Select Dunn Miscellany

Here are some Dunn stories and accounts over the years:

The Dunne Chief Rents

The Dunne chief and Prince of Iregon in 1593 was Teige O'Doyne of Castlebrack in Laios county.  He was entitled to the “Chief Rents” from his tenants as follows:
  • the Castlebrack tenants paid one penny heriot per acre, on the death of each head of the family, heriot meaning "a fine paid to the lord of the manor at the death of a landholder."
  • the tenants of Kernymore paid yearly - two beeves, twenty-four crannochs of oats, forty cakes of bread, thirteen dishes of butter, seventeen cans of malt; eight pence, heriot, in money, on the death of each head of the family; one reaping hook (service) on one of every twenty acres; custom ploughs one day in winter and one in summer.
  • the inhabitants of the Ballykeneine quarter: meat and drink for twenty-four horse boys, or four shillings for their diet.
  • the inhabitants of Cappabrogan: like duties.
  • the inhabitants of Garrough: like duties.
These Chief Rents were abolished in 1613 by the Dublin government.

George Dun the Covenanter

Prior to 1679 there lived a merchant in Selkirk named George Dun, ruled by the fear of God both in his house and his dealings with his fellow-men, fond of his Bible and of the society of lively Christians.  Careful watch had been kept over him, as was done over Covenanters generally. 

He was noticed one day walking out the road in the company of Archibald Riddell, the Covenanting preacher. It was a suspicious circumstance in the eyes of the authorities to be seen in the company of Riddell.  George Dun was at once seized and lodged in prison.  Probably for the purpose of inflicting severe sufferings on him, he was transferred from prison to prison and ultimately lodged in Edinburgh tolbooth “where he endured a tedious and painful imprisonment.” 

At length he was brought upon trial for his life.  The charge preferred against him was his being at Bothwell Bridge.  One informer had been got to assert positively that he had seen him there, but when put upon oath in the witness-box he relented and said: “He now believed that might not be the man.”  

Thus George Dun escaped with his life.  But “all he had was taken from him to the value of upwards of 3,000 marks.”  He endured the suffering rather than prove untrue to his principle.  By following this course he ultimately prospered.  He became a tenant of Tinnis on the Yarrow where it was said: “he became possessed of double of what he lost for the safety and peace of his conscience."

George Dun was fortunate to escape the fate of his namesake Quentin Dunn, another Covenanter, who also ended up in Edinburgh tolbooth.   Quentin Dunn was shipped out to Jamaica in 1685.  His fate there is unknown.

James Dunn the Smuggler

Captain James Dunn was a man of contradictions.  He was a follower of John Wesley, yet he was also a notorious smuggler.  In Truro Cathedral in Cornwall there is a window depicting John Wesley and dedicated to James Dunn and his son Samuel.

Born in 1755 in Mevagissey, Dunn was the owner of several Mevagissey vessels including the Clausina which was well known to be involved in smuggling.

Smuggling before 1805 was an open practice. Ships would go to Guernsey where spirits could be legally purchased in large barrels and during the return passage the barrels were emptied into smaller ones. These were landed and distributed for sale in England.

In 1799 income tax was introduced to support war with France. This was a threat to a cash-rich man such as Dunn and he went into business as a shipbuilder with Thomas Henna.  They were in partnership from 1799 to 1806 and built many fine cutters for the smuggling business. These were either owned by Dunn or sold to Guernsey, Rye and elsewhere.

When the partnership broke up, Dunn continued as shipbuilder until his death in 1842

Christopher Dunn - from Yorkshire to New Zealand

Christopher Dunn came from a prominent Dunn family in Howden in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  Born in 1798, he tried life as a midshipman in the Royal Navy before training and practicing as a clergyman.  It was said that he served for a time as chaplain to Queen Victoria.  In addition to his duties as a clergyman, he was the author of several books and poems and also wrote music for the organ.

At the ripe age of 60, he decided to uproot his family and take them off for the remote Northland area in New Zealand.   They became farmers at Pena.  In 1866 the Rev. Dunn started to teach several pupils privately at his home and he later began the Peria School.   He continued his work until the age of 78 and he then lived on another four years.

On the voyage from England the family's cottage grand piano was somehow dropped into the tide at Taipa. It was despatched to Sydney for repairs.  Years later it was put into storage on its side, but has since been restored and is now proudly on display at Kaitaia's Far North Regional Museum. 

Captain Josiah Dunn During the Revolutionary War

As the war broke out, Josiah Dunn was leading a band of rebel guerillas on the Georgia border, killing and plundering anyone they found who was supporting the King’s cause.  These included those who had not been militarily behind the American cause and, in some instances, those who simply had property worth stealing, Eleven settlers were murdered in their own beds. 

At one stage it appeared that Josiah’s brother Nehemiah had turned against him.   But Nehemiah was later chastised by the Quakers in Wrightsborough, Georgia for not condemning him and for aiding him instead. 

Josiah was killed fighting at Kettle Creek in the last days of the war.

Dunns and Dunnes Today

Dunne predominates in Ireland; while Dunn is the main spelling elsewhere.  The table following shows the approximate number of Dunns and Dunnes today.

Numbers (000's)


Irish Song: The Dunnes

The author of this song is not known; neither are the Dunnes of the song.  But the picture that is painted is an affectionate one.

"I once was well acquainted, with a man called Mr. Dunne,  
A very jolly man was he, and full of harmless fun.  
He courted young and married was, when he was 21,  
And soon a big long family, had Mr. and Mrs. Dunne.  

For there was a high Dunne, low Dunne, underdone and overdone,  
And the other younger Dunnes, in and out did run.  
There was old Dunne and young Dunne, and Dunne’s youngest son,  
And young Dunne will be the Dunne, when the old Dunne’s done.   

In course of time the youngest Dunne, he took himself a wife,  
And when he did he found he had the hardest fight for life.  
To keep six little bellies full, and a wife who weighed twelve stone,  
Why any man who could do that! You ought to say well done.  

When Mrs. Dunne presented Dunne with their first bouncing son,  
She named it Joseph Henry Dunne, but called it cherry bun.  
But when as thick as hops they run, ere many years were done,  
Says Mrs. Dunne to Mr. Dunne, “More bread or we’ll be done”.  

Well here’s good luck to the oldest Dunne, likewise to the youngest Dunne,

Let’s hope the youngest Dunne’ll do as the oldest Dunne has done.  
For every Dunne to be a Dunne, and not a vacant one,  
“Whats done” says Dunne, “should be well done”, so well done, good old Dunne!"

English Poem: Miss Joan Hunter Dunn

John Betjeman's poem, however, described a real person.  He saw Miss Joan Hunter Dunn for the first time in 1940 while working at the Ministry of Information in the Senate House of the University of London.  She was working there in the canteen.  Although married, he was struck by her beauty, fell in love, and composed a poem fantasizing about them being engaged and playing tennis together in Aldershot.

The poem, entitled A Subaltern's Love-song, was published in early 1941.  They did meet shortly afterwards when he apologetically presented her with a copy of the magazine which had published the poem.  She was flattered. 

The start and end of the poem went as follows:

"Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,  
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,  
What strenuous singles we played after tea,  
We in the tournament - you against me!  

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,  
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,  
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,  
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.  

We sat in the car park till twenty to one  

And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn."

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