Accepting that the early peoples of Scotland consisted generally of Picts, Gaels and, later, Norsemen and Angles; it can be reasonably argued that the Irvings were Gaels and were part of the population movement between modern day Northern Ireland and the south west of Scotland. Early Christians regularly sailed to the Isles in the north and across the straights to Ireland. Vikings too went a-viking on the same routes down from the Western Isles. The Irvings/Irvines spread along the southern border of modern day Scotland, and are now generally recognised as Borderers or a Lowland Clan.
The name of ‘Erivine’ or, contracted, ‘Irving’ or ‘Irvine’, is understood by most researchers to come from either the ancient Celtic word ‘Erin-viene’ or ‘Erin-fiene’, which means a ‘true Westland man’ or from the region itself, for example, the ancient place name for the town of Irvine in Ayrshire or the Parish of Irving in Dumfriesshire.
Incidentally, in both old Gaelic and Welsh language, ‘Erin’ is used to mean the ‘west’ and the words ‘viene’ or ‘fiene’ means ‘himself’ or ‘man’, or to be politically correct ‘person’. Erin is used to describe what is now known as modern day Ireland and being situated west of Alba or Albion, terms used to describe the ancient kingdom of Scotland.
In an early record, Colonel J.B. Irving, author of ‘The Book of the Irvings &c’ (1907), says his great-great-grandfather William, who succeeded to Bonshaw in 1696 and married the eldest daughter of Lord Rollo in 1698, signed his name as ‘Irwing’. On his matriculation of Arms at Lyon Court (Reg. Vol.1 page 335) his name is spelt ‘William Irvine’ and in subsequent documents it is spelt ‘Irving’ and ‘Irwing’.
In Latin documents of the Chamberlain of Scotland at the time of Robert the Bruce, the name is spelt ‘Wilielmo De Irwyn’, who is believed to have been the recipient of the charters of the Forest of Drum from Robert the Bruce in 1323, and ‘Rogero De Irwyn’. In the charters of Drum, the name is spelt ‘De Irwin’ and ‘De Irwyn’. Most probably the use of ‘De’ stems from the Norman influence and was in common usage at the time.
Latterly in publications of the 1800’s, the name is spelt ‘Irving’, ‘Irvine’, ‘Irvin’, ‘Irwin’, ‘Erwing’, ‘Ervine’, ‘Urwen’ and even to the extent of ‘Hurven’ and ‘Irwenis’.
The Spelling of the Name has been a fruitful source of error and no doubt there will be many other spellings yet to be found. As Colonel J. B. Irving stated in his Book –
“...although there were many ways of spelling it, yet it was all the same name and referring to members of the one Clan – Irving”.
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