Andrew John Mitchell Gill.

The families of Moir and Byres online

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At first the intention was to give an account merely
of the family of Moir- Byres of Tonley, together with
short notices of the families they are related to by
marriage, &c. In the search for information on the
various heads, so much was got, connected more or
less remotely with these families, that I thought it a
pity not to utilise what had cost so much time and
trouble to gather together. It is much to be re-
gretted that admission has not been had to the
deeds and papers of the various families ; and also,
through absence from home, I have been unable to
exhaust several valuable sources of information, such
as the Burgess Registers and Sheriff Court Records,
&c. of Aberdeen.

It will be seen that the surname of Moir or More
can fairly rank as one of the oldest in the county of
Aberdeen, even without entering into the debate-
able question of Ranald or Reginald More, Chamber-
Iain of Scotland, being progenitor of the Moirs, as
well as of the Muirs, who, as will be seen at page
3, had large grants of land in Aberdeenshire in

As landowners, however — with the exception of
Patrick More de Belhelvie, in 1467, page 4 — few of
them appear before the seventeenth and eighteenth

centuries, and previous to that period the heads of
most of the different families (doubtless all originally
of the same stock) seem to have been mostly sub-
stantial Burgesses of Bon-Accord.

Of the gallant and brave Moirs of Stoneywood
there were only four generations — John Moir of
Kermuck, afterwards of Stoneywood, the foztnder — ■
keen, honest, and shrewd, as became his good Burgess
ancestry. He was succeeded by his son, James
Moir, II. of Stoneywood, a learned and gallant
gentleman, for fifteen years M.P. for his county,
whose picture, attributed to Scougal, is in the
Tonley collection. His son was James Moir, III. of
Stoneywood, the brave and staunch supporter of his
Prince, who, along with Lord Lewis Gordon and
his kinsman, Moir of Lonmay, was amongst the
most important of Charles Stuart's supporters in
Aberdeenshire. He was succeeded by his equally
good and brave son, James Moir, IV. and last of
Stoneywood, the tried friend,- of his unfortunate
Prince. With this worthy son of worthy sires ended
the male line of the gallant Stoneywoods, whose
representatives through the female line are the
Skenes of Rubislaw. Lands and houses pass away,
and the place which knew them knows them no

Of the " broad acres " owned by the name of Moir
in Aberdeenshire, only two families of the sur-
name hold estates in the county — viz., Moir-Byres
of Tonley, whose lands came to them through
the Byres family, and the old family of Moir of

Scotstown, who have owned that property for at
least eight generations, and who were much con-
nected with the University and Old Town of Aber-
deen. Its present representative, William Moir, is
a Lieutenant in the i8th Hussars, and will, I hope,
uphold " the auld hous," and add to, instead of
diminish the family inheritance.

Moir of Invernettie had aspired to " founding a
family," and registered arms on his own account ;
but his line became extinct before the parent stem
of Stoneywood, and Invernettie reverted to that

Of the loyal Moirs of Lonmay, the son of the
Prince's brave supporter sold the estate and bought
New Grange, in Forfarshire, which was, however,
soon again parted with. The representative of this
family, Captain Moir, was ignominiously hanged in
London (see page 78).

William Moir, M.P., of Hilton, although also
wishful to "found a house," and between 1672-8
registering arms, endures only a few years ; and in
1682 there is another Laird, and even the name of
his estate is changed.

Moir of Barnes, out of a family of four sons and
nine daughters, appears at his decease to have only
left eight daughters, his co-heiresses, whose hus-
bands, no doubt, carefully and quickly divided his
estate of the Abergeldie Moirs. I have no parti-
culars excepting of their cadet, " Moir of Otter-
burn," (for the account of which family I am in-
debted, along with a great deal of other most useful

information, to the kindness of Mr. R. R. Stodart,
Lyon Depute), of which house there were five Lairds;
but in 1 765 their estates were also sold.

From pages 84 to 96 will be found a notice of all
the Moirs, extracted from the Register of St.
Nicholas from 1570 to 1700, and although many of
the entries obviously belong to families whose
genealogy is given in the body of the work, the
author thought it better, as he has had no access to
family papers, &c., to leave them, in most cases, in
this register, rather than guess at their proper place
in the various genealogies.

