The McClure Family/Introduction
THE ORIGIN of the name McClure has been frequently discussed in the genealogical literature of Great Britain. The following theories have been advanced:
1. The name (variously spelt McClure, McCluer, McClewer, Maclure, McLewer, McLure, and McLuir), comes from the Gaelic word MacLobhair, pronounced MacLour, and means "son of the leper."
2. That it comes from the Gaelic MacGiolla-odhar (which in the genitive is uidhar and pronounced ure), contracted to MacIlure and hence McLure or McClure, and means "son of the pale one." This theory is advocated by Rev. Edmund McClure, M. A., London, Secretary of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.
3. That it is a derivation of the Gaelic MacLeabhair, (pronounced MacLour) and means "son of the book," i. e. they were the teachers in the Clan McLeod, just as the McMcRimmons (or McCrimmons) were the clan pipers. They were MacLeabhair McLeods, McLeabhair (McLour, McLure, McClure), eventually becoming the sir-name. Several Gaelic scholars deny this derivation of the name, tho' admitting the very ancient tradition of the McClure tutorship in the Clan McLeod.
4. That the name is identical with MacLir (or MacLur) the seagod of Ireland and the Isle of Man. This theory is advanced in an article published in the Dublin University Magazine on the late Sir Robert McClure, the navigator.
5. The McClures were originally a Manx family, the first legendary king of the Island being a Manannan McClure, is the tradition inherited by the McClures of Manchester, England, to which family belong the late Sir John W. McClure, M. P., and the Very Rev. Edward C. McClure, D. D., Dean of Manchester. Held also by Sir Edward Stanley McClure.
6. That the name means "great bruiser." An ancient king of Scotland was attacked by highwaymen. One of his attendants so distinguished himself by his prowess that he was called MacClure, "Mac" signifying "great" as well as "son of." A blow from the fist is still known in Scotland as a clure.
7. That it originated in the ancient sport of Falconry, in which the lure was used to recall the falcon. The crest of this family of McLures is a hand in armour holding a falconer's lure.
8. A soldier from the ancient town of Lure in Normandy crossed over with William the Conquerer. He was rewarded for his service by a grant of land in the Island of Skye and was known as DeLure, Mac being later substituted for De, to harmonize with the Gaelic custom.
9. The theory advocated by Rev. J. Campbell McClure, Minister of Marykirk, Kincardinshire, Scotland, is that the McClures are a sept of the Clan McLeod. In addition to extant records in Galloway of the McClure family, showing it to be of McLeod origin, Mr. McClure states that the family tradition handed down to him through a long line of long-lived ancestors is, "In early times a sept of the MacLeods left the Island of Skye for Ulster, where the northern Irish slurred the 'd' of MacLuide (as it was then pronounced) into 'r,' hence, MacLure. Later many of the name passed over from the northeast of Ireland to Galloway, thus to Wigtonshire and so on to Ayrshire. These districts to day contain many McClures."
It is certain that McClures are in some way connected with the Clan McLeod, evidenced by the fact that the oldest traditions of the family in Scotland take them back to the Isle of Skye; the traditions of Skye link together the McClures and the McLeods; McClures have always had the same motto, crest and tartan as the McLeods, and their right to them has never been called in question.
McClure history, then, properly begins with the McLeods.
Some authorities aver that they are of Irish descent. In an old volume of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology there is given a long pedigree of the McLeods, deducing them from various Scottish chieftains and princes, back to one Fergus Mor MacEarcha. The generally accepted theory is that they descended from Leod, one of the three sons of Olave the Black, King of Man and the Isles, tho' it is said that there is no documentary evidence extant to prove this claim.
Leod, born early in the 13th century, married the daughter of MacRailt Armuinn, a Norwegian chieftain, and by her acquired large possessions in Skye, including the fortress of Dunvegan, which is still in the possession of the family.
They held mainland estates under the Crown as early as 1340, and island estates at the same time under the Lords of the Isles. When the final forfeiture of the Lords of the Isles took place at the end of the 15th century, the McLeods got charters of their island estates from the crown.
