750 Years of Durie

Home Up Next

Durie History
Arms & Tartan
Duries Worldwide
Durie Genealogy
Durie Bookshelf
Durie Merchandise
News and Newsletters
Durie Gallery
Archive Materials
Site Map and Search
Useful Links
Legal & Copyright
Privacy Policy

750 Years of Durie

In 2021, the Durie family is 760 years old. That’s a bold claim, but one substantiated by the documentary evidence, which also provides an almost unbroken lineage from there to the present Chief. Durie, of course is a Lowland (Fife) name and therefore the Chief, Andrew Durie of Durie CBE, DL, is the representer of a Family, not a Clan – the same as the Chiefs of Bruce, Wallace and many other famous names in Scottish history.

There are a number of myths surrounding the origin of the name Durie. Some would have it of Norman origin, based on nothing more than the first two letters of the name. Sadly, there is no record of any Norman of that or a similar enough name, either just after 1066, or in Domesday, or in Scotland in the two centuries that followed, in Scotland or England – or, for that matter, in France. There is a tantalising reference in a charter, probably from the early reign of Edward II and thus in the 1280s, of a knight called “Sir Roges de Purloc de Douery” in Somerset, England.[i]

There is also a much-promulgated story that the Durie family built Rossend Castle, Burntisland, Fife, “in 1119”, because the castle bears Durie arms above the door. The "1119" is a mis-reading of a very eroded CONFIDO, the motto from Abbot George's Arms. There was almost certainly a building of some kind on that site in the 12th Century, but the present castle is much later, and only came into the family’s possession because it was controlled, as part of the Regality of Dunfermline, by George Durie, last Abbot there before the reformation. George had his arms placed there in anticipation of a visit by Mary, Queen of Scots, as other internal archaeological and historical evidence attests. (Mary had an unfortunate visit, being surprised in her bedchamber by an over-ardent French troubadour called De Chastelard, who took his romantic calling somewhat too far and lost his head – literally – as a consequence.) George granted Rossend to his elder brother, Robert, in 1538, but the family held it for a scant 25 years or so before it was passed to Melvilles and others.

Most of the published genealogies for Durie are misleading or downright wrong, including those in Wood’s East Neuk of Fife and Burke’s Peerage and Gentry (various editions). They confuse the three main lines –

bulletDurie of Durie (no longer landed),
bulletDurie of Craigluscar (represented by our Chief) and
bulletDurie of Grange (now extinct, who persuaded themselves but almost nobody else that they were the Lords Rutherford).

However, the origin of the name is clear – in 1260 or shortly thereafter, a younger son of the Earl of Strathearn was granted the land in Fife already called Durie in the parish of Scoonie and took the name, becoming “of Durie” or, in the Anglo-French used in documents of that that time, “de Durie”. This is recorded in the earliest written record of the name, a charter granted by:

Adam of Kylkoneqhueh Earle of Carrick confirming a charter granted be Regnold le Cheine son of Regnold son of Henry le Cheine, to Gilbert son of Robert Earle of Stranairn of his lands of Durie in the shire of Scoony in Fife which lands were disponed by Duncan son to Duncan Earle of Fife to Sir Hugh of [left blank] in marriage with Annibilla his daughter the charter confirmed being ingrost and both wanting dates the Witnesses names are Robert Bishop of Dunblane Allan Abbot and Hugh prior of Ile of [left blank but likely Inchaffray]. Sir Alexr Cumming (Comyn) Earle of Buchan Sir [left blank] (Malise) Earle of Strathearn Sir Wm Earle of Marr Sir Wm of Broghyn (Breqhyn=Brechin).[ii]

