Family - Erskine of Mar and Erskine of Dun Connections - House of Dun

The House of Dun

The word house means, of course, a residential building. But the word House signifies an extended family (such as might indeed have originated from a single dwelling in the far distant past). Think perhaps of the Royal Houses of Windsor, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and so on back. All our ruling dynasties since 1066, in fact, none of them English in origin, most of them not even British in the modern sense!

And of course there are corporate brands such as House of Fraser, the retail chain that once included Harrods under its corporate roof. That's definitely British, well, Scottish anyway. And that brings me belatedly to the point that the great families of Scotland do often seem to have identified with a particular great house or castle, and in that sense House and house were broadly synonymous.

And so it was with the House of Dun – the Erskine family line whose senior members – the Lairds of Dun – dwelt in an unbroken line from 1392 until 1980 in the great house also known simply as the House of Dun. It had previously been occupied by the eponymous family of Dun, also most distinguished: a modern 'custom' emblazon of their arms is shown below, together with the long-established arms of Aberdeen Grammar School, founded even earlier in 1257.

coat of arms
www.zazzle.co.uk/dun_family_crest_print-228628958807986680
coat of arms
Arms of Aberdeen Grammar School

The lower RH field clearly reproduces the conventional arms of Dun, but the lower LH field depicts a fort, or fortified tower, with three turrets. This is a pun on the family name – which in both Scottish and Irish Gaelic means "fortress". The three turrets and three padlocks may just be a numerical coincidence, but they all strengthen the common theme of security and safety. The Dun family's connection with the school dates from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when indeed their family records begin, but their contact with the Erskines goes back to 1348, when – by some means or other – the ownership of the house and estate passed to Sir Robert Erskine of that Ilk: click here for such details of this as I've been able to find.

Photo

House of Dun, seen from the north side, late 18th century

Photo

House of Dun, seen from the south side, today

The family chronicler, defined by Johnson as a harmless drudge, along with lexicographers, is indeed fortunate to have the benefit of an earlier soulmate, who has provided a template, a progress report, on which to build. Principal amongst these was the delightful Violet Jacob, one of those one hopes to meet in Heaven if circumstances and qualifications permit.

Not conventionally beautiful (though neither am I, God wot), she was one of those people with whom one feels a special bond across the years. Her book The Lairds of Dun gives an unrivalled account of those Erskines over almost six centuries. Stronger on events and relationships than dates, perhaps, but the fold-out family tree inside the back cover has been crucial to my own understanding of what unfolded from the time of Sir Robert Erskine of That Ilk (1310 – 1385), father of both the 1st Laird of Dun and the 12th Earl of Mar, through to Augustus John Kennedy-Erskine 20th Laird of Dun.

  • The Lairds of Dun, Violet Jacob (née Kennedy-Erskine); John Murray, London 1931

Other sources that have proved invaluable, or at least could be usefully consulted, include

#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
1Sir John Erskine
1st Laird of Dun
(ca 1380 – 1410)
Wife unknown Alexander Erskine
(d<1454)
2Alexander Erskine
2nd Laird of Dun
(d<1454)
Jonet (?) John Erskine
(d 1508)
3John Erskine
3rd Laird of Dun
(d 15 or 18 Mar 1508)
Mariota Graham
(d 17 May 1504)
Robert Erskine

John Erskine
(KIA 9 Sep 1513, Flodden)

Thomas Erskine
(KIA 9 Sep 1513, Flodden)

Alexander Erskine

Isabella (Erskine) Lundy of Benholme
4John Erskine
4th Laird of Dun
(KIA 9 Sep 1513, Flodden)
Katherine Monypenny
(d 3 Mar 1531)
Alexander Erskine

Walter Erskine

Sir Thomas Erskine of Brechin
=1. Elizabeth Scrymgeour
=2. Agnes Ogilvy

John Erskine
(KIA 9 Sep 1513, Flodden)

Robert Erskine

Janet (Erskine) Durham of Grange

Elizabeth (Erskine) Falconer of Halcarton

Isobel (Erskine) Cramond of Aldbar
5John Erskine
(KIA 9 Sep 1513, Flodden)
Margaret Ruthven
Countess of Buchan
(d 5 Aug 1540)
John Erskine
5th Laird of Dun
(d 1589)

Katherine (Erskine) Arbuthnott
6John Erskine1,  2,  3,  4
5th Laird of Dun
(1509 – 12 or 22 Mar 1589)

As per The Lairds of Dun pp 61-64, at age of 20 he murdered a priest, Sir William Froster.