Of the Tonley Moirs we have first, at page 1 1 .
the careful and canny burgess of Aberdeen, Andrew
Moir of Overhill, who is able to give his large
family by two wives each a comfortable "set-out"
in the world. His eldest son likewise, Andrew
Moir, follows a country life, and devotes himself to
agriculture. No doubt his wife, the Laird of Thorn-
ton's daughter, brings with her a suitable dowry.
He is thus able to place his sons comfortably in the
world, and to give each of his four daughters such a
tocher as will not decrease their attractions in the
eyes of a fond husband. The eldest son of the last
couple, the Reverend Andrew Moir, was for nearly
thirty years the minister of Ellon. By his well-born
wife, Jean Forbes, of the family of Waterton, he
had, with other issue —

The Reverend George Moir, his heir, who was
for fifty-five years the much-loved and respected
minister of Peterhead ; his wife, Martha Byres,

[Pas^i- V. of Preface.']

It is a mistake to designate Patrick Byres of
Tonley as a Roman Catholic, he being in fact a
Presbyterian. — Ed.

Two of this fine couple's sons married their
cousins, who were sisters ; but John Moir, the younger
brother, married the elder sister, Catherine Byres,
whose descendants, as shown in the sequel, now
hold Tonley ; while Janet Byres, the younger sister,
married the elder brother, James Moir, M.D., and
their son Patrick Moir-Crane is the present head of
this branch of the Moir family, and heir-presumptive
to Tonley.

Of the family of Byres, I am inclined to think that
Thomas de Byres, who in 1392 owned lands in
Edinburgh, was the real progenitor of the race, that
the surname was assumed from the lands of Byres,
in the parish and county of Haddington, and that
the Hungarian-Franco story is exceedingly mythical.
Of the house of Coates, its founder undoubtedly
was the prosperous and talented trader, and good
citizen of Edinburgh, John Byres, born in 1569,
who was of the same stock as the Byres of the
counties of Haddington and Lanark, &c. (In the
last century, a branch of the family owned in 1661
the estate of Strathaven, see page 142.) By his
first wife, Dame Margaret Barclay, the Laird of
Coates had daughters only ; but by his second wife,
Agnes Smyth, a sister of Sir John Smyth, Knight of

Groithill and King's Cramond, M.P., he had at least
five sons.

John Byres, I. of Coates, was succeeded by his
eldest son, the brave and gallant Sir John Byres, a
devoted Loyalist, who added the estate of Warrestone
to his patrimonial inheritance, and seems to have
left his family in a prosperous condition. By
his wife Isobel, daughter of Sir John Auchmuty
of Gosford, he had his son and heir, John Byres,
III. of Coates, through whose extravagance, and it
is also believed by losses in the ill-managed Darien
scheme, by which his Aberdeen kinsman also
suffered severely, the estates had to be sold.

That the family of Byres of Tonley are descen-
dants of the house of Coates, I have no doubt,
although as yet the connection has not been satis-
factorily traced. James Byres, a prosperous mer-
chant of Aberdeen, was married there in 1667 to
Janet Middleton, page 114. At page 109 I hazard
the suggestion that he may have been the youngest
son of John Byres, I. of Coates, although I have no
evidence to show that he had such a son. However,
I think it more likely that this James Byres of
Aberdeen was the son of William Byres, born 1627
(called James in the family memoir), the fifth son
of John Byres, I. of Coates, and Agnes Smyth, and
that this William Byres may have been a captain
under Montrose.

