is certain that in 764 A. D., King Eugenius VIII, of the Cymric Briton dynasty, died. We also know that “Eugenius, or Owen, the son of Dounnall, subking of Cumbria,” was slain in battle in 1018 when he and Eugenius, or Owen, the Bold, king of all the Strathclyde Britons, invaded Northumbria. The death of this Eugenius is generally regarded as terminating the Cymric Briton line in Strathclyde, Duncan, the great-grandson of one of the Malcolms, annexing Strathclyde to his Scots realm (to which, we saw, the Picts had been added). A genealogy of the British kings of Strathclyde, “fortunately preserved in the additions to ‘Historia Britonum,’ as well as scattered notices of the Brythonic rulers in the Chronicles of their day, give us two ‘Eugeniuses’ in the kingly line.”

The earlier probably reigned in the neighborhood of 658 and the latter before 760. They were of the royal race which long had its Briton capital at Alclyde, as Bede calls it, and which in the Gaelic tongue came to be known as “Dunbreaton, or the port of the Britons, afterwards corrupted into Dunbarton,” as Skene says.

These Eugeniuses or Eugenes were Ewens, as Scotch historians agree. For instance, Skene says that before 722:

Donald, the son of Ewen, or Eugene, is to be found in the genealogy of the Strathclyde Kings.

Hence, we have as an important foundation the fact that in the neighborhood where our family name later differentiated the clan from which our family sprang, there lived men, at a very early day, who bore the early forms of our name, Eugenius or Ewen, and who enjoyed royal prerogatives, such as naturally subsided into clan-chieftainship as kingdoms crumbled, and whose ancestors were of the old Britain stock, Lowlanders. The Dalriada Ewens, the only others bearing our name so far as known, lived far away to the westward and spoke a language foreign to the Ewings of Dumbarton or Dunbarton, near what are now Loch Lomond and Glasgow. Too, let it be remembered that there is no reason to believe that the early Ewens of either Scots or Picts blood and country settled in eastern Argyll or in any part of the Dunbarton or Lomond country, because, as William of Malmsbury, regarded by reliable Scotch scholarship as “a reputable historian,” who wrote far back in the twelfth century, says the Scots and Picts fought the Britons and, we shall see presently, the Scots or Picts who spasmodically perhaps overran the Dunbarton and Lomond country were subsequently ejected by the Cymric blood. In that day, unless the country were overrun and colonized, a man of foreign blood and language did not locate in the enemy territory. The Dunbarton and Lomond country was not, we know, colonized by Scots or Picts. Gilda, in what is regarded as “a fairly reliable work of the sixth century,” calls “the Picts and Scots transmarini gentes, which Bede explains by saying they dwelt beyond two arms of the sea.” That is, they inhabited the isles and western Highlands including old Dalriada.

Among the greatest events, destined to revolutionize conditions in all Britain, were the coming of Normans, under William the Conqueror, in 1066, and the wars which, from time to time, followed his invasion of Scotland in 1072. Some of the incidents, minor in relation to national history but prominent in relation to our clan, of the Norman invasion afford important light upon the name Ewing in Scotch history and from which we learn something regarding the probable origin of our clan.

Spooner, an American genealogist of note, correctly says in his Historic Families of America:

In the Norman gerrymandering of Great Britain after the conquest, the Ewings and Ewens of Scotland and the Owens of Wales were mustered under banners that bore a device common to all.

That “device common to all” was a clan emblem, insignia of tribal relationship. That “device” was to the family then even more than what the coat of arms is today. In this connection the tribal system of Celtic Scotland comes greatly to our aid. Skene correctly says:

Thus, although most of the great nations which formed the original inhabitants of Europe were divided into a number of tribes acknowledging the rule of an hereditary chief, and thus exhibiting an apparently similar constitution, yet it was community of origin which constituted the simple tie that united the Celtic tribe with its chief, while the tribes of the Goths and other European nations were associated together for the purpose of mutual protection or convenience alone; the Celtic chief was the hereditary lord of all who were descended of the same stock with himself.

This rule that the “Celtic chief (was clan head) of all who were descended of the same stock as himself” was true of all Britain, characterized social and governmental organization in both Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland. The “people followed their chief as the head of their race, and the representative of the common ancestor of the whole clan.” Too, “the chief was the hereditary lord of all who belonged to his clan, wherever they dwelt, or whatever lands they possessed.” This was true, even where large clans, as they sometimes did, divided into sub-clans, having sub-chiefs. The chief of the clan was the patriarchal head. He was governor and military leader. When he called, if there were sub-chiefs, they responded; and in any case all came in the most implicit obedience. Therefore, when, in the intermittent wars after the Norman invasions of Scotland in 1072, a common foe threatened, or a common cause existed, the clansmen, slowly fusing into the Scottish nation, whether in the mountains of Wales or among the Highlands, gathered under the tribal banner, surrounded the standard of the chief in whose veins ran the common ancestral blood.