Religious reformer and harmoniser. As per The Lairds of Dun pp 91-94, mediated between John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots.
Elizabeth Lindsay
(d 29 Jul 1538)
(m ca Dec 1525)
Jean (Erskine) Forrester of Garden

William Erskine

Alexander Erskine
= Christian Stratton

Thomas Erskine
= Helen Strathauchlin

Robert Erskine of Arratt
6th Laird of Dun
(d 17 Dec 1590)

John Erskine
(d 7 Sep 1563)
=Margaret Hoppringle
Barbara de Bearle
(ca 1515 – 15 Nov 1572)
(m Jan 1539)
John Erskine of Kirkbuddo
(d 12 Jan 1572)
= Barbara Strachan

James Erskine
(d 26 Apr 1562)
= Jonet Graham

Margaret (Erskine) Maule of Panmure
7Robert Erskine of Arratt
6th Laird of Dun
(d 17 Dec 1590)
Katherine Graham Agedia (Erskine) Douglas of Tilquhillie

Alexander Erskine
= Madeline Melville

John Erskine of Logie
7th Laird of Dun
(1509 – 12 Mar 1590 or 15 or 27 Jun 1591)

Arthur Erskine
= Margaret Maule

Thomas Erskine
= Agnes Moncur

Samuel Erskine
= Grisell Forrester

Henry Erskine

Elizabeth (Erskine) Wishart of Drymme
8Sir John Erskine
of Logie
7th Laird of Dun
(1509 – 15 or 27 Jun 1591)
Agnes Ogilvy Jean (Erskine) Panter of Newhameswalls

John Erskine of Nathrow
8th Laird of Dun
(d 1592)

David Erskine
(d<1610)

Robert
(d 1 Oct or 2 Dec 1613, beheaded)

Isobel Erskine
(d 1614, beheaded)

Annas Erskine
(d 1614, beheaded)

Helen (Erskine) Halcro
(banished, 22 Mar 1617)
The Halcro Connection

Portrait
9John Erskine of Nathrow
8th Laird of Dun
(d 21 Oct 1592)
Margaret Keith Margaret Erskine

John Erskine
9th Laird of Dun
(d 1610)
9David Erskine
(d<1610)
Jean Maule John Erskine
10th Laird of Dun de jure
(1600 - Whitsunday 1613, poisoned)

Alexander Erskine
11th Laird of Dun
(survived poison, d 1662)
10John Erskine
9th Laird of Dun
(d 23 Mar 1610)
Magdalen (Halliburton) Carnegie
(ca 1580 – 1650)

daughter of Sir James Hal(l)iburton

She had already borne 6 children to her first husband John Carnegie, 1st Earl of Northesk
Margaret (Erskine) Durham of Grange
10Sir Alexander Erskine
11th Laird of Dun
(d 1662)
Margaret Lindsay Marie (Erskine)
1. Allardyce
2. Dunbar of Burgie

Sir Alexander Erskine
(d 1650, predeceased father)

Sir John Erskine
(predeceased father)
= Agnes Lichtoun
Anne Beaton

Portrait
David Erskine
12th Laird of Dun
(d<1710)

Robert Erskine

James Erskine

Portrait

George Erskine

Margaret (Erskine)
1. Carnegy of Boysack
2. David Lyall
11David Erskine
12th Laird of Dun
(d<1710)

Portrait
Jean (Lumsden) Ramsay of Bamffe Elizabeth Erskine

Margaret (Erskine) Myll of Balwyllo

David Erskine, Lord Dun
13th Laird of Dun
(d 1758)

James Erskine

John Erskine
= Anna Hannay of Kingsmuir

Alexander Erskine
= Jean Turnbull of Balhall
12David Erskine
Lord Dun
,
13th Laird of Dun
(1672 – 1758)

