Find Your Scottish Clan!
Find Your Scottish Clan!
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CREST: A cock, Proper.
MOTTO: Vigilance
TRANSLATION: With vigilance
PLANT: Three oak sprigs, acorned.
ORIGIN OF NAME: de le Ange or l'Ange, Norman


Though many sources have assumed that the name "Laing" is synonymous with the descriptive Old English name "Lang" meaning a long or tall fellow, this is not correct. Laing is one of a number of names derived from de le Ange or l'Ange, which dates back to the time of the Norman Conquest. Other surnames derived from de l'Ange are Delange, Lange, Lainge, Loinge, Leng, Lenge, Langz, Lengze, and Lunge. Throughout much of Scottish history, Laing, Layng, Lang, and Lange have been used interchangeably.
The Laings first entered Scottish history as a border clan. Black lists Thomas Laing as promising that Dumfries would pay part of the ransom for the return of David II from England in 1357. In A History of the Noble Families of Scotland is stated that On 28 March 1446 Andrew Ker had a charter by Alexander Laynge of Caverton, granting to him and his heirs his husband land in the town and territory of Cessford, which is commonly called Langisland (? Laingsland). John Layng [died 11 Jan 1483], the Rector of Newlands, rose to become Bishop of Glasgow and Treasurer to James III between 1473 and 1474.
By the 1500's, the Laings were already involved in Highland intrigue. In the MSS of Col. James Rattray of Craighall, Historical MSS Commission IVth Report 1874; per N.G. Shippobotham may be found: "John, 3rd Earl of Athol, who succeeded his father in the year 1513, was married to *Grizel Rattray, [grand] daughter of Sir John Rattray of that Ilk. [She was the elder of the two daughters of John, younger of Rattray, who died during his father"s lifetime]. Strife subsisted during part of the 16th century between the younger sons of Sir John and the Earl arising out of family arrangements. Silvester Rattray, the third son, was desirous of being served heir to his father and two brothers but found that it could not be carried through at the county town of Perth, because the unfriendly interest of the Earl of Athol was so strong. He, therefore, obtained from the King a commission to have the service completed at Dundee, on the narrative that for the space of twelve years he had been hindered in getting himself served heir to his father's lands by the Earl of Athol, who had sent Walter Leslie, John Stewart alias John of Lorn, Thomas Laing, David Stewart and others, who slew his brother Patrick Rattray in the chapel of his house in Kynballoch, and he was informed that the earl was meditating a similar fate to himself. The commission under the Great Seal is dated 17 Oct 1533. The service accordingly took place under this special commission at Dundee, as appears by an instrument thereon, dated 22 Oct 1533."
*Grizel was the granddaughter to Sir John. Atholl tried to claim Rattray because she was coheir to her father who died young without male heirs. The claims were then between her uncles and her husband. The latter incidentally tried to swindle his sister-in-law out of her purported half-share of Rattray.

James Laing, born Auchterless, Aberdeenshire 1502, died 1594 and was buried in the chapel of the Sorbonn, was a Professor of Theology at the University of Paris. Sir Neill/Nigel Layng (1520 - died 1 July 1586), Writer of the Signet before 1544, Keeper of the Signet, a knight, is next mentioned in historic records. He is followed shortly afterwards by John Layng, Writer of the Signet (died 14 Feb 1612), who was Deputy Secretary (16 Dec 1594) and Keeper of the Signet 1583-1609, and was buried in Greyfriars churchyard. Both Nigel and John were married to Miss Dennistoun. Nigel was married to Elizabeth and John to Rebecca. It seems likely that they were either father and son, or brothers.
The Laings remained involved in the politics of the church for the name is also found frequently in the protocol books of the Diocese of Glasgow in the 16th century.  Bishops of the time were powerful; controlling armies of their own and entering the priesthood was frequently an option for a later-born son.
By this time the Laings had moved from the borders into the Lothians and Fife.  John Layng, the keeper of the signet, built a castle in East Lothian (Redhouse) shortly before 1600, but he died without male heirs.  The castle passed into the hands of the Hamiltons. The estate of Redhouse remained within this family until 1746, when the last of them, George Hamilton of Redhouse, was attainted and executed for engaging in the Jacobite rebellion. No member of the Hamilton family changed the name to maintain the line of Laing. This being the case, the representation of the clan passed to the collateral line of Laing located in Auchtermuchty.
Orkney did not pass into the hands of Scotland from the Danish crown until 1468.  A hundred years later, most inhabitants still spoke Norn, a variant of the Norse language.  In 1564, Mary Queen of Scots gifted the Royal Estates in Orkney and Shetland to one Robert Stewart - her half-brother and natural son of James V.  In 1593 the iron grip of the Stewart earls of Orkney was handed from Earl Robert to his second son, 28-year-old Patrick Stewart.  Like his father before him Patrick's rule over Orkney was tyrannous, earning him the nickname "Black Patie".  At about the same time, the rule of Athol passed from Stewart hands to the Murrays.  With a need to collect taxes from his subjects and still faced with a language barrier on the many islands of Orkney, Patrick Stewart invited many of the families that had served the Stewarts well if not bloodily in Athol to serve as administrators in Orkney.  The early 17th century found many Laings moving to Orkney where they became a prominent family.

