This famous Scottish surname is recorded in several spelling forms including: Gourlay, Gourley (mainly Ireland), Gurley and Gourlie. However spelt the ultimate origin is shrouded in mystery. It would certainly seem to be locational. The famous Scottish etymologist, the late Professor Black, claimed that it originated from England, and indeed there is a place called Gorley in the county of Hampshire. Other later researchers suggest a French origin, from a place in Normandy. This would be equally logical, as various early medieval Scottish kings accepted assistance from Norman knights. These in turn were granted lands in Scotland in recognition of their service to the crown. Certainly the name was Introduced into Scotland in the 12th century, and quickly achived some prominence. One of the first recordings being that of Hugo de Gurley, the son of Ingelramus as shown below, who held lands in Fife after the year 1180. Another early recording of a namebearer is that of Alaim de Gourlay, in the year 1304, when he appears as witness at Roxburgh, whilst a later example is that of John Gourlay, who married Bessie Wilson in Edinburgh in September 1598. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Ingelramus de Gourlay. This was dated 1174, in Clydesdale and Lothian, Scotland, and during the reign of King William of Scotland, known as "The Lion", 1165 - 1214. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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