How came the Ewings of the border Highlands so far from their Welch kindred? In fact, why the Ewings themselves so scattered even before the coming of the Normans? The answer takes us back to the early years following Roman withdrawal; back to the long, fierce and deadly struggle between the Cymric Britons and the implacable Picts; back to the treacherous inroads of the murderous Teutons.

In fact, we get helpful light from what Roman writers, followed by old Briton and English authors, tell us.

Before the Roman invasion Britain was governed by the tribal patriarchs, and the tribe in turn by the clan chiefs. There were many tribes, as we learn from Caesar. Of those tribes the “Damnii dwelt to the north of the Novantes, the Selgovae and the Gadeni, and were separated from them by the chain of the Uxellan Mountains,” mountains now called the Lothers. The Damnii “were a very powerful people,” says Richard of Cirencester (ante 1400), “but lost a considerable portion of their territory when the (Roman) wall was built, being subdued and spoiled by the Caledonians (ancestors of the modern Highlanders), beside which a Roman garrison occupied Vauduarium to defend the wall. … In this part Britain, as if again delighted with the embraces of the sea, becomes narrower than elsewhere, in consequence of the rapid influx of the two estuaries, Bodotria and Clotta.”

Vauduarium is Paisley, or Renfrew, and Bodotria and Clotta are the Friths of Forth and Clyde. Beyond these two estuaries, Richard continues, lies the Caledonian region “so much coveted by the Romans, and so bravely defended by the natives.” The Damnii, called by Richard “Damnii Albanii,” apparently then extended into what is now Argyllshire, “a people little known, being wholly excluded among Lakes and Mountains.”

Hence, from the Clyde and Eastern Argyllshire the Damnii occupied the Lowlands of Scotland.

Richard says that Loch Lomond was “formerly called Lynchalidor,” and that at “its mouth … the city of Alcluith was built by the Romans, and not long afterward received its name from Teodosius.” He also calls Alcluith Camborieum, now identified as the predecessor of Dumbarton. So that the Damnii occupied the country including Loch Lomond from its north boundary southward into the Lowlands, and approximately the country included by Strathclyde. Urien’s kingdom, Murief (for Richard says Urien was king), included, we shall see, this part of the old Damnii territory.

From the Four Ancient Books of Wales we get, in my opinion, important light by which to find our clan origin and by which to see our early clan movements and the causes of the dispersion. These books are poems in the Cymric language, the old Briton tongue, some of which are of a historic character, while others are undoubtedly the creatures of the poetic imagination. Some of those that are historic are believed to have taken their “earliest consistent shape” in the seventh century; and in that form to have been a reshaping, as to literary form, of “a body of popular poetry” and “national lays” of an earlier date.

For fifty or more years before the Roman legions withdrew from their camps along the northern wall, the wall between the Forth and the Clyde, that locality was the scene of greatest military operations. Out from the Highlands swarmed the unquenchable Picts against those legions; and from the wall as a base of operations the Romans again and again drove the Picts back into the wild mountains. The Romans gone and Briton courage and art recovered from the five hundred enervating, race-blighting years of Roman rule, the same section, the same wall, saw those Cymric Britons repeating the struggle, now for their national existence and to escape the extermination of their race. To the authors of the Four Ancient Books of Wales, as we now call the collection of those early productions, that section, with the famous wall as the Briton base of operations, was the “North.” Hence Skene, in his splendid introduction to an English translation of those poems, published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1868, says:

Of a large proportion, then, of the historical poems, the scenery and events lie in the north; the warriors whose deeds they celebrate were ‘Gwyr y Gogled,’ or ‘Men of the North.’ … They are, in point of fact, the literature of the Cymric inhabitants of Cumbria, before the kingdom was subjugated (from which it subsequently for a time recovered) by the Saxons in 946.

The first thing which strikes us, as we read these ancient poems, is the frequent appearance of the name Owein, Ewein, or Owain, which is now Owen, in the present day English translation of what we may call Cymric Welsh. Ross says that the Owen family of Wales not only have “the same armorial bearings as the Ewings of Scotland, but that the Owens of Wales indeed are Ewenes (or Ewings), according to the Cymry pronunciation.” (Memo. Alex. Ewing, p.1.)

So that in those early poems when we find the original word Owain, or its Cymric form Ewein, it is the same word which in the north, the border Highlands, and out of Wales and in what is now North England, became Ewen, Ewin, Euing, and, last of all, Ewing. We must remember that in those earliest times each tongue or dialect spelled the word as phonetics dictated.

