Like many other noble Scottish families, there was a strange variety of possible snobbery which liked to discredit thoughts that they sprung from ordinary native stock. The Lyons once claimed they came from Normandy, with a link to the nobles of de Leonne and maybe the Leones from Rome. One of this French family allegedly William the Conqueror. His son, Roger de Leonne, was in the service of King Edgar of Scotland, son of Malcolm Canmore, around 1091. He was rewarded for his loyalty and opposition to the king’s usurping uncle, Donald Bane, and gained lands in Perthshire. (Glen Lyon is said to be named after this Lyon kindred.) Whatever his origin, Sir John was a capable and well-liked man. Andrew of Wyntoun’s opinion of him (written in his 15th century Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland) may be either artistic invention or a version of the truth:
So trew he west that he wes neuir fund fals,
Expert he wes to dyte and wryte rycht fair,
Thairfoir the King maid him secretair.
All seemed to bode well for ‘The White Lyon’ as he was known (because of his exceptionally pale complexion). But he met a premature death , on 4th November 1382 (or possibly 11th November), when he was slain in mysterious circumstances by Sir James Lindsay of Crawford, at the bleak Moss of Balhall near Menmuir in Angus. The ‘murder’ may actually have been a duel, but the casue of the dispute between the two men is now unknown, although it has been surmised that Lindsay was motivated by jealousy of Lyon. Lindsay went unpunished, being a nephew of the king, but the monarch ordered that Sir John be interred in the Abbey Church of Scone, where he intended his own royal remains to be interred, and the estates passed to Lyon’s son, also named Sir John. It is said that Lindsay never afterwards showed his face at the royal court. The second Sir John dutifully granted the Abbey of Scone forty shillings annually in the year 1433 so that mass could be said every year for the sake of his parents’ souls.