During the period of 1689 to 1746, the Laings, ever involved in Church politics and staunch supporters of the Stewarts, found themselves embroiled in the Jacobite rebellions.  Active on the field in the first two rebellions and then politically in the third, some of the family found it healthier to sell what they could and move to the colonies.  Of the men that fought on the side of Prince Charles at the battle of Culloden, only a few survived the slaughter by the English forces.  Thomas Laing from Aberdeen, of Roy Stuart's Regiment, was among the 88 Jacobite survivors that were placed aboard the "Guildart" and shipped to the American Colonies in exile. A relative, John Laing of Old Montrose, a member of Olglevy's regiment, was not so fortunate. He is listed as having fallen in battle on the fields of Culloden.  James Laing, who had openly supported the rebellion with numbers of others, also moved to the American colonies.  According to family tales, he was smuggled over by the Gordons who were outwardly loyal to the Crown.  The line of the head of the family remained in the Howe of Fife until 1820 at which time the representer of that branch moved to South Africa where it yet endures.
Of the Orkney family of Laings of Strynzie, was Malcolm Laing (1762-1818), a lawyer and historian.  Admitted to the Scottish Bar in 1785, he published a history of Scotland in 1800, and the poems of the Celtic bard, Ossian, with notes and illustrations in 1805. His brother Gilbert assumed through inheritance the titles and lands of the Measons and became Gilbert Laing Meason.  Another brother, John, assumed through inheritance the titles and lands of the Weirs to become John Laing Weir.  Yet another brother, Samuel, remained in Orkney to become Laing of Papdale.
Major Alexander Gordon Laing (1793-1826) was a well-known 19th century African explorer.  He is best remembered for penetrating to the almost legendary city of Timbuktu in 1826.  Arriving in West Africa in December of 1825 he shortly set off into the desert in January 1826.   He finally arrived in Timbuktu on 18 August, having survived the privations of the desert and attacks by Tuareg tribesmen. He remained for about a month but on his return journey was murdered 26 September 1826 by his guides.
David Laing, LL.D. (1793-1878), the renowned Scottish Antiquary and compiler of Calendar of the Laing Charters, was the 2nd son of William Laing (1764-1832), a reputable Edinburgh bookseller.
The Reverend Cosmo Gordon Lang of Scottish ancestry, was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1928 to 1942.  He officiated at the coronation of George VI and was raised to the peerage as Baron Lang of Lambeth in 1942.


Many questions arise when discussing family relationships of the Laing and Lang families of Scotland.  According to one popular definition, "A sept is a family which can be linked to a clan. Either because they sought protection under that name or the family name is derived from the clan name."  Historical research has uncovered no documented proof for such a relationship by the Laing clan or family to any other.
Another more reliable definition comes from an article in the book "A List of Clans and Septs of Scottish Highlands of Scotland", by Frank Adams and Innis of Learney. According to this reference, the word Clan literally means children or family in Gaelic and traditionally (in the ancient sense) referred to only the blood relatives of the chief.  Since the chiefs line may be traced back (as ours can) to a beginning with a single family of power some time shortly after the turning of the first millennium, the clan may include all of a given surname.

Perhaps the most correct modern definition of a sept has been given by Dr. George Black in his 1946 "The Surnames Of Scotland".  Here a sept is defined simply as a subdivision of a clan.  This is true if over simplified for it treats as irrelevant the reasons that one family may be considered as a sept of another.  These may include families that were on land that was acquired by another family, relationships due to marriage, inheritance, or by charter of one family head granting to another unrelated family head land for his own use.

In accordance with customs too, often one family would inherit the lands and estates of another when that one had no heirs or a daughter only that married.  When this occurred, the name changed to guarantee that the name associated with the estate would not die out.  In this manner Laings became Weirs, Measons, and Oldhams.  By marriage and interdependent unions and agreements, relationships are also acknowledged with the Hamiltons.  Older relationships existed with the Erskines, the Stewarts, and the Kerrs.

Laing history goes back centuries and while the family was not always prominent in Scotland, it persisted.  We recognize as relatives the following families: Laing, Lang, Layng, Laying, Laing-Meason, MacLaing, Delange, Meason, Mayson, Mason, Weir, Ware, Weyr, Wire, Yair, Yare, Oldham, Odum, Odom. These are welcome as close kinsmen and of Laing blood if not name as documentation on our history page will indicate. Come join us for our society is yours as well.
We also recognize the following families and clans who, though they may have their own clan societies, are welcomed at our tents as our kinsmen: Kerr, Erskine, Stewart, Gordon, Leslie, MacDonald of the Isles, Graham, Muir, and Hamilton.

From the Clan Laing web page. See link below