The Baby Name Erskine

clan erskine, tartan
Tartan of Clan Erskine
Erskine (pronounced UR-skin) is a curious name with strong ties to both Scotland and Ireland.

It originates with the town of Erskine in Renfrewshire, Scotland. The name of the settlement may be derived from the Scottish Gaelic words aird, “high,” and sgainne, “cleft.”

The place name gave rise to the Scottish surname, first recorded in the 1200s. (Pictured is the tartan for Clan Erskine.)

What’s the connection to Ireland? It starts with London-born Irish nationalist Erskine Childers (1870-1922), author of the popular espionage novel The Riddle of the Sandse (1903).

His son, Erskine H. Childers (1905-1974), went on to serve as the fourth President of Ireland from mid-1973 until his death in late 1974.

Erskine was also the name of an American automobile produced by Studebaker from 1926 to 1930. It was named after company president Albert Russel Erskine.

Erskine may seem unfashionable as a baby name, but it’s still seeing usage today in the U.S.:

  • 2014: unlisted
  • 2013: unlisted
  • 2012: unlisted
  • 2011: 5 baby boys named Erskine
  • 2010: unlisted
  • 2009: 5 baby boys named Erskine
  • 2008: unlisted
  • 2007: 5 baby boys named Erskine
  • 2006: 5 baby boys named Erskine
  • 2005: 6 baby boys named Erskine
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: unlisted
  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: 8 baby boys named Erskine

Historically, usage has been highest in the southern states, particularly Alabama. This is due to the influence of Alabama industrialist and philanthropist Erskine Ramsay (1864-1953), whose parents were from Scotland.

By 1920 as many as one hundred Alabama boys had been named for [Erskine Ramsay]. In most cases, Ramsay did not know the parents, but he heard from them, or others, about the children bearing his name. A life-long bachelor with no children, he took special interest in his namesakes. In 1920 and 1921, Ramsay opened savings accounts for each of them at Birmingham’s Bank of Ensley and deposited one hundred dollars into each account as a nest egg for the boys’ education and a lesson in the value of thrift.

The most famous of Ramsay’s namesakes was Alabama jazz musician Erskine Hawkins, who composed “Tuxedo Junction” in 1939. Another namesake was 1930s Alabama Crimson Tide football player Erskine Walker.

What do you think of the name Erskine? Have you ever met anyone with the name?


Image: Erskine tartan (Vestiarium Scoticum) by Celtus under CC BY-SA 2.5.

5 thoughts on “The Baby Name Erskine

  1. We have Erskine as being used often with the name Sorley, another Scottish and Irish name for boys. But that doesn’t seem to appear on the US charts at all.

  2. I don’t know if this is why Erskine reappeared in 2005, but I remember that there was briefly a contestant named Erskine on American Idol in 2004. Probably the first time I heard the name used as a first name.

  3. There’s also Erskine Bowles who was one of Bill Clinton’s Chiefs of Staff and who ran for the Senate a couple of times… (2002 & 2004.)

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    @Rachel – Interesting observation regarding Erskine and Sorley. I’ll have to look out for that pairing…

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