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The story of Robert the Bruce.

One of the earliest records of the name Torrens is coupled closely with King Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) of Scotland. The story is retold in 'Torrence and Allied Families' by Robert M Torrence (1938) and has also been quoted in many other Torrens / Torrance / Torrence family histories. Unfortunately the evidence is that Robert M Torrence was too inclined to believe myths - see A Genealogical Scam? - so this story could well be another myth!

My father went to a lot of trouble to find historical authentication for this legend - but in vain. It is an unauthenticated folk-tale whose veracity is apparently untestable but such folk tales usually do have some historical foundation. It is noteworthy that there are other families that also claim this legend for their own! However - there is historical certainty that part of the present county of Lanark has connection with the name Torrens. I quote from the book 'Descriptions of the Sherifdoms of Lanark and Renfrew' by William Hamilton, compiled about MDCCX (1710)

¨KILBRYDE is a great parish lying betwixt the parishes of Avendale to the southeast, Blantyre and Cambuslang to the north, Carmunock and Egleshome to the south. This baronie and paroch was given by King Robert Bruce, as ane part of the marriage portion of his daughter Marjorie, to Walter the Great Stewart of Scotland; and heth been alwayes reckoned since as a part of the Pricipalitie; and the several families therein are said to be old, yett I hear not of any writs older among them that from John Earle of Carrick, grand-child to King Robert, thereafter called Robert the Third. This great parish (anciently two) was called Kilbryde and Torrence, but long since united in one, and now called the parish of Kilbryde. In it there is ane hansome church, seated in a village of that name. [St Bride]

About four miles north of Glasgow lies the village of Torrence. About 1 1/2 miles south south east of East Kilbride is Torrance House (now a golf club) and Torrance hill rises to some 9286 feet, some 16 miles due east of Glasgow. These form a near equilateral triangle which surely marks the Torrance area. But is is not clear whether the family derives it name from the area, or the area is named for the family! As the tradition in medieval times was to call a person for example, William of Torrance, it seems likely that the place name came first.

There are also two family crests, which seem to be associated with the story but it is pretty clear that these crests were created in 19th century: they apparently have no ground in the Lyon Court. See The Torrence arms which are used as a logo in the section header.

The story seems to have first been told by C.N. Elvin (see below). The version here is quoted first direct from the book Torrence and Allied Families, complete with the original punctuation!

From the death of David in 1153, to that of Alexander III in 1286, Scotland was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. Following this period, wars with England, feuds of the nobles, clashes as to sovereign rights of succession, and intrigues kept the population away from productive pursuits and resulted in the destruction of their homes and institutions. (Encyclopedia Brittanica, vol 24, p.429).

Robert I, ¨The Bruce,¨ King of Scotland, lived during these stormy periods. Whereas he had English and Scottish estates and was a friend of Edward I, king of England, his patriotic feelings for Scotland and its ultimate independence led him to make a decision as to which course to follow. His father died in 1304. It was about this time that Bruce made an alliance with William Lambroton, which bound them together in all their future activities and resulted in freedom for Scotland, as well as, for Bruce, a crown.

King Edward I, of England, soon became aware of the intentions of Robert Bruce and instituted a bitter warfare against him

Bruce collected his adherents in the southwest, passed from Lochmaben to Glasgow and thence to Scone, where he was crowned King of Scotland on March 27, 1306. Two days later, Isabella, countess of Buchan, repeated the ceremony.

Though a king, Bruce had not yet a kingdom, and his efforts to obtain it were a disastrous failure until after the dath of Edward I. Bruce and his followers met with one defeat after another. In June,1306, he suffered a defeat at Methven, and on August 11th he was taken by surprise at Stratfillan, where he had sought refuge. Whereas he managed to escape, three of his brothers were executed, and the ladies of his family were captured and sent to Kildrummy.

With but a few followers, he decided to flee to the Island of Rathlin, which lies between the extreme southwest peninsula of Scotland, Mull of Kintyre, and the northeast coast of Ireland. While wandering down this peninsula, they had about given themselves up as lost when a fishing-boat was sighted. They hailed the boatmen, and asked if they might be taken across to the Island of Rathlin. This having been agreed to, the task was begun. While rowing across, the boatmen, unmindful of the storm, sung Gaelic songs. Bruce appeared to be much impressed with this, and asked their names, which they gave, as Torrence, and told him where they came from. Bruce did not reveal his own identity.

When Edward II became king of England he continued the active warfare against Bruce and his followers. On Monday, June 24th, 1314. the memorable Battle of Bannockburn was fought. bruce and his followers were completely successful. The independence of Scotland was established, and with this came a kingdom for Robert Bruce.

Some time after Bruce had established himself, he sent for the Torrences who had formerly come to his rescue. Out of gratitude, he made them a large grant of land in Lanark, and gave them the right to use the crest, ¨Two laurel branches in saltire,¨ with the inscription, ¨I saved the King.¨ Laurel branches, which are given to poets and singers, were doubtless selected by Bruce because of their having sung Gaelic songs, and the motto, because he felt that they had saved his life.

Other References

I stated that few other references to this story exist. Here are the few I know about.

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© 1997-2024 Richard John Torrens.
Page's Author: Richard John Torrens
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