The distinguished Scottish family of Agnew is one of
the oldest Clans and its history is closely interwoven into
the rich and beautiful tapestry of the Chronicles of
The Agnew family historians are met with two separate sources of the origins of the
Agnews when researching into the records. One source states that they are
descended from Herbert d"Aigneaux, a Norman Count enjoying a huge and
powerful barony in the Contentin (Caen). There is, however, no record that this
Count accompanied William the Conqueror into England at the Battle of Hasting.
There seems to be a family record that a branch settled soon after the Conquest at
Wigton in south west Scotland from whom, according to this source the hereditary
sheriffdom in Galloway and the Baronets of Agnew, are descended.
Another source states that they are descended from Edin (or John) McDonnell.
Brother of Angus Oge. Lord of the Isles, his grandson being John MacGnieve who
was called in English Agnew Later, the Chiefs were called O'Gnieve or O'Agnew.
About them was written the famous ancient poem "The Lament of Agnews"
Sir Andrew Agnew in his famous "history of the Agnews' tends to support the former
origin, that of Norman. However we must remember that the history was written in
times when being of Norman origin was fashionable, and in his history of the
neighbouring clans he also strayed somewhat form the fact. Of the two, the more
likely origin is Gaelic. In that section of Scotland, Galloway, Norman intrusion
between the times of 1100 and 1400 was very rare, and the people of the area were
extremely militant to outsides of any form, whether they were Scots or otherwise. It
was also unlikely that even the Scottish King would have had sufficient power to
grant land to a Norman in this area. It is therefore concluded that they were
descended from the Lord of the Isles, and to be of pure Gaelic stock, with a
conjectural lineage which dates back to 327 A.D.
In 1296 A.D. King Edward 1st of England made a brief but historically important
conquest of Scotland. The end result was significant in that it united Scotland as it had
never been before, and let to the ultimate victory of King Robert the Bruce, two
decades later. However, when Edward made his conquest, he called for all Clan
Chiefs, Bishops, nobles and knights to pay homage to him. This they were forced to
do by applying their seal to a parchment which become known later as the 'Ragman
Rolls'. These Rolls are now in the archives of the Tower of London, and are one of
Scotland's first census records. They also serve genealogists well, recording
Scotland's oldest families.
The English Scottish boarder, between Berwick in the east and Carlisle in the west,
had been a constant source of embarrassment to both the English and Scottish
Crowns. Tribes of Clans had developed which were a law unto themselves. In 1246
AD twelve Scottish and twelve English Chiefs met and agreed a code of law for the
border territories. The agreed code took into consideration traditional life styles and
patterns which had historically developed in the evolvement of border life. The
agreed code was unlike any law for the rest of Britain. Hence, it was a far greater
offence to refuse assistance to help the owner recover his sheep, than it was to steal
them in the first place.
In 1368 the Lochnaw family of Agnews were appointed hereditary sheriffs of
Galloway by King David 2nd of Scotland.
In 1603, the uniting of the Scottish and English Crowns was effected when King James
VI of Scotland also become King James 1st of England. At this time it was expedient to
take definite steps to disperse the 'unruly border clan'. Which had been established
may centuries before. Notable amongst the 'unruly' clans were the Kerrs, the
Douglasses, Scotts, Johnstons, Maxwells and Moffats, to name but a few. These
names had been associated with the very same 'border law' which each successive
King of Scotland had subscribed to and agreed. For the next fifty years they were
moved sometimes forcibly to England, to northern Scotland, Ireland , and of course,
to the Colonies.
Meanwhile, Clansmen continued to play an active and important role in the politics of
Scotland as the country moved forwards parliamentary unity with England in 1707
AD. With the merging of the English and Scottish Crowns in 1603 James VI of
Scotland had become James1st of England, but there had continued in Scotland, the
right to exercise parliamentary government. During this period and particular, many
noted Scottish parliamentarians made important contributions to the Scottish way of
life. Among these were: Sir Andrew of Lochnaw represented the parish and Clan in
1644, 1645, 1646 and intermittently through to 1670. His son Sir Andrew, represented
the parish from 1685 to 1700 and Sir Patrick, before migrating to Ireland represented
from 1628 to 1633.
Captains William and John Agnew were stationed at Island Magee in the County of
Antrim in 1689, and Captain Sir Robert Agnew was stationed to Braid in Antrim.
Captains Patrick and Francis Agnew were at Glenarm Barony in Antrim. In all 39
families of Agnew we transferred and 26 of those families settled in Antrim.
Life in Ireland became little improved over what the clansmen had left on the Border.
Lands were granted and then lost overnight by some careless, or sometimes a well
conceived act which had gone politically astray. Economic survival was made difficult
by severe rules of conduct and obligations. They turned their attention towards the
New World, with its democratic way of life. They sailed aboard the armada of tall
sailing ships which plied the North Atlantic for the next three centuries. They were
known as the 'White Sails', small ships, rotting at the seams, of which the Rambler,
the Hector, the Sarah and the Dove were but a few of many.
In the New World, the Clansmen became the hardy pioneer stock who contributed
greatly to the cultural, political and social ideas and development of their new
homelands. Sir Patrick Agnew, who was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia, was one of
Hayes Agnew undoubtedly was one of North America's
most famous surgeons, and could be considered one of the
world's foremost medical men of all times.
CONSILIO NON IMPETU
"By design not by happenstance"