Clan Little Society
A Clan Society is the modern day counterpart of a Scottish Clan. It is a social organization of individuals who share an interest in the history and heritage of a particular surname.
Our most cherished story comes from the minstrel who called himself "Blind Hary" (a common nickname for the devil, at the time). He wrote epic poems that were like long ballads, the most famous of which was about William "Braveheart" Wallace's exploits. In that poem, he introduced a nephew named Eduuard Littil who, along with Tom Halliday, fought side-by-side with Wallace in the battles of 1296 and 1297.
The minstrel was well known for making up details of day to day life to dramatize events of oral history. He had very little information about these events when he was writing in the late 1470s, about 170 years after William Wallace had been hanged, drawn, and quartered in England during August of 1305. No historian would rely on the stories in Blind Hary's work and there is there is no mention of an Eduuard Little in any other source (including census records, marriage notices, charters or contracts of any kind) until after this poem, when many refer to it as their authority. His existence is in some doubt and certainly any speculation about his ancestry is nothing but fantasy.
On the other hand, Eduuard's involvement was mentioned in three separate parts of the poem, his exploits were described in some detail, and there are some Hallidays in the graveyards where we find Littles buried today. Either way, we delight in telling this story over and over and even claiming him as the founder of our clan.
There is no support for the idea that the Littles of Meikledale were in any way related to him. As in any lightly-documented family, we enjoy romantic speculation about being descendants of illegimate offspring of William the Conqueror, Ingiald of Scandinavian royalty, and so on.
We have found early examples of the diminutive surname, such as Alan Little who received a grant of forest land on the south side of the river Ayr from the first Walter the Steward before 1177. After 1204, this tract of land was granted by the second Walter the Steward to the monks of Melrose, on Alan's conversion to the monastic life. Was this person related to the Littles of Meikledale, near Langholm?
Hugo Parvus, clericus regis, served in Eskdale in the time of William the Lion 1165-1214. Was this the same Hugo Parvus who served as burgess of Dundee in 1202? Dundee is about 150 miles away from Eskdale. Was he related to one R. Parvus, a chaplain who witnessed a charter in favor of the Hospital of Soltre sometime between 1214-1240? The word parvus does indeed mean little or small in Latin.
In 1313, a John Litill participated in an inquest in Lanark. An agreement was registered between the abbot of Scone and Robertus dictus Lytil in 1332. Martin Litell at Abirdowyr in Fife witnessed a charter by William "Dominus Vallis de Lodell" in 1351 and might have been the same Martin Lytill who possessed land at Cardvyn (Cadwan) in 1358. We can say that the name Little (in some form or another) seems to appear and reappear in the general area where Wallace lived out his storied life.
There seems to have been some connection with the Douglasses in our own background. Adam Lityll is listed as a tenant of Douglas in the barony of Kilbucho in 1376. Nicol Litil is listed, among others, as debtors to the Earls of Douglas for the West Marche of Scotland as part of a truce on November 6, 1398. J. Litill, also referred to as Johannes Petit, is listed as a vicar at Lestalrig in 1448. These people are Littles, but they may or may not be related to the lairds of Meikledale, who were the chiefs of the Clan Little.
Perhaps it was 1398 or 1399 when the lands at and around Meikledale were first granted to the Littles. Certainly it was before Robert Stewart died on September 3, 1420, because the original grant had come from him. At that time, Robert was 1st Duke of Albany and Governor of Scotland. Furthermore, since James I was in captivity in England, Robert was the king in all but name.
Shortly after James I returned, he confirmed the grant to his "beloved and faithful Symon Lytil of all and whole the lands of Senbigil, of Mikkildale, of Kirktown, of Sourbie, of the Malnarlande, and of the Pullis, by and in the barony of Mallarynok, within the Sheriffdom of Dumfries, which lands belonged to Alexander Fraser of Ewisdale, and were fully resigned by him into the hands of the said governor; to be held by the said Symon and his heirs of the King and his heirs, in fee and heritage as freely as they had been held by the said Alexander Fraser or his predecessors, for performing to the King and his heirs the services due and wont from the said lands. Given under the great seal at Edinburgh, 30th April, 1426, in the 20th year of the King's reign".
THE CLAN LITTLE
Simon Lytil, 1st Laird of Meikledale, is therefore considered to be the first chief of the name. He probably did not live at Meikledale in the beginning, since he was identified as "Simon Littill of Kirktoun" (about a mile South or Meikledale) when witnessing a document on December 29, 1469.
