Since the early 1800’s the Duff family have had a connection with Argentina, and specifically since 1824 so has the town of Banff, through giving the Freedom of the Town to José de San Martin, a friend of the 4th Earl Fife.  While José visited James in Banff, James never travelled to Argentina.  As far as can be found the first Duff to visit Argentina was James’ brother, Alexander Duff in 1807.  Alexander was brought up in Banff, and currently rests, with his wife, in the Duff House Mausoleum.

Alexander, born 1777, was the second son of the 3rd Earl Fife, and as was quite common, as a second son his career was probably always destined for the army.  The 2nd Earl brought both brothers – his nephews – to Banff for their initial education (see also “Duff House’s Own Local Hero”), firstly at Duff House, but then with Dr Chapman at Inchdrewer.  

General Sir Alexander Duff in later life

In May 1793 Alexander joined the Army as an Ensign at the age of sixteen, joining the 65th Berkshire Regiment at Gibraltar.  In 1794 he was promoted to Lieutenant and the next year to Captain in the 88th Regiment (the Connaught Rangers).  With the 88th he served in Flanders and in 1798 was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel at just 21 years old.  He served in the East Indies and Egypt, taking part in the capture of Alexandria.  In 1806 he was part of the force that took control of Montevideo as part of the British aim to gain a part of the riches in South America, by wresting some areas from the Spanish.  In 1807 he was commanding one of three columns which landed in Buenos Aires, but due to the poor tactics of General Whitelocke, later court-martialled due to his incompetence, he surrendered before reaching his objective of reaching the Great Square.  No censure was placed on Alexander, and he was promoted full Colonel, then Major General in 1811. 

Grand Cross of Hanover

He was clearly a capable and well-liked officer as reported in several accounts.  In 1821 he was promoted to Lieutenant-General, and full General in 1839.  He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Hanover in 1833 – the same as his older brother James 4th Earl Fife had received in 1827.  King William IV knighted Alexander in 1834.

Delgaty Castle 1887 (ex Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland)

General Sir Alexander became the local Member of Parliament from 1826 to 1831 continuing the family practice, although his first attempt in 1820 failed by one vote, and nearly resulted in civil insurrection between the Duff and Grant supporters in the town of Elgin – fortunately defused by Lady Anne Seafield (on the Grant side) by sending her 700 clansmen back to the Highlands.

Alexander’s home was Delgaty Castle, part of the family estate at the time.  In 1812 he married Anne Stein, and had five children.  The oldest died at just a few months old, but James, born 1814, became 5th Earl Fife when Alexander’s brother, James 4th Earl, passed in 1859.  Their fifth child, born 1824, they named Louisa Tollemache – an unusual Christian name; whether this was in memory of her uncle’s late wife’s family, the Tollemache’s of Helmingham in Suffolk, has not been confirmed (James 4th Earl had married Mary Manners, the daughter of Lady Louisa Tollemache and John Manners, who died in 1805 – see “Duff House’s Own Local Hero”).

HMS paddle steamer Lightning – hand-coloured engraving by Henry Moses in 1827

In 1851 Alexander passed away in London, but his body was transported to Banff on HMS Lightning to be interred in the Duff House Mausoleum; Anne, his wife, was also interred there 8 years later.

For interest, the HMS Lightning was one of the first steam warships in the Royal Navy, 126 foot long, driven by side paddles, launched in 1823 and in service until the late 1860’s.  She must have been quite a sight coming into Banff Bay.  There is a detailed model of her is in the Royal Museums Greenwich.


In the Duff House Mausoleum, just inside the door, is a list of who in 1912 was believed to be buried in the crypt.  This includes four people who do not have the surname of Duff – instead “Tayler” (the “e” is not a mis-type!). 

Rothiemay House early 20th century

This name Tayler was introduced to the Duff family when the elder daughter, Jean or Jane Duff, of the 3rd Earl Fife married William Alexander Francis Tayler in 1802.  As close relatives – Jane’s older brother James became the 4th Earl Fife – they were given Rothiemay House to live in.  This building had a fire in 1964 and was demolished, although the gatehouse and some other buildings remain.  This is a 20th century photo of Rothiemay House; the feature picture is at is was in the mid nineteenth century – much as Lady Jane Tayler would have known it.

