Durie Clan History

The Duries are an old and honourable Scottish family. We trace our ancestry back as far at least as the 1260s. The name originated from the lands of Durie in Scoonie, Fife, which were granted by Regnold le Cheine to Gilbert son of Robert, Earl of Strathearn, as confirmed by the Earl of Carrick, son of Duncan 1st Earl of Fife. ‘Durie’ is a Gaelic place name which may indicate ‘black stream’, possibly a reference to the rich coal seams in Fife. There have long been stories about the name originating in France as ‘Du Roi’ but these have now been proved to be just that – stories.

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey


The family rose to prominence in the 1500s. John Durie of Craigluscar, an estate near Dunfermline, Fife, had three sons – Robert Durie of that Ilk, who held the lands in Scoonie and Andrew and George, who were archdeacons at St. Andrews under their uncle, the infamous Cardinal Beaton. Andrew later became Abbot of Melrose and afterwards Bishop of Galloway in controversial circumstances, and George was the powerful Abbot of Dunfermline in name from 1527 and fully appointed by James V (main image) after Beaton’s murder in 1539. He was also one of the judges of Patrick Hamilton, one of the earliest martyrs of the Protestant faith.

Nepotism was widespread in those times – George parceled out lands to his relatives and legitimized children and made his nephew, David Durie of that Ilk, the Hereditary Bailie of Dunfermline but he also brought to trial and condemned to death for heresy his cousin, John Durie. John, however, was rescued by the Earl of Arran and became one of the earliest Protestant divines, and a minister at St Giles, Edinburgh.

Dunfermline in those times was the seat of power in Scotland, of Parliament, the Church and – with its royal palace – similar to Westminster in London. Apart from being a senior churchman, George Durie was also an important politician. He was repeatedly chosen as a Lord of the Articles, whose job it was to choose which legislation to lay before Parliament, and he sat in Parliament during the 1540s. It was thanks to him that Regent Arran did not accept the English title of Earl of Hertford, and so, in effect, he caused the battle of Pinkie in 1547.

A digression, but of historic interest, are two links: Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven died in that battle and had been married to Lord Erskine’s daughter, Margaret, one time mistress to James V and mother of James Stewart, Mary Queen of Scots’ half-brother, her First Minister who later became Regent Moray. Margaret was also mother of Catherine Douglas who married David Durie of that Ilk in 1506. Her brother George Douglas, known as the Postulate, was also married to a Margaret Durie. He was the murderer of Mary Queen of Scots’ Italian secretary Rizzio using her husband Lord Darnley’s knife. He is thought also to have secretly married the Queen.

At the Reformation George Durie escaped to France and arranged for the jewel incrusted reliquary containing the head of St Margaret, wife of Malcolm Canmore, Malcolm III, to be taken to Utrecht and later Douai in France and was last seen just before the French Revolution.
At this point, in the 16th Century, there were three main land-holding branches of Duries. The Duries of that Ilk held the lands called Durie in Scoonie, which had been erected into a barony in 1509. Robert Durie’s daughter, Jonet, inherited and married Henry Kemp, a favourite of James V, who changed his name to Durie as required by the entail on the land and title. Their grandson, also called Robert Durie of that Ilk, sold the lands in 1614 to Sir Alexander Gibson who, when he became a senior judge, took the judicial title Lord Durie. Three generations later the lands of Durie were sold to the Christie family.

Meanwhile, the Craigluscar family produced a number of notable Duries, including George, Captain in the Scots Guard of King Louis XIV in France and provost of Dunfermline. This line descended to Eliza Durie, who became the heiress when her brother died, and who married Dr Andrew Dewar. The Dewar Duries were the grandparents of Raymond Varley Dewar Durie who revived the Chiefship and re-matriculated the Arms in 1988. His son, Andrew Maule Dewar Durie of Durie, is our current Chief.

In the 16th Century Abbot George parceled out the lands of Grange around Burntisland and Kinghorn to his legitimized son, Peter. This included, briefly, Rossend Castle. The Duries of Grange in the 1750s claimed the titles of Lord Rutherford and Earl Teviot, but in the late 18th Century the claims were eventually repudiated and the male line ended with David, the last ‘Lord Rutherford’.

Duries have become widely dispersed over the years. It is likely, but yet to be confirmed by DNA analysis, that the Duryea family who arrived in New Jersey from the Low Countries in the 1600s is descended from the Duries who settled in France but left because of their Protestant faith. It was two Duryea brothers who built and sold the first gasoline-powered motor cars in America.

Duries continue to be found on the Continent, some named Dury, Durrie, Duree or Du Ry, and there are many in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies and elsewhere. Even in Great Britain there are distinct groups in the North East, the West Country and in London, apart from the ‘stay-at-homes’ in the East of Scotland.

Why is Durie a family and not a clan? We are armigerous, and have a Chief – but Duries were never part of the Clan system, a Highland phenomenon. We are proud of our Lowland heritage and, before that, through the Celtic Earls of Strathearn, to a Pictish past that pre-dates Normans, Gaels and even Romans.
Our website is part of a larger project to record as fully as possible the genealogy of the Durie family, to document the various migrations and movements that led us to live all over the world, and to create and preserve an archive of Durie documents.