Their name is conspicuous in Scottish history. They occupied the post of honor at the battle of Harlaw, 1411; they were at the battle of the Bloody Bay, 1485; they took part in the negotiations to transfer the allegiance of the Highland chiefs from the Scottish to the English king and signed the commission under which these negotiations were carried on. They took part in the battle of Worcester, 1661, led by Sir Norman McLeod of Bernera, where they lost 700 men.
Treated by Charles II with the grossest ingratitude, they took no part in subsequent Stuart uprisings, tho' there is a letter extant from James II, dated Dublin, 1690, imploring McLeod to join Dundee.
It is said that the name (Maklure) occurs in Scotland as early as the 12th century. A very old record is one of 1485, where Ewin MakLure and Gilbert MakLure witnessed a contract between Thomas Kennedy of Blaresguhan and Margaret Kessox, of Little Dunrod, Kirkcudbright. These McClures are supposed to have been friends (or relatives) of the Kennedy (Seneschal) of Carrick in Scotland and cadets of the Carrick family of McLures of Bennane. These are all Galloway folk.
In the Acta Dom. Audit., published by the government in 1839, there is, under date of October 6, 1488, a decree that Johne Lord Kennydy, Johne of Montgomery and Michiell McLure shall devoid, &c., the lands of Barbeth to Janete Hamiltown. There is a record of January 24, 1489, that Johne Lord Kennydy, Johne of Montgomery, and Michell McClure shall pay to Janete Hamiltown, &c. (Note the two spellings of the name in this short extract.)
Barbeth is close to Kirkintulloch, northeast of Glasgow.
It is claimed by some that the original home of the McClures in Scotland was in the southwest, probably in Galloway.
Andrew McClure, late of Glasgow, now of London, states that Ayrshire is full of McClures. In Munsey's Magazine, February, 1911, in an article on Robert Burns, illustrated with a photograph of old Alloway Kirkyard, the name George McClure appears on one of the stones. Many of the family are buried here. Rev. J. Campbell McClure, Kincardineshire, Scotland, belongs to this family. There is a family tradition that one of his ancestors, an ecclesiastical reformer, suffered persecution under Charles II in those well known days when the heroic and faithful Covenanters were subjected to such unholy treatment. His home in Dalmellington was invaded and all his furniture taken out and burned.
A member of one of the Scottish families states: "The earliest ancestor we actually know of is Martin McClure, who lived at Balmaghil in Kirkcudbrightshire about 1750, where, I believe, he is buried. He had five sous: William, John, David, Robert and Andrew, all of whom came south, we being descendents of the eldest, and I know more or less of the descendents of the others. The crest and arms of our branch are,—
Arms: Argent, on a chevron engrailed azure, in chief two roses, and in base a quatrefoil, gules, a martlet between two escallopes of the first.
Crest: An eagle's head, erased, proper."
Mr. Robert W. McClure, of the firm of Black, McClure & McDonald, Glasgow, writes, February 17, 1913: "My grandfather, James McClure, was a sea captain and I rather think was born in Bargany Estate, a few miles from Girvan. My father, James McClure, was Parochial Schoolmaster in Riccarton, near Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.."
Ian Maclaren has given a master's touch and added interest to the name in Scotland in his portrayal of William McLure, in A Doctor of the Old School.—"A tall, gaunt, loosely made man, without an ounce of superfluous flesh on his body, his face burned a dark brick color by constant exposure to the weather, red hair and beard turning grey, honest blue eyes that look you ever in the face, huge hands, with wrist-bones like the shank of a ham, and a voice that hurled his salutations across two fields, he suggested the moor rather than the drawing room. But what a clever hand it was in an operation, and what a kindly voice it was in the humble room when the shepherd's wife was weeping by her man's bedside. ***** He was 'ill pitten the gither' to begin with, but many of his physical defects were the penalty of his work, and endeared him to the glen. He could not swing himself into the saddle without making two attempts and holding Jess's mane, neither can you 'warstle' through the peat-bogs and snow-drifts for forty years without a touch of rheumatism. But they were honorable scars, and for such risks of life men get the Victoria Cross in other fields. McLure got nothing but the secret affection of the Glen, which knew that none had ever done so much for it as this ungainly, twisted, battered figure, and I have seen a Drumtochty face soften at the sight of McLure limping to his horse. 'His father was here afore him,' Mrs. McFadyen used to explain, 'atween them, they've hed the country side for well on tae a century.'"
