Scottish family names: Famous Bruces

ROBERT the Bruce, one of the most famous Scots in history, has been at the centre of a rather contemporary issue in Scotland of late.

A statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. Picture: John Devlin

As the country readies itself for the last few weeks of the independence referendum campaign, First Minister Alex Salmond paid a visit to Arbroath Abbey earlier this week and invoked the Scottish war herowhen he pushed the case for a Yes vote on September 18. Little wonder that Bruce remains a name that resonates strongly with the Scottish public. The Bruce Clan itself produced two kings of Scotland (Robert the Bruce and his son, David II of Scotland), and through Robert the Bruce the family name is inextricable from one of Scotland’s most famous clashes, the Battle of Bannockburn. Famous Bruces of a more contemporary vintage include:

Jack Bruce, bassist of Cream

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Bishopbriggs-born Jack Bruce was one-third of Cream, one of the UK’s most popular psychedelic rock groups of the 1970s (other members were Eric Clapton and legendary drummer Ginger Baker). Some consider to be one of the greatest bass guitarist to have ever lived, and forged a prolific solo career for himself when Cream dissolved.

Fiona Bruce, journalist and television presenter

Fiona Bruce, one of the BBC’s most famous faces as the presenter of Antiques Roadshow and a clutch of other shows including Crimewatch and Call My Bluff, was born in Singapore to an English mother and a Scottish father. She is also a fixture on the broadcaster’s roster of newsreaders.

William Speirs Bruce, (1867–1921) naturalist, scientist and explorer

William Speirs Bruce was a scientist and oceanographer born in London to Scottish and Welsh parents. He led an the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition to the South Orkney Islands from 1902 to 1904. The trip established the first manned weather station in Antarctica, and was, at the time, Britain’s foremost polar scientist. Despite his significant scientific work, his achievements are not noted in the same breath as those of more famous polar explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

The Bruce name is an Anglicisation of de Bruis, which is French Normandy in origin. The Bruce name first made itself known on the British Isles in the early 12th century when Robert de Bruis, 1st Lord of Annandale. Even then, the Bruces rubbed shoulders with royalty: the 1st Lord of Annandale accompanied Prince David, later David I of Scotland, north of the border in 1124 to aid the prince in reclaiming Scotland.

The most famous Bruce, Robert the Bruce, the 7th Lord of Annandale, led Scottish troops to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which ended in their victory. The early 14th century saw Bruce rebel against the English king that he had sworn allegiance to, Edward I, and subsequently mount a lengthy bid to claim a Scottish throne vacated by the imprisoned John Balliol, which, through Bannockburn in 1314, eventually succeeded. Andrew Bruce, 11th Earl of Elgin, is a Scottish peer and the current clan chief.

Other famous Bruces: Bruce Lee (actor, 1940-1973); Bruce Willis (actor); Bruce Springsteen (musician).