Robert Byres (the son of James Byres and Janet
Middleton) was a merchant of good standing in
Holland and in Dublin, but met his death by acci-

dental drowning in the Bay of Dublin, before he had
been able to follow out his Scotch instinct of buying
an estate and "founding a family." However, his
widow, Jean Sandilands (and her late husband's trus-
tees), bought in 1718 for their son, Patrick Byres,
the lands and barony of "bonnie" Tonley, which
have since continued to be the home of the head of
the house. Patrick Byres, I. of Tonley, as shown in
the text, was a zealous supporter of his Prince, was
"out in the 45," remained for some time an exile
in France, and his estate was all but forfeited. He
registered arms in 1 755, and in the patent is described
as " representative of the fa77iily of Coates" for what
reason does not appear ; but the blazon was then
considerably altered, and the old crest — a bee — was
changed to a cock, with the motto, " Safe by his own
exertions," a most appropriate motto for one who no
doubt had many narrow escapes with his life. By
his wife, Janet Moir (a daughter of James Moir,
M.P., III. of Stoneywood), he had, with other issue,
his son and heir —

James Byres, H. of Tonley, who was also a
zealous Jacobite, and for some time a Captain in
Lord Ogilvie's Regiment. Mr. Byres was a gentle-
man of great learning and culture, eminent as an
antiquary, and resided for forty years at Rome.
Returning from thence in 1 790, he settled at Tonley,
where he died unmarried in 18 17. Like most men,
he had his " romance." He had cherished an
affection for Miss Fraser of Castle Fraser, but
something came between them — " True love never

did run smooth." Neither married, and when the
lady died she left her old admirer her picture (which
is still at Tonley) and her carriage. The next Laird
was General Patrick Byres, the nephew of his pre-
decessor (son of Robert Byres of Kincraigie, page
124, and Margaret Burnett), who, besides being a
brave soldier, was much loved as a good neighbour,
kind friend to the poor, and amiable country gentle-

The unfortunate death of Lieutenant James Byres
of the 1st Royals (the only son of the General), who
was accidentally drowned at Allilane, ended the male
line of Byres of Tonley ; after which the succession
opened to the Moir family.

In conclusion, I beg to acknowledge gratefully the
cordial assistance I have received from Mr. George
Burnett, Lord Lyon, Mr. R. R. Stodart, Lyon
Depute, Mr. W. F. Skene, of Inverleith Row, Edin-
burgh (whose father compiled the valuable Stoney-
wood MS., which he kindly lent me), Captain
Dunbar-Dunbar of Sea Park, the Rev. Walter
Macleod of Edinburgh, and others.

I hope that any corrections and additional infor-
mation will be sent to me, addressed Isthmian Club,
12 Grafton Street, London, W., and that the portion
of a good-natured public who may be interested in
family history will look leniently on a work in which
I am assured there are many inaccuracies.



By the evidence of ancient charters, the ortho-
graphy of this name seems to have been so various
as to occasion some difficulty in distinguishing the
different families who bore it, as we find individuals
of the same family promiscuously designed by the
names of Moir, More, Moor, More, Mure, Muir,
sometimes contracted to M^ and even Moreson,
Morrison, and Mureson. The name has a double
origin, from Maure or Saracen, borne by foreign
families in most of the continental countries of
Europe, varied in accordance with the peculiar idiom
of the country, and in Scotland from the Gaelic
etymology, Mohr, big or great — allusive to remark-
able size of person. Of the five entries of arms
in the Lyon Office to families of the name of Moir
or More in Scotland, all are connected with Aber-
deenshire, and bear the three Moors' or Saracens'
heads, see p. 46. The name of Morison in Scotland
bears azure three Saracens' heads, conjoined in one
neck proper, the faces looking to the chief dexter
and sinister sides of the shield.

The family and surname of Muir is much mixed
up, and often confused with, that of More or Moir.
The principal family of the surname of Muir seems
to have been the Muirs of Rowallan, in Ayrshire,
who bear, argent, on a fesse azure, three stars or,
quite different bearings from the name of Moir or
More ; yet there are not wanting instances where
two or more families, having the same surname, and
tracing to a common ancestor, bear quite distinct


One, if not the most ancient family of the surname
of More, was that of Polkellie, in the county of
1296. Renfrew. Gilchrist More was one of the Barons
who swore fealty to Edward I. in 1296, The
heiress of Polkellie, Janet More, in the time of
David II., married Sir Adam Muir of Rowallan.

