Clan Gunn

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Surnames/tags: Scottish_Clans Gunn
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Scotland Project > Scottish Clans > Clan Gunn


Welcome to Clan Gunn

Clan Gunn Team
Team Leader TBD
Team Members Travis Baldwin, Michael Thomas, Cindy Vincens, Danita (Burkett) Zanré, Mark Sutherland-Fisher
Clan Chief: Iain Alexander Gunn of that Ilk. Chief of Clan Gunn. Recognition approved in 2015. First Gunn Chief for 230 years.
Crest: A dexter hand holding a sword in bend all Proper
Motto: Aut pax aut bellum -- Either peace or war
Slogan/War Cry: Clyth
Region: Highlands
Historic Seat: Gunn's Castle (Clyth Castle)
Plant badge: Juniper
Pipe music: The Gunn's Salute
Gaelic name: Guinne

Clan Team

Team Goals

The focus of this team's work is to identify, improve and maintain profiles associated with the Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Gunn together with members bearing the name Gunn, the related families and those recognised as septs of Clan Gunn.

Team To Do List

This list will be developed by the Team. If you are working on a specific task, please list it here:

  • promoting the entries of those bearing the name Gunn on Wikitree.
  • ensuring entries appearing on Wikitree are as accurate as possible, correcting mistakes once spotted.
  • encouraging interest in and study of Clan Gunn.


Eanrig, Enrick, Georgeson, Gaunson, Ganson, Gallie, Ham, Hamm, Henderson, Inrig, Jameson, Jamieson, Jamison, Jaisson, Johnson, Keene, Korman, MacCorkill, MacCorkle, MacHamish, MacIan, Mackeamish, MacRob, MacWilliam, Magnus, Mann, Manson, Manus, Neilson, Nelson, Robson, Robeson, Robison, Robinson, Sandison, Swanson, Watson, Will, Wilson, Williamson, Wilson, Wylie

Clan History

Clan Branches

Other Names Associated with the Clan

Allied Clans

Clan Sutherland, Clan Mackay (18th century)

Rival Clans

Clan Keith, Clan Mackay (15th & 16th century)

Clan Research and Free Space Pages

Source Material

Image Credits and Acknowledgements

Information below this line should be summarized and included on this Clan Team page. Detailed Clan information should be moved to additional Clan pages.

History/Origins of the Clan

The traditional origin of Clan Gunn is that the progenitor of the clan was one Gunni who came to Caithness at the end of the 12th Century when his wife, Ragnhild, inherited the estates from her brother, Harald Maddadsson who was the Earl of Orkney. His wife descended from St Ragnvald, founder of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney. Gunni, whose name meant war, was allegedly descended from Viking adventurers and his grandfather was Sweyn, who was killed in a raid on Dublin in 1171. Smibert however states that the Gunns were of Gaelic origin.

Recorded origins

The first 'chief' of Clan Gunn to appear in historical records definitively was George Gunn, who was the crouner or coroner of Caithness during the 15th Century. The later Celtic patronymic of the Gunn chiefs may have been MacSheumais Chataich, however 'George' Gunn was widely known as 'Am Braisdeach Mor' which means the great brooch-wearer. This was due to the insignia worn by him as coroner. George is said to have held court at his Clyth Castle in such splendor that it would rival any Highland chief.

15th Century

The Battle of Harpsdale was fought in 1426 where Clan Gunn fought an inconclusive battle with Clan Mackay.

The Gunn's traditional enemies were Clan Keith who, from their Ackergill Castle, challenged the Gunn chiefs for both political needs and land. In one such feud, it was claimed that Dugald Keith coveted Helen, daughter of Gunn of Braemor. The girl resisted Keith's advances but, on learning she was to be married to another man, he surrounded her father's house, slew many of the inhabitants and carried the girl to Ackergill Castle where she threw herself from the tower, rather than submit to her kidnapper.

