The origin of the Boyle family at Kelburn (or Kelburne), Ayrshire, Scotland, has long puzzled historians and genealogists. The wording of the authoritative 1904 genealogy of the family is typical:
There seems to be no doubt that the lands of Kelburne in Cunningham were held by ancestors of the Earls of Glasgow for many years before 1292 … but the records of their tenure have disappeared: and for long afterwards the succession to the lands can only be inferred from the occasional occurrence, in records and charters, of the name and designation of Boyle of Kelburne. 
When more specific estimates have been proposed for the first appearance of the family at Kelburn, the dates have tended to be “deep” — as, for example, the modern suggestion that the family acquired Kelburn in 1143 . As indicated in my recent book on the Bole/Boyle family genealogy, such suggestions may have derived from the legend that the family was granted the property because it was related by marriage to Hugh de Morville, a magnate who came to Scotland sometime after 1124. Unfortunately, that logic seems to be confused, because the marriage relationship between the Morvilles and the Boyvilles (as the Boyles were then styled), did not occur until sometime between 1216 and 1272, and involved Boyvilles of co. Cumberland, England, not of Kelburn .
Recently, on rereading one of the few authentic records of the early history of the family for perhaps the hundredth time, I had an insight that suggests a less deep origin at Kelburn. I propose that the property came to the family only about the year 1270.
The record in question was described in the 1904 genealogy:
Sir George Mackenzie, who died in 1691, mentions as extant in his time a ‘sasine of the lands of Kelburne given to Richard Boil, eldest son to Boil of Kelburn and Marjory Cumin his wife, daughter to Cumin of Rowallen, and this was in the reign of K. Al. 3,’ (i.e. between 1249 and 1285-86). 
Although I had previously read this closely when examining the relationship between the Boyles and the Cumins, I had never asked something obvious. Why was Boil of Kelburn’s wife mentioned in the sasine? A sasine, a term specific to land ownership in Scotland, was issued to show that an heir had lawful possession of a piece of property. In most cases, property descended from a deceased owner to his oldest surviving son or brother. In such cases, there was no need to name a spouse.
Yet there was Marjory Cumin, daughter of Cumin of Rowallen. The insight came to me in the proverbial flash: Perhaps Kelburn came to the Boyles through their intermarriage with the Cumin family. If so, there would have been every reason to mention Marjory in the sasine.
An important consideration is that Kelburn, as stated in the first citation above, is part of Cunningham, or Cunninghame, the northernmost district of Ayrshire north of the Irvine River. The district was granted to Hugh de Morville in the time of King David I (reigned 1124-1153). From the Morvilles it passed by inheritance and marriage to the lords of Galloway, a co-heiress of which, Dervorgille, married John de Baliol . It appears that Dervorgille received the bulk of the Cunningham lands.
Thus in 1268, when John de Baliol died , it is probable that what is now Kelburn lay within the feudal domain of the Baliol family. This conclusion was also reached by Ayrshire historian William Robertson, who pointed out that when John de Baliol’s namesake son later became King of Scotland, “The Boyles of Kelburn therefore became tenants in chief of the Crown” .
A critical juncture in the story of Kelburn may therefore have been reached near the time of John de Baliol’s death. About the year 1269, Sir John Comyn, “the Black”, lord of Badenoch, married Alianora Baliol, the sister of the future King John Baliol . In effect, through this marriage, two of the most powerful families in Scotland formed a military alliance.
Comyn is the same surname as Cumin. As we have seen, the 13th century sasine summarized by Sir George Mackenzie ascribed the wife Marjory Cumin, daughter of Cumin of Rowallen, to Boil of Kelburn. Thus was provided a vector by which the Boyle family may have acquired Kelburn. Specifically, it seems possible that because Cumin of Rowallen was a member of the newly allied Comyn family, the Baliols granted him feudal rights to Kelburn in return for military service. In turn Cumin may then have granted Kelburn to his Boyle son-in-law. Then after Boyle died, a sasine was granted to the couple’s son Richard Boyle, confirming his possession of Kelburn.
Not only are the linkages logical, they explain why there are no previous mentions of Boyles at Kelburn . They imply that Richard Boyle was the first hereditary laird of Kelburn in the Boyle line, his father “Boil of Kelburn” having been so only by right of marriage.
A Tight Chronology
If this was indeed the scenario by which Kelburn came to the Boyles, events must have transpired along a tight chronology. This conclusion derives from another 17th-century clue to the family’s origins:
There is… a Chartor extant Granted by [Sir Gilchrist Mure, or More] to his daughter Anicia of the lands of Cuthsach, Gulmeth, Blaracharsan… [etc.] [Portions of land] now not knowne by these names…. Ritchard a Boyle del Culliburne, having obtained fra Sr Walter Cumine ane an. rent [i.e., an annual rent] of fiftie schilling out of the lands of malsland… is supposed (& not vnprobably) to have obtained in marriage the forsd. Anicia, and wt her the land forsds. disponed to her by Sr Gilchrist, being certainlie lands of Polruskane… 
The gist of this difficult passage is that Sir Gilchrist Mure granted a charter of Polruskane to his daughter Anicia, who is believed to have been the wife of Richard Boyle. Presumably he was the same Richard Boyle named in the 13th century sasine — for he had obtained a rent from Sir Walter Cumin.
