(ruins of Barnbarroch Castle)
When family history joins world history to actually make history then I sit up and take notice. Such is the case with the Vance line who were in Scotland longer than any other country before or since. In Scotch Heraldry it is recorded that “few of the ancient names of Scotland can trace their origin to so distinguished a foreign source as that of Vans, or more properly Vaus or De Vaux.”
A Vance has occupied Scotland since 1130 when Rundolph De Vaux (an early spelling before Vaux, Vaus then Vans or Vanse and finally Vance) took up residence. They were Lords of Dirleton, 20 miles east of Edinburgh in Lothian for a couple centuries before moving to the lands of Barnbarroch earning titles of minor nobility and gaining influence for the next 200 years. And it was this period I want to examine between 1550 and 1611 where family history met world history and everything changed.
A lot of what you need to know about Scotland can be summed up by its most famous figure, William Wallace (Braveheart). He was a commoner who led a common army to defeat the mighty English army. He is to Scotland as Lincoln is to America, a man from humble beginnings who lead a nation in crisis. After Wallace stood up to the English crown, Robert the Bruce took over and carried the same banner. He won their freedom to determine their own future and not be under English rule. 500 years later some of those same ideals would be found in the people who formed the Declaration of Independence.
During the life of probably the most influential Vans (Vance), Sir Patrick Vans (1540-1597)(see Vance Ancient History) a lot changed. Between 1575 and 1600 this Lord Barnbarroch was judge in the Court of Sessions, Knight, Ambassador to Denmark while helping King James VI marry Anne of Denmark as well as fathering 14 children. He was a busy man. While he was expanding his personal kingdom and influence an even more important change was happening in the homeland.
In 1560 John Knox realized his dream that Scotland could become a Protestant nation as he saw the parliament revoke papal authority. For up till that point Scotland, along with the world, had been Catholic. Enter John Knox who preached all people were equal in the eyes of God. We were accountable to Christ alone, not the bishops and not the Pope. Our conscious would be our guide. This Presbyterian style of Protestantism moved quickly through the country. It became allied with the nationalism of Scotland and its patriotism. While Martin Luther had started it and John Calvin helped define it, Knox finished it by leading the Protestant Reformation in the Scottish homeland in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility who called themselves the “Lords of the Congregation”. Knox helped write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church, the Kirk. It was a new covenant. It was revolution.
Along with ensuring that Roman Catholicism was replaced with Presbyterianism (rather than Anglicanism which the English preferred), Knox also taught a duty to oppose unjust government in order to bring about moral and spiritual change. Similar themes that would be repeated later in America.
I have no idea when the family became Protestant. I know back in the day there were Earls and a few Bishops in the line who followed closely the Catholic way. But in 1603 Sir Patrick’s close friend King James VI became King James I of England and Ireland. In 1610 plans are made to move these enthusiastic Protestants a few miles south to another land, Ireland. In 1611 King James authorizes the bible that bears his name.
It was time for another change. We moved to Ireland and became that unique brand of people called Scots-Irish who for next 2 centuries forged a new path by fighting for their rights, expressing themselves in this new religious way while protecting their own so they could do what had never been done before.