(Relation to me: 22nd Great Grandfather)
Before I begin writing about Duncan I want you to know that since many names and places are in other languages, I am going to use the English translation as much as I can. Also being that I am in America, I have an American keyboard for my computer, and I am not sure how to use all of the proper accent marks for letters to make words in proper spellings. So, if you are from another country please understand if names or places or anything else is not spelled correctly in your language. Thank you.
Donnchadh, Duncanus, Duncan
Duncan in English, Duncanus in Latin, and Donnchadh, all names of the same man. I’ll be calling him Duncan because it’s easiest to spell and the only name of his I really know how to pronounce. He was a Gall-Gaidhil prince and Scottish magnate in what now is the southwestern part of Scotland. His career stretched from the last quarter of the 12th century until his death in 1250.
His father was Gille-Brighde or Gilbert as he is known in French and English, of Galloway. Uhtred of Galloway was his uncle and the rival of Gilbert, both men were sons of Fergus, Prince or Lord of Galloway. This makes Duncan, Fergus’ grandson. As the result of Gilbert’s conflict with Uhtred and the Scottish monarch William “The Lion”, Duncan was kept as a hostage of King Henry II of England.
Duncan probably remained in England for almost ten years before he would return north after his father had died. Although he was denied succession to all the lands of Galloway he was granted the lordship over Carrick in the North. He would be an ally of John de Courcy and fought battles in Ireland, acquiring land there that he subsequently had lost.
He was also a patron of many religious houses, particularly Melrose Abbey and North Berwick priory nunnery. Duncan would attempt to establish a monastery in his own territory as well, at Crossraguel.
He would later marry a daughter of Alan fitz Walter, who was a leading member of the family who later would be known as the House of Stewart, the future monarchs of Scotland and England. He was also the first mormaer or Earl of Carrick. Duncan would rule the region for more than sixty years, making him one of the longest serving magnates in medieval Scotland. His descendants would come to include the Bruce and Stewart Kings of Scotland and probably the Campbell Dukes of Argyll.
Lack of Sources
Duncan’s career is not well documented, as sources for it are hard to come by since many have been destroyed. Charters provide a little information about his activities, but overall their usefulness is limited because no charter collections from the Gaelic southwest have survived through the Middle Ages, and only surviving charters that are relevant to his career come from Normanized English-speaking areas to the east. His acts of patronage towards religious houses are recorded, but incidentally details that are mentioned in the body of the charter texts and witness lists subscribed to them are useful for other matters.
Some English governmental records do describe his activities in relation to Ireland, and occasionally chronicle entries from England and English-speaking regions of what became part of southeastern Scotland. They at times will record other important details as well. Aside from the “Chronicle of Melrose”, the most significant sources on Duncan are the works of Roger Hoveden and material that is preserved in writings of John of Fordun and Walter Bower.
Roger recorded that Gilbert had handed Duncan over as a hostage to Henry II under the care of Hugh de Morwic, the Sheriff of Cumberland. He also recorded that he married the daughter of Alan fitz Walter under the protest from the Scottish king, and that he fought a battle in Ireland in 1197 assisting John de Courcy, Prince of Ulster.
Duncan’s Origins and his Family
As I am sure you have figured out by now, since it’s been mentioned a few times, Duncan was the son of Gilbert, who was the son of Fergus. The name Gille-Brighde, which was used by his father was also the name of the father of Somhairle, a petty king of Argyll in the third quarter of the 12th century. A man named Alex Woolf has suggested that Fergus and Somhairle were probably brothers or cousins, since the original territory of the Gall-Gaidhil kingdom had probably adjoined or included Argyll. Their is a body of circumstantial evidence that suggests that Duncan’s mother was the daughter or sister of Duncan the Earl of Fife. This evidence includes his association with the Cistercian nunnery of North Berwick, which was founded by Duncan II of Fife’s father, Duncan I of Fife; and close ties that seem to have existed between the two families, while Duncan’s own name is further evidence. Historian Richard Oram, who suggested this in 2000, came to regard this as certain four years later.
