The Clan Gunn

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Isle of Orkney and Caithness, Scotlandmap
Surnames/tags: Gunn Jameson Robson
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The Clan Gunn is part of the Scottish Clan Project. The Clan was one of the few that has strong Norse ethnicity. It was started on the Isle of Orkney when it was settled by Gunnar (also spelled: Gunnor) son of Rolo the Viking. He and his following married into the natives of Orkney and subsequent fled to the Scottish mainland at Caithness when invaded and driven out by other Vikings. This is the history of this Clan with a very colorful, warlike and seafaring background.

This is a work in progress as there is much more to uncover, once more Clan Members share their stories with me

Clan Gunn

add a story here, find one here [1] or here [2]

Crest: A dexter hand holding a sword in bend all Proper
Motto: Aut pax aut bellum -- Either peace or war
Slogan: Clyth
Region: Highlands
District: In the heights of the Caithness-Sutherland border
Plant badge: Juniper
Pipe music: The Gunn's Salute
Gaelic name: Guinne

Septs: Going in order of age of the sons we have:

1) Jameson, Jamieson, Jamison, MacHamish, Mackeamish and many variations in spelling.

These names are forms of the eldest son James (son of James) who became the chief of the clan in Sutherland. They held land at Kilearnan and Kildonan.

2) Robson, Robeson, Robison, Robinson, MacRob. Names after Robert, who was slain along with Crowner at St. Tears.

Sir Robert Gordon says: "John Robson, chieftain of Clangun in Catteness (Caithness), did now of late, the yeir of God 1618, mak his refuge of Sutherland, having fallen out with the Earle of Catteness (Sinclair) and Macky; so that this whole surname doth for the present (1618) depend altogether upon the house of Southerland."

It should be noted that initially (until about 1600) they were allied with the Earl of Caithness or Sinclairs, until a dispute arose between them. [More on that in "History of Clan Gunn, Vol. 3]. It is from this branch that we have the Robson Gunns of Caithness or the Gunns of Braemore and Strathy.

There is also an unrelated branch of Robsons from the Anglo-Scottish Border area.

3) Johnson, MacIan Sons of John, also slain by the Keiths at St. Tears. Also from the Caithness area, they became the Gunns of Bregaul of Dale (Easterdale).

It is also necessary to mention that 'son of John' - Johnson - can be found all over Britain as this is and was a very common name. Not all surnames of Johnson are of the Clan Gunn.

John was also killed at St. Tears but his son William of Cattaig, held lands near Dirlot, the Dale, Dalemore and Bregaul. They are the third of the branches, known as the Gunns of Bregaul or Dale. They also had lands in the Strathmore area.

4) MacCorkill , MacCorkle Sons of Torquil, this Viking name is small in comparison to the names Jamesons, Robsons, Johnsons and Wilsons, but curiously the name is also a common one on the Isle of Man, making some connection to the Kings of the Isle of Man and the Isles possible. In one account of Gunn history he mentions combative ability of the MacCorkills.

"The MacCorkells killed many of Clan Ay (MacKay) in their numerous conflicts."

This would seem to imply that the MacCorkill/MacCorkles were with the Robson Gunns or Gunns of Braemore, specifically in the turbulent border area of Strathy, Strath Halladale and Strathnavernia.

5) Will, Wilson, MacWilliam and Williamson (of Caithness and Sutherland)

Sons of William, son of the Crowner. Although some of this line may have actually descended from a later chief named William (specifically the Williamsons). They acquired lands in Banniskirk where the Commander of Clan Gunn is today (or at least his title). They were also associated with the Henderson Gunns (as well as Rorieson and Manson) in the lowlands of Caithness. More on these names later.

Another cautionary note on the commonality of the name Wilson should be made here. Aside from the very different East Coast Wilson's of Clan Innes (who have different arms), the name Wilson is the third most common name in Scotland today. (The first two are Brown and Smith). Wilson's can be found in all areas of Scotland, England and even Ireland. So simply having the surname of Wilson doesn't automatically mean one is a Gunn. This is a practical example of the problem with sept lists. Clan MacKay also claims Williamson.

6) Sandison

Although this could be 'son of Alexander', another of the Crowners sons, there really is scant evidence that the name of Alexander (or Alasdair) was used as a surname by the Clan Gunn. Certainly there are a lot of Alexanders all over Scotland, but at this point there is little reason to suspect they were prominent surnames in Gunn history. However, Sandison is recorded in the history and although the origins are obscure, it could be from the son of Alexander, son of the Crowner.

7) Henderson, Enrick, Inrig, Eanrig (and various spellings) Sons of Henry, the youngest son of the Crowner.

Not long after James, William and Henry retired to Sutherland after the Battle of St. Tears Chapel, Henry left after a dispute with James swearing that none of his descendants would ever bear the name Gunn again. He, and William later, went to the lowlands of Caithness, possibly to the parish of Halkirk. They became known as the Henderson Gunns of Caithness. In the 20th century some Hendersons formed their own clan. The line of Henry cannot really be followed after his move, but there appears to be a cadet line of Hendersons later on. During the 17th century, the Henderson Gunns settled in Brabsterdorran, Stemster, Forse and Westerdale. The families of Eanruig, Rorieson (son of Roderick) and the Mansons (sons of Magnus or Manus) are of the same stock, according to Mark Rugg Gunn. He does mention, without specifics, that the Henderson Gunns still occasionally used the name Gunn. In 1663 an inquisition mentions a "William Manson" (or Henderson), heir of David Manson Henderson" in Brabsterdorran. According to the "Black Book of Taymouth" by Thomas Sinclair, a principal chronicler of Gunn history, there was a marriage:

Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy in April 1638, married his bastard sister, Mary Campbell to a gentleman called John Henderson of Brabsterdorran, and bestowed on her a tocher (dowry), bridal, and bridal clothes, the sum of 4,000 merks."

This strongly suggests the Hendersons married into a powerful faction of the Campbell Clan and thus explains why so many Hendersons later held high-ranking official positions.

Interestingly and perhaps ironically, there were also Hendersons (not of Gunn stock) in the MacDonald Clan near Glencoe. They were the progenitors of MacIan branch of MacDonalds (MacIan of Glencoe), who was killed in Glencoe in 1692. Also killed was one "Henderson of the Chanters", MacIans personal piper.

There is also a Border family of Hendersons that later acquired land in Fife. Clearly, Henderson is another of those names, along with Johnson and Wilson, that was quite common in Scotland and not all are from the Clan Gunn.

8) Mann, Manson, Manus, Magnus

As mentioned in the Henderson sept ( #7) they were also of the Henderson Gunn stock and took their name from son of Magnus. At one time, St. Magnus was the patron saint of the Gunns.

9) Georgeson

Son of George, the Crowner. There is a small paragraph in Sinclair's "History of the Gunns" mentioning one Alexander Gunn who went by the alias Georgeson. This was near Dunrobin. This name was probably assumed by some members of the Clan because of the famous status of the George, the Crowner.

10) Gaunson, Ganson, Galdie, Gallie Forms of 'Gunn's son'.

11) Nelson, Neilson Sons of Neil - no connection to the MacNeill's of the West Coast.

12) Swan, Swann, Swanson This sept name requires special definition and attention. It derives from "son of Sweyn", the probable progenitor of Clan Gunn, Svein Asleifarsson, the "Ultimate Viking". Actually this surname's inclusion as a sept under the Clan Gunn is unusual. If Mark Rugg Gunn is correct, that Svein (or Sweyn) is the parent line of the clan, then it is highly unusual that the Swans and Swansons have almost no history with the rest of the clan.

We first hear of the Swansons in the 17th century at which time the appear to be confined to Thurso. The Wick burgh records of 1660-1712 have not a single Swanson.

