The name originated from the French word "maréchal" meaning "horse servant" though nowadays it would be a farrier or blacksmith. It was introduced into Britain following the Norman Conquest. As with the occupational names of "constable" or "steward", the role for some became high-ranking when working for the monarch - the Keith> family, for example, became Earls Marischal of Scotland, though they did not adopt Marshall as a surname.
The earliest record of the name is Maledoni Marescal in 1136, who witnessed a gift of the lands of Partick to the church in Glasgow; Partick is still the name of a district in that city. Later in the 12th century, Gillecolm Marescald witnessed a charter by William, the Lion of Kinbethac to the earl of Strathern and Guidone Marescaldus witnessed a charter by the bishop of St Andrews. Early in the 13th century, Adam, marescallus of the bishop of Glasgow, witnessed a sale of land in Glasgow. All of these would indicate that the bearers of the name were people in responsible positions (and who could read and write in an age when illiteracy was the norm).
As landed gentry, a number of Marschals were amongst those required by King Edward I> of England to pay homage and sign the "Ragman Roll" in 1296.
William "Billy" Marshall (reputedly born in Ayrshire around 1672 and lasting until 1792) was of gypsy (tinker) stock, who became famous as a boxer - and a bandit. He became "king" of the tinkers in Galloway and proceeded to terrorise much of the countryside. His legendary exploits also include deserting from the army no less than seven times and from the navy three times. He is reputed to have married on 17 occasions, had countless children (both in and out of wedlock) and fathered at least four children after the age of 100. His gravestone stands in the cemetery of St Cuthbert's in Kircudbright.
William Marshall, who was born in Fochabers (now in Morayshire) in 1748, was a real "Jock of All Trades". He was a butler to the Duke of Gordon for more than forty years but was also estate factor, surveyor, architect, justice of the peace - and a clock maker and astronomer. In addition to all that, he was a famous fiddler and composer for that instrument. He introduced a number of innovations in fiddle music. His best known composition is a setting of the Robert Burns> piece "Of a' the airts the wind can blaw".
Keith is regarded as a sept (sub-branch) of the Marshall clan.
Marshall was the 51st most frequent surname at the General Register Office> in 1995.
Return to Index of Clans/Family Histories.
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