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The Scottish Nation

DUFFUS, Baron , a title (dormant) in the Scottish peerage, held by a branch of the noble family of Sutherland, descended from Nichol, 2d son of Kenneth, third earl of Sutherland, who fell at the battle of Halidonhill in 1333. By his marriage with Mary, daughter and heir of Reginald de Cheyne, he got the barony of Duffus, (a contraction of Duffhouse or Dovehouse,) in the county of Elgin, and, in consequence, he added the arms of Cheyne to his paternal coat of Sutherland. He had two sons, John, who died without issue, and Henry, who succeeded his father. Henry’s son, Alexander, the third laird of Duffus of this family, married Morella, daughter and heir of Chisholme of Chisholme, (in Roxburghshire) with whom he got the barony of Quarrelwood in the county of Nairn, and thereupon added to his armorial bearing a boar’s head, erased, being part of the arms of Chisholm. He had two sons and a daughter. Alexander, the elder son, had a daughter, Christian, married to William Oliphant of Berrindale; William, the second son, inherited his mother’s lands of Quarrelwood, and had a son, William, who, on the death of his uncle, Alexander, took possession of the barony of Duffus, and the other lands of the family, on the pretence of his cousin Christian being illegitimate. After protracted proceedings both in Scotland and at Rome, the matter was at length adjusted, and he had a charter of the barony of Duffus, 18th June 1507. He was killed at Thurso by the clan Gunn in 1529. In Sir R. Gordon’s History of the Family of Sutherland, (p. 102) is the following entry relating to this event: “The same yeir of God, (1529), Andrew Stuart, bishop of Catteynes, upon some conceaved displeasure which he had receaved, moved the clan Gun to kill the laird of Duffus in the town of Thurso, in Catteynes. Upon this accident the haill dyocie of Catteynes was in a tumult. The earle of Sutherland did assist the bishop of Catteynes against his adversaries, by reason of allyance contracted betwixt the houses of Huntley, Sutherland, and Atholl,” & c. On September 3, 1530, Mr. Thomas Stewart, treasurer of Caithness, Mr. Andrew Peter, vicar of Wick, and seven other churchmen, found the earl of Athol caution to take their trial at the justice-aire of Inverness, for the slaughter of the laird of Duffus and others, slain at the same time.

      His descendant, Alexander Sutherland, tenth laird and first Lord Duffus, succeeded his father, when a minor, in 1626. He was one of the Committee of Estates, 20th March, 1647, and one of the colonels for arming the kingdom, 15th February 1649. By Charles the Second he was created a peer of Scotland, 8th December 1650, under the title of Lord Duffus. In the following year he was governor of Perth, when that city was invested by Cromwell, and to avoid a general assault he was compelled to surrender. In 1654, he was fined fifteen hundred pounds by Cromwell’s act of grace and pardon. He died 31st August 1674. He was married four times, but had only issue (a son and two daughters) by his third wife, Lady Margaret Stewart, second daughter of the fifth earl of Moray.

      His only son, James, second Lord Duffus, was admitted a member of the privy council, 4th May 1686. In 1688 he killed Ross of Kindace in a sudden quarrel, wherein he received great provocation. He died in 1705. By his wife, Lady Margaret Mackenzie, eldest daughter of the third earl of Seaforth, he had, with a daughter, four sons: Kenneth, third lord Duffus; the Hon. James Sutherland, who married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs, Caithness-shire, relict of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstown, on which he changed his name to Dunbar, and was created a baronet, 10th December 1706; the Hon. William Sutherland of Rosecommon, who engaged in the rebellion of 1715, and was forfeited by act of parliament; and the Hon. John.

