Turnbull Clan History
The surname Turnbull is one of a number of Scottish names where early etymologists have provided a romantic origin. It is said that the name Turnbull was given to a man called Rule by King Robert I. According the legend Rule saved the life of the king by ‘turning’ a charging bull which was threatening to gore the royal.

As thanks for this deed, Robert granted the lands of Bedrule and the new name to Rule. It was Hector Boece (1526) who was first to record this story, along with many other picturesque tales about Scotland’s history. However, it is generally claimed that many of these stories, the tale is made to fit around the name, rather than the other way round.

The spelling of the name is probably taken from the old English name Trumbald, meaning ‘strongly bold’, and it is commonly pronounced as Trummell, or Trumell in Teviotdale.

Willelmo dicto turnebule (William called Turnbule) was granted the land in the west of Fulhophalche (now Philiphaugh) in 1315 by Robert I.

The lands of Humdallwalschop (now Hundleshope) in the barony of Mener were granted to John Trumble by David II at some point during his reign.

Around 1354 it was recorded that a charter for the lands of Altonburn by Adam de Roule was witnessed by Walter Tronebole.

In 1388, Patrick Turnbull was bailie of Edinburgh, and one of the borrowis for Archibald Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas’ bounds on the Middle March was Thomas Tornebule in 1398.

A recorded Scottish prisoner-of-war in England, in 1400, was John Tournebulle, nicknamed “out with swerd”.

A charter for the lands of Drumgrey was witnessed, in 1408, by Thomas Turnbule.

A ‘cubicular’ of Pope Eugene IV, in 1433, was William Turnbul, and William Trubul, in 1452, was canon of Glasgow. Another William Turnbull, also recorded as Turnbol and Trumbil, was the bishop of Glasgow between 1448 and 1454.

In 1507, it was recorded that Maister Jhone Trimbill was vicar of Cleigh (Cleish), and at the University of Orleans, in France, Stephen Tournebulle was procurator of the Scottish ‘nation’, also in 1507.

In Jedburgh, Mark Turnbull was provost in 1561, and in 1609, in Glasgow, Mathow Trumble was bailie.

The regularity with which you can find the surname Turnbull in Pitcairn’s Criminal trials really shows that the family were amongst the most turbulent of Border clans.

The earliest recorded arms for the Turnbulls, those of Agnes Trombel in 1497, were Ermine, three bars, the centre bar being charged with a star flanked by two ermine spots.

The arms of William Trumbul in Dalkeith, 1603, bears a bull’s head erased, however these are possibly canting arms (arms which suggest the bearers name).

People with this surname settled in France, and their arms were argent, three bulls’ heads, couped sable, armed and langued gules, however the Turnebu, or Tournebu, family, who have claimed Scottish origin, had their arms as argent, a bend azure. The family Tourneboeuf, from the province of Berry in central France, bore azure, three bulls’ heads, and the inscription “les Tournebulle de Champagne portent d’azure à trois têtes de buffle”.

The noted American ornithologist, William Paterson Turnbull (d. 1871) was born in Fala in Midlothian in 1830. In Glasgow, in 1847, Frederick Turnbull (d. 1909) introduced turkey-red dyeing to the United States.