[From Manx Soc Vol 15, 1868]





IN the Chronicon Manniae et insularum, written by the monks of Rushen Abbey in the Isle of Man (see vol. iv, Manx Society, p. 195), there occurs this entry under date A.D. 1313

"Dominus Robertus rex Scociae applicuit apud Ramsa, vide licet octo decimo die Maii cum multitudine navium et die dominica sequenti transivit ad Moniales do Dufglas ubi per noctavit; et die Lunae sequenti fecit obsessionem circa castinuni do Russin, quod castinum dominus Dungawi Macdowal tenuit contra prmdictuni dominum regem usque diem Martis proxi main post festum Sancti Barnab~n Apostoli proxime sequenti, et ipso die dictus dominus rex dictum castellum adquisivit."

It may be worth while to inquire what brought Robert the Brus on this distant expedition to Rushen Castle, and who was this "dominus Dungawi Macdowal" who held the fortress against him for more than three weeks, viz., from May the 18th to June 11th. The answer to the latter question gives, as I think, the key to the former.

This Dungawi Macdowal (called in Camden's copy of the Chronicon Manniae Dingawy, Dowil, and in the Annals of Ulster "the Lord Donegal O'Dowill") was Duncan Macdougal, or Duncan do Ergadia. He was the second son of Alaster do Ergadia, Thane of Glasserie and Knapdale, and Lord of Loin. He is called by Chalmers "the most illustrious Celtic chief in Galloway." He had made his escape to the Isle of Man with a great number of Gallovidians, in order to avoid the hostility of Robert the Brus, who was following up his attacks upon the Comyn family, with whom the Ergadias were closely connected, in their Gallovidian territories. (See Calendar of Ancient Charters in the Tower of London, p. 121.) On his father's side he was descended from Shomhairle (or Somerled) Mac Gilbert, Thane of Argyle, by his second wife, Affreca, an illegitimate daughter of Olave Kleining, king of Man. His mother was the third daughter of John the first Red Comyn, by Marian, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, and sister to Devorgille. He was thus (like the Comyns) descended on the female side from David Earl of Huntingdon, though his grandfather, the first Red Comyn, founded his claim to the Scottish throne by descent from Hexilda, grandaughter of Donald Bane, king of Scotland. He was also third cousin to Mary, daughter of Eugene de Ergadia, Lord of Loin, and wife of Reginald, king of Man, and afterwards Countess of Strathern. A son of this Mary, viz., Malise, Earl of Stratheinn, married Egidia Comyn, daughter of Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan, and granduncle to this Duncan Macdougal. (See vol. x, Manx Society, Appendices B and D.)

Hence he was not only closely united to the Comyns, the great competitors with Robert the Brus for the crown of Scotland, but had also a personal interest in the Isle of Man by his connexions with its ancient kings. It should also be noticed that it was a John Comyn (probably the second Red Comyn, cousin to this Duncan do Ergadia, or Duncan Macdougal) who conquered the Isle of Man for the Scots at the battle of Ronaldsway in 1270 (according to the Chronicon Manniae 1275). To which we may add that Isabella Beaumont, oldest daughter and coheir of Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan and Lord of Whitwic in Leicestershire, was at this time (1313) actually Queen of Man; her husband, Henry de Beaumont, having in the previous year (1312) obtained agrant of the island and its regalities for life from King Edward II of England. (See vol. x, Manx Society, p. 98, and Appendix D.) John de Ergadia, the elder brother of this Duncan, held large possessions in the Isle of Man, from which, in consequence of the capture of Rushen Castle by Robert the Brus, he was driven out, and he did not recover them till 1340.

The Isle of Man, then, was evidently at this time the strong hold of the Ergadias and the Comyns,— a kind of rallying point to the most formidable enemies of the new dynasty. It was, therefore, of extreme importance to Robert that he should gain possession of it, and place it in the hands of these upon whom he could rely. Hence we find, immediately afterwards, that a charter was granted to Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, to held the Isle of Man under Robert the Brus. (Rot. Orig. in Curia Scaccarii.)

After the foul murder of the second Red Comyn, in the church at Dumfries, in 1307, his success at Bannockburn enabled the Brus so to waste the heritage of the Comyns "that," says a chronicle of the age, "of a name which numbered at one time three earls and more than thirty belted knights, there remained no memorial in the land, save the erisons of the monks of Deir." The Ergadias seem to have been more fortunate; and though Duncan was driven from Rushen Castle, and his brother John at the same time lest his Manx possessions, after a series of years they returned to the family; and it is somewhat remarkable that a descendant of John de Ergadia, Patrick Cuninghame, Esq., H.K., should at the present time be in possession of property which almost overlooks the Castle of Rushen.

Looking at the strength of Rushen Castle as it now stands, we can hardly believe that it was the same as that which was taken by Robert the Brus in three weeks. Its architecture seems to point to the time of the first three Edwards. There are several square-headed trefoil doorways of the thirteenth century type; but it is probable that its main features received their impress in the middle of the fourteenth century. The ground plan of the keep may, however, have been of an earlier and Norwegian date. It has plainly received many subsequent modifications. The glacis is said to have been made under the directions of Cardinal Wolsey, who was one of the guardians of Edward Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, temp. Hen. VIII, Ed. VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. James, the famous seventh Earl of Derby, made additions to the Castle in 1645; and several unsightly buildings have been joined on to the keep within the last twenty-five years. It is much to be desired that an accurate ground plan of the Castle and precincts should be made.


Back index next

Castle Rushen

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001