SCT-FIFE-L ArchivesArchiver > SCT-FIFE > 1999-06 > 0929378416
From: Peter Dishart <>
Subject: Gourlays in Ceres
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 12:40:16 -0400
At this stage, we're just expressing an interest in your researches. Our
interest in the Gourlays is several generations earlier than you have so
far reached. When you've got that far back, we may well be able to help
put some things together with you.
So far we have 7 marriages between Disharts from Ceres and St Andrews and
Gourlays between 1655 and about 1715 and some Gourlays turn up as
witnesses to baptisms. Please let us know if you get back a bit earlier in
If you are interested in searching out the really old Gourlays, then we
have a contact in Virginia, USA, who has done some work on this. You must
let me know if you want me to put her in touch with you. I am attaching
below what I offered her about the Gourlays who went from France to
Scotland in the 12th Century.
I read a book called the History of St Andrews (Fife) which said that in
the 19th Century the fisher folk lived in the crowded houses near the
Cathedral and the shore in St Andrews, and that many of them were Gourlays.
Of the Gourlays we've encountered, they all hailed from St Andrews and
This is the information I sent to the lady in Virginia
"Now, as far as a link between the Gourlays and the Disharts go, we have
records from the IGI and Fife Old Parish Records of no less than 7
marriages between the 2 families between 1630 and 1720. Sadly, though, we
can find out very little about them, and while we have found
Dishart/Gourlay marriages, we haven't tied them into Peter's Dishart tree
yet. If we can, it might take us back another century. Basically, what we
are looking for is someone who has traced back from modern times to the
Gourlays then. We have only found one person (in the Tay Valley Family
History Society) and her trace petered out in the 19th century.
All of the Gourlays who intermarried with the Disharts came from St Andrews
(the parish was called St Andrews and St Leonards) or from Leuchars, which
is just to the north of St Andrews. There are still some Gourlays living
in Fife, but the only one we've managed to contact said his family came
from Liverpool, England!
There was a lot of variation in the spelling of the surname. We haven't
met GURLEY, but we have seen GOWRLY, GOURLEY, GOURLY, as well as GOURLAY.
Now it seems as if the name latterly has concentrated on GOURLAY.
We live in Derby, in the middle of England, but we went to visit Fife and
look at the records in June 1998. Our Disharts ranged from St Andrews,
which is on the east coast of Fife, to CERES. We visited Ceres, looking
for Dishart graves without success. The parish church where my husband
Peter's oldest definite ancestor married in Ceres in 1725 has been
demolished, and a new one built on the same site in the 1800s. This meant
that the old graveyard was still there, and some of the gravestones
predated the church. While we were there we photographed an ornate old
tomb of the Gourlays:
The inscription reads:
Ingiltramus De Gourlay
came from England with
about the year 1174
and was the Progenitor of
all the Gourlays in Scotland
We don't know, but we would guess that Ingiltramus is a sort of dog-Latin
for William. The modern French, of course, is Guillaume.
Now, it is important to take this inscription with a pinch or so of salt.
The inscription on the memorial (which is actually the side of a table
tomb) looks 18th century. And you do find a fair bit of spinning of legend
and hearsay into firm fact. (Most people blame Sir Walter Scott for this,
but this example predates him by a few decades).
However, you may like to have the inscription on top of the table tomb,
which should help to date it firmly.
" Oliver Gourlay Esq of Craigrothie, died 10 October 1819 aged 80
Janet Fleming, his spouse, died 8 August1827 aged 73"
All their children pre-deceased the couple, except for Margaret, born 1789
d 1852 and Thomas b 1794 d 1881.
At the end there is a reference to a Robt Fleming Gourlay, but the writing
is indecipherable. The local stone is sandstone, and so is weathering
badly, though this one was much clearer than most. Oliver was obviously a
significant landowner, as the title Esq was not used lightly in those days.
Craigrothie is about 1.5 miles WSW of Ceres. and if you find a map of Fife
it is south of Cupar, now the county town.
Next, the reference to William the Lion coming over from France. We have
very little information about the period, but there is certainly
opportunity for confusion here. If Ingiltramus came from England with
Prince William, then this may be Prince William, the eldest son of King
Henry II of England and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Note that in 1174
William the Lion was King of Scotland, not a prince. Forgive me if you
already know all this history, but I'll tell you what we've got anyway.
Our book says
"In 1173-74 there was rebellion on both sides of the channel (that is the
English Channel between England and France) in which Henry's wife and sons,
William the Lion of Scotland and a number of barons were implicated."
Our book, "A history of the Scottish People" by T C Smout indicates that
William the Lion was the King of Scotland (1165 -1214). He succeeded his
elder brother King Malcolm IV of Scotland, and was therefore of the same
Norman dynasty. Both were born of a Scottish lineage and based in Scotland
and stretching back to King Malcolm Canmore in the year 1100. So both
William the Lion of Scotland and Henry II of England were Norman kings and
both linked by marriage with the nobility of France. Indeed, the English
and Scottish kings after William the Conqueror (1066) were Normans and
encouraged Norman-French settlement in both England and Scotland. This
supports the theory that the De Gourlays came from France. However, I
cannot make out why William the Lion is said to have come over from France.
Perhaps you can fathom it out!
We hope that all this helps a bit. "
I hope that this hasn't told you more than you want to know about
Gourlays! Please do let us know if you want us to put my US contacts in
touch with you. If you progress back a bit earlier, and you would like to
have our bits and pieces, I'll look them out for you. Best of luck!
I have no doubt that many contributors to the Fife List know vastly more
Scottish History than I do, and where I have my facts wrong, I will be very
pleased to be corrected. Thanks.