THE BOYLE CLAN

A Brief History


    The name Boyle is of both Gaelic origin and Norman origin. The Gaelic name O'Baoighill means descendant of Baoighill. These people were said to have originally occupied the land "from Antrim to Skye north and then some to Keppoch". The Scottish Norman branch of the family descended from Anglo-Norman knights, the de Boyvilles, from the town now known as Beauville in Normandy, near Caen, who came to Scotland after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. There is a record of a David de Boivil witnessing a charter as early as 1164. Henry de Boyville was the keeper of the castles of Dumfries and Galloway in 1291 (taking over from another, earlier, Boyville). Around 1275, Richard de Boyville held the lands of Kelburn in Ayrshire. Three de Boyvils signed King Edward's Ragman Roll in 1296.

    As is so often the case, there were many variants of the name; but it was generally pronounced "bowl" during this early period when it was confined to the south-west of Scotland. By 1367 the spelling had gradually transitioned to more of a one syllable pronunciation, Boyll; and by 1482 the name Boyle was found in its current form.

    The family expanded into Ayrshire and Largs. Kelburn Castle, located south-west of Glasgow, became the seat of the major line. The date of original construction is uncertain. Perhaps around 1200, a Norman Keep was built on the location for defense. Richard de Boyville married Marjory, daughter of Sir Robert Comyn of Rowallan, and John Boyle was a descendant six generations later. In 1488, John Boyle, a supporter of King James III, was killed at the Battle of Sauchienburn and the family lands were forfeited. However, John's son managed to have them restored by King James IV. Over the next century the family began to emerge as one of the major forces in the region. By 1581, a larger castle was completed around the original Keep by David Boyle. The 1581 castle can still be clearly identified among the more recent additions to the castle.

    At the same time that the Scottish branch was rising to prominence, Richard Boyle arrived in Ireland from Kent (in 1588), and quickly grew wealthy. From him descended the Irish family of the surname Boyle who became famous as the Earls of Cork and Shannon. The earliest known ancestor of Richard Boyle is reputed to be Humphrey de Binvill, a Norman Lord in Herefordshire in the eleventh century.

    The Scottish branch of the family was placed in jeopardy when the Boyles supported Mary, Queen of Scots, (and later, Charles I). Mary was forced to abdicate the throne on July 24, 1567 (see Lennox history) resulting in her 13 month old son, James, being crowned King James VI of Scotland. And upon the death of England's Elizabeth I in 1603, whom he was related to through his mother, James was crowned James I of England, thus becoming the first king to rule Scotland, England, and Ireland at the same time. Among many other notable events, it was under his reign that the first successful colonies were established on the North American mainland, including Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, the future home of descendants of the Boyle, Nickerson, and Lennox families. However, the Boyle family fared poorly during the political upheaval.

    The family fortunes were restored when John Boyle of Kelburn was elected a Commissioner of Parliament in 1681. "During the troubled seventeenth century, the Boyles of Kelburn became wealthy through shipping and shipbuilding. In the later part of the century, they became deeply committed to public service and John Boyle, the father of the first Earl of Glasgow, working for Customs and Excise, attempted to stamp out smuggling on the Ayrshire Coast. He subsequently became a Crown Commissioner, administering the Bute Estates and later the Argyll Estates when these families fell foul of the State." His eldest son, David, also became a Commissioner of Parliament and a Privy Councillor.



David Boyle, 1st Earl of Glasgow, 1666-1733

    John's son, David Boyle was a distinguished Scottish statesman, a Privy Councillor, and Lord of the Treasury among other appointments. He was raised to the peerage as Lord Boyle of Kelburn in 1699. In 1703, David Boyle was raised to Earl of Glasgow, one of the last of the Scottish peerages. He was one of the leading figures in the forming of the Act of Union in 1707 which united the English and Scottish parliaments, and he is sometimes charged with being responsible for bribing impoverished Jacobites within the Scottish Parliament to vote against their natural instincts. The First Earl was also Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Rector of Glasgow University, an honour which may explain why he chose the name of Glasgow for his title. He staunchly supported the Hanoverian cause. He raised and armed troops at his own expense when the standard of the "Old Pretender" was raised in 1715. It was also the first Earl, David Boyle, who made a major addition to Kelburn Castle in 1700 by joining a modern mansion house to the existing castle. The grandson of the first Earl succeeded to the Campbell earldom of Loudoun in 1782.