"Aye, dear Maclure; him maist o' a'
The scene of the doctor at the home of Tammas and Annie Mitchell is of peculiar interest to the McClures of Augusta county, Virginia, when it is remembered that the Mitchells and McClures were friends and among the first settlers of Augusta county.
The name is frequently found in Scotland to-day, and as in America, they are usually among the substantial members of their communities. Dr. John Watson, on his last visit to America, introductory to an address in Philadelphia, speaking of the Scotch families in the United States and their noble ancestry, mentioned especially the McClures and requested any of the name to come forward and speak to him at the conclusion of his address.
The late Earl of Stair, Scotland, states that the McClure family is one of the oldest in the list of the Scottish Untitled Aristocracy.
McCLURES IN IRELAND.
When and why did members of the family emigrate from Scotland to Ireland? There are two answers to this question.
First, in the Planting of Ulster. Following the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, 1603, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell inaugurated a general rebellion against the King. The effort failed, resulting ultimately in 511,465 acres of land, six counties in the province of Ulster, being forfeited to the crown.
James sought to settle upon these lands a Protestant population. Grants of land and numerous privileges were held out as inducements. Thousands availed themselves of the advantageous offer, and settled with their families upon these forfeited estates.
Among these emigrants were three McClures from Ayrshire, Scotland, supposedly brothers, who crossed over the channel to Ireland in 1608.
One settled at Saintfield, County Down. In this branch of the family the name Anthony frequently occurs, as it does also in an Ayrshire family of McClures "represented now as sole survivor by Mr. William McClure, Solicitor, of Hill Crest, Wigton, Scotland."
From him descended the late William Waugh-McClure, Justice of the Peace, Windsor Terrace, Lurgan, Ireland; also Thomas McClure born 1716, married in 1750 Elizabeth Ralston, the ancestor of John Wilfrid McClure, the author of several articles on The McClure Family published in the Belfast Witness, 1904, and from which the facts here stated are taken. He was connected for a number of years with the Munster and Leinster Bank, Dublin. This couple, Thomas and Elizabeth McClure, were weavers, the latter being famously deft in the use of the distaff. They died aged 101 and 102, respectively.
The most distinguished of the McClures of Down was Rev. Robert McClure, for sixty-three years pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Annahilt, ordained and installed April 29, 1760. His great grandson, Prof. John Robinson Leebody, M. A., D. Sc. of Magee College, Londonderry, furnishes the following:
"My great-grandfather, the Rev. Robert McClure, was minister of Annahilt from 1760 to 1823. His family resided near Belfast where they owned some property. From this Mr. McClure derived income sufficient to live in easy circumstances. His staff of servants included a butler—not a usual luxury for a Presbyterian minister either then or now. His wife was a daughter of Archdeacon Benson, of Hillsborough, and a grand-daugher of a former Bishop of Down and Connor. Mr. McClure was on terms of intimacy with the country gentry and a great favorite with the Marquis of Downshire, with whom he used to dine every Wednesday at the castle. Many offers of promotion were made to him if he would consent to join the Episcopal Church, which he resolutely declined.
He had a numerous family, but of the history of several of them I have no details.
One of his daughters married Rev. Dr Wright, his assistant and successor. Another. John Robinson, a gentleman farmer near Hillsborough, who was my grandfather and after whom I am named. Another, Rev. Mr. Ashe, an English rector. One of his younger sons, Arthur, was in the army, and I believe attached to the staff of the Duke of Kent, After retiring from the army he resided near Lisburn, and I recollect being at his house when a boy. He used to tell that he had frequently carried our late Queen in his arms when she was a child.
Mr. McClure was the Moderator of the Synod 1779; preached from Philip, 4: 1-5. At the opening of the Synod in 1780 his sermon on I Timothy, 4: 16, was printed.
