The Scottish nation, or, The surnames, families,
literature, honours, and biographical history of the people of Scotland
WEMYSS, a surname derived from the Gaelic word Uomh, a cave, and the name of a parish in Fifeshire, on the shore of the Forth, from the number of caves in the rocks there.
WEMYSS, Earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1633, on Sir John Wemyss, Lord Wemyss of Elcho, descended from a family of the origin of which there are more accounts than one. All agree, however, as to their being derived from the family of Macduff, maormor of Fife, in the reign of Malcolm Canmore. The family of Wemyss, therefore, is, it is believed, the only ancient family in the lowlands having a really Celtic origin, and one of the few great families in Scotland which, through the male line, can claim kindred with Celtic blood. The lands now forming the parish of Wemyss are said to have been part of the estate of Macduff, Shakspere's well-known thane of Fife.
According to Sibbald, Gillimichael, the third in descent from Macduff, had a second son named Hugo, who obtained the lands from his father, with lands in Lochoreshire, and in the parish of Kennoway, and the patronage of the church of Markinch.
He is mentioned in the charlularv of Dunfermline, as Hugo, the son of Gillimichael, during the reign of Malcolm IV.
According to a manuscript account of the family in the possession of the earl of Wemyss, the first of his house is said to have been Michael Wemyss, second son of Duncan, fifth earl of Fife, who died in 1165, but Sibbald's account seems sanctioned by ancient charters.
Hugo, the son of Hugo, the son of Gillimichael, confirmed to the canons of St. Andrews, the church of Marchinch with a toft and the teinds.
John, his son, designed in charters John of Methkil, miles, assumed the name of, or was styled, Ian mhor nan Uamh, or great John of the cave, in the reign of Alexander II. His son, Michael de Wemyss, was the father of Sir John de Wemyss, mentioned by Fordun as having had a dream of the victory obtained by the Scots over the Norwegians at Largs in 1263.
In 1290, Sir Michael de Wemyss, the son of Sir John, with his brother Sir David, according to Wynton and Fordun, were sent with the great Sir Michael Scott of alwearie, to Norway, to bring to Scotland the young Queen Margaret, the grand-daughter of Alexander III. Among other reliques of the olden time [reserved in the castle of Wemyss, the residence of the family, is a silver bowl, said to have been presented to Sir Michael Wemyss by Eric, King of Norway, on this occasion. Sir Michael de Wemyss was present when Baliol did homage to Edward I. in 1292, and in 1296 he swore fealty to Edward I. In 1315 he witnessed the act of settlement of the Scottish crown by Robert the Bruce at Ayr.
His son, Sir David de Wemyss, was one of the patriotic nobles who subscribed the famous letter to the Pope in 1520, asserting the independence of Scotland; and his son. Sir Michael, confirmed all the grants of his predecessors to the churches of St. Andrews and Soltray. The latter had three sons, Sir David, his heir; Sir John, who obtained from his father the lands of Rires, and part of Lochoreshire, and from Sir Alexander Abernethy a grant of the barony of Kincaldnun ; and Sir Michael. Sir John, the second son, died in 1358, leaving a son, Sir David Wemyss, of Rires and Kincaldrum, who died before 1373.
The son of the latter. Sir John Wemyss of Rires and Kincaldrum, in virtue of a settlement by his uncle, Sir David de Wemyss, sheriff of Fife, succeeded to the family estate in 1375. This Sir David Wemyss, the elder son of Sir Michael, had a son. Sir David Wemyss, who was one of the guarantees for the release of David II., and this baron's son, also named Sir David, was one of the hostages for that monarch's ransom. The latter left a daughter, Margaret, married to Sir Patrick de Inchmartine, and by him had a daughter, Isabel de Inchmartine, heiress of that barony. This lass married Sir Alan Erskine, and had two daughters, his co-heiresses, Margaret, wife of Sir John Glen, and Isabel, married to Sir John Wemyss of Rires and Kincaldrum, the heir male of the family.
NOTE: Sibbald is: