Cochrane Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Cochrane Surname Meaning

The Scottish surname Cochrane was derived from the place-name Cochrane near Paisley in Renfrewshire.  The early spelling was Coueran, a name said to have derived from two Gaelic words which together signified “battle-cry.” 

Cochrane and Cochran are the two main spellings today, with Cochran being the principal spelling in America.

Cochrane Surname Resources on The Internet

Cochrane and Cochran Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Lowland)
  • to Ireland (Ulster), America, Canada and New Zealand

ScotlandEarly Cochranes in Renfrewshire ran from Waldeve de Coueran who witnessed a charter in 1262 to Robertus de Cochrane who also witnessed a charter around 1360.  And Robert Cochrane of Cochrane resigned the lands of Cochrane to his successor Allen Cochrane who received a charter from James II in 1456.  The family had by this time become closely associated with both Paisley Abbey and Glasgow Cathedral in the area.

In 1482 Edward Cochrane was accused but then cleared of having anything to do with the detention of James III at Edinburgh Castle.  However, Robert Cochrane – a particular favorite of the King – was killed by his enemies at this time.

While the Court was resting at Lauder Bridge, the tempestuous Scottish lords arrested James III and carried him back to Edinburgh a prisoner.  James had stubbornly refused to renounce his favorites.  They reacted by taking and hanging six of them on the bridge, including the much-despised Robert Cochrane.”

The male line of Cochrane chiefs died out in the early 1600’s.  But the heiress Elizabeth married Alexander Blair from Ayrshire who took on the name and arms of Cochrane and ensured that the name would continue. From this line came Sir William Cochrane of Coldoun, a Royalist supporter at the time of Charles I and II who was made the Earl of Dundonald in 1669.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Cochranes distinguished themselves in both land and sea forces and came to be known as the Fighting Cochranes.  The most famous of these was Thomas Cochrane, the tenth Earl.  His exploits as a naval commander gained him the nickname of Le Loup des Mers (the Sea Wolf) from Napoléon Bonaparte.

The name had spread by that time across the western Lowlands of Scotland.  It is thought that some Highland MacEacherns might have adopted the Cochrane name after the defeat at Culloden to hide their Highland origins when moving south.

Ireland.  The Scots brought the Cochrane name to Ulster from the time of the Scottish plantations and even before.  John Cochran, according to The Old Cochran Manuscript, had departed Fernois near Paisley for Derry as early as 1570. John Cochrane was recorded at Limavady in Derry in 1609.  Later Cochranes were merchants there.

Ulster.  Coughran and Cochran were early renditions of the name in Ulster, although Cochrane has been the predominant spelling.  Some Cochranes in Fermanagh may have come from the Irish Corcorans of Lough Erne.

The main Cochrane numbers were in Derry and Down.  Many left for America in the 18th century.  Hugh Cochrane, born around 1800, was a watch and clock maker in Armagh who had shops in Lurgan and Portadown.  His son Hugh settled at New Ross in Wexford.  James Cochrane helped to develop whiskey sales from the Bushmills distillery in Antrim in the mid/late 19th century.

And there were also Cochrans and Cochranes in Donegal:

  • the Rev. Ninian Cochran, who died in 1731, was the first minister of the Presbyterian church of Fehan.  Later Cochrans lived in the Chrislaghmore township nearby.  Joseph Cochrane emigrated to New Zealand in 1854.
  • a Cochrane line was first found at Edenmore in Stranorlar manor in 1741.  The book The Cochrane Family in Donegal, based on the reminiscences of Cecil Cochrane in 1910, was published in 2002.
  • while Ernest Cochrane, the youngest son of Admiral Thomas Cochrane of Napoleonic fame, held Redcastle on the Inishowen peninsula and was the High Sheriff of Donegal in 1879.

Elsewhere.  The Cochrane name was also to be found in nearby Cavan.  Thomas Cochrane was recorded in Baileborough at Graughlough House in 1789.

