Clan Haig History

The name ‘Haig’ comes from the Norman name ‘de Haga’. There were theories that the Haigs were of Pictish descent but this has been discounted. A charter signed in 1162 to the Monastery of Dryburgh bears the name ‘Petrus de Haga, proprietor of the lands and barony of Bemersyde. He was later charged by Alexander II with the murder of the Earl of Athol at Haddington in 1492. The Barons of Bemerside rapidly gained a position of some influence in the area and its not surprising to see their signature among the other Scottish nobles on the Ragman Roll in 1296. Like so many others who signed this document swearing fealty to Edward I they were soon to join the cause of Scottish Independence, fighting for Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

The sixth Laird continued this loyalty to the Scottish cause by fighting alongside Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn at the age of only seventeen. He continued to support Scottish independence, falling at the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333

Gilbert Haig opposed the powerful Douglas family. His son, James supported James III. After the kings murder in 1488 he fled into hiding before making peace with James IV.

Bemersyde House, seat of the chief of Clan Haig

Bemersyde House, seat of the chief of Clan Haig

William Haig of Bemersyde was among the many Scottish nobles killed at Flodden in 1513. The 14th Laird was able to effect some degree of revenge for his father death when he captured Lord Evers, English commander at Ancrum Moor in 1544. Evers later died at Bemeryside and was buried at Melrose Abbey.

William Haig, the nineteenth Laird was King’s Solicitor for Scotland during the reigns of James VI and Charles I. The twenty-first Laird, Anthony Haig was persecuted for his membership of the Society of Friends, or Quakers.

In the nineteenth century the line of succession looked to be in danger when the succession fell to three unmarried daughters. However they signed a deed before their death that transferred the succession to a cousin Colonel Arthur Balfour Haig, a descendant of the seventeenth Laird. Their cousin became the twenty eighth laird.

Possibly the best known of the Haig line was Earl Haig, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Forces in France from 1915 to 1919. His military career started with the 7th Hussars in 1885 and was at the second Battle of Khartoum in 1898 as well as the Boer Wars where he was decorated. It was during the Great War that his name has become best known however. His policies though ultimately effective did come at a high cost in terms of the loss of life for the allied forces. He was created Earl Haig, Viscount Dawick and Baron Haig of Bemersyde in 1919 and was later made a Knight of the Thistle. The citizens of the British commonwealth were no doubt grateful for his contribution to ending the First World War and they rewarded him by contributing to the purchase of Bemeryside from Arthur Balfour Haig in 1921.

The present chief is his son and heir, the 2nd Earl Haig, who was page of honour to George VI at his coronation in 1937, is a distinguished artist and an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy. Remarkably Bemersyde has stayed in the possession of the Haig family for eight hundred years. A fact predicted in the thirteenth century by Thomas the Rhymer who said ‘Tyde what may, what’er betyde, Haig shall be Haig of Bemersyde’.

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