“Stranairn” is Strathearn., one of the ancient Celtic earldoms; “Kylkoneqhueh” is either Kilconquhar (pronounced “kinyuchar”) or Kennoway, which are close to each other, to the Durie lands referred to, in the parish of Scoonie and to the Earl of Fife’s lands around present-day MacDuff, all in the east of Fife near Leven. Adam of Kilconquhar was married to Marjorie, Countess of Carrick who was the daughter and heiress of Neil, Earl of Carrick, ancestor of the Bruce family by her second marriage to Robert de Brus of Hartlepool, Co. Durham, who then became Earl of Carrick de jure uxoris. Adam, who died in 1270 while on crusade at Acre, was the son of Duncan I, Earl of Fife, brother of Duncan II Earl, and took the name of Kilconquhar ('Obiit Adam de Kilconcath, comes de Carrick cujus uxorem comitissam de Carrick, postea Robertus de Brus, junior, accepit in sponsam', in Crawfurd,[iii] citing The Chronicle of Melrose). Reginald le Chene was the son of Reginald de Chene, who in turn was the son of either Henry or Bernard le Chene. Sir Gilbert (Strathearn) of Belnollo (a. 1244) is therefore possibly the progenitor of the Durie family, taking the name ‘de Durie’. The Belnollo lands later belonged to Durie of that Ilk. Belnollo (or Belnallo), Abercairney, Foulis and Muthil are all near Crieff, Perthshire, firmly in old Strathearn territory. The names Gilbert and Malise crop up frequently in the Starthearn family – although they seem French, they are in fact Anglo-French renditions of Gaelic or Pictish names: Malise (Latin form Malisius) was Mael Isu, “follower of Jesus”; and Gilbert is Gillebride, “servant of St. Bride”, a christianised form the pagan goddess-spirit Brigid, often found in Pictish royal names such as Brude or Bridei. Gilbert was the 3rd son of Robert, 4th known Earl of Strathearn who ruled 1223-1245.

As for Annibilla – there is much confusion in the sources. For instance: Annabella is given variously as the daughter of the 4th or 5th Earl; Agnes Comyn, wife of the 5th Earl was also known as Marjory, Egidia or Emma; the 7th and 8th Earls are often confused (notably in Burke's Extinct Peerage); and Helen is sometimes given as the daughter of the 8th Earl. “Annibilla” may be Isabella who was married to Walter Stewart, brother of King Robert III. As the heiress of Duncan IV of Fife, she carried with her the mormaerdom of Fife (signed over in 1371 to Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, an illegitimate son of King Robert II). “Sir Hugh…” is probably Hugh (of Freskin) de Moravia (Moray) of Duffus and Strathbrock, the “Hugh son of William”, who obtained lands in Sutherland, granted Skelbo and a moiety of Creich to his kinsman Gilbert de Moravia, archdeacon of Moray (confirmed by his son William, before 1222) .His wife's maritagium (roughly, a dowry) was Durie in Fife, given on her marriage by her father Earl Duncan.[iv] The families are intimately connected.

Robert de Prebenda was Bishop of Dunblane (r. 1258/9-1284); Alan is unknown, but there was an Allan Abbot of Inchaffray (r. 1258-1271). He was succeeded by Hugh (r. 1284-1292) as Abbot, so the dates and the reference to a prior are confusing. The Isle of Inchaffray was founded by Gille Brigte (Gilbert), mormaer of Strathearn in 1200 as a priory but was elevated to an abbey in 1221.

For all the above reasons, we must date Adam’s charter in the early 1260s, so the name Durie has been attached to the family for 750 years. But did the land stay in the family?

There is an instrument dated 23 Nov. 1470 in which:

'Andrew Durie of that ilk past to the personall presence of Sir Gilbert Keith of Inverugie his superior and required back his lands after the ward was expyred payment of the releiss & that he gave back the lands to the forsaid Andrew Durie of that Ilk.'

This is Andrew Durie of that Ilk of Crosswood. The expiry of the wardship in 1470 suggests that Andrew Durie had reached the age of either 14 or 21 (thus born ca. 1449-1456) and so came into the Durie lands. Parliamentary records of 1483 refer to “Corswood” in relation to a dispute between Andrew Durie and Sir John Sandilands, which places these lands near Mid Calder in West Lothian.[v] Sir Gilbert Keith, 3rd of Inverugie clearly had superiority of Durie from his descent from the marriage of John Keith, 1st of Inverugie to Mariotta de Cheyne, daughter of Helen of Strathearn and Reginald le Chene of Inverugie. Gilbert Keith was thus second great-grandnephew of Gilbert of Durie and a distant cousin of Andrew Durie, barring any inter-marriages. The Keiths were, of course, the Earls of Strathearn, and had lands around Mid Calder.