"The Swansons played no direct role in Gunn history; their locality of residence and mode of life had long separated them from their kinsman (The Gunns)."

Names associated with the clan: Allisterson, Anderson, Croner, Crownar, Crowner, Cruiner, Cruner, Eanrig, Enrick, Gailey, Galdie, Gallie, Ganson, Gauldie, Gaunson, George, Georgeson, Henderson, Inrig, Jameson, Jamieson, Jamison, Jemyson, Johnson, Kean, Keene, MacAllister, MacChruner, MacComas, MacCorkill, MacCorkle, MacCullie, MacDade, MacDhaidh, MacEnrick, MacGeorge, MacHamish, MacIan, Mackames, Mackeamis, Mackeamish, Mackean, Mackendrick, MacMains, MacManus, MacNeil, MacOmish, MacRob, MacRory, MacSheoras, MacWilliam, Magnus, Magnusson, Main(s), Maness, Mann, Manson, Manus, More, Neilson, Nelson, Robeson, Robins, Robbins, Robinson, Robison, Robson, Rorieson, Sandison, Swan, Swann, Swanney, Swanson, Thomson, Tomson, Wiley, WіƖƖ, Williamson, Wills, Wilson, Wylie, Wyllie

Clan Name Ancient arms of Gunn

Clan Chief

Crest Badge Lands Tartan




CLAN GUNN ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??

Castle Gunn, Ancient Stronghold of Clan Gunn -- Reconstruction drawing since the castle no longer exists.


Castle Kildonan, Jameson Family Stronghold of Clan Gunn



The Clan Gunn claims descent from the Norse Jarls (or Earls) of Okrney and from the ancient Celtic Mormaers (or High Stewards) of Caithness. The name Gunn derives from Gunni, the grandson of the “Ultimate Viking” Sweyn Asleifsson — killed in the plunder of Dublin in 1171. Gunni acquired great estates in Caithness and Sutherland by his marriage to Ragnhild, a granddaughter of Rognvald, Earl of Orkney (later Saint Rognvald) and the great granddaughter of Moddan, Mormaer of Caithness. Moddan was reputed to be a kinsman of King Duncan of Albank, murdered by Macbeth. Gunni was succeeded by his son Snaekol who lost forever for the Gunns the title to the Earldom of Orkney by murdering his cousin John, the holder of the title in 1231. From that time on the Gunns became Caithness - based. Snaekol is reputed to have built Castle Gunn on a sea - girt rock at Bruan on the coast south of Wick. Nothing now re- mains of this historic seat of the Chiefs of Clan Gunn but the foundations.

In the 13th and 14th Centuries, the Chiefs of Clan Gunn were at the height of their power. They held the influential office of hereditary Crowner of Caithness. Their power was to be challenged, however, the Sinclairs and the Keiths who were becoming increasingly strong in the area, having acquired lands there through marriage to local heiresses. By the late 15th Century the Gunns has been dispossessed of their most profitable estates. However, records show that in the middle of the Century, George Gunn of Ulbster, Chief of Clan Gunn and Crowner of Caithness still held his principal lands at Ulbster and Clyth in close proximity to Castle Gunn, but by this time the Chiefs had moved their living accommodation a mile further south to a more commodious castle at Halberry. The majority of Gunns were by now occupying the highland regions of Caithness in what have become the parishes of Latheron, Halkirk, and Reay. In 1478, George Gunn of Ulbster - also known as “Am Braisdeach Mor” (Big Broochy) from the hugh brooch he wore as his insignia as Crowner — was killed at St. Tayre’s Chapel, near Ackergill Tower, in a battle with Clan Keith over land claims. After his death, the Clan split up into three distinct families with their own territories.

James, the eldest son of George Gunn of Ulbster, moved to Kildonan in Sutherland, were he obtained lands from the Earl of Sutherland. From James (or Seumas) are descended the MacSheumas (or Mac Hamish) Gunns. Robert, the second son of George Gunn of Ulbster, established his family in Braemore, in the southern heights of Caithness. From them are descended the Gunns of Braemore, also known as the Robson Gunns.

John, the third son of George Gunn of Ulbster, settled in Strathmore in the higher reaches of the River Thurso, above Westerdale. From him are descended the Gunns of Cattaig.

The Hendersons, Williamsons, and Wilsons of Caithness are said to be descended from Henry and William, two younger sons of George Gunn of Ulbster.

The Chiefship of the Clan has been dormant for over 100 years. The head of the Clan, in the absence of a recognized chief, is Iain Gunn of Banniskirk, who was appointed Commander of the Clan Gunn in 1972. The appointment was made by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, at the request of the landed and armigerous members of the Clan. The first Clan Gunn Society was founded in 1821 as the Loyal and United Benevolent Society of the Clan Gunn. A second Society was established in London in the late 19th Century. The present Society was reconstituted in Edinburgh in 1960.

More Clan Gunn History

Clan Gunn is a Scottish clan associated with northeastern Scotland, including Caithness and Sutherland as well as the Orkney Islands.The clan’s origins stretch over the sea to Norway, and the Clan Gunn themselves claim descent from the legendary Sweyn Asleifsson, the so-called ‘Ultimate Viking’, the progenitor of the clan, and through his grandson Gunni, considered to be the “namefather” of Clan Gunn.



Origins of the clan

The origin of the name Gunn is Norwegian. The word “Gunni” in the Old Norwegian language means “War” or “Battle”. The clan’s origins stretch over the sea to Norway, and they claim descent from the legendary Sweyn Asleifsson, the so-called ‘Ultimate Viking’, the progenitor of the clan, and through his grandson Gunni, considered to be the “namefather” of Clan Gunn. They gained their land in Caithness and Sutherland through marriage to Ragnhild, from whom they can claim Celtic descent, and later expanded those lands through conquest. However, the Gunns were never a large clan, and soon found themselves in conflict with several more powerful neighbours, such as the MacKays and the Keiths. The clan concluded a peace treaty with the latter of these in the year 1978, officially bringing to an end a feud dating back more than five hundred years. Those who did stay in the traditional boundaries were among the line descended from a younger son of George Gunn, Robert Gunn, who was the progenitor of the Robson Gunns of Braemore, though it is not clear how these names came to pass. One theory points to the Norse and Celtic origins of the Clan, using suffixes to denote the order of male children; with “in being second son”. It is a difficult line to track as Gunn and other names of this line are used interchangeably in old text. Other branches remained as well moving to the Strath of Kildonan and other locations in Caithness.

The Westford Knight

It is widely believed that a member of Clan Gunn was among the party of Henry Sinclair, a Scottish Earl whom some believe to have made a voyage to the New World in 1398, traveling to Nova Scotia and New England. This individual is believed to have perished on this expedition and is also known as the Westford Knight. Often, it is claimed that the knight is Sir James Gunn, who reportedly traveled with Sinclair. There is no documentary evidence to support this theory.

15th century & clan conflicts

Battle of Blare Tannie, 1464, Fought between the Clan Keith, assisted by the Clan MacKay against the Clan Gunn. The inhabitants of Caithness assembled an army and met the MacKays and Keiths at a place in Caithness called Blair-tannie. There ensued a cruel fight, with slaughter on either side. In the end the Keiths and MacKays had the victory by means chiefly of John Mor MacIan-Riabhaich (an Assynt man), who was very famous in these countries for his courage shown at this conflict. Two chieftains of Caithness were slain. Angus MacKay would later be defeated by Clan Ross. Battle of Champions, 1478, Fought between twelve men of the Clan Gunn and twenty four men of the Clan Keith where the chief of Clan Gunn was killed (reputedly, the agreement was for “twelve horse” of each clan to meet and parley, and the Keiths arrived with two men on each horse). The chief of the Clan Keith was also soon after killed by the Gunns in a revenge attack at the chapel of St. Tears.

