The Turnberry Band

The Arms of Bruce and Dunbar

The Turnberry Band                   Friday 20th September, 1286

On this day a gathering of Scots nobles, including Robert the Bruce, Lord of Annandale and Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, met at Turnberry Castle on the Ayrshire coast to band together and ‘faithfully promise to constantly cleave with all our strength unto the noble persons the Lord Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster and Thomas de Clare.’ ….. but why?

Alexander III, King of Scots

A commonly offered argument is this alliance of nobles was in response to the uncertainty of the future of the Scottish crown following the death of Alexander III after falling from his horse on a dreadful night near Kinghorn, Fife.  Alexander’s three children to his first wife Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England, had all pre-deceased him while Yolande, his second wife lost their ‘heir’ in a miscarriage soon after his death leaving the king’s three year-old grand-daughter Margaret, ‘Maid of Norway’ as heir to the throne.

Robert the Bruce, Lord of Annandale

Robert the Bruce (‘elder’), 5th Lord of Annandale had a strong claim to the crown and it is perhaps no coincidence that the nobles met at Turnberry Castle, the ancient seat of the Earls of Carrick , a title his son Robert the Bruce (‘younger’) acquired through marriage to Margaret, Countess of Carrick.  Earlier that year the Bruces threatened the greater peace in the realm with attacks on the castles of Dumfries, Wigtown and Buittle intensifying the vulnerability of the Balliols’ (their main rivals to  the throne) in their Lordship of Galloway, inconveniently sandwiched between Annandale and Carrick.

Perhaps while the nobles were agreeing the terms of the band, the Earl of Carrick’s 12 year old son Robert the Bruce was more interested in watching spiders in the stairwells of the castle or playing at being king – 20 years before he was crowned at Scone.

Patrick, Earl  of Dunbar

The New Cumnock connection in the Turnberry Band. Although the Dunbars’ ancestral seat was in Dunbar, Lothian the Earl also held Cumnock Castle (New Cumnock) in King’s Kyle, that marched with Galloway. With the Earl, were his three sons – Patrick , John and Alexander.

The other Scots nobles

  • Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith – lost part of his Earldom through claims by the Comyn family, supporters of Balliol’s claim to the crown.
  • James, Steward of Scotland – one of the six guardians appointed following the death of Alexander III
  • Enegus, son of Dovenald – Angus Mor, Lord of Islay

The Turnberry Band

“Unto all men that shall see or hear this writing, __ Patrick Earl of Dunbar; Patrick, John, and Alexander his sons; Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, Alexander and John his sons; Robert of Bruce, Lord of Annandale, and Robert of Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and Richard of Bruce his sons; James, Steward of Scotland, and John his brother, Enegus, son of Dovenald, and Alexander his lawful son, __ wish eternal well-being in the Lord !

 “Know all you that we have by this our writing bound ourselves and faithfully promised, and have confirmed this our promise by our bodily oath, touching the most holy Gospels, and by the plighting of our faith, that we will constantly cleave with all our strength unto the noble persons, the Lord Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, and the Lord Thomas de Clare in all their affairs; and that we will take our part with them and their helpers against whosever shall contend with them, __ saving our faith unto the Lord King of England , and saving our faith unto him who, by reason of nearness of blood unto the Lord Alexander (of happy memory), King of Scotland, lately deceased, shall possess and obtain the kingdom of Scotland, according to the ancient customs which have hitherto been approved and used in the kingdom of Scotland.

 “And if it should chance that any of us (which God forbid) should in anything violate this our bond and promise, we all and each of us, will and allow that the said noble persons, the Earl of Ulster and Thomas de Clare, with all their helpers and allies, should fall upon him to destroy him and all his goods, __ unless he repent him of his backsliding , and make such satisfaction as shall be deemed sufficient in the opinion of the said noble persons, the Earl of Ulster and Thomas de Clare, and their helpers and allies.

 “In testimony whereof, we have caused our seals to be put to this present writing.

 “Given at Turnberry, in Carrick, on Friday the Eve of [the Feast-Day of] the blessed Apostle Matthew, in the year of grace, 1286”.

Professor G.W.S. Barrow, a leading authority on Robert the Bruce,discounts the ‘Turnberry Band’ conspiracy theories and accepts the document at face value as ‘a resumption of interference in the affairs of Ireland by which the lords of Carrick had profited hugely ever since the Norman conquest of Ireland.’

Whatever the case in 1302, there was to be another ‘Turnberry Band’ when Robert the Bruce, future King of Scots married Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster.

Marquess of Bute’s Lecture

John, Marquess of Bute

The above translation of the Turnberry Band is taken from the appendix of ‘The Early Days of Sir William Wallace’ a lecture delivered at Paisley, November 16, 1875 by John, Marquess of Bute (Alexander Gardner, Paisley, 1876).

The Dunbars of Cumnock, descendants of the Earls of Dunbar sold off their Cumnock lands in the early 17th century which were eventually acquired by the Crichtons ( Earls of Dumfries) which through marriage fell to the Crichton-Stewarts (Marquesses of Bute, Earls of Dumfries).

In another local connection the feast day of St. Matthew the apostle and evangelist (21st September) was the day established as an ‘annual public fair’ in the Charter of burgh of Barony, in 1509, by James IV of Scotland to Sir James Dunbar of Cumnock….. happy September week-end 🙂

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