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Sometime between the years of 835 A.D. and 839 A.D., after the Battle of Scone, when Dursken, King of the Picts was slain and his followers fled, this fortress was awarded by Kenneth I, King of Scotland to a brave and valiant captain of the Scots named Bar. Thus the fortress became known in the Gaelic as Dun Bar, or the Tower or Fortress of Bar on the Hill. The first person to use the name of Dunbar was Gospatric I ,who rebuilt the wood and wattle Tower of Bar into the stone castle that was to become the home of one of the most powerful families in Scotland.
The Dunbar Earls of Dunbar and March controlled much of Lothian, and all of "The Borders", Berwick, Peebles, Selkirk and Roxburgh, plus great holdings in Northumberland and Cumberland. Through marriage to the famous "Black" Agnes Randolph, the Dunbar Earls acquired the Earldom of Moray as well, holding Aberdeenshire, Morayshire, Nairn, Buchan, and Inverness.
While the Privy Council of Scotland recognized the Dunbars as a clan in 1579, the House of Dunbar has always been infinitely more than a clan. As a famous 17th century historian remarked, " Second only to the Cummings, and of course, the Royal family, the Dunbars are the greatest family of Scotland". Sir Robert Douglas noted, "No name in Scotland can boast of a more noble name than Dunbar". In Gospatric, First Earl of Dunbar and founder of this great family, the greatest families of Scotland, Pictland, Northumbria, and England were combined to prove Douglas' evaluation.
The Clan has long been closely associated with the Church, and has built many monasteries, abbeys, and chapels throughout the Scottish nation. The Clan was present on the Crusades to the Holy Land, and the Seal of the Dunbar Family can be found on the Arbroath Declaration sent to the Pope. After the death of the heirless King Alexander, Patrick the Eighth Earl of Dunbar was one of the ten competitors for the throne of Scotland at Berwick upon Tweed in 1291. Dukes, Earls, Marquises, and Viscounts abound through the family history from 1066 to 1457 when through palace intrigues, a jealous King James I deprived George, Eleventh Earl of Dunbar of not only his title, but also his land and other possessions. With one stroke of a pen, James I appropriated the entire inheritance of the richest man in his kingdom, and destroyed a possible rival. The Clan to date has not recovered from this affrontery, and its descendants have scattered across the world. Eventually five branches of the once princely House of Dunbar obtained baronetcies; Mochrum in Galloway and Senior of Line, Durn in Banffshire, Northfield in Moray, Boath in Nairn, and Hempriggs in Caithness. Although worthy and well doing families, none have risen to the former glory of the House of Gospatric. The motto of the Mochrum branch, "Sub Spe" or "Under Hope" attests to our faith that the Clan will rise again to its former glory.