Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forbes, Duncan (1644?-1704)

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FORBES, DUNCAN (1644?–1704), genealogist, was the eldest son of John Forbes of Culloden, Inverness-shire, M.P. and provost of Inverness, by Anna, eldest daughter of Alexander Dunbar of Grange (marriage contract dated 1643). He received an excellent education at Bourges and elsewhere on the continent, and on the death of his father about 1688 succeeded to the family estates. He represented Nairnshire in the convention of 1678 and 1681–2, Invernessshire in the convention of 1689 and in the parliament of 1689–1702, and Nairnshire in the parliament of 1702, remaining undisturbed in his seat until his death (Foster, Members of Parliament of Scotland, 2nd edit. pp. 138–9). He was among the most active of those patriots who in Scotland contributed to bring about the expulsion of James II. The year after the revolution his estates at Culloden and Ferintosh were ravaged by the Jacobite hordes of Buchan and Cannon, and damage done to the amount of 54,000l. Scots, or 4,500l. sterling. The Scotch parliament met his claim for compensation by voting him a perpetual grant of a liberty to distil into spirits the grain of the barony of Ferintosh upon his paying a small specific composition in lieu of excise (Introduction to Culloden Papers, pp. v–vii). Forbes married Mary, second daughter of the second Sir Robert Innes, bart., of Innes, Morayshire (contract dated 1668), and felt a warm interest in his wife's family. For this reason and also for the specific purpose of warranting a grant or confirmation of arms by the Lord Lyon, he compiled in 1698 ‘Ane Account of the Familie of Innes,’ a very honest, painstaking work. Long after it had served its first purpose the work had become known from Pennant having extracted from it the account of the family tragedy of 1580 (Tour in Scotland, 5th edit. i. 331–7). A formal copy being found in the Innes charter-chest along with the Lord Lyon's patent, they were privately printed at Edinburgh in 1820 at the expense of the then Duke of Roxburghe, who wanted, as he afterwards observed to a friend, ‘to show those proud Kerrs that he was of as good blood on his father's side as on his great-grandmother's.’ Another edition was edited for the Spalding Club in 1864 by Cosmo Innes, who had discovered the author's original manuscript at Culloden. Appended are valuable charters and notes, chiefly from the Innes charter-chest at Floors, and from those of Leuchars and Dunkintie. Following a suggestion of Forbes, a member of the family, Robert Innes of Blairtoun in Balhelvie, writer to the signet and Lyon clerk, copied the early part of Forbes's manuscript and added his own genealogy down to 1729; it is now preserved at Edingicht, Banffshire. Forbes died 20 June 1704. He had, with seven daughters, two sons: John, who succeeded him in the representation of Nairnshire, and died without issue in 1734; and Duncan [q. v.], lord president of the court of session. Forbes is represented as a person of great worth; he certainly possessed some share of the ability which shone in the next generation of his house. He had turned his attention, as his son Duncan did afterwards, to the dangerous state of the clans, and is known as the author of ‘A Plan for Preserving the Peace of the Highlands.’ His ‘MS. Diary,’ to judge from the extract given in the Introduction to the ‘Culloden Papers,’ would be well worth printing.

[Memoirs of the Life of Lord President Forbes (8vo, London, 1748), pp. 9–10; Hill Burton's Life of Lord President Forbes (1847), pp. 273–4; The Familie of Innes (Spalding Club), preface, pp. 191, 255.]

G. G.