Clan Marjoribanks

Clan Marjoribanks
Clan Marjoribanks
Crest badge
Clan member crest badge - Clan Marjoribanks.svg
Crest: A demi-griffin Proper, issuant from a crest coronet Or
Region Lowlands
District Renfrewshire

Marjoribanks of that Ilk Arms.svg
Andrew George Marjoribanks of that Ilk
Chief of the Name and Arms of Marjoribanks
Historic seat Balbardie House

Clan Marjoribanks is a Lowland Scottish clan.




The story often told of the origins of the surname Marjoribanks, and even supported by respectable authorities, is that Marjorie, daughter of King Robert the Bruce, brought into her marriage with Walter Stewart in 1315 lands in Dumfriesshire which became known as "Marjorie's Banks"[1][2]; unfortunately no such lands formed part of Marjorie's dowry. An alternative explanation is that lands in the area of Ratho (which undoubtedly were Marjorie's) were granted to an early Marjoribanks in the 16th century; this is true enough, but the surname had already been current for at least 50 years.

This attractive myth was almost certainly invented by a junior branch of the Marjoribankses (represented now by Marjoribanks of Lees) in the 17th century to bolster their claim to gentility. The reality is perhaps more mysterious. The first known Marjoribanks, Philip "de Merioribankis de eodem," i.e. "Marjoribanks of that Ilk," appears in 1485 as the holder of the "five merklands of Merioribankis of ancient extent." He was probably a Johnstone who distinguished himself from the many other Johnstones of the area by adopting this patronymic. There have been many explanations of the origin of this place name (it is now Marchbank Farm in the parish of Kirkpatrick Juxta near Moffat); it may even have been adopted as a token of respect to Marjorie, since the Bruces at one time owned land in the area. But this is a problem which may never be convincingly solved.[3]

The name is usually pronounced ‘Marchbanks’, and Alexander Nisbet[4] asserts that the family who acquired the lands of the princess and took her name were originally kin to the Johnston Lords of Annandale. He finds evidence for this in the family’s coat of arms, which incorporates a gold cushion and a star. The Clan Johnstone's coat of arms bears three gold cushions, and in heraldry a star often alludes to a spur-rowel, which is part of Lord of Annandale’s crest (heraldry).

16th century

The Marjoribanks came to prominence in the early sixteenth century, when the Court of Session, the civil section of the Supreme Court of Scotland, was reinstituted in its modern form by King James V of Scotland in 1532. Thomas Marjoribanks of that Ilk[5], son of Philip Marjoribanks,[6] was one of ten advocates appointed as procurators, or pleaders, before the Lords of the Court of Session. Four centuries before the introduction of legal aid the Scottish Courts recognised the need for the poor to be represented by able lawyers, and in March 1535, Thomas was appointed advocate ‘for the puir’ with a salary of £10 Scots per annum. He willingly accepted the post, but waived his right to the salary. His public-spirited nature was rewarded when he became Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1540[5], representing the city in the Parliament of Scotland of that year, and again in 1546. He had acquired land at Ratho[7] near Edinburgh by a charter of 1539 which enabled him, ten years later, to assume the title, ‘Lord Ratho’, on his appointment as a judge. He became the Lord Clerk Register and acquired more land at Spotts and in Annandale, Dumfries and Galloway.

Map of Scotland showing the district of Renfrewshire, where the Marjoribanks lived.

17th to 18th century

After Lord Ratho died, the chiefship devolved on his grandson, Thomas[8], who sold Ratho in 1614. The family acquired lands at Balbardie around 1624[8]. Christian Marjoribanks, Ratho’s great grandniece, married George Heriot[2][9], goldsmith and financier to King James VI of Scotland, founder of the famous Edinburgh school George Heriot's School which still bears his name. Heriot was so wealthy that he reputedly kept his purse filled with gold, and to the citizens of Edinburgh he was known as ‘Jinglin’ Geordie'.

Andrew Marjoribanks of Balbardie and of that Ilk[8] was another distinguished lawyer who was appointed Writer to the King in 1716. He acted as agent for Lord Torphichen and was commissary of Edinburgh, an important post in the administration of estates of the deceased.

19th to 21st century

Andrew Marjoribanks grandson, Alexander[8], brought the family full circle when he acquired the Barony of Bathgate, which had also formed part of Princess Marjorie’s dowry. He was convenor of Linlithgowshire (now called West Lothian) for over thirty years, and in 1824 voluntarily surrendered his baronial rights to allow Bathgate to become a burgh, with Alexander as its first Lord Provost[1]. Alexander was ultimately succeeded by his seventh son, the Reverend Thomas Marjoribanks[8], Minister of Lochmaben and later of Stenton in East Lothian. In 1861 he sold the estates of Balbardie (including Balbardie House) and Bathgate to the trustees of Stewart’s Hospital (now part of Stewart's Melville College). His eldest son, Alexander[8], succeeded in 1869, but although he married twice, he died childless and was succeeded by his brother, the Reverend George Marjoribanks[8] who was also minister of Stenton. Two more ministers of religion were to hold the chiefship[8] until it passed to William Marjoribanks of that Ilk[10] father of the present chief[11]. Will Marjoribanks was an ecologist and worked on major conservation projects for the government of Sudan in Khartoum. His brother was the diplomat Sir James Marjoribanks who was the Ambassador to the European Economic Community at the time of Britain's negotiations to enter the EEC.

