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THE TORRENCE FAMILY has several varying traditions as to its origin. These have been handed down, by the different branches, from generation to generation, and no attempt has been made to go beyond them.

In families of the various surname spellings, Torrence-Torrance Torrens, the following traditions have been found:

It is quite possible that the above traditions apply correctly to those claiming them for their particular lines.

For example, the Huguenot tradition may well refer to those expelled from France after about 1535. The word Huguenot was coined, so to speak, by a monk and attached by him to the Protestants at Tours, France, who assembled by night, near the gate of King Hugo, whom the people regarded as a spirit. The name became quite popular from 1550 onward. Note 1-1

The name Torrance was well known prior to the time of Robert Bruce, 1274-1829, which date was very much earlier than the existence of the word Huguenot.1

Since the earliest mention of the name Torrence is found in Scotland, this country offered the logical place to make investigations. Beyond these Scottish references, nothing can be determined as to the origin of the Torrences, since information concerning races prior to the Scots is uncertain and obscure. "Surely there is no such thing as a European people of pure unmixed blood."Note 2-1

In Thomas W. H. Fitzgerald's Ireland and her People, pages 52 and 53:

The Picts were the ancient inhabitants of Scotland and Scots was the name by which the Irish were generally known from the 3rd to the 12th century, during which Ireland was commonly called Scotia, and its people Scoti or Scots. These names were in time transformed to what is now known as Scotland, or the land of the Scots.

From these Irish Dalriadians, through the Scottish kings, the house of Stewart, the present royal family of England, is descended.

In the development of Scotland, the southeast portion gradually extended to comprise Fife, while the southwest embraced Sterlingshire, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and beyond. These sections learned to adopt the ideas of western Europe. The southern were English and beyond. The northern were comprised in Pictland. The western was the realm of the Dalriadic kings, Scots from Ireland. Gaelic was the language spoken.

Roughly speaking, the above outlines the relative divisions of the country which arose as results of the obscure wars of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries.

The question of religion, has, from the earliest known dates, played an important part in the destinies of these people. Protestantism, Presbyterianism, and Patriotism found a battle-ground here. Note 2-2

Prom the death of David in 1153, to that of Alexander III in 1286, Scotland was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. Following this period, wars in 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.2

Robert 1, "The Bruce", Note 3-1 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 of 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 death 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, sang Gaelic songs. Bruce appeared to be much impressed with this, and asked their names, which they gave, as Torrance, 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 Robert Bruce and his followers. On Monday, June 24, 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 3 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.

Another account of this episode is found in a book bearing the title, Anecdotes of Heraldry, compiled by C. N. Elvin, M.A., Honorary Member of the Society of Antiquities, New Castle-upon-Tyne, published in 1864, by Bell and Daldy, 186 Fleet Street, London. A copy of this work will be found in the New York Public Library, where Photostats of the arms and page references were made, and will be inserted here.

In the reproduced pages it will be seen that, in the year 1864, the spelling of the name was Torrance, whereas, it will be noted that in references of earlier dates, the spelling was Torrence.

The crest, "Two laurel branches in saltire, vert," appears in Burke's General Armory of Great Britain, as well as in Fairbairn's several publications.

The episode of the Torrences saving the life of King Robert Bruce is mentioned not only because it has been recorded a number of times in Scottish histories, but also for its dramatic nature, and its result in the gift, to the Torrences, of the estate in Lanarkshire, by the King, through gratitude.

From a letter from a Robert Torrance, who lived in Dublin, the following extract is quoted:

In my research work, I have compared notes with the late Sir Andrew M. Torrance of London, who, when a member of the Corporation of London, was presented with an illuminated address by the members. The crest was shown thereon and was duly verified by the Herald Office in Edinburgh. The late Canon Torrance, of St. Canie Cathedral (Protestant), Kilkenny, also gave me the same verbal version.