Portraits
Magdalen Riddell of the Haining

Portrait
Anne (Erskine)
(1709 – 1735)
1. Earl of Airlie, Lord Ogilvy
2. Macdonald of Sleat

Portrait

Jean Erskine

John Erskine
14th Laird of Dun
(1712 – 1787)

Portrait
13John Erskine
14th Laird of Dun
(1712 – 1787)

Portrait
Margaret Inglis
(1720 – 1747)

Portrait
Magdalen Erskine

Anne (Erskine) Wauchope of Edmonstone

Portrait

John Erskine
15th Laird of Dun
(1742 – 1812)

Portrait
14John Erskine
15th Laird of Dun
(1742 – 1812)
Mary Baird Alice Erskine
16th Laird of Dun
(d 1824, unmarried)

Margaret Erskine
17th Laird of Dun
(1772 – 1848)

William-John Erskine

(1775 – 1798)

David Erskine

(d unmarried)

Anne Erskine

(d unmarried)
15Alice Erskine
16th Laird of Dun
(d 1824, unmarried)
   
15Margaret Erskine
17th Laird of Dun
(1772 – 1848)

Portrait
Archibald Kennedy
1st Marquess of Ailsa
12th Earl of Cassilis
(Feb 1770 – 8 Sep 1846)
(m 1 Jun 1793)

Portrait
Lady Alicia Jane (Kennedy) Peel
(d 1887)

Archibald Kennedy
(1794 – 1832, predeceasing his father; his son Archibald became 2nd Marquess of Ailsa)
13th Earl of Cassilis
= Eleanor Allardyce

Lady Anne (Kennedy) Baird
(1798 – 1877)

Lady Margaret (Kennedy) Radclyffe-Livingstone-Eyre
(1800 – 1889)

The Hon John Erskine Kennedy-Erskine
(4 Jun 1802 – 16 Mar 1831, predeceasing his mother)

He assumed the Erskine hyphenation on being named heir to the House of Dun.
16The Hon John Erskine Kennedy-Erskine
(4 Jun 1802 – 16 Mar 1831, before his mother)
Lady Augusta FitzClarence
(3 or 17 Nov 1803 – 8 Dec 1865)
(m 5 Jul 1827)
(2nd m 24 Aug 1836)

Portrait with children

natural daughter of King William IV and Dorothy Jordan

Portrait

She later remarried to become Lady Augusta Gordon-Hallyburton.

Portrait
William Henry Kennedy-Erskine
18th Laird of Dun
(1 Jul 1828 – 15 Sep 1870)

Wilhelmina (Kennedy-Erskine)
2nd Countess of Munster

(27 Jun 1830 – 9 Oct 1906)

Augusta Millicent Anne Mary (Kennedy-Erskine)
Wemyss of Wemyss Castle


(b 1831, in Windsor Castle – 11 Feb 1895)

Portrait of all 3 children
17Capt William Henry Kennedy-Erskine
18th Laird of Dun
(1 Jul 1828 – 15 Sep 1870)

Portraits
Catherine Jones
(m 18 Nov 1862)
Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine
(1 Sep 1863 – 9 Sep 1946)

Augustus John William Henry Kennedy-Erskine
19th Laird of Dun
(12 Apr 1866 – 2 Feb 1908)

Portrait

Millicent Augusta Lilian (or Vivian) Kennedy-Erskine
(12 Aug 1867 – 2 Nov 1883)

John Kennedy-Erskine
(d in infancy)
18Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine1,  2
(1 Sep 1863 – 9 Sep 1946)

Portrait
Maj Arthur Otway Jacob
(28 Aug 1867 – 29 Nov 1936)
(m 27 Oct 1894)
Lieut Arthur Henry (Harry) Jacob
(1895 – KIA 1916, Somme)
18Capt Augustus John William Henry Kennedy-Erskine
19th Laird of Dun
(12 Apr 1866 – 2 Feb 1908)

Portrait
Alice Marjorie Cunningham Foote
(d 3 Jul 1947)
(m 3 Nov 1896)