There are legal instruments and a Retour (essentially a record of inheritance) showing that George Durie son to Andrew, was infeft of the lands in 1486. If George was in his majority this suggests he was born ca. 1465-1472, which fits a birth date for Andrew ca. 1449. There is a record of the marriage of George to Isabel Lundy on 7 Mar 1486/87. Other records have him as George Durie of that Ilk of Balcurrogol. In 1506 Sir Gilbert Keith (in the presence of King James IV) resigns the lands to John Durie of that Ilk and finally in 1512 King James ratified an Act of Parliament of 1509 whereby the “land of Dury Balcurvie & others” were erected into the Barony of Durie. The next heir was Robert Durie of that Ilk in 1540.

This John Durie married Janet Betoun (more of which family later) and had at least
    (i) Robert Durie of Durie (who inherited Durie),
   (ii) Andrew Durie, later Abbot of Melrose and Bishop of Galloway, and
  (iii) George Durie, later Abbot of Dunfermline, plus
  (iv) a daughter Elizabeth who married in 1528 David Pitcairn of that ilk and of Forthar, 12th of Pitcairn.

Burke’s Landed Gentry confuses Robert of that Ilk with Robert, Minister of Anstruther, who was the son of a different John Durie (1537–1600), a cousin and a Protestant divine (see below), one of the first ministers of St Giles and possibly the last man to see John Knox on his deathbed – Knox, who mistrusted powerful women and hated Catholics but liked a tipple, cracked a hogshead of wine for them.

The rest is well-recorded land history. Robert passed the Barony of Durie to his only daughter, Jonet in 1554, who was forced to marry a favourite of James V, Henry Kemp of Thomastoun, who had to change his name to Durie to preserve the inheritance. Jonet passed the lands to her eldest son, David, in 1556/57 but David seems to have given them almost immediately to his son, Robert. Janet died in 1575 and David in 1597 (from his testament dative, confirmed in 1601). In 1614, Robert Durie arranged a Retour as heir to David and also tidied up a previous generation’s land assignments, in preparation for a sale.

Robert was by now living at Scottscraig, in what is now Leuchars, near St. Andrews and was no longer occupying the Durie lands, which were subinfeudated to the Ramsay family. The reason is unclear (Robert seems to have been in debt to Ramsay and to his cousin James Durie of Craigluscar), but he decided to sell Durie to Alexander Gibson of Liberton (ca. 1576–10 Jun 1644), a Clerk of Session and thereafter Lord President of the Session, one of the most senior Judges in Scotland. The sum paid was “three score three thousand [blank]”. If this is 63,000 Pound Scots (£5,250 sterling) or 63,000 Merks (£3,500 sterling) it approximates to half a million pounds in today’s terms.

Gibson took possession of the manor place of Durie on 25 July 1614 and as soon as he could, adopted the judicial title Lord Durie. Robert’s last act was to write to His Lordship in 1618 to warn him off signing himself “Durie” as he, Robert, considered himself “Durie of That Ilk” although he had no real right to do so, and is mentioned in other documents of the time as 'olim vocati' [= once called]. Gibson’s grandson later sold the Durie lands and barony to the Christie family, who are still there. Durie de Eodem, which means Durie of That Ilk, or Durie of Durie.

Robert and his wife Margaret Stewart of Rosyth had at least five sons and three daughters. In 1615, George gave up Scottscraig to Lord (George) Ramsay of Dalhousie. The link with Durie land, and the barony, was over. The author descends from that line.

The Divine Duries

John Durie (1537–1600) referred to above had been a monk of Dunfermline under Abbot George, and may have been a cousin, from Ayrshire. He was prosecuted for “heresy” (Protestantism), and was condemned to be enclosed until he died, but friends persuaded James Hamilton, third earl of Arran, to obtain his release. He married Marion, daughter of Sir John Marjoribanks, provost of Edinburgh. He served as Exhorter at Restalrig 1563 to 1569, Minister at Hailes, transferred to Leith in May 1570, and by 6 August 1573 was Minister of St Giles, Edinburgh.

At the general assembly in August 1575 Durie, supported by Andrew Melville, questioned whether bishops as constituted in the Church of Scotland were lawful. In October 1576 the assembly named him to the committee to revise a draft of the Book of Discipline, and four years later it appointed him visitor of Teviotdale.