In another account, one hundred years after the events at St. Tears, William MacKames, grandson of George Gunn, ambushed the Keith chief, his son and ten of their retainers as they were traveling. The Keiths, fully anticipating death, asked time for prayer. William is supposed to have responded ‘Your father interrupted my grandfather at prayer in God’s house (St. Tears), and I will grant you no time for such devotion since it was denied to my grandfather’s men.’ The death of George Keith and his son, at the hands of the Gunns, extinguished the male line of Clan Keith. It was around this time a large majority of the Gunns, under James Gunn, removed from Caithness into Sutherland.

16th century & clan conflicts

Alistair Gunn, son of John Robson, chief of the clan, had become a man of much note and power in the North. He had married the daughter of John Gordon the Earl of Sutherland and for this reason “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, Earl of Moray, and his followers on the High Street of Aberdeen. The Earl was the bastard half-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots as well as the son-in-law of William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal, the head of Clan Keith. It was the custom at the time to yield thoroughfares to the personage of greater rank, and in refusing to yield the middle of the street to Stewart and his train, Alistair publicly insulted the Earl. Stewart soon afterwards had him pursued to a place called Delvines, near Nairn. There he was captured and taken to Inverness, and following a mock trial, he was executed.

Battles of Allt Camhna and Leckmelm, 1586, involving the Clan MacKay, Clan Gunn, Clan Sinclair, Clan Sutherland and Clan MacLeod. At Allt Camhna the Clan Gunn was victorious but they defeated shortly afterwards by a massive force at Leckmelm.

17th century & Civil War

The most notable of the Gunns after the differentiation of the Clan was Sir William Gunn, who fought under Charles I, and was knighted by him. After Charles’ cause failed, William crossed to Europe, and served in the army of the Holy Roman Empire, became an imperial general and married a German baroness. Much of the clan, however, had to forfeit their lands due to debt at about this time. The Gunns of Killearnan were fortunate enough to obtain new land at Badenloch.

18th century & Jacobite uprisings

Unlike some highland clans, the Gunns did not rise under the standard of the Stuarts during the Jacobite rebellions, and indeed supported the government in the conflict of 1745 along with other highland clans such as Clan Munro, Clan Campbell, Clan MacKay, Clan Sutherland and Clan Ross. The Clan Gunn came out for the government, led by the MacKeamish. There were about 120 men under arms. They were attached to the Earl of Loudon’s regiment. The Clan Gunn did not fight at Culloden; however, a few Gunns, who were with the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden and elsewhere, were captured and transported after the rebellion ended.

18th to 19th century

The eighth MacKeamish, who was William Gunn, son of Alexander of Badenloch, was killed fighting in India in 1780. Upon his death the chiefship passed to his brother, Morrison Gunn, the ninth MacKeamish, who was also serving with the British army. Unfortunately Morrison died in Gibraltar in 1785 before he could assume the office of chief in any meaningful way. Both these chiefs died without issue, resulting in the extinction of the direct male line of Donald Crotaich, the sixth MacKeamish. Some confusion was created in 1803 when the Countess of Sutherland, on whose lands the remnants of the clan resided at the time, decided that the heir to the chiefship should be found.

A sheriff’s court was held on May 31st, 1803 in Thurso to hear arguments from various claimants. The jury at this court finally decided that Hector Gunn, great grandson of George Gunn of Borrobol, the brother of the sixth MacKeamish, was heir male, which he was. However they or someone else then proceeded to declare him chief of the clan, which they had no authority to do, as this decision can only be made by the Lyon Court, which was not consulted in the matter. Hector died almost immediately afterward. Hector’s son, George, was a protégé of the Countess, who had purchased a commission for him in the Royal Marines. In 1814, George was declared chief by someone, nobody seems completely sure who, but it was not the Lyon Court. It is probable that he simply assumed the role of chief due to the erroneous belief that his father was chief. It is doubtful that George Gunn of Rhives (Rhives being the estate given to him by the Countess, who appointed him as an under factor at Assynt and later head factor at Dunrobin) was ever accepted as chief by many of the clan.

The end of the clan system in 1746 had removed most feelings of loyalty and even kinship to the chief amongst the Highland clans, and the Clearances (forced removal from their lands) had created bitterness toward anyone in authority. Gunn of Rhives died in 1859 and his two sons not long after. The simple fact is that neither Hector nor George were legally chief of the clan because they were not declared so by the Lyon Court. However, the story of their appointments to be chief has crept into several authoritative works without a nod toward the legality of it. In legal and genealogical terms, the office of chief of the Clan Gunn became vacant with the death of Morrison Gunn in 1785 and remains vacant today, although the heir, through the female line, has been identified. He is William Sinclair Gunn of Inverness, Scotland. To date William has made no move to become chief, and the clan continues to be ably led by an appointed Commander, Iain Alexander Gunn Of Banniskirk.

Present day

Today, the Gunns are a widespread family with roots at home, Canada, the US, New Zealand, Australia, and around the globe. This is attributed to the diaspora that took place during the Highland Clearances in Caithness and Sutherland. If you visit today you can see the old crofts that were burned at this time. Efforts have been made to reunite the Clan with societies in North America, New Zealand, Australia and Scotland. A museum of the Clan’s history has also been established at Latheron in Caithness.

In 1978, following efforts by American members of both clans, the Commander of Clan Gunn and the Chief of Clan Keith signed a “Bond and Covenant of Friendship” officially ending the feud between their respective clans. The treaty was signed at the site of the battle of St. Tears five hundred years before, and is celebrated by members of both clans at Highland games and other Scottish cultural gatherings wherever they meet.

Castles of Clan Gunn

Dirlot Castle: - OS map reference ND 126486. The base of a small tower built by the Cheynes in the 14th century, or the Gunns in the 15th, lies on a rock above the river Thurso in a lonely position far inland. On the summit of a crag by the western bank of the River Thurso in a remote and barren area south of Halkirk, are foundations of a tower built by Donald Cheyne. It measures 9.5m by 6.5m with walls 1.6m thick. It had a courtyard on the south-east, measuring 13m by 7m, which had only a parapet to defend it. In 1464, Dirlot was held by George, chief of the Gunn clan, but it was held by Alexander Sutherland at the time of his execution in 1499, for killing Alexander Dunbar. The castle was subsequently granted to the Clan MacKay by King James IV of Scotland.

?? Reconstruction ?? Ruins

Clyth Castle or “Gunn’s Castle“: - OS map reference ND 307386. In a difficult to access site on a rock by the shore are the foundations of a tower built about 1500 by the Gunns. A rock which is almost an island at high tide has sheer cliffs on all sides except to the west, where there is a steep slope up from the beach. At the summit was a wall near the remains of which are footings of a tower house, measuring 11.3m by 7m, with walls about 1m thick.

?? Reconstruction ?? Ruins

Halberry Castle: - OS map reference ND 302377. At the neck of a coastal promontory is the base of the 15th century tower house of the chief of the Gunns. This site has a long narrow sea inlet isolating it from higher ground on the mainland. Across the neck is a ditch, 10m wide and 2m deep, which presumably one had an inner wall or bank and stockade. Close behind the ditch are grass-covered foundations of a tower house, measuring 13.5m by 8.3m. It was probably in existence by the mid 15th century, when George, chief of the Gunn clan had a residence there.

?? Reconstruction ?? Ruins

New information regarding Gunnar the Viking who the clan was named after:

On January 27, 2014, my sister, Annie and I were searching the net for our Family Hammon - come to find out the name is handed down through Rolo the Viking and his grandson Gunnar whose descendants married into the Armand family and the name morphed from there to Aman, Amann, Amon, Ammon, Haman Haymond, Hamant, Hamont, Hammon, Hamond, Hamonde, Hayman and Hammonds - The interesting thing is that my Jamison line was a descendant of Gunnar named James - thus the Jameson name which was the Scottish Clan Gunn named after Gunnar when he settled on the Isle of Orkney - the clan subsequently moved to the mainland of Scotland - talk about a small world -- One other thing I found is that the Jameson's moved back and forth between Scotland and Ireland from one generation to the next.