Portrait with children

daughter of Reverend Alexander Leith Ross Foote
Violet Marjorie Augusta Kennedy-Erskine
(1 Mar 1887 – 25 Dec 1934)

Portrait (same)

Millicent Alison Augusta (Kennedy-Erskine) Lovett
21st / last Laird of Dun
(7 Apr 1899 – 16 Jun 1980)

Portrait (same)

Augustus John Kennedy-Erskine
20th Laird of Dun
(14 Nov 1900 – 12 Oct 1966 )

William Henry Kennedy-Erskine (twin)
(14 Nov 1900 –
21 May 1963)
19Augustus John Kennedy-Erskine
20th Laird of Dun
(14 Nov 1900 – 12 Oct 1966)
Unmarried? Presumably sp
20Millicent Alison Augusta Kennedy-Erskine
21st / last Laird of Dun
(7 Apr 1899 – 16 Jun 1980)
Lt Col Thomas Maitland Lovett
(29 May 1893 – 1946)
(m 17 Jul 1943)
Presumably sp

Not to beat about the bush, the whole of 'High Society' in the later Hanoverian era seems to have been a heaving sh*g-fest, a phrase popularised by The Times in recent years, and family relationships became a free-for-all.

For example, Augusta FitzClarence's natural brother Maj Gen George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, fathered William George FitzClarence, 2nd Earl of Munster, with Mary Wyndham, natural daughter of George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, and young Wm Geo was born at the House of Dun! As we see in the table above, in due course he actually married his first cousin, Augusta FitzClarence's daughter Wilhelmina Kennedy-Erskine. Although not technically incestuous, of course, it was still too close for comfort, as a number of their children died early in life.

Murthour Most Foul

This episode, though he wasn't entirely conversant with its details, was one of my father's party pieces when deputed to take me for a walk in my pre-school days. The murder of the nephews and the banishment of Margaret Erskine to the Orkneys was the gist of his tale, and it's only recently that I've learned the grisly details about her siblings' fate. Also, in fact, only the older child died.

To better understand the story, we should first absorb a few dates (as per the table above):

  • Robert of Arratt, 6th Laird of Dun, died in 1590

  • John Erskine of Logie, 7th Laird of Dun, died in 1591

  • John Erskine of Nathrow, 8th Laird of Dun, died in 1592

  • John Erskine of nowhere in particular, 9th Laird of Dun, died in 1610, without a male heir

John of Nathrow, 8th Laird, had two brothers, David and Robert. David had predeceased the 9th Laird, but had begotten two young sons John and Alexander, John being heir apparent to the Lairdship and Alexander being his deputy so to speak (heir presumptive, I suppose). Now that the 9th Laird had died, young John became the new 10th Laird-in-waiting and Alexander still the heir presumptive.

Only if both children were to suffer an untimely demise would Uncle Robert succeed as 11th Laird. And the wicked uncle decided to arrange just such a scenario. He rather surprisingly opted to confide this intention to his three sisters, and between them they concocted a plan to poison the youngsters with herbal potions obtained from Jonet Irving, a local witch, or 'wise woman' as she doubtless preferred to be called. (Not many people know that my brother and I were consigned to the care of a self-styled witch back in the 1950's, though hopefully I can tell you more about her elsewhen.)

The poison, if indeed it was effective, took nearly three years to work, and in an age when life expectancy was so pitifully low, and forensic evidence so utterly negligible, it would have been very hard to distinguish any one possible cause of death from all the others. Nevertheless, confessions were obtained from all four conspirators. Three were sentenced to death and eventually beheaded in public, but Helen, the youngest and apparently least culpable, was merely banished to the Orkney Islands.

The full story has been recounted by Violet Jacob in The Lairds of Dun pp 147-162 and is also told on pp 28-29 of The Erskine Halcro Genealogy, A Genealogical Study of the Ancestors, Kindred & Descendants Of the Rev Henry Erskine, Ebenezer Erskine Scott; Geo. Bell & Son, London, 1890 – also available in facsimile format:

Title page

(Please click here)

As always with such online facsimile versions, the maximal screen display can be achieved by using a judicious combination of the options Fullscreen / F11 / Hide Nav Bar / Zoom custom ...%