Other Branches of the Marjoribanks Family

A George Marjoribanks (hypothesised to have been the son of George Marjoribanks, a junior member of the family of Marjoribanks of Balbardie and of that Ilk[12][13]) took part in the Jacobite rising and fought with the Scottish army against the English at the Battle of Preston (1715). He was captured and transported to Virginia in 1716[14][15]. Many of his descendants now live in the USA, in particular, North and South Carolina, where there are regular meetings of the Marjoribanks family[16][17].

A junior line of the Marjoribanks family called Marjoribanks of Lees is descended from James Marjoribanks, a younger son of Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho[6] and Joseph Marjoribanks, a wine and fish merchant in Edinburgh who died in 1635[18]. Joseph's son John Marjoribanks matriculated the arms of Marjoribanks of Leuchie in 1673[19]. A century later the arms were re-matriculated as Marjoribanks of Lees by Edward Marjoribanks of Lees[19]. His son, Sir John Marjoribanks, was Lord Provost of Edinburgh[20][21] and became a baronet[22], his grandson David, Baron Marjoribanks was elevated to the peerage[18] as was another grandson Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth. These titles have since become extinct but there are several descendants of the Marjoribanks of Lees line living in England and the Channel Islands today[18].


There is an official tartan for the Marjoribanks family[23][24].

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Anderson, William, “The Scottish nation; or, The surnames, families, literature, honours, and biographical history of the people of Scotland, Vol. 3 MAC - ZET”, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh & London, P. 114, 1878, Accessed on 21 May 2009
  2. ^ a b Steven, Alasdair “What's Your Name” The Scots Magazine Page 180, February 1997,
  3. ^ Marjoribanks, Roger "The Name and Family Origins and Early Years", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 1, pp. 1-5, June 1992, Accessed 30 April 2010.
  4. ^ Nisbet, Alexander (reprinted 1984), “A System of heraldry, Speculative and Practical: with the True Art of Blazon, According to the Most Approved Heralds in Europe; New Edition”, T&A Constable, Edinburgh
  5. ^ a b Marjoribanks, Roger. "The Family in Sixteenth-Century Edinburgh", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 1, Page 9, June 1992. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  6. ^ a b Marjoribanks, Roger, Marjoribanks - Rural Family in the Capital, The Scottish Genealogist, December 2010, Accessed 29 December 2010
  7. ^ Extracts containing Marjoribanks from the Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland Volume 4 1549-1556 in "Ratho Local History". Accessed on 2 June 2009
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Marjoribanks, Roger. "Marjoribanks of that Ilk: The Senior Line", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 2, Page 1, January 1994. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  9. ^ Lochart, Brian R.W. “Jinglin' Geordie's Legacy: A History of George Heriot's School”, Tickwell Press, Edinburgh, 2004, ISBN 978-1862322578
  10. ^ "Extract of Matriculation of the Arms of Marjoribanks of that Ilk" Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, Volume 47, Page 34 on 16 February 1965. This document also describes the genealogy of the Marjoribanks family chiefs since Thomas Marjoribanks registered as chief and his coat of arms with the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Volume 1, Folio 302 on on 30 July 1673
  11. ^ Clan Chief of the Marjoribanks Clan. Accessed on 3 June 2009
  12. ^ Marjoribanks, Roger. "The American Dimension", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 2, Page 27, January 1994. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  13. ^ Marjoribanks, Roger. "George Marjoribanks (Marchbanks) Another Look At His Life", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 5, Page 19, December 1998. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  14. ^ George Marjoribanks website Accessed on 29 May 2009
  15. ^ Ship Elizabeth & Ann Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Retrieved 10 October 2010
  16. ^ Past Marjoribanks gatherings Accessed on 29 May 2009
  17. ^ July 2010 Marchbanks Family Homecoming, Greenville, SC on Facebook Accessed on 12 June 2010
  18. ^ a b c Marjoribanks, Roger. "Marjoribanks of Lees", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 3, page 14, June 1995. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  19. ^ a b Marjoribanks, John . "Heraldry and the Marjoribanks Family", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 3, Page 1, June 1995. Accessed on 30 April 2010
  20. ^ Listed Building Report for Regent Bridge Edinburgh This bridge has a panel showing that the bridge commenced when Sir John Marjoribanks was Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Accessed 11 August 2009
  21. ^ Marjoribanks, Roger. "Sir John Marjoribanks", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 4, August 1996. Accessed on 22 May 2010
  22. ^ The Baronetage of England, Ireland, Nova Scotia, Great Britain and the United Kingdom Accessed on 2 June 2009
  23. ^ Scottish Register of Tartans - Marjoribanks Tartan Accessed on 3 June 2009
  24. ^ Marjoribanks Merchandise Includes pictures of kilts made from the Marjoribanks tartan. Accessed on 3 June 2009

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