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The Fairley Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: PARATUS SUM (I am prepared)

Let me share with you the fascinating history of your family, the Fairleys. The Fairley surname has its origins in the lands of Fairley, situated in the enchanting southwestern region of Scotland. Even today, you can find the village of Fairley along the north Ayrshire coast near Largs. The name itself is derived from the Old Scots language, where ‘Fair’ signifies fair or beautiful, and ‘Leigh’ refers to a woodland clearing. This place holds a special ancestral connection for all who bear the Scottish surname. While there are some similar English place names like Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset or Farley in Berkshire, the Scottish variant is typically Fairley or Fairlie.

In the historical record known as the Ragman Roll of 1296, where Scottish nobles pledged allegiance to Edward I of England following his devastating invasion and defeat of King John, we find the mention of Ross de Ross. He is listed as the inheritor of the Fairly lands and belonged to the influential Ross family of Tarbert in Argyll. It is believed that one of Ross de Ross’s younger sons inherited the Fairley lands, adopted the name of his new home, and played a role in building the initial part of the castle there. The castle, once the residence of the Fairlies of that Ilk (the Fairlies of Fairley), remained in use until the seventeenth century and now stands in ruins.

Interestingly, a potential connection between the Fairlies and Edinburgh emerges, as a William Fairlie was granted the lands of Inverleith by Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce. From the Edinburgh branch of the family comes the Fairlie family of Braid, located near Edinburgh, where fragments of Briad Castle can still be seen. The Fairlies of Braid already owned the Braid lands by at least 1485. According to their claims, they were descended from a natural son of Robert II, born out of an affair with a lady bearing the Fairley surname. An eighteenth-century heraldic authority named Alexander Nisbet argued that their coat of arms provided evidence for this connection, depicting a red lion rampant on a gold shield. However, it is important to note that no additional evidence supports this theory. When the Ayrshire line of the Fairlie family found itself without a male heir, the Braid family assumed the chiefship of the name. They purchased the lands of Little Dreghorn in Ayrshire, which they renamed Fairlie (distinct from Fairley), and established their residence there. Unfortunately, this line also failed to produce a male heir. Consequently, Sir William Cunningham of Robertland, who was married to the sister of the last Laird of Fairlie, assumed the name of Fairlie in 1781.

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Family Crest Motto: PARATUS SUM (I am prepared)

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