Signed - Robert Torrance
5 Ballygihen Avenue
Sandycove County, Dublin.
12 March 1915

Another interesting happening to Robert Bruce during his wanderings with a handful of. followers was when he was passing through what is known as The Lorne Country, in Argyleshire. Here, John of Lorne and his clan of MacDougalls, ran across Bruce and his men. In a hand-to-hand fight, John snatched at Bruce's cloak which was fastened with a 4 rude metal brooch. Bruce managed to escape, but the brooch was pulled off and taken by John of Lorne. It is now held as a treasured heirloom in the mansion of the Macdougalls at Donnelley Castle near Ban. A picture of it is found in Lanarkshire, by Frederick Mod, M.A., Cambridge Press, page 49, F 128, inscribed, "Belonging to the MacDougalls of Dunollie; worn by Robert, the Bruce, in the battle of Dal-Righ, 1306, when he fought with the Lord of Lorne."

To show historic reasons for causes that led to the Torrences and others moving from one place to another, during the long war-torn years, additional mention will be made of events which took place in Scotland.

From the time of James II (1437), Scotland was the scene of bitter struggles and wars which laid waste the land, wrecked the estates, and killed off the population. From that time until James came to the throne of England, the story of Scotland was one of a series of revolutions and intrigues that led to the wars between Kirk and State.

A scheme for the complete union of England and Scotland was promoted by James in 1604-6. The plan was totally unwelcome to the Scotch because of its favoured provisions regarding the rights of English-born Scotch. Between 1557 and 1581 an organization, known as "Covenanters", had been formed by certain Scotch, who bound themselves together to maintain the Presbyterian doctrine as the religion of the country.

When Charles II was firmly seated on the throne of England, he denounced the Covenants. A period of persecution of the Covenanters followed, in which they were treated with great barbarity. Many were banished.

In 1648, England had implored the aid of Scotland. As the result of the negotiations, "The Solemn League and Covenant" was drawn up. This amounted to the preservation of the Presbyterian form of religious faith in Scotland, England, and Ireland. The Covenants had been the dominating party in Scotland.

England was having continual troubles with Scotland, and especially with Ireland. She made repeated efforts to secure the aid of one to fight the other. One of the most notable schemes, for her ultimate good, was the Plantation of Ulster experiment, which attracted many Scotch colonists to Ireland. In 1607, the earls of Tyrconnell and Tyrone were forced to flee from the country embraced by Tyrone, Donegal, Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Coleraine in Ireland. Their lands were 5 declared forfeited to England. Surveys were made, and the land divided into three sections. One block was set aside for the English and Scotch settlers, who were not allowed to have any Irish tenants. One block was allotted to servitors, who might have either English or Irish tenants, and the third was reserved for the Irish.

The land was divided into 1000, 1500 and 2000 acre tracts. Each colonist undertook, in return for the land, to build a castle or walled enclosure, and maintain a defensive fighting force. They were required to take oath of supremacy to James and were given two years to build. No taxes were to be assessed during the building period. Sir Arthur Chichester was made the Irish Lord Deputy. This scheme did not work successfully, but created bitter feeling on the part of the Irish, which led up to "The Massacre of 1641."

By keeping these historic events in mind while reading the changing locations of the Torrences, the reasons for the changes will become clear. Large numbers of people were also influenced to move from place to place, but the Torrences only will be mentioned.

The Torrence family was in Lanark, Scotland, at a very early date, and since this is their earliest known habitation, it is of interest to present a digest of its history.

The History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride by the Rev. David Ure, printed by David Niven, Glasgow, Scotland in 1793, gives the following on pages 141 and 163:

The County of Lanark is divided into upper, middle, and lower wards. In the second of these divisions is situated the Parish of Kilbride. The name is compounded of "kill," a Gaelic word for church or burying place, and "bride", or Bridget, the flame of a saint greatly famed in Romish Legends. The Parish of Torrance was annexed in 1589.

The old Kirk of Torrance, which stood about a half mile from the mansion house, was left to fall into ruins after the Parish was united to Kilbride. Nothing is left to distinguish the burying-place at the old Kirk of Torrance save a few fragments of human bones that are occasionally disturbed when the ground is laboured.

