Baile nan Dubhach

Dufftown’s Gaelic name is Baile nan Dubhach (pronounce Bal-n-an-Du-Ach), meaning town of the Dubhachs. Dubh or Duff (r. 962-967). Dubh, whose Gaelic name means ‘black’, was the son of Malcolm I. He was twice challenged for the throne by Culen, and on the second occasion was killed in Moray in 967.

The statement, that Dufftown’s Gaelic name is Baile Bhainidh (pronounce Bal-Venie), meaning Lucky Town, is incorrect. Balvenie existed long before Dufftown. Balvenie actually means Beathan’s farm” Baile (farm) Bhainidh or Both Bhainidh. Named after the 11th century bishop of Mortlach”

Pronounce ‘Baile nan Dubhach

Before there was Dufftown

Before there was Dufftown, there was Laichie and the little hamlet of Laichie was situated down by Mortlach Church. In a paper delivered to the Banffshire Field Club marking the town’s centenary, the speaker talked about the fashion for planned towns and villages in the period following the battle of Waterloo, “And yet another, perhaps the most flourishing of all, a delight to everyone who sees it and enjoys its natural beauties in just such a summer season as that which is leaving us, is Dufftown, called by the family name of its founder, associated in many ways with the House of Fife, and still having a venerated connection with pleasant “Laichie” down by the venerable church of the parish, in which and in the lovely kirkyard below it, there are to be gathered by the seeing eye and the understanding mind some items of the high traditions in many spheres of human activity that to this day are characteristic of the aspirations of the brae-set burgh that looks out upon the heather-clad expanses of the Convals.”

Of the town’s origins, he added, “On 10th June 1817 there was a gathering held at Mether Cluny, at the house of the district factor, Mr Watt, and then the conditions of feuing were read out. For a little time the infant town was called by the locally historic name of Balvenie. Very soon, however, it came to be known as Dufftown, and as Dufftown it has been known during all the intervening years.” Of James Duff 4th Earl of Fife, he added, “he may have seen perhaps something of the potentiality of the site of a community that has in these days blossomed out into one of the most popular inland health and holiday resorts in the north of Scotland. As there were brave men before Agamemnon, so there were far seeing prescient men of the future of old Laichie, for more than one hundred and twenty years ago a writer said of the site of the future Dufftown what may in all truth be said of it today, “The appearance of the country is very fine. Variegated with hill and dale, wood and water, growing corns and pasture covered with flocks, it looks both beautiful and rich, and even in winter the trees by the river banks with their snowy foliage and the lofty mountains all in white, exhibit a diversity of view abundantly pleasing and grotesque. Fiddichside is one of the loveliest straths to be seen in any country. There are some landscapes especially in Glenfiddich, and about Pittyvaich, Tininver and Kininvie, which anyone who has a taste for such things will not grudge a day’s ride or two to go and see…There is neither town nor village in all the parish. The whole is country. The Kirktown of Mortlach, the ancient Lachie, is only two or three houses on the glebe or about the church.”

Early Origins of the Duff family

The surname Duff was first found in Perthshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Pheairt) former county in the present day Council Area of Perth and Kinross, located in central Scotland, where one of the first records of the name was Duncan Duff who was witness to a charter in 1275.

The Clan claim descent from Duff (Dubh, the Black) (d. 967), King of Celtic Alban. He was son of Malcolm and succeeded, in 962, Constantine as king. ” In 965 Duff defeated Colin, the son of Indulph, supported by the abbot of Dunkeld and the chief of Athole at Drumcrub in Strathearn. Two years later Colin reversed this victory and expelled Duff, who, according to a later chronicle, was afterwards, when attempting to recover his kingdom, slain at Forres. His body was hidden under the bridge of Kinloss, and the sun did not shine till it was found and buried. An eclipse on 10 July 967 may have originated or confirmed this story.”

Genealogical memoirs of the Duffs

At what precise period the name of DUFF was first settled in the North of Scot- land, cannot now be known, because their old writes are lost. And the oldest they have point to others of greater antiquity, by mentioning Lands formerly belonging to that narae.  

But Mr. George Keith, Advocate in Aberdeen, who died in September, 1738, assured me he had seen among Lord Marishal’s papers, a Charter under the Great Seal, upon the Lands of Fetteresso, and that it was prior to the Excambion made by the Familys of Marishal and Crawford, about anno 1400, of the Lands and Castle of Struthers, in Fife, with the Lands and Castle of Dunnotyr, in the Merns, which borders with Fetteresso, when Sir Robert Keith, designed Great Marischall of Scotland, and Lord Marischal’s Predicessor, was married to Lady Elizabeth Lind- say, daughter to David, Earl of Crawford.

So that in all probability the Duffs were Proprietors of that noble Estate above 400 years ago. And, if any regard is due to constant and invariable Tradition, they are Descendants of the great & ancient M’Duffs, Thanes, or Earls of Fife.

It is agreed on by all Historians, that the Progenitor of that illustrious family was one Fifus Duffus, or Fife M’Duff, a man of vast wealth and Power in the Reign of King Keneth the 2d, who gave that Prince great assistance in his wars against the Picts, about anno 834, and that after they were subdued, King Kenneth gave him in reward of his eminent Services the whole country called Otholinia of old, which M’Duff himself had conquered from the Picts, and extending East and West from Fifeness to Clackmannan, and from the River Forth in the South, to the Tay and Earn on the North, all which large tract of Land is since called the County of Fife.

Genealogical memoirs of the Duffs 1869, by William Baird