Clan Cumming

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.


Origins of the name

There are two theories as to the name Comyn. Firstly that it was derived from the town Comines, Flanders, which is in Northern France and that the Comyns were among the settlers who came over after the Norman invasion of England. The other theory suggested by experts is that the name came from a herb called cummin (cumin) which was spelt comyn in early times.

Clan history

This clan is believed to descend from Robert of Comyn, or Comines, 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 the holding or having held 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.

John "the Black" Comyn

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.

John "the Red" Comyn

The Wars of Scottish Independence

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.

15th and 16th centuries

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.

Clan conflicts

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 - prophecying that the Clan would lose all of its lands in Strathspey.

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.

The Clan participated in the Battle of Glenlivet at the service of Clan Gordon in 1594.

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.

Clan chiefs and Clan Seat

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.

Clan Profile

Comyn plant badge: Cumin plant
Comyn plant badge: Cumin plant

Gaelic names


Clan Cumming has several recognized tartans:



Septs of Clan Cumming


Several towns and settlements in Scotland are associated with Clan Cumming.


Clan Cumming was one of the leading castle-building families of Scottish history and are associated with many castles in Scotland, England, and Ireland.

Religious sites

Clan Cumming is associated with several religious sites in Scotland.

Notable clan members

Allied clans

Rival clans


Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index