Duries gathered in Scotland from far and wide for a four day tour from 27th to 30th June to explore their roots and to meet other kinsmen and women. This was the Family's very first Gathering and five countries were represented in the group of twenty that took part. The exciting tour began in Edinburgh from the Mercure Hotel, on Princes Street, with its magnificent view of Edinburgh Old Town, the Castle and Arthur’s Seat. We met and stayed two nights there. Led by the Chief, Andrew Durie of Durie, we went first to Dunfermline, Fife, where there are many early Durie connections.
After lunch in the Abbot’s House we visited the Abbey, having tasted a special ‘Confido’ beer from Abbot Brew House, organised by Dr Bruce Durie, Shenachie, to the Chief. A tour of the 11th C. part of the Abbey with special attention to the Durie family memorials and the Durie stain glass window was guided by Jack Pryde.
We viewed the famous 15th C. Annunciation stone with the Durie arms carved on it and made a tour of Abbot House. Although there is no proof that Abbot George Durie ever lived there it is where the Chief’s great-grandfather, Dr Andrew Dewar-Durie had his medical practice. It has carved over the front door the good advice: ‘Sen vord is thrall and thocht is is fre keip veil thy tonge I coinsell the’. (When words are controlled and thoughts are free keep well your tongue I counsel you.)
A personal invitation from Andrew Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, meant all of us took part in their family’s Service of Thanksgiving to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of King Robert’s victory and magnanimity at Bannockburn. The invitation was extended because of the significance of George Durie, the last Abbot of the Abbey, before the Reformation (b. 1496 d. 1577). This unique and colourful event was held in the Abbey Church where the Durie banner hangs along with the Bruce family’s and Royal ones. The procession included Heralds of Arms in their brilliant tabards (Marchmont and Snawdoun Heralds and Lord Lyon King of Arms), representatives of several Canadian Elgin Regiments, Bruce family associations from overseas, and Lord Bruce bearing the sword of King Robert I of Scots. There was the bright banner of the Earl of Elgin and the Earl of Dundee bearing the Royal Banner of Scotland. The Offering was in aid of the Erskine Hospital for veterans. This event was the highlight of the first day.
On Saturday we explored Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile with Jamie, Lord Sempill, as our outstanding and engaging guide. We descended from the heights of the castle and the Dury Battery, down via St Giles Cathedral and John Knox’s – or, for us, George Durie’s – house, and to what had once been called Durie Close, past the Flodden Wall and down to Holyrood Palace. History was mixed with fun, good stories and laughter as we darted side to side off the Mile to discover more of the city’s secrets.
The day ended at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre for a tasting of the two Durie whiskies, Abbot’s Seal and The Durie Dram, before we dined together near the hotel. We had also time on the first day to look at ScotClans Durie merchandise and place our orders. The lightweight tartan was ready and the range of products considerably extended.
Day Three dawned warm and sunny and started with a visit to the incredible, huge and beautiful metal sculptures of two water-horses’ heads: ‘The Kelpies’ by Andy Scott, newly erected at the Eastern end of the Forth & Clyde Canal, near Falkirk.
This was on the way to a picnic lunch on the lawns of the beautiful 18th C. Touch House, at the foot of the Touch Hills, owned by the Chief’s Godson, Angus Watson and his wife Grania. The house is described by Historic Scotland as ‘Probably the finest Georgian elevation in the County of Stirling’.
We followed this and a quick look at its gardens with a visit to a re-enactment of the Battle of Bannockburn near the original battle site and where clans and families had their stalls and Bruce was giving talks on genealogy. There were bands, music, story-telling, dancing all making up a great family day.
Then we had a beautiful drive West across the Stirling Carse to near Loch Lomond where the guests stayed in the Buchanan Arms in Drymen. The day ended with a celebration dinner at the Chief’s home, Finnich Malise. This dinner and the picnic were organised by Bill Thomson of TLC Catering. That evening the guests were greeted by Pipe Major David Moir, the Chief’s personal piper who has piped at two of the Chief’s children’s weddings.
Pipe Major Moir piped the party into dinner. After dinner he played and explained each tune for us and finished with a premier of his stirring and lively new composition ‘Finnich Malise’, commissioned as a gift to the Chief and named after his home. This was celebrated with a quaich of Durie whisky.
Then, the next day, just like H.M. The Queen we were piped awake! It was the last morning of the Durie Gathering, before we set off to the impressive Stirling Castle and the museum of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; this was the third royal residence of our tour and where the Chief and his father had both been stationed during their military service.
Our guide to the historic aspects of this exceptional castle was excellent and the Chief added several of his own stories and experiences – ones that are not in the usual tour guide’s repertoire!
A last lunch below the castle rounded off an incredible four days – each had been interspersed with good meals, fine drinking, fun, history, family stories – amusing and serious - and everyone getting to know each other. Previously unknown kinsmen and women have become good friends.
The tour was organised and very ably guided by David Broadfoot of MacDonald & Rees, and for most of it we had the benefit also of Dr Bruce Durie, the family genealogist, providing illuminating and lively insights to many strands of the family’s past. He also produced neat invaluable notes giving us the background history of the places we visited and the Durie connections to them.
You too can follow in our footsteps through some of the historic Durie places we visited by downloading the Notes. (See Below)
One Canadian wrote: "After all the festivities and camradie, I was left with the feeling that I now had 18 new relations and very close friends. Things could not have been better."
Now the challenge for us is to match such a magnificient programme for another time!
Bruce Durie's Notes for the Gathering:
1. Durie Gathering 2014 Dunfermline Brochure © Bruce Durie 2014
2. Durie Gathering 2014 Edinburgh Ramblings © Bruce Durie & Jamie Sempill 2014
[Note: Best printed in booklet format. The links are at the very bottom of the page.]