The Hunter’s association with Norman Kings proably dates back to around 896 when the Viking Rollo sacked the city of Paris. They became huntsmen to the Viking King’s descendants who later became Dukes of Normandy. The family would have continued that association possibly travelling over to Britain with Queen Matilda after the Battle of Hastings.
The Hunters were hereditary keepers of the royal forests, a position they would have transferred from Normandy to England and on to Scotland as the Normans advanced. They would probably have arrived in Scotland sometime during the 12th Century, most probably on the invitation of David I who had grown up in England’s Norman court.
The signature of Aylmer le Hunter of the county of Ayr was on the infamous Ragman Roll when many Scottish Noles subjegated themselves to the soveriegnty of Edward I of England ‘ The Hammer of the Scots’.
Another claim of the Hunter’s is that they probably have the best landlords in the known world! A charter signed by Robert II in 1374 grants lands to William Hunter ‘for his faithful service rendered and to be rendered to us in return for a silver penny payable to the Sovereign at Hunterston on the Feast of Pentecost’. The current Laird has a small collection of suitable currency, dating from the reigns of Robert II and George V just in case the Royal party arrive on the appointed day to collect payment. One would presume that he would be hoping they wouldn’t be asking for any back rent.
The fourteenth Laird, John fell along with his fellow nobles at the Battle of Flodden. Robert, his son was a sickly boy who was excused service in the army by James V. However this was granted on the condition that he enlist his eldest son and his tenant. In 1546 his son succeded him but was killed the following year at the Battle of Pinkie.
The Hunters of Kirkland stem from a son of the twentieth Laird, Robert. A grandson of the same Laird, also called Robert was Governor of Virginia and later Governor of New York.
The potential financial decline of the family in the eighteeenth century was halted by Robert Hunter, younger son of the twenty-second Laird. His talent for estate management more or less rescued the family. He died at the ripe old age of 86 and was viewed with great respect by his tenants. His daughter Eleanora, who succeded him married Robert Caldwell a wealthy banker. Robert took on the Hunter name and they began a program if improvements which included Hunterston House.
Hunterston Castle, Ayrshire, has been the seat of the Hunters for over 800 years.
Their grand-daughter Jane Hunter Weston who died in 1911 was succeded by her son, Lieutenant General Sir Aylmer Hunter- Weston. He was with Kitchener during the Egyptian War of 1896, and also served in the Boer War and in France during the early years of the Great War. As well as this he also took part in the Gallipoli landings and commanded the legendary 8th army on the Western Front.
As well as his military career for which he was well decorated he also served as an MP for North Ayrshire and Bute for twenty-seven years. Unfortunately he had no children and he died in 1940, his wife following him fourteen years later in 1954. The line was then taken from his mother, Jane’s younger sister, Eleanora Hunter. traced through this line was Eleanora; ‘Miss Hunter of Hunter-ston’.
The Hunter estates passed on to her nephew, Neil in 1969 who became the twenty-ninth Laird and chief. He was a keen sailor and represented the United Kingdom in two Olympic Games during which he won a silver medal. Neil died in 1994 and Pauline his eldest daughter was recognised as chief. Madam Pauline Hunter of Hunterston and of that Ilk and 30th Laird, is continuing to build a secure future for Hunterston and develop the Clan Hunter Associations worldwide.