An early spelling Ewein, as well as Owain, in the Cymric, is found in the poem called the “Gododin,” by an author named Aneurin. “This great poem … has attracted much attention,” we are told, “from its striking character, its apparent historic value, and the general impression that of all the poems it has the greatest claims to be considered the genuine work of the bard in whose name it appears.” It is generally believed “that it recorded a battle or series of battles in the north in the sixth century in which the Ottandeni bore a part.” This production not only treats of an event which occurred in the sixth century, but the evidence indicates that it is “an authentic production of the sixth century.”

The first part of the poem is the older, according to reliable Welsh and Scotch scholarship; and those who hold to a later date for any part insist that in the later is recorded an event which occurred in 642. The poem celebrates the valor and deeds of the Gosgord, of whom “not one to his native home returned;” and their ally, “Three Sovereigns of the Brython—Cymri and Cynon and Cynrain from Aeron.” Of this Cymric Briton host, “wearing the golden torques,” “but three escaped by the prowess of the gushing sword—the two war dogs of Aeron and Cynon the Dauntless.” There were others whose praises are sung. One authority holds that the poem commemorates a battle between the Cymry and the Saxons in 570.

Skene, after discussing the arguments in reference to the site of the battle, places it in “that part of Scotland where Lothian meets Sterlingshire. … where the great Roman wall terminates at Caredin, or the fort of Eidinn.” But what most interests us in this poem is that some time between approximately 586 and 603 the early spelling, in Cymric, Ewein is met, and that the person who bore the name was some character of importance. The name is in line 17: “Ku kyueillt Ewein,” and is translated Owen, or Owain, merely because so pronounced in the Cymric. Skene says that the “natural construction of that line is, ‘Thou beloved friend of Owen;’ while others translate it, ‘Alas Owen, my beloved friend’.”

Credyf gwr oed g was
Gwrhyt am dias,
Meirch mwth myng vra
A dan vordwyt megyr was.
Ysgwyt ysgauyn lledan
Ar bedrien mein vuan
Kled yuawr glas glan
Ethy eur aphan.

    * * * * * *
Kynt y vwyt y vrein
Ku kyueillt Ewein
Kwl y uot a dan vrein
Morth ym pa vro
Llad un mab marro.

Welsh scholars will see that in such words as myng, ethy and others there should be a dot above the y. The type from which this book is printed has no y so marked.


Of manly disposition was the youth,
Valor had he in the tumult;
Fleet thick-maned chargers
Were under the thigh of the illustrious youth;
A shield, light and broad,
Was on the slender swift flank,
A sword, blue and bright,
Golden spurs and ermine.

    * * * * * *
Sooner hadst thou gone to the bloody bier
Than to the nuptial feast;
Sooner hadst thou gone to be food for ravens

    * * * * * *
Thou beloved friend of Owain (Ewin);
Wrong it is that he should be under ravens.
It is evident in what region
The only son of Mario was killed.

Thus it is plain that by retaining, as we may rightly, the Cymric spelling rather than translate the Cymric pronunciation, we have this very early allusion to Ewin, who was evidently king of a small Briton state; and it is certain that the name is Ewin as spelled in the Welsh.

Next, for instance, turn to the poems relating to Urien and his son Ewen (Ewin), we find:

A battle, when Owain (Owen or Ewin) defends the cattle of his country.
A battle in the ford of Alclud, a battle in the Gwen.
When Owen (or Ewin) descends for the kine of his father.

    * * * * *
A fine day they fell, men, defending (their) country.

Now, clearly, as Cymric scholars tell us, the scene of this poem is in “the north,” as a result of an enemy incursion into “Clydesmen,” Strathclyde; and the “ford of the Alclud” is believed to be at the junction of the Levin with the Clyde in Dumbartonshire. Now this is an old, a very old, historical allusion in poetic form. Let’s see a little about it.

In the Historia Britonum, compiled in the seventh century, is an account of twelve famous battles fought by Arthur, the “dux bellorum” of the Lowlands, occupied by the Britons. It seems that this Arthur had been chosen the leader of the allied forces of the Brythonic Briton states in a supreme effort to drive from the Briton country the encroaching Picts and Teutonic tribes. Moving through the Cymric country Arthur reached the “north,” and, as Skene traces his movements, “proceeded to master four great fortresses: first, Kaerliem, or Dumbarton; next, Stirling, by defeating the enemy in the trathea Tryweryd or Carse (Plain) of Stirling; then Mynyd Agned, or Edinburgh, the great stronghold of the Picts, here called Cathbregion.”

