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Weir


The name Weir, like many lowland Scottish names, is of Norman origin from one or several of the places named Vere around the Calvados region of France. The word was introduced into Normandy by the Norsemen from their own word "ver" meaning a station. It appears that Ralph or Radulphus de Ver is the first of the name recorded in Scotland. He was taken prisoner along with Richard the Lion in 1174; he later witnessed a charter by King William I sometime between 1174 and 1184. During the same period he gifted a bovate of land in Sprouston, Roxburgh to the Abbey of Kelso; his brother, Robert de Ver, was a witness to this charter. The Weirs of Blackwood, Lanarkshire, claim their descent from this Ralph de Ver, although this cannot be proven as their name does not appear on record until 1400 when they acquired their lands. Other Weirs were vassals of the Abbots of Kelso and as such held extensive lands in Lesmahagow. Some of the MacNairs in Cowal anglisized their name to Weir or Veir, the Gaelic original being Mac Amhaoir; the "mh" is pronounced "v". MacAmhaoir has been extinct as a name for about two hundred years and the Anglicization into Weir may well have contributed to its disappearance. William Weir was created 1st Viscount Weir in 1938; he had been Secretary of State and Chairman of the Air Council in 1918 and industrial adviser to the Ottawa Conference in 1932. The best remembered of the Weirs is Major Thomas Weir of Kirktown c.1600-1670, the "Bowheaded Saint". [Actually, he was called the "Bowhead Saint," because he lived in the bowhead (the west bow) of Edinburgh and was a zealous Covenanter or Presbyterian. Major Weir was the son of Thomas Weir of Kirkton and his wife Jean Somerville, also reputed to be a witch.  Thomas Weir of Kirkton was the son of William Weir de Vere of Stonebyres and his wife Elizabeth Hamilton.] Born in Lanarkshire, he was a lieutenant in the army sent by the Covenanters to protect the Ulster colonies in 1641. Later he was a major in Lanark's Regiment and was appointed to command the City Guard of Edinburgh. Outwardly he portrayed himself as a religious man, but was secretly addicted to various crimes and deviations. He confessed at the age of 70 and along with his sister was burned alive for witchcraft in 1670.

Thanks to Ray Isbell for the following information

Ralph de Vere was the first of the name on record in Scotland when he was captured with William the Lion at Alnwick 1174, though some accounts state that he went to Scotland as early as 1165.  He is also called Ralfredus de Vere and Baltredus de Vere in various references, but is not to be confused with his grandson Radulphus de Vere, also called Ralph.

Several sources mistakenly refer to Ralf (Ralfredus) de Vere and Baltredus de Vere as two different immigrants to Scotland, one a Dane and one an Englishman of Danish extraction. He is called "Ralph de Vyer" in THE WIER-BRITT GENEALOGY (1910) and in TEN TRIBES OF WIER IN AMERICA (1933) by William S. Wier, who described Ralph de Vyer as "a Dane of great wealth" and an "ancestor of the Wiers", while referring to Baltredus de Vere as a different immigrant and an ancestor of "the Weirs of Blackwood," as though two distinct and different families.  But that is typical of the confusion found in so much of the published information on the Weirs.

Alberic de Vere (also called "Aubrey"), a descendant Charlemagne's sister, came from Normandy to England in 1066; his son:
Aubrey de Vere II (1062-1141) of Hedingham Castle, Great Lord Chamberlain of England,
married Adeliza (Alice) de Clare; their son:
Aubrey de Vere III, 1st Earl of Oxford (1110-d 1194) m. Alice of Essex;
He was succeeded by his eldest son,
Aubrey de Vere IV, 2nd Earl of Oxford (succeeded 1192, d 1214), who was
succeeded in 1214 by his brother:
Robert de Vere, 3rd Earl of Oxford (d. 1221)

Aubrey de Vere III, first earl of Oxford, was also the father of the Ralf de Vere who is identified by a number of sources as the Ralfredus de Vere of Scotland.  Some accounts show him as a younger son, while otherssay he was the second son and in line to become the third earl of Oxford upon the death of his brother Aubrey IV, second earl of Oxford, had he not been an enemy of Henry II of England and disinherited so that the earldom passed to his younger brother, Robert. Whether correct or not, it is known that his brother Robert de Vere of England witnessed a charter for Ralph de Vere in Scotland.

