The Magazine of Scottish Heritage
Vol. 29, No. 2
By Archie Mckerracher
These are Your People
The Erskines were originally a Lowland family who inherited through marriage the Earldom of Mar, the most ancient of Celtic earldoms, and thus became allied to the principal Highland families. Their name comes from the fertile lands of Erskine in Ren- frewshire, on the south banks of the River Clyde, and derives from the Brythonnic Celtic (Welsh) 'y ysigyn', the green slope, which perfectly describes the topography. Although the barony of Erskine does not appear among the lands granted by Malcolm IV, to Walter, High Steward of Scotland, it is likely the Erskines were of native stock and became vassals of the Stewarts. The first on record is Henry de Ereskyn whose signature appears as witness to a charter of Paisley Abbey in 1226 A.D., in the reign of Alexander II. His castle stood where the new Erskine bridge scans the Clyde.
Sir Robert de Erskine of that Ilk, the worthy,wyse and lele', was High Chamberlain of Scotland in the late14th century. He supported the cause of David II against the resurgent Balliol faction, and later, in 1357, helped secure the king's release from captivity in England. He was rewarded with the important office of Constable of Stirling Castle and in 1368 was granted the lands of Alloa in Clackmannanshire where he built a fortified house. All of these are still held by his descendants today. He was also Ambassador to France, England and the Papal See. He supported the claim of the High Stewards to the Scottish monarchy and assisted Robert II ascend the throne in 1371. As an old ballad says, "Robert Stewart was made King, Specially throw the helping, Of gude Schir Robert Erskine"
Sir Robert purchased the lands of Dun near Montrose in north-east Scotland in 1358. These were later granted to his younger grandson, John, who founded the line of Erskines of Dun. These were the most prominent of the various cadet families until the last in the male line died in 1812. Their House of Dun is now a hotel and their town house in Montrose now a local newspaper office. The local church-yards hereabouts are full of Erskine stones. The other principal cadet line was the Erskines of Pittodrie in Aberdeenshire.