Dunbar is from the Gaelic or native Scottish language, it is made up of two parts. Dun meaning fortification or castle and Bar meaning meaning top of, or summit. A close approximation of the name would then mean Castletop. It is also the name of a Scottish Barony located in Berwick County, dating back to the 13th century.
Dunbar family or Clan, is not a highland clan, long associated with Scottish tradition as seen today. They are a lowland clan occupying the border region with England. Because of their unique geographical location, the Clan Dunbar became one of the more powerful political forces in the Kingdom of Scotland. Records indicate those bearing the name Dunbar, and or Dunbarr or one its variations are the descendants of Crinan of Dunkeld. He is listed in the historical rolls as the Earl of Northumberland, and a descendant of King Duncan of Scotland, and the Earls of Gothpatrick, who would eventually become known as the Earls of March.
Because of their prominence the Earls of Dunbar and March (a march is a borderland) they controlled Lothian, and the border communities of Roxburg, Selkirk, Peebles and Berwick. With the marriage of Patrick V to Agnes Randolph, (known to history as Black Agnes for her defense of Dunbar Castle,) her dowry included the Earldom of Morray, with control over Aberdeenshire, Morayshire, Nairn, Buchen and Inverness and the Isle of Man.
One of the most notable Earls of March, Patrick V claimed the Scottish throne for himself by way of his mother, who was a daughter of William I or William the Lion of Scotland. His claim was not supported and it failed to garner any support. However this was the marriage line which enable the Earls of Home to come into existence.
Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in June of 1314, Patrick V gave shelter to the English king shortly thereafter, and helped arrange his escape to England. Because of his royal connections, (Robert the Bruce and Patrick were cousins,) and because Clan Dunbar controlled the southern March or border with Scotland. Patrick V was eventually forgiven his transgressions and the Earl of Dunbar is the third signature on the Scottish Declaration of Arborath, which declared Scotland was a separate nation, and whom would maintain a military force to repel any attacker. The declaration was forwarded to the Pope XII April, 6th 1320.
Patrick V or the Ninth Earl of March, is estimated to have died in 1368. He was succeeded by his son George I, Tenth Earl of March, who played a pivotal role in the war of Scottish independence. In 1380 the Dunbar family made a significant contribution to the battle of Otterburn. The Earl of Douglas, ( Clan Dunbar’s main rival.) Raided deep into English territory. In the ensuing response the English mustered forces which outnumbered Scottish ones, three to one. The English commander Sir Harry or Henry ‘Hotspur’ Neville was over confident and eager for a confrontation, and he rushed his troops into battle. At the end of the battle, Earl of Douglas had died on the field, but not before capturing Sir Harry Percy’s standard. The battle would have been lost, except for the Dunbar forces under the command of their Earl, who had anchored the Scottish right flank, and refused to allow his clansmen to retreat. They advanced into the ranks of the English and pushed them off the field.
Clan Dunbar and the Earl’s of March prospered all throughout the 15th century, both financially and politically until they became a rival to James I. In a cold calculation, he accused the George II, Earl of Dunbar of treason, and seized all of his properties and holdings. The Earl of Dunbar died in prison. It also caused the extinction of the main or senior branch of the family. By the time of the 16th century several cadet branches ( junior lines descending from younger brothers or cousins.) came into prominence. Each cadet line by the end of the 16th Century would become Baronets in their own right.
There are five cadet branches of the original Dunbar family. They are Mochrum, Northfield, Hempriggs, Durn and Both. The senior cadet branch is Mochrum, and they are led by Sir James Michael Dunbar, ( a retired American Air Force officer.) Who became the 14th Baronet of Mochrum in 1990.
Places associated with Clan Dunbar:
Dunbar Castle, Mochrum, Castle, Northumberland, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, Morayshire, Nairn, Buchen and Inverness, the Isle of Man, Roxburg, Selkirk, Peebles and Berwick, Nova Scotia.
There are sixteen locations in the USA named Dunbar. One location in Jamaica and one in Scotland in East Lothian.
Royal Personages and famous people associated with Dunbar:
William I ‘The Lion’ King of Scotland through every Scottish monarch through Queen Anne. Every British monarch since the unification of Britain, and the 1st Duke of Marlborough. The Lord Lyon Court of Arms, and the House of Lords, have all been associated or involved in the history of the Clan Dunbar.