During her life Jane was held in much esteem by the locals around Rothiemay but also in Banff where they were frequent visitors.  As evidence of how much she was liked her obituary recalls that “her kindness was not occasional, or by fits and starts, but perennial”.  The Banffie wrote “she has gone – and will be missed by many, but the good she has done will live after her, and there will be many hereafter to speak – and the witness is on high – of the good deeds and alms which she did”.

The four Taylers at rest in the Duff House Mausoleum are:

The Honourable, the Lady Jane Tayler, died 22 May 1850

Alexander Francis Tayler, died Sep 1854 (husband)

Alexander Tayler, died 26 Jul 1809, age 6 (son)

Alexander Francis Tayler, died 8 Nov 1828, age 14 (son)

Jane and Alexander had six other children as well as the two above, although it seems they were beset with problems.

  1. The first born, Alexander, died in an accident at Duff House on the day of the birth of his brother, William.  Alexander was pushing amongst adults trying to see his new brother and a unfortunately knocked him and he feel into a bath of boiling water.  He survived a few days but his injuries were too severe;
  2. Anne, the second born, also died in an accident but it’s nature is not known;
  3. William, born 1809 at Duff House, later in life married his cousin Georgina, granddaughter of Captain George Duff (see the Story on this website entitled “Trafalgar”).  Two of their children became celebrated as historians of the Jacobites and the Duff family itself (Henrietta and Alistair), and the oldest as an accomplished artist;
  4. Jane Marion born 1810 died 1869;
  5. James George born 1811 died 1875;
  6. Alexander Frances (in the Mausoleum) born 1814, died 1828 of measles;
  7. George Skene, born 1816 became a Commander in the Royal Navy, died 1894;
  8. Hay Utterson, born 1819, died 1903.

The two children in the Mausoleum were born deaf and dumb, as was Hay the youngest.  This seems to have been a sad inheritance from their great grandmother, Mary Forbes, but does not seem to have re-occurred.

Alexander and Lady Jane were very well connected around the area, not only with the local population around Rothiemay, but elsewhere because of their family connections.  There are many newspaper reports of them attending events in Banff in the first half of the nineteenth century.  They were very much part of the gentry and mixed accordingly.  One little piece of evidence of this is that William Marshall, one of the greatest composers of Scottish fiddle music, named one of his 257 tunes after her; no doubt heard in Rothiemay and Banff:


Inside Duff House Mausoleum, one of the memorial stones – now a bit damaged by age – seems to include the word “Antigua”.  Some of the wording is very difficult to read so there are no real clues as to what the connection of the Duff family to the Caribbean might be!

Part of the memorial to Alexander Duff of Braco showing “Antigua” (centre left)

In fact this is the Memorial for Alexander Duff of Braco, the uncle of the first Earl Fife.  The memorial reads:

“Frigido sub hoc marmore Jace Alexander Duff de Bracco ex antiqua familia D D Joannis Duff de Craighead …..” which translated makes it clear it is nothing to do with the Caribbean!:

“Under this cold marble lies Alexander Duff of Braco of the old family of John Duff of Craighead….”

ie the word is “Antiqua” not “Antigua”, a “q” not a “g”.  It certainly isn’t obvious because an upper case A is used, and the q looks almost identical to the g that has been incised except for a small squiggle at the top!

After the 2nd Earl Fife had the Mausoleum built in 1792, initially to house his parents who had first been buried at Rothiemay, before he moved them to the lovely Mausoleum spot above the river, he also moved other relatives.  Alexander Duff of Bracco (or Braco) was his great uncle and one of the key members of the Duff family who built up their fortune.  He was born in 1652 and died in 1705 and originally buried in Grange, but not before he had bought many estates across north east Scotland.

Alexander is very important in the history of Macduff.  In 1699 Alexander purchased “Doune” (ie Macduff after it’s name was changed in 1783).  The seller was Lord Cullen – not part of the Seafield family of Cullen House, but Sir Francis Grant, a Scottish Judge who later became Lord of Monymusk.