His grandson Henry, born in 1836, joined up with Dr. Thomas Cantrell of Belfast to form Cantrell & Cochrane (C&C). This company took off in 1866 when the partners invented ginger ale and began exporting it to America.  Henry made his fortune, was knighted, and established the family home at Woodbrook near Bray in Wicklow.  There followed in his baronetcy:

  • in 1904 Sir Stanley Cochrane.  He was a well-known cricket enthusiast and philanthropist,
  • and, later in 1952, Sir Desmond Cochrane.  He established the family presence in Beirut, serving as Ireland’s honorary consul there and helping Irish businesses to develop trade opportunities in the Middle East.

England.  Some Cochranes crossed the border south into England.

Brodie Cochrane left his home in Peebles in the 1830’s to manage collieries and ironworks near Dudley in Staffordshire. His son Brodie became wealthy as an iron master in Middlesborough.  He built the Durham pit village of Sleetburn for the colliery workers of the New Brancepeth Colliery Company which he owned.

America.  The first Cochranes in America might have come from Scotland if Sir John Cochrane’s application to the King in 1682 for a grant of 12,000 acres in the Carolinas to settle his clansmen there had really resulted in Scottish migration. 

Scots Irish.  Instead the early Cochranes were Scots Irish from Ulster, coming independently in the early/mid 1700’s.  Their numbers included:

Cochran families from Derry arrived in Londonderry, New Hampshire with other Scots Irish settlers in the early 1720’s.  Captain John Cochran made his home in Windham, NH; while descendants of Deacon John Cochran later settled in Pembroke, NH.  There were subsequent Cochran migrations to Boston, Virginia and North Carolina.

Various other Cochrans from Ulster came to Pennsylvania.  There were Cochrans in Lancaster county (Donegal township) by 1730.  John Cochran arrived in Chester county in 1745.  Lines from there ran to Deaf Robert and Honest Robert Cochran and to John Cochran who was the Surgeon General to the US Army during the Revolutionary War.  Many early Cochran lines in Pennsylvania were recounted in Ida Cochran Haughton’s 1915 book Chronicles of Cochran.  

William and Elizabeth Cochran arrived from Antrim in 1750 and made their home in Emmettsburg, just across the state line from Pennsylvania in Maryland.  He moved to Brown county, Ohio in 1796 where his son General John Cochran was born.

The Cochrans first appeared in Cecil county, Maryland in 1752.  William Cochran of this line lived at Fort Pitt (present day Pittsburgh) in the 1760’s, selling salt to the British army.  His son Alexander moved with his family to Ohio around the year 1802.  A later Cochran of this Maryland line, John Price Cochran, served as Governor of Delaware from 1875 to 1879.  

And John C. Cochran, probably from Ulster, arrived in the Abbeville district of South Carolina in the late 1700’s.  His line led to William Cochran, a pioneer settler in Texas who came to Dallas county as early as 1843.  Although William died ten years later, his wife Nancy was instrumental in the building of the Cochran Chapel Methodist church there. 

Cochran and Cochrane.  Cochran was a common name for Cochrane in Ulster and this probably explains why the Cochran spelling generally took root in America.  But there were curiosities here.

The grandson of John Cochran the Surgeon General, perhaps wishing to downplay his Irish roots, styled himself John Cochrane.  He was a New York lawyer and politician.  The same development occurred with Elizabeth Cochran, the grand-daughter of Irish immigrant Robert Cochran from Derry in the early 1800’s. Born at Cochran’s Mills in Pennsylvania in 1864, she also added an “e” to her name.  But she was better known as the investigative journalist Nellie Bly.

Meanwhile John and Sadie Cochrane had come to the Boston area from county Tyrone in Ulster in 1888.  Their fifth son, known as Mickey Cochrane, starred as a baseball player in the 1930’s.   He is considered one of the best catchers in baseball history and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Canada.  The spelling in Canada was invariably Cochrane, although there were many Scots Irish as well as Scottish Cochranes who settled there.

Some Irish Cochranes came to New Brunswick.  Henry Cochrane arrived from Tyrone in 1830 and made his home in Saint John.   James Cochrane was in New Brunswick a few years later and was a lumberman in Charlotte county.  He moved across the St. Croix river into Maine in 1850.

