I had an e-mail from
Russell Cockburn in Scotland. He sent the following information on the
lowland family of Cockburn - which I understand is pronounced Coburn. -
"In the Scottish lowlands and borders there were many important families.
The Cockburn's were one such family. It is almost certain that they took
their name from the Cok Burn, a stream, in an area called the Merse which
is in the county of Berwickshire.
There are two theories as
to their origin: One is that they arrived with the Saxons as hereditary
priests or standard bearers of Irmin, war god of the Saxons. Irmin's
symbol was a cockerel, which was later used by the Cockburns in their
crest. However there is no evidence to prove this theory so it is quite
possibly myth. The second and more likely story is that they came with
the Normans and were given lands in Scotland. Early Cockburns had Norman
characteristics of dark hair and brown eyes. One of the first Cockburns on
record was Piers de Cockburn, which also would suggest Norman ancestry.
Piers de Cockburn was named in a charter in 1230. Additionally the Ragmans
Roll, in which Scottish gentry swore fealty to King Edward I of England at
Berwick in 1296, contained the names of both Piers & Thomas Cockburn.
The first Cockburn we can
be certain of is Alexander Cockburn whose date of birth is unknown. In
1330 he married Mariota de Veteri Ponte or Vipont a Norman heiress."
(Her father was one of the three Scottish earls killed at Bannockburn in
1314). "They settled at Langton, near Duns in Berwickshire. Alexander is
known as the father of all modern day Cockburn branches. Much later in
1527 his descendent bought the lands at Cockburn Law, near Duns,
Berwickshire from the Earl of Crawford and started the branch Cockburn of
that Ilk who became Lairds of Duns."
If there are any Cockburns
who would like to have more information on this name you may contact
Russell by mail at Russell Cockburn, 31 Ellen Street, Whitburn. West
Lothian. EH47 0HJ. Scotland. Tel: 01501 749921 or at his e-mail address,
There are several areas,
societies, etc in Scotland, bearing the Cockburn name. There is the
Cockburn Association which was founded in 1875 in Edinburgh. Its mission
is the preservation of buildings and environment in Edinburgh. There is
Cockburn Mill in Berwickshire and also a Cockburn, Australia.
The Cockburn tartan is
royal blue and black with white, yellow and red stripes. There is a
Cockburn Clan Association web site on the internet. It is on this site
that the possibility of the name being derived from the English name
Colbrand is mentioned. Napoleon was escorted to St. Helena by Sir George
The county/area of
Berwickshire is in the southeastern most corner of Scotland. It is
bordered by England (It was in fact part of England until it was made part
of Scotland by King Malcolm II in 1018. Its original county seat,
Berwick-on-Tweed remains in England), East and Mid Lothian, Roxburghshire,
and the North Sea. The North Sea border is rocky and unapproachable for
the most part, but the land itself is mostly fertile and supports a large
variety of agriculture such as turnips, barley, wheat, sheep, and cattle.
Most of its rivers empty into the Tweed where there are several
fisheries. Berwickshire is home not only to the Cockburns but also to
the Homes, Lumsdens, and Douglas Clans. Sir Walter Scott is buried there
in Dryburgh Abbey.