Origin of the surname
Historians generally agree that the name Ballantyne was formed by combining two ancient Gaelic words: Belenus (the name of the sun god in Celtic mythology) and teine (fire). The combination means fire of Belenus which is a reference to the tradition of lighting bonfires in the sun god's honour at the start of Spring (when the sun starts to get stronger). This celebration was traditionally known as the Beltane festival and was held on 1 May. These traditions are the origins of the modern concepts of bonfire night and Mayday.
Perhaps a Ballantyne ancestor was born on the day of the Beltane festival; became known as Belinus-teine; and the name was retained by his descendants. Alternatively, the family may have derived its name from its ownership of the land on which the festival took place each year.
Some Scottish historians have suggested an alternative origin for the name. Their theory is that the name could derive from an old Gaelic phrase baile an deadhain which means the farmstead of the dean. However, these historians can't agree whether the name originates in Roxburghshire, Stirlingshire or Selkirkshire.
It is likely that the name had a single origin because it is quite rare; rarer even than surnames known to have had a single progenitor in the eleventh century (such as Bruce and Douglas). In the 1841 census, Ballantyne (including its spelling variations) accounted for just 56 in every 100,000 people in Scotland while Bruce accounted for 231 and Douglas 232. The most frequent surname was Smith (1393 in every 100,000). Since the single progenitors of the Bruce and Douglas families lived during the eleventh century, it seems reasonable to conclude that the single progenitor of the Ballantyne family lived at a later time; probably the twelfth or thirteenth century. We know that the surname was well established by the fifteenth century.
Earliest known people
Some of the earliest Ballantynes in recorded history include:
In recent decades our family has adopted a standard spelling: Ballantyne. Previously the spelling varied wildly including Ballentine, Ballantine, Ballentyne, Ballintine, Bannentyne, Bannantyne, Bannatine, Ballanden, Ballenden, Ballendine, Ballendyne and many more. Other branches of the family have standardized on one of the alternative spellings.
There are two sets of heraldic arms associated with the Ballantyne family. Firstly (see left): gules a chevron argent between three mullets or. The other arms (see right) are argent on a cross between four mullets azure. Sometimes, as shown here, this latter crest has the addition of a sword proper pommeled and hilted or.
The Ballantyne motto is nec cito nec tarde - neither fast nor slow.
We have two families with the Ballantyne surname in our history. Margaret Scott Ballantyne's father was Thomas Ballantyne and her mother was Christina Ballantyne (nee Ballantyne). Both her paternal and maternal families came from East Kilbride in Lanarkshire.
Margaret Scott Ballantyne migrated to Australia aboard the Eastern Monarch in 1883 with her husband Charles Fleming and son Charles Taylor Fleming. Her husband kept a diary for the journey that you can read here: Townsville or hell!
Margaret's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all named Thomas Ballantyne.
Margaret's mother was Christina Ballantyne; her grandfather was William Ballantyne; and her great-grandfather was Andrew Ballantyne.
Our Ballantyne clan includes both maternal and paternal ancestors of Margaret Scott Ballantyne (c1855-1930). Given that both of these branches originated in East Kilbride (Lanarkshire), it is likely that the earliest known progenitors (Andrew b 1760 and Thomas b 1770) were cousins.