The late Mr. James Skene of Rubislaw, in a
valuable and most interesting MS. historj- by him of
the " Moirs of Stoneywood " family, kindly lent me by
his son, Mr. W. F. Skene, says, " Sir Gilchrist More
was a descendant of the Irish O'Mores ; and that
the connection appears from the grant made by
Sir Gilchrist Muir of Rowallan (who was knighted
at the battle of Largs) of his lands of Polkellie to
his Irish kinsman, Ranald More, who had come over
to assist in a contest with the Cumings, and that the
O'Mores in Ireland bore as crest the Moire's head,
or ' Bluidy Heid,' in allusion to the family name."
He also says " several families possessing property
in the Western counties of Scotland branched off at
different times from that of RoAvallan and Polkellie,
most of whom adopted the name of Mure, although
More was the original orthography used both in
Ireland and Great Britain."

The Moires, Marquises of Drogheda, in Ireland,
have a Moor's head, out of a coronet, for crest, and
their arms have a resemblance in the charges,
although not in the tinctures, to those of the family
of Muir of Rowallan.

But we will now confine ourselves to the history of
the Moirs or Mores in Aberdeenshire. " The
introduction of the name into that county, may, with
great probability, be assigned to the circumstance of
the extensive possessions acquired there by Sir

Reginald More, the Chamberlain, in David 1 1. 's Skene's ms.
reign ; and it is remarkable that while the families in
the western counties have almost all adopted the
name of Mure or Muir, those of Aberdeenshire have
as uniformly retained the original orthography of
More and Moir." In the older records, however, I
often find the surname of the Aberdeenshire Moirs
spelt also More and Moire, Moore, &c., and in a
very few cases Muire and Mure.


1328. Sir Adam More, witness to charter of the
hospital of Turriff. — (" Antiquities of the Shire
of Aberdeen," Spalding Club, vol. ii., p. 339.)
Ranald or Reginald More, chamberlain of
Scotland, has a charter from David II. of
the lands of Formartine, Akintoir (Kin-
tore), Aboyne, Mickle Morphie, and Con-

1382. Johannis Mor, witness to an absolution, Canon
of Aberdeen. — (" Registrum Episcopatus
Aberdonensis," Spalding Club, vol. i., p. 163,

1472. Robert Moir, witness to a charter of the lands

of Balmur (Balmuir), Torterstoune, Cock-
law (all in the parish of Peterhead). — (" Anti-
quities of the Shire of Aberdeen, vol. iii. , p. 5 9 1 .)

1473. Andrew More, merchant at Bruges (in France),

is mentioned in a deed, Andrew Reid of Bad-

fothels (Pitfoddels), at Aberdeen, Thomas
Moir, also. — Ibid., pp. 261 and 262.
! 1467. Patrick More de Belhelvie.^ " Baillie Court

1457. William Moor. > Books of

] 1440. Simon More. ) Aberdeen."

I 1529. M"' James Moir, Regent.
1539. 1 6th May. Andrew Moir, in the Knock, Banff-
shire. Witness to a charter dated at Froster-
seit. — (" Reg. of the Great Seal," vol. iii.,
p. 449).
David Moir (" Antiquities of the Shire of
Aberdeen," vol. ii., p. 262).
1550. William Moir owns a tenement of land in

the Shiprow.
1566. David Moir infeft in the lands of Braid-
haugh. Privy Council Records. And many
others that might be mentioned ; sufficient
it is to show how long the name has been in
the district. The progenitors of all of the
landed families of the name of Moir, in
Aberdeenshire, appear to have been sub-
stantial burgesses of the city of Bdn-
Accord, and could the connection only now
be traced, would doubtless be found to
spring at no very distant date from a
common ancestor.
There were a good many landed families of the
surname of Moir, mostly in Aberdeenshire, in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, viz., the Moirs
. (said to have been first designed of Ferryhill), of
Kermuck or Ellon, thereafter of Stoneywood,
amongst whose cadets I may mention Moir of
Whitehill, in Midlothian, an estate which came to
them from the Scougal family, see p. 77, afterwards

of Lonmay, in Buchan, which last estate was sold,
and New Grange, in Forfarshire, bought. The
Moirs of Invernettie, which estate, on the extinction
of that Hne, reverted back to Stoneywood. The
next family in importance to Stoneywood was Moir
of Scotstoun, whose cadets were, so far as I know,
Spittal, Denmore, and Park on Deeside. Besides
these, there were Moirs of Hilton (now Turnerhall)
of Abergeldie, afterwards of Otterburn, in Stirling-
shire, of Barnes, &c., most of whom will be noticed


