receiving numerous emails and other communications regarding the Clan Duncan
Society, its aims, objectives, purpose and other queries, I thought it was
time to give a brief outline of why the Society was formed in March 2005,
after nearly twenty years of research into the name Duncan. The research
included various prominent Duncan families, Duncan Armorial Bearings (Coats
of Arms), Genealogy, Family Biographies, the historic roots of the Duncans
in Scotland and other Duncan related history and events. About one third of
the research completed so far is published on the Clan Duncan Society
Website. This will give you a more in-depth view.
the Society’s prime goals is to have a ‘Duncan Chief of the name’ officially
recognised by the Lord
Lyon King of Arms of Scotland. This is one of the areas which causes the
most confusion and perhaps stirs up the most passion. Some people, who
contact the Society, make statements and ask questions such as;
already have a Chief of Duncan; Alexander Gilbert Robertson of Struan,
Chief of Clan Donnachaidh”
have you started a Clan Duncan Society, There is already a Clan Donnachaidh
“There is no such thing as a Clan Duncan”
“Duncan is a ‘sept’ of Clan Donnachaidh”
make reference on your website to Clan Robertson, there is no Clan
Robertson it is Clan Donnachaidh”
instant reaction is to say to them “I am a Duncan not a Robertson” or “How
can I be a member of a so called ‘sept.’ of my
own patronymic name” This is why a more informative explanation is required.
believed that Robertsons descend from the Duncans and from on particular
ancestor that of Robert Duncanson of Struan around 1451, which indeed seems
to be the case. However we must note some other facts,
Duncan Grant of Dalvey, The Great Seal of Scotland 1442 was also
regarded as the Chief of Clan Donachie aka Donnachaidh (Duncan). The
of the Athol Brigade 1745-46 which included Clan Robertson was also
devoid of Duncans & Donachies in their muster and
DNA project at present also fails to provide a DNA connection between
those Duncans and Robertsons tested. This is only a few examples
there are others.
Robertson of Struan is (according
to Burke’s Landed Gentry of Scotland) the 24th Chief of Clan
Robertson and the 28th Chief of Clan Donnachaidh and there can be
no doubt that his genealogy links him to both or at least one particular
Duncanson. However, to be Chief of the Robertsons is one thing - to be Chief
over the name ‘Duncan’, a name he and his immediate family abandoned over
450 years ago, is quite another. To expect those who today retain the name
of ‘Duncan’ to wear the Crest Belt and Buckle (Clansman’s Badge) of the
Robertson Clan is, to some, not acceptable.
So is it Clan Donnachaidh or Clan
The Letters Patent of the father of
Alexander Gilbert Robertson of Struan
(The Grant of Arms from the Lyon Court confirming that he is an
officially recognized Chief) states;
George Duncan Haldane Robertson of Struan, Chief of the name and head of
Clan Robertson otherwise entitled Clan Donnachaidh"
So, in actual fact and contrary to what many
believe to be the case, it is Clan Robertson and he is head of that name.
'Otherwise entitled' means that Clan Robertson can otherwise be called or
known as Clan Donnachaidh. No mention is made of the name Duncan in the
letters patent (Grant of Arms), nor is there any reference to Clan Duncan.
Struan is nowhere in this document acknowledged as being Chief of, or having
any relationship to, the Duncans. In fact, his coat of arms is that of the
head of the family of Robertson. These are not Donnachaidh arms and they are
most certainly not Duncan arms which are very different.
To further substantiate the above in the 1934
Clan Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, page 177 by Frank
Adam & Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Carrick Pursuviant of Arms later Lord
Lyon (Sir Thomas is excepted as being a learned legal authority on heraldry
& clans) they also make reference to the situation of the Robertson,
Donnachie and Duncan scenario.
"Duncan, Duncanson -- Instead of the Duncans,
Donnachies. etc., appearing as septs of the Robertsons, the position
should, properly speaking, be reversed. As explained in notes on the Clan
Robertson the progenitor of the Clan Donnachie was Duncan, or Donnachadh
Reamar; the appellation of Robertson having been derived from the name of
the Chief, Robert who flourished during the reign of King James I."
Heraldry (Coats of Arms) plays a huge part
in the clan System in Scotland and The Lord
Lyon King of Arms is a Minister of State and member of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II’s Royal Household. As Head of the Heraldic Executive and Judge
of the Court of the Lord Lyon, he has jurisdiction over all heraldic matters
in Scotland and he maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and
Genealogies. So it should be
noted that by the Law of Arms of Scotland, that, if the name Duncan was
considered associated with Robertson/Donnachaidh, then all Duncan Coats of
Arms would be based on what is known as the stem arms (Chiefly Arms in this
particular case) of the family name Robertson of Struan; they are not.
Duncan arms are very different and the oldest Duncan arms so far known have
been traced back to 1592 in The Hague Roll. Please see
Armorial Roll and we are at present researching what may be even older
arms - those of Finlay Duncan of 1538.
So, what are the chances of a Duncan Chief of
the name being officially recognised by the Lord Lyon of Scotland?
At present there are two methods: Firstly,
find a genealogical Duncan link that goes back to the 4th Chief
of Clan Donnachaidh (predating the Robertson Chiefs who, at that time, could
be considered to be simply a cadet branch of the 4th Chief). This
presents an almost impossible task, considering the lack of records from
that time. Secondly, one could hold what is known as a ‘Derbhfine’. A
Derbhfine is a council of nine people who are either Armigerous (a person
who has obtained a grant of Scottish arms from the Lord Lyon) or who have
substantial land holdings in Scotland.
For more details on holding a
‘Derbhfine’ and Clan recognition see
Recognition and the Derbhfine
present and until a derbhfine can be held for the nomination of candidate
who would in the first instance, be appointed Clan Commander, the
‘Territorial House of Duncan of Sketraw’ will be looking after the interests
of Clan Duncan.
that other Duncans and those with alternate spellings can help, is by
joining the Clan Duncan Society as a member details of membership can be
found here. You can
also lend your support to the Clan by filling in the Clan Roll Form there
Duncan of Sketraw, Laird of Sketraw, FSA Scot.
Clan Duncan Society