Mr. McClure is described as a man of distinguished appearance. I have heard my mother say that she remembered seeing him frequently when she was a girl, and her recollection of him was a tall, white-haired old gentleman with an ear trumpet. I may mention an anecdote I have heard which illustrates, amougst other things, the difference between the present standard of ministerial propriety and that current a century ago. Near Hillsborough, at a place called The Maze, there is a race-course, once very famous, and I believe still of considerable repute. Riding to it one morning during the race week with some of the local gentry, he overheard an altercation between a woman and her son, whom she was endeavoring to persuade to stay away from the races. To the final declaration of the youth, 'I will go; there is our minister going,' Mr. McClure merely remarked, 'No one will ever say that again,' turned his horse round and despite the exhortations of his friends for being so needlessly scrupulous, rode home and was never seen on a race course again."
The second brother settled at Crumlin, County Antrim, ancestor of the late Sir Thomas McClure, (1806-1893), M. P. from Belmont, son of William McClure and Elizabeth Thomson and grandson of Thomas McClure and Anne Swan, of Summer Hill, County Antrim; whose remote ancestor was an officer under William III, at the Battle of the Boyne.
The third brother settled in Armagh, ancestor of James McClure, of Armagh "attained 1688 in the reign of James II, along with quite a number of other Protestant landowners in Ireland." He is referred to as "James McClure, gentleman."
Dr. David Miller, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Armagh, writes under date of January 28, 1913: "My records of the 18th century, baptisms and marriages, are very defective, covering only the period 1707-28. I can find only one entry with the name McClure; it is a marriage—John McClure and Margaret Martin, June 13, 1723. The name does not seem to have been common about Armagh, nor is it yet. In the records of the Synod of Ulster I notice that an Elder, James McClure, attended the Synod at Antrim in 1705. His minister's name was Archibald Maclane, who could not have been the minister of the Armagh church, for his name was John Hutcheson, but his congregation was in the Presbytery of Armagh.
The second distinct emigration of McClures to Ireland was from 1661 to 1688. Under the last two Stuarts the acts of oppression in Scotland were so severe and so continued that to escape them many sought a refuge with their countrymen, who had colonized Ireland in peaceful times. Crossing the channel in open boats, exposed to the greatest danger, they reached the friendly shores of Ireland and found a hearty welcome and homes free for a little while from the oppression that made them exiles.
In Boswell's "Tour through the Highlands," he mentions under date of October 16, 1773, meeting at the house of The Mac Quarrie, "Chief of Ulva's Isle," a Capt. McClure, of Londonderry, master of the Bonnetta sailing vessel. He says: "Capt. McClure was of Scottish extraction, and properly a MacLeod, being descended from some of the MacLeods who went with Sir Norman MacLeod, of Bernesa, to the Battle of Worcester, and after the defeat of the Royalists, fled to Ireland, and to conceal themselves took a different name. He told me there were a great number of them about Londonderry, some of good property."
We have another native of Londonderry in the person of Captain Robert McClure, born about 1775, "an officer in the old 89th Foot and served abroad." He saved the life of a fellow-officer, General le Mesurier, a gentleman of considerable property and a native of Guernsey, who afterwards became guardian to his son. Capt. McClure, while stationed at Wexford with his regiment, married in 1807 Jane, d. of Archdeacon Elgee. His son, Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure (1807-1873) was the discoverer of the North-west Passage, for which he received a large grant of money, the thanks of Parliament and knighthood.
A distinguished soldier died recently in Dublin in the person of William McClure-Miller, formerly of Ochiltree, Ayrshire. On his retirement from the service, he was appointed Governor of H. M. Prison at Arbour Hill, Dublin. He served in a regiment of Lancers and passed through no less than twenty-eight engagements on the foreign field, some of them the most important and decisive in the history of recent times. Like those of his name in general, he was long-lived and his death, though he had passed the four score limit, was hastened by an accident. Paternally a McClure, he was obliged on succeeding to some property to assume the second name of Miller. He left a son and namesake who is one of the clerks in H. M. Prisons' Board, Dublin Castle. A long and description memoir appeared in the Dublin papers at the time of his decease.
There are records on a tombstone erected at Findrum, County Donegal by Andrew McClure, Surgeon, Royal Navy, to the memory of his ancestors whose remains lie deposited in the vault beneath, and who for upwards of two hundred years had resided at Findrum. This tomb has inscribed upon it the coat-of-arms, crest, and motto of the McClures.
