The Knox Chronicles – Part III

{In this third installment of my multi-part series,
I offer additional clues in my quest to unravel
the Mystery of John Knox of that Ilk and,
ultimately, to uncover the secrets of my Scottish maternal lineage.}

Begin the Beguine

Every storyteller, whether a bard or barrister, is tasked with deciding where to start their story. The Knox family saga has multiple potential starting points, and all the ones discovered so far are presented here. Going back to the beginning of Rev. Rogers’s book, he dives into the fascinating history of the Knox family. According to Rogers, the surname Knox originates from the Celtic word Cnoc, meaning a small hill.

The Saga of the Family Knox begins in 1260 with a man named “Johanne de Cnok,” who suddenly appears on the scene and is designated as a witness in a charter in the Lands of Ingliston in Renfrewshire. Rogers then takes us on a journey through time, highlighting various men with the Knox surname from the late medieval period to the late 1500s. Each individual adds a unique layer to the Knox family story, and it’s genuinely fascinating to see how the family evolved over time.

The issue lies in the fact that there needs to be more evidence to establish a clear genealogical connection between the men bearing the Knox name, as depicted in different editions of Burke’s peerage.

As far as the rando Knoxes go, the last two examples given by Rogers are like the others he posted:

  1. In a valuation of Deer parish, made towards the close of the 17th century, John Knox of that ilk is named; he disposed of his lands to Keith of Whiteriggs, a cadet of the Earl of Marshal.
  2. In the poll book of Aberdeen, a John Knox appears in 1696 living in the vicinity of Knock’s lands; he is designated as “grassman” at the “Maynes of Knock” in the parish of Deer and is asserted at 16 shillings.

These would appear to be the same man; however, Rogers does not assert that. That is significant because Rev shows restraint that many family historians lack.

Pre-Adamite Knoxes

Jumping back to the descent from Adamus Knox, Rogers refers to that line as the “Renfrewshire family,” and while he and others begin the “official” history of the Knox family with Adamus, son Uchtred, at least one edition goes further back than other accounts of the family’s origin story.

Adamus , son of Uchtred, who m. Sybella, daughter of Walter, high steward of Scotland, ancestor of the royal House of Stuart, obtained from the High Steward temp. Alexander II, king of Scots, 1214 to 1249, grants the lands of Knox, Ranfurlie, Grieffe Castle, Craig End, and &c. in the barony and county of Renfrew. The descendants of Adamus assumed the surname Knox derived, according to the Patronymica Britannica page 182, from the land of Knocks or Knox. Knock is Gaelic for the round-topped hill. For generations, they were seated at the Castle of Ranfurlie, the ruins between Glasgow and Greenrock. Descent is claimed for Adamus as from Uchtred, the 2nd son of Walter, Earl of Dunbar, the son of Cospatrick, Earl of Northumberland, temp. William I (the Conqueror) and, afterward, Earl of Dunbar in Scotland, died in 1069. He was descended from Maldred, Prince of the Isles, and brother of Duncan I, king of the Scots, by Algitha, daughter of Ethelred II, king of England. Algitha, being the sister of the great Siward, Earl of Northumberland. These Earls were supposed to be descended from the Saxon kings of Northumbria, whose ancestor Octa, Octer, or Ucter, was the brother of Heingst and Horsa, who, about AD 450, were the first Saxon invaders and kings. Adamus had a son. (src: Goodman, H. S. (1905). The Knox Family: A Genealogical and Biographical Sketch of the Descendants of John Knox of Rowan County, North Carolina, and Other Knoxes. United States: Whittet & Shepperson.)

Whereas Rogers begins the Knox origin story with: It is around 1220 that Adamus, son of Uchtred, received from Walter, son of Alan, steward of Scotland, the lands of Knock, in the barony of Renfrew. “The family,” he adds, “got also from the great Stewart the lands of Ranfurlie and Grieff castle in feu and heritage. The son of Adam, son of Uchtred, was Johannes de Knox in the reign of King Alexander III.

Rogers then devotes several paragraphs to documenting members of the Knox family from the 13th through the 15th century; however, he does not present the descent as a pedigree. Rogers jumps to Uchtred Knox and Lady Janet Sempill and therefore skips the pedigree shown in Burke’s, which goes as follows:

Uchtred de Cnock, son of Johanne Del Cnok, begat Alanus del Knoc or Knockis (temp. Robert the Bruce); who begat Sir John de Knox, Lord of Ranfurly. He m. 1371 daughter of coheiress of Sir David Fleming. Their son, Robert de Knock, begat Uchtred de Knocks, who begat John de Knocks, who married the only child of Sir Robert Maxwell. They had two sons: 1) Uchtred of Craig Ends, who m. Agnes Lyle and 2) William (father of Reformer).