The Statistical History of Scotland, volume 6, contains an account of Kilbride, county Lanark, which states that the charter was given by Pope Alexander III in 1159, and was confirmed by two succeeding popes in the same century.

Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published in 1646, volume 11, pages 22 and 23, says: 6

Kilbride East, a Parish in the middle of Lanark, eight miles from Glasgow, includes the Parish of Torrance. It is of great antiquity and once formed a part of the See of Glasgow, to which the original grant was confirmed by a bull of Pope Alexander III, in 1178,

The following selections are from Kilbride Parish records dating from 1613, as entered by William Hamilton, Laird of Wishaw, a descendant of the Ducal house of Hamilton. His father was John Hamilton of Udston, an early branch of the family. These records will be found in Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, page 11.

Kilbride is a great parish lying betwixt the parishes of Avendale to the southeast, Blantyre [and) Cambutlang to the north. This baronie and Paroch was given by King Robert Bruce as Ane part of the marriage portion to his daughter Marjorie, to Walter, the Great Steward of Scotland and Heth been always reconed since as a part of the principality and the several families therein are said to be old. This great parish [anciently too] was called Kilbryde and Torrence, but long since into one-now called Kilbryde.

The house and Mainer was lately acquired by the Laird of Torrence, Stewart a son of Castlemilk's. Torrence was long the seat of a family of this same name of Hamilton, is a good house well planted enclosures. Robert Hamilton of Torrence; . . at the time of his demise . . . deceist in month December 1658.

This Robert Hamilton mentioned in October, 1613, in 1649 and 1658, seems likely to have been the one who built the present Torrance House in 1605. It will be noticed that in the parish records made by William Hamilton in 1613, he, being of an earlier generation than Robert, spelled the name Torrence.

In the list of subscribers for David Ure's book, published in 1793, there is found the name Hugh Torrance, a surgeon of Kilmarnock, Ayr, Scotland, which adjoins Renfrew and Dumbarton.

To show that in the same vicinity just one hundred and ten years earlier, the name was spelled Torrence the following verses, found in Charles A. Hanna 's The Scotch-Irish in America, pages 269-70, are repeated:

Upon a stone at Kilmarnock, lying upon the corpse of John Nisbit, who suffered there on 14 April 1683 -
Come, reader, see, here pleasant Nisbit lies,
His blood doth pierce the high and lofty skies;
Kilmarnock did his latter hour perceive,
and Christ his soul to heaven did receive
Yet bloody Torrence did his body raise.
and buried it unto an other place;
saying, "Shall rebels lie in graves with me?
We'll bury him where evil-doers be."

Today the statement is frequently made that farm workers are scarce, and their wages so high that farm owners cannot take care of their crops; that the cause is due to the advance made in manufacturing, machinery, and increased efficiency. To show this condition and conclusion is nothing new, the following from David Ure is given: "Country servants, owing to the rapid progress of Manufacturing, are very scarce. Their wages are uncommonly high. A man servant receives besides bed, board, and washing, 5 pounds per half year. A woman servant, from 40 to 50 shillings. A labourer, when hired by the year, receives 15 pounds, 12 shillings. A single day's wages, if he be not hired by the year, is at the rate of one shilling three pence."

The Scottish Record Society Publications, volumes 5-7, also spell the surname with an e:

John Torrence, of Parish of Kilmamock, Ayr, 1 December 1670, in quoting his testament.

John Torrence, spouse Agnes Picken, in Tounhead, Parish of Kilmarnock, Ayr, testament, 12 May 1680 (Testament).

John Torrence, Parish of Kilmarnock, 17 May 1682. (Testament.)

Many quotations conduce to monotony but are particularly needful in compilations of this nature, hence the readers' kindly tolerance is bespoken in advance of the crime.