Alexander Duff of Braco married Margaret Gordon in 1678, and they had four daughters and one son, William of Braco born circa 1685.  William died in 1718 with one daughter, also Margaret, so on his death his estate passed to the crown (by way of escheatment, there being no valid direct male descendants).  His uncle, William Duff of Dipple, proved he was the male heir and so William of Braco’s estate passed from the Crown to him.  William Duff of Dipple was the father of the first Earl Fife.  (As an aside to this main story, being family orientated, William Duff of Dipple signed Eden House and estate, just south of Banff, over to Margaret Duff, his nephew’s daughter, so that her future was secure.)

In other words, without Alexander Duff of Braco purchasing Doune/Macduff, it would not have passed via his son and uncle, and in turn to William Duff 1st Earl Fife, who built Duff House, and then to his son James Duff, 2nd Earl Fife.  It was James Duff 2nd Earl who developed Doune from being a fishing hamlet to being the town it is today, bringing in craftsmen, building the harbour, the roads, the bridge and much more.

So “Antigua” is not a Caribbean link, but part of the history that has resulted in the great town of Macduff!

For clarity on some of the places:

Craighead was used as an alternative name for Muldavit, today in Rathven (just N or the A98 just before you get to the first Buckie turning from the east).  Neither name appears today, but Craig Head on the coast is still named on maps, west of Findochty.

Braco is a place; a farmhouse, in Grange, east of Keith.  The “Book of the Duffs” shows Braco in circa 1912 after it had been updated from Alexander Duff’s time, and Google Streetview shows it in 2021. 

Braco House in circa 1912 (ex Book of the Duffs)
Braco House in 2021 (courtesy of Google Streetview)

Dipple is a place, a farmstead, just south of Fochabers.  William of Dipple, who’s son became 1st Earl Fife of Duff House, was a brother to Alexander of Braco.


This Story was prompted by the finding of a rare postcard as shown above.  The Royal Army Medical Corps used to hold an annual camp, and Banff – specifically Canal Park – was the location in 1912.  The Banff skyline really hasn’t changed that much! 

Canal Park skyline Feb 2023

Five hundred years ago, Canal Park was a swamp, part of the Deveron estuary.  It was drained, perhaps by the influence of the Carmelites in Banff, and has had several uses since.  It’s name came from four hundred years ago, at the time of the building of Duff House in the early 1700’s, when a canal was built from Banff Bay to the back of Duff House.  The canal was the means of getting the stones that had been carved at William Adam’s works on the Forth, to the building site; brought to Banff Bay often on William Duff’s own ships, and then onto barges to Duff House.  Even though the canal no longer exists the name has stuck.

Canal Park was part of the Duff House grounds, the wall now visible just behind the silversmiths, extending along the side of Bridge Road to the gatehouse still existing in the Co-op car park.  In 1906 the Duke of Fife gifted the land to the Burgh Councils of Banff and Macduff for recreational uses and it seems much use was made of this Park.  In the early 1900’s Canal Park was one large park, including where the Princess Royal centre is today, as well as the football pitch and tennis courts nearer the river, although officially by then the whole area had been designated Princess Royal Park (named from the 1889 wedding of the 6th Earl Fife (1st Duke of Fife) to Louise the Princess Royal, daughter of the future King Edward VII.

In this 1909 image the line of trees at the back of the Park, which are no longer there, is where the road to the Princess Royal centre and Airlie Gardens sheltered housing now is.

1909 postcard showing Canal Park in centre

By 1912, the Park was under the care of a joint board from Banff and Macduff Burgh Councils.  Activities such as the important Banff Cattle Show were held there, and lots of smaller events such as a Fancy Dress parade.

Early 20th century Fancy Dress Parade Canal Park

But in 1912 the Trustees received an application from the Royal Army Medical Corps to hold their annual “camp”, partly because it was such a sheltered location, sheltered on two sides by a high wall, and to the west by the line of trees.  This was finally agreed, finding enough space for them and the Cattle Show.  The camp started on 20th July 1912 although the whole area was only available after the Cattle Show on the 24th !  It seems both were a great success.

