DOMINIC CUMMINGS may well be the most successful Cummings in 900 years in pacifying the North-East but he, like Cummings before him, has also managed to enrage many in the local population during his tour of the area.

This Mr Cummings was the architect of Boris Johnson’s General Election victory in which the “red wall” seats of the Tees Valley and County Durham toppled to the Tories for the first time, in some cases, in modern history.

Surname historians go back further than modern history and divine that the Cummings name begins with Robert de Comines, a knight probably from the northern French town of Comines, who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.

The north, though, refused to be conquered, and in late January 1069, William sent the first Mr Cummings to Durham with an army of 700 to pacify the locals. On his approach, he was met by Bishop Ethelwin of Durham, who warned him that the mood was against him. Perhaps concerned about his eyesight, the visitor pressed on, and holed up in the city.

Infuriated by his presence, on the night of January 31, the wild Northumbrians burst through the city gates and massacred the Normans. They torched the bishop’s house, where Robert had taken up residence.

The flames, though, threatened the new cathedral so the locals prayed to St Cuthbert, who whistled up wind. He saved the west tower and concentrated the blaze on the Normans. Robert was burned to death; only two of his 700 survived.

William was determined to avenge the fate of his trusty advisor, but the first force he sent north got lost in a mist near Northallerton – another of St Cuthbert’s dastardly tricks.

But at Christmas 1069, William launched the ultimate revenge: the Harrying of the North, killing thousands, destroying every village between Durham and York, and forcing the survivors to eat horses, dogs and cats and then human flesh.

It is said that the first Mr Cummings’ son, William Cumin, fell in with the French-supporting Scots who took control of the North-East. He became the trusty advisor of King David, who made him chancellor and then, in 1141, tried to make him Bishop of Durham. But the local people rebelled.

To back his claim, William Cumin produced a letter from the Pope, but when it proved to be a forgery – fake news indeed – even King David realised he could not believe in his advisor and withdrew his support. This left the second Mr Cummings, who chroniclers say was driven by “blind ambition”, desperately touring the North-East with his nephews, looking for backing.

It is not recorded if his tour took him to Barnard Castle, but he did end up in prison, where he was tortured quite horribly.

He had, though, founded a family which became very influential in Northumbria and south Scotland in the next few centuries, and his surname lives on, as you may have seen from the headlines about a latter day advisor named Cummings whose recent visit to Durham has also not gone quite as he intended.

With many thanks to Durham historian David Simpson