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To THE IRVING CLAN, GREETINGS:
I have the honor to belong to this Clan, the most numerous on the globe; but not to the Clan militant, as my forbears did. No. If a trumpet should sound "To Arms!" tomorrow, I might mount and ride; but not to the cannons mouth. But ever since I could read, I have been a hero-worshiper, and have admired the brave men who faced death in its most awful forms, in battle by sea and land, and have been proud to learn that the Irvines were second to none on any field.
The Erinvines warred with the Romans, 373 AD, and ever since that time they have fought, and many have fallen, on all the battle fields of the world.
They were as dauntless as any when Bruce was crowned, 1306, and one, Baron Irving, of that date, protected him when he fled from Edward Longshanks, King of England. How they fought and fell at Harlaw, 1411, history relates, and at "Fatal Flodden Field" the ground ran red with their best blood. (Says an ancient Chronicle:)
"Here all the male Irvines of the House of Bonshaw, who were able to carry arms, were killed, and few of that House were left to preserve the name, except those unborn."
The ancestor of the Canadian Irvings, Jacob Emilius, was wounded at Waterloo; he was a gallant officer who was honored by his country.
I hope the Irvines who read this history will understand that the titled Irvines are not of more distinguished descent than those of the Clan who bear the same name. Says history: "Of these Irvings of Bonshaw are the most part of the Scotch Irvines descended, and those of Ireland in a very near line." (Dr. Christopher Irvine, Historiographer to King Charles II., and Historian of Scotland.)
Men of the Irvine Clan: Allow me to appeal to you to make my American Irvine Book a success. I have crossed the ocean and visited Scotland, Ireland, and England, to gather data to make my history as comprehensive as possible. I have compiled all that is of importance, from 373 AD down to the present time. It has been the fond hope, and the toilsome work of years, to embalm the deeds of your ancestors in undying form. I have used my best endeavors to accomplish what I have so longed to do. If my book pleases you, then my hopes will have found fruition.
THE IRVINES, IRVINS, IRVINGS, ERVINES, ERWINS OF THE OLD COUNTRY AND THE NEW.
I place the Irvines, etc., of the old country, first, in order to prove the immutable law of heraldry. The germ of life in man is like the seed of the thistle, that may be borne thousands of miles and fall into rich loam, and it will come up a thistle, as all of its fathers were. It may be warped by strong winds, or increased in size by the rich nourishment of its new home, but it will still bear the unmistakable marks of its ancestors, and wounds, if one handle it too roughly. The same courage and strength of mind that the ancestors of the Irvines of the old country displayed on many a battlefield have been repeated by their descendants in. this new land. The same ability in literature, statesmanship, and theology, that characterized many an Irvine of the old country, has distinguished the Irvines of America.
The training and easy living of many generations of pure blooded men make aristocrats. The ease that wealth and careful training of many generations of aristocrats give, enervates and depletes them. They diminish in size and strength, and lose, in a measure, their hardihood and capacity to endure, but never lose the distinctive characteristics of their race.
Read the long list of honors won by the Irvines of Scotland, England, and Ireland, and then follow their descendants, from 1729 when they first landed in Pennsylvania, down to the present time, and be convinced that the law of heraldry in man is as immutable as the law that governs the animal and vegetable worlds. Is not the blood in man as strong to paint its likeness, from generation to generation, as the sap that colors the rose on its tree, with unchanging fidelity, from year to year and from age to age, in all climates and in every land?
County Antrim, Ireland, has furnished five Presidents to the United States:
There is no district in all of Ireland so rich in armorial bearings as the neighborhood of Lame. The churchyards of Carncastle, Glynn, and Raloo abound with them. The churchyard of Raloo is over-grown with long grass and weeds, so as to be almost inaccessible. But one may pull aside obstructions and remove lichens from the tall gray tombstones; trace the arms carved upon them, and read the names of the Craigs, McDowells, Crawfords, Boyds, and others. In the churchyard of Raloo, Margaret McDowell lies buried. She was the wife of Ephraim McDowell, and daughter of Robert Irvine.
There is an old book, more than six hundred years old (I was told), that I found at Fair Hill, near Larne. It had belonged to successive sextons for hundreds of years, from the dates it contained, the last one being 1775, and giving a description of the flag adopted by the American Colonies. It is written in longhand, and has pen-pictures of the Coats of Arms of the Carlisles, Earls of Kilmarnock, McDowells, Irvines, Johnstons, Crawfords, and Blairs, and many others not connected with this history. In the beginning of the book this appears, written in a clerkly hand:
"Nobilitatis virtus non stemma" (virtue, not pedigree, is the mark of nobility).
Says this same old chronicle: "A son, who was named James, was born to Christopher Irvine, shortly after he fell at Flodden Field. He had two sons, Robert and John, who fled to Ireland in time of the English persecution, and settled at Glenoe. John afterwards removed to Cushandall and became a Presbyterian minister. John Irvine had two sons, one named Abraham, the other Robert, who went to America, and Robert Irvine Sr., had sons who went to America.
Robert Irvine built a house, in 1585, of red limestone, roofed in by slate. It stands just outside of the village of Glenoe. Passing down the one long street of that village, bordered on each side by tall stone houses, once the property of the Irvines and McDowells, one is struck by the good repair in which they remain, after with-standing the storms of centuries. The blacksmith-shop of Ephraim McDowell looks as if he had laid his hammer down but yesterday, and gone with his brothers-in-law, Alexander Irvine (not his brother-in-law then, as Ephraim was a mere lad, as was Alexander Irvine also), to Londonderry to fight for "The Faith" behind the weak walk, in time of the famous siege. Ephraim was fifty years old when he came to America.
I followed the narrow, rocky street until I came to the mills, once belonging to the Irvines, Wylies, and McDowells. The mill-wheels are still now, and moss and rust-covered, and the mills are open to the night-birds, and afford homes for tramps, who sometimes seek lodging in that picturesque spot.
The Ballyvallog furnished the water power that turned these wheels of the many mills, so sadly silent now. It is a narrow stream and runs across a beautiful brae, falling seventy-five feet into a well-shaped opening in solid rock, into a pool that no plum-met has ever fathomed. From this pool the water leaps over an immense stone that crosses the space at the bottom of the opening of this well, formed by nature, and just opposite the waterfall. The village of Glenoe is the most silent place I ever saw. If any business is carried on there, I couldnt discern it. It seems but a monument of the long ago.
(Excerpts from: "The Irvines and Their Kin" by L. Boyd)