The Gunns retaliated and repeatedly raided the Keith's territory; however, they suffered defeat in 1438 or 1464 at the Battle of Tannach. Both sides, having suffered considerable losses, agreed to meet and settle their differences in what is known as the Battle of Champions, where each side was to bring twelve horses. The Keiths arrived with two warriors on each horse and slaughtered the outnumbered Gunns. This was in turn avenged by the chief's remaining son, James, who killed Keith of Ackergill and his son at Drummoy.

16th Century

In 1517 the Clan Gunn supported Clan Sutherland, defeating Clan Mackay at the Battle of Torran Dubh.

Alistair Gunn, son of John Robson Gunn, had become a man of much note and power in the North. He married the daughter of John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland, and "he felt entitled to hold his head high amongst the best in Scotland". His pride, or perhaps his loyalty to the Earl of Sutherland, led to his undoing when in 1562, he led Gordon's retinue and encountered James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, and his followers on the High Street of Aberdeen. The Earl of Moray was the bastard half-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as the son-in-law of William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal, Chief of Clan Keith. It was the custom to yield thoroughfares to the personage of greater rank, and in refusing to yield the middle of the street to Stewart, Alistair publicly insulted the Earl. Stewart had him pursued to Delvines, near Nairn. There he was captured and taken to Inverness, and following a mock trial, he was executed.

In the late 16th Century, the Gunns were involved in a number of feuds against the Earl of Sutherland and Earl of Caithness. In 1586 at the Battle of Allt Camhna the Clan Gunn was victorious but they were defeated shortly afterwards by a massive force at the Battle of Leckmelm.

17th Century and Civil War

During the 17th Century, Clan Gunn strengthened its links with Clan Mackay when Gunn of Killearnan married Mary Mackay, sister of Lord Reay, Chief of Clan Mackay. The next Gunn chief married Lord Reay's daughter.

Another branch of the clan, the Gunns of Bramore, who descend from Robert, a younger son of Am Braisdeach Mor, were generally known as the Robson Gunns. Sir William Gunn, brother of the Robson chief, despite being Catholic, served in the army of the Protestant king of Sweden, and rose to command a battalion. He later fought for Charles I and received a knighthood in 1639. He returned to the Continent where he served the Holy Roman Empire and married a German baroness. He became an imperial general and was created Baron of the Holy Roman Empire in 1649.

18th Century and Jacobite Uprisings

The Gunns as a Clan did not support the Stuarts and fought for the British government during the Jacobite rising of 1745. Alexander Gunn, Chief of Clan Gunn, was a Captain of an Independent Highland Company that fought for the British Government. Some Gunns did fight independently for the Bonnie Prince, however.

Recognition of the Chief of the Clan

On September 25, 2015, the Lord Lyon King of Arms for Scotland issued an interlocutor recognizing Iain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk as Chief of Clan Gunn. He is now Iain Alexander Gunn of Gunn, Chief of Clan Gunn. At a Family Convention, held in Orkney on July 18, 2015, a petition to the Lyon Court requesting this recognition was approved and sent to the Lyon for action. For the first time in 230 years, the Clan has a recognized Chief. Iain previously served as Commander of Clan Gunn for over forty-three years.

Clan Castles

Gunn's Castle - also known as Clyth Castle, was situated on a rock above the sea, eight miles south-west of Wick, Caithness. It was once a splendid and strong castle but virtually nothing remains. The fortress was held by the Gunns during their feud with the Clan Keith.

Dirlot Castle - near Watten, Caithness, was originally held by the Cheynes but passed to the Gunns in the 15th Century. It later went to Clan Sutherland and then Clan Mackay.

Halberry Castle - near Wick, Caithness, was held by the Gunns, but there are now only some remains by the sea.

Latheron Castle - near Dunbeath, Caithness, was held by the Gunns but passed to Clan Sinclair in the 17th Century and there are only slight remains left of the castle. Latheron House dates from the 18th Century.

Kinbrace - castle once held by the Gunns, although the location is not certain.

See Also:

Clan Gunn Free-space page for further information.


Ring of Brodgar

Images: 1
Gunn tartan
Gunn tartan


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Categories: Clan Gunn