Ralph de Vere was an adherent to Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, who laid claim to the throne of England as a great-grandson of King Henry I.  So when Henry II gained control of Brittany, Conan and his followers fled to Scotland.  Conan married the sister of William I, King of Scotland from 1165-1214. Ralph de Vere was awarded vast tracts of land in Lanarkshire.   He was captured along with King William at Alnwick in Northumbria in 1174.  As Radulphus de Weir, he witnessed a Charter of King William (c1174-84), and as Radulph de Veir he gave  land in Roxburgh to Kelso Abbey. As Radalphus de Vere he witnessed another Charter by King William to the Abbey of Lindores.

The estate of Blackwood was confirmed by charter to Rothald Weir in 1400, but had been held by the family for some time previous to that charter.  The Weir succession from Ralph de Vere down to Rothald Weir of Blackwood can be followed through each generation's continued patronage to Kelso Abbey and is explained in the following references:   Burke's THE COMMONERS OF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND, vol. III, pp. 319-22; Burke's EXTINCT & DORMANT BARONETCIES; PEERAGE & BARONETAGE (1970); and Burke's LANDED GENTRY OF IRELAND (1899), pp 475-6 and (1958) pp 474-5, and in particular detail in THE UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE (Glastow, 1864) by George Vere Irving, as well as other sources.

1 Ralph de Vere (Ralf, Ralfredus, Radulphus, Baltredus)  came to Scotland from England (1165-1174);  had 2 sons and 1 daughter; his heir:
2 Walter de Vere, was the father of Robert and Ralph:
3 Radulph (Radulphus) (Ralph) de Vere who lived in Lanarkshire in 1296 (grandson of the Ralph de Vere on record in 1174); father of
4 THOMAS de Vere, father of
5 RICHARD de Vere/Were, father of
6 THOMAS de Vere/Wer/Were (apparently the Thomas de Vere who was the laird of Stonebyres Castle in 1300, according to TALES AND LEGENDS OF THE UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE,  published in 1860);  he was the father of:
7 BUAN de Vere, father of
8 ROTHALD (Rothaldus) de Vere/WEIR OF BLACKWOOD, on record in 1398;  Bailie of Lesmahagow; had a charter confirming his father's ownership of Blackwood, 1400; usually styled "first laird of Blackwood"; father of George and Thomas:
9 THOMAS WERE/WEIR second laird of Blackwood  (c1432), father of  Robert and Ralph (who m. Marie Sommerville in 1647);
10 ROBERT VERE/WEIR of Blackwood born about 1430, father of
11 THOMAS WEIR of Blackwood, born about 1460 who married 1483 Aegidia Somerville, daughter
of the third Lord Somerville; had son
12 JAMES WEIR OF BLACKWOOD (1495-1595) married Euphemia Hamilton.

The Weirs/Veres of Stonebyres and Mossminion were offshoots of the Weirs of Blackwood, and the Weirs of Auchtyfardle and Kirkton descended from the Weirs of Stonebyres.  In 1592 a century-old feud between the Weirs of Blackwood and the Veres of Stonebyres was ended when the Veres swore allegiance to James Weir of Blackwood and acknowledged him their chief.   Numerous branches of the same family existed in Lanark, and at one time or another a Weir or Vere owned nearly all of the major estates there.   Most all of these, and the Weirs of Ayreshire, are believed to be of the same blood.

However, some MacNairs in Cowal later took the name Weir, some of them settling in Perth.  David Wier from Lanark settled in Perth in the 1500s also.


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