Select Irving Miscellany

Here are some Irving stories and accounts over the years:

Irvings and Irvines

The Irvings of Bonshaw are said to have been descended from Duncan of Eskdale, a younger brother of Crinan the father of the King Duncan of Scotland who was murdered by Macbeth in 1040.  Duncan of Eskdale's lands were extensive during the 11th century, stretching from Annandale to Liddesdale.

Robert the Bruce was a guest in Annandale in 1298 when he fled the English court of Edward I.  There is a cave in the Kirtle cliffs at Cove within which he is thought to have hid himself on more than one occasion.

A William de Irwyn, said to have been the second son of the chief at Bonshaw, was taken into the service of Robert the Bruce.  He held various offices in the Royal Household and was rewarded with part of the Forest of Drum near Banchory in Aberdeenshire in 1323.  James Irvine-Fortescue in his Memorandum on the Origins of the Family of Irvine of Drum in 2000 concluded that the first Irvine of Drum did probably originate from the southwest of Scotland. 

The first recording of an Irving name at Bonshaw was not in fact until 1367.

Bonshaw Tower

Bonshaw Tower and the house attached to it stand on level ground bounded on the east by a cliff with the Kirtle river flowing below, to the south by a steep ravine, and to the west by a farmyard and the rough ground of Bonshaw Mains that stands over where ditches and ramparts once stood. 

Just below the northern battlement of the tower was a strange shaft, built into the wall of the tower and leading far below the huge foundation stones.  Anyone who dropped a lighted torch in this narrow stone shaft could watch it die out at an immeasurable distance below.  

The present tower is known to have been built in the 1560's, but there had been a previous construction on the site between 1542 and 1548.  The English failed to burn down or indeed to blow up the tower with their cannon.  It successfully withstood four seiges by the Maxwells in the 16th century and was described by Lord Scope, the English Warden of the West Marches, as "one of the strongest houses of that border."

Early Irving Baptisms in the Orkneys

The first Irving record for the island of Shapinsay parish was in 1634.  The following were some early reported baptisms.

William and Jean


Thomas and Cathrein

Irving records first appeared in Kirkwall parish in 1659.  The Irvine name also appears in Orkney records, as it does in the Shetlands.

Irvings in Britain in 1891

By the time of the 1891 census, the Irvings were being outnumbered by the Irvines in Scotland by almost three to one.  Irving in Scotland remained very much a Border name.  But there were by that time more Irvings living south of the border, in particular in Cumberland.

1891 Census - Irvings
Numbers (000's)



Ann Marsh and John Irving

Ann Marsh had come to Australia in 1790 as a convict on the infamous brothel ship Lady Juliana.   Ann's partner on the ship was the kind and thoughtful ship's surgeon, Richard Alley.  She bore him a child.  But he soon departed back to England.

Ann, as with all single women in the colony, needed a protector and she found another surgeon in John Irving.  John, a First Fleet convict, had been the first convict in Australia to obtain an absolute pardon in 1790.  Tried in Lincoln in 1784 for stealing and sentenced to seven years' transportation, he had come to the colony on the Lady Penrhyn as the ship's surgeon.

When Irving arrived in Sydney in 1792, he was appointed the assistant surgeon at Parramatta and had 30 acres of land granted to him, roughly in the area known as Irving Street, Parramatta.   John and Ann had a son, John Irving.  He was, however, born in January 1796, some four months after John's death in September 1795.   The title to John's land went to Ann, his common law wife, and she held it until 1798 when she sold "Irving's Farm." 


George Washington and Washington Irving

Washington Irving was born in New York on April 3 1783, the same week city residents learned of the British ceasefire that ended the American Revolutionary War.  His mother named him after the hero of the revolution, George Washington.

At the age of six, with the help of a nanny, Washington Irving met his namesake who was then living in New York after his inauguration as President in 1789.  The President blessed young Irving, an encounter Irving commemorated in a small watercolor painting which still hangs in his preserved home today.

Reader Feedback - Edward Burroughs Irving

My name is Robert Rea Irving, the son of Edward Burroughs Irving.  Our group comes from Orkney.

I would like to suggest that my late brother, Edward Burroughs Irving Jr., be added to the list of notable Irvings. Ted, as he was called, was Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Haverford College. He earned his doctorate in Old English at Yale.  He was a prominent authority of Beowulf

Robert Irving, aged 89 (

The Sad Story of an Irish Irving in Canada

John Irving came from Ireland and he married his wife Margaret, who was English, around 1843.  Her family disowned her for marrying an Irishman and they consequently emigrated to Canada. 

They settled in St. John, New Brunswick and had four children (one boy and three girls) there.  However, both John and Margaret died in a plague in the late 1850's and the three girls were sold as indentured servants.

Captain John Irving's Last Years

Historian Norman R. Hacking came to know John Irving well in the captain's later years, and wrote of him:

"The latter days of Captain Irving were sad.  He gambled or gave his money away with gay abandon. In a few years his fine mansion in Victoria, his horses and stables, the accumulated wealth of a most successful business career; all were gone.  The death of his only son Willie in the first Great War was a great blow and the old man gallantly offered to enlist and take his son's place."

When Irving had sold his Canadian Pacific Navigation Company to the CPR, he had been presented with a lifetime pass to travel on the CPR's coastal steamships as a guest of the company.  Irving, who apparently lacked a regular home ashore, came to use the pass constantly.  So long as Irving's old friend James Troup was superintendent of CPR coastal operations, Irving was always welcome aboard the company's ships. 

When Captain Troup retired, his successor, believing that Irving was abusing the pass, warned his captains that while travel might be at the company's expense, Irving was to be required to pay for accommodations and meals on board.  This directive was ignored by the CPR's captains, who continued to seat Irving at the captain's table and make sure a cabin was available for him.

Hacking described Irving's last years

"In his later years Captain Irving lived in a small converted store on West Pender Street in Vancouver. With his tall spruce figure and his white goatee beard he was a very handsome gentleman.  His favorite remark when meeting an old friend on the street was "How about a smile?"  He died in 1936, poor in everything but friends."

Return to Top of Page
Return to Irving Main Page