This famous Scottish surname derives from the Gaelic male given name "Donnchad", related ultimately to "Donncatus", a Celtic personal name of great antiquity, composed of the elements "donn", brown, and "cath", warrior, battle. On an ogham stone at Glan Usk near Crickhowel in Wales the name appears as "Dunocatus" which suggests that the initial element may alternatively be "dun", fort; hence, "fort warrior". Dunchad, eleventh abbot of Iona, died in 717, and Dunchad, abbot of Dunkeld, was killed in the battle of Dorsum Crup, Perthshire, circa 965. The forename occurs as "Donecan" in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Somerset, and was borne by two 11th Century kings of Scotland, Duncan 1, who was slain by MacBeth in 1040, and Duncan 11, slain in 1094. Early examples of the surname include: Ralf Donekan (Somerset, 1280); William Donekyn (Sussex, 1332), and John Dunkan, who held lands in Berwick-on-Tweed, in 1367. Notable bearers of the name were Henry Duncan (1774 - 1846), who instituted the first savings bank at Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, in 1810, and John Duncan, the African traveller, who sailed on the Niger expedition of 1842 as master-at-arms in the "Albert". A Coat of Arms granted to the Duncan family is a red shield, with a gold chevron engrailed between two azure cinquefoils in chief, and a hunting horn in base of the last, garnished azure, the Crest being a ship in distress in the sea proper. The Motto "Disce pati" translates as "Learn to endure". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh Dunkan, which was dated 1275, in the "Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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