Among the very early names of Torrences, that of Mungo appears in a will of 1593, in Scotland, and in Ireland in 1630/42. Samuel Lewis's Topographicat Dictionary of Scotland, page 293, is authority for the following:

St. Mungo, a Parish in the County of Dumfries, was originally called AberMilk, an old British term from Aber, signifying a confluence of waters, the rivers: Milk & Anna. In the 12th Century, the Bruces, having built a castle on the waters of the Milk, the name of the place was changed to Castlemilk. The lands in ancient times belonged to the See of Glasgow and the Parish is mentioned in the year 1170 by Pope Alexander. Under the new name it was mentioned in 1290 by William de Gosford, the Parson of Castlemilk, who swore fealty, at Berwick, to King Edward I. The church was dedicated to St. Mungo, founder of the See of Glasgow. Robert de Bruce, the second lord of Annandale,8 granted the church, as a mensal church, to the See of Glasgow about the year 1250. The castle came from the Bruces to the Stewarts, by Walter, high steward of Scotland, through his marrying the daughter of King Robert Bruce, and thus it descended to Robert, also high steward of Scotland, their son, the first of the Stewarts who came to the crown.

It can scarcely be considered pure coincidence that, because of this association between Robert Bruce and St. Mungo Parish, some one of the Torrences, who had received lands from Robert Bruce, would name his son Mungo. Also the name Robert has been used by the Torrences from time immemorial. The will of John Torrence, of Brounhill, Note 9-1 Barony of Avondale, Sheriffdom of Lanarkshire, executed in October, 1593, mentions his son Mungo.

Because of the mention of the names of Castlemilk, Torrence and Stewart at dates 1622 and 1669, another quotation will be given from The Baronage of Scotland by Sir Robert Douglas, of Bart, volume 1, page 517:

Sir Archibald Stewart of Castlemilk, the 12th generation of that ancient family from Sir John Stewart of Bonhill, son of Alexander, 6th lord high Steward of Scotland, was the immediate ancestor of this family of Torrence. He married Anne, daughter of Robert, fourth lord Semple, by Lady Margaret Montgomery, his wife, daughter of Hugh, earl of Eglington, and died anno 1622. He left two sons:

First - Sir Archibald, his successor, who carried on the line of the House of Castlemilk and in the preceding title.

Second - James, first of the family of Torrence. James Stewart of Torrence lived in the Reigns of King Charles I and II, and was a man of great prudence and ability. Held in high esteem, he acquired several lands in the county of Lanark. Amongst others, the land and Barony of Torrence, which became the title of his family. There is a charter in the Public Archives, under the great seal . . . Jacabo Stewart de Torrence, terrarum de Headhouse, Murray etc., in Lanarkshire, dated the last day of July 1669. This James of Torrence married a daughter of Sir Alexander Cunninghame of Carsehill, in the County of Air....

The spellings of the various forms of Torrence have been found to be: Tor, Torr, Torre, Torrene, Torrence, Torrens, Torrance, Terrenee, Terence, Terrance, Torrans, Torans, Torens, Tornce, Terran and Torrenys.

All of which are derived from Tor, a name given to a mound or hillock situated in Lanarkshire, cradle of the people now using these names. 9

The earliest known written allusion to the name in England is in a grant of King Aethelwulf, King of West Saxons, in 847 A. D., in which the spelling is Torr. Then, Boethius, in 1000 A. D., adds an "e" and spells it Torre. During the time of Robert Bruce, 1274-1329, it became Torrence.

The following orders in Latin were issued by the Bishop of Glasgow in reference to Torrence in 1417 A. D., under Pope Martin V, elected to the Papal Chair 27 November, 1417:

Institutio Perpetui Vicarii Pensionarii in Ecclesia de Kilbryde. Ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

Universis Sancte matris ecclesie filiis, Willielmus permissione divina Episcopus Glasguensis, salutem in Domino sempiternam: Noverit universitas vestra . . . cum feno decimati locorurn infra scriptorum, viz. de le Parke, de Murrays, de Torrens, de Lagetland, de Coirglas, de Claudans, etc. . . . Data in ecclesia nostra predicta Glasguensi xxviimo die mensis Marcii anno Domini millesimo MCCCCXVIImo. (1417.)


