Orr of Lochwinnoch

Our name is of Scottish origin and possibly comes from the Parish of Urr in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. But since about 1300 or so we have been mainly in the shires of Renfrew and Ayrshire. The Orr name is now quite common throughout Lowland Scotland having spread through Lanarkshire, across to Edinburgh, Haddingtonshire into Fife and even the Highlands. By the time of the 1881 (Census ) Orrs were dispersed throughout the whole of England Scotland and Wales. Orrs from Ayrshire were probably the first of the name to migrate to Ulster ca 1607  where there is also a strong presence.

swscot.jpg (50364 bytes)Earliest dates for Orr include one Hew Orr (probably the same as Hugh del Urre ) who rendered homage in 1296 to Edward I (The Ragmans Rolls ). Four persons named Or were summoned to appear before the Abbott of Paisley in 1504 and a John Or was a follower of Campbell of Cawdor in 1578.The rental of Paisley Abbey which owned quite a bit of the land in the vicinity had Orrs as tenants in the 14th century and probably earlier. Andro Crauford, in his "Cairn of Lochwinnoch " ca 1836 noted that Orrs had had deeds (for rentals of land ) for five hundred years. Orrs were also  in Campbelltown in 1640 probably having migrated from Renfrewshire. It is likely that they migrated across the Irish Sea to join Orrs from Beith who had gone with the Montgomery Settlement to the Ards Peninsula, County Down in 1607 

         In the Charter records of Paisley Abbey there is a summons at the instance of Robert, Abbott  of  Paisley, dated January 1504 against

        John, Lord Rope of Hawshed

        Alan Or

        Ninian Or

        Johnne Or

        Johnne Or

        William Glenne

        Johnne Dunlop

        Johnne Whytefuird.

The charge is in coarse Latin " pro injustis intro mifsione, occupatione, laboratione, et manoratione terrasum " which seems to translate roughly that they had occupied land and put the populace in fear  ie had been bad landlords (assuming they must have rented the land from the Abbey ).

" A General Description of  the Shire of Renfrew" by George Crawfurd (1710) was updated by George Robertson in 1818. Extracts from this book give details of the population  of Renfrewshire by parish ca 1818 and a record of the land valuations for the Parish of Lochwinnoch. Among the proprietors are several Orrs.  The land in the area is largely owned by some of the ancient families, especially Semple who were the hereditary Stewarts (Stewards) of the Barony of Renfrewshire  since the 1300s. Beltrees had a charter in 1477 to a William Stewart and his spouse Alison Kennedy, passing to Lord Semple  in 1559.  Achinames belonged to the Crawfords as long ago as 1100 when two brothers Sir John and Sir Gregan were rewarded for services by King David I. Gavan and Risk belonged to the Boyds ca 1205 and the Glens were in Barr from ca 1450 and passed to the Hamiltons in 1710. 

There were Orr`s also in the neighbouring Kilbarchan Parish where Jok and John Orr are mentioned in Sir John Craufurd`s Protocol Book. This tells us that in 1541 Gabriell Sympyll of the forty shillings land of Toris, commissioned his sergeant officer [ bailiff ] Jok Orr to evict Jok Andro, Pate Blackburne, Hobe Luif, George Park and William Lang.  An entry on 1 April 1550 records that Lord Sempill sent his sergeant John Layng to the Weitlands and seized all John Orr`s goods and gear.   In both instances the actions were probably taken for non payment of rents.

Although the period from then to ca 1700 is vague, there is a rich vein of Orr ancestry to mine in the locality. The main occupation was farming and it is there we find some significant family records of the Orrs of Risk, Kaim and Midhouse farms, In all Orrs occupied at different times, some 30 farms in the vicinity, almost all being tenants of a superior land owner. It is only in later years ca 1600 onwards, that they appear as freeholders and selling or renting their lands to others.  

From 1681 heritors had been required to take action against conventicles and to report them to the authorities (even if they did not know they were taking place !). Land owners were in an invidious position being held responsible for the actions of their tenants and many were fined for alleged compliance when they were not even aware that tenants were engaged in an alleged illegal activity. The Justiciary Circuit Courts were held in the regions when the Justiciary Circuit  in Edinburgh had risen for the summer recess. By these courts the pressure was maintained on non conformists. In July 1684 a Committee of Public Affairs pursued the magistrates to clear the backlog of prisoners held locally with instruction to imprison or discharge from custody; only to be followed by an Order in Council of 1 August 1684 to clear the prisons and the guilty to be executed within six hours of sentencing. 