Roger of Hoveden described Uhtred of Galloway as a cousin of King Henry II of England, this has given rise to a theory that, since Gilbert is never described as such, they must have been from different mothers. Fergus must therefore have had two wives, one of whom was an illegitimate daughter of Henry I. Uhtred and his descendants would be related to the English royal family, and Gilbert and his descendants, my tree, would not have been, or would have at least been considered as not being since his mother was illegitimate.
However, according to the historian G. W. S. Barrow, this theory could be disproved by one English royal document that was written in the name of King John of England. It likewise says that Duncan had been his cousin.
As for siblings of Duncan, it’s not clear how many he may have had, but at least two are known. Firstly, Mael Coluim, who had led forces in an attack on Gilbert’s brother Uhtred on Dee Island, probably Threave, in Galloway in 1174. He would capture Uhtred, then had him blinded, castrated, and his tongue cut out. Nothing else is known of Mael Coluim’s life, but there is speculation by some modern historians that he may have been illegitimate. Another brother appears in records at Paisley Abbey. In 1233, a Gille-Chonaill Manntach, “The Stammerer” gave evidence of a land dispute in Strathclyde. The document described him as the brother of the Earl of Carrick, who at that time would have been Duncan.
Duncan in Exile and his Return
In 1160 Mael Coluim mac Eanric (Malcolm IV), King of Scots, had forced Duncan’s grandfather, Fergus, into retirement and took over Galloway. In 1161 until 1174, it’s likely that Fergus’ sons Gilbert and Uhtred had shared the lordship of Galloway under the Scottish king’s authority. Gilbert would have the west and Uhtred the east. In 1174, the Scottish king, William “The Lion” was captured during the invasion of England, the brothers responded in rebellion against William. At the same time, they fought one another, with Duncan’s father ultimately prevailing.
Having defeated his brother, Gilbert unsuccessfully sought to become a direct vassal of Henry II of England. An agreement was obtained with Henry in 1176. Gilbert promised to pay him 1000 marks of silver and handed over his son Duncan as a hostage. Duncan would be taken into the care of Hugh de Morwic, the Sheriff of Cumberland. The agreement also seems to have included recognizing Duncan’s right to inherit his father’s lands. Nine years later, after his father had died, Uhtred’s son, Lochlann (Roland) would invade western Galloway. Roger of Hoveden would describe this action as “contrary to Henry’s prohibition”. The activities of Duncan’s father after 1176 are unclear, but sometime before 1184, King William had raised an army against Gilbert, punishing him “and the other Galwegians who had wasted his land and slain his vassals”. He had held off endeavors though, probably because he was worried about the response of Gilbert’s protector, Henry II of England. There were raids on William’s territory up until Gilbert’s death in 1185, and his passing had prompted Duncan’s cousin, Lochlann, who supported the Scottish king, to attempt to takeover, thus threatening Duncan’s inheritance. At this time though, Duncan was still a hostage.
The “Gesta Annalia I” claimed that Duncan’s patrimony was defended by a chieftans, whose names were Somhairle (Samuel), Gille-Patraic, and Eanric Mac Cennetig (“Henry Mac Kennedy”). Lochlann and his army met men in battle on the 4th of July 1185 and according to the “Chronicle of Melrose” had killed Gille-Patraic and a substantial number of his warriors. On September 30th, another battle had taken place, and although Lochlann’s forces were probably victorious, the killing of opponent leader Gille-Coluim, had led to the death of Lochlann’s unnamed brother. Lochlann’s activities would provoke a response from King Henry who, according to Richard Oram, a historian, “was not prepared to accept a fait accompli that disinherited the son of useful vassal, flew in the face of the settlement which he had imposed…and deprived him of influence over a vitally strategic zone on the northwest periphery of his realm”.
In May of 1186, according to Hoveden, Henry had ordered the king and magnates of Scotland to subdue Lochlann. In response to this, Lochlann “collected numerous horse and foot and obstructed the entrances to Galloway and its roads to what extend the could”. Richard Oram didn’t believe the Scots really intended to do this. Lochlann was their dependent and probably had acted with their consent, this he argued, explains why Henry had raised an army and marched north to Carlisle. When Henry had arrived he instructed King William and his brother David, the Earl of Huntingdon to come to Carlisle as well and bring Lochlann with them.
