Ewing name seems
first to appear
in the lands of
the sixteenth century; it comes from the Gaelic clan name Eóghain.
Eóghain na h-Oitrich
(Clan Ewen of Otter) had
been forced from their homeland on Loch Fyne in 1493 and, according to
tradition, it was at about this time that the clan appeared in the
earldom of Lennox
where they settled near Loch Lomond. Although spellings
aren’t always consistent, the “Ewing”
spelling appears at an early date and seems to be distinctive of this
Whilst most clansfolk seem to have adopted the surname
“Ewing,” it’s possible that some
descendants of the same clan now
go by the name of
“McEwan.” However, there are several other known
the McEwan name.
Ewen of Otter,
Eóghain na h-Oitrich
is the name of the
MacEwen clan which once controlled the area around Kilfinan on the
According to the earliest known genealogy (MS 1467), the clan chief
Baltuir was the ‘son of Eoin, son of Eogain, son of
. . . son of Sabarain, son of Duinsleibe, son of Aeda Alain known
as ‘Buirrce’, son of Anradan lord of
The manuscript links Anradan (or Anradhan) with the descendants of the
legendary Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages. To find out more,
visit my page
It has been claimed that the MacEwens of Otter were a branch of the
Clan Sween who were dispossessed in the Wars of Independence, but it
is perhaps more likely that they were always an independent clan. The
traditional homeland of the MacEwens lies in the parish of Kilfinan
on Cowal; their neighbours to the north were
MacLachlans, and to the south were the Lamonts. Both were kindred
clans, claiming common descent from Anradhan, and so the MacEwens must
have been fairly
secure from attack.
On 20th March 1432, the new clan chief Swene MacEwen resigned
lairdship of Otter to King James I. The king regranted the barony to
for his lifetime with the provision that if he died without heir,
the lands of Otter would pass to the Campbells who had stood by the
king during his captivity in England. Eleven weeks later, Gillespie
Campbell was at Otter wringing a surety out of the young Swene
that if he should have a son he would pay a sizeable forfeit to the
Campbells. Swene lived on for sixty years, by which time King
James I and Gillespie Campbell were long dead. But presumably he died
lawful heir, since on Swene’s death in 1493 the lands of
passed to a branch of the Campbells of Argyll.
Thus, the MacEwens
their homeland and after this date they are spoken of as a
clan’. However, there is no reason to suppose that
of chiefs ended with Swene. Whilst he seems to have died without a
legitimate son, his chieftaincy probably passed to a nephew or cousin
who led much of the clan to new lands held in feu from the Earls of
Indeed, in the sixteenth century, the MacEwens appear to have operated
as a coherent clan and are said to have taken part in the Battle of
Langside (1568) under a new clan banner.
The arms of the chief
the Workman Armorial of 1566
illustrates the arms of the Ewing chief.
almost identical record of the arms was once to be seen in the
churchyard of Bonhill, Dumbartonshire, where it marked the grave of
William Ewing (d.1600).
A particularly interesting
feature is the flag which sits
atop the chevron.
heraldic language, the chevron is
said to be
“ensigned”. This is a mark of special favour
granted by the sovereign, who in this case would have been Mary, Queen
of Scots. Although the original illustration is unclear, later heraldic
tradition is unanimous that the arms are ensigned with the flag known
as the Red Ensign of Scotland.
It is said that one of Queen
Mary’s standard bearers was one William Ewing. It seems very
that the ensignment of William’s shield marks his appointment
as the queen’s standard bearer, and shows the flag he
carried. William Ewing’s coat of arms would have been passed
down to his heirs, and so this flag would appear on the shield of all
his successors; probably his appointment was likewise intended to be
hereditary. However Mary’s reign ended in disaster, and
it’s not altogether surprising that Scotland’s new
king did not restore this favour to a family that had fought against
yet, we still don’t
know where the Ewing chiefs were based. One family which might
have been the chief Ewing family lived at Ladytoun
or Ladyton near Bonhill. An armorial Ewing gravestone formerly in
Bonhill kirkyard probably commemorated one of these Ladytoun Ewings.
Ewings appear in Ladytoun from the late 1500’s until well
the 1600’s, although it has not yet been possible to
coherent family tree.
During the Scottish Civil War, Patrick Ewing in Dunbartonshire seems to
take the leading role in Ewing affairs. He rises to local prominence in
Covenanter politics after the defeat of the Engagers’ party
the Battle of Preston in 1648. When Charles II asserted his power over
Scotland, Patrick Ewing was among those he refused to pardon, and he
was fined £600 by Act of Parliament.
tradition, the Ewings stayed true to their
Covenanter heritage by taking part in Argyll’s Rebellion of
1685. When the rebellion collapsed, six leading Ewing brothers
fled to Ireland, where they fought with distinction at the Battle of
the Boyne for which Findlay Ewing was honoured by King William with the
gift of a silver-hilted sword.
seems that with
the exile of Findlay Ewing and his brothers, the
main chiefly line
was lost in Scotland, but the coat of arms was inherited by the Ewings
of Keppoch; this line passed to the Whitehill family who adopted the
surname Ewing. Their heirs were the Ewings of Craigtoun,
who would also have taken on the mantle of chiefship. However their
line died out in the eighteenth century, so the Ewing clan has remained
chiefless since that time.
We know from the record of the Craigtoun arms that their motto was Audaciter
(meaning ‘Boldly’ or
‘Audaciously’) with the crest of a demi-lion
rampant holding a star, and there is every reason to believe that the
same crest and motto were used by the earlier Ewing chiefs. This badge
may be worn today by any Ewing as a mark of clan identity.
there is currently
Ewing tartan, Ewings often choose to
wear either the MacEwen tartan (which currently bears no specific clan
affiliation) or the MacLachlan tartan (which acknowledges the
protection offered to the clan by the MacLachlans in recent tradition).
twentieth century, all Ewings and MacEwens were commonly
regarded as making up a single clan descended from Clan Ewen of Otter.
This interpretation of our history is no longer credible, although its
influence remains. In recent months, there has been a move to appoint a
new chief for the MacEwen clan. Exactly how this will impact on the
distinctive and independent Ewing tradition is yet to be seen, but
there is an increasing awareness of the need to protect our unique
heritage for future generations.
stuff on this site
Convention to dicuss these issues is scheduled for 2:00pm, Friday 6th
June 2014, at The Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre, Glasgow. You
can also make your voice heard in the clan through the Ewing Family
(formerly Clan Ewing
in America), or you can leave your
comments in the Guestbook
on this site.
can read more on these pages:
thor @ thorewing.net
Thor Ewing 2012, 2014
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