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Clan Dunbar

Clan Dunbar are a Scottish chiefly family.


The chiefs of Clan Dunbar are of ancient Celtic origin. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 122</ref> In Gaelic 'Dun' means 'fort and 'barr' is a summit. <ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 79</ref> The town and port of Dunbar have featured prominently in Scottish history on various occasions. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria received from Malcolm III of Scotland, the lands of Dunbar as well as other parts of Lothian.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>


There were several other branches of the Clan Dunbar including the Dunbars of Mochrum (current chiefs), Dunbars of Northfield, Dunbars of Hempriggs, Dunbars of Durn and the Dunbars of Both.

Middle Ages

In 1128 Gospatric's son, Gospatric II, Earl of Lothian, witnessed the foundation of Holyrood Abbey.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> He also accorded the rank of earl and made donations to Kelso Abbey.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> In around 1184 Patrick of Dunbar married Ada, daughter of William the Lion and was created justiciar of Lothian.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>

Patrick, Earl of Dunbar's daughter received the lands of Home as part of her dowry.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>This established the line which later became the Earls of Home in the 17th century.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>The Earl of Dubar's son, Patrick, went to the Crusades and died at the Siege of Damietta in 1248.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>

One of the competitors for the Scottish Crown in 1291 was Patrick Black Beard, Earl of Dunbar who claimed it through his royal grandmother, Ada.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>His wife was a Comyn who held Dunbar Castle for John Balliol, although she was forced to surrender it in April 1296. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> Patrick, Earl of Dunbar sheltered Edward II of England after his escape from the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> Historians have said that if Dunbar had seized Edward then Edward may have been forced to make peace with Robert the Bruce, preventing further bloodshed. However despite Dunbar's apparent treachery he made peace with his cousin, king Robert, and was present at the Parliament at Ayr in 1315. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>

Dunbar was later appointed governor of Berwick where he was besieged by Edward III of England.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> Dunbar surrendered to the English but renounced any allegiance to the English king and as a result his castle was besieged by the Earl of Salisbury. The castle was under the command of Dunbar's wife, Black Agnes.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref>

The English attacked the castle with all the siege craft technology of the fourteenth-century including a machine called a "Sow". <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> However Black Agnes personally directed the machine's destruction by rocks being hurled from the castle walls. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> The siege lasted nineteen weeks and the Earl of Salisbury retired leaving Agnes in possession of her husband's fortress.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 122</ref> When the English fled for their lives, Agnes is said to have scoffed, behold the litter of the English pigs.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>

The tenth Earl was one of the most powerful nobles in Scotland. In 1388 he fought at the Battle of Otterburn.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref> He arranged for his son to marry the Duke of Rothesay, son of Robert III. However the Douglas faction ensured the marriage did not take place. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>

The eleventh Earl was a noble whose power led to their destruction by James I, who imprisoned the Earl on trumped up charges and forfeited his estates. He died in exile in England in 1455. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>

Sixteenth Century

During the reign of James V of Scotland, Gavin Dunbar (archbishop of Glasgow), who was a younger son of Sir John Dunbar of Mochrum, distinguished himself at the University of Glasgow and became Dean of Moray in 1514. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref> He was appointed Archbishop of Glasgow in 1524. However he was criticised for his participation in the persecution of Protestants which was instigated by Cardinal Beaton. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref> In 1513 Sir John Dunbar of Mochrum, Wigtownshire was at the Battle of Flodden.

Later History

In 1694 Sir James Dunbar of Mochrum was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia. The second baronet served in the cavalry of the Duke of Marlborough with great distinction. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>He was recognised as clan chief upon the death of Ludovic Dunbar in 1744. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref> Sir William Dunbar was Registrar General from 1902 till 1909.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>

The present chief is Sir James Dunbar. The chiefship was the subject of extensive legal dispute during the late twentieth century. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 123</ref>