The chronological relevance is that Mure died in 1277, and Sir Walter Cumin died before Mure . Thus if the scenario is correct, within about 8 years of the Comyn-Baliol marriage alliance, in approximate order (a) Kelburn was granted by the Baliols to Sir Walter Cumin, (b) Kelburn was regranted by Sir Walter Cumin to —– Boyle, the previously married husband of his daughter Marjory, (c) —– Boyle died, (d) Richard Boyle received sasine to Kelburn by right of his Cumin mother, (e) Sir Walter Cumin granted rents to Richard Boyle, (f) Sir Gilchrist Mure granted Polruskane to Anicia, (g) Richard Boyle married Anicia Mure, (h) Sir Walter Cumin died, and (i) Sir Gilchrist Mure died. Even if some events appear in the list out of order and the chronology extended somewhat beyond Gilchrist’s death, it seems likely that the Boyles acquired Kelburn about 1270. They could not have done so later than 1286, the latest possible date of Richard Boyle’s sasine.
There are, however, certain genealogical complexities that accompany the scenario. Chief among them is that Sir Gilchrist Mure was himself a son-in-law of Sir Walter Cumin of Rowallen . That creates at least the appearance of Richard Boyle having married his own close relative when he married Gilchrist’s daughter, Richard’s mother having been a Cumin of Rowallen.
Closer examination, however, reveals that Anicia Mure could not possibly have been Sir Gilchrist’s child by his Cumin wife. The reason is that Gilchrist married Isobell Cumin after the battle of Largs , which occurred in late 1263. Thus any offspring of the couple could not have been of age, as was Anicia, to be granted land before Gilchrist’s death in 1277. Gilchrist must have had an unknown first wife, a supposition supported by his age, nearly 80, at the time of his death . Anicia must have been Gilchrist’s child by that wife, making her unrelated to her husband Richard Boyle.
Interestingly, an argument can be made that Richard’s mother was the daughter not just of some generic Cumin of Rowallen, but of Sir Walter Cumin himself. Diligent searches have failed to turn up any other Cumins associated with that location. Rowallen was in Walter’s possession by 1263 , and he may have been the first Cumin owner. He was certainly the last, for after his death sometime prior to 1277, Rowallen passed to the Mures .
A Final Question
A final question worth considering is whether a circa 1270 origin for the Boyles at Kelburn allows the family’s legendary (i.e., undocumented) participation in the battle of Largs in 1263 (see blog entry 28. The Kelburn Thistle and the Boyle Family). The short answer is “yes”.
If Anicia More was of age to be granted land prior to her father’s 1277 death, she may have been born (at a guess) around 1254. Her husband Richard Boyle may therefore have been born about 1250, and his father “Boil of Kelburn” about 1224. The latter would certainly have been of military age in 1263, even if these estimates are off by a few years.
Furthermore, the father was probably of the district of Cunningham when the battle occurred. This inference follows from his pre-existing marriage to Marjory Cumin, and her family’s possession of Rowallen at the time of the battle. Rowallen — or Rowallan as it is spelled today — is in Cunningham and is located about 25 road miles SE of Kelburn. Although under the scenario, Boyle would not have been in possession of Kelburn at the time, he was likely from the district and could well have served in the battle of Largs.
Postscript: Unfortunately my “sabbatical” is not yet over. I have composed this in a lull in the writing of my psychology textbook. That lull is now over, so I return to that work.
 Boyle, R. (1904). Genealogical Account of the Boyles of Kelburne, Earls of Glasgow. No place, private print.
 Information retrieved from http://www.countryfile.com/days-out/kelburn-castle-ayrshire (2018).
 Boles, D.B. (2017). The Origins and Descendants of James Bole of Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania. Tuscaloosa, AL: private print. Available through Lulu.
 Chalmers, G. (1890). Caledonia: Or, A Historical and Topographical Account of North Britain. Paisley: Alexander Gardner, vol. 6.
 Robertson, G. (1820). Topographical Description of Ayrshire; More Particularly of Cunninghame. Irvine: Cunninghame Press.
 Robertson, W. (1908). Ayrshire: Its History and Historic Families. Kilmarnock, Scotland: Dunlop & Drennan, v. 2.
 The exact date appears to be unknown, but cannot have been many years off of 1269. John, the son of John and Alianora, was one of the leaders of a Scottish army in 1296, and the following year had at least one child old enough to serve as a hostage. Thus the younger John could not have been born much after 1270 (Paul, J.B., The Scots Peerage.Edinburgh: David Douglas., v. 1, p. 508, 1904-14).
 Mure, W. (1825). The Historie and Descent of the House of Rowallane. Glasgow: Chalmers and Collins. The original manuscript was written in or before 1657.
 A major reason to propose this scenario is the conclusion mentioned in the text, that Kelburn was part of the Baliol domain. Thus the question is how Baliol land came to the Boyles, and the scenario provides a possible answer. Alternatively, however, it is possible that the Cumin family, seated at Rowallen within Cunningham, had prior possession of Kelburn and that it came to the Boyles as a tocher (wedding portion) on the marriage to Marjory Cumin circa 1250. While this would not change the scenario in one respect — Kelburn would still have come by way of the Cumins — it would change the date at which it occurred.