Matthew Cochrane was born in Compton in the Quebec eastern townships in 1824, the son of an Irish immigrant from Ulster.

“Matthew Cochrane was one of those products of the 19th century whom Horatio Alger immortalized: the self-made man, the farm boy who went to the city and by dint of hard work achieved wealth and influence.”  

He was a Canadian industrialist, livestock breeder, and politician.  His Cochrane ranch in Alberta was one of the largest in the British Empire and the town of Cochrane in Alberta was named in his honor.

The three Cochrane brothers who arrived in Quebec around 1830 came from the Highlands of Scotland. They made their home along the Baie des Chaleurs where they owned fishing schooners.  Hay Cochrane was the main fisherman.  His brother John was a sea captain; while his other brother William emigrated to Australia. Hay and his family eventually departed for Michigan in 1887.

Australia.  The early settlers Down Under were invariably Scots Irish.

William Cochrane from Fermanagh arrived with his family in 1842 on the Anne Milne as assisted immigrants.  They were pioneers of the Mid-North Coast of NSW.  William died from drowning in 1848, aged just twenty-six. He left a wife Jane and seven children there. Another William Cochrane, this time from Tyrone, came to NSW in the 1850’s.

New Zealand.  Dennis B. Cochrane from Mayo had come to Hokianga in the far north of New Zealand as early as 1831. He married a Maori princess and was living there until his death in 1877 when it was reported:

“One of our few very old settlers, Mr D. B. Cochrane, has passed away at the ripe old age of 96.   He had arrived in Hokianga in the year 1831 and resided in or near Herds point ever since.  He was wonderfully hale and hearty until the last few months, but lately his sight and hearing have been failing and he at last died very suddenly on the morning of Wednesday August 26th.”  

Joseph Cochrane from Derry came to Auckland in 1854 and settled at Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty where he was a store owner and merchant.

Cochrane Surname Miscellany

Cochranes and Cochrans Today

Numbers (000’s) Cochrane Cochran Total
UK    12     1    13
America     4    23    27
Elsewhere    12     2    14
Total    28    26    54

Early Cochranes.  It was thought that the ancestry of this family began with a Viking warrior who settled in Renfrewshire between the eighth and tenth centuries. The name was of territorial origin and the Cochranes took the name of the lands in the ancient barony of Cochrane.

George Fraser Blackin his 1946 book The Surnames of Scotland had the following to say about early Cochranes:

“The first of the name in record was Waldeve de Coueran, who witnessed a charter granted in 1262 by Dugal.  William de Coughran of the county of Lanark rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296. John de Coweran was a witness to a notarial copy, made in 1346, dealing with the creation of the Abbey of Paisley; and Robertus de Cochrane witnessed a charter by Robert the Steward to Thomas Simple of the land of Cragrossy in Stratherne around 1360.”

Thomas Cochrane – Master and Commander.  Thomas Cochrane, the son of a minor Scottish aristocrat, was born in South Lanarkshire in 1775 and spent much of his early life roaming the family’s estate in Culross, Fife. He signed up with the Royal Navy in 1793 at the tender age of 17, joining his uncle Captain Alexander Cochrane aboard HMS Hind.

He became one of the most successful and bold captains of the Napoleonic wars. The French nicknamed him “le Loup des Mers”, or the “Sea Wolf.”  But his time with the Navy was fraught with conflicts; with his superiors, subordinates, equals, even those he could have had natural alliances with. This path of conflicts began when Cochrane was tried by a court martial for disrespecting his superior.  He was found innocent but was reproached for being flippant.

In 1800 he set sail aboard HMS Speedy in his newly appointed position as Commander.  In this role he narrowly escaped capture and death!

The first he dodged by flying a Danish flag, pretending to be a merchant ship and claimed that the boat could not be searched as they were ridden with plague!  The second escape was a stroke of genius.  The enemy was chasing them by night, following the light from the Speedy.  Cochrane let loose a barrel with a candle attached and the enemy ship followed that instead, allowing the Speedy to slip silently away.

