In ancient Scotland, Turnbull was first used as a surname by the people of the Boernician tribe. As the story goes, a William Rule was on a hunting trip with King Robert the Bruce and the king was attacked by a charging bull. This William Rule stopped the bull by grabbing it by the horns and turning the bull's head, eventually killing it. The grateful King decreed that in commemoration of the brave act the new name of the family would be Turnbull, and granted them an area of land then known as Bedrule, in the Valley of the Rule. This story is mentioned in the register of the great seal of Scotland:
- “On Scotia’s lord he rush’d with lightning speed, bent his strong
- neck to toss the startled steed. His arms robust the hardy hunter
- flung around his bending horns, and upward wrung with writhing
- force. His neck retorted round and roll’d the panting monster on the
- ground, crush’d with enormous strength his bony skull, and courtiers
- hail’d the man who ‘turned the bull’.”
First found in Roxburghshire where they were seated from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Scotland to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.