Old Welsh manuscripts known as the Bruts, state that this Arthur “gave the districts he had wrested from the Saxons (and Picts) to three brothers—Urien, Llew, and Arawn. To Urien he gave Reged, as spelled in the Cymric, and the district intended by this name appears from a previous passage, where Arthur is said to have driven the Picts from Alclyde into ‘Murief, a country which is otherwise termed Reged,’ and that they took refuge there in Loch Lomond.” Loch Lomond is, therefore, in this ancient Reged, “and it must have been the district on the north side of the Roman wall or Mur, from which it was called Mureif. To Llew he gave Lodoneis or Lothian. This district was partly occupied by the Picts whom Arthur had subdued at the battle of Mynyd Agned.”

The old Historia Britonum by Goeffrey, written in 1147, furnishes interesting corroborative evidence upon this work of Arthur. Geoffry says these three brothers were of royal blood; and that Arthur “restored to them the rights of their ancestors;” and that Urein “be honored with the sceptor of Murief,” and that Angusel was given the scepter over the Scots” (Giles, Six Old Eng. Chrons., in Bohn’s Lib., 238); so that we know Mureif, or Reged, was not in the kingdom of the Scots and not inhabited by Scots.         

This restoration to Cymric Briton blood occurred in 516, approximately one hundred years after Roman evacuation of Britain.

Skene, in The Four Ancient Books of Wales, regards the account of this work under Arthur’s leadership as given in the Bruts as resting upon “a basis of real history.”

Owen, to whom the old poem represents “the chiefs of every language” as being subject, was killed in a war with Theodrick (Flamddwyn, in Cymric), king of Bernesia, according to Nennius. Theodoric reigned from 580 to 587. Owen, or Ewin, who fought the battle at the ford near where the Leven empties into the Clyde, was the son of this Urien.

Now, the great significance to our family history is the interesting fact that at about the early date of 516 the Cymric Britons, according to the best evidence we now have, and which as early as the seventh century had assumed the shape of history, were in the possession of Dumbarton, Stirling and the border Highlands about the shores of Loch Lomond; and a further fact, as established by the same evidence, is that a Ewin, the son of the chief-ruler of the district, was charged with the military operations against the ever-persistent enemy among the Highlands to the north-west. Back to Stirling, to Lomond, to Caer Clut, now Glasgow, the city on the Clyde, then an insignificant place, all the traditions of our American family persistently go for the home of our Scotch clan; and we know that the earliest certain historical times unquestionably discover our clan firmly seated in Dumbarton, in the adjoining Argyll; and that branches, apparently anciently established, were along the splendid shores of old Loch Lomond. These locations are disclosed by the earliest authentic records.

Llew, or Loth, or Lothus, as variously spelled, on his mother’s side was the grandfather of Kentigern, sometimes also known as Mungo (Saint Kentigern, &c., the saint meaning revered), the early Christian apostle of the Strathclyde country. On his father’s side, as stated by some, for instance Baring-Gould, “it is said” Kentigern “was the son of Eugenius III, king of the Scots; but there is great uncertainty about his origin,” Baring-Gould insists. By the words, “king of the Scots,” Baring-Gould must have had in mind not the Scots of Dalriada but the Strathclyde kingdom, for in another place he says Strathclyde was occupied at that time “by a mingled race of Britons and Scots whose capital was Alcluid.” However, as we have seen, Strathclyde was then and long before and subsequent preeminently Cymric Briton; and the reliable evidence shows that, as stated by a more recent writer:

St. Kentigern was the son of Ewen ap Urien or Eugenius, a prince of the Britons of the Strathclyde—according to some the king of Cumbria—and Thenew (or Themin, as Baring-Gould spells it) daughter of Loth, king of Northumbria, or, according to others, king of the Lothians, to whom he is supposed to have given his name.