One of his most famous feats was the daring and fearless capture of the Spanish frigate, El Gamo. By flying an American flag, Cochrane managed to get the Speedy so close to the Spanish that they couldn’t angle their cannons to fire at the hull.  This left the Spanish one option – to board their opponent’s ship.  But Cochrane teased them, pulling away just as they reached out and aiming at those who attempted to board.  In the end Cochrane and his crew boarded the El Gamo, despite being vastly outnumbered, and successfully seized her.

Cochrane was tried and convicted of being a conspirator to the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814.  This scam involved the fabrication of a story that Napoleon had been defeated, which sparked a colossal rise in the value of government securities. Convicted after a suspect trial, Cochrane was sentenced to one year in prison, public pillory and the loss of his naval rank.

Before his name was restored, Cochrane left Britain for South America. He took command of the Chilean navy and led them towards independence from Spain.  He also led the Chilean fleet to help gain independence from Spain for Peru too.  He then moved on to Brazil and offered a helping hand in their fight for independence from Portugal.

In 1832 he was granted a free pardon back in England and restored to his position in the Royal Navy.  He died in 1860, aged eighty-five, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The eventful and controversial life of a bold, brave and radical leader has inspired many characters in fiction.  Horatio Hornblower in C.S. Forester’s novels was modelled on his character.  Perhaps the most famous fictional figure was Captain Jack Aubrey, created by Patrick O’Brian and the inspiration for the 2003 film Master and Commander.

The Old Cochran Manuscript.  The Old Cochran Manuscript by Robert Cochran, which is in the library of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, was thought to have been deposited there by Dr. John Cochran, Surgeon-General in the War of the American Revolution.  The original document was written around 1730 either in Ireland or in Pennsylvania by Robert (Deaf) Cochran.

This manuscript stated that John Cochran – from Fernois near Paisley – was in 1570 the first Scottish Cochran to go to Ireland.

“Hugh and James, having rescued their father who had been apprehended for debt, were obliged then to leave.  They went to the foot of the Foughen waters in Londonderry and were protected by the Lord Askain who employed them in their former business. This was in the year 1570 in the minority of James the Sixth, before the English Conquest in the North of Ireland.”

James, John’s third son, was called “Old James of Maboy,” having settled in Maboy, Londonderry. James featured quite a bit in Robert’s manuscript as he was Robert’s grandfather.

General John Cochran of Brown County, Ohio.  General John Cochran, born in 1781, was only 13 years old when his parents William and Elizabeth came down the Ohio river, landing at Maysville, Kentucky. He lived with his family on their settlement near the east fork of Eagle Creek in Brown county, Ohio.

He left home at an early age and worked at the Kanawah salt works on the Ohio river where he had become the overseer in 1799 at the tender age of eighteen.  John was said to have shipped the first barge load of salt down the Ohio river to Louisville, Kentucky.  He later returned to farm in Brown county.

John served in the War of 1812.  Being very interested in the military, he passed through all the grades – from Captain to the rank of Brigadier General.  He was usually called General Cochran from that time on.  After returning from the war, he entered politics, first in the state legislature and then as a state senator.

In his business pursuits, he met with great success and died in 1864 in possession of considerable wealth.

Cochran in Georgia.  Georgia has the largest number of Cochrans living in the state and also has the town of Cochran in Bleckley county which was named after Judge Arthur E. Cochran, a railroad pioneer in the area.

Arthur, born in 1820, was the son of William Cochran of Rutherfordton, North Carolina.  Moving to Georgia, he quickly became one of the most brilliant lawyers in the state.  He was a member of the state legislature and of the secession convention (where he supported remaining in the Union) and was later the first judge of the Brunswick Superior Court Circuit.

Recognizing the need for better railroads, he resigned from the bench and was named the first President of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad.  In that capacity he was instrumental in developing the railroad into middle Georgia. In appreciation of these efforts the town of Cochran was named in his honor.  He died in 1865 at the young age of forty five.

