Origin and history

Origin: legends and hypotheses

According to 19th C. histories, the name Loban originated in the Inverness area, at Drumderfit about 1372, and tells that these Lobans were of the Clan MacLennan. (I found the image below and do not know its source, but it credits an earlier account.) This has resulted in the Lobans being accepted as a Sept of Clan MacLennan and using their tartan. At present the genetic connection between the MacLennans and Inverness Lobbans, if any, is unknown.

[In case you missed it elsewhere on this site, the spellings Loban and Lobban were used indiscriminately in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and only later did families settle on one spelling or the other.  As the distribution data show, in the UK the great majority spell the name Lobban, but in Canada it is about half and half.]

Distribution of Lobban/Loban families in Inverness and adjacent Ross parishes, based on list of baptisms and marriages (the latter counting only Lobban grooms) in Scotland’sPeople. List by Stephanie Logan Falls, map by Chris Lobban. Base map from Highland F.H.S., modified by C. Lobban.

George Fraser Black, in The Surnames of Scotland (1948), wrote:

LOBAN.  A Moray surname; a belt of a few miles along the Moray Firth it is said holds most of them. The name is explained as from Gaelic loban or lopan, and ‘was given to the progenitor, who is said to have been a Maclennan, from his having hidden under a peat-cart or sledge’ (Henderson, NI., p. 120). The date is about 1400. The legendary story of the origin of the name was first published by David Carey, the first editor of the Inverness Journal, in his novel Lochiel, or the Field of Culloden, London, 1820. Sir Charles Lowbane, a cleric, was witness to a submission anent the lands of Strathnarne, 1542 (Cawdor, p. 166), William Lobane in 1560 was tenant in Drumderfit (Macbain, Inverness names, p. 76), and John Loban was a tenant under the marquis of Huntlie, 1600 (SCM., IV, p. 288). Jonat Lobane and others were accused in 1614 of ‘crewel vnmerceifull murther’ in Inverness (Rec. Inv., II, p. 121), and Robert Lobein in Deir was charged in 1627 with being an ‘idle and masterless man’ (RPC.). George Lobban in Bodylair, parish of Glass, is mentioned, 1716 (SCM., IV, p. 168); John Lobon appears in Ternemnie, 1703 (Banff Rec., p. 244); and Elspat Lobban was the maiden name of the mother of James Fergusson, the astronomer. Alexander Lobban in Garland, parish of Dundurcas, 1773 (Moray), and John Lobban was member of Huntly Volunteers, 1798 (Will, p. 7).”  [Black, p. 433]

and, under MacGhilleghuirm, ‘Son of the blue lad,’   “Gillegorm was a hero of the Maclennans, ancestor of the Lobans….”  [Black, p. 496]

However, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, late Lord Lyon in his The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland (1952) thought there were two groups:

“William Lobane appears in 1564 as tenant in Drumderfit in the Black Isle, where the family were so long tenants that the local proverb says ‘as old as the Lobans of Drumderfit.’ . . . It seems more likely that the Morayshire and Banffshire Lobbans are of a different origin. ”

My late uncle, Alan Rudge (1933–2017), researched the Lobban/Loban name extensively and came to the same conclusion as the Lord Lyon: two groups,  one centered in Banffshire being separate from the Inverness families (ms here). He drew the map reproduced below; note the locations of LOBAN 1 (“Inverness Lobans”) and LOBAN 2 (“NE Scotland Lobans”).  It is already clear from genetic evidence that there is NO relationship between the NE Scotland Lobans and the MacLennans  (see Y-DNA Study page). Thus we are keen to find Lobans of Inverness/Black Isle ancestry to find out which haplogroup they belong to. If they are related to MacLennans they are not related to the NE Scotland Lobans.


Map by Alan Rudge from his manuscript . Click images to enlarge.


He further hypothesized that LOBAN 2 originated from a progenitor from France, who arrived in 1534 with the Abbott of Kinloss, that this man “Scottished” his name to Loban, and that his descendants settled in Banffshire and neighboring Elgin/Moray and Aberdeen. A map compiling all the baptism and marriage records for Lobban in NE Scotland (in the case of marriages, only the groom), shows that there was a cluster of parishes centered on Rothiemay, Banffshire, where the name occurred during the period of extant Church of Scotland records (i.e., up to about 1850).  The periods for which records exist vary from parish to parish, but of particular note is the missing Rothiemay records from 1711–1748, a time when there were many Lobans living in the parish (see second map below, showing  12 Rothiemay farms where there were baptismal/marriage events ca. 1750–1790). These missing records would greatly increase the number for Rothiemay. The descendants of this hypothetical ancestor spread into this region and multiplied, but then declined, perhaps because of the lowland clearances. Hence, I am also interested in the diaspora, particularly those who emigrated to England, Australia, Canada, and the USA.