That is, Kentigern was the son of either King Ewen or his grandson,–and, therefore, of royal blood on both sides. This Ewin was either the son of the great leader Urien, of both of whom the old poems sing so highly, or he was of the Urienland or district and clan. Men in that day were commonly designated by their clan names. It was not until after the introduction of Christianity that double names distinguished men, and father from son. We recall that the ap or ab, the p and b being commutable, in the Cymric of that as well as a later day, is the equivalent of the English of; and so Ewin ap Urien indicates a member of the Urien clan and belonging to the clan’s local home. Before the introduction of Christianity, the names of that day were often derived from geographical positions. We have seen that Arthur, the common leader of the Cymric of Strathclyde, gave to Urien what is now Dumbartonshire; and we saw Ewen defending his land at the ford of the river near where the Leven reaches the Clyde. For many years after that date the crown or chief ruler allotted the lands to the leaders, rulers of small sections, or to clan chieftains, who held the lands in the name of and for the use of the clan, more in the sense of community ownership than of the feudalism which later characterized England. Of course for hundreds of years after Arthur’s and Urien’s and Ewin’s day there were no records, either governmental or historical, which have come to us; but it is of record that as early as 1257 Sir Ewin of Erregeithill granted the Bishop of Argyll lands in Lismore (R. W. Cochran-Patrick, Medieval Scotland (Glasgow, 1892), 81); and in 1550, Burke tells us, the Ewin clan was the record owner of land in Balloch, and also possessed the lands of Bernice and owned the Glenleon land and other estates in Carvall, Argyll. Balloch is on the west bank of the southern end of Loch Lomond in Dumbartonshire, the identical section given by Arthur, according to the old Cymry historical poems, to Urien; and only a few miles from Glasgow and Dumbarton town, the latter destined to be the old Cymric Welsh capital.

Before Kentigern’s day Christianity, under Ninian, had secured a feeble hold in the Briton country. But there had been a general apostasy; and Medraut, or Morken as Jaceline calls him, who was Loth’s son, joined the pagan Picts and Saxons in an insurrection against the Britons; and so endangered were the Christians that Kentigern’s “cognati,” kinsfolk, clansmen, induced him, some time between 540 and 560, to take refuge with other clansmen in the mountains of what is now Wales—all the country including Wales to and including Loch Lomond being “the early and continuous home of the old Britons,” say Edward A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England (Oxford, 1867), and other standard authorities.

While Kentigern was in what is now Wales other far-reaching revolutions swept over harassed and yet defiant Cymric Britain, ending in the epochal battle of Arthuret, fought in 673, near what is now Carlisle. This resulted in a more positive division of the Cymry people than had up to that time occurred. Too, a more important result was the establishment of Strathclyde under a king who encouraged Christianity. That battle is regarded as a contest between Christianity and the lingering darkness of paganism in Britain. Ninian’s preaching among the Galwagians and the Britons during the earlier years was well nigh forgotten; Kentigern was a refugee in the mountains of Wales; the pagan Teutons were pressing hard from the east. Dalriada alone, under the influence of the great Columba, presented the strongest Christian front. Aedan, of Dalriada, was a Christian, and he and Maelgwn Gwynedd and Rydderch Hael, summoning the Dalriadan forces, Maelgwn those of the South Cymry (now Wales), and Rydderch Hael, those of all the other Briton states, made war upon the pagan forces led by Gwenddolew. The pagans were vanquished. Aedon returned to Dalriada, repaired to Iona, and was crowned king by Columba, and became the first independent king of that country. Rydderch Hael gathered all the Cymry Britons under one government, the famous Strathclyde, which included border Highland country about Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Dumbarton, the latter we know then called Alclyde, which Hael made his capital. From those border Highland regions that kingdom reached southward to the River Derwent. Maelwyn Gwynedd asserted rule over the southern Britons, gathering them into the Cymru kingdom, now Wales. This, as Skene points out, “more thoroughly separated the north, or Y Gogled, from Wales, or Cymru; and we can see its very important bearing upon the dispersion of our clan. Up to that time, evidently, the clan was mainly in some one or more of the smaller states between the “south” and the “north.” Ewin’s possession of Dumbarton, as a result of the partition by Arthur, settled a strong section of the clan in that region just as soon as it could be held against the Picts; and, under the Christian rule of Hael from his capital at Dumbarton, that region became more attractive to our clan. Hael encouraged the return of Kentigern, who now became the head of the Celtic church of Strathclyde. Thus recalled to “the north,” this great preacher proceeded to a little town where busy Glasgow now flourishes, and there, upon the bank of the Molindinar Burn, he built and long occupied the monastic cell which the Christian preachers of that day regarded as essential to their calling. Why go to the banks of the Molindinar? It was within the limits of the Ewin country, and, it seems to me certain, then occupied by Kentigern’s “cognati,” or clansmen; and they, I further believe, were our ancestral clansmen. The clan had separated. Saxons thenceforward steadily pressed against Southern Strathclyde; the Angles of Northumbria grew in power, and the kingdom of the Scots gradually absorbed that of the Picts, and finally that of the Strathclyde Britons. Those of our clan in South Strathclyde and in North Cymru, who had felt the pressure of the invaders strongest, retired south of the Cheviots, and there, when Domesday Book was made in 1085, they were found and entered under the spelling Ewin, Euing and Ewen, freemen and important landowners. Ross, of those Ewings of Domesday Book, says that “as a probable indication of the vitality and far-reaching ramifications of the tribe thus designated (by the Ewing name) it may be noted that in the English Domesday Book we meet with allodial Ewings who are presumed to be Celts with the patronymic Anglicized.” In my opinion, the “allodial Ewings of Domesday” are of our clan; and that they were of Cymric Briton descent is beyond a presumption.