Such was the panic about loyalty to the King that four further Circuit Courts were set up on 6 September 1684 to take `justice` out to the people. The Lords given power included the Earl of Mar, Queensberry, Balcarres and the infamous John Graham of Claverhouse, with any two to act as judges. They were actually given a list of some 28 offences that they were to enforce with the objective  of `extinguishing disaffection`. How on earth it was expected that enforcing Draconian laws with possible execution a high possibility was going to remove disaffection I have yet to fathom out. 

The Orrs were mainly Presbyterian and there is record in the Cairn of Lochwinnoch that at least three of them were committed to jail at Stirling on 1 November 1684. They were  Robert Orr of Millbank; John Orr of Jamphraystock ; and John Orr of Hills.  Imprisonment at that time would probably have been for refusing to take an oath or suspicion of  conventicling activities. The Cairn account refers to refusal to take the Test or to give a Bond and it is confirmed by  records of the Glasgow Justiciary Court that sat in October 1684.  The following extract is from The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution. Robert Wodrow, Ed R Burns. Glasgow, Blackie & Son, (1835) Volume 4, p 134-136. ]

" At length they were called, and, as they answered to their names, the teat and bond of regulation was put to them, and the oath of allegiance with the supremacy inter­mixed with it. Upon their refusal to swear, and to sign, they were cast into prison, where they lay twenty days. The throng was so great, that they could not lie down upon the floor all at once, but did this by turns. They were a second time called before the lords, who passed a sentence of banishment on them to the plantations. This, they say, they were very glad of, for they choosed banishment rather than an appearance before the lords, where they knew the escaping of one word would hazard their lives. "

            And, November 1st, Robert Orr of Millbank, James Allan portioner of Kerse, John Orr of Jamphreystock, James Ramsay portioner of Auchinhane, John Orr of Hills, Robert Sempill of Balgreen, William Orr portioner of Keam, and Robert Blackburn of' Landiestone, these belonging to Lochwinnoch, and all of them heritors, were carried in hard frost and snow to Stirling on foot, with about forty other prisoners. There, though very weary, and without any refreshment, they were forced into three low vaults, some steps under ground, without fire or light, or any thing to lie on, and no place to ease nature in, but the corners of the vault.. Indeed they met with no small kindness from some good people in the town, who brought in straw to them to lie on, and coals for fire, and some sent meal and money to them, which was a great relief. They were made to believe, that very soon they were to be sent off to the plantations, and accordingly they sent to their friend, in the west for some money to take with them, which was sent as far as could be done in a short warning. Whether this was a trick of the soldiers, that they might finger any little money they could get, I know not; but no sooner did it come up to them, but a serjeant, named John Downie, in Bell's company in Marr's regiment, by order, as he said, from the earl, came to the prison with a party of soldiers, with kindled matches.The town officers who kept the keys were caused open the doors, and the serjeant with the soldiers went in and searched them, and took all their money from them; from Robert Blackburn, thirty seven pounds, Robert Sempill as much, Robert Orr fifty merks, James Ramsey eighteen pounds, John Orr three ducatoons, John Orr in Hill, eleven full dollars. It is not minded what was taken from the rest of the prisoners. When the soldiers were robbing them of their money, the prisoners earnestly begged they might leave them some small part of it for their present maintenance, and accordingly some little was given beck to each, and the soldiers left them, but came back within half an hour, and took it again; and though they should have starved would not allow them to keep one farthing.

            They remained in Stirling till May, when they were taken out, and tied two and two with cords, and sent into the Canongate, where they lay some tine, and some of them were sent to Dunottar, where we shall afterward hear of their, hardships; and all this they with multitudes of others endured, merely because they refused the test and bond, which by no law could be forced upon them. "

Such was the confused state of affairs and overcrowding of the prisons that it is likely the four Orrs were arraigned and probably fined, required to take an oath and to give a bond for good behaviour.  At least they do not appear in the lists of the executed or transported. 

Two Orrs, James Orr and  William Orr ( probably of Keam/Kame , above), from Lochwinnoch, were among the prisoners brought to Burntisland, Fife, on 20 May 1685 and marched to imprisonment in Dunnottar Castle. It is known that William Orr took the Test and was released on 26 July 1685. No Orrs appeared in the lists of those from Dunnottar that were  transported in August 1685, and it is likely that James Orr was also released on taking an oath and giving bond.

