To Clan and Conquer (Clan Beginnings Book 1)

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To Clan and Conquer (Clan Beginnings, #1) by Tracy St. John

The Clan Kerr controlled two castles on the border with England, and were quick to fend off any intrusion by the Southerners, but were not indisposed to a quick venture across the divide whenever they fancied some prime English beef for their tables. By the 15th Century the Clan Kerr were considered highly important Crown vassals, and with loyalty came rich rewards.

By the close of the 15th Century, the Clan Kerr held the honours of possessing the Castle and Barony of Cessford, and the Barony of Oxnam, a considerable achievement for any Border Clan. They would meet for battle at a place called Bellendean. Fighting between the two clans continued until a peace agreement was signed in Honours continued to be heaped upon the Clan down through the years, with the titles bestowed on the Kerrs including the Barony of Newbattle, the Earldom of Lothian, the Lordship of Jedburgh, the Earldom of Ancram, and the Dukedom of Roxburghe. Mark Kerr, had his lands of Newbattle and Prestongrange erected into the barony of Newbattle by a charter of In Mark Kerr was created Earl of Lothian.

This title failed when his son died in with a male issue also his daughter died in when giving birth to twins. The third peerage to come to the family was the earldom of Ancram, which was bestowed upon Sir Robert Kerr who was descended from a younger son of Sir Andrew Kerr of Ferniehurst. To add to the plethora of honours showered on the family, Sir William Kerr, son of the Earl of Ancram, was granted a new earldom of Lothian in His son, Robert, who was advanced to the rank of Marquess, also succeeded to the earldom of Ancram on the death of his uncle. The Earls of Lothian were advanced to the rank of Marquess at the beginning of the 18th Century.

A century later in the Treaty of Union was decalred officially uniting England and Scotland. This was supported by the Kerrs.

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Lord Mark Kerr son of the Chief Marquess of Lothian , was a distinguished professional soldier and is reputed to have had a high sense of personal honour and a quick temper. He fought several duels throughout his military career but rose ultimately to the rank of general, and was appointed governor of Edinburgh Castle in He has the dubious distinction of being the only person of high rank killed on the Government side. The eldest of the brothers, Lord Mark Kerr, later the fourth Marquess of Lothian , commanded three squadrons of Government cavalry at the Battle of Culloden and survived to serve under the Duke of Cumberland in France in Ferniehirst Castle is where the 12th Marquess of Lothian resides.

Although the principal seat of Clan Kerr is considered to be the fabulous mansion of Monteviot. Ferniehirst Castle sometimes spelt Ferniehurst was built around It has been occupied in this century as a Youth Hostel for fifty years. It was built to hold the gate for Scotland and to serve as a base for military raids and cattle-lifting forays. It commands the road to Otterburn and Newcastle. Roxburgh Castle is just across the Tweed from Floors Castle. Castle Holydean was destroyed in and very little of it now remains.

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The Kerrs have typically been associated with left-handedness; some of their buildings, such as Ferniehirst Castle , have been explicitly designed with this in mind. There is an anecdotal link between the Kerrs and left-handedness, although it is unclear whether or not present-day individuals with the surname of Kerr have a higher incidence of left-handedness than the general population.


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Another tradition locates them in the Hebrides: the 17th-century Skye historian Hugh MacDonald claimed that a MacNicol was among the island chieftains killed in a rebellion against the Norwegian king Olaf the Red in c. The name 'MacNicol's Castle' is given to two ancient ruins, in Coigach and in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, appearing to corroborate these early traditions.


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  • David Sellar has speculated that the ancient arms of the MacLeods of Lewis may have been inherited from the MacNicols who had an earlier foothold in the Western Isles - the depiction of a burning mountain on a field of gold could refer to the custom of Norse chieftains lighting beacons to guide the King of Norway's ships through the Hebridean islands safe from shipwreck.