About 1850 there was published an article on Surnames in Down and Antrim, at which time not a single parliamentary voter named McClure lived in Co. Down and only three in Co. Antrim. There were many of the name living in East Donegal. "James" was a common name among them, but still more common was "Richard." There were
"Fiel Dick, Deel Dick and Dick of Maghesnoppin,
all alive at the same time and all related.
Rev. W. T. Latimer, Eglish Manse, Dungannon, Ireland, writes June 6, 1913: "My great grandmother, Bell Kelso, died 1781, aged 58. A sister of hers, probably younger, married a Donegal McClure, whose Christian name I don't know. The family all went to America, including a daughter who married a Mr. Elliott. A sister, Susanna McClure, in 1764, married John Dill of Springfield, Co. Donegal, whose son Samuel was minister of Donoghmore, Co. Donegal. Captain McClure, the arctic explorer, belongs to this Donegal family."
In my judgment this Donegal McClure was Samuel who died in Rockbridge county 1779, leaving a wife, Mary, and among other children, Jean Elliott.
Mr. J. W. Kernohan, M. A., Secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, writes on Aug. 5, 1913;
"We have not in our care church records of East Donegal, nor do I know of any except one in Magee College, Derry. I have searched the Muster Roll, 1631, and the Hearth Tax List, 1663, for Co. Derry, but did not find a single McClure. There is a register of Burt neighborhood (Co. Donegal, near Londonderry) for the years 1676-1719, but the searching of the book would mean some labor and time."
Rev. A. G. Lecky, author of "The Days of the Laggan Presbytery," writes August 7, 1913, of Co. Donegal:
"Among the names of the men who paid Hearth Tax in the Parish of Raphoe, 1665, there are two John McClures of Augheygalt, and a Gilbert McCluer in the adjoining Parish of Donoghmore. Also, amongst the names of Elders from Raphoe who attended meetings of the Laggan Presbytery between the years 1672-1700, are John, Arthur and Richard McClure. Also John McClure from Burt, near Londonderry. The name has always been a common one in this district. There are at present six McClure seat holders in the congregation of Convoy." Rev. Francis McClure of Carrigut, Co. Donegal, died in the United States some years ago while on a visit to his son.
Rev. John J. McClure, D. D., of Capetown, South Africa, writes September 9, 1913: "My father, Rev. Samuel McClure, who ministered at Crossroads, near Londonderry, and who died in 1874, came from Dernock, near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, where his forefathers had been for some generations. They came originally from some place in the southwest of Scotland."
It is generally agreed that the Irish McClures are not one family, but are descended from a number of ancestors who emigrated from Scotland after 1608. They have not as a rule preserved their genealogies, hence the difficulty in tracing connection between them and determining the place and date of their origin in Scotland. The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. II, p. 160, states that the center of the McClure families in Ulster is in Upper Marsareene, the most southern barony in Antrim. They are now all over Ulster, and those in one village or town are generally unconscious of any connection with those of another.
It is said of the descendants of the McClure who settled first at Knockbreda, near Belfast in Co. Down, 1608, that some of them settled in Belfast, some in Lisburn, Ballymena and other places in Co. Antrim. Some went further afield into Derry, which has several monuments of them. There are tombstones in the old burying ground at Knockbreda going back to the early years of the 18th century. In Carmany churchyard, Co. Antrim, there is the grave of Isabella McClure, daughter of Archibald McClure of Belfast, who died February, 1788, aged seven years.
At the Tercentenary Celebration of Presbyterianism in Ireland, held in Belfast June, 1913, J. W. Kernohan, M. A., in his address on Irish Presbyterianism, said in conclusion: "Indeed, in the commercial and professional annals of Belfast, it would be found on inquiry that if the names of the outstanding Presbyterians were eliminated, * * * it would be robbed of much of its moral, material and intellectual strength. In the list, which he gives in this paragraph, we find the name McClure.
Several of the Ireland McClures claim a coat of arms as do those of Scotland, generally similar to that of the late Sir Thomas McClure, of Belfast, namely, a domed tower and pennant, but while his motto was Spectemur agendo, theirs is Paratus sum, which is also the motto of the McClures of Lancashire, though their coat of arms and crest are different.
