Clan Cumming or Comyn
Na Cuimeinich[1]
SloganAn Cuimeanach! An Cuimeanach![dubious ]
War cryFhad 's a bhios maide sa choill, cha bhi foill an Cuimeineach[1] ("as long as there is a stick in the woods, there won't be deceit from Clan Cumming")
RegionHighland & Lowland
Plant badgeCommon Sallow (Salix cinerea) (the Pussy Willow)[3] Cummin plant[2]
Pipe musicWillie Cumming's Rant
Sir Alexander Penrose Gordon-Cumming of Altyre[2]
Chief of clan Cumming, Baronet of Altyre
SeatAltyre House, Forres, Moray, Scotland[4]
Historic seatLochindorb Castle[4]
Inverlochy Castle[4]
Septs of Clan Cumming or Comyn
Bad(d)enoch, Buchan, Boghan, Chaney(ay), Chesney, Cheyne(y), Coman, Common(s), Comins, Commins, Comyn(s), Cowman(s), Cummin(s), Cummings, Comeens, Landrum, Lendrum, MacCheine, MacCheyne(y), MacChesnie, MacCummin(s), MacCumming(s), MacNiven(s), MacSkimman(on), Niven(son), Nivison, Russell, Skimman(on)
Clan branches
Comyn Lords of Badenoch (historic chiefs)
Comyn Earls of Buchan (historic senior cadets)
Cumming of Altyre (current chiefs)
Cumming of Culter
Cumming of Inverallochy
Cumming of Logie
Cumming of Regulas
Allied clans
Rival clans

Clan Cumming (Scottish Gaelic: Na Cuimeinich [nə ˈkʰɯ̃mɛnɪç]), also known as Clan Comyn, is a Scottish clan from the central Highlands that played a major role in the history of 13th-century Scotland and in the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Clan Comyn was once the most powerful family in 13th-century Scotland,[5] until they were defeated in civil war by their rival to the Scottish throne, Robert the Bruce.


Origin of the clan

Like many of the families that came to power under King David I of Scotland, the Comyn clan is of Norman or Flemish origin. The surname is either a place-name, possibly derived from Bosc-Bénard-Commin, near Rouen in the Duchy of Normandy,[6] or from Comines, near Lille, in France.[7][8]

Richard Comyn, the nephew of William Comyn, chancellor to King David,[5] is the one who established this family in Scotland.[9] His son was William Comyn, who married Marjory, Countess of Buchan. William's mother was Hextilda, the granddaughter of king Donald III of Scotland. His son was Walter Comyn, the man who acquired the lordship of Badenoch. The seat of power was Ruthven Castle.[10] Ruthven Castle commanded the northern end of two passes over the Mounth, the Drumochter and Minigaig passes.[11] This lordship passed to his nephew, the first John Comyn. This John was the first to be known as "the Red" Comyn. He was a descendant of William Comyn, Earl of Buchan, by the earl's first wife, Sarah Fitz Hugh.

The chiefs also possessed the lordship of Lochaber. Here can be found the remains of Inverlochy Castle, built by the Comyns about 1270–1280.[12]

The Comyns were forced to sign an oath of allegiance to Henry III of England in 1244.[5] However, the English king recognised the Comyn's political leadership in Scotland when in 1251, as the father-in-law to Alexander III of Scotland, he returned them to power during the minority period.[5] It was only when Henry supported a take over of the Scottish government in 1255 that the Comyns resorted to kidnapping the young Alexander III in 1257.[5] When Alexander III's minority ended, the Comyns, instead of suffering political eclipse dominated public offices between 1260 and 1286.[5]

John "the Black" Comyn

The son of the first John Comyn was John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, known as the Black Comyn. He had a claim to the throne based on his descent from king Donald III of Scotland. John was made one of the six guardians of Scotland after the death of King Alexander III, in 1286. Their duty was to act as regents for Margaret of Norway, heir to the Scottish throne; however, she died en route to Scotland. King Edward I of England was asked to step in and decide who had the best claim to the crown of Scotland. He decided in favour of John Balliol. John Comyn had married Eleanor Balliol, daughter of John I de Balliol, between 1270 and 1283.[13] The Black Comyn died at Lochindorb Castle in about 1303, a castle the Comyns built in the thirteenth century.[12]

An anonymous sister of John II Comyn of Badenoch married Sir Andrew Moray of Petty.[14] Murray and Comyn had a son, named Andrew, who with William Wallace would lead a Scottish army to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297.