      Kenneth, third Lord Duffus, took the oaths and his seat in parliament, 28th October 1706, and afforded his cordial support to the treaty of Union. He was a captain in the royal navy, and commanded a frigate of 46 guns, in which, 29th June 1711, he engaged eight French privateers, and after a desperate resistance of some hours, was taken prisoner, severely wounded, having no less than five balls in his body. He joined in the rebellion of 1715, and was in consequence among those who were attainted. Having married a Swedish lady (Charlotte Christina, daughter of Eric de Sioblade, governor of Gottenburgh) he proceeded to Sweden, and on receiving information of his attainder, he gave intimation to the British minister at Stockholm of his intention to return to England to surrender himself. He set out immediately, but on his way was arrested by the British resident at Hamburgh, and detained in close custody till the time limited for surrendering had elapsed. He was sent to London, and committed prisoner to the Tower, but in 1717 was set at liberty, without being brought to trial. He afterwards entered the Russian naval service, in which he was a flag-officer, and died before 1734.

      His only son Eric Sutherland, (born in August 1710) in 1734 presented a petition to the king claiming the dignity of baron Duffus, but the House of Lords, to whom it was referred, found that he had no right to it. He had an ensigncy in the army in 1731, and was promoted to a company in 1759, and died at Skibo, 28th August 1768. He married his cousin Elizabeth, third daughter of Sir James Dunbar of Hempriggs, baronet, and had two sons: James, his heir, and Axley, who died unmarried. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, married first, Mr. St. Clair; 2dly, 5th December 1772, the Rev. James Rudd, B.A., rector of Newton-Kyme and Full-Sutton, Yorkshire, and had two sons, the Rev. Eric Rudd, of Thorne near Doncaster, who claims the title of Lord Duffus, as nephew and heir0-general of James, fifth lord, though sixth in succession; and James Sutherland; Charlotte, the second daughter, married Sir John Sinclair of Mey, and was mother of the twelfth earl of Caithness; and Anne, the youngest, became the wife of the Hon. George Mackay of Skibo, and was mother of Eric, seventh Lord Reay.

      The elder son, James Sutherland, born 8th June 1747, was an officer in the army. He was restored to the honours of his family, by act of parliament, 26th May 1826. He died unmarried 30th January 1827, when the title was assumed by his cousin Sir Benjamin Dunbar of Hempriggs, born 28th April 1761. He married, in 1785, Janet, eldest daughter of George Mackay, Esq. of Bighouse, and had two sons and two daughters. He died in May 1843.

      His elder son, Sir George Sutherland Dunbar, of Hempriggs, born in 1799, by right 6th baron, does not assume the title of Lord Duffus, using only that of baronet. Heir-presumptive, his brother, Hon. Robert, born in 1801, who is a deputy-lieutenant of Caithness.

      In Aubrey’s Memoirs (page 209) occurs the account of a curious family tradition of the house of Duffus, which has been handed down from father to son, but which of course has no more foundation than any other story in ‘Folk-lore’ or fairy superstition. It relates that as one of the lairds of Duffus was walking in the fields near his own house in Morayshire, he was suddenly carried away, and next day was found in the cellar of the king of France at Paris, with a silver cup in his hand. On being brought into the king’s presence, and questioned as to who he was and whence he came, he told his name, his country, and his place of residence, and said that on the preceding day, being in the fields, he heard the noise of a whirlwind, and of voices crying “horse and hattock,” (the word the Fairies are said to use when they remove from any place) whereupon he cried “horse and hattock!” also, and was immediately caught up and transported through the air, by the fairies, to that place, where, after he had drank heartily, he fell asleep, and before he awoke, the rest of the company were gone, and left him in the posture in which he was found. It is said that the king gave him the cup which he had in his hand, and dismissed him. This story was communicated to Aubrey by one Stewart (who seems thoroughly to have believed it), tutor to the eldest son of James second Lord Duffus, and that nobleman being referred to on the subject, answered that there was such a tradition in the family, but he thought it fabulous. There was, however, an old silver cup in possession of the lords Duffus, which was called “the fairy cup,” but it had nothing engraven on it except the arms of the family.

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