 A curious and vindictive event was the attempt by an episcopalian precentor (an official of the church that leads a choir but especially reads or sings the lines of the psalms for the congregation to follow) to claim fees for marriages and baptisms which had in fact been performed illegally by an outed minister. This included several prominent Orr farmers in and around Lochwinnoch; the area was clearly a Covenanting one. Read the libel or charge 

The 19th century Fowlers Directory  ( 1826 / 1827 and 1831 / 1832) of Lochwinnoch, Newton of Beltrees, How Wood, and neighbourhood listed some 22 Orr families in the immediate area. Extracts from "The Cairn of Lochwinnoch " lists farmers since at least 1654 (List and map):

Orr, Alexander, surgeon Harvey Square (1826, 1831 )

Orr , James, Auctioneer, Calder Street (1826, 1831 ); beer and porter dealer (1836)

Orr, James, bookseller and stationer, High Street  (1831)

Orr, James, flesher, and vintner, High Street (1831)

Orr, James, of Langyard, farmer, (1826, 1831 )

Orr, James,farmer East Johnshill  (1826, 1831 )

Orr, James, of Newton of Beltrees, farmer  Glenhead (1826, 1831 )

Orr, John, farmer, East Barnaich (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Mrs. of Fairhills  (1831)

Orr, Robert, farmer, Westhills (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Robert of Auchinhane, farmer (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Robert, of Cruiks, farmer (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Mrs. Thos. stationer, hardware, and toyshop, Cross (1826, 1831)

Orr, Thomas,.grocer,and tea -merchant, High street    (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Thomas  Lochwinnoch  Inn (1826 )

Orr, Thomas, of Risk, farmer (1826, 1831 )

Orr, Thomas, (Orrian Academy,) behind the Cross well (1826, 1831 )

Orr, William, carding master, Calderpark mill (1826, 1831 )

Orr, William, farmer and grazier, Auchinhane (1826, 1831 )

Orr, William, merchant, High street (1826, 1831 ); stationer   (1836)

Orr, William, of East Johnshill, cattle dealer (1826, 1831 )

Orr, William, of Kaim and Greenbrae,farmer (1826, 1831 )

Orr, William, of Linthills, farmer,:(1826, 1831 )

There was also involvement of many Orrs in the community apart from their trade.shown above;

A William Orr was precentor at the Parish church

Alexander Orr was president of the Sabbath Schools Committee

Thomas Orr was treasurer of the Sabbath Schools Committee

Thomas Orr was a teacher at the Orrian Academy, with 70 pupils.

Hugh Orr was a clerk in the Lochwinnoch Friendly Society, High St (1812)

Alexander Orr was treasurer of the Lochwinnoch Library, Chaple St (1823)

A Mrs Orr was secretary of the Lochwinnoch Benevolent Society (1836)

James Orr of Cross was secretary of the Lochwinnoch Farmers Society (1827)

Alexander Orr was vice president of the Home Mission (1831)


The  Orrs  also  feature  in  the   Fowlers  1836  Directory  for  Paisley:

Orr, Andrew, spirit  dealer, 23  High St (1836)

Orr,  Francis, Accountant, 9  Gauze  St  (1836)

Orr, James grocer, 6 Walneuk  St (1836)

Orr, John  Jnr & Co,cotton spinners, Underwoode (1836)

Orr, John  cotton  spinner, house Underwood  St. (1836)

Orr, John  Shawl manufacturer, 39 Causeyside (1836)

Orr, John Mrs, house 57  Causeyside  (1836)

Orr, Robert of Ralston  (1836) this family was a major contributor to
        printing on linen in Paisley. Also in Pigot 1825.

Orr  Robert, of  Lylesland (1826) also in Pigot 1825.

Orr  Robert, builder, 31  George  St. (1836)

Orr  Robert, stocking maker, 8 Wardrop St. (1836)

Orr  Thomas, Caledonian  Inn, Caledonia  St. (1836)

Orr  Thomas, plumber  97  New  Sneddon. (1836)

Orr  Thomas, spirit  dealer and  boatman, Moss   St. (1836)

Orr  William, joiner and cabinet maker & glazier  9 Gauze  St. (1836)

Orr  William  &  Robert, manufacturers  163   Causeyside (1836)

Orr  William, Jr. Merchant, house 94  Gauze  St (1836)

Orr  William, mason

Orr  William  Mrs, house, 14  Causeyside. (1836)

See also :

A Lochwinnoch resident and local historian gives her view

Some statistics about Lochwinnoch

Orr property in 1818

Property owners of Lochwinnoch 1818

The population of Renfrewshire in 1818

Where we were located in the 1881 Census

Lochwinnoch Covenanters pursued by a curate for `irregular` baptisms and the like ca 1688.

Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material