Claims to Fame

We all like to think there is someone famous in our ancestry, and in the broader family there some Orrs worthy of comment. Here are a few I have come across so far. If you have any to add do please get in touch.

Congressional Medal of Honour.

The following are the actual citations for the awards :


Rank and organization: Private, Company G, 187th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Hatchers Run, Va., 27 October 1864. Entered service at: Bennington, N.Y. Birth: Holland, N.Y. Date of issue: 1 April 1898. Citation: This soldier and two others, voluntarily and under fire, rescued several wounded and helpless soldiers.


Rank and organization: Major, 61st Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 2 April 1865. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Born: 28 March 1836, Philadelphia, Pa. Date of issue: 28 November 1892. Citation: Carried the colors at the head of the column in the assault after two color bearers had been shot down.

Other USA Orrs

The Honourable Judge Smith Orr, of Orrville, Wayne Co., Ohio.

Hugh Orr, of Lochwinnoch and Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Alexander Ector Orr (1831-1914). Born in Strabane, Co Tyrone, President of the New York Rapid Transit Commission, Vice President of many financial institutions. Founder of the New York subway system.


William Orr of Farranshane. Martyr of the 1798 Rebellion.

Convicts to Australia 1791-1815

William "Rebel " Orr, sentenced to Life, transported on the "Friendship". Escaped to the Sumatra islands, and later returned to Ireland ( referred to in Bob Foys` `Remember All the Orrs` )

Edward Orr, b Antrim 1794 a tailor in Antrim, sentenced to 7 years in 1814. Transported on the "Canada".

John Orr, sentenced to Life. Transported on the "Friendship".

Margaret Orr, b 1748 sentenced to 7 years. Transported in 1792 on the "Boddington".

James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry. (1770-1816) The Burns of Ulster,
Although a relatively minor poet, James Orr was one of the group termed `folk ` poets who often composed in the vernacular and contributed significantly to understanding the society of their day. He was born near Ballycarry in the parish of Templecorran (Broad Island) in County Antrim, in 1770. The only son of a weaver, he was said to be a spoilt child. A bachelor all his life, he was a supporter of the 1798 Rebellion and escaped to America. He soon returned under a general amnesty, and resumed farming and weaving. His first volume of poetry was published in 1804. He was a founding member of the Ballycarry Masonic Lodge and they were responsible for the erection of a large monument to him in 1831 (He died 24 April 1816).His poem and song "The Irishman ", published in 1805, has been much quoted over the years.

Rev. Robert Orr (1833-1915), Methodist Minister.
 He was one of six brothers who were converted to Methodism; three - Robert, Thomas and James became preachers. The brothers featured large in the ministry of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist church and later in the United Conference. Robert first started with itinerant preaching in 1861 until 1878 when he was appointed to Clones, then Rathdrum; Kingsland Park, Dublin;  Clonakilty and Antrim. In all he completed 44 years service in the active ministry and a further 10 years in the University Road Circuit, Belfast.

Rifleman 6795, Hamilton Orr, aged 30, B Company, 1st Bn Royal Irish Rifles, had the misfortune to be the first man  of his regiment to be killed in the Battle of the Somme. B company was occupying trenches at about 9 pm on 15 November 1914 in F Lines of the regiment at Rue Tilleloy, when Hamilton Orr and another soldier, Robert Sparrow aged 21 from Dublin were killed in action. He was the son of James and Lizzie Orr of 50 James St, Newtownards and had been in the army for twelve years, ten of these serving in India from where he had returned with his regiment to join the British Expeditionary Force. He is buried at Rue de Bacquerot (13th) , London Graveyard, Laventie, plot G.

In Scotland

A link to Robert the Bruce.

An actual link back to Robert the Bruce exists in the case of the Rev Alexander Orr, minister at Hazelside, who married Barbara Crawford, a descendant of The Bruce. The Rev Alexander`s son, also a Rev Alexander, married Agnes Dalrymple of Waterside, Keir, Dumfries and their  daughter, Barbara, married the Rev. John Craig. of Ruthwell. Their daughter Agnes, married the Rev Henry Duncan,  saviour of the Ruthwell Cross and founder of the Savings Bank movement.

