Who Was Black Duncan?... | The Chief

Duncan was the 16th chief of the Clan MacDougall. He was a wealthy man and cared what people thought of him. His vanity was demonstrated through his actions. Not only did he have the Brooch of Lorn set as a splendid and extravagant piece, but he commissioned a sculpture of himself wearing it.

He also thought to have done some work to up-date Dunollie Castle. Could this have included adorning his bedchamber with patterned cloth giving the Speckled Bedroom its name?

In the 17thCentury beds would often have formed warm enclosed spaces, with curtains which could be drawn to keep the occupants of the bed warm – a necessity one would think in the drafty, stone walled upper levels of Dunollie castle.

Did the Gaelic description of this room use a word such as breac or ballach or even breac-bhallach? all meaning speckled, spotted, tartan, chequered or of variegated pattern? Could the Jacobean embroidered bed-hanging from the castle which is now displayed in our museum be what gave it this description? indeed did Black Duncan commission this beautiful piece in his fashion-conscious quest to be on point with current style? Can we find out?

The Speckled Bedroom is thought to have been the 3rdfloor room in the castle, it’s where Black Duncan died but it’s also where he is thought to have plotted the murder of the Thane of Calder in 1592.

While the consolidation works are being carried out at the castle, we will be exploring the stories associated with the Speckled Bedroom to create a wonderful new atmospheric journey for the public.

This story will lead visitors up to the first floor and also to a viewing point on the second floor via the original stairs which still stands intact within the walls, looking up from there you can see remnants of the stairs which went further on up to third floor … possibly the Speckled Bedroom.


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About Dunollie

Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds is run by the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust (Charity No. SC028091).

Vat No. 932 1135 61


Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds


PA34 5TT

01631 570550



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