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The Scottish Nation

SWINTON, a surname derived from lands in Berwickshire, possessed by the family of Swinton of Swinton since the period of the Heptarchy in England. Of Saxon origin, they are said by tradition to have acquired the inheritance for their bravery in clearing the country of swine, hence the name. The family have for crest a boar chained to a tree, and three boars’ heads in their armorial bearings. Sir John Swinton of Swinton, living in 1722, assumed as supporters to his arms two swine, as relative to the name. The lord of Swinton assisted Malcolm Canmore to recover the Scottish throne, and from that monarch, Edulf de Swinton received a charter, one of the first granted in Scotland, confirming to him the property of the whole parish of Swinton. Edulf’s son, Liulf, living in the beginning of the reign of King Edgar, was father of Edard, sheriff of Berwickshire, temp. Alexander I. His successor, Hernulf de Swinton, obtained a charter from David I., in which three preceding proprietors of the barony are named. Mr. James Anderson, the compiler of the Diplomata Scotiae, in his ‘Historical Essay of the Independency of the crown of Scotland,’ says that among the many charters of Scots families in the chartulary of Durham, there are two original ones of David I., to the proprietor of Swinton, wherein he is termed miles, and was to hold his lands as freely as any of the king’s barons. Sir Alan de Swinton is witness in a charter in the reign of King William the Lion. (Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. i. p. 322.) He was the son of Hernulf, and got a charter of the barony of Swinton from Bertram, prior of Coldingham, superior thereof, in the reign of that monarch. He died about 1200, and was entered in the church of Swinton. His name and arms were cut over a stone image on his tomb.

Henry de Swinton, the fourth from Sir Alan, swore fealty to Edward I. at Berwick in 1296, as did also William de Swinton, vicar of the church of Swinton, of the same family.

Sir John Swinton, the second from Henry, was a distinguished soldier and statesman in the reigns of Robert II. and III. At the battle of Otterburn 31st July 1388, he had a chief command, and to his intrepidity the Scots were indebted for the signal victory obtained over the English, although with the loss of Douglas, on that memorable field. In the wars with the English, it is said to have been his custom to visit the camp of the latter, and give a general challenge to fight any of them who close to come out to meet him. In 1392, and again in 1400, he was appointed one of the ambassadors to negotiate a treaty with the court of England. At the disastrous battle of Halidon-hill in 1402, the Scots, attacked in front by the English bowmen, were falling uselessly in their ranks, when Sir John Swinton, then advanced in years, exclaimed, “O my brave countrymen, let us not stand still, to be struck down like a herd of deer; let us rather descend upon the English, engage them hand to hand, and at least die like men.” He was instantly joined by Adam Gordon, a brave young border baron, whose family had been at deadly feud with Swinton, but who now knelt upon the sod and craved the honour of knighthood from his hand. This being hastily given, the two chiefs rushed down to the close engagement, but as they were only followed by their own attendants, to the amount of about a hundred, they were soon overwhelmed and slain. The gallant bearing and heroic death of the lord of Swinton furnished the materials to Sir Walter Scott, for his dramatic sketch of Halidon-hill. There appears to have been a close connexion, as well as relationship, between Sir John and the family of Douglas. His first wife was Margaret, countess of Douglas and Mar, widow of the first earl of Douglas, in virtue of which marriage he was called lord of Mar, according to the courtesy of Scotland. By this lady he had no issue. He married, secondly, the princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II., and by her had a son, Sir John Swinton of Swinton, also a renowned warrior. At the battle of Beauge in France, in 1340, against the English, he unhorsed and slew the duke of Clarence, brother of Henry V., by a wound in his face with his lance. Sir John fell at the battle of Verneuil in 1424. He was twice married, but had issue only by his second wife, his cousin-german, Lady Marjory Stewart, daughter of the regent, Robert, duke of Albany.

Another Sir John Swinton of Swinton was among the barons who, in 1567, signed the bond for the protection of the young king, James VI., against the earl of Bothwell, on the marriage of the latter to Queen Mary.

In 1640, Sir Alexander Swinton of Swinton was appointed sheriff of Berwickshire. He died in 1652. With five daughters, he had six sons. 1. John, his heir. 2. Alexander, a lord of session, by the title of Lord Mersington. At the Revolution, when the Edinburgh mob were repulsed from Holyrood-house by Colonel Wallace, who had charge of the palace, and a warrant was granted to the magistrates to obtain possession of it, they repaired to Holyrood, preceded by the town guard and a number of “discontented gentlemen,” among whom was Lord Mersington, “the fanatic judge,” as Lord Balcarras calls him, “with a halberd in his hand, as drunk as ale or brandy could make him.” 3. Robert, an officer in the army of King Charles II., killed at the battle of Worcester in 1651, attempting to carry off Cromwell’s standard, which he had seized. 4. James, who was in the same army in the same battle. 5. George, of Chesters, writer to the signet. 6. David, of Laughton, merchant in Edinburgh.

The eldest son, John Swinton of Swinton, was appointed in 1649, in his father’s lifetime, one of the colonels for Berwickshire, for putting the kingdom in a posture of defence. He was also chosen one of the committee of estates, and appointed one of the commissioners for the plantation of kirks, 14th March that year. Cromwell, on leaving Scotland in 1651, carried him a prisoner to England. He was forfeited by the convention of estates the same year. He died in 1679. His eldest son, Alexander Swinton of Swinton, did not long survive his father. His brother, Sir John Swinton of Swinton, a merchant in Holland, returned to Scotland at the Revolution, and in 1690 the forfeiture was rescinded and the family estate restored to him. He was a member of the union parliament, and died in 1724.

His eldest son, John Swinton of Swinton, advocate, was father of John Swinton of Swinton, a lord of session, under the title of Lord Swinton, and died in 1799. His eldest son, John Swinton of Swinton, advocate, married his cousin, Mary Anne, daughter of Robert Hepburne, Esq. of Clerkington, and died in 1820. Hi had two sons. The elder, John, died unmarried, in 1829. The younger, Robert Hepburne Swinton, then became the representative of the family. He died in 1852.

Robert’s eldest son, John Edulfus Swinton, Esq. of Swinton Bank, Peebles-shire, born in 1831, was in 1849 appointed to the East India Company’s military service. His next brother, Robert Hepburne, lieutenant R.N., born in 1834, married in 1859, Eliza, eldest daughter of James Hunter, Esq. of Hafton, Argyleshire.

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