Gavin Dunbar (bishop of Aberdeen)

Gavin Dunbar (died 1532) was a 16th-century bishop of Aberdeen. He was the son of Sir Alexander Dunbar of Westfield, near Elgin and Elizabeth Sutherland, apparently a daughter of Alexander Sutherland, Laird of Duffus. Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, was his nephew.


In 1475 he received a Master's degree from the University of St Andrews, and went on to become Dean of Moray by, if not before, 1487. In 1500 he was clerk of the Register, and in 1504 King James IV presented him archdeacon of the diocese of St Andrews. In 1507 Gavin was sent on a diplomatic mission to Louis XII of France with Antoine d'Arces[1] They sailed on the Treasurer, but on his return the ship was wrecked and he was captured on the orders of Henry VII of England. He was returned to Edinburgh by November 1508.[2]

He became bishop when he was provided to the see of Aberdeen in 1518. He was consecrated the following year. He set about major rebuilding and extension of St Machar's Cathedral.

Dunbar's career saw the creation of a huge number of minor ecclesiastical establishments, including two chaplaincies in Elgin Cathedral, a hospital in the Chanonry,[3]Old Aberdeen and an altar dedicated to St Katherine in the Aberdeen Cathedral. To the cathedral, Bishop Dunbar added many structures, including the new south transept. Dunbar was famous for his wisdom and knowledge of the Arts.

He died at St Andrews on 10 March 1532, and was buried in the south transept of St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen. Due to curtailment of the church the actual grave is now external, within an enclosure made of the original lower eastern walls. A partial replica has been made internally but is not the grave.


  1. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 3 (Edinburgh, 1901), pp. lxvi–lxvii, 334, 338, 347.
  2. Norman Macdougall, James IV (Tuckwell: East Linton, 1997), p. 255.
  3. "Bishop Dunbar's Hospital".
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, Glasgow, (1912)
  • Ray McAleese, Bishop Gavin Dunbar: Nobleman, Statesman, Catholic Bishop, Administrator and Philanthropist. ed. by Walter R. H. Duncan, Friends of St Machar, Occasional Publications, Series 2, No. 7 (Aberdeen: Friends of St Machar, 2013), pp. 40.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gavin Douglas
Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland
Succeeded by
John Lyon
Religious titles
Preceded by
Alexander Gordon
Bishop of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
William Stewart
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