1574. 30th Nov'. William Moir, in Auchloun,

a farm now on the estate of Tillery. —
(" Sheriff Court Records of Aberdeen, and
Antiquities of the Shire of Aberdeen,"
Spalding Club.)

1575. Oct'. Agnes Moir in Meikle Haddo. — Ibid.

1596. May 29. John Moir in Newburgh. — Ibid.

1597. 2ist April. Andrew Moir, Smyth in Foveran,

against Helen Fraser, tried for witchcraft.
(" Miscellany of the Spalding Club," vol. i.,
p. 108.) In the list of "Nomina assise"
(Court held at Aberdeen) occurs at p. no,
ibid., the names of William Moir in Balgeir-
scho, and Andrew Moir, Smyth in Foveran.
Reg. of St. Nicholas, Aberdeen, 1613, 22d June,

Arthur Udny — no doubt of the family of that ilk —

and Janett Moir, married at Fowerane.

vol. ii., pp.
226 and 231

From Register of Baptisms, Parish of Foveran.

William Mor in Belhelvie has a son —

I. Alexander, bap. 4th Jan^ 1659. Witnesses,

Alexander Lindsay of Many, and Alexander

Lyon in Darahill.

Poll Book, Alexander Pirie in Auchnacant, in the parish of

Foveran, afterwards in Meikle Tipperty, in the adjoin-
ing parish of Logie-Buchan, m"* Agnes, dau. of
Andrew Moir L of Oldmill,^ by his first wife, see pp.
11-15 (b. 1668, Mrs. Pirie died 14th Feb^ 1696.
Tombstone in Foveran churchyard.) Alexander
Pirie was clerk and collector of the poll tax for
Logie-Buchan, 1695-96. Issue —

1. Andrew, bap. 30th June 1686. Witnesses,
Andrew Moir and Andrew Sutherland.

2. Jean, bap. 27th April 1688. Witnesses,
Andrew Moir, child's grandfather, and
Robert Moir, probably child's uncle.

3. Agnes.

4. Barbara (the four children, all mentioned on
tombstone, had probably died young). The
George Pirie in Savock, who appears as a
witness of the bap. of the Rev"' George
Moir in 1679, &c. — see p. 12 — had been pro-
bably a brother of Alexander's in Tipperty,
and of James Pirie, who was settled at

1 Andrew Moir I. of Oldmill, see p. J i, had, I think, by his
first wife (with James, died young, p. 7) : —

1. Alexander, in Newtyle. See next page.

2. Gilbert, in Haddo, m" ist . . . and 2dly, 1681,
Janet Forbes of Blackhall, p. 9.

3. Robert, in Overhill, p. 9.
I. Agnes, m"* Alexander Pirie, as above.

And probably more childrea

Irewells, in Udny parish, towards the end
of the seventeenth century, who by his first
wife, Helen Mair, was father of WilHam
Pirie, b. in 1700— the first of the name
who settled at Orchardton in that parish —
a place his descendants resided at for
nearly two centuries ; who by his wife,
Elizabeth Laing, had Patrick Pirie, who m"^
ist March 1778 Margaret, dau. of Alex-
ander Smith, papermaker, Stoneywood ; and
thus begun the Piries' connection with the
pape'r trade, which their descendants, the
Piries of Stoneywood and Waterton, have
so ably conducted and extended. The
younger son, James Pirie, succ'' to Orchard-
ton, and was grandfather of the late James
Pirie, see p. 23.

Alexander Moir in Newtyle (perhaps another son
of Andrew Moir I. by his first wife).