Banished from Edinburgh by the privy council in June 1582. Durie returned to Edinburgh on 4 September, to be given a triumphant reception by a swelling crowd of up to 2000 people, singing psalm 124, ‘Now Israel may Say’, with ‘a great sound and majestie’, in emulation of Christ’s return to Jerusalem.

He was again in trouble in July 1583, this time for defending the Ruthven coup, and banished from Edinburgh to Montrose, with a pension of £140 paid granted on 7 August 1590.

His sons became ministers—Joshua at Inverkeilor, Forfarshire; Robert at Anstruther, Fife; and Simeon at Arbroath, Forfarshire—and his daughters married clergy—Christian married George Gledstanes, later archbishop of St Andrews; Elizabeth, James Melville; and the third daughter John Dykes, minister of Kilrenny.

Robert Durie (1555-1616), second son of John Durie was one of the Fife Adventurers to Lewis, Assistant Schoolmaster in Dunfermline, Minister at Anstruther and elsewhere, but banished in 1606 for treason. In 1609 he became the first minister of the congregation of the Scots Kirk at Leyden, Netherlands

His son, John Durie (1596-1680), was Minister of the English Merchants' or Court Kirk at Rotterdam, and is best known for his (largekly fruitless) endeavours to accomplish a union between the Lutheran and other reformed churches all over Europe. Keeper of the King’s Library, he was a friend of Milton and Hartlib, author of various works including the first modern treatise on librarianship, and father-in-law of Henry Oldenburg who helped found the Royal Society. Johannes Duraeus (as he was widely known throughout Europe), died at Cassel on 28th Sept. 1680.

The Duries of Craigluscar

As described above, John Durie had two younger sons. Andrew was the controversial, card-playing, foul-mouthed Royal Chaplain at Stirling and Abbot of Melrose, a position he probably obtained by fraud and which was removed from him in favour of the king’s infant son, but handsomely compensated, made a Lord of Session and erected Bishop of Galloway (Candida Casa). He died in 1558 of apoplexy at the sight of pre-Reformation Protestant riots in Edinburgh.

He and his brother George had become Archdeacons at St Andrews thanks to their uncle, Archbishop James Beaton, persecutor of Lutherans and brother to Sir David Beaton of Creich, who in 1501 became treasurer of Scotland. George Durie also received preferment in becoming Abbot and Commendator of Dunfermline in 1526/27 (but not titular until 1539). He used this position, and the high offices of state that came his way, to enrich his family, including elder brother Robert Durie of that Ilk and his legitimated sons by his “wife” Katherine Sibbald, Peter and Henry. Peter received the lands later called Grange of Wester Kinghorne (including the area including Rossend Castle) and Henry was set up in the Regality lands across the Forth around Musselburgh. Henry’s wife, Margaret McBeith, was skilled healer, and reportedly saved the life of the infant Charles I, born at Dunfermline. (Two other sons, George and John, became Jesuits and one at least returned to Scotland as part of the Counter-Reformation.) Abbot George spent much of his time opposing Reform, and supporting the cause of Mary Queen of Scots. He spirited away the sacred relics of Saint Margaret and hid in France for most of the 1560s until he could return, senile and powerless, to die at Craigluscar ca. 1579. He was not, contrary to some reports, canonised as a saint. He may, as a result of political manoeuverings with the Earl of Arran, have caused the Battle of Pinkie.[vi]

However, Abbot George’s descendants proved to be better in character. The Craigluscar family were prudent stewards of their lands outside Dunfermline and produced a number of fine soldiers, administrators and scholars. Notable among them were: George, 5th of Craigluscar (bef. 1637-1703), Captain in Louis XIV Scots Guards and Provost of Dunfermline; Charles (1,815-1845), 10th of Craigluscar and an Army surgeon who died and is buried at Malaga, Spain; Robert Durie (1777–1825), 9th of Craigluscar, shipwrecked off the Falklands on return from Australia; Charles Durie (1778-1868), British Consul to Christiania, Norway between 1815-1832, but sacked by British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston for fiddling his expenses; and his son, David Stark Durie (1804-1874) who fought in Portugal and in the Spanish Carlist wars, helped establishing the new colony of New Zealand and held no fewer than fourteen government appointments, ranging from first Inspector of Armed Police, to Customs Officer and Resident Magistrate at Wanganui where a number of place names commemorate his contribution to the city. This line would have ended with Eliza) Durie (1837-1917) 12th of Craigluscar on the death of her elder brother, but for a happy marriage to Dunfermline General Practitioner Andrew Dewar who added Durie to his name and preserved the entail. Andrew and Eliza Dewar-Durie sold Craigluscar in 1909, thus ending the last Durie land-ownership in Fife. Their great-grandson is the present Chief, Andrew Durie.

