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Origin of Livingstone

In 1016, Canute, the King of Denmark, won a victory at Ashingdon in Essex over the English King, Edmund Ironside, and took over England. Edmund's son, Edward Atheling, formerly heir apparent to the English crown, sook refuge in Hungary. There Edward married Agatha, a German princess. Together, their first child was Margaret, followed by Christina and Edgar who later became the last Anglo-Saxon King of England following the defeat of King Harold in 1066. In 1042, Edward, later known as the Confessor, half brother of Edmund, vanquished the Danes to become King of England.

To get the crown, Edward had to accept one of Canute's cronies, Earl Godwin, who attempted to gain control of the crown by offering his daughter, Edgitha as a bride. Since Earl Godwin practically ran England before, Edward accepted. Edward realised the plot and exacted revenge by not sleeping with Edgitha to leave her childless and to keep the Godwins from the crown. Childless, Edward the Confessor invited his nephew, Edward Atheling and his family back to England as heir to the English crown. It was not to be as Edward Atheling died before the Confessor.

Accompanying Margaret to the court of King Edward the confessor was one Baron de Leving. Baron de Leving's ancestry is obscure, so we do not know if he was a Saxon or Hungarian nobleman. He had a son named Leving, who in turn had a son named Leving. As a refugee following Hastings in 1066, Margaret fled to Scotland and married its King. Perhaps this is what drew the young Leving to visit and eventually settle in Scotland, during the reign of King Edgar of Scotland (1097-1107). Leving chose the West Lothian district in the lowlands of Scotland, southwest of Edinburgh. So close to Edinburgh, that he donated the church of his manor to the newly founded Abbey of Holyrood in 1128. He gave his name to the land he settled on. Given his name, Leving, by now, you should realise how the first part of Livingstone came about. To understand the second stone part, requires a history lesson. You will find that it has nothing to do with stone, which needs to be broken down into two components.

If you could go back in time and visit Leving, you would first be struck with the observation that people were generally about as tall as they are today. It was not until the crowded and unsanitary conditions of later centuries that people became shorter than they are today. The second thing you would notice is that although Leving and yourself are both speaking English (you modern English and he a form of Old English which was just beginning to evolve into Middle English), you would have a great deal of trouble understanding each other.

Your word 'town' comes down to us from the old English word 'tun' that Leving uses. To Leving, a tun is an enclosed area of land that may encompass the Lord's manor house or a collection of houses, but not necessarily encircling at least 2,000 people as it does today. Tun was pronounced like the modern word for 2,000 pounds. Moreover, towns with walls around them for protection became unnecessary with state armed forces, artillary, sheriffs and more recently, police. What you both could agree on, however, was that both town and tun can be considered to occupy land with houses and people on it. An occupant of the area would welcome you to Leving's tun. Say 'Leving's tun' quickly and repeatidly as the long ago inhabitants would and hear what happens. Try it. The 3 components are Leving, the possessive 's, and tun.

One of Leving's sons was Thurston who had a son William, who is named in a charter of King William the Lion of Scotland as "of Livingstone". People living in the area took the name of where they were living as their surname. This simple explanation suffices to explain the origin of all Livingstones, until a complication in the sixteenth century.

An unrelated clan, far from lowland West Lothian, lived in the highlands on the tiny island of of Lismore, surrounded by Loch Linne. The name of this clan evolved over time from MacDunsleeve to MacOnlea to MacLea. Unlike the original Livingstones, these people were Celtic and all those clan names translate from Gaelic to 'son of the physician'. As with so many surnames, they are based on what the father of the originator did for a living. In the 1600's, for an unrecorded reason, this clan began to take the name Livingstone.

The unknown reason for the highlanders taking the name Livingstone has not prevented speculation. The first record of the Livingstone name in the highlands was in 1641 when the lowlander, Sir James Livingston of Skirling, was granted a 19 year lease of the lands and teinds of the bishoprics of Argyll and the Isles. In 1647, three McOnlea's supported the King against the Covenanters. The King, and the McOnlea's, lost the battle of Dunavertie. The McOnlea's were a small, poor and weak group. It is surmised that they took the name of Livingstone, after the recent arrival, because it was neutral and would not offend the victors. But perhaps what completed the slow process of the name change was to cover up their support for the rebellion of 1745.

Since the Oxford dictionary had not happened yet, there was no standardised spelling. People generally spelled whatever way seemed to make sense based on what they heard others say who often could not read nor write. Moreover, education tended to be less in the highlands. Consequently, the following surnames all derive from the same highland root: "Levingston", "Liviston", "Living" and "Leving". Spelling being so chaotic, is not a definitive test, but the tendency was the lowlanders spelled Livingston without the e on the end, whereas the highlanders added the e at the end. Those who moved to the Australia or the U.S. tended to drop the e.

Any Livingstone tartan originates solely with the highland Livingstones. The clan badge with the moto "Si Je Puis", meaning "If I Can", originates with the lowlanders. Dr. David Livingstone, the African explorer, was a member of the highlander group. Many lowlanders wanting to seem important, erroneously claimed kinship with David, who made no attempt to correct them, perhaps enjoying the noteriety.

Origin of the Highlanders Before changing their name to Livingstone

The Highland Livingstones are Scots, meaning they came from Ireland after the Romans left Scotland early in the 5th century. They came with the McDonalds to the Scottish district of Cowal in Argyleshire. About 1050, Anrothan, the first known individual of this group married the heiress of Cowal and Knapdale, a princess of the royal house of Argyll in the southeast highlands. The Maclay or Macleay group was formed from the descendants of Dunsleeve who lived about 1300, the son of Aedh Alain. Most agree that the name is derived from the Gaelic word for physician or surgeon, 'Leigh'. The Mac means 'son of', so it translates to son of the physician. McLea of Linsaig in the parish of Kininan was likely an early chief in Cowal.

Then some Normans arrived to become the Stuart or Stewarts of Appin. Evidently, most of the MacOnlea's were singularly unimpressed with the new neighbours and moved to the north east highlands to Contin, just west of Inverness. Not all left, which is why some wear the Stewart of Appin tartan and some do not.

St. Moulag was a Northern Irish Pict from Bangor, born about 520 or 530 of the clan Dalaraidhe. In 562 or 563 he came to Lismore, Scotland with St. Columba to found a Christian teaching centre. He died June 25, 592 which is now St. Moulag day. His staff, a 2 foot, 9 inch peice of blackthorn was originally encased in copper case. It is 'Bacchuil Mor, Gaelic for 'the great staff'. The MacOnea's of Lismore, now Livingstones, were entrusted to keep the staff, which survives today in splendid condition. Because of this service, they are given the title, 'Barons of Bacchuil'.