Origins of the Clan

The name Hannay may have originally been spelt Ahannay, possibaly deriving from the Gaelic word ‘O’Hannaidh’ or ‘Ap Shenaeigh’. The family can betraced back to Galloway in South-West Scotland. The name ‘Gillbert de Hannethe’ appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296, submitting to King Edward I of England. The Hannay’s lands of Sorbie in Wigtownshire were reportedly acquired by the same Gillbert de Hannethe.

Unlike many Scottish nobles and clans the Clan Hannay did not support Robert the Bruce but instead supported John Balliol because he was more local to them through his descent from the Celtic Princess of Galloway.

15th & 16th Centuries

In 1488 the Clan Hannay fought at the Battle of Sauchieburn. Later in 1513 the Clan Hannay fought at the Battle of Flodden Field which was part of the Anglo-Scottish Wars.

In 1532 Patrick Hannay was acquitted of the murder of Patrick McClellen as he had killed him in self defense.

James Hannay, the Master Gunner in the reign of James V led the clan at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542 and the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 which were part of the Anglo-Scottish Wars. The family began to spread and a tower built at Sorbie in 1550 which commanded views their ever increasing territory.

17th Century

Patrick Hannay had a distinguished military career and was patroned by Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James VI and sister of Charles I. After the death of Queen Anne who was the wife of James VI in 1619 Patrick Hannay composed two eulogies and in return had many published on his own death, one of which said: ‘Go on in virtue, aftertimes will tell, none but Hannay could have done so well’.

Sir Patrick (3rd) Privy Councillor of Ireland, and Master of the Chancellery in Ireland, died at sea in 1625.

Possibly the best known Hannay was James Hannay, the Dean of St Giles’ in Edinburgh who had the claim to fame of being the target of Jenny Geddes‘ stool. In an infamous incident in 1637 the Dean had began to read the new liturgy when with a cry of “Thou false thief, dost thou say Mass at my lug?” was heard and a stool came flying from the congregation, thrown by an incensed Jenny Geddes. The incident began a full scale riot which took the town guard to control. Sir Robert Hannay of Mochrum was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia In 1630, and from the Sorbie roots the Hannays of Grennan, Knock, Garrie and Kingsmuir also evolved.

Clan Conflicts

The fortunes of the original Hannays of Sorbie were seriously dented in the seventeenth century when a long running feud with the powerful Clan Murray of Broughton resulted in the Hannays being outlawed. The clan has also had previous feuds with the Clan Kennedy and Clan Dunbar. After the feud with the Clan Murray the famous tower at Sorbie fell into disrepair and was lost along with the neighbouring lands around 1640. Many Hannays moved to Ireland, in particular Ulster and the name can still be found there and in many surrounding counties, particularly in the form “Hanna”.

Another form of the name, “Hannah”, is particularly common amongst the descendants of those that remained in Scotland.

Another variation of Hannay is “Hanney”. In Oxforshire, England, there are two villages called ‘East Hanney’ and ‘West Hanney’.

Yet another version of Hannay is “Hanner”. Although less common, Hanner, like Hanna, is found amongst the decendants of those who moved to Ireland.

Clan Chief

Sir Samuel Hannay, who had served within the Habsburg Empire. He returned to Scotland having amassed a considerable wealth and built a great mansion house which was said to be the inspiration for Sir Walter Scottís novel, Guy Mannering. Sir Samuel’s baronetcy became dormant on his death in 1841 and the estates passed to his sister, Mary, then further to her nephew, William Rainsford Hannay, on her death in 1850. From this direct line comes the present chief Hannay of Kirkdale and of that Ilk.

One branch of the family begun by a younger son of the Sorbie Hannays, Alexander Hannay took lands at Kirkdale, by Kirkcudbright. The line established by his son John Hannay of Kirkdale is now recognised as the chiefly one. The clan has not forgotten it’s roots as in 1965 the old tower was handed over to a clan trust for its preservation. In 2006 it was placed in the care of Historic Scotland.

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