A Bunch of Bunches: Pioneers of the University

A family associated with the early years of the University of Glasgow are the Bunches, a leading mercantile family in Perth, and we have recently found out a bit more about them for their University Story profiles. Let me introduce Duncan Bunch, Walter Bunch and Robert Bunch who all had ties to the University in the 15th century:

The Annals of the Faculty of Arts, 1451-1555

The front cover of the Annals of the College of Arts, 1451-1555

Duncan Bunch (fl. 1443-1474) was one of the University’s first Regents and was Rector from 1468 to 1469. Duncan was a leading figure in the establishment of the University of Glasgow and was the Principal of the University from 1460 to 1475. He was also appointed Quodlibetarius from 1463 to 1468. The Quodlibetarius was the elected master of the annual quodlibet academic exercise where questions were debated in a disputation that could last several days. Duncan Bunch is believed to have had a role in the building of the Principal’s House on High street and the establishment of the library.

Duncan studied at the Universities of St Andrews and Cologne before becoming one of the University’s first Regents in 1451. Cologne was a popular place for Scots to further their education out-with Britain. In 1460 he was described as Principal Regent in the Faculty of Arts in the charter which founded the College. Duncan was later Canon of Glasgow and Prebendary of Renfrew and he led a Royal embassy from Scotland to Rome in May 1474 where he asked for the Pope’s protection from his rival Patrick Graham, the Archbishop of St Andrews. Duncan Bunch died towards the end of 1474 from the plague that struck Glasgow in 1474-75.

Page 1 of the Annals of the Faculty of Arts, 1451

Page 1 of the Annals of the College of Arts, 1451

Walter Bunch, who was the kinsman, and possibly nephew, of Duncan, was also a Regent and a Principal of the University from 1475 to 1478. Walter was a Cistercian monk of Balmerino: an Abbey erected in 1229 whose founding community came from Melrose Abbey. Walter was the predecessor of Duncan as Principal of the University and he also studied at the University of Cologne. Walter was dismissed as Principal Regent in June 1478 due to complaints of incompetence and disinterest. It was said that his lack of leadership prompted some students to leave Glasgow for St Andrews University. While he was Principal Walter was also the Prior of Balmerino’s establishment in the parish of Dunbog and he held this position until 1483. Afterwards he became the Abbot of Balmerino until the late 15th or early 16th century. In the late 15th century it was common for monks to be incorporated with universities and there were several Cistercian monks associated with the University of Glasgow at the time including Alexander Geddes who, along with Duncan Bunch, played an important role in the founding of the University.

Robert Bunch is the third of our ‘bunch of Bunches’ and he graduated from the University MA in 1469. He is described in the matriculation rolls as ‘son of John Bunch of St Johnston’ (Perth) and so is likely to be a relative of Duncan and Walter whose families also came from Perth.
I wonder how many of the Bunch family come through the University’s doors nowadays!



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