18 officers and 231 men came to the camp, with 52 horses.  Two special trains were laid on from Aberdeen to bring the bulk of the men and horses,  All were living in tents and a special water supply had been laid out across the park for both the men and the horses.  The RAMC officers however received their meals at Duff House Hotel !

A number of activities, drills and exercises and demonstrations were laid on, as well as various parades, sports activities and musical events.  What the townsfolk felt about the 05.30 Reveille isn’t reported, but generally the RAMC Camp provided a lot of local attention.  On 23rd July a major exercise was held on Doune Hill, setting up a field hospital and transporting “injured” personnel. 

The camp was made to be inclusive of the town, local people able to come to some of the events, such as the Banff Pipe Band joining the RAMC Corps Band for various parades and concerts; football and tug-of-war matches between RAMC and towns’ teams.  Cricket matches were also played with the Banff team; although the RAMC easily won the cricket they were roundly trounced in football !

Early 20th century RAMC badge

The RAMC was formed in 1898 to centralise the provision of emergency first aid at the front line, as well as staffing health centres and hospitals and promoting health and disease prevention.  The unit still exists today.  Their badge – an early 20th century version shown here – has the “Rod of Asclepius” at it’s centre; the Greek God Asclepius of healing and medicinal arts, typically depicted by a non-venomous snake; a similar badge is used by some Scottish Community First Responder teams today.    The RAMC motto is In Arduis Fidelis; “Faithful in Adversity”.


In 1765 the Kirk Session of Banff gave 10s to Robert Thomson, master of the English School, “to assist in paying the funeral charges of his wife, he being in indigent circumstances”. Their son, George, then 8-year-old, went on to fame, as Robert Burns’ musical partner in collecting Scots songs, and George’s grand-daughter, Catherine Hogarth, was the wife of Charles Dickens.

Dickens was a master of words, not only writing them, but aloud, and he made a fortune reading extracts from his novels on the stage. Someone said he did this once in Banff, and I checked, and at once there was this advertisement for a reading by Charles Dickens (see illustration) but it was the wrong man, and twenty years too late. This was his son turning an honest penny. Charles Dickens himself gave a reading in Aberdeen. It was absolutely wonderful if you were near the front of the Music Hall. They had no sound systems in those days.

There were occasional touring theatrical companies, and one of them which came to Banff had Dickens’ Christmas Carol. It wasn’t top of the bill: that was Professor Pepper’s Ghost. The more detailed advertisement for the same show at Peterhead talked about ‘the New and Astounding Effects developed by an ingenious application of the ELECTRIC AND OXY-HYDROGEN LIGHTS’. The audience must have shuddered in delight.  There was a Scotch Comic further down the list, and Kool Kennedy (late of Hague’s Minstrels).

But Banff didn’t need Charles Dickens in person, or a touring company. In 1868 ‘a number of gentlemen in the town’ took up amateur theatricals, after a ten-year lapse, and put on the ‘Memorable Trial of Bardell against Pickwick’ from the Pickwick Papers. This was in the St Andrew’s Hall, the Town Hall on the corner. There was a farce as well, which was ‘on the whole, pretty well acted’ which is as near a critical review as the Banffie would dare. They gave a big spread to the story: if only there had been pictures in those days. “The performances reflect very creditably on all who took part in them – whose names, for obvious reasons, we abstain from mentioning.” But if anyone has a picture of their great-great-grandfather as Mrs Bardell, we would be delighted to see it.   

Part 2 of 2

James returned home in September 1813 as the 4th Earl Fife, his father having died in 1811.  He was received in Banff and Macduff with huge rejoicing, met by the Magistrates, the principal inhabitants of Banff, the incorporated trades and “all the inhabitants of Macduff”.  Flags were displayed at the forts, the shipping, the hills; a salute was fired from the battery and “all the bells of Banff and Macduff rang a merry peal.”.   In the evening there were illuminations and immense bonfires in every street, and on Doune Hill there “was one of such extraordinary size and brilliancy as completely illuminated the whole road from the bridge of Banff to Macduff”.

