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The Scottish Nation

DUFF, a surname adopted from the Celtic, in which language the word means black. Sibbald, in his History of Fife, says, “that as Niger and Rufus were names of families amongst the Romans, from the colour and complexion of men, so it seems Duff was, from the swarthy and black colour of those of the tribe,” or clan of Macduff.

      It is the family name of the earl of Fife, in the Peerage of Ireland, descended from that Duncan Macduff, Thane of Fife, who overthrew Macbeth, and gave such effectual aid to Malcolm Canmore in obtaining possession of the throne. See FIFE, earl of, and MACDUFF.

      It is also the patronymic of a family which enjoys the dignity and title of a baronet, conferred, in 1813, on Sir James Duff, who for a series of years filled the office of British consul at the port of Cadiz, and whose nephew, Sir William Gordon, on succeeding to the title in 1815, assumed the name and arms of Duff, in addition to his own. Their seats are Kinstair in Ayrshire, and Crobie in Banffshire. See GORDON, surname of.

DUFF, KING OF SCOTLAND, son of Malcolm the First, succeeded Indulph in 961. The name was Odo, according to Pinkerton. By the Celtic part of his subjects he was surnamed Duff, or the Black. His reign was constantly disturbed by Culen, the son of Indulph, whom he vanquished in a war on Dromcrup; (perhaps Duncrub in Perthshire is meant, now the seat of Lord Rollo.) After a short reign of about four years, he was slain in Forres, about 965. He is said to have been murdered by a band of assassins, who broke into his chamber by night. In Buchanan’s History of Scotland it is stated that they were hired by Donald, governor of the castle of Forres, that after the murder they “carried him out so cunningly a back way, that not so much as a drop of blood appeared,” and that the assassins were afterwards sent out of the way by Donald, to avoid any of them being present, lest blood should issue from the corpse. Pitcairn, who styles him King Duffus, cites this as the earliest recorded notice in British history of the superstitious custom of touching the dead body of a murdered person, as a proof of guilt. [Criminal Trials, vol. iii. p. 191.]

The Book of the Duffs
Compiled by Alistair and Henrietta Tayler in two volumes (1914)
See the Clan Macduff page

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