The Clan Little

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In the Anglo-Scottish Border Wars of 1296-1603 the Littles were one of the fighting clans of the West March. By the close of the 16th Century they had earned a reputation as the finest light cavalry in Europe. For over three centuries the Border Littles shared with the Armstrongs and Beatties the steep-sided dales to the north and west of the present town of Langholm.

Edward Little "of Meikledale", founder of the clan and descendant of Anglo-Norman Richard Lytle, was active in 1296/97 as a guerrila fighter with Sir William Wallace.

In 1351 Martin Litill was a witness at Hermitage Castle of a charter of William Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale. In 1398 NICOL LITTLE was one of a group of knights and "squires" entrusted to supervise the repatriation of English prisoners across the Border.

In 1426 Simon Litill became the lst Laird of Meikledale being granted tenure of the lands in Ewesdale by James I, King of Scots. Littles of less warlike disposition found their vocation as monks in Abbeys and Convents.

The Littles of Liberton in Edinburgh are a branch of the Border clan dating from around 1500. Clement Litil, 2nd of Liberton was founder of the University of Edinburgh Library. His brother William Litil, 3rd of Liberton, was twice Provost of Edinburgh in the post-Reformation period.

The Little Clan of the Scottish West March supported the Stewart Kings of Scots through five reigns until 1530 when James V, under pressure from the English Court, tricked thirty two Armstrongs, Elliots, Littles, Irvings into a parley and hanged them out of hand. The Eskdale clans from then on forsook patriotism for survival and sided with the most likely winners of international warfare.

In 1603 King James I of Great Britain (a.k.a. King James VI) of Scotland was determined to put down the continuing lawlessness on both sides of the Border. His wishes were carried through with sword, noose and torch until hardly a building stood in the whole of Eskdale and Liddlesdale. Chiefs were hanged and those who survived were forced to quit their lands.

Simon Little of that Ilk was chief of the Little clan at the end of the Border Wars. His son, Thomas Little was succeeded by David Little, last Laird of Meikledale and last of the chiefs. The direct male line in descent from David terminates with 18th Century SIMON LITTLE of Nittyholm who had seven daughters and no sons. His brother, Matthew (?William) Little went to Reading in England, married and went to sea in 1745.

The clan began to scatter in the early 17th Century fleeing from persecution, poverty and overcrowding to the Ulster Plantations. Many moved to English Cumberland, crossed the oceans to North America, Australia and New Zealand. Later many Littles, Lytles, and Lyttles in Ulster re-emigrated as Scots-Irish back to Great Britain or headed overseas.

Information on these pages are courtesy of the the Clan Little Society of Scotland, please visit their site for more information.


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