Here is an interesting look at Rolo the Viking as shown on Wikipedia:

Rollo (c. 846 – c. 931), baptised Robert[1] and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse nobleman of Norwegian or Danish descent who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England.


The name "Rollo" is a Latin translation from the Old Norse name Hrólfr, modern Icelandic name Hrólfur and Scandinavian name Rolf (cf. the latinization of Hrólfr into the similar Roluo in the Gesta Danorum), but Norman people called him by his popular name Rou(f) (see Wace's Roman de Rou).[2] Sometimes his name is turned into the Frankish name Rodolf(us) or Radulf(us) or the French Raoul, that are derived from it.[Note 1]

Historical evidence

Rollo was a powerful Viking leader of contested origin. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, in his De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum ducum,[3] tells of a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark, who had two sons, Gurim and Rollo; upon his death, Rollo was expelled and Gurim killed. William of Jumièges also mentions Rollo's prehistory in his Gesta Normannorum Ducum, but states that he was from the Danish town of Fakse. Wace, writing some 300 years after the event in his Roman de Rou, also mentions the two brothers (as Rou and Garin), as does the Orkneyinga Saga. Norwegian and Icelandic historians identified Rollo instead with Ganger Hrolf (Hrolf, the Walker), a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, Earl of Møre, in Western Norway, based on medieval Norwegian and Icelandic sagas. The oldest source of this version is the Latin Historia Norvegiae, written in Norway at the end of the 12th century. This Hrolf fell foul of the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair, and became a Jarl in Normandy. The nickname "the Walker", "Ganger" in Norse, came from being so big that no horse could carry him. The question of Rollo's origins was a matter of heated dispute between Norwegian and Danish historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the run-up to Normandy's millennium anniversary in 1911. Today, the debate continues.

Claimed Yngling lineage leading to Rollo

The Yngling "Fairhair dynasty" lineage introduced in Hversu Noregr byggðist ("How Norway was settled") and the Orkneyinga and Heimskringla sagas suggests a line of Rollo going back to Fornjót, the primeval "king" who "reigned over" Finland and Kvenland.[citation needed] The claimed line leading to Rollo includes Rognvald Eysteinsson, the founder of the Earldom of Orkney.[citation needed]

Raids along the Seine

In 885, Rollo was one of the lesser leaders of the Viking fleet which besieged Paris under Sigfred. Legend has it that an emissary was sent by the king to find the chieftain and negotiate terms. When he asked for this information, the Vikings replied that they were all chieftains in their own right. In 886, when Sigfred retreated in return for tribute, Rollo stayed behind and was eventually bought off and sent to harry Burgundy.[a] Later, he returned to the Seine with his followers (known as Danes, or Norsemen). He invaded the area of northern France now known as Normandy. In 911 the Vikings under Rollo again launched an attack on Paris before laying siege to Chartres. The Bishop of Chartres, Joseaume, made an appeal for help which was answered by Robert, Marquis of Neustria, Richard, Duke of Burgundy and Manasses, Count of Dijon. On 20 July 911, at the Battle of Chartres, Frankish forces defeated Rollo despite the absence of many French barons and also the absence of the French King Charles the Simple.[4]

In the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) with King Charles, Rollo pledged feudal allegiance to the king, changed his name to the Frankish version, and converted to Christianity, probably with the baptismal name Robert.[5] In return, King Charles granted Rollo land between the Epte and the sea as well as parts of Brittany [b] and according to Dudo of St. Quentin, the hand of the King's daughter, Gisela, although this marriage and Gisela herself are unknown to Frankish sources. He was also the titular ruler of Normandy, centered around the city of Rouen. There exists some argument among historians as to whether Rollo was a "duke" (dux) or whether his position was equivalent to that of a "count" under Charles.

According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the treaty, he refused to perform so great a humiliation, and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles' foot up to his mouth causing the king to fall to the ground.[6] After 911, Rollo stayed true to his word of defending the shores of the Seine river in accordance to the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. However, he also continued attacks on Flanders.

After Charles was deposed by Robert I in 922, Rollo considered his oath to the King of France at an end. It started a period of expansion westwards. Negotiations with French barons ended with Rollo being given Le Mans and Bayeux and continued with the seizure of Bessin in 924. The following year saw the Normans attack Picardy. Rollo began to divide the land between the Epte and Risle rivers among his chieftains and settled there with a de facto capital in Rouen. Eventually[when?] Rollo's men intermarried with the local women, and became more settled as Normans.[clarification needed]

Two spouses are reported for Rollo:

1. Poppa, said by chronicler Dudo of Saint-Quentin to have been a daughter of Count Berenger, captured during a raid at Bayeux. She was his concubine or wife,[7] perhaps by more danico.[8] They had issue: • William Longsword, born "overseas". • Gerloc, wife of William III, Duke of Aquitaine. Dudo fails to identify her mother, but later chronicler William of Jumieges makes this explicit. • (perhaps) Kadlin, said by Ari the Historian to have been daughter of Ganger Hrolf, traditionally identified with Rollo. She married a Scottish King called Bjolan, and had at least a daughter called Midbjorg, she was taken captive by and married Helgi Ottarson. 2. (traditionally) Gisela of France (d. 919), the daughter of Charles III of France


Sometime around 927, Rollo passed the fief in Normandy to his son, William Longsword. Rollo may have lived for a few years after that, but certainly died before 933. According to the historian Adhemar, 'As Rollo's death drew near, he went mad and had a hundred Christian prisoners beheaded in front of him in honour of the gods whom he had worshipped,[citation needed] and in the end distributed a hundred pounds of gold around the churches in honour of the true God in whose name he had accepted baptism.' Even though Rollo had converted to Christianity, some of his prior religious roots surfaced at the end.[9]


Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many pretenders to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo's grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.[10] The "Clameur de Haro" in the Channel Islands is, supposedly, an appeal to Rollo.


Orkney History and the Clan Gunn

In order to really understand the Clan Gunn, one has to go back to where it began on the Isle of Orkney. It is here where Gunnor (also spelled Gunnar) the Viking, son of Rolo settled. Rolo continued south to Gaul (now known as France) where he made settlement. Gunnor and his followers intermarried with the Pictish people. They became not only seafaring warriors and traders; but also became farmers and herders. It wasn’t too many generations removed from Gunnor that the Clan Gunn of Orkney began invading their homeland of Norway. Norway being larger, and having more resources eventually invaded the Isle of Orkney and drove the Clan Gunn onto the mainland of Scotland; where they settled in the highlands in the area called Caithness.


We don't know for certain when the first human's settled in Orkney, but archaeological evidence shows that there were settlements in the islands by about 3900 BCE. These first settlers were hunter gatherers.

The first known evidence of settlement in Orkney is from the Knap of Howar, on Papa Westray, where excavations show stone houses with nearby chambered tombs. (See what is a chambered tomb?) This early type of settlement evolved into a grouped cluster of houses, forming a village linked by stone covered passages, as at Skara Brae, on Mainland.

These Neolithic settlers of Orkney left an indelible mark on the landscape, primarily through chambered tombs, standing stones, and stone circles. For a look at these types of ancient monuments see our History section. The most famous of these monuments are Maes Howe passage grave, the stone Circles of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, and Midhowe chambered cairn. These sites are part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

In addition to these sites there are hundreds of other ancient monuments in various stages of repair scattered throughout the Orkneys. The Ring of Brodgar is worth special note; this circle of 60 stones, of which 27 remain, was one of the primary circles whose study led to the now generally accepted theory that the need for accurate astronomical observation was one of the main factors that led Neolithic peoples to construct these enigmatic monuments.