Lochlann would ignore his summons until an embassy consisting of Hugh de Puiset, Bishop of Durham and Justiciar Ranulf de Glanville had provided him with hostages as a guarantee that he would be safe. Hovedon wrote that Lochlann was allowed to keep the land that his father Uhtred had held “on the day he was alive and dead”, but that the land of Gilbert that was claimed by Duncan, would be settled in Henry’s court. Lochlann would be summoned and then agreed to the terms. King William and Earl David would swear an oath to enforce the agreement, with Jocelin, the Bishop of Glasgow, instructed to excommunicate any party that breached the oath
There is no record of any subsequent court hearing, but “Gesta Annalia I” says that Duncan was granted Carrick on the condition of peace with Lochlann. It emphasizes the role of King William (as opposed to Henry) in resolving the conflict. Richard Oram has also pointed out that Duncan’s grant to Melrose Abbey between 1189 and 1198 had been witnessed by his cousin Lochlann, evidence that the relationship between the two men had become more cordial. Though no details are given in any contemporary sources, Duncan had gained possession of some of his father’s lands in the west of the kingdom of Gall-Gaidhil, namely the “earldom” of Carrick.
When Duncan had adopted or had been given the title of earl, is a question constantly debated. The historian Alan Orr Anderson has argued that he began using the title of comes, which is latin for earl, between 1214 and 1216, based on Duncan’s appearance as a witness to two charters that were issued by Thomas de Colville.
Carrick was located in Firth of Clyde in the Irish Sea region, far from the main centers of Scottish and Anglo-Norman influence lying to its east and southeast. It was separated from Kyle in the north and northeast by the river Doon and from Galloway-proper by Glenapp and adjacent hills and forests. Three main rivers, the Doon, the Girvan, and the Stinchar, were in the area, but most of the province was hilly, meaning that most wealth would have come from animal husbandry rather than farming. The population in Duncan’s earldom, like in neighboring Galloway, had consisted of kin-groups that were governed by a “chief” or “captain”, above these captains was the Cenn Cineoil (“kenkynolle”), the “kin-captain” of Carrick. This position would have been held by the mormaer, also known as the earl. It wasn’t until after Duncan died that the two positions were separated.
The best recorded groups are Duncan’s own group, which was known as de Carrick, and the Mac Cennetig (Kennedy) family, who seems to have provided the earldom’s hereditary stewards. The population was governed under these leaders by customary law, which remained distinct from common law of Scotland for the remainder of the Middle Ages. One documented aspect of Carrick and Galloway law was the power of sergeants. Sergeants were officials of the earl or other captains, who claimed one night of free hospitality, a privilege called sorryn et frithalos, and to accuse and arrest with only little restriction. The personal lands of the earl were probably extensive in Duncan’s time.
In 1260, as an example, during the minority of Duncan’s descendant, the Countess Marjory of Carrick, an assessment made by the Scottish king had showed that earls had estates throughout the province. In upland locations like Straiton, Glengennet, and Bennan, as well as in the east locations such as Turnberry and Dalquharran.
There are existing records of Duncan’s religious patronage, these provide evidence for his associates as well as himself. In about 1200 he would allow the monks of Melrose Abbey to use salt pans from his land in Turnberry. Prior to this, in 1189 and 1198 he had granted the church of Maybothelbeg (“Little Maybole”) and the lands of Beath (Bethoc) to this Cisterican house. The grant, of which is mentioned in “The Chronicle of Melrose” of 1193, is recorded as:
“Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, of Galloway, gave to God and St. Mary and the monks of Melrose a certain part of their land in Carrick that is called Maybole, in perpetual alms, for the salvation of his soul, and the souls of all his relatives; in presence of bishop Jocelin, and many other witnesses.”
