Written by Bruce Durie
The Duries are an old and
honourable Scottish family. We trace our ancestry back as far at least
as the 1260s. The name originated from the lands of Durie in Scoonie,
Fife, which were granted by Regnold le Cheine to Gilbert son of Robert,
Earl of Strathearn, as confirmed by the Earl of Carrick, son of Duncan
1st Earl of Fife. ‘Durie’ is a Gaelic place name which may indicate
‘black stream’, possibly a reference to the rich coal seams in Fife.
There have long been stories about the name originating in France as ‘Du
Roi’ but these have now been proved to be just that – stories.
The family rose to
prominence in the 1500s. John Durie of Craigluscar, an estate near
Dunfermline, Fife, had three sons – Robert Durie of that Ilk, who held
the lands in Scoonie and Andrew and George, who were archdeacons at St
Andrews under their uncle, the infamous Cardinal Beaton. Andrew later
became Abbot of Melrose and afterwards Bishop of Galloway in
controversial circumstances, and George was the powerful Abbot of
Dunfermline in name from 1527 and fully appointed by James V after
Beaton’s murder in 1539. He was also one of the judges of Patrick
Hamilton, one of the earliest martyrs of the Protestant faith.
Nepotism was widespread
in those times - George parceled out lands to his relatives and
legitimized children and made his nephew, David Durie of that Ilk, the
Hereditary Bailie of Dunfermline but he also brought to trial and
condemned to death for heresy his cousin, John Durie. John, however, was
rescued by the Earl of Arran and became one of the earliest Protestant
divines, and a minister at St Giles, Edinburgh.
Dunfermline in those
times was the seat of power in Scotland, of Parliament, the Church and -
with its royal palace – similar to Westminster in London. Apart from
being a senior churchman, George Durie was also an important politician.
He was repeatedly chosen as a Lord of the Articles, whose job it was to
choose which legislation to lay before Parliament, and he sat in
Parliament during the 1540s. It was thanks to him that Regent Arran did
not accept the English title of Earl of Hertford, and so, in effect, he
caused the battle of Pinkie in 1547.
A digression, but of
historic interest, are two links: Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven died
in the battle and had been married to Lord Erskine’s daughter, Margaret,
one time mistress to James V and mother of James Stewart, Mary Queen of
Scots’ half-brother, her First Minister who later became Regent Moray.
Margaret was also mother of Catherine Douglas who married David Durie of
that Ilk in 1506. Her brother George Douglas, known as the Postulate,
was also married to a Margaret Durie. He was the murderer of Mary Queen
of Scots’ Italian secretary Rizzio using her husband Lord Darnley's
knife. He is thought also to have secretly married the Queen.
At the Reformation George
Durie escaped to France and arranged for the jewel incrusted reliquary
containing the head of St Margaret, wife of Malcolm Canmore, Malcolm
III, to be taken to Utrecht and later Douai in France and it was last
seen just before the French Revolution.
At this point, in the
16th Century, there were three main land-holding branches of Duries. The
Duries of that Ilk held the lands called Durie in Scoonie, which had
been erected into a barony in 1509. Robert Durie’s daughter, Jonet,
inherited and married Henry Kemp, a favourite of James V, who changed
his name to Durie as required by the entail on the land and title. Their
grandson, also called Robert Durie of that Ilk, sold the lands in 1614
to Sir Alexander Gibson who, when he became a senior judge, took the
judicial title Lord Durie. Three generations later the lands of Durie
were sold to the Christie family.
Craigluscar family produced a number of notable Duries, including
George, Captain in the Scots Guard of King Louis XIV in France and
provost of Dunfermline. This line descended to Eliza Durie, who became
the heiress when her brother died, and who married Dr Andrew Dewar. The
Dewar Duries were the grandparents of Raymond Varley Dewar Durie who
revived the Chiefship and re-matriculated the Arms in 1988. His son,
Andrew Maule Dewar Durie of Durie, is our current Chief.
In the 16th Century Abbot
George parceled out the lands of Grange around Burntisland and Kinghorn
to his legitimized son, Peter. This included, briefly, Rossend Castle.
The Duries of Grange in the 1750s claimed the titles of Lord Rutherford
and Earl Teviot, but in the late 18th Century the claims were eventually
repudiated and the male line ended with David, the last ‘Lord
Duries have become widely
dispersed over the years. It is likely, but yet to be confirmed by DNA
analysis, that the Duryea family who arrived in New Jersey from the Low
Countries in the 1600s is descended from the Duries who settled in
France but left because of their protestant faith. It was two Duryea
brothers who built and sold the first gasoline-powered motor cars in
Duries continue to be
found on the Continent, some named Dury, Durrie, Duree or Du Ry, and
there are many in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the West
Indies and elsewhere. Even in Great Britain there are distinct groups in
the North East, the West Country and in London, apart from the
‘stay-at-homes’ in the East of Scotland.
Why is Durie a family and
not a clan? We are armigerous, and have a Chief – but Duries were never
part of the Clan system, a Highland phenomenon. We are proud of our
Lowland heritage and, before that, through the Celtic Earls of
Strathearn, to a Pictish past that pre-dates Normans, Gaels and even
Our website is part of a
larger project to record as fully as possible the genealogy of the Durie
family, to document the various migrations and movements that led us to
live all over the world, and to create and preserve an archive of Durie
An Older History
The origin of this name is uncertain, but
it is thought to derive from the French Du Roi’, indicating that the
family probably came to Britain with the Normans.
Some suggest that they came to Scotland
with Queen Margaret in 1069.
They settled in Fife and although there are
accounts of Duries in that ancient kingdom as early as 1119, it is
generally accepted that they rose to prominence as administrators to
Princess Joan, sister of Henry III of England, who married Alexander
They were granted the estate of Craigluscar,
near Leven, where a house, built in 1520, has a stone shield bearing the
Durie arms and the initials of a George Durie and his wife, Margaret
Bruce. Craigluscar remained in the family until the 1900s.
Burntisland Castle was built in 1382 and
has an armorial tablet bearing the Durie arms and the date 1554 it and
most of the extensive Durie properties were confiscated at the reformation
and the estates were sold around 1614 to Sir Alexander Gibson who, when he
became a judge in 1621, took the judicial title Lord Durie.
The turmoil of the reformation disrupted
several Duries lives among these Andrew Durie, Abbot of Melrose and bishop
of Galloway(1541) was despised by the reformer John Knox. Margaret Mcbeth,
wife of Henry Durie, was renowned for her skill with herbs and was a
favourite of Anne of Denmark attending the births of the royal children
born at the Palace of Dunfermline and it is said she saved the life of
Charles I when other physicians had failed.
In the late 17th century George Durie was a
captain in Louis XIV’s Scots Guards and also a provost of Dunfermline.
The Duries were chiefless for some time
until the recognition in 1988 of Lt Col. Raymond Varley Dewar Durie of
Durie. He established his descent through his grndmother, Elizabeth Durie
of Craigluscar, from Abbot George.