Therefore, Robert de Knock is the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) between me and the Reformer. Nevertheless, it is the details of how that connection is made that remain a mystery.

A Tangled Web

Roger’s account of the lineage from this point onwards becomes somewhat convoluted, but each detail serves as a valuable clue in unraveling what I have dubbed “The Mystery of John Knox of that Ilk.” At this juncture, it’s worth revisiting my objective to identify potential ancestors of John Knox, Esq. of Dromore. These are men and women who lived in 16th century Scotland and are most likely to be descendent of a man named Uchtred Knox and who married Agnes Lyle.

In Burke’s peerage, Uchtred, who married Agnes Lyle, had two sons, Uchter and George. Uchter begat Uchtred and William of Silvieland. It has been suggested by some that all Knoxes, particularly the Irish Knoxes, are descended from a member or members of the family of William of Silvieland. I am going to examine that notion, as well.

Rogers does provide some extra information about George, son of Uchtred Knox and Agnes Lyle. He presents John Knox of Ardmanwell, who appears as a witness to the Uchtred estate. Rogers names John as a son and heir of George Knox, a portioner of the lands of Knox. The year is 1510. Rogers also references the Protocol Register of the Diocese of Glasgow for 1510, in which John and Uchtred Knox are mentioned. For now, this is a dead end. For one thing, there is a significant gap in the timeline between the early 16th century and the late 18th century. Nevertheless, keep an eye on this John Knox, son of Uchter Knox.

A similar situation is found on Rogers page 11, where the topic of discussion is the family of Uchtred Knox, his spouse Janet, daughter of Lord Semple, and their two sons, Uchter, his successor, and William, progenitor of the House of Silvieland. Rogers states that when Uchter Knox, “portioner of Randfurlie,” died in 1553, his estate inventory was witnessed by “John Knox [portioner] of Ranfurlie.” Who is this John Knox? Is he Uchter’s brother? His son? Is this the same guy as above?

Legal jargon such as “portioner” and “of that Ilk” is commonly used in Scottish law. A portioner refers to someone who has inherited a portion of an estate, which may have been received directly or indirectly, and sometimes in the form of annual rent. In Scottish nobility, “Of that Ilk” denotes a clan chieftain in some Scottish clans. This term means “of the same [name]”; for instance, “John Knox, of that ilk” signifies “John Knox of the land of Knox.” According to Wikipedia, this shorthand is often used in Scottish culture.

So, who is John Knox mentioned above?

The descendants of Uchtred Knox are presented from pages 11 to 17 of Rogers’s Genealogical Memoir of John Knox. Following that, he takes up the branch from William of Silvieland. From what I have read in Rogers and in several pedigrees, including Burkes, William’s brother, Uchtred is a dead-end, and this is one of the reasons why I chose John, the 5th son of William Knox of Castlerea, the son of William Knox of Lifford, the son of John Knox of Silvieland, the son of William Knox of Silvieland, the son of William Knox, styled of Silvieland, second son of Uchtred Knox and Janet Semple as being the man described on page 51 as “John Knox, of the family Ranfurly.”

But as someone recently pointed out, the John Knox that I am looking for is said to be of the family Ranfurly – not of Castlerea, and that picking “John,” son of William of Castlerea, for whom no other information is available beyond his first name, was something I should have flagged as being nothing more than speculation.

On page 11, Rogers has the following paragraph: “Uchter Knox, next of Ranfurlie, married a daughter of Cunningham of Craigends, by whom he had Uchter, who succeeded him, and Andrew.”

The following paragraph begins: “Andrew Knox, second son of John Knox of Ranfurlie, and grand uncle of Uchter, the last laird of this family, studied at the University of Glasgow…

It may seem like an abrupt shift, but Rogers is discussing a different Andrew Knox, who is actually Uchter’s uncle, and suggests that neither Uchter nor his sons will produce any heirs to carry on the Knox name. However, I cannot confirm the veracity of this claim.

Rogers then provides a brief biography of Andrew Knox, Bishop of Raphoe, brief as in four pages. According to Crawford’s account, in 1726, Andrew had three sons, but the male line of descent from Bishop Andrew Knox had allegedly died out by that time. Nonetheless, I am still uncertain about the accuracy of this assertion.

Next, I would like to share two anecdotes from the annals of Knox lore. Each of these tales offers a glimpse into a potential explanation for the obscurity surrounding the origin story of the man for whom I have dubbed Page 51 John Knox – he who acquired land in Northern Ireland in the early seventeenth century. One theory posits that the upheaval wrought by war, economic instability, and the perceived wrath of an angered deity may have led to the erasure of records about John Knox’s father and his forebears. The second possibility is that the lingering shame of some forgotten transgression may have clouded the family’s collective memory. It is worth noting, however, that while these stories offer intriguing hypotheses, the “Case of the Mysterious John Knox of that Ilk” remains unresolved.