Domesday shows those clan septs in different shires. Ewen was in Suffolk County; the Euings were in Wiltshire, near the Welsh country; the Euens were in Suffolkshire, and the Ewens in Herefordshire. These names thus found in the Domesday census lead M. A. Lower, a British scholar, in his A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom, to regard Ewen, Ewan, Euing, as being in origin “probably Anglo-Saxon.” But the name, I have shown, existed among the Celts before the coming of the Angles and Saxons, though it was not written with the g until after their advent, showing that Ewing is Celtic Ewin (or Owen in Welsh) Saxonized or Anglo-Saxonized. The Norman government widened the gap between the Ewings of England and those of the Lowlands of Scotland and in the Welsh section; and as to the Ewings of the Lowlands the clan government was sooner lost, due to the Teutonic influence, and due to the delay of that influence in reaching the Highlands, clan government longest there survived. So as a clan–but more in the sense of a large family than in the meaning of clan in the Highland sense–we find the Dumbarton and Lennox Ewings early spreading into Argyll, while other clan septs entrenched along the historic shores of Loch Lomond.

So we now understand why it was that in “the Norman gerrymandering of Great Britain after the (Norman) conquest (1072) the Ewings and Ewins of Scotland and the Owenses of Wales were mustered under banners that bore a device common to all.” And when we also recall that the Ewing “name is found associated as a tribal surname with the Calquhouns, usually written Calhoun in the United States,” and when we couple with this the fact that it is conceded by historians that the Calhouns, who were our border Highland neighbors as well as our kinsmen, are of Lowland origin, we are more and more sure of the accuracy of our tradition that our Ewings are of Lowland origin.

The founders of our clan, therefore, were the Britons known as Cymri, or Cymry. The Romans found them occupying “the country from the eastern sea to the far uplands of the west.”

The Welsh and the Cornish are today about the only people left who have come down from the old Cymri with the least infusion of Angle or Saxon blood.

The “far uplands of the west” indicates the Cymri in the borderland of the Highlands. Alclyde, the capital of the Strathclyde, where Ewen ap Urien and the others of the names of royal prerogatives lived, was situated at the site of the present town of Dumbarton, in the border of the Highlands, we remember. Bishop Ewen (or Ewin), or Kentigern, went in and out of it, and at Deschue, only a few miles to the east, and in the extreme edge of the Lowland country, he erected structures which gave rise to a historic church, the present magnificent Cathedral of Glasgow. At an early day the coat of arms of the Ewings of Scotland, and the arms claimed by our early American ancestors, was placed in one of the stained-glass windows in the north aisle of the nave of the present church. (Notes and Queries (England), 5th series, vol. 3, p. 34.)

To the north of our early ancestors were the Pictish people, the Gaelic blood, the descendants of which clung tenaciously to the Gaelic tongue of the real Highlanders of modern days. But the Celtic Britons to the south, to whom our ancestors belonged, were speaking, when the Teutons first knew them, “a language nearer the old Cornish than the Gaelic or even the surviving Welsh.” (Veitch, Hist. Poet. Scottish Border, 177.) That tongue capitulated to the early forms of English as the Celtic blood of our earlier parents commingled with the Teutonic. In the Lowlands generally the Celtic was “as nearly exterminated by the Teutonic as a national can be,” the women alone being spared, so Freeman and others have said; while yet others hold that in the Lowlands the Celtic strain yet predominates, which I believe to be true, as I shall indicate in a moment, and as to the Lenox section particularly.

Now, while the root of our name was Celtic, Cymry of the Britons as clearly distinguished from the Scots of Dalriada and the Picts or Gaels of the Highlands, it is clear that the addition of the g is a result of both contact with the Teutonic tongues and of some race amalgamation. The valley of the Clyde, the city of Glasgow, the southwestern shores of Loch Lomond, but fifteen miles from Glasgow, have been the haunts of the family since the first King Ewin held his court at historic Alclyde. That Bishop Kentigern’s mother was a Saxon is but representative, in fact, even if fable as to Kentigern, of the amalgamation of Celt and Teuton from early days of the Teutons’ arrival in that land; and it seems to be certain that very early “the Teutonic speech and civilization penetrated into every district of the Scottish Lowlands” (F. F. Henderson, Scottish Vernacular Literature; Henry James Ford, The Scotch-Irish in Amer., 87.) Yet since our direct ancestors from the days of Reged, lived in the border Lowlands and later further in the border Highlands, they less felt the Teuton influence and got less of the Teutonic blood than did the Celts of the Lowlands south of Lennox. In a recent work the Duke of Argyll says that “the country of the Levin—the Lennox—remained almost up to our own day half Saxon and half almost purely Celtic.”