Members of the clans in that area were considered to be Border Reivers (pronounced "reevers"). During the Anglo-Scottish border wars of 1296-1603, when not being used as militia by one or another noble, many of them were raiding and reiving (stealing and retrieving livestock) on both sides of the border. They were skilled equestrians and by the close of the 16th century had earned a reputation as the finest light cavalry in Europe. Less warlike clansmen served as monks in abbeys such as Sweetheart, Holyrood, and the Franciscan convent of Greyfriars in Dumfries.
Members of the Clan Little became established throughout that area: not only in Ewesdale, but also in nearby Eskdale and Wauchopedale. Jeffra and William Litell were in court on October 27, 1479. Simon Litell, along with John and Alan Litill, were cited for failing to appear as surety in 1504. In 1543, Christopher Lytle was involved in a court case. James and Johnne Lytill were mentioned in the pay list of the Lord High Treasurer, showing the expenses of a raid to Eskdale and the siege of Langholme Tower in July, 1547.
Heralds were first mentioned in Western Europe about the time of the First Crusade in 1095. Since the early 15th century, the Sovereign has delegated the power to grant new Coats of Arms to officers (Kings of Arms), their juniors (Heralds), and their own juniors (Pursuivants). In Scotland, these duties are handled by the Court of the Lord Lyon where he has the final word on all such matters.
Clan Little is one of many heidless (Headless) clans. Thus, it has no chief to hand out and authorize crest badges. As a compromise, the crest of Little of Meikledale of old within a buckled strap bearing the motto is being displayed as the Clan Crest Badge of the Littles until such time as a chief is recognized and pronounces otherwise.
In 1672, David was the last Laird of Meikledale and last Chief of Clan Little to register arms. His full coat of arms consists of the shield and the crest [Workman's Manuscript, Lyon Office].
The Shield shows the arms - a silver St. Andrew's Cross (often rendered as white) on a black background. The dominant black and white comprise the livery colors of the Border Littles.
The Crest of the chiefs of Clan Little was a demi-lion in black spattered with silver saltires; in his right paw he holds a cutlass, in his left the cross of St. Andrew. The only splash of color is in the red claws. The Crest rests on a wreath of the livery colors.
A crest was originally attached to the top of the helmet and, like the arms on the shield and surcoat, had the function of identifying the otherwise unrecognizable fully-armored leader to his followers on the field of battle.
The Clan Little plant is heather, ubiquitous in Scotland.
(often mistranslated as the imperative "No Surrender!")
Fidei Coticula Crux — The cross is the test of truth.
Multum in Parvo — Much in Little.
At the same time, members of the Clan Armstrong were rising to prominence as outlaws throughout the area. It was said in 1528 that they could muster 3,000 horsemen, Littles amongst them. Their leader, Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, posed a threat to King James V who arranged in 1530 to meet him at Caerlanrig. The King's men ambushed 33 Armstrongs, Littles, Elliots, and Irvings, including Johnnie, and they were all hanged on the spot.
In 1568/9, more than 100 Littles rode with Batysons, Armstrongs, Glendinnings, and Thompsons as part of a raid on Stirling by John, the 8th Lord Maxwell. Family tradition has it that the Littles returned with many more horses than they had when they left. Near the end of 1581, Maxwell became the Earl of Morton briefly on the execution of James Douglas (the 4th Earl of Morton) and continued until Archibald Douglas (the 5th Earl of Morton) was confirmed in 1586. On December 10, 1585, during his brief time as "the Earl of Morton 4.5," he arranged a pardon naming more than fifty Littles including "Sim Little, laird of Meikledale" (presumably, another Simon Little).
On the 8th of July, 1587, a session of parliament was opened with five Lord Commissioners and three deputies. One of those Lord Commissioners was William Little [of Liberton], Provost of Edinburgh. Although William was a cousin of the Littles at Meikledale (the home of the Clan Little), he helped to pass an act on July 29th "for the quieting and keeping in obedience of the disordered subjects: inhabitants of the borders, highlands, and isles." Attached to that Act is a list of the relevant clans, including seventeen from the Borders (Southern edge of Scotland), divided into the Middle March and the West March. The third clan to be mentioned in the West March is the Littles (Litillis), following only the Scotts (of Ewisdaill) and the Beatties (Batesonis).
In 1603, the next King James (James VI of Scots) became concurrently James I of England: an event known as the Union of the Crowns. James now had no need for a fighting force in his 'Middle Shires' and the Border reivers had no place to hide. A conscious effort was made to chase these troublesome clansmen out of Scotland, sometimes to Ulster and sometimes directly to New England.