King George IV (as Prince Regent) made him a “Lord of the Bedchamber” (a trusted confidant and advisor), and later – 1827 – conferred on him the “Order of the Thistle” (of which there are only 16 at any time) and the Grand Military Cross of Hanover.   James is wearing these insignia in the painting in Duff House’s North Drawing Room.  He was also elevated to the British peerage as Baron Fife.

The three medals in paintings of the 4th Earl Fife; the St Ferdinand is on the red ribbon.

James became the Whig Member of Parliament for Banffshire in 1818, holding it until 1826.  He was a keen Mason, becoming the Grand Master Mason for Scotland.  In that capacity he laid a foundation stone for Waterloo Bridge in 1815 (opened 1817) and the Regent Arch in Edinburgh (opened 1819) amongst others.

James unfortunately found his resources were substantially curtailed.  In 1816 James had to go to court to contest the Will of his uncle, who had left almost everything to his natural son, James Duff of Kinstair.  He was ultimately successful, helped by the legal knowledge he displayed, to the delight of his friends and the surprise of his opponents. 

During the 1820’s his name was linked to a few actresses, specifically Mademoiselle Noblet, on whom it is alleged he spent a fortune.  It was also claimed by some he was the father of Maria Mercandotti, a very pretty dancer and actress he brought over from Spain – but the dates don’t fit with when he first met her mother!

Maria Mercandotti, James god-daughter that he brought over from Spain, and who was a much sought after dancer.

Local good deeds

It is hard to imagine the esteem in which James was held locally, both before and after his almost permanent residence at Duff House from 1833.  A very few of the many reasons for him being held in such high regard locally include:

  • his support for the local farmers during times of hardship; supplying seed to them and most notably during the potato famine of 1847;
  • several improvements and expansions at Macduff harbour;  this picture shows men working on the harbour wall in 1842.  This added to the prosperity of the town which had been planned by his uncle;
Macduff Harbour wall being built in 1842 (from Finden’s contemporary Ports and Harbours).
  • creating, planning and growing the town of Dufftown (1817), intended to provide accommodation and employment for veterans of the Napoleonic wars;
  • paving the pavements of Elgin;
  • repaired and renovated much of Pluscarden Abbey;
  • building the Fife Arms Hotel on Low St, becoming one of the finest hotels in the north;
  • starting a soup kitchen;
  • assisting with funds to erect a new church for the Episcopal communion (St Andrews);
  • furnishing the County Hall;
  • opening the Pleasure Grounds of Duff House to the public for walking and riding;
  • developing his lands, planting new trees (including the huge Monkey Puzzle tree in memory of his friend from Spain, the Libertador of Argentine and Chile, Jose de San Martin); this led to the planting one hundred years later in 1950 of the Monkey Puzzle in Banff Castle grounds;
  • and his particular delight of seeking out those that needed help.  He is said on one occasion to have relieved an aged woman by carrying a sack of meal to her home for her; telling her to sieve the meal well before using it.  On her return home she did, and was filled with joy at finding several golden coins.

Apart from his friendship with the King, he had many friends, British and international, and knew most of the key society people of the early nineteenth century.  He often had grand parties at Duff House.  In 1850, James’s birthday was celebrated (on Mon 7th Oct as the 6th was a Sunday) with flags and decorations throughout the town; arches of flowers were erected at the Fife Arms and Oak Hotel (bottom of Strait Path); even the coaches from Inverness and Aberdeen were decorated with “fantastic and yet beautiful” shapes of flowers.  Bells, musicians, guns and mortars entertained a crowd that filled all the space from Bridge St to Greenbanks.  There was a huge Ball, held at the Barnyards (now Duff House Royal), another for the youngsters, and a dinner attended by hundreds.

Although enjoying robust health for most of his life, apart from occasional after effects of his wounds from Spain, James took ill in February 1857 and died on 9th March.  The Banffie reports that 10,000 people turned out for his funeral.  James Imlach, historian of Banff, summed him up as “A warrior and a courtier, a nobleman and a statesman, he rejoiced most of all in the title of the poor man’s friend.”


