Clan Cumming, 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 where they were among the clans who defeated the English at the Battle of Roslin in 1303.
The origin of the surname Comyn and Cumming (in relation to this clan) is disputed. It is thought that the name may be derived from the a Celtic personal name derived from the element cam (meaning "bent" or "crooked". These names were relatively frequent in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, possibly due to the influx of Breton immigrants following the Norman Conquest of England. Another theory is that the name is derived from a place name Comines near Lille, France.In reality, some evidence may be found by means of the techniques developed by Mrs B Platts, Scottish Hazard, Vol 1, 1985, Vol II, 1990 and A. Hardie-Stoffeln, The Rise of Flemish Families in Scotland (available on Google) based upon an analysis of heraldry, namely, the armorial bearings. The armorial bearings of John Comyn, assassinated by Robert Bruce in 1306 as based upon an official seal which exists in the collection of the Lord Lyon of Scotland, and currently used by the chief of the Cumming clan, appear to be derived from the arms of the Campdevene family who were Counts of St Pol in the 11 century. The county of St Pol included at that time the contemporary town of Comines within its boundaries. More particularly, the arms of John Comyn are identical with those used by Hugues Campdeveine, Seigneur de Beauval in the 12 century which was within the boundaries of the county of St Pol (located now in the Somme, in France). This exact coincidence of the current arms of the head of the Cumming family based upon those used by the Competitor, John Comyn in the 13-14 century with those of the Hugues, Seigneur de Beauval, (3 clumps of golden barley on a background of blue azur) appear to constitute in both cases a differentiation of the original arms of the Campdevene (Champ d'avoine - field of barley, in contemporary French ) family, Counts of St Pol, namely, one clump of gold barley on a background of blue azur. (easily visible in Armorials and on documents available through a Google search - under the campdevene family - counts of St Pol: arms and Hugues, Seigneur de Beauval). More generally, this analysis of the armorial bearings of the current Clan Chief, the Competitor for the John Comyn, Hugues, Seigneur de Beauval and the Counts of St Pol corresponds with the more general hypothesis of Platts and Hardie-Stoffeln: that is, origins of some of the leading families in Scotland during the period following the Norman conquest in England were Flemish and not either Celtic or Norman. Finally, at present, there is no genetic evidence to sustain the claim that the original Comyns or Cumming family and their descendants were primarily Celtic.
In Scottish Gaelic, the name is rendered "Cuimeanach" or "Cuimein".
This clan is believed to descend from Robert of Comyn, a companion of William the Conqueror who accompanied him in his conquest of England. Shortly after his participation in the Battle of Hastings, Robert was made Earl of Northumberland, and, when David I came to Scotland to claim his throne, Richard Comyn, the grandson of Robert, was among the Norman knights that followed him.
Richard Comyn quickly gained land and influence in Scotland through an advantageous marriage to the granddaughter of the former Scottish king Donald III, Hextilda of Tynedale. Richard's descendants continued the Comyns' rise to power through marriage, and, at the close of the thirteenth century, the Comyns were the most powerful clan in Scotland, members of which were holding (or had held) at one time thirteen Scottish earldoms, including those of Buchan, Menteith, and Angus, and several lordships, including the Lordship of Badenoch. The Lords of Badenoch represented the chief line of the clan and ruled their vast lands from their impregnable island stronghold of Lochindorb Castle.
After the death of the last descendant of the royal line of David I, the clan chief John "the Black" Comyn was one of six competitors for the crown of Scotland due to his connection to King Donald III. A Comyn ally, John Balliol, was chosen as king, and Balliol's sister was soon married to the Black Comyn.
This marriage produced a son, John "the Red" Comyn, and, upon the exile of the Balliols by Edward I of England, the Red Comyn was left as the most powerful man in Scotland and the legitimate royal successor, having a double claim through the male and female lines. During the Wars of Scottish Independence John the Red acted as co-leader of the Scottish forces with his rival Robert the Bruce after the death of William Wallace and achieved some notable successes against the English, including at the Battle of Roslin. However, Robert the Bruce, desiring to secure his claim to the throne, murdered the Red Comyn at a meeting at a church in Dumfries in 1306. This led to a bitter civil war between the Bruce's faction and the Comyns and their allies that eventually resulted in the Comyns' power being completely broken at the Battle of Inverurie in 1308.
The taking of Castle Grant, 14th century; Originally a Comyn Clan stronghold, Clan Grant traditions tell us that the castle was taken from the Comyns by a combined force of the Grants and MacGregors. The Grants and MacGregors stormed the castle and in the process slew the Comyn Chief - and kept the Chief's skull as a trophy of this victory. The skull of the Comyn was taken as a macabre trophy and was kept in Castle Grant and became an heirloom of the Clan. (In the late Lord Strathspey's book on the Clan, he mentions that the top of the cranium was hinged, and that he saw documents kept in it.) Clan tradition predicts grave things if the skull ever leaves the hands of the family - prophesying that the Clan would lose all of its lands in Strathspey.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Clan Cumming had been reduced to simply another Highland clan, although the Cummings, as the name is now often spelled, continued to play 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.
The Clan Cumming were victorious when they participated in the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594 in support of the Earl of Huntly whose forces consisted of 2000 Highlanders from Clan Gordon, Clan Cumming, Clan Cameron and others. Their enemy was the Earl of Argyll whose forces consisted of 10000 Highlanders from Clan Campbell, Clan Murray of Atholl, Clan Forbes, the Chattan Confederation of Clan MacKintosh and others. Huntly's forces were victorious.
During the late sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth century, members of the clan were known for their musical talents and served as the hereditary pipers and fiddlers to the Laird of Grant of Clan Grant.
After the death of John "the Red" Comyn, the chieftainship fell on the Cummings of Altyre, and it is retained by this family to the present. The current Chief is Sir Alastair Cumming, Bart. The clan seat is at Altyre, Moray, Scotland.
There are several tartans associated with the surname Comyn/Cumming.
|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'. By the 1850 work of W & K Smith it is listed as the Comyn/Cumming tartan. The Smith's had claimed the tartan had the sanction of the head family of Cumming. Scottish Tartans World Register #1157|
|Comyn: This tartan was first published in 1842, in the Vestiarium Scoticum. The Vestiarium was composed and illustrated by the "Sobieski Stuarts".|