END OF THE CLAN
On September 24, 1606, Thomas Lytill (Simon's son) disposed of the 6 1/2 merk lands of Sorbie in favor of William Armstrong and his son, Alexander and on June 21, 1615, Thomas Litle of Meikledale disposed of the 4 merk lands of Kirktown to William Armstrong. The last of the estate of Meikledale passed out of family together with the title of laird in 1666 for a bond in trust to William Johnston, merchant of Edinburgh for 1500 pounds. It then came into the hands of Adam Elliot (son of the factor to Buccleuch) until his death August 16, 1682 at the age of 82 or 83. He had been quite successful and was able to leave property for his three sons. The oldest son Walter inherited Arkleton, and the second son John got Thorlyshope (Thorlawhope).
Simon's son Thomas, and Thomas' son David, were the last Littles to be lairds of Meikledale. David was given work as a groom at Windsor Castle.
Adam's third son, William, inherited Meikledale. William's life was "unfortunate." He married one of the Scotts of Merrylaw but left her to run away with "some sort of gipsie." Reportedly, he lived with her in a cave while stealing fine horses from the English and selling them in the North of Scotland. After a while, he returned home to his wife but continued stealing horses. Once, when an English horse had been stolen, its owner went directly to Stirling Bridge where William (the Laird of Meikledale) was found riding it. William barely escaped hanging and died soon after returning home, leaving his wife with a son Adam and a daughter Lucy in embarrassed circumstances. The son was obliged to sell Meikledale to his cousin, William Elliot of Arkleton and, in 1725, creditors forced Williams's son to sell Meikledale for 1900 pounds to Wiliam Scot(t) of Rowanburn (a great cattle drover). Sometime after 1742, William Scot(t) sold Meikledale to Mr. William Laing, who in turn left it to his youngest sister Margaret and her husband, William Elliot of Borthwickbrae (son of John Elliot of Borthwickbrae).
CLAN LITTLE SOCIETY
Dr. James Crawford Little of Morton Rigg, known affectionately as Dr. Johnnie, was a psychiatrist in Dumfries. He happened upon some family papers in 1974, which aroused his curiosity. He looked further into the history of the family name and prepared a lecture that he delivered for the Scottish Genealogy on October 15, 1987, and which was later published as an article. That article was noticed by Augustine Patterson Little III, a tax accountant from the American state of Georgia. The American cajoled and prodded the old Scot to establish a Clan Little Society, which he finally did on St. Andrew's Day in 1991. Although the American Little died of ALS in 1995 and never got to see it, Dr. Johnnie was able to secure arms, making it a proper armigerous clan society.
A decade later, Dr. Johnnie died and for years the Society was run quite successfully from Dundee by its Quartermaster, Ian Stewart Little. In the Spring of 2013, Ian Little and the modern Clan Little Society cleaned and restored this grave marker:
The Clan March
The Historic Scottish Building known as The Meikledale Farmhouse is still where it was in 1736, and the ancient stone called The Grey Wether is still out on the lawn.
The Clan Little Society in New Zealand & Australia and another one in North America are still going strong and their contact information is available at the bottom of the page. The Scottish branch of the Clan Little Society was recently turned over to the rightful heir to the title of "Guardian." It is once again dormant.
