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The Middle Ages

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Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of this family proclaim the legend of its origin which, like so many, involves a feat of strength which saves the life of a king. This version states that the first Baird saved William the Lion from a wild boar. The name appears to be territorial, from lands held by the family in Lanarkshire near the village of Biggar.Henry Debard witnessed a deed by Thomas De Hay between 1202 an .....

Heraldry Database: Hunter


Surname:  Hunter
Branch:  Hunter
Origins:  Scottish
More Info:  Scotland

Background:  One of the early forms of the name Hunter was, Huntar, another was Hunte, meaning a hunter by occupation and the Anglo-Saxon was Hunta, Burke's Landed Gentry states that "two ancient families of the name of Hunter existed in Scotland for many centuries". These were families of Tweeddale, now extinct, and the Hunters of Hunterston, who owned the estates as early as the time of Alexander II, King of Scotland. In 1375, William Hunter obtained a charter from King Robert II, for lands of the Barony of Amele. These lands were later known as Campbellton, and at a later date still possessed by the family. Dr. John Hunter, discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was a member of the Hunterson families.

It has been stated by some authorities that it is believed that all by the name of Hunter were descendants of the Hunterston families of Ayreshire, Scotland. The Hunter family has been prominent, by playing important roles in public affairs in the British Empire and in America. Family pride is a trait which has been cultivated, and all Hunters have good cause to be proud of the their family and traditions.

In 1969 the Lyon Court officially recognised Neil Kennedy-Cochran-Patrick (b.1926) in the name of the Hunter of Hunterston as being 29th Laird of Hunterston and Chief of Clan Hunter.

The present Laird is Madam Pauline Hunter of Hunterston, 30th Laird Clan Hunter.

Motto:  Cursum perficio, I follow the chase.
Arms:  Or, three hunting horns Vert, garnished and stringed Gules.
Crest:  A greyhound sejant Proper, gorged with an antique crown Or.
Supporters:  Two greyhounds Proper, gorged with antique crowns Or.
Plant:  Stem of thrift (armeria maritima) Proper.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

At Hunterston in Ayrshire is carefully preserved on a frail parchment a charter signed by Robert II on 2 May 1374 confirming the grant of land to William Hunter "for his faithful service rendered and to be rendered to us in return for a silver penny payable to the Sovereign at Hunterston on the Feast of Pentecost." To this day the Laird of Hunterston keeps silver pennies, minted in the reigns of Robert II and George V, in case of a royal visit to the district on the day appointed for the payment of his rent. William Hunter, who received this charter, is reckoned the tenth Hunter of Hunterston. In even earlier records, William and Norman Hunter appear using the Latin form of the name, "Venator". Aylmer le Hunter of the county of Ayr signed the Ragman Roll in 1296 as one of the nobles of Scotland submitting to Edward I of England.

By the fifteenth century the Hunters were hereditary keepers of the royal forests of Arran and the Little Cumbrae. It appears that they held this office from an early date, and the family claims a long descent from the holders of similar offices in England and Normandy before coming to Scotland. By tradition, an ancestor of the Hunters was with Rollo, the Viking, at the sack of Paris in 896, and was later appointed one of the huntsmen to Rollo's descendents, the Dukes of Normandy. The Hunters followed William the Conqueror's queen, Matilda, to England, and because of this their names are not included in the list of the companions of the Conqueror. The Hunter's wife was lady-in-waiting to Queen Matilda, and presumably had a hand in making the famous Bayeux Tapestry. It seems likely that the family came to Scotland early in the twelfth century at the invitation of David I, who was brought up with his sister at the Norman court in England, and was given the lands which eventually became known as Hunter's Toune.

In the sixteenth century, the service to be rendered by the Hunters became chiefly military. John, the fourteenth Laird, died with his king at Flodden. His son, Robert was "trublit with sikness and infirmity" and in 1542 was excused from army service by James V provided he send in his place his eldest son and his tenant. His son, Mungo, succeeded his father in 1546, but was killed the following year at the Battle of Pinkie. In succeeding generations the Hunters became peaceful Lairds, tending their estates and looking after their tenants. Cadet branches of the family, as was the custom, made their own way in the world as soldiers or in the professions. Robert, son of the twentieth Laird, graduated at Glasgow University in 1643. He was minister of West Kilbride, where he bought land and so founded the Hunters of Kirkland. Robert, a grandson of the twentieth Laird, served under Marlborough and became Governor of Virginia and then of New York.

The early eighteenth century brought financial problems for the family. These were resolved by Robert Hunter, a younger son of the twenty-second Laird, who succeeded to the estate and managed it with such vigour and accomplishment. He died at the age of 86 and was succeeded by his daughter, Eleanora. She married her cousin, Robert Caldwell, a wealthy merchant and banker. He assumed the name Hunter, and together they began extensive improvements to the estate. They built the present Hunterston House, a fine example of late-eighteenth-century architecture. Their son altered and extended the house in 1835. He had two daughters: Jane, who married Gould Weston, and Eleanor, who married Robert William Cochran-Patrick. Jane Hunter Weston died in 1911 to be succeeded by her son, Lieutenant General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a distinguished soldier. He served on Kitchener's staff in the Egyptian War of 1896, then in the Boer War and later as divisional officer to Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France form 1914 to 1915. In the First World War he was in the Gallipoli landings, and later commanded the 8th Army on the Western Front. He was awarded many decorations and honours, including the Distinguished Service Order and a Knighthood of the Bath. He served as MP for North Ayrshire and Bute for twenty-seven years, and commissioned the great architect, Sir Robert Lorimer, to restore the old Castle of Hunterston. He died in 1940 without issue, and on the death of his widow in 1954 the estate passed to the descendents of his mother's younger sister. Eleanora, grand-daughter of Eleanora Hunter and Robert William Cochran-Patrick, succeeded, adopting the style, "Miss Hunter of Hunterston". In 1969 she passed the estate to her nephew, Neil, who was officially recognized by the Lord Lyon as twenty-ninth Laird and chief. Prior to his death in 1994, he had nominated by tanistry his eldest child, Pauline, to succeed him as chief; she has now been recognized in this position by the Lord Lyon.

Name Variations:  Hunter, Huntair, Huntar, Huntere, Huntayr, Huntter, Hunt, Huntres, Hunterston.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.




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