Cochrane, Thomas

Cochrane, Thomas

Cochrane is a surname of Scottish origin.


Cochrane is a Scottish surname that is found throughout the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The surname Cochrane is the 1,339th most common last name in the United Kingdom. In the UK 7,861 people share the surname Cochrane. In the Middle Ages, spelling and translation were not nearly so developed as they are today. They were generally carried out according to the sound and intuition of the bearer. For that reason various spelling variations are to be found with Scottish names. Therefore, Cochrane is sometimes spelled Cochran or even Cockren.


The surname is especially concentrated in England in the counties of Durham in the North of England and Kent in the south. In Scotland, Cochrane is found in high frequency in the counties of South Lanarkshire, West Lothian and in Renfrewshire.

Together Scotland and England have the highest percentage of the Cochrane surname anywhere in the world. In Ireland, the surname Cochrane is especially concentrated in the northern province of Ulster where it was introduced by Protestant Scots settlers during the Plantation period of the Seventeenth Century.

In Northern Ireland, the surname Cochrane is especially concentrated in the counties of Antrim, Londonderry, Down and Tyrone. James Cochrane, an Ulsterman, was a nineteenth century entrepreneur who helped the Northern Irish whiskey Bushmills and the Old Bushmills Distillery gain world wide popularity.

In the United States of America, the first Cochranes arrived amongst the Ulster Scots immigrants to the British North American colonies of New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Some of the earliest Cochranes in the United States came from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in the early 1700s after obtaining a land grant from the Governor of Massachusetts. Later Cochranes' would arrive from Scotland and England.

Origins and History

The surname itself can be traced back to the lands of Cochrane located near Paisley in Renfrewshire in Scotland. There are a variety of legends concerning the origins of the name, one being that the name of Cochrane may be the combination of two Scottish Gaelic words, meaning ‘the roar of battle’ or ‘battle-cry’. There is another, more fanciful explanation which states that, in ancient days, there was a great battle in which an early member of the family fought with such outstanding bravery as to bring about victory for his side. In recognition of his exceptional valour, his leader singled him out from the other warriors and clapping him on the shoulder, called him ‘coch ran’, meaning ‘brave fellow’.

The Cochrane coat of arms depicts three boars heads, they are said to mark the exploit of an ancient Cochrane warrior who is reputed to have slain three wild boars then terrorising the countryside. The Cochrane motto is Virtue et labore (By valour and exertion). The Cochran Clan Crest is a Horse passant argent. The family was raised to the peerage in 1647 and in 1669 Sir William Cochran, Baron Cochrane, was created 1st Earl of Dundonald.

The Cochranes are believed by some to have descended from Vikings who settled in Renfrewshire in Scotland sometime around the eighth to tenth centuries. There are some records that indicate that the Cochranes' place of residence was the Palace of Paisley and that they arrived there around 1100.

The earliest official record is the appearance of the name William de Coveran as a witness to a charter in 1262. The appearance of a closer variation of the name comes from 1366, when Goseline de Cochran witnessed several grants. Then, later on, William de Cochran obtained a charter from Robert II granting him the lands of Cochran. Then, in 1638, the Dundonald estate, along with its castle, came into the possession of the Cochranes. It was from there that William Cochran, the first Earl of Dundonald, received his title in 1669.

On 20 October 1604 King James I of England (formerly King James VI of Scotland) proclaimed himself as 'King of Great Britain, France and Ireland'. Thus creating Great Britain. The Cochrane Clan remained loyal in their allegiance to the new British King. It was at the time that many Scots signed up to take part in the Plantation of Ulster.

During the English Civil War family members were for the most part royalists and supported Anglican King Charles I against Puritan Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentarian armies. It should be noted that King Charles I was not English but an ethnic Scot. Sir John Cochrane, the eldest son of Elizabeth and her husband, Alexander, served in the army of Charles I, and in 1650 became ambassador to Poland for the exiled King Charles II following the regicide of Charles I by the Roundheads.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Cochranes distinguished themselves in both land and naval forces, and came to be nicknamed the fighting Cochranes. The most noteworthy of these fighting Cochranes was Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald. The high point of his career was when a brig under his command with a crew of only fifty-four managed to capture a Spanish frigate with a crew of over three hundred sailors. He later became the commander of Chile's navy and assisted that country, along with Peru, Brazil and Greece, to become independent. He is buried at Westminster Abbey in Westminster, London.

The father of the present chief, who was the fourteenth Earl served with the Black Watch, then during World War Two, he served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Greece. When the war ended, he served with the War Office and in Germany until he retired in 1953. Sir Ralph Cochrane the youngest son of Thomas Cochrane, 1st Baron Cochrane of Cults, was a British pilot and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise–the famous "Dambusters" raid.



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