Dumbarton (fort of the Britons) is an ancient town on the north bank of the Firth of Clyde in Dunbartonshire (formally Strathclyde region) in south-eastern Scotland. Originally Alcuid, it has at various times since been referred to as Dumbarton’’, Dunbarton and Dumbritton.
Starting as a settlement on the east bank of the short River Leven, which connects the celebrated Loch Lomond to the Firth, it was the centre of a British (Celtic) kingdom before the Romans and endured as “British” (rather than of the Picts or Scots) through and after the Roman occupation of England. Tradition has the 4th/5th century St. Patrick being born there. During the dark ages it expanded its control of much of south-east Scotland and became capital of the kingdom of Strathclyde before being taken over by the Scottish king Malcolm II and absorbed into a unified kingdom by Duncan I in 1034. It became a royal burgh in 1222.
Dumbarton Rock, which rises from the shore has been the site of fortifications since the Iron Age. During the Middle Ages it became a royal castle. William Wallace was imprisoned there before he was taken to London to be executed. It was still garrisoned when Daniel Defoe visited the area in the years before 1724. Indeed he spent more time describing the castle than the town. The Rock and Castle were the subject of a well known engraving by the German military engineer/artist, John Slezer, published in 1693.
The town gave its name to the mansion in Washington DC, “Dumbarton Oaks”, which hosted the international conference in 1944 that prepared for the creation of the United Nations. Earlier, a popular Dumbarton Oaks concerto for orchestra was commissioned from Igor Stravinsky as an anniversary present by the owner, Robert Woods Bliss.
- Brewer's Britain and Ireland pp. 347/8
- Chambers's Encyclopaedia 1964 Vol.4
- Daniel Defoe; A tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain Folio Edition 2009 p475