1. Christian, bap, 30th Jan^ 1659. Witnesses,

John Turing, in Overhills, and George
Thomson in Pitmillan.

2. Lilian, bap. ist Nov"" 1663. Witnesses, George

Conan there, and Andrew More in Oldmill
of Foveran.

3. Janet, buried 2 2d March 1660.

Besides Agnes Moir, b. 1668, Mrs, Pirie, Andrew
Moir I. of Oldmill had other children, see p. 6— a
son, James Moir, was bap. 6th Ocf 1659. Witnesses, Foveran
Ja^ Scot in Meikle Haddo, and Alexander Houston f^^^'^^' ^^^=-
in Balgerscho, and buried at Foveran July 5, 1660.

Gilbert Moir in Pitmillan, described as tenant

and gentleman,
Poll Book, vol.

nth his wife and two childrer
, pp. 150 and 153.

Foveran Reg.
of Baptisms.

Jan'' 1672. Witnesses,
younger, and Andrewe

May 1678. Witnesses,
Milne, and Ro' Milne, in

16S0. Witnesses,

1. Andrew, bap. 2d

Andrew Moire,

2. Robert, bap. loth

Ro' More, in Old

3. Barbara, bap. ist

Andrew More and Thomas Grig.

4. Isobel, bap. 27th Aug' 1683.

Andrew Moir and Geo. Watson.

5. Alexander, bap. 21st Aug' 1686.

Alex' Johnston and Alex' Pirie.

6. Janet, bap. i8th Nov' 1687.

Andrew Moir, Alex' Pirie.

^ Gilbert Moir, sometime in Haddo, Foveran
(another son, I think, of Andrew Moir I. of Old-
mill, by his first wife) — ■

1. Elizabeth, bap. July 1675. Witnesses, James

Scott and John Blair, both there.

2. Anna, bap. 5th Jan'' 1678. Witnesses, James

Scot, Mr Alexander Johnstoune.

3. Alexander, bap. 15th July 1680. Witnesses,

Alex' Rose,'^ son to Mr. Jo" Rose,'' and James

1 It was not uncommon about this period to have two members
of a family baptized by the same Christian name, and in one
instance three of one family had all the same Christian names. —
Information from Rev. Walter Macleod of Edinburgh.

A Gilbert Moir was M.P. for Banff, 1646-7, and in 1648.

2 Alexander Rose, son of the minister of Foveran, may have
been the ancestor of the Roses of Lethinty, see p. 13. — Scott's
" Fasti," &c.

^ 1667, Minister of Foveran (D.D. 1684), died 1690, married
a dau. of the family of Udny of that ilk. His father, the Rev''

Scot in Haddo, and Mr. Alex' Burnet,

schoolm"^ at Foveran.
Gilbert Moir marries secondly — contract dated
9th Aug' 1 68 1 — Janet, dau. of the late Patrick
Forbes, sometime of Blackhall, of the ancient
family " of Pitsligo." — See contract, p. 42.

4. James, bap. 27th Sept' 1682. Witnesses,

James Scot and James Moir.

5. William, I twins, bap. ist June 1684. Wit-

6. Thomas, ) nesses, Wm. Gordon and Wm.

Findlay, Thos. Forbes and Thos. Grig.

Robert Moir, in Overhill (probably a son of
Andrew Moir I., by his first wife), m^

He is described as tenant and gentleman there,
with his wife, 1695-6. — Poll Book, vol. ii., p. 151.

1. Agnes, bap. i6th May 1685. Witnesses,

And* Moir and George Webster.

2. Isobel, bap. 12th Sepf 1687. Witnesses,

And"' Moir and Rob' Temple.

3. Andrew, bap. i6th Aug' 1690. Witnesses,

And" More and And" Sutherland.

4. John, bap. 25 March 1693. Witnesses, John

Udny, John Scot.

5. Elspet, bap. 19th May 1694. Witnesses,

Alex' Pirie, Alex' Johnston.

The Foveran family of Moir seem to have had
daughters married to people named Catto, Connon,

Alexander Rose, Laird of Insch, in the Garioch, descended of

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