07 April 2021

Medieval Scotland -- One Big Family Fight

 Sort of weird. One big family fight.

ruins of Dunphail Castle

Alexander Comyn of Dunphail (my great uncle 22nd generations back) was killed in the siege of Dunphail Castle in 1330. All six of his sons died in the siege with him. Alexander was the son of John "The Red" Comyn, earl of Badenoch, Justiciar of Galloway--the grandfather of Red Comyn, the man Robert Bruce murdered in 1306, just before crowning himself king.
Alexander was killed by Sir Thomas Randolph, 1st earl of Moray (son of Isabel Kilconquhar, half-sister to Robert the Bruce). Randolph was Regent of Scotland at that period, and I proudly get to say he was my 21st Great grandfather.
Randolph beheaded five men and flung their heads over Dunphail castle's walls with a rather vicious taunt, which I shan't repeat since it's post supper time. Very well, you twisted my arm. Randolph called out: "There be beef for yer bannocks!" The men had been raiding on Darnaway Castle lands. Not surprising since Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas and the earl Moray had been giving Clan Comyn fire and hell for decades. The pressing started in 1308, which became known as the Harrying of Buchan, or the Herschip of Buchan. Vast lands under Comyn control was burned to the ground by the hand of Robert or his brother, Edward, and continued by for decades by Randolph and Douglas.

Darnaway Castle
Darnaway Castle was built by Randolph--on Comyn land (part of Bruce scorched earth policy to break the spine of Clan Comyn), which King Robert had given to Randolph. I am sure Randolph built the castle to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the Comyns--one of the most powerful clans in Scotland, and chief rival against the Bruces for the crown of scotland the Bruces. Keep in mind, Comyns and Bruces were also cousins!
Back in the 1880s, an excavation of Dunphail Castle (now ruins) uncovered five headless bodies buried in one grave. One was Alistair, Alexander's son (falsely identified as Alistair Cummings)--we know since he was leading the raid onto Darnaway land--so I just have to wonder if the four were his brothers (my first cousins 21 times removed). Only a vaulted basement and a partial wall remains of the castle. It is said to be haunted by the moans of five ghosts (not sure how they know it is five...lol) and the sounds of a battle.

vaulted basement of Dunphail castle


Candy Thompson said...

WOW!!! Thanks for another fascinating blog post!!! Such interesting history!!! I look forward to each one of your posts...can't wait for the next!!!

Deborah Macgillivray said...

Glad you enjoyed. It's rather pulling at me, since I have as much Comyn blood in me, as I do Randolph, so I can see both sides of the tale.