John "the Red" Comyn

Wars of Scottish Independence

The son of the Black Comyn was John, known as the Red Comyn (John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch). This John Comyn was a descendant of both kings Donald III and David I, as his maternal grandmother was Devorguilla of Galloway, the daughter of Margaret of Huntingdon. John Comyn married Joan de Valence. At this time the two main branches of the Clan Comyn were the Comyn Lords of Badenoch and Lochaber, and the Comyn Earls of Buchan.[15]

By controlling key castles, the Comyns also controlled the main lines of communication, especially in northern Scotland, where their power stretched from Inverlochy Castle in the west to Slains Castle in the east.[15] Between these two points, they had allied forces strategically situated in the following castles: Ruthven Castle, Lochindorb Castle, Blair Castle, Balvenie Castle, Dundarg Castle, Cairnbulg Castle, Castle of Rattray and Kingedward.[15] In particular Clan Comyn castles controlled important passes from the north and west highlands into the Tay basin.[15] A third main branch of the Clan Comyn, the Comyns of Kilbride, held power in southern and central Scotland. They held castles at Kirkintilloch (Dumbartonshire), Dalswinton (Nithsdale), Cruggleton Castle (Galloway), Bedrule, Scraesburgh (Roxburghshire) and Kilbride (East Kilbride).[15] In addition to their private holdings, the Clan Comyn also held a number of royal castles through their role as hereditary sheriffs at Dingwall Castle, Banff Castle (in the north) and Wigtown in the south west.[15] In the early 1290s, the Clan Comyn took additional responsibility for royal castles, including Aberdeen Castle and Jedburgh Castle, as well as castles at Kirkcudbright, Clunie, Dull and Brideburgh.[15]

Comyn influence over the political scene was strengthened by marriages with the earls of Marr, Ross, Angus, Strathearn and Fife, and with the powerful families of Clan MacDougall, Clan Murray, the Balliols, Mowbrays, Umphravilles and Soules.[15] Other prominent allies of the Comyns were the Clan Graham, Clan Fraser, Clan Sinclair, the Cheynes, Mowats, Lochores, Clan Maxwell and Clan Hay.[15]

The long-standing authority of the Clan Comyn (Cumming) was witnessed by their extended tenure of the Justiciarship of Scotia, the most important political and administrative office in the kingdom.[15] Three successive Comyn Lords of Badenoch and Earls of Buchan were justiciars of Scotia for no fewer than sixty six years between 1205 and 1304.[15] See: William Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan.

After suffering a succession of indignities, the Scottish people were forced into rebellion. John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, known as John "the red" Comyn was a leader in Scottish independence. With the outbreak of war between England and Scotland, Comyn, his father, and his cousin, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, crossed the border and attacked Carlisle on 26 March 1296, defended for King Edward I of England by Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, the father of the future king of Scotland.[16]

John Comyn became the most powerful political and military leader in Scotland from 1302 to 1304. He led the Scottish army against the English in the Battle of Roslin, 23 February 1303. John's greatly outnumbered army faced and beat the well-trained English army. However, many of the Red Comyn's allies made peace with Edward I of England, and so John submitted to King Edward I of England at Strathhord on 9 February 1304.[17]

On 10 February 1306 John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Robert the Bruce met in the church of the Grey Friars, Dumfries where Bruce murdered Comyn.[18] The reasons are disputed. One account claims that the Bruce knew he had to gain the support of John Comyn; however, John was outraged when it was proposed he betray his terms with King Edward I of England.[19] It is likely that Robert Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn at the high altar, and his companions finished the job.[20] Sir Robert Comyn, uncle to the Comyn chief, was killed while defending his nephew. Both the Comyn chief titles as Lord of Badenoch and Earl of Buchan were forfeited to the crown.[when?]

John Comyn's son, also named John, was defeated by Robert the Bruce in a skirmish.[9] Comyn fled to join the English and was later killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, fighting with the English,[4] against Bruce.[9] Any hopes of the Comyns returning to power ended at Bannockburn. Adomar Comyn, the son of John, died just two years later and was the last male of the Badenoch line. The lands in Badenoch, once the centre of Comyn power, were given to the Clan Macpherson for supporting Robert Bruce.[21] The fall of the Badenoch Comyns removed the Comyns from politics in Scotland although other branches of the clan continued to thrive.[9] The spelling of the name Comyn generally became Cumming and the Cummings of Altyre were recognised as the clan chiefs.[9]

14th-, 15th- & 16th-century clan conflicts

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Clan Comyn, now known as Clan Cumming, had been reduced to a Highland clan. But its members played a significant part in the history and culture of the Badenoch, Strathspey, and Aberdeenshire regions of Scotland.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Cummings carried on significant, and bloody, feuds with Clan Macpherson, Clan Shaw, and Clan Brodie over lands in Nairnshire. In 1550 Alexander Brodie, chief of Clan Brodie and 100 others were denounced as rebels for attacking the Cummings of Altyre.[22]

In 1424, the Comyns forcibly took possession of some of the Clan Mackintosh lands at Meikle Geddes and Rait, but Malcolm Mackintosh retaliated and put many of the Comyns to the sword.[23] This action was met with retaliation by the Comyns, who invaded the Mackintosh homeland of Moy and unsuccessfully tried to drown the Mackintoshes on their island of Moy.[23] A feast of reconciliation was held at the Comyn's castle of Rait, but the Mackintoshes slaughtered their Comyn hosts.[23]

In 1594, the Clan Cumming supported the Earl of Huntly, chief of Clan Gordon, along with the Clan Cameron at the Battle of Glenlivet, where they defeated the Earl of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell. He was supported by the Chattan Confederation of Clan Mackintosh, the Clan Murray, and the Clan Forbes.

