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Abercrombie/Abercromby Clan

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  • Crest: A falcon rising belled, Proper
  • Motto: Petit alta (He seeks high deeds)
  • Origin of Tartan: First recorded by James Logan in "The Scottish Gael",1831
  • Seat: The lands of Abercromby lie in Fife.

Origins of the name

The name comes from the Barony of Abercrombie in Fife, for which William de Abercromby swore fealty to Edward I in 1296.


From William the Abercrombies of that Ilk descended, whose main line remained in Fife when a later second son of the family obtained the lands of Petmethan (Pitmeddan) in Aberdeenshire during the reign of Robert Bruce (1306-29). The stem family held Abercrombie and Balcormo in Fife, and acquired the lands of Murthly in Perthshire about 1443. Balcormo passed to the Arnots through marriage about 1518, and Murthly was sold to the Stewarts of Grandtully c.1620, just prior the demise of the principal family. The family
were supporters of the Catholic Church, one having been Abbot of Scone, while another, Robert, a militant Jesuit father, escaped capture following the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594 and escaped abroad.

The end of the Fife line was hastened by the denouncement of Thomas Abercrombie for murder in 1626, and during his exile in Ireland his lands passed to Gibb of Knock, a relative by marriage.

Other Abercrombies were settled at Throsk near Stirling by 1456; at Gourdie, near Dundee by 1558, and in West Lothian by 1604, but the most unruly tribe settled at Pitelpie, near Scone, Perthshire, and frequently appear in 16th century records denounced as 'rebels'.

A curious burial practice amongst the Abercrombies of that Ilk is told. On the death of a Laird his predecessor's skull was removed from the grave and stored in a niche in the church where 19 skulls were reputedly in place by the 18th century. The Pitmeddan line's fortunes rose while their kinsmen's declined, for in addition to the establishment of numerous Houses at Fetternear, Glassaugh and elsewhere, Alexander, 12th of Pitmeddan was created 'Grand Falconer' by James VI, and his son became 1st Baronet of Birkenbog (1636). Some Abercrombies appear in Scots Guards Lists in France as "Abre Commier

The earliest record of the name is found in 1296 when William de Abercromby did homage to Edward I of England for his lands in the parish of Abercromby, Fife. The lineage of the family passed to the house of Abercromby of Birkenbog in Banffshire early in the seventeenth century.

Alexander Abercromby was grand falconer in Scotland to King Charles I. His eldest son Alexander, was created 1st Baronet of Birkenbog by Charles I in 1636, but he was so active a Covenanter that, after the Battle of Auldearn in 1645, the Marquis of Montrose retaliated by billeting himself and some of his troops at Birkenbog. Lieut-General Sir Ralf Abercromby (1734-1801), a descendant of the Birkenbog line, was born in Menstrie, near Tullibody. he took his troops to the Middle East, landing with them at Aboukir, and died of wounds received while personally leading them in an attack on the French forces at Alexandria. As a reward for her husbands bravery, his wife was created Baroness Abercromby of Aboukir and Tullibody.

Religious unrest

The history of the Abercrombies is closely connected to religious unrest. The lands in Banff were granted to Alexander Abercromby by the Bishop of Aberdeen in 1362. Robert Abercromby (1534-1613) was a Jesuit priest of the Scottish mission who opposed the Reformation and its effect on the Scottish church. Most notably, he is alleged to have converted Queen Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI, to Catholicism before her death.

Alexander Abercromby became a Covenanter opposed to the imposition of an Episcopal church in Scotland by Charles I. This stance was punished by the quartering of troops at Birkenbog as part of a famous campaign to restore the authority of Charles I conducted by the Marquis of Montrose.

David Abercromby became a Jesuit after study in Douai and followed in his kin's footsteps by opposing the Protestant faith on his return. However, he converted to Protestantism to the extent that he published a significant tract against Papal power, "Protestancy Proved Safer Than Popery", in 1682.

Earliest GENi Profile William de Abercrombie (1270-1296)

Earliest person recorded in Burke' Peerage Humphrey Abercombie of Pitmeddon (c 1420-1472) living 1457

People of Note

  • John Abercromby, 5th Baron Abercromby (1841 - 1924) John Abercromby was a Lieutenant with the Rifle Brigade. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, with an honorary Doctorate of Law. He was president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and succeeded as 5th Baron Abercromby on October 3, 1917. After leaving the army in 1870 he devoted himself to languages, travel and folklore. In 1904 he introduced the term Beaker into the archaeological lexicon to describe the unusual drinking vessels being found all over Europe. He supported the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and served as its president from 1913 to 1918. His will provided for the foundation of the Abercromby Chair of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, a post occupied by Vere Gordon Childe and Stuart Piggott.
  • Sir Ralph Abercrombie (1734 - 1801) considered one of the greatest military reformers, was a mentor to Wellington during the retreat from Europe in 1795 at the outset of the Napoleonic wars. The eventual success against Napoleon is attributed to Abercromby's restructuring of the army. Fought in the Seven years war and became MP for Clackmannanshire. He rose to the rank of Major-General and led the landing at Aboukir Bay but was killed in Action. Another of his successes was the capture of the Spanish island of Trinidad for the British crown - after a conflict with the French in the West Indies that he had headed as Commander-in-Chief since 1795. He took a vital role in the Egypt campaign, commanding troops who took the strategic fortress of Aboukir from the French in the Battle of Alexandria. His widow was created Baroness Abercromby of Aboukir and Tullibody, reflecting the influence of this clan beyond their own land.

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