On page 33, Rogers tells us that William Knox of the Silvieland branch “by Mr Crawford erroneously described as a son of Marcus Knox of Glasgow” proceeded to Ireland, and engaged in Merchandize and became “opulent” in Dublin. There are two paths here to follow the man, who elsewhere is referred to as William Knox of Lifford, or his supposed father, Marcus Knox of Glasgow. Rather than bore you with William’s story, let us have a look at Marcus.

The Marcus Knox Mystery

AI (ChatCPT) generated the following using my notes on the topic of Marcus Knox: I disagree with their questioning of the veracity of the bell’s inscription. I don’t think anyone would made that up.

Gather around, folks, for I have a mysterious tale to tell you! This is the story of Marcus Knox, a wealthy and influential man from Glasgow, Scotland, who left behind a trail of controversy and intrigue.

It all started with the genealogy of the Knox family. According to page 17 of a book by Rogers, William Knox the second of Sutherland married Margaret, daughter of Maxwell, and had two sons. The first one, John Knox of Silvieland, was the supposed successor, but the second son, Marcus, also had his fair share of drama. On page 18, Rogers tells us that Marcus Knox married two wealthy women, Isabel, daughter of Archibald Lyon, and Margaret Greenless, who was also from a family of substance in Glasgow. Some historians argue that he was not initially married to Isabel, but there is a will that supports him having a son named William. So, he had some children by his second wife and one child by his first wife.

The controversy surrounding Marcus Knox doesn’t end there. He is also known for gifting a great bell to the cathedral in 1594. However, the original bell cracked and had to be recast in 1789. It was noted that the donor’s name, Marcus Knox, was inscribed upon it. One book, “Glasghu Facies” by M’Ure, describes Marcus Knox as a “Merchant-Burgess of credit and renown,” and is believed to have married Isabel Lyon and “became progenitor of all the Knoxes in the North of Ireland.”

However, there is unmistakable evidence from the title deeds of this property that Marcus had a wife designated Margaret Greenleas who was alive from 1593 till 1603 and that Marcus, her husband, was alive in 1610. They acquired two properties in Salt Market during that time, one of which was burdened with 10 merks annually which they later redeemed. They had two sons, William and Thomas. Thomas had a son named John, who was alive in 1663 to 1664.

There is also a 19th-century history of the Presbyterian Church that refers to the reformer as being from the House of Ranfurly in Renfrewshire. The author says that a title of British peerage is now borne by a family of Knox of Dungannon in the county of Tyrone who are “descended from Marcus Knox of the family of Seilbiland and of Ranfurly, a zealous merchant in Glasgow at the period of the Reformation and the donor of the great bell in the high church which still bears his name.” The part about the family in the county of Tyrone refers a title of British peerage – the Earl of Ranfurly. The title, created in1832, is a relatively late creation date for a title of Irish peerage.

The controversy surrounding the bell was talked about for a long time. It was still being discussed as late as 1927. An article that appeared in Scott’s Magazine in 1927 states that at one time, there were two bells that hung in the tower of this cathedral. Records from 1595 record a bell arriving at the cathedral, but they make no mention of Marcus Knox. Apparently, the bell was cracked around 1790 and needed to be recast. The register says that the work was done in Holland, and the bell was presented to the city by Marcus Knox. The author argues that if Marcus Knox had made such a munificent gift to the church as a bell, we can assume that this fact would have been entered either in the records of the city or the Kirk. The example of there being the record of some other man gifting the city 600 merks for a bell to be hung in another church somehow supports this argument.

The inscription added to bell in 1790 begins with “In the year of grace 1594, Marcus Knox, a merchant of Glasgow zealous for the interest of the reformed religion caused me [the bell] to be fabricated in Holland for the use of his fellow citizens of Glasgow and placed me with solemnity in the tower of the cathedral.”

One explanation is given is that the bell was ordered by the city in 1594 and was paid for by city taxes. At that time Marcus Knox was the town treasurer and that there was a balance due to the bell maker and that balance was “probably paid by Marcus Knox.” It then goes on to say the statement that the bell was gifted by Marcus Knox though appearing in some histories of Glasgow and repeated in the inscription seems to have little basis in fact. Another explanation is that Marcus Knox may have been a benefactor who contributed to the cost of the bell, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

Since the Marcus Knox bell no longer exists, some have speculated that the inscription was fabricated. Without further historical evidence, it is difficult to determine the true story behind Marcus Knox and the Glasgow Cathedral bell. However, the mystery surrounding its origins only adds to the intrigue and fascination of this historic artifact and the origin of the Irish Knoxes.

(Next time on the Knox Chronicles – The Mystery of the Murdered Uncle)


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