His son Arthur Jr. represented Pierce county in the Georgia legislature at the tender age of twenty one and later established a successful legal practice in San Diego, California.  

Reader Feedback – Cochrans from Baltimore to Missouri.  I have taken a DNA and am 53% Western European and 27% Scottish.

In my Cochran ancestry I have traced their entry to Baltimore – then to western Pennsylvania and Ohio (where my six great grandfather John Cochran was buried), to Illinois (where my five great grandfather was buried), then on to Kansas, Iowa, and to Missouri where I was born.

Paul Leroy Cochran (

Reader Feedback – Cochrans in Texas.  My line of Cochrans has been in Texas for quite a long time. My immediate family is from the Houston and Conroe, Texas areas. It’s great to be a Cochran! (with or without an “e”).

Charlotte Cochran Kidwell (

Hay Cochrane’s Life on the Baie des Chaleurs in Quebec.  Hay Cochrane lived at Grand Cascapedia on the Baie des Chaleurs.  He would often take his young sons out with him on is fishing trips for cod in the 1870’s. In rough weather he would lash the boys to the mast so they would not wash overboard.  It was the custom to start the winter with a barrel of fish.  To his dying day he could eat fish three times a day.  He especially liked boiled fish.

He was a stern Presbyterian.  A Sunday jaunt would mean a walk to the bay.  Once when the little boys loitered behind, the father found them whittling.  He took the knife away and said: “Boys, din ye know it’s the Sabbath?”

Hay’s first wife had died childless by drowning.   When he was about forty years old he married the nineteen-year old Margaret Harriman from Maine. She bore him eight surviving children.  But after a marriage of twenty years, she died of pneumonia at the age of thirty-nine.

Schooling for their sons was sketchy.  It was a three mile walk to school. And after his wife died he could not afford the tuition there to send them there. They taught himself to read and write at home, although one brother and one sister never did learn to read or write.

Finally in 1887 Hay and his family departed Grand Cascapedia for Michigan.

Sir Desmond and Lady Cochrane.  Yvonne Sursock from a wealthy Lebanese family met Desmond Cochrane, a scion of the Anglo-Irish Cochrane family, when he was serving with the British army in Cairo and went on holiday to Beirut. They fell in love and were married by an Irish British army padre at the Catholic cathedral in Beirut in January 1946.

They were a glamorous couple.  As Ireland’s honorary consul in Beirut, Desmond Cochrane helped Irish businesses develop trade opportunities in the Middle East. The family entertained lavishly, in Beirut, at their Irish home at Woodbrook, and in London and Paris.

Glamour was a word often associated with Lady Cochrane. “My mother had the clothes, she had the jewellery, she had the house,” her son Alfred said. “She had everything and she was unbelievably glamorous. Among the jet-set aristocracy in Europe, she was recognised as such.”  Alfred went on: “My parents were attractive and fun and spoke languages. We gave the best parties in Beirut because my father, being Irish, knew how to give parties.”

However, all good things come to an end and the Cochranes separated in the 1960’s.  Lady Cochrane continued to live in Beirut, but died in 2020 as a result of injuries sustained from the Beirut port blast.

Cochrane Names

  • Robert Cochrane. a favorite of the young King James III, was killed by jealous Scottish lords in 1482.
  • Thomas Cochrane was a daring naval commander during the Napoleonic wars which earned him the nickname of Le Loup des Mers (the Sea Wolf). 
  • Matthew Cochrane was the owner of the Cochrane ranch in Alberta, the largest in Canada in the late 1800’s.   
  • Sir Henry Cochrane was an Irish entrepreneur who got rich when his company invented ginger ale and started exporting it to America.
  • Elizabeth Cochran, better known by her pen-name Nellie Bly, was an American investigative journalist of the late 1800’s. 
  • Mickey Cochrane starred as a baseball catcher for the Detroit Tigers in the 1930’s. 
  • Hank Cochran was a prolific American country music singer and songwriter of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Cochran/Cochrane Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northern Ireland)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Cochrane and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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