The monuments of Orkney bear unique or exceptional testimony to an important indigenous cultural tradition which flourished over 500-1,000 years but disappeared by about 2000 BC. They are an outstanding example of a type of architectural ensemble and archaeological landscape which illustrates a significant stage of human history, during which the first large ceremonial monuments were built. They are testimony to the cultural achievements of the Neolithic peoples of northern Europe, during the period 3000-2000 BC. The Orkney Islands lie 15 km north of the coast of Scotland. The island of Mainland is the largest in the archipelago. The Brodgar Rural Conservation Area lies around an isthmus dividing the Loch of Harray to the east and the Loch of Stenness to the west; it includes the sites of Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is on the west coast of Mainland on the southern edge of the Bay of Skaill. It was covered by an immense sand dune until 1850.

The Neolithic period in the British Isles is mostly characterized by monumental architecture and a strong development of ritual. Collective burials and ceremonial enclosures appear, revealing a more complex social structure and a mobilization of the efforts of a large number of individuals towards a common goal. Passage graves such as Maes Howe, built around 3000 BC, were large structures, made from stones ordered to form a passage leading from the outer edge of the mound to the chamber containing the remains of the dead. The large amount of human and animal bones, pottery and other objects discovered in these mounds testify that they were important social and religious centres. The general orientation of these structures also demonstrates the knowledge of the builders in respect to seasonal movements. In the same area, a Neolithic village of stone-built houses connected by passages was discovered and excavated.

The house styles vary according to the different periods of occupation, but the basic components of the interior remain the same: beds to either side and built into the walls, central hearth and dresser, also in stone, in the back. Activities include cattle and sheep herding, fishing and cereal farming, all characteristic of Neolithic communities. There is an evidence for ritual reuse of the religious sites in the early Iron Age, suggested by the presence of pottery in pits.

In the mid-12th century AD, Norsemen and Viking crusaders set foot on the islands. Carved runes on the stones of the main chamber of Maes Howe testify to their presence at that time. The site, quite isolated, is at the present time sited within what is essentially a pastoral landscape. When it was built 5,000 years ago, the settlement of Skara Brae was further from the sea than it is now, as the sea level was much higher then. The settlement was abandoned some 600 years after it was built, and most of the houses were emptied of their contents. The first written reference to the Ring of Brodgar dates from 1529. The Stones of Stenness were first recorded in 1700. The Norse runic inscriptions at Maes Howe were first recorded in 1862. In the mid-19th century the remains of Skara Brae were revealed when the overlying sand was swept away by a violent storm, and some clearance work took place in 1913. In 1924 a protective breakwater was built. Some restoration work was carried out, respecting the principles of anastylosis as later defined by the Venice Charter (1964), at the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness. Maes Howe is a Neolithic masterpiece, an exceptionally early architectural accomplishment. With its almost classical strength and simplicity it is a unique survival from 5,000 years ago. It is an expression of genius within a group of people whose other tombs were claustrophobic chambers in smaller mounds. Stenness is a unique and early expression of the ritual customs of the people who buried their dead in tombs like Maes Howe and lived in settlements like Skara Brae. The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring. Skara Brae has particularly rich surviving remains. It displays remarkable preservation of stone-built furniture and a fine range of ritual and domestic artefacts, which together demonstrate the domestic, ritual, and burial practices of a now vanished 5,000-year-old culture with exceptional completeness.

The Neolithic period in the British Isles is mostly characterized by monumental architecture and a strong development of ritual. Collective burials and ceremonial enclosures appear, revealing a more complex social structure and a mobilization of the efforts of a large number of individuals towards a common goal.

Passage graves such as Maes Howe, built around 3000 BC, were large structures, made of stones ordered to form a passage leading from the outer edge of the mound to the chamber containing the remains of the dead. Whether these graves were meant for the elite or for all the people of the community is still not proven by the specialists, but the large amount of human and animal bones, pottery and other objects discovered in these mounds testify that they were important social and religious centres. The general orientation of these structures also demonstrate the knowledge of the builders in respect to seasonal movements. The passage of Maes Howe, for example, points close to midwinter sunset and the setting sun of winter solstice shines on its chamber. The Ring of Brogar, a true circle formed by sixty tall standing stones with an outer ditch in circular form, also seems to have served the purpose of observing solar and lunar events, although conclusive evidence has not yet been brought forth by scientists.

In the same area, a Neolithic village of stone-built houses connected by passages was discovered and excavated. The earliest settlement started around 3100 BC. The site was then occupied for some 600 years. The buildings visible today are dated between 2900 and 2600 BC. The house styles vary according to the different periods of occupation, but the basic components of the interior remain the same: beds to either side and built into the walls, central hearth, and dresser, also in stone, in the back. Activities include cattle and sheep herding, fishing, and cereal farming, all characteristic of Neolithic communities. This site also has evidence for ritual activity, closely interlinked with domestic activities, which is demonstrated by the presence of scratched shapes close to doors and divisions in the passages connecting the houses, caches of beads and pendants, and buried individuals inside some houses. The structures of Orkney were built during the period extending from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There is evidence for ritual re-use of the religious sites in the Early Iron Age, suggested by the presence of pottery in pits. The settlements, however, had a fairly short life span of about 600 years.

In the mid 12th century AD, Norsemen and Viking crusaders set foot on the islands. Carved runes on the stones of the main chamber of Maes Howe testify to their presence at that time. The site, quite isolated, is at the present time sited within what is essentially a pastoral landscape.


Ring of Brodgar







Skara Brae

The ancient village of Skara Brae sits on the coast at Sandwick, Mainland. Here, beginning in about 3600 BCE, humans built a village of stone houses connected by underground passages. Over the ensuing centuries the settlement grew and the huts became more elaborate. Skara Brae was inhabited for over 700 years, finally falling out of use about 2500 BCE. The site was gradually covered by sand, and for centuries remained hidden from human view. In 1850 a fierce storm tore off the covering sand, and, in so doing, peeled back the curtain of time to reveal a site of worldwide archaeological importance.







Brough of Birsay

The Brough of Birsay is an uninhabited tidal island off the northwest coast of The Mainland of Orkney, Scotland, in the parish of Birsay. The remains of Pictish and Norse settlements in a spectacular island setting off the north west coast of Orkney Mainland. Birsay was the site of the first cathedral in Orkney, and remains of the 12th century church can be explored. The Brough is connected to the mainland by a causeway which can be crossed only at low tide. The proliferation of archaeological remains make the Brough of Birsay one of the richest historic sites in Scotland.

Geography and geology

The island is accessible on foot at low tide via a largely natural causeway. It is separated from the mainland by a 240 metre stretch of water at high tide: the Sound of Birsay.[5] The Norse settlement has been partly removed by coastal erosion, and the cliffs are reinforced by concrete rip-rap to prevent further damage.


The first settlement on the Brough of Birsay dates from the Pictish period, around the 7th century AD. The most famous evidence of the Picts is a symbol stone found in the graveyard (see the drawing below). The stone depicts three warriors, or noblemen, bearing spears. The symbol stone itself is preserved in the visitor centre beside the site, while a modern cast of the stone stands within the enclosure. There has been some speculation that the Brough was a centre of power during Pictish times and was, perhaps, the first capital of Orkney. Traces of Pictish buildings have been found, and the remains of jewelry within a structure that must have been a workshop.

The earliest settlement on the island is thought to have been in the 5th century, perhaps by Christian missionaries. By the 7th century it was a Pictish fortress, and in the 9th century the Picts were displaced by Norsemen. Another Pictish fort on the northwest of Mainland Orkney is Gurness, a well preserved broch.