These estates were very rich and had become attached to Melrose’s “super grange” at Mauchline in Kyle. In 1285, Melrose Abbey was able to convince Duncan to force its tenants in Carrick to use the “lex Anglicana” (the “English Law”). A witness to both of the grants were some prominent churchmen who were connected to Melrose. Magnates like Earl Duncan II of Fie, the latter’s son Mael Coluim, Gille Brigte, Earl of Starthearn, as well as members of Duncan’s retinue, like Gille-Osald mac Gille-Anndrais, Gille-nan-Naemh mac Cholmain, Gille-Christ Bretnach (“the Briton”) and Duncan’s chamberlain Etgar mac Muireadhaic were all witnesses. Aedh, the son of the mormaer of Lennox also would be witness to the grants, and sometime between 1208 and 1214 Duncan (as “Lord Duncan”) had subscribed to a charter of Maol Domhnaich, the Earl of Lennox, son and heir of Mormaer Ailean II to bishopric of Glasgow regarding the church of Campsie.
There are also records of Duncan’s patronage to the nunnery of North Berwick. A house was founded by his probable maternal grandfather or great-grandfather, Duncan I of Fife had given the rectorship of the church of St. Cuthbert of Maybole sometime between 1185 and 1250. In additon to Maybole, Duncan also gave the church of St. Brigit at Kirkbride to the nuns, as well as a grant of three marks from a place called Barrebeth. Relations with the bishop of Glasgow, within whose diocese Carrick had been, are also attested. For instance, on July 21, 1225, at Ayr in Kyle, Duncan had made a promise of tithes to Walter, the Bishop of Glasgow.
His most important long-term patronage was the series of gifts he gave to Cluniac Abbey in Paisley that had led to the foundation of the monastery at Crossraguel (Crois Riaghail). Sometime before 1227, Duncan had granted the monastery and a place called Suthblan to Paisley, a grant that would be confirmed by the Pope, Honorius III on January 23, 1227. A royal confirmation by King Alexander III of Scotland on August 25, 1236. also shows he granted a monastery to the churches of Kirkoswald (Turnberry), Straiton and Dalquharran (Old Daily). He also might have given churches of Girvan and Kirkcudbright-Innertig (Ballantrae) monasteries as well. It is clear that Duncan made these grants on the condition that the Abbey of Paisley establish a Cluniac house in Carrick, but it’s argued that the Abbey hadn’t fulfilled this condition, and that it wasn’t obliged to do such.
In 1244, the Bishop of Glasgow had intervened and determined that a house of Cluniac monks from Paisley should be founded there, and it should be exempt from the jurisdiction of Paisley, as long as it had recognition of the common Cluniac Order, but the Abbot of Paisley could visit the house annually. Afterwards the foundation of Paisley was to hand over its Carrick properties to the newly established monastery. A papal bull from July 11, 1265 reveals that Paisley Abbey would built only a small oratory that was served by Paisley monks. Twenty years after the bishop’s ruling, Paisley would complain to the papacy, then led by Pope Clement IV, who would then issue two bulls, on eon June 11, 1265 and the other on February 6, 1266. The appointing was mandatory in settling the dispute and results of the deliberations are unknown.
Crossraguel would not be founded until about twenty years after Duncan’s death, probably in about 1270. Its first abbot, Abbot Patrick, is attested between 1274 and 1292.
An Anglo-French World
In secular affairs, one of the few important facts about Duncan was his marriage to Avelina. She was the daughter of Alan fitz Walter, Lord of Strathgryfe and Northern Kyle, as well as High Steward of Scotland. The marriage is known of from Roger of Hoveden’s “Chronica”, which was recorded as such:
“Carried off (rapuit) Avelina, daughter of Alan fitz Walter, lord of Renfrew, before William king of Scotland returned from England to his own land. And hence that king was exceeding wroth; and he took from Alan fitz Walter twenty-four pledges that he would preserve the peace with his and with his land, and take the law about his law.”
The marriage had bound Duncan closer to Anglo-French circles of the northern part of the region south of the Forth. While from Alan’s point of view it was only part of a series of moves to expand his territory further into former Gall-Gaidhil lands. A few years earlier Duncan had made another move that made an alliance with another Firth of Clyde Gaelic prince, Raghnall mac Somhairle (Rognavaldr, son of Sumarliol or Somerled).