John Boyle, 2nd Earl of Glasgow 1688-1740

    The grandson of the second Earl, David Boyle, was a distinguished lawyer who was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in 1807. He later ascended to Lord President and Lord Justice General of Scotland in 1841.



John Boyle, 3rd Earl of Glasgow 1714-1775

    The third Earl was also appointed Lord High Commissioner of the General Assembly and held the office for nine successive years. He chose a career of military service and was wounded at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, where he lost a hand, and again at Lauffeldt in 1747.



George Boyle, 4th Earl of Glasgow 1766-1843

    The fourth Earl also pursued a military career, and rose from captain in the West Lowland Fencibles to the rank of Colonel. In 1810, he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Renfrewshire.



James Carr-Boyle, Earl of Glasgow 5th 1792-1869

    The eldest son of the fourth Earl, John, Lord Boyle, was a naval officer who, in July 1807, was confronted by a superior French flotilla near Gibraltar. He bravely engaged the enemy but his vessel was overrun and Boyle was taken prisoner. He died unmarried, in 1818. His younger brother, James, became the fifth Earl in 1843, ending a promising career in the House of Commons. He too served in the Royal Navy and was made Lord Lieutenant of Renfewshire. He married Georgina Mackenzie in 1821 but the union was without issue.



George Frederick Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow 1825-1890

    The Boyles acquired their land either through legacies from other branches of the Boyle family or through judicious marriages to noble ladies with inheritances of their own. When the fifth Earl died, he was succeeded by his half brother, the Hon George Frederick Boyle. When the sixth Earl of Glasgow inherited the title in 1869, he also inherited all the Boyle Estates. Besides Kelburn, this included land in Dalry, Stewarton, Corshill and Fenwick, and the estate of Hawkhead outside Paisley, plus estates in Dunbartonshire, Fife, Northumberland and the greater part of Cumbrae, the island which lies directly across the water from Kelburn. He also ran six large full-staffed residences. Hawkhead in Paisley, Crawford Priory in Fife, the Garrison on Cumbrae (which he also built), town houses in Perth and Edinburgh, and Kelburn itself.

    Unfortunately for the Boyle family, the affairs of the sixth Earl were a catastrophe for the family. He was passionately interested in art and architecture and embarked on an ambitious building program at Kelburn. He built a Victorian wing onto Kelburn Castle, enclosing one of the 1581 towers. This new addition includes the impressive dining room with its original William Morris wallpaper, its family portraits and wonderful views over the Firth of Clyde.

    He was caught up in the religious controversies of the day, particularly the Oxford movement, and he ran into debt building and endowing Episcopal churches all over Scotland, including a Cathedral in Perth and one on Cumbrae. By 1888 he found himself owing nearly one million pounds, and his cousin, David Boyle of Stewarton, later 7th Earl of Glasgow, sold his own lands near Irvine in order to raise the money to buy back the Kelburn Estate at auction. All the rest was lost to the family.



David Boyle 7th Earl of Glasgow 1833-1915

    The seventh Earl was a naval officer and Governor of New Zealand from 1892 to 1898. He was created Baron Fairlie of Fairlie in the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1897. This was to ensure him a seat in the House of Lords, as at that time only a limited number of Scottish peers could sit there. Elected by their fellow peers, they were known as representative peers. This system is no longer in operation.



Patrick James Boyle, 8th Earl of Glasgow 1874-1963

David William Maurice Boyle, 9th Earl of Glasgow 1910-1984



    The eighth and ninth Earls were both distinguished naval officers. When not at sea, they spent most of their lives at Kelburn.



Patrick Robin Archibald Boyle 10th Earl of Glasgow 1939-

    The present head of the family and chief of the name succeeded his father in 1984 as tenth Earl of Glasgow. He still resides at Kelburn Castle near Fairlie in Ayrshire, on the lands held by his family since the thirteenth century.

    The Boyle clan motto is "Dominus provedebit"
    which means "God will provide".


    This signet ring, of unknown date, has been handed down for generations from father to son. The family motto is inscribed below the emblem.

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