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William Orr of Mitcheltoun, Lochwinnoch (d 1596) Sheriff of Renfrewshire

Thomas Orr of Jaffraystock, Lochwinnoch (d 1598) Sheriff of Renfrewshire.

John Orr, Sheriff of Ayr ( d 1609)

Marion Orr spouse of William Lightbody (d 1586), Sheriff of Lanark


Lord John Boyd  Orr  (1880 - )  
Professor of Agriculture at Aberdeen University, an Independent MP; and Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation  1945-8. Nobel Peace Prize winner 1949. Eminent authority on food and nutrition.

Links by marriage in the female line.

Dr Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby School  1828 -42. Son of a Customs officer was born on the Isle of Wight 13 June 1795. He was educated at Winchester and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford where he met his lifelong friend John Taylor Coleridge. A first class honours degree followed and he became a teacher and ordained as deacon at Laleham.  In 1827 he was invited to become a master at Rugby school and appointed headmaster in 1828. His impact on education was enormous, not only on his pupils at Rugby , but on the system itself. He introduced mathematics, modern languages and modern history and instituted the form system and prefects to keep discipline. Above all perhaps, he taught the pupils to think for themselves He wrote several books including "Principles of Church Reform" (1833)  and was a strong campaigner for Catholic Emancipation.

Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888). Poet and critic. He was born in Laleham, Surrey, the eldest son of Dr Thomas Arnold. After Oxford he became a schools inspector from 1851-86. He published several volumes of poems which are highly regarded , also "Essays in Criticism" (1866,1888), "Culture and Anarchy" (1869) and books on religion including "Literature and Dogma"(1872) and "Last Essays on Church and Religion" (1877).

The Huxleys, 

Julia Arnold, sister of Mary Augusta Arnold (Mrs Humphry Ward) married Leonard Huxley, sometime editor of "The Cornhill" magazine. Their children were :

 - Julian, biologist, Director General UNESCO, author.

 - Aldous, writer, born Godalming, Surrey in 1894. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He was a friend of D.H. Lawrence  and author of "Brave New World" (1932), and "Eyeless in Gaza" (1936).

Mary Augusta Arnold aka Mrs Humphry Ward (1851 - 1920), born in Tasmania she came to England with her family, and in 1872 married Thomas Humphry Ward, an academic at Brasenose College, Oxford. She was a leading Victorian author writing for several periodicals. Her early work included "Robert Elsmere" a romance and spiritual story that was the basis for the setting up of a settlement for the poor of London in Tavistock Square in 1897. Her later novels were all on social and religous issues and included "Marcella" (1894), Sir George Tressady" (1896), "The Case of Richard Meynell" (1911), Helbeck of Bannisdale" (1898). Despite her concern for the poor She was a vehement anti suffragette and campaigned hard against the giving of votes to women. At Girton College when debating the issue she received a very torrid reception and later wrote novels that were critical of the suffragette movement including "The Testing of Diana Mallory " (1908) and "Delia Blanchflower" (1915).

Her son, Arnold Ward, MP for Watford supported her views in  Parliament. When her sister Julia, died in 1908 she took her nephews, Julian and Aldous Huxley, under her wing. By 1914 she was very well known in America and was commissioned by the government to visit the Western Front  and write a book about it. The object was to encourage American support for the World War that had broken out. As a result of her tour she wrote two books - "England`s Effort" (1916) and "Towards the Goal" (1917). In her latter years she and her husband were beset by the debts of their son, a dissolute gambler, and they had to sell the family home to pay off his debts. She died on 26 March 1920.

Others in the same family line include:

Admiral Charles Penrose (1759 - 1830). 

Francis Cranmer Penrose (1817-1903),  Astronomer, Surveyor of St Pauls.

Dame Emily Penrose, daughter of Francis Cranmer Penrose, was Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, and very influential in the campaign to admit women to degrees.

Elizabeth Cartwright  aka "Mrs Markham" (1780 - 1837), author.

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Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material