There is charter evidence that reveals that two Anglo-Normans were present at the time in Duncan’s territory. Some charters to Melrose were subscribed by an Anglo-Norman knight, named Roger de Skelbrooke who appears to have also been Lord of Greenan. He also made grants to Melrose regarding the land of Drumshang, the grants would be confirmed by “his lord” Duncan. This knight gave Melrose fishing rights in the river Doon, rights that would be confirmed by Duncan as well and later by Roger’s son-in-law and successor Raderic mac Gillescop. Another known Anglo-French knight was Thomas de Colville, nicknamed “The Scot”. He was the younger son of the lord of Castle Bytham, who was a significant landowner in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
In about 1190, Thomas was constable of Dumfries, a royal castle which had been built in Strathnith by the Scottish king, probably overrun by Gall-Gaidhil in the revolt of 1174 before being restored afterwards. There is evidence that Thomas had possessed land in the region under Duncan’s overlordship, which comes during the beginning of the 13th century, when he made a grant of land around Dalmellington to Cistericans of Vaudey Abbey. The historians G. W. S. Barrow and Hector MacQueen both thought that Thomas’ nickname is a representation of his exposure to culture of the southwest during his career there. It’s unknown why the two men had acquired patronage of Duncan or his family. In 1980 writings of Anglo-Norman Scotland G. W. S. Barrow couldn’t find any cause for them being in the area, and declared that they were “for the present impossible to account for”.
An Anglo-Norman by the name of John de Courcy, whose early life was probably spent just across the Irish Sea in Cumbria, would invade Eastern Ulster in 1177 with the aim of conquest. Upon defeating the region’s king, Ruaidhri Mac Duinn Shleibhe, John was able to take over control of a large territory. However, he would still encounter further resistance from the native Irish. Cumbria was only a short distance as well from the lands of the Gall-Gaidhil. About three years later, John would marry Duncan’s cousin Affraic inghen Gofraidh, whose father Gofraidh, King of the Isles, was the son of Duncan’s aunt. Gofraidh, had in turn married a daughter of the Meic Lochlann ruler of Tir Eoghain, another Ulster principality. The marriage, therefore, would connect Duncan and other Gall-Gaidhil princes to several players in Ulster affairs.
The earliest information of Duncan’s and Gall-Gaidhil’s involvement in Ulster comes from one Roger of Hoveden’s entry about the death of Jordan de Courcy, John’s brother. He relates that in 1197, after the death of Jordan, John sought vengeance and:
“Fought a battle with the petty-kings of Ireland, of whom he put some to fight, slew others, and subjugated their territories; of which he gave no small part to Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, the son of Fergus, who at the time that the said John was about to engaged with the Irish, came to assist him with no small body of troops.”
After this, no more light is shed upon Duncan’s involvement at this point, probably lost to history. Duncan’s interest in the area was damaged when de Courcy had lost his territory in eastern Ulster to his rival, Hugh de Lacy in 1203. John with the help from his wife’s brother, King Raghnall mac Gofraidh and perhaps from Duncan had tried to regain his principality but was initially unsuccessful. His fortunes were boosted when Hugh (then Earl of Ulster) and his associate, William de Briouze III, had a falling out with John. The king would campaign in Ireland against them in 1210, one of which would force de Briouze to return to Wales and de Lacy to flee to St. Andrews in Scotland.
English records attest to Duncan’s involvement in Ireland. One document, after describing how William de Briouze became the king’s enemy in England and Ireland, records that after John had arrived in Ireland in July of 1210:
“[William de Briouze’s] wife [Matilda] fled to Scotland with William and Reinald her sons, and her private retinue, in the company of Hugh de Lacy, and when the king was at Carrickfergus castle, a certain friend and cousin of his of Galloway, namely Donnchadh of Carrick, reported to the king that he had taken her and her daughter the wife of Roger de Mortimer, and William junior, with his wife and two sons, but Hugh de Lacy and Reinald escaped.”
“Histoire des Ducs de Normandie” recorded that William and his wife had voyaged to the Isle of Man, en route from Ireland to Galloway, where they were captured. Matilda would be imprisoned by the king and ended up dying of starvation. Another document, preserved in an Irish memoranda roll dating to the reign of Henry VI, records that after John’s Irish expedition of 1210, Duncan had control of an extensive territory in County Antrim, namely the settlements of Larne and Glenarm, with fifty carucates of land in between, a territory similar to the later barony of Glenarm upper. King John had given or at least recognized Duncan’s possession of the territory, and that of his nephew Alexander, as a reward for his help. Similarly, John had given Duncan’s cousins Ailean and Tomas, the sons of Lochlann, a huge lordship equivalent to 140 knight’s fees which included the northern part of County Antrim and County Londonderry, reward for use of their soldiers and galleys.
