by Cass and Deborah Wright
The founding of Clan Drummond has long been attributed to the Hungarian gentleman named Maurice, who piloted the sea-going vessel in which Edgar the Atheling, with his mother and his sisters, Margaret and Isabella, set sail for Hungary, to escape the usurpation of Harold of England. Their craft was driven, however, by a fierce ocean storm, to land upon the north side of the Firth of Forth, close to Queensferry, near where they then took refuge at the court of King Malcolm Canmore, which in those years was held at Dunfermline.
After that accident of acquaintance had led to the marriage of Malcolm to the Princess Margaret, the King proclaimed that Henceforth, Maurice and his descendants would be known as Drummond (a “dromend” being that type of ship of swift course, the captain thereof often termed a “droment”), as a reward for such skilful piloting of his vessel through dangerous waters, an heroic feat which had saved the lives of Margaret and her royal family; he was also gifted by the King with offices, an award of arms, and lands, those being in Dumbartonshire, including the parish of Drummond in Lennox. Thereby did Maurice the Hungarian acquire his name, from his former office of being ships master to Prince Edgar and his family – or, as some have suggested, the name of Drummond might rather be from drum, which in ancient Gaelic meant “a great height”.
Malcolm III also made Maurice the Thane of Lennox, and bestowed upon him the lands of Drymen on the Endrick, which his clan held for over 200 years. In commemoration of their ocean-going progenitor having rescued Queen Margaret, the Drummonds adopted the heraldic device on their arms of three bars wavy, representing the sunset waves of the North Sea.
Decades later, an early chief, Sir Malcolm Drummond, achieved heroism at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, largely from his brilliant use of an unusual tactic: facing a thundering charge of dreaded heavy cavalry, Sir Malcolm retreated his division of infantry while ordering them to scatter a great quantity of razor-sharp caltrops behind them, thus crippling the English knights’ war horses, and leaving their armored riders trampled, or stranded afoot to face the rush of Drummond’s swiftly turning soldiers.
In reward for Sir Malcolm’s services against Edward’s army, Clan Drummond received from Robert the Bruce lands in Perthshire, and in 1345, the Drummond chief acquired Stobhall through marriage, which has been the chiefly seat ever since. Many believe that the ‘caltrop strategy’ might even have inspired the Clan’s heraldic motto of “Gang Warily” (i.e. go forth with caution).
Over time, the Drummond women proved to be as ambitious and resourceful, in their own ways, as did their chiefs. In 1363, Margaret Logie, a widow born to House Drummond, became the second wife of King David II; years later, her niece Annabella married Robert II. But Annabella’s crown could not save her elder brother, a later Sir Malcolm; by marrying into Clan Douglas, he had secured an earldom, but earned the enmity of Alexander Stewart, son of the Wolf of Badenoch, who kidnapped and imprisoned Malcolm Drummond, Earl of Mar, unto his death. Queen Annabella did manage, however, to promote her younger brother, Sir John, into the office of Justiciar of Scotland, which helped begin the ascension by which his great-grandson would become Ambassador to England, and a Lord of the Scottish Parliament.
Yet another spectre of Royal matrimony was to plague that first Lord Drummond as well; one of his three daughters, Margaret, became the object of James IV’s romantic desires, allegedly leading him to disregard his engagement to the daughter of Henry VII of England. When the unwed Lady Margaret gave birth to a daughter, the rumors escalated that she had secretly married Scotland’s young King. Shortly thereafter, following breakfast one morning in 1501, at Lord Drummond’s newly-built mansion of Drummond Castle in Strathearn, Margaret and her sisters, Lady Fleming and Lady Sybilla, succumbed to violent illness, believed to have been brought on by poison. All three died a few hours later, and were buried in a vault under three blue marble stones, joined close together at the Cathedral Church of Dunblane.
Coming to prominence later that century, the Drummonds of Strathallan, a cadet house, descended from James Drummond, the second son of David, the 2nd Lord Drummond. He was educated along with James VI, with whom he seems to have been a favorite throughout his life, and thereby was appointed a Gentlemen of the Royal Bedchamber in 1585.
The Clan was “out” in the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745; James Drummond, the chief who followed the Bonnie Prince, was wounded at the Culloden Massacre, escaping only to die en route to France, on the French frigate La Bellone, a month later. The Jacobite ardor of the family can be seen in the fact that, after the cause was finally lost, James’ mother constructed a fine, new lake at Drummond Castle, created explicitly to drown forever the stables which had been tainted by the Hanoverian cavalry of the Duke of Cumberland.
Small wonder, that a clan so adept at reinventing itself, and reliably improving their lot in the face of dire adversity, would so clearly dictate their own terms, even in the face of absolute defeat!