Overseas Duries

There are thriving communities of Durie in England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America and elsewhere, although the first “colonists” may have been the Scots Duries who went to France and the Low Countries and became the progenitors of the Duryeas who emigrated to New Jersey in the 1600s because of their protestant leanings. It was two Duryea brothers who built and sold the first gasoline-powered motor cars in America. (See Genealogy and DNA)

In this, the 750th year of an old and proud family, we should love to hear from them all.

The Durie Family Association can be contacted via webmaster@brucedurie.co.uk 

Dr. Bruce Durie can be contacted at gen@brucedurie.co.uk


[i] Deeds: A.3212 from H. C. Maxwell Lyte (Ed.), A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds: Volume 2 (1894).

[ii] See Inventories of Titles III – Miscellaneous, Date 1568-c 1811, held at RH9/4/3 in the National Archives of Scotland.

[iii] Crawfurd, George. The History of the Shire of Renfrew, p. 21. Edinburgh: Printed by James Watson, 1710,

[iv] The Scots Peerage VIII:245, has a note (1), saying: “The writ must be between 1266 and 1269”;. cf. Crawford pp. 32-33, Scottish Antiquary XV:54-55 (No. 58).

[v] 1483, March, Edinburgh, Parliament Council Register, Judicial proceedings: acts of the lords auditors of causes and complaints. The lords auditors. ‘In presence of the lords auditors Thomas Lowis of Manor protested that what the lords did in the matter between the laird of Calder and the laird of Cariston, assignee to Andrew Durie of that Ilk, regarding the sum of £120 for the mails of Wester Corswod, should not turn him to any prejudice.’ [1483/3/65] In the action and cause pursued by David Balfour of Cariston, assignee to Andrew Durie of that Ilk, against Sir John of Sandilands of Calder, knight, and James of Sandilands, his son and heir apparent, for the wrongful detention of the sum of £120 from him, of which sum was previously recovered by the said Andrew Durie from the said Sir John and James before the auditors of causes and complaints in our sovereign lord's parliament, as is purported more fully in their act made thereupon, the said Sir John of Sandilands and the said Laird Cariston being present in person, and the said Sir James Sandilands being lawfully and peremptorily summoned and often called but not compearing, the lords auditors decree and deliver that the said Sir John Sandilands and Sir James shall satisfy and pay the said sum of £120 to the† David as aforesaid assignee, just as was previously decreed by the said lords auditors, without prejudice of the right of the said Sir John Sandilands's process led or to be led against the said Andrew Durie of the †lands of Wester Corswod, and ordain that letters be written to distrenzie them of their lands and goods for that.

[vi] Dilworth, Mark. ‘Durie, George (d. 1577)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

[vii] Macdonald, William Rae. Scottish armorial seals (1904)

[viii] Public Register of All Arms and Bearings, 1672 Vol 1 p 811. Lyon Office, Edinburgh

[ix] See http://www.tayport.org.uk/article.php?id=29

A version of this 'History of 750 years of the Duries' by Dr Bruce Durie appeared in the January 2012 edition of 'The Highlander'. For more information about this American periodical see www.highlandermagazine.com

Author Dr Bruce Durie Contact: gen@brucedurie.co.uk



Share your story

If you have a story or a history for us, please send as a Word Document or Plain Text by email, accessible from our Contact page. Photographs should be in Jpeg format (.jpg).

All information will be reviewed and may be used on the website and shared with the family genealogist.

We hope you will also help us build up our extended Family Tree - http://www.brucedurie.co.uk/TNG/

There is an historical information section on Overseas Duries included in '750 Years of Duries' by Dr Bruce Durie. Click Here


Home Up Next

Copyright ©2019 Bruce Durie & Durie Family Association. Maintained by Bruce Durie