Institution of the Perpetual Vicar, established by pension, in the Church of Kilbride. For a perpetual record of the fact.

To all the sons of Holy Mother Church, William, by divine favor, Bishop of Glasgow, eternal greeting in the Lord: Your whole community shall know with tithe of the places mentioned below, to wit, Parke, Murray, Torrens, Lagetland, Coirgias, Claudans, etc.

Given in our Church, aforesaid, of Glasgow, on the 27th day of March in the year of our Lord 1417.

The Latin quotation will be found in The Descriptions of Lanark & Renfrew, page 206. The translation has been added for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the original. The spelling of the name as Torrens appears to have been the nearest they could come to the sound in Latin. Had the name been Torrenkay, in pronunciation, it would have been spelled as Torrence. Had the name been pronounced Torrance, they would have spelled it Torrans.

Just what was the most ancient surname in Kilbride, county Lanark, Scotland, cannot be stated. In the list of names printed in Dr. Ure's book, pages 174 and 175, the Hamiltons, Youngs, and Watsons predominate in numbers, but the most conspicuous appear to have been the Lairds of Torrence, from whom descended the Hamiltons of Westburne, Ladyland, Atkenhead, Daichmont, Woodhall, and others.

In as much as it was the custom for the eldest male line to inherit the family estates, it is probable that through wars taking a heavy toll of the lives of the fighting men, the male line of the above-mentioned Pg10 branch of the Torrence family came to an end. It remained to the women of the family to carry on. Among the testaments that will presently be listed, it will be found that members of the Torrence family continued to inter-marry with members of the Hamiltoune family.

From time immemorial the estate of Torrance belonged to an ancient family, which derived its name from territorial possessions. At length, the last Torrance of that ilk died without male heirs; and his daughter, and heiress, carried the estate to a branch of the ducal family of Hamilton. John Hamilton, fourth, had a younger son Thomas Hamilton of Dargakr who married the daughter of Douglas of Lochleen, ancestor of the Earl of Morton, by whom he had two sons. One was James, the ancestor of the great and wide-spreading branch of Raploch, now represented by Baron Thomas, who by marriage with the ancient family of Torrence, of that ilk, became proprietor of this estate and founded the family of Hamilton of Torrence, which continued to possess those lands for 200 years. His descendant in the fifth degree was Matthew Hamilton of Torrence, who by a daughter of the ancient family of Muirhead of Lathope (niece to Hamilton of Bothwellbaugh, who assassinated the great Morton), had two sons, James, who carried on the line of Torrance, and Archibald, ancestor to the family of Hamilton of Westbourne which is now the sole representative of the House of Torrance. From Hamilton of Westbourne is descended Mr. Hamilton Dunelus of Dudding and, in the female line, Admiral Sir Charles Napier and Mr. Hamilton Grey of Carntown. The descendants of James Hamilton of Torrance, the elder brother of Westbourne, continued for three generations when they became extinct and Westbourne continued the line. Previous to their extinction they had sold the estate of Torrance, about the middle of the 17th Century.

The estate of Torrance, which had continued in a direct line, first of the Torrances, and secondly of their representatives, the Hamiltons, was purchased by the scion of a race no less ancient nor noble, James Stewart, a younger son of Sir Archibald. James was the ancestor of Andrew Stewart of Torrance, guardian to James George, 7th Duke of Douglas, 8th Duke of Hamilton. The property is now in possession of Miss Stewart. The youngest daughter, Charlotte, in 1830, married Sir John Harrington in the County of Rutland, by whom she had a son and daughter.Note 43-1

The following items from the Scottish Record Society Publications, Volumes 5-7 are pertinent:

Attention is directed to the marriages between the Torrences and the Hamiltons.

It is of interest to note here, that the Torrenees and Gemmells were associated in York County, Pennsylvania, in 1750/70.

Under Commissariat of Hamilton and Campsie:

Preface Top of page Part 2

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Torrence and Allied Families Written by Robert McIlvane Torrence, published 1938
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