The Pictish settlement is attested by a small well and an important collection of artefacts (now in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall and in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh). Notable among these are a group of moulds for fine metalworking, showing that brooches and other ornaments were being manufactured on the site in the eighth century. The enclosure round the Norse church overlies a Pictish graveyard, and an important Pictish carved stone was found in pieces in this enclosure during site clearance (also on display in Edinburgh: replica on site). The most interesting Pictish remain found is a stone slab showing three figures and some additional Pictish symbols. It is not known what the subject of this carving is, but it likely shows aristocratic Picts as they wished to be perceived. This early eighth century slab shows a striking procession of three Picts dressed in long robes and bearing spears, swords and square shields. Above the figures are parts of four Pictish symbols (the warrior motif was adapted as the logo of John Donald Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh). Two simple cross-incised slabs, likely grave-markers, were also found in the graveyard, and are probably Pictish or early medieval in date (displayed on site).

Norse settlement

The Picts stayed on the Brough until at least the 8th century. In the ninth century the first Norse arrived. Northern Mainland was ideally located on the route taken by Norse raiders bent on Iona and Ireland. The Norse raiders were soon followed by settlers, and the remains of the earliest Norse buildings can be seen between the later church and the cliffs overlooking the sea. Some of the buildings are well preserved, and architectural features can easily be seen, including under-floor heating in one house. A sauna was also found, and, some distance to the north is a small smithy.

The Norse stayed on the Brough of Birsay until at least the 12th century. At that time a church with an associated monastery was built. Later Norse buildings are found to the south west of the church. The monastery at Birsay did not last long, but the site remained a site of religious pilgrimage throughout the medieval period.

The mystery of Birsay and St Magnus

Generations of historians have given Birsay a reputation as an important religious and political centre in the Norse period. Most of this speculation has been founded on the Orkneyinga Saga, which states that Thorfinn, earl of Orkney, had his seat at Birsay, and that he built a minster there in the mid 11th century, which served as the seat of the first Bishop of Orkney. This has been alternately interpreted as meaning that the church on the Brough of Birsay was founded by Thorfinn, that it was a bishop's cathedral, or that Thorfinn performed the same deeds at the village of Birsay. Unfortunately, the saga is not specific about the location of the minster, or Thorfinn's residence. Its reference to Birsay could refer to the parish of Birsay and Harray, so we are on very thin ground ascribing to the Brough any specific role in religious and political life. We do know that the remains of St Magnus the Martyr were brought to Birsay after his death around 1116, though, again, we do not know if the Birsay in question was the village, the Brough, or elsewhere in the area. We do know that the martyred saint's remains stayed in Birsay until they were removed to a new cathedral in Kirkwall around 1135, and it is likely that the importance of Birsay declined after that time.

Norse Cathedral

The monastic church was built in Romanesque style in the early 12th century. The church is surrounded by a roughly rectangular wall, enclosing a graveyard to the south of the church. The church itself is rectangular, with a rounded apse at the east end, and a small cloister to the north, while traces of a tower stand at the west end. The interior had stone benches, and stone altars either side of the chancel. Traces of glass were found in the church, suggesting that it boasted glazed windows. Very few other medieval finds were unearthed during excavations of the site, suggesting that the church and its associated monastery did not last long. It appears, in fact, that the tower of the church was never completed. The most likely explanation for the short life of the church is that the remains of St Magnus the Martyr were removed from Birsay village church to the new cathedral in Kirkwall, and as a result, Birsay and the Brough diminished in religious and political importance.

Ruins of village

The Old Norse name for the island was "Byrgisey" which means fort island, and gives the parish its name. Brough, indeed, means fort (for etymology, see broch). At its east end are extensive remains of an excavated Norse settlement and church. Archaeological investigation has shown that these overlay an earlier Pictish settlement. There is a small site museum. The finds of Viking Era are also very rich, forming one of the best collections of such material in the British Isles.

According to the Orkneyinga saga the main residence of Jarl Thorfinn the Mighty (1014-1065) was located in Birsay, possibly on the Brough. At this time the first Bishop of Orkney was appointed and his cathedral was probably on the site of the present day Saint Magnus Kirk, nearby on the Mainland. Many of the remains of these settlements are visible. The most significant being the remains of a fine, though small Romanesque church. This dates back to about 1100 AD and was dedicated to Saint Peter. It has an interesting shape; probably with a square tower at one end, and a semi-circular apse at the other. There is some evidence of an earlier, possibly Pictish church on the same site. The church was a place of pilgrimage until the Middle Ages. The remains of adjoining buildings round three sides of an open court suggest that it may once have been a small monastery (though there is no documentation for such a foundation).


Brough of Birsay View from Orkney


Brough of Birsay Causeway to Orkney


Brough of Birsay Village


Brough of Birsay Norse Houses


Brough of Birsay Norse Sauna


Brough of Birsay Roman Church


Brough of Birsay Pictish Image Stone


Brough of Birsay Warriors Carved on Pictish Image Stone

Iron age and early medieval period

The predominant feature of the Iron Age in Orkney was the broch, or round fortified tower house. Most brochs were built on the shores of lochs, or overlooking the coast, and would have served as a dwelling place and defensive structure for several families or an extended family group. Some impressive brochs remain on Orkney, the most imposing being Gurness, on Mainland, and Midhowe, on Rousay.

Before the coming of the Norse the inhabitants are known to have used Latin and Old Gaelic. The Romans were well aware of the islands, though they made no attempt to conquer them, and there is some suggestion that they traded with the inhabitants.

Around the beginning of the 6th century the Dál Riata Gaels briefly settled here. They were followed by Celtic Christian missionaries, who put considerable effort into establishing Christianity in the islands. A cursory study of an atlas shows the legacy of the Celtic missionaries; the name 'Papa' applied to several of the Orkney islands (e.g. Papa Westray), indicates the presence of an early Christian settlement. The Gaels did not last long, however; they were pushed out by the Picts, who held sway until the 9th century, when the might of the Norse seafarers proved too much for them in turn.

Norwegian rule

Now we enter into the period of Norse rule, which left such a strong impression on the culture and heritage of the Orkney isles. The Vikings saw the Orkneys as an ideal base for their swashbuckling expeditions around the North Sea. But they made too many raids against their homeland, and the Norse leader Harold Hårfagre ("Fair Hair") defeated them and took over both Orkney and Shetland in 875. The islands were ruled by a succession of Norwegian 'jarls', or earls, until 1231. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of current Orcadians are descended from Norse stock. The tale of this turbulent period is told in The Orkneyinga Saga >>

Orkney becomes Scottish

In the year 1468 Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Denmark, was betrothed to James III of Scotland. Orkney and Shetland, both Danish territories, were pledged as collateral for Margaret's dowry. The dowry was never paid, and the islands became Scottish territory.

James further established the crown power in Orkney by essentially trading the Ravenscraig estates in Fife in exchange for the earldom of Orkney.

The Stewart Earls

Now we come to two of the most interesting characters in Orkney history - the Stewart Earls.

Robert Stewart, 1st Earl Orkney Robert Stewart was an illegitimate son of James V of Scotland. In 1564 he was given the post of sheriff of Orkney and Shetland, and received estates in Orkney from his half-sister Mary, Queen of Scots.

James Douglas, Regent of Scotland, had Stewart imprisoned for treason, but Stewart gained his release and helped bring about the downfall of Douglas. James VI rewarded him by granting him earldom of Orkney, despite protests from Orcadians. Robert Stewart had a reputation for harsh treatment of his tenants. He used forced labour to build his palace at Birsay, and throughout his life managed to alienate practically everyone he met. But Earl Robert was a gentle soul compared to his son, Patrick.

Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl Orkney

b. c1569 – d. 1614 Patrick Stewart came to the earldom of Orkney on the death of his father in 1593. And like his father, Earl Patrick was infamous for his cruel treatment of the Orkney population. In 1607 Patrick Stewart began construction of his most ambitious project, the Earl's Palace in Kirkwall. This grandiose fortified house was built beside the old medieval Bishop's Palace, opposite St Magnus Cathedral. Like his father before him, Earl Patrick used forced labour to complete his new house, but he did not have long to enjoy it; he was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1614. His son, Robert, rebelled against the crown and he too was executed. The short-lived Stewart earldom reverted to the crown.

In 1707 Orkney and Shetland were granted to the Earl of Morton and in 1766 they passed to Sir Lawrence Dundas, ancestor of the Earls of Zetland (Shetland).

Twentieth Century

The islands of the southern Orkneys form a rough circle around Scapa Flow. The British navy used this natural deep-sea anchorage as a base of operations in both the First and Second World Wars. At the end of WWI the entire German High Seas fleet was sailed to Scapa Flow while plans for its future were finalized. The German sailors took matters into their own hands and scuttled the ships. Some were salved, but the rest remain as evocative wrecks, poking up through the waters of Scapa Flow as reminders of the past. These wrecks and be explored, either by tour boat, or for a much more up-close experience you can dive in amongst the wreckage.

During WWII the British navy again used Scapa Flow as a base. Very early in the war a German U-boat snuck past the outer defenses and sank the HMS Royal Oak, with the loss of over 800 men. Within a month of this disaster Winston Churchill gave the orders for a series of barriers to be built across the eastern channels into Scapa Flow. These barriers, which became known as the Churchill Barriers, were one of the largest civil engineering accomplishments of the 20th century. Today they act as causeways joining South Ronaldsay to Mainland.

During WWII Italian prisoners of War were held in the Orkneys. Some of the prisoners pooled their meager resources, and using mainly found materials and scraps of metal, built and decorated a chapel from a quonset hut. The beautiful wrought iron and superlative painting of the interior decoration makes this small chapel one of the Orkney's most attractive places to visit. The Italian Chapel is a poignant and moving memorial to the power of faith.

Clan Gunn Reaches the Americas Before Columbus

The Westford Knight

The following information is taken from the brochure "The Remarkable Prince Henry Sinclair". The brochure itself is based on an article entitled Was Glooscap a Scot? reprinted as Yours Aye, August 1988, giving credit to Atlantic Insight of June 1983.

Born in Scotland in about 1345 A.D. Henry Sinclair became Earl of Rosslyn and the surrounding lands as well as Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg (Denmark), and Premier Earl of Norway. In 1398 he led an expedition to explore Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. This was 90 years before Columbus "discovered America"! Prince Henry Sinclair was the subject of historian Frederick J. Pohl's Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus, which was published in 1961. Not all historians agreed with Pohl, but he made a highly convincing case that this blond, sea-going Scot, born at Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh in 1345, not only wandered about mainland Nova Scotia in 1398, but also lived among the Micmacs long enough to be remembered through centuries as the man-god "Glooscap". Henry Sinclair's ancestry was a mixture of Norman, French, Norwegian, and Scottish. The first Sinclair known in what is now the United Kingdom had arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066. Sinclair's grand-father, a friend of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, died fighting the Saracens in Spain in 1330. His father, Sir William Sinclair, also died in battle while fighting the Lithuanians from a base in Prussia in 1358. Henry was 13 at the time. He was trained in martial exercises with sword, spear, bow and arrow. He spoke Latin and French, and became a knight at the age of 21 years. His first wife, who died young, was the great-grand-daughter of King Magnus of Sweden and Norway. His second wife, Janet Holyburton of Direton Castle, bore him four children. Sinclair was installed as the Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland when he was only 24, and held his appointment at the pleasure of King Hakon VI of Norway. As "jarl", he was next to royalty. He had authority to stamp coins, to make laws, remit crimes, wear a crown, and have a sword carried before him. He had already been rewarded by Kind David of Scotland for a successful raid into England, with the title of Lord Sinclair and the position of Lord Chief Justice of Scotland. Sinclair excelled in a furious time.

Sinclair happened to be in the Faeroe Islands, which were part of his earldom in 1390, when he heard that a ship had been wrecked and, since shipwrecks were fair game for pillage at the time, the local fishermen were attacking the crew. Sinclair rescued the mariners, and discovered they were Venetians. Their commander, Nicolo Zeno, was a brother of the most famous admiral of the time, Carlo Zeno. Sinclair hoped to dominate the northern seas, and promptly appointed Nicolo commander of his fleet. After Nicolo's death, Sinclair appointed another Zeno brother, Antonio, as fleet commander. Nicolo and Antonio used to write to Carlo "The Lion" in Venice, and this correspondence was published in 1558 by a great-great- great-grandson of Antonio. Historians call it the Zeno Narrative, and it is a basic source for Pohl's intriguing account. This Zeno Narrative told about a survey to make a map of Greenland in about 1393; it was conducted by Nicolo Zeno, and later by Prince Henry's ships. This Zeno Map of the North proved to be the most accurate map in existence for the next 150 years!

Not only did the Zeno Map chart the sea with uncanny precision, it also showed certain landmarks. For example, it illustrated two cities in Estotilanda (Nova Scotia), possibly founded by Sinclair at Louisburg Harbor and St. Peter's. A castle or fortification was shown. There is speculation that Zeno based his map upon a much more ancient map, coming from the Templars in the Middle East, carried in secrecy by them for safekeeping in Rosslyn Castle, until Price Henry commissioned its update by Zeno.

The Zeno Narrative reported that as far back as 1371, four fishing boats (the fishermen were Sinclair's subjects) were blown so far out to sea that they eventually came ashore on land that was probably Newfoundland. They spent more than twenty years on the island, and apparently on the lands to the south, and then one of them made contact with some European fishermen and managed to return to the Faeroes. Sinclair decided to explore these new lands and set sail around April 1, 1398. His fleet consisted of 13 little vessels, two of them driven by oars. The Zeno Document suggests he tried to land at Newfoundland but was driven off by natives, and then sailed into Chedabucto Bay. It is believed he dropped anchor on the first of June in Guysborough Harbor.

Sinclair then sent 100 soldiers to explore the source of smoke they saw swirling above a distant hill. The soldiers reported back that the smoke was a natural thing proceeding from a great fire in the bottom of a hill, where a spring, from which issued a certain substance like pitch, ran into the sea. Thereabouts dwelt a great many people, half-wild, and living in caves. They were of small stature and very timid. Geographical detective work, archaeology, modern science and various documents have pinpointed the burning hill as the asphalt area at Stellarton, about 50 miles direct from the head of Guysborough Harbor.

The Scots liked the soil, the rivers, even the air, and wanted to establish a settlement. A portion of his party returned home, but he kept some men with him together with two oar-powered boats, which were good for exploring rivers and coasts. He took them through the Strait of Canso to meet the Indians at Pictou. Apparently he persuaded the Micmacs to act as guides in his exploration. Sinclair may have travelled to Annapolis Basin and across the Micmac canoe route to Liverpool. By October, he was back on Green Hill, southwest of Pictou harbor, to attend a gathering of the Micmacs. " 'Twas the time for holding the great and yearly feast with dancing and merry games" His winter campsite was on the high promontory of Cap d'Or, overlooking Advocate Harbor. During the winter, the expedition built a ship and, when spring arrived, Sinclair sailed away from Nova Scotia.

They travelled southward, perhaps carried by a northeaster, to the New England Coast, just north of Boston. The party landed and spent the winter, living peacefully with the Indians. To the west they could see a hilltop from which the Indians frequently sent smoke signals. Accompanied by his 100 men, Henry marched inland to the summit of this hill, now called Prospect Hill, located in Westford, Massachusetts. It is 465 feet in altitude and afforded a good view in all directions.

