Dunbar Clan History

Born around 975, Crinan of Dunkeld was the Thane and Seneschal of the Isles. He was the father of King Duncan I, and grandfather of Gospatric. Gospatric was given the Earldom of Northumberland in 1067 by the recently arrived William the Conqueror.

Dunbar Castle

19th century engraving of the ruins of Dunbar Castle

In 1072 however, the Earldom was taken back from him. So Gospatric came to Scotland and was made Earl of Dunbar by King Malcolm III. The town and port of Dunbar, on the Lothian coast, has been the scene of many important events in the history of Scotland. The Dunbars were not supporters of Robert the Bruce or a Scottish crown and after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 they sheltered the fleeing, defeated Edward II at Dunbar Castle until he could leave Scotland by sea.

It is believed that if Patrick of Dunbar had detained Edward then he would have had to recognise the Scottish crown and make peace with Bruce. Instead the two countries fought on for many more bloody years.

In 1315, Dunbar and King Robert (main image), who were cousins, settled their differences and when the English occupied the lands of Berwick in 1337, where Dunbar was governor, he renounced any allegiance to Edward III.

Dunbar Castle was then attacked by the Earl of Salisbury. The castle was defended by Dunbar’s wife, Black Agnes, who exasperated Salisbury until, after nineteen weeks, he retired to England in failure.
He wrote of her:-

She kept a stir in tower and trench
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench.
Came I early, came I late,
I found Agnes at the gate.

When the greedy and jealous James I ruled, the huge wealth and properties that the Dunbars had collected for over four hundred years was annexed to the crown.

The 11th Earl, Sir George Dunbar of Kilconquhar, was the last. The Dunbar house had expanded by this time to include the Earlship of Moray, which they retained. In 1990 the present claim to the chiefship was settled only after a celebrated court case which was heard first before the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, then the Supreme Court of Edinburgh, then the House of Lords.