Part 1 of 2

James Duff – the future 4th Earl Fife – was born in Aberdeen on 6th October 1776 to Alexander, younger brother to James Duff 2nd Earl Fife, and Mary Skene of Skene.  The older James, at this stage, realised he probably wouldn’t have a direct heir, and was also somewhat critical of his brother as being “weak”; also his sister-in-law had been described as having “moral laxity and emotional instability”  So from the age of 6 our future hero was brought up in Duff House under the care of his uncle, to be groomed as the future Earl Fife.  He went to the renowned Dr Chapman’s school at Inchdrewer, and then in 1789 to Westminster School, before going in 1794 to Christchurch, Oxford.  However he soon became a student at Lincoln’s Inn and received legal training for three years, which would stand him in good stead in later life.

By 1793 his uncle had described “Jamie” as much “improved”, with “really good principles, and temper, with every prospect of application and good parts”.  He had an aptitude for languages, learnt Latin and Greek, and frequently visited the Houses of Lords and Commons.  He learnt the style and manner of great public speaking.  In 1794 Jamie abandoned his legal studies in London and joined the Allied army on the Continent, fighting against the French Republic.  He was present at the Congress of Rastatt, trying to resolve the French occupation of the left bank of the Rhine – until the French resumed fighting in 1799.

Jamie returned to London and on 9th Sept 1799 married Maria Caroline Manners.  This was most definitely a love match; the couple enjoyed society living in London and Edinburgh while also spending some time at Duff House.  He was appointed to the command of the Banff and Inverness Militia, and he reportedly much improved their discipline.

During a stay in Edinburgh on his militia duties, his wife was scratched on the nose by her pet Newfoundland dog.  Not much notice was taken of this incident, perhaps because rabies was only just starting to become known; not even when the dog became bad tempered and bit a groom; the dog was then put down.  Within a month however Maria became ill, and although the physicians realised the nature of the malady, it was too late to save her and she died on 20th December 1805 of “undoubted hydrophobia”.  She was described as “so well known and so universally esteemed” and was much mourned.

Although James was overwhelmed with grief it was several aspects of his life to date that led to the events that made him a true here.  He went back to Europe, joining a combined force of British, Swedish and Prussians, anticipating an inevitable war with Napoleon.   Looking for action he shifted to Vienna and joined the Austrian army under Archduke Charles, fighting in battles at Wertignen, Ulm, Munich and others.  Even though the French were victorious, James learnt much of military tactics.  On hearing of the disturbances in Spain he sailed from Trieste to Cadiz to assist the Spaniards against the French.   He learnt Spanish and fought with several of the Junta, but later uniting with an army under Lord Wellesley, later the 1st Duke of Wellington.

He fought at the  battle of  Talavera in which he was instrumental in moving some guns that then inflicted much damage on the French, and although wounded by a sabre cut to the neck during a counter-attack, still saved the life of a Spanish officer and led a harrying force on the fleeing enemy.

With reinforcements the French soon attacked outposts around Cadiz, and during the battle of Ocana, James was badly wounded while going to the successful aid of a beleaguered fort.  The Madrid Gazette said “Lord Macduff and Colonel Roche are the active and indefatigable agents of England with the Spanish armies.”  James received much praise and recognition, even if his name was pronounced “Maucdoov” !  He soon recovered and took an active part in many other battles. 

Meanwhile, in 1811 his father had died and James had become the 4th Earl Fife, and he prepared to head back to Scotland. Lord Wellesley presented him with a magnificent Damascus sword, ornamented with precious stones on a ground of solid gold, to mark his meritorious services.

4th Earl Fife medal as Knight of the Order of St Ferdinand (hanging on the red ribbon in the painting in Duff House)

The Cortes Generales, the Spanish Parliament, not only made him a General but also a Knight of the Order of St Ferdinand, Spain’s highest gallantry award – their equivalent to our later Victoria Cross.  On paintings of him after 1813 he is wearing this medal.