Besides, as we have seen, the Scots of the Dalriada kingdom, corresponding generally to Argyllshire, and the Picts of the Highlands were from the days of the Roman withdrawal enemies of the Britons. The Britons, of whom the Cimri were a tribe, are generally believed to have reached Briton in 500 B. C., and to have driven the Gaels, who had preceded them, north and west, leaving them in the mountains of the Highlands. (Woodbury, The Scot and the Ulster Scot, 18.) For these reasons our Ewings, never Highlanders, never Scots, not of Gaelic or Pictish descent, were not absorbed by Highland neighbors.

The origin of both our clan and our name, therefore, is seen, clearly and unquestionably, in my opinion, at least, in the light of all the materials at my command short of personal research in Great Britain. The investigations I have had made in Scotland and Ireland have strengthened my conclusions; further research there, I am convinced, would only be cumulative.

Our clan has never been a Highland clan. That our clan was not Highland in the sense of the famous Gaelic clans, but Cymric Briton, having its origin in the Lowlands, is why Skene, for instance, in his The Highlanders of Scotland, published in 1837, gives no history of the Ewings, notwithstanding they were numerous and influential in Argyllshire, Dumbartonshire and in other sections of Scotland’s border Highlands at the time he wrote, and had been for hundreds of years theretofore. He wrote of the Highlanders proper, of the descendants of the Picts and Scots, and their admixture, and not of the Britons and their admixture, however prominent they may have become among or in the country of the old Gaelic clans.

Acts of the Parliament of Scotland passed in 1587 gave us a “roll of the clannis (in the Heilands and Isles),” but the name Ewing, and no form thereof, appears. Another act, passed 1594, gives us a roll of the “broken clans in the Highlands and Isles,” but the name Ewing in any spelling is not therein. There is also “a roll of the names of the landlords of the Highlands and the Isles” appended to the act of Parliament of 1587. It contains no Ewing. In neither of these does McEwen appear. Based upon these acts of Parliament, aided by Skene’s researches, and using all information at hand, Johnston and Robertson gave us in 1872 that interesting map showing the territory of the several Highland clans (The Historical Geography of the Clans of Scotland); and in 1892 Scribners in New York and Johnston in Edinburgh published The Scottish Clans and Their Tartans. Yet no form of the name Ewing appears in either. No modern authority departs from this. The latter work describes nine-six clans and their tartans, or plaids. In each case the authors were dealing with the Highland clans. The Ewings were not Highlands. They owned lands along Loch Lomond, if not elsewhere in the border Highlands, long before Parliament enumerated the Highland landlords in 1587, yet they were not included because they were of Lowland origin and, no doubt, largely yet so in sympathy.

Now turn to the records of the Lowlands, made since the first glimpse of our family name. The Privy Council Register of Scotland contains “virtually all the personal names prevalent in Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries,” writes Professor Brown, the Scotch author. The Register extends from 1545 to 1707. The name Ewin or Ewing occurs very frequently. The name Ewing first occurs in that compilation under date of 1574, that Ewing being a resident of Aberdeen, a town on the eastern coast of the Lowlands; and, as Professor Brown says in his private letter for my information, the Register discloses the Ewings “most numerously in the southern and eastern Lowlands.” The dispersion of the Highland clans did not occur until after the “rising of 1745” in favor of Prince Charles, the lawful descendent of the earlier Scotch monarch; and long before that time, and back to the very earliest records, in fact, “the Ewings were distributed virtually all over the non-Highland country.” Upon no other theory than that of the Lowland origin, as I herein maintain, can we account for this prevalence of our name in the Lowlands as well as in the Loch Lomond and the border Argyll country.

Just a few of many instances we find, in the accessible records, establishing this early Lowland dispersion:

In the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland appears, under date of 1502, this term: “for ane cote for Ewin, the boy in the kitchen.” (2 Accounts Lord High Treas. Scotland, 302). This was the king’s kitchen, and in those times of great personal danger to the king he trusted only the most reliable in the place where his food was prepared; and to be a boy in the king’s kitchen then was no servile station. We know the king did not live at that time in the Highlands.

In 1540 the treasurer paid to Adam Ewin, “prebendar in Restalrig,” an item. This, no doubt, was an ecclesiastical compensation to Ewin as the ecclesiastic.