By 1219, Duncan and his nephew appear to have lost all or at least most of their Irish lands. A document from that year relates that the Justiciar of Ireland, Geoffrey de Marisco, had dispossessed them, believing that they had conspired against him in a rebellion in 1215. King John’s successor, Henry III, found that this was not true and had ordered the Justiciar to restore Duncan and his nephew to their lands. However, by 1224, Duncan still had not regained his lands and de Lacy’s adherents were gaining more ground in the region. King Henry III repeated his earlier but ineffective instructions. He would order Henry de Loundres, the Archbishop of Dublin and new Justiciar of Ireland, to restore to Duncan “the remaining part of the land given to him by King John in Ireland, unless anyone held it by his father’s own precept”.
Later in that same year, Duncan would write King Henry:
“[Donnchadh] Thanks him for the mandate which he directed by him to the Justiciar of Ireland, to restore his land there, of which he had been disseized on account of the English war; but as the land has not yet been restored, he asks the King to give by him a more effectual command to the Justiciar.”
Henry then sent his response to Duncan’s request to his Justiciar:
“King John granted to Donnchadh of Carrick, land in Ulster called Balgeithelauche [probably Ballygalley, county Antrim]. He says Hugh de Lacy disseized him and gave it to another. The King commands the Earl to inquire who has it, and its tenure; and if his right is insufficient, to give Donnchadh the land during the king’s pleasure. At Bedford.”
It’s not very likely that Duncan had ever regained his territory. After Hugh was formally restored to the Earldom of Ulster in 1227, Duncan’s land was probably controlled by the Bisset family. Historian Sean Duffy, argues that the Bissets (later known as the “Bissets of the Glens”) helped Hugh de Lacy, and probably ended up with Duncan’s territory as a reward.
Duncan’s Death and Legacy
According to the “Martyrology of Glasgow” Duncan is said to have died on the 13th of June 1250. He would be succeeded in the earldom by Niall. The traditional view, going back to the 19th century, would have made Niall, Duncan’s son. This view has been undermined with more recent research by a genealogist named Andrew MacEwen, who has argued that Niall wasn’t his son, but rather his grandson, a view that would be embraced by leading Scottish medievalist Professor G. W. S. Barrow. According to his argument, Duncan’s son and intended heir was Cailean mac Donnchaidh (alias Nicholas), who as such, had issued a charter in Duncan’s lifetime, but seems to have predeceased him. He goes on to further suggest that Cailean’s wife, Earl Niall’s mother, was the daughter of Tir Eoghain, king Niall Ruadh O Neill, tying in with Duncan’s Irish activities, and accounting for the use of the name Niall. This also explains the strong alliance with O Neill that was held by Niall’s grandsons.
Another of Duncan’s sons, John, had owned land in Straiton. He was involved in the Galwegian revolt of Gille-Ruadh in 1235, during which he had attacked some churches in the diocese of Glasgow. He had received a pardon by granting patronage of the church of Straiton and land of Hachinclohyn to William de Bondington, the Bishop of Glasgow, which was confirmed by Alexander II in 1244.
Two of his other sons, Alan and Alexander are said to have subscribed to Duncan and Cailean’s charters to North Berwick. The “Melrose Charter” mentions that Alan was parson of Kirchemanen. Cailean and presumably Duncan’s other legitimate sons, had died before their father.
Duncan’s probable grandson, Niall, was the earl for only six years when he too would die, leaving no son but four daughters, one of which is known by name. It’s presumed that his eldest, Marjory was who succeeded him. She had married Adam of Kilconquhar, a member of the Mac Duibh family of Fife, and Robert VI de Brus, Lord of Annandale. Her son Robert VII de Brus, through his military successes and ancestral kinship with the Dunkeld dynasty, would later become King of the Scots as Robert I. His brother, Edward Bruce, would become, if only for a short time, and only in name, High King of Ireland.