James later life and the good deeds he did around Banff and Shire are in Part 2 of his story to follow.


William Charles Dawes (1865 – 1920): there is tantalizingly little that can be said with surety about this man. Born in Surbiton, Surrey as the eldest son of four boys to Sir Edwin Sandy Dawes, a ship owner knighted for his contributions to the shipping industry and founder of the ‘Dawes Dynasty’, he will no doubt have had a privileged upbringing and enjoyed the fruits of his father’s labors. Foremost being life at Mount Ephraim, which are now ten-acre gardens open to the public.  Picture, if you will, what a delightful childhood that must have been. Consider your own, and the times in which you found yourself playing in your garden, and then transport your younger self into acres of private land characterized by their topiary, arboretum, water and rose gardens. One must wonder at the adventures these four lads undertook on hot summer days and the joy it brought them. 

Why did he dedicate a bridge so far north? To proffer a concrete answer would be speculative, but one fact that bears pointing out is that he was married to a woman called Jane Margaret Dawes nee Simpson, and that she was born 1st of september 1869 in Inverboyndie Banff. 

It may be a forgivable leap, especially for romantics among us, to suggest it was for his wife’s sake. Anything more than that with so little information on the man available and we would be venturing into conjecture, however. Perhaps the most important thing we can say about him that is not conjectural, is that he was of a noble spirit, as clearly demonstrated by his willingness to pay for the construction of a bridge at Inverboyndie at all.  


He died 20th of July, 1920 (19 days after his brother, second youngest, Col. Bethel Martyn Dawes) and is buried in the churchyard of St Michael, Hernhill, Kent, England; thirty-three years later, at the age of 84, his wife was reunited with him in eternal rest.

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In 1759 Richard Birnie was born in Banff. He came from a respectable family and when he was old enough he was apprenticed to a saddler. Later he travelled to London to take up a position with McIntosh and Co., Saddlers and Harness Makers in Haymarket. This company undertook work for the royal family and Richard was often asked for by the Prince of Wales.

As his work was sought after by a member of the royal family, he advanced within the company and in time became a foreman and later, a partner in the business. In 1798, he married Louisa Birrell, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and had a family.

In time he became a magistrate at Bow Street. He is famous for having led the police in the arrest of the Cato Street conspirators on 23rd February 1820. This was a group of twenty-seven men who had devised a plot to murder the entire British Cabinet, whom they blamed for the poor conditions for ordinary people in the country at the time. George Edwards, one of the conspirators, showed the others a copy of the New Times which stated that the Cabinet ministers were going to dine together at Lord Harrowby’s home in Grosvenor Square. The conspirators plotted to assassinate the ministers there. The group were betrayed by a spy in their ranks and that allowed Richard Birnie and the metropolitan police to arrest them before they could act.

Although there was such a large group, only eleven men were arrested. They were brought to trial and of these, five admitted their guilt and were transported, the other five were hung. The last one of the eleven was the spy.

Later at Queen Caroline’s funeral in 1821, a mob of people was becoming unruly and Sir Robert Baker, the Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, was urged to read the Riot Act but he did not, so Richard Birnie stepped up and read it. Sir Robert Baker resigned and Richard Birnie was promoted in his place. Shortly after the funeral, Richard Birnie received a knighthood.

Sir Richard Birnie died on 29th April 1832 and was buried in St Martin in the Fields cemetery.

Introduction

This continues from the first part of the story posted a week ago.

WILLIAM DUNCAN, 1846-1921   Part 2 of 2

William Duncan was a very enterprising man. He was on various committees and organised the first Masonic Lodges in the Chickasaw Nation.  Through his connections as a Scottish Rite Shriner, he heard that the Rock Island Railroad was to be extended and built across his land.  He immediately ordered a new store to be built nearer to the railroad site as well as new homes for himself and family members. William had always held the Native Indian people in high regard but ignored their advice not to build his new store in the location he had chosen near the new railway line.  They warned him it would be right in the cyclone path but William had already made promises to rail road officials so he went ahead.

