Duncan Clan History

The personal name Duncan can be found in Scotland’s oldest records in its Gaelic form Dunchad/Donchadh and other spelling varients. (Dunchad) Duncan, originally a forename, is without doubt one of the earliest names in Scotland – surnames being introduced by the Normans around 1120 AD – and originates from the Dalriadan Celtic Scotii (Scots) from Ireland who colonised the south west of Scotland from about the 4th century AD. Dunchad (Duncan) mac Conaing co-ruled Dalriada with Conall II (c.650 – 654).

Other early accounts of the name include the 9ft inscribed ‘Turpillian Stone’ of the 4th century AD at Crickhowell, Wales, a particularly early mention of the name Duncan. Inscribed in Ogham (an early form of Celtic writing) the stone also carried the Latin translation “TURPILLI IC IACIT PUUERI TRILUNI DUNOCATI” which roughly translates as The Fort Warrior. Mention is also made of Dunchad (Duncan) the 11th Abbot of Iona, 707 – 717AD (later St. Dunchadh) and Dunchad (Duncan) the 39th Abbot in 989AD.

Records from this time are scant and it is not until after the unification by Kenneth MacAlpine around 843 AD of the Celtic Scots of Dalriada and the aboriginal Picts of northern Britain do we start to see the name significantly being used in other parts of Scotland. One of the earliest references to Dunchad/Donchad, is found in the margins of the 11th century ‘Book of Deer’ the oldest writings in Scots Gaelic known in Scotland today, These manuscript were written by the early Christian Monks of the Abbey of Deer in Aberdeenshire.

When Duncan I took the Scottish throne, Unlike the “King Duncan” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the historical Duncan appears to have been a young man. He followed his grandfather Malcolm as king after the latter’s death on 25 November 1034, without apparent opposition. He may have been Malcolm’s acknowledged successor or tánaise as the succession appears to have been uneventful. Duncan would have been wise to pacify his remaining family, especially his senior cousin Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney; his uncle, MacBeth; and the person closest to his throne, Queen Gruoch, MacBeth’s wife. By 1040, however, Duncan had been murdered and the crown was in the hands of MacBeth.

Fifty-four years later, despite being the son of Malcolm Canmore, Duncan II was also dead at the hands of his relatives. Although Duncan had left a son, the throne was seized by his younger half-brother, one of the children of English Queen Margaret.

Ewyn (Ewan) fitz Duncan was one of the signatories on ‘The Ragman Roll’, the deed of homage draughted by Edward I of England to bind the King and nobles of Scotland.

John Duncan was the owner of property in Berwick in 1367. The mayor of this Border port is recorded as John Duncanson, in all likelihood the formers son.

According to one account, a Clan Donnachaidh had emerged in the early1300s from the Earls of Athole. The clan name is said to come from Donnachadh Reamhar -‘Stout Duncan’. Legend has it that this chief led the clan into Battle at Bannockburn in 1314. Recent genealogical research however suggests that this is unlikely. Duncan’s great-grandson was Robert, and from whom descends both the Duncans and the Robertsons, The predominant Duncans of the East of Scotland were the Duncan’s of Lundie in Forfarshire. Their extensive property included not only the barony of Lundie but also the estate of Gourdie. In 1764, George III’s physician, Sir William Duncan was created a baronet. The title was not hereditary. By 1795, Adam Duncan of Lundie had become Commander of the Fleet in the North Sea and Admiral of the Blue. With a glorious career of victories he was created 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown in 1797 and his son was made the Earl of Camperdown in 1831 (Camperdown House pictured top). The title became extinct in 1933 with the death of the Duchess of Buckingham.

The Duncan name in Scotland is most prominent in Aberdeenshire, Dundee & Angus, and Fife.

‘Duncan Territorial Houses, Lairds and Barons’
Duncan of Seaside & Lundie (Camperdown)
Duncan of Jordanstone
Duncan of Ardownie
Duncan of Sketraw
Duncan of Mott
Duncan of Parkhill
Duncan of Damside
Duncan of Dunbarney