    The MacLeods of Lewis appear to have inherited or stolen their considerable possessions through marriage with a MacNicol heiress in the 14th century. The ancestral Nicail, therefore, probably lived in Lewis, where he and his ancestors would have served the kings of Mann and the Isles in a mixed Norse and Gaelic environment. John was perhaps the leading man on Lewis.

    In the late 17th century the origin of the MacNeacails, MacLeods, Macaulays and Morrisons was documented in an historical account of Lewis. John Morisone, self-described "Indweller" of Lewis, writing sometime between about and , stated that the early inhabitants of Lewis were three men from three separate races. The first and most antient Inhabitants of this Countrie were three men of three severall races viz.

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    Mores the son of Kenannus whom the Irish historiance call Makurich whom they make to be Naturall Sone to one of the Kings of Noruvay, some of whose posteritie remains in the land to this day. All Morisones in Scotland may challenge there descent from this man. The second was Iskair Mac. Awlay ane Irish man whose posteritie remain likvise to this day in the Lews. The third was Macknaicle whose onlie daughter Torquill the first of that name and sone to Claudius the sone of Olipheous, who likewise is said to be the King of Noruway his sone, did violentlie espouse, and cutt off Immediatlie the whole race of Macknaicle and possessed himself with the whole Lews and continueth to his posteritie Macleud of Lews dureing 13 or 14 generations and so extinct before, or at least about the year the maner of his decay I omitt because I intend no historie but a descriptione.

    The MacNeacails flourished during the fourteenth century, and during that time owned much of the Isle of Lewis. They also spread to the area in Scotland now known as Argyll and are said to have sent warriors to participate in the tribal wars in Ireland. Some members of the clan settled in the north of Ireland where their descendants can still be found today.

    Soon after he sent an army commanded by his brother Edward Bruce to help the Irish fight the Anglo-Normans. In September he besieged Carrickfergus Castle and burned the town.

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    Attempts to bring food to the castle failed and by April the starving English garrison were forced to eat animal hides. It was even rumoured that they ate 8 Scottish prisoners.

    Spearman arrived to the aid of the Bruce. If the account in John Barbour's poem The Bruce can be credited, he played a major role in the Scottish campaigns against the English armies in Ireland in In September the castle finally surrendered and Edward Bruce was able to use it as a base for further attacks on the Anglo-Normans. It remained under his control until he was killed in battle in According to Sellar, possibly one of the earliest references to a Clan MacNeacail chief appears in a passage from John Barbour's epic The Bruce, which dates to about Sellar believes that the Maknakill recorded may be the chief, or at least a close relative to the chief of Clan MacNeacail.

    MacNicol came then to the fight with two hundred spearmen and they slew all they could reach. This same MacNicol captured four or five of their ships by a strategem and utterly deprived the men of their lives. During Bruce's siege, Sir Thomas Mandeville arrived in Dublin with 15 ships in an attempt to lift the siege. Sellar argued that the arrival of Maknakill would have played a large part in preventing Mandeville from relieving the castle. Sellar is of the opinion that the "Maknakill" recorded in The Bruce may be the same as the "mak Nakyl" and "macnakild" recorded in and Sellar considered the possibility that the arms may represent the MacNicols' subordinate duty as coast watchers for the early Norse kings in the Isles.

    The early MacLeod of Lewis arms was recorded in the mid 15th century and is blazoned Or, a rock azure in flames gules. After seeing what happened with MacNicol fortune, the MacLeods changed the rule book on inheritance. No longer would it be permitted to leave such wealth to an heiress; instead it must be passed to the closest male heir.

    According to Sellar, it was at the time of the generation after John when the bulk of the clan lands passed into the hands of the Lewis Macleods: in the Hebrides, it was often claimed that this was achieved unlawfully, with the abduction and forced marriage of the MacNicol heiress by the MacLeod chief, and the sinking of a galley full of avenging MacNicol warriors on the coast off the island.