Distribution of Lobban/Loban families in NE Scotland based on list of baptisms and marriages (the latter counting only Lobban grooms) in Scotland’sPeople. List by Stephanie Logan Falls, map by Chris Lobban.
Historical map of Rothiemay parish (source at top of image), the red boxes around names of farms where there were Lobans in the mid/late 18th C.

Malcolm Lobban (see his book, p. 11) adds to the potential continental European origin by noting the large number of Flemish people who settled in Scotland over a 600 year period and held positions of influence, including sovereigns of Scotland. The University of St. Andrews is actively researching the Flemish influence, which extended throughout our Northeast Scotland area. Particularly relevant may be Freskin and his connection to the Abbey of Kinloss, as these excerpts from David Dobson’s two-part post on the Flemish in Moray suggest:

Freskin was a Flemish soldier of fortune who was rewarded for his services to the Scottish crown by King David I, through the grant of the lands of Straloch in West Lothian. Freskin was among the knights and retainers sent north to quell a rebellion in the Province of Moray. Their success led to a migration of Norman, English and Flemish people north, to the lands forfeited by the rebels. Freskin and his family moved north to the Province of Moray in the 1120s, obtaining the important lordship of Duffus, and the lands of Roseisle, Inchkell, Macher, and Kintray, lying between the Burgh of Elgin and the Moray Firth. (source)

The introduction of new religious orders into the Province of Moray may have brought some Flemings, religious or lay people, to settle in or around the abbeys and monasteries that were being established. … David I founded the Benedictine Priory of Urquhart in 1136 and the Cistercian Abbey of Kinloss in 1150. (source)

It is unlikely that further evidence about the proposed progenitor will be found, given the destruction of Catholic Church records after the Reformation. However, we may be able to get evidence for some aspects of these hypotheses from study of Y-DNA, and we have put out a call for Lobban males anywhere to contact us if they can assist with DNA samples. Such samples will allow us to determine (1) if the “Banffshire” Lobbans are a single genetic group; (2) if Inverness Lobbans have a different haplotype and thus origin; and (3), perhaps, to be able to estimate when the earliest common Lobban ancestor arrived in Scotland and when different branches began. For more on the Y-DNA project see the Y-DNA Project pages.

Logan vs Loban

Several people have considered the relationship between Logans and Lobans in this part of Scotland.  Of course, Logan is a widespread name with probably many origins.  However, in the Drumderfit story (above) both names are mentioned in the same breath. Malcolm Lobban, in his 2008 book, The Scottish Surname LOBBAN, has summarized the evidence, including that in Major G.J.N. Logan Home’s book on the genealogy of the Drumderfit Logans, and concluded that Loban might actually be the earlier name. There are examples of this orthographic switch in the family records mentioned in this web site (e.g., South African Logan line), and it may have been widespread in the centuries before records.  Malcolm’s chapter is available here (download pdf) [or get the entire book here].

[Sidebar] Surnames and climate change

As an interesting aside, Wayne Shepheard published an essay in the Journal of One-Name Studies, 13 (4), Oct-Dec 2018*, proposing that surnames came into widespread use as a result of the sudden drop in temperatures and increased storminess near the end of the 13th C., when the Medieval Warm Period in Europe disappeared into the harsh Little Ice Age (approx 1300–1850), with major consequences for agriculture.  New social welfare programs were necessary to help the destitute, and these in turn likely spurred the adoption of surnames (already underway) so that government and churches could better identify people on tax and welfare rolls. The history of Drumderfit begins not long into this period, when surnames were perhaps still rather fluid.

*Viewable online by logged-in ONS members at https://one-name.org/members/journal/pdfs/vol13-4.pdf. Besides the references in this article, there are two relevant articles in Scottish Geographical Journal, Wittington 1985 and Dodgshon 2005 (full text) . The latter mentions the most severe phase, the Maunder Minimum, about 1645–1715.


Page by Christopher S. Lobban, posted 13 July 2019, last edited 27 Jan. 2019.