In 1558 the treasurer paid out a sum on account of “ane kok” brought for the king from Sir Archibald Ewein. It is not strange, quite clearly, that a scribe of that day who spelled one “ane,” coat “cote,” and cock “kok,” should spell our family name either Ewin or Ewein. Modern English had not then come to its present form.

James Ewing was burgess of Aberdeen in 1574, and there then lived also John and Alexander Ewing. John Ewing, who had a son Alexander, was a burgess of Aberdeen in 1575. A John Ewing was in Kelsoland in 1590, and at the same time another John Ewing was in Southernnen and yet another in Eister Strabdok. Capt. Thos. Ewing was burgess of Edinburgh in 1591. In 1591 a Capt. Thos. Ewin lived in Edmistoun. Again in 1592 we see a mention of Alex. Ewing in Aberdeen. In 1594 Robert Ewing and sons William and John lived in Bulnill.

Speaking of conditions in Scotland about 1596 Cowan telling of an incident which occurred that year on the Abercairyn estate says:

The following narrative of the incident shows what men could do in those lawless times out of sheer mischief. It would appear that William Brown sued William Murrany of Abercairny and Thomas Ewing, his tenant, touching the coming of the Ewings in harvest last at ten o’clock at night to the said William Brown, who was inspecting his corn fields, then pursuing him for his life, and giving him several bloody wounds. Believing him to be dead, they drew him by the heels to a burn, an cast him therein. By the coolness of the water Brown eventually revived, and with great difficulty got out and afterwards recovered. (Samuel Cowan, J. P., 2 The Ancient Capital of Scotland (1904), 32.)

Whether Brown was inspecting his corn (not our Indian corn, by the way) by lantern or moonlight we are not told; and how it happened that poor Brown did not drown, I can’t guess; but it is interesting that certainly the Ewings were widely then numerous, some tenants, in the sense that vast regions were owned by the few; others the fortunate landed class, and the name Ewing widely so spelled.

In 1597 Finla (Findlay) Ewing is mentioned. In 1600 Robert Ewing lived in the Isle of Little Cumry.

Patrick Ewing lived in Strathdee in 1605; and Robert Ewing was servitor, much akin to sheriff of this day, to Lord Sempill in 1607; and in 1604 and later years, Thos. Ewing was servitor to the Earl of Mar. In 1609 John or Robert (the record says John and the editor thought it Robert) was among those who made a devastating onslaught upon the king’s hawks which for many years were reared upon the Isle of Cumry, one of the Isles of Argyllshire; and in 1609 Patrick Ewing, maltman of Dumbarton, witnessed a document. James Ewing of Altir was procurator in that year. The record says that the bridge of Tullibody stood “in one of the most common highways of the kingdom,” that it had “four bowis,” and that it was falling into ruins because the parishioners of Tullibody could not afford to repair and keep it up. They asked for a toll. They were expecting the king to cross this bridge next year, on his way “from Striveling to Dunfermeling;” and so at their request the Privy Council authorized “John Ewing, partitioner of Smithfield, and his deputies” to “attend at the said bridge and uplift the said tax.” This was in 1616. In 1618 Thos. Ewing, master of Lardner, received 333 pounds, 6s 8d (Scots money, no doubt), for services during the king’s visit. In 1621 William Ewing was servitor to Campbell of Dunstaffnage.

The Campbells, in turn as each inherited the office from his ancestor, were hereditary officials of the Argyllshire country. Now and then Campbell held his court at Dunstaffnage Castle, one of the royal castles of Scotland, and on Loch Etive, Argyllshire. It was also the stronghold within which the Campbells and their allies, the Macdougals, retired often during the feudal wars. It had its prison as well as its administrative hall, and in the former Flora Macdonald was for a time incarcerated for her part in the historic uprising in favor of Prince Charles Stuart–it is a matter of interesting history. The castle is now a ruin.

The servitor was an officer who served summonses and other processes. The office held by Campbell, being hereditary, could not be reached by any of our clan name; and that one of the highest offices of that court within reach was filled by a representative of the clan indicates influence and family standing.

In 1631 John Ewing was burgess of Stirling, and so on, here and there widely over Lowland Scotland were the Ewings–and during long years when Gaelic Highlanders and the Teutonized Celts of the Lowlands were, as a rule, not upon terms of social amity.

John, James, William, Thomas etc., all yet our family names, coming down from hundreds of years ago, are the Christian names of the Lowlands borne by Ewings; while at the same periods others bearing similar names were in the border Highlands, yet they were not Gaelic Highlanders. Hence, I regard the tradition of our early Lowland origin as historically sustained.

top of page

Page last updated 13 October 2008.
back to the Clan Ewing Home Page