MacLysaght states that the name derives from the parish of
Orr ( Urr ) in
Kirkcudbrightshire. It is also the name of an old
Renfrewshire family and is most common in the west of
Renfrewshire and in particular in the parish of
Domhnaigh claims that the name was also used as an
anglicisation of Scots Gaelic Mac Iomhair, 'son of Ivar',
a name also made Maclver, Maclvor, MacUre and Ure
derive the name from the Gaelic odbar donn, odbar, meaning
'sallow` (of complexion) and donn, meaning 'brown'. I am
not too sure about sallow, all the Orrs I have ever met,
or seen in photographs and paintings have generally
been of a healthy, ruddy, complexion, or weather beaten
this name is common only in the Province of Ulster, where
it is chiefly found in counties Antrim, Down, Londonderry
and Tyrone. Although in Ulster for four hundred years, and
probably longer because of the closeness of the West coast
of Scotland, the roots of the family lie squarely in
Scotland The Ures or Orrs are an acknowledged sept
(a family giving allegiance to another more powerful
family) of Clan Campbell.
- some myths rejected.
I have seen
several claims that the Orr name is
McGregor which is inconsistent with the facts. It is
not a diminutive form of McGregor, the Orr name had
been been in existence in its own right for over 300 years
the McGregor name was banned in 1603. It is just
possible that a MacGregor might have taken the Orr name
when the clan was forced to give up his own - in the same
way that Rob Roy MacGregor took Campbell as his new
surname - but that is an entirely different thing. The
chances of this having happened is probably small, not
least because Orr is essentially a Lowland name. But on
the other hand, if you are certain to be transported or
lawfully killed on sight, it might not be such a bad idea
to take a name of a southern Scottish family.
Neither is the Orr name a derivative from the French d`Or
(meaning gold) from the Huguenots or from the name of
Spanish sailors washed ashore from wrecked ships of the
of the name since at least 1296
book from Inveraray Castle, the home of the Duke of Argyll
and Chief of Clan Campbell lists the names associated with
the clan and includes Orr:
.Old Renfrewshire name, originally either from extinct
placename or from Gaelic odhar, of sallow complexion. The
numerous occurence of Orrs in Campbelltown, Kintyre since
c. 1640 likely due to movement from Renfrewshire. John Or
in Moy listed as Campbell of Cawdor family, 1578.
Alexander Over, alias Robertson, in Connoch mentioned for
receiving stolen goods belonging to Clan Gregor, 1613"
Craefurd (Crawford) author of "The Cairn of Lochwinnoch "
ca 1836 deeply researched the history of the Lochwinnoch
area and in his notes observes that
Orrs, the Montgomeries, the Brydines , the Kirkwoods,
the Glens, the Sempiles have charters from five hundred
years." [ from the Abbott of Paisley].
indicates that the Orrs had been leasing land since then
and is consistent with the record that a Hew Orr or Urr
swore allegiance to King Edward I (the Ragman Rolls ) in
1296. This is also consistent with the use of a surname
from the 13th century onwards which could be derived from
Hew or Hugo of Urr becoming Hew Urr / Orr.
many variations in spelling as a result of officials in
the past writing the name as it sounded and it was not
until the mid nineteenth century that a consistent form
appeared. You might try to imagine a stereotype Scotsman
with a broad accent pronouncing Orr as Urr, Ure,
Oorr, Oare, Owr, Owar, Ower, Oar, Or, Oarr, Oayre, Oure,
Our, - maybe he was just .. err ... clearing his throat or
reluctant to admit he was a MacGregor !
The Irish connection
connection came about primarily through the acquisition of
land in Co Antrim and Co Down by two Scottish landlords,
Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton, both from
Ayrshire. They purchased a great deal of land
between 1603 and 1607 and took with them tenants from
Scotland to settle on their new estates.
earliest Orr recorded in Ireland is James Orr, b ca 1580
in Scotland who with his wife Janet McClement settled in
Ballyblack, Co. Down in 1607. We know of James and Janet
and their descendents through the work of Gawin Orr of
Castlereagh, who researched and documented some 2,900
relatives in his epic `Ulster Pedigree`. This has been
added to and published by Ray A Jones in 1977 under the
title of " Ulster Pedigrees Descendants, in Many Lines, of
James ORR and Janet McCLEMENT who Emigrated from Scotland
to Northern Ireland ca 1607 " This book is in the
Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, Call no
929.2415 Or7j; and on fiche #6036613.
title but it is the most comprehensive record of Orrs in
Ulster there is. This has been loaded into my database and
I am happy to search it for specific links. I regret that it is 154 pages
long and still in copyright, I cannot therefore do blanket searches as
that would mean copying the whole book. A list of names of
people who married Orrs, and
are mentioned in the Ulster Pedigree is also available.
came to Ireland to settle in especially Counties
Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Monaghan as
tenants of Scottish landlords, during the `Plantation of
Ireland` between 1610 and 1630.
Hearth Money Rolls and Poll Tax
records for County Antrim (1660-9) give details of
further Orrs .
and when the Orrs migrated
round the world is a separate and complex story.