1 - James Moir, Ed. The Actis and Deidis of the Illustere and Vaileand Campioun Schir William Wallace Knicht of Ellerslie. Scottish Text Society. 1889. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons. (Back to text)
2 - George Chalmers, Caledonia: An historical and topographical account of North Britain from the most ancient to the present times, (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1890) Vol. 6, p. 488; citing Cosmo Innes. Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, Munimenta Vetustiora Monasterii de Melros (2 vols.), Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1837, Item 128. pp. 119-120. (Back to text)
3 - Cosmo Innes. Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, Munimenta Vetustiora Monasterii de Melros (2 vols.), Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1837, Item 39. pp. 30-33, specifically p. 32. (Back to text)
4 - Liber S. Thome de Aberbrothoc: Registorum Abbacie de Aberbrothoc pars prior, Registrum Vetus munimentaque eidem coetanea complectens 1178-1329 [The Book of St. Thomas of Arbroath from the Registry of Arbroath Abbey, Part 1: The Old Register, 1178-1329]. 1848. Edinburgh: ASIN:B002EWX0D6, p. 96. (Back to text)
5 - David Laing, Registrum Domus de Soltre: Necnon ecclesie collegiate S. Trinitatis prope Edinburgh, etc. [Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College, Edinburgh, and other collegiate churches in Mid Lothian]. 1861. Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, p. 19. (Back to text)
6 - Joseph Bain, ed. Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland preserved in Public Records Office. 4 vol. 1881-84. Edinburgh: Vol. 3, Doc. 1420. (Back to text)
7 - Caithness and Sutherland records. Miscellaneous documents. Vol. 1. London, 1909, p. 105. (Back to text)
8 - Registrum honoris de Morton: A series of ancient charters of the earldom of Morton, with other original papers. 2 vol. 1853. Edinburgh, Vol. 2, pp. 55-56. No. 71. (Back to text)
9 - George Burnett (Ed.) Rotuli scaccarii regum scotorum [The exchequer rolls of Scotland], v. 1-23 1264-1600. Edinburgh, 1878-1908, p. 563. (Back to text)
10 - Registrum honoris de Morton: A series of ancient charters of the earldom of Morton, with other original papers. 2 vol. 1853. Edinburgh, Vol. 2, p. 16. (Back to text)
11 - Rymer's Foedera with Syllabus, Vol. 8, Oct-Dec, 1398, p. 58. (Back to text)
12 - David Laing, Registrum Domus de Soltre: Necnon ecclesie collegiate S. Trinitatis prope Edinburgh, etc. [Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College, Edinburgh, and other collegiate churches in Mid Lothian]. 1861. Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, p. xliv. (Back to text)
13 - Donald Campbell Little. Descendants of Col. John Little, Esq., of Shrewsbury Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey. 1951. Edwardsville, KS: Forest Lake. (Back to text)
14 - Robert Bruce Armstrong. The history of Liddesdale, Eskdale, Ewesdale, Wauchopedale, and the Debateable Land. Pt. I. From the Twelfth Century to 1530. 1883, D. Douglas. Clan Douglas Society. Appendix IV. (Back to text)
15 - Sir William Fraser (compiler). Inventory of the Maxwell Muniments at Terregles, 1276-1669. 1865. p. 6, No. 27. (Back to text)
16 - L. Jessie Wilsmore, Ed. Fragmentary memories of bygone days, modes and manners. 1913. Woking & London, UK:Unwin Brothers/Gresham Press. (Back to text)
17 - George MacDonald Fraser. The steel bonnets: The story of the Anglo-Scottish border reivers. 1971. London: Barrie & Jenkins. (Back to text)
18 - Keith M. Brown et al, (Eds.) The records of the parliaments of Scotland to 1707, (St. Andrews, 2007-2016), Item 1587/7/70 [cf. NAS, PA2/13, ff. 105r-108b]. Based upon Thomas Thomson and Cosmo Innes, (Eds.) The acts of the parliaments of Scotland 1124-1707 in 12 folio volumes (House of Commons, Edinburgh, 1814-1875) which, in turn, is based upon Sir John Skene of Curriehill, The lawes and actes of parliament (Robert Waldegrave, Edinburgh, 1597). (Back to text)
19 - Robert Riddle Stodart. Scottish arms: Being a collection of armorial bearings, A.D. 1370-1678, reproduced in facsimile from contemporary manuscripts, with heraldic and genealogical notes. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: William Paterson. 1881. Citing memoranda supplied by Robert Bruce Armstrong. p. 244. (Back to text)
20 - Archibald Little. Fragmentary memories of bygone days, modes and manners. 1913. Woking & London, UK:Unwin Brothers/Gresham Press. (Back to text)
21 - Edward J. Cowan, ed. Chronicles of Muckledale: Being the memoirs of Thomas Beattie of Muckledale, 1736-1827. (Back to text)
22 - John D. Hyslop & Robert Hyslop. Langholm as it was: A history of Langholm and Eskdale from the earliest time. 1912. Sunderland: Hills & Co. (Back to text)
23 - William Little of Liverpool & Windermere. Family papers called "Border Records – Lytil," undated, probably in the late 19th Century. (Back to text)
24 - James Crawford Little. A thousand years: The Littles and their forebears. The Scottish Genealogist: The Quarterly Journal of the Scottish Genealogy Society, 35(2), pp. 45-62. June 1988. (Back to text)
|Clan Little Society
North America, Ltd.
c/o Jim Little
242 Game Trail
|Clan Little Society
New Zealand & Australia
c/o Allen Little
7 Earl Street
Clan Little Society
c/o Andy C. Little