By Dr Bruce Durie
In 2011, the Durie family was 750 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 and many others.
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. 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 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 – Durie of Durie (no longer landed), Durie of Craigluscar (represented by our Chief) and Durie 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 and took the name, becoming “of Durie” or, in the Anglo-French used in documents of that that time, “de Durie”.