The area was unfortunately struck by cyclones several times over the years with a particularly bad one in 1898 flattening most of the town.  The demolished buildings were rebuilt with stronger materials and life went on.  

Tornado damage at Duncan, 1898

He established ‘city’ limits when other families started to arrive. The town of Duncan was officially named on 27th June 1892 when the first train passed through. By all accounts it was a day of great celebration opening up endless possibilities for the small town, bringing goods and passengers faster than by road and was a mechanical link to the rest of the country.  The Duncan band played and there was a party and barbeque which lasted for three days.  Chief Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Chief, attended with hundreds of his ‘braves’ from their reservation near Fort Sill, making a colourful sight and a great time was had by all.  The anniversary of that day was celebrated for many years after with people coming from miles away in wagons, buggies and on horseback.

Comanche Chief Quanah Parker
1892 Duncan’s first passenger train

1892 was also a sad year for the Duncan family as William’s other two daughters, Ruth and Christina, died of typhoid fever when it swept through the country and they are buried next to their Macduff grandmother, Ann.  All three daughters were gone but William still had his three sons, William junior known as ‘Red Bill’, James known as ‘Big Jim’ and Gregg.  That same year William ordered the building of the first Baptist Church in ‘Duncan’ which also served as a meeting place.  The first school followed soon after.

In 1895, William sold his store, gave up his position as postmaster and concentrated on rearing dairy cattle.  William wanted to share his good fortune and encouraged other family members from Scotland to join him.  His sister, Isabella Duncan had a large family and two of her daughters, Agnes and Barbara Kelman and a son, Alex Kelman travelled over one by one and made their home there. 

Alex Kelman became one of the best known ‘ropers and riders’ at rodeos in the country but tragically died age 40 when he was thrown from his horse.  William’s brother James also had two  sons, William and Jim Duncan who left Scotland and settled in Duncan, Oklahoma.  Out-with his own family, he paid for several other young Scots to travel over, using their skills to help build his town.  In return, they settled there and had good lives.

William was described as being cultured, refined and a fine conversationalist, liberal to a fault and never forgetting a friend or those in distress, indulgent to his family and a moral, upstanding man.  Mrs Geneva Thurlo, wife of US Marshall Ed Thurlo of the town described William Duncan as being “one of the finest, kindest men I have ever known”.

In 1905, William and Sallie, affectionately known in the town as Uncle Bill and Aunt Sallie, decided to retire due to William’s failing health.  They moved, at first, to California to be nearer to son, Jim’s family.  Later, they moved again to Bremerton, Washington to be nearer the sea which served as a reminder of William’s homeland. Sallie died there in 1914.

1907 brought statehood to the Indian and Oklahoma Territories and Duncan was made the county seat of Stephens County.  It became the 46th state to enter the Union.  

William Duncan c1917

In 1919, William and his great niece travelled back to Duncan, Oklahoma for a visit. William did not recognise the place.  It was bustling with faces he did not recognise.  The population was growing especially since the recent discovery of oil in the region.  He suffered a short illness while there and was unable to return home for a few weeks.

William Duncan died in Bremerton in 1921. His legacy is the town, now a city, which was named after him and the many Scots people who followed him to Oklahoma.  There is no statue or memorial for him.  There is one for Earle P. Haliburton who founded the oil company based there.

Daily Oklahoma article remembering the founder of the town of Duncan

Note from the author Sonia Packer:

My information has been gathered over many months from descendants of the Duncan family including direct descendants of William Duncan who hold stories and photographs; from archives and news stories; from the Stephens County Historical Museum in Duncan, who have a portrait and personal possessions that belonged to William and from the Oklahoma History site.  The Chisholm Trail Heritage Centre is also in Duncan, Oklahoma.

I descend from William’s sister, Annie Duncan who married a farmer and lived in Alvah, Banffshire all her life.  William was my 2 x great uncle.  William’s mother, Ann Kinnaird was my maternal 3 x great  grandmother.  Her sister, Helen Kinnaird, who married James Watt, a fisherman from Crovie, Gardenstown was my paternal 2 x great grandmother.  Helen’s 2x great grandsons are the founders of Macduff Shipyards.