Dedicated preservers of their family history, the Hunter Clan are still in possession of a 14th-century charter confirming the ownership of their traditional homelands at Hunterston in North Ayrshire.
The charter is one of the earliest mentions of the clan and states that the land will remain under their control as long as they pay a silver penny to the reigning monarch every year. While this tradition is now long gone, the Laird of Hunterson still keeps a collection of silver pennies, minted during the reigns of Robert II and George V, in case of a royal visit by the Queen to collect her outstanding rent.
Despite being one of the earliest records of the clan’s existence, it is believed that William Hunter, the man who received the charter, was actually the tenth Hunter chief as a previous William Hunter appears on the infamous ‘Ragman Roll’ document of 1296, using the Latin form of the name, ‘Venator’. Further back, the clan are thought to have arrived in Scotland with David I during the 12th century, completing a journey from Normandy. They would quickly rise to prominence in the county and are said to have become hereditary keepers of the forests or Arran and Little Cumbrae before becoming a recognisable name at a national level by the middle of the 16th century.
It would be through a series of battles in the mid-1500s that the Hunters would begin to become well-known throughout Scotland as they fought at Flodden and Pinkie before once again retiring to become peaceful lairds. They would then begin to spread throughout the country as smaller branches of the family became successful within the military and abroad as one grandson of the 20th Laird even managed to become the governor of Virginia and New York after travelling to America.
Sadly, the main branch of the family would enter into financial difficulties during the first half of the 18th century. However, these problems would be solved by a grandson of the 22nd Laird, Robert Hunter, who would turn around the fortunes of the family estate in such a dramatic fashion he is often regarded as a second founder of the family.
Passing at the age of 86, Robert would be succeeded by his daughter, Elanora, who would marry her cousin, Robert Caldwell, a wealthy merchant and banker who would change his name to Hunter as the couple began extensive improvements to the estate. Elanora and Robert would build the clan’s modern seat, Hunterston House, which would be further extended by their son. Hunterston would remain the family’s home for years to come as many distinguished Hunters would serve in the military, including Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, who served in the Egyptian War and the Boer War before becoming a commanding officer during World War 1. He would be awarded for his service with a knighthood and would later serve as an MP for North Ayrshire and Bute.
Sadly, Sir Aylmer would die without issue in 1940, passing the cheifship to a descendant of his mother’s younger sister, Eleanora. Today, the chiefship has passed to Pauline Hunter of Hunterston, the 30th chief of the clan.