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Hannay Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: PER ARDUA AD ALTA (through hard work, great things are achieved)

Let me share the fascinating history of your family, the Hannays. Your family originates from the ancient princedom of Galloway. The original spelling of the name appears to have been ‘Ahannay’, possibly derived from the Gaelic ‘O’Hannaidh’ or ‘Ap Shenaeigh’. In 1296, Gilbert de Hannethe, who may be your ancestor, is recorded on the Ragman Rolls, which listed the Scottish Barons submitting to Edward I of England. It is believed that Gilbert acquired the lands of Sorbie. Over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, your family extended their influence over the surrounding countryside and constructed a tower on their lands at Sorbie around 1550.

There have been many distinguished members of the Hannay family, including Patrick Hannay, a renowned soldier and poet whose literary works were highly regarded in the past but are now mostly forgotten. Another notable figure from the house of Sorbie was James Hannay, the dean of St Giles’ in Edinburgh, who is remembered for his role in a legendary incident. In July 1637, he attempted to read the new liturgy in St Giles’, leading to a riot sparked by Jenny Geddes flinging her stool and exclaiming, ‘Thou false thief, dost thou say Mass at my lug?’ The town guard had to intervene to quell the chaos. In 1630, Sir Robert Hannay of Mochrum was granted a Baronetcy of Nova Scotia.

During the early 17th century, the Hannays of Sorbie became embroiled in a deadly feud with the Murrays of Broughton, which ultimately resulted in the Hannays being outlawed and ruined. As a consequence, the lands and tower of Sorbie were lost around 1640.

In 1582, Alexander Hannay, a younger son of Sorbie, acquired the lands of Kirkdale in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. His son, John Hannay of Kirkdale, inherited the estate and established the line that is now recognized by the Lord Lyon as the chief of the name. Sir Samuel Hannay, the elder son of Kirkdale, succeeded to the title and estates of his kinsman, Sir Robert Hannay of Mochrum, Baronet. Another Sir Samuel, the next baronet, served in the Hapsburg emperors’ service and prospered enough to build a grand mansion on the family lands. This house is said to have inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Guy Mannering. Sir Samuel passed away in 1841, and the baronetcy became dormant. The estate of Kirkdale and the representation of the family then passed to Sir Samuel’s sister, Mary, and upon her death in 1850, to her nephew, William Rainsford Hannay, from whom the present chiefly line descends.

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Family Crest Motto: PER ARDUA AD ALTA (through hard work, great things are achieved)

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