During the late sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth century, members of the clan were known for their musical talents. They served as the hereditary pipers and fiddlers to the Laird of Grant of Clan Grant.

Cumming Clan today

Many members of the Cumming (Comyn) clan left Scotland for greener pastures, some went to Ireland, England and Wales; others later migrated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to North America, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Mascarene Islands (Mauritius and La Réunion). Due to the diffusion of the clan, spelling of the family name changed over time. Spellings in different regions include, the Scottish Cumming or Comyn, the Irish Cummins or O'Comyn, as well as Cummin, Cummins, Cumins, Cummine, Coman, Cuming, Comins, Comin, Commins, Cummings, Comings, Comeens, Commens, and Common.

Chiefs and seat

After the death of the last chief in the Badenoch line, the chiefship fell on the Cummings of Altyre. It is retained by this family to the present. The current Chief is Sir Alexander "Alastair" Penrose Gordon-Cumming of Altyre, a descendant of Sir Robert Comyn, the knight who was killed while defending his nephew, John the Red Comyn.[24]


Castles held by the Clan Comyn and later by their descendants the Clan Cumming have included amongst many others:

Inverlochy Castle, historic seat of the Clan Comyn
Lochindorb Castle, historic seat of the Clan Comyn


Tartan image Notes
MacAulay or Comyn/Cumming: This tartan was first published by James Logan as a MacAulay tartan; it was illustrated in Logan and R. R. McIan's joint work, The Clans of the Scottish Highlands in 1845. An almost identical tartan, listed as a Cymyne (Comyn) tartan, appeared in the 1842 work, Vestiarium Scoticum, by the infamous 'Sobieski Stuarts'.[25] By the 1850 work of W & K Smith, it is listed as the Comyn/Cumming tartan.[26] The Smiths had claimed the tartan had the sanction of the head family of Cumming.[26] Scottish Tartans World Register#1157 Archived 7 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
Comyn: This tartan was first published in 1842, in the Vestiarium Scoticum. The Vestiarium was composed and illustrated by the "Sobieski Stuarts".

Chief's arms

Religious sites

Clan Cumming is associated with these religious sites :

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Clan Cumming Profile Archived 23 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  3. ^ Anderson, William (1867). The Scottish Nation; or, Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland. Vol. 1. 44 South Bridge, Edinburgh and 115 Newgate Street, London: A. Fullarton & Co. pp. 739. The assumption of the badge of the cumin plant for the supposed clan, a plant that is only found in the region of Egypt, but which happens to be named in the Old Testament, is scarcely correct. It is rather the common sallow, a species of willow, that the Cummings have adopted as their clan badge.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Coventry, Martin (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. Musselburgh: Goblinshead. pp. 114–117. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Lynch, Michael, ed. (2011). Oxford Companion to Scottish History. Oxford University Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0-19-923482-0.
  6. ^ Young, Alan (2004). "Cumin, William (d. c.1160)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ MacKinnon, Charles (1984). Scottish Highlanders. New York City: Barnes & Noble. p. 139.
  8. ^ Grant, Neil (2002). Scottish Clans and Tartans. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press. p. 58.
  9. ^ a b c d e Way, George of Plean; Squire, Romilly of Rubislaw (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. Glasgow: HarperCollins (for the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 376–377. ISBN 0-00-470547-5.
  10. ^ Ruthven Castle (site of) Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  11. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 148.
  12. ^ a b Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 151.
  13. ^ Weis, Frederick Lewis (2004). Beall, William R; Beall, Kaleen E (eds.). Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonist Who Came to America before 1700 (8th ed.). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. p. 119.
  14. ^ Paul. The Scots Peerage, Vol 1, p.507
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Young, Alan; Stead, Michael J (2010). In the Footsteps of William Wallace, In Scotland and Northern England. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-0-7524-5638-6.
  16. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 157.
  17. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 186.
  18. ^ Weis, Frederick Lewis. Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonist Who Came to America before 1700. Eds. William R. Beall and Kaleen E. Beall. 8th ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004) 92.
  19. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 198.
  20. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. p. 197.
  21. ^ MacKinnon, Charles (1984). Scottish Highlanders. New York City: Barnes & Noble. p. 213.
  22. ^ Bain, George, F.S.A. Scot (1893). History of Nairnshire. Nairn: Nairn Telegraph Office. p. 230.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ a b c Way, George of Plean; Squire, Romilly of Rubislaw (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. Glasgow: HarperCollins (for the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 230–231. ISBN 0-00-470547-5.
  25. ^ Stewart & Thompson & Scarlett, p. 54.
  26. ^ a b Stewart, pp.47, 67.
  27. ^ Way, George, and Romilly Squire. (1998). Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books). pp. 376.
  28. ^ Cruikshank Roger, James. (1986). Rothesay Castle and the Rothesay Tombs, (Privately Printed), 26. "...the bearings of the Cummings being three garbs or wheat-sheaves."