In addition to the , crests, &c., of the McLeods, which belong equally to the McClures, we find in Robson's Heraldry, Vol. II, and Fairbairn's Crests, Vol. I, under McLure, (or MacLure,) Scotland:
ARMS—Argent on a cheveron engrailed azure between three roses, gules, a martlet of the field.
CREST—An eagle's head, erased, proper.
ARMS—Argent, a cheveron, azure, between two roses, gu. in chief, and a sword, point downward, in base of the second.
ARMS—Argent, a dexter hand erased, fesseways gules holding a dagger, point down, azure, in chief three crescents, sable.
CREST—A domed tower, on top a flag, all proper.
See also Burke's Landed Gentry.
The minutes of the Presbyteries and Synod of Ulster give some interesting information.
We find in the minutes of the Laggan Presbytery 1672-1700, the name of
Richard McClure, Elder from Donoughmore, 1679.
Arthur McClure, Elder from Raphoe, now Convoy.
John McClure, Elder from Raphoe, now Convoy.
Richard McClure, Elder from Raphoe, now Convoy, 1693.
John McClure, Elder from Burt, near Derry, 1698.
The name occurs frequently in the records of the General Synod of Ulster, 1691-1820.
James McClure, Armagh Presbytery, 1705, 12, 15.
John McClure, Belfast Presbytery, 1723.
Thomas McClure, Templepatrick Presbytery, 1733.
Daniel McLewer, Templepatrick Presbytery, 1738.
William McLewer, Templepatrick Presbytery, 1710.
McCLURES LEAVE IRELAND FOR AMERICA.
The period of Covenanter persecution in Scotland was one of comparative quiet in Ireland, but persecution came again under James II. And later in the reign of Anne (1702-1714), under the Test Act, they were made exceedingly uncomfortable. Unless they conformed in worship they could hold no public office, nor be married by their own ministers, nor bury their dead by their own simple rites, nor build churches, nor buy land, nor employ teachers except those of the Established Faith. Thus deprived by oppressive laws of every position of trust or honor, denied the liberty of speech, the free exercise of conscience, together with burdensome restraints on their commerce and extortionate rents from their landlords, they began to look toward America as another and a better home.
Says Froude: "In two years which followed the Antrim Evictions, 30,000 Protestants left Ulster for a land where there was no legal robbery, and where those who sowed the seed could reap the harvest." The government, alarmed at this depletion, gave relief and checked the emigration for a while. But in 1728 it began anew, and from then to 1750, it is estimated that 12,000 came annually from Ulster to America.
Physically and morally, of all the people in the world, these Scotch Irish were the best suited by nature and by Providential training for building up a new country. Some of them were scholars, as Robert Alexander, a Master of Arts of Dublin University, who, in 1749, built on land now owned by Samuel Finley McClure, near Old Providence Church, Augusta County, Va., the log school-house, sowing the seeds of learning, of which Washington and Lee University is the ripening fruit.
Landing in Pennsylvania, some of them crossed the Alleghanies and settled the western part of the State. Another stream flowed southward, entering the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, spreading over Augusta and Botetourt and Rockbridge counties; and then some of them vainly dreaming that there could be upon this continent a more beautiful or fertile country, pushed on to Southwest Virginia, to Tennessee, Kentucky and farther west. Others turning eastward crossed the Blue Ridge and found homes in Southside Virginia, or pressing on, settled the piedmont section of the Carolinas.
That they were pioneers in the American Revolution and the struggle for religious liberty is an oft told tale.
Among the first of these settlers in the upper Valley of Virginia were a number of McClures. In writing of them and of their descendants, I fully agree with Sir Walter Scott, that "Family tradition and genealogical history are the very reverse of amber; which, itself a valuable substance, usually includes flies, straws and other trifles; whereas these studies being in themselves very insignificant and trifling, do, nevertheless, seem to perpetuate a great deal of what is rare and valuable in ancient manners, and to record many curious and minute facts, which could have been preserved and conveyed through no other medium."
And also the saying of Edmund Burke, "People who never look backward to their ancestors will never look forward to posterity."