The Dundas family are generally believed to have sprung from the Dunbars, Earl of March, who derived descent from the Saxon Princes of England. Among the first Dundases we read of is Searle of Dundas at the time of William the Lion. Both the Beechwood and Melville septs are derived from the Dundases of Arniston, which Barony was granted in 1609.
The family came to the Comrie area during the 1780s when Henry Dundas, who was created Viscount Melville in 1802, acquired Dunira Estate from the Drummond Castle lands; The Melville monument which stands above Comrie is in his memory.
Sir George Dundas inherited Dunira in 1908 but sadly the family had to sell in 1919. However, they retained part of the estate and moved to Comrie House where Sir Robert now lives. He owes his interest in sport to his father, his uncles and a keen family interest in cricket, rugby football etc. There were many occasions when Sir Robert, his father and brothers, along with their Melville cousins were almost able to make up a full side. Sir George Dundas was Captain of the Comrie Cricket Club from its foundation in 1908 until his death in 1934.
The first recordings of Sir Robert’s cricketing career appear in the Dalvreck (now Ardvreck) School Magazine. On 16th July 1892, aged 11, he played No. 9 in the school team in a match against Glenalmond. The score book shows that he was bowled for 0 in the first innings, and was not out 0 in the second. The end of term review of the characters of the cricket XI says:
Dundas “should develop into a good bat; he has some very nice strokes on the offside, but at present lacks power, good defence, fair field and catch.”
He never looked back, remaining in the Dalvreck team until he went to Glenalmond in 1896 where his cricketing career was to develop. He was in the 1st XI in 1897, 1898 and 1899, became one of the mainstays of the team and earned the distinction of being a member of their unbeaten XI in 1899.
On leaving school in the summer of 1899 he took up a career in banking but quickly felt that the life didn’t really suit him – apart from anything else he couldn’t get in very much sport! He moved to teaching which gave him what he felt was a more interesting job and much better opportunities to play cricket and rugby football. He taught first at Harris Hill near Oxford, then at Harleigh School at Bodmin in Cornwall, where he was described by the Headmaster as:
“…being of a kind manner, popular with the boys and exceedingly good at all games, especially cricket.”
The Headmaster of Harris Hill also praised him for both his teaching and cricketing ability. In 1902 he went up to Keeble College, Oxford, for 3 years, taking a general degree, captaining the cricket eleven in 1905 and also playing in the rugby football and hockey teams.
Sir Robert left Oxford in 1905 with a Bachelor of Arts degree to go to Monmouth School where he was to have five very happy years as Housemaster of School House, Commander of the School Cadet Corps and school games master. It was here that he first met Thea Wiseman, daughter of one of the masters, and whom he was to marry in 1926. In 1910 he considered moving schools to a more senior position, but the idea of joining the West African Colonial Service was suggested to him. He applied and in 1911 went out to be an Assistant District Officer in Southern Nigeria. He was to remain in West Africa for 19 years. His cricketing exploits had to take a back seat, and were largely restricted to organising his home leaves to coincide with Comrie cricket season, which he did most successfully, and to the occasional scratch game with fellow colonial servants and Nigerian court officials. These games were full of surprises as many of his extras had never held a cricket bat in their lives.
Sir Robert finally retired to live in Comrie and succeeded his father as Captain in 1935. This was to mark the start of his fourth career, and he remained Captain of the Comrie Club until 1965. He continued however to carry his bat at No. 11 until he finally retired from “active service in the field” at the age of 90 with full television coverage and champagne on the pitch. He remains keenly interested in the team.
The Cricket Club has been a constant and great joy to Sir Robert. He has always striven to encourage “the youngsters” and his cricket practices every Tuesday and Thursday became quite a feature of the village. His games with the Club conjure up great memories for him such as scoring 132 against Mr Dewhurst’s XI in 1910 in a 200 stand with his brother Freddie, his 113 in 1930 against Dunira, the crucial 5 runs he scored in 1959 against Pitlochry at the age of 79, the telegram from the M.C.C. on the Club’s Golden Jubilee, the excitement whether the village would be able to raise the money to buy the Laggan Park field in time, and each year’s game against his old school Glenalmond. He was a very fine bat and during his later years on the field he realised he would be in difficulty if he had to take more than 1 run, so his great dictum was to try and hit a boundary. He put his technique to good effect during one of his last games against Glenalmond when batting at No. 11 he found the field rather too close for comfort. He is quoted as saying “so I am afraid all I could do was knock the ball over their heads and fortunately the good turf was rather kind to me.”
An incredible 79 years spans his first game against Glenalmond as a schoolboy at Dalvreck and his last with Comrie Cricket Club.