While at this area, one of Prince Henry's loyal attendants by the name of Sir James Gunn, also from Scotland, died. In memory of the lost companion, the party carved a marker on the face of a stone ledge. It consisted of various sizes of punched holes, which depicted a Scottish knight, with a 39 inch long sword and shield bearing the Gunn Clan insignia. The punch-hole method of carving involved making a series of small impressions with a sharp tool, driven by a mallet. Where glacial scratches or rock colorations existed, they were incorporated into the man-made design. Some holes were larger and deeper than others, probably due to the dulling of the carver's tool and centuries of weathering. In the words of Frederick Pohl, "the following are undeniably man-made workings: the pommel, handle, and guard of the sword; below the guard the break across the blade that is indicative of the death of the sword's owner; the crest above the pommel; a few holes at the sword's point; the punched-hole jess lines attached to the legs of the falcon; the bell-shaped hollows; the corner of the shield touching the pommel; the crescent on the shield; and the holes that form a decorative pattern on the pommel." Now weatherworn and faint, one can see just enough of the carving to visualize the rest of it.

Of course, there have been many investigations to verify the authenticity of this carving. There remains little doubt that this memorial is not a hoax, nor some Indian marking, but rather, the true monument created by Prince Henry Sinclair, nearly 600 years ago!

This should confirm the Westford Knight from above.

The site is called Westford Knight


Clan Gunn Badge Etched in Stone


Memorial Marker Commemorating the Arrival of Clan Gunn In the Americas


Memorial Marker with Clan Gunn Member Daryl Jamieson and son

Memorable Clan Gunn Members Through History

Thomas Andrews Hendricks, United States of America 21st Vice President


Thomas Andrews Hendricks is the grandson of Ann Jamison, whose line dates back to the Clan Gunn in Scotland.

Thomas Andrews Hendricks was the descendant of one of Western Pennsylvania's earliest Pioneer families. The Patriarch of this extended family was Daniel Henry Hendrick who immigrated from England before 1635 and settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Daniel had seven children with wife, Dorothy Pike and three children with wife Mary Hatch, widow of John Stockbridge. Thomas is of the line from Jabez Hendrick. His mother was Dorothy (Pike) Hendrick. The family knows for certain that the original ancestor that moved to Ligonier Valley, Fairfield Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania was Daniel Hendrick(s) Sr.

Little is known about Daniel. Finding which son of Jabez Hendrick has been an exercise in logical determination, as all the records for Elizabethtown, New Jersey were destroyed during the Revolutionary War. We know that he was one of the early pioneers of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Daniel, Sr.'s oldest son, Abraham, stayed in the Ligonier Valley area of Westmoreland County for most of his adult life. He married Ann Jamison, the daughter of devout Scot Presbyterians. Ann was the daughter of Thomas Jamison (alternately spelled Jameson and Jamieson by scribes and clerks) who had settled in the same area of Fairfield Township. Abraham was a Lieutenant with the Westmoreland Rangers during the Revolutionary War. He remained with the Rangers achieving the rank of Colonel and ultimately Justice of the Peace. Since there are so many Abrahams in the Hendrick line, he is simply referred to as Col. Abraham Hendricks. He sired nine children: Thomas, Daniel, Rachel, Gov. William, Abraham, Jamison, Mary, John and Ann.

Many of the earlier researchers assumed that Col. Abraham was of Flemish or Swedish descent; however, the Flemish Hendricks family (originally Hendrick) stayed mostly in the tide-water area of Virginia and the Carolinas. The Swedish Hendricks stayed mostly in northeast Pennsylvania and were not known to be of the Buckskin Pioneer following. The major confusion has been the blurring of the lines from the Hendricks Dutch Heritage of Albertus Hendrickson of Chester County, Pennsylvania and the British Isle Hendrick line that went from Haverhill, Massachusetts to New Jersey to the wilderness of Westmoreland County; which at that time was part of Virginia, was that both families were settling in close proximity of each other.

There have been many mistakes made in the past as to which Hendricks/Hendrix/Hendrixxon/Hendrickson family that Daniel and subsequently Col. Abraham were descended. That was cleared up by two major disoveries. Scott Hammon Hendricks established the line to Thomas Andrews Hendricks as first cousin of his great-grandfather, William Chalmers Hendricks. It was known that William Chalmers was the grandson of Col. Abraham Hendricks and Ann Jamison. William kept all his writings and correspondence of which there were numerous letters to and from Thomas Andrews Hendricks to William Chalmers Hendricks. During the 1800’s it was commonplace and the accepted standard to address all letters formally using the first initials of the first and middle names and the full last name; even if the letter was between family members. The letters from T.A. were usually addressed dear W.C. and signed truly, T.A. Hendricks. There was a couple of letters that T.A. addressed Dear Cousin W.C. This was clearly a close family relationship to break the bonds of formality in letters. Secondly, Scott submitted to having his Y-DNA tested. The results were clearly to the line of Daniel Henry Hendrick of Haverhill, Massachusetts. This caused a lot of rewriting of family histories for a lot of the Hendricks Family researchers; as many had their lines from other families linked to Thomas Andrews Hendricks and even the family of Col. Abraham believed they were part of the Frontier Hendricks (the line of Albertus Hendrickson).

With the death of Col. Abraham, nearly all of his children moved west with young children. Others followed when the Hendricks Clan settled along the Ohio River in southern Indiana. Thomas Andrews Hendricks was born in Zanesville, Ohio 7 Sep 1819, to Col. Abraham's son, John. Shortly after the birth of his son William Chalmers, Abraham, Jr. migrated west to meet up with his brother. The two children, Thomas Andrews and William Chalmers, became not only first cousins but also best of friends. In young adulthood, William Chalmers, a trained surveyor, got the Hendricks wanderlust and headed to California in 1849, while Thomas Andrews stayed in Indiana to follow in the footsteps of his Uncle William, first Governor of Indiana. As a young man, Thomas Andrews studied and became a lawyer; however, his passion for politics became his career.

Thomas' career as a politician in Indiana started before it became a State. He married Eliza Morgan 25 Sep 1845. They had one child, Morgan, three years later, who died before reaching adulthood. Thomas was a very popular political figure in Indiana. He was a congressional representative and then Senator for the young State. His political career spanned through the Civil War and ended with his death 25 Nov 1885, the same year he was inaugurated 21st Vice President of the United States of America. His influence on presidential politics started in earnest in 1868, at the first Democratic convention he was nominated for the presidency. He ran unsuccessfully as Samuel Tilden's running mate in the scandal-ridden election of 1868.

The Democrats arrived in Chicago, Illinois on July 8, 1884, shortly after the Republicans nominated James G. Blaine. One of the most prominent presences was that of the legions of Tammany Hall, some 600 strong, led by Boss John Kelly. It was no secret that he brought his army with the intent to stop the nomination of his long-time political foe, Grover Cleveland. Kelly stated that he would be damned if the party was going to nominate a man who openly scorned the traditional spoils system and was unreservedly dedicated to reform politics at every level. Most of the Tammany hordes were not delegates to the convention, but minions come to sow seeds of discontent and discord. The convention chairman, Manning, arranged to have Cleveland supporters occupy the prestigious front row of seats. He also packed the gallery with anti-Tammany people.

Grover Cleveland stayed above the fray about to happen by not attending the convention, as was customary. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first Democratic nominee to accept his party's nomination in person. In Cleveland's case, he was still a political unknown to party regulars outside of the influence of Albany New York; a word portrait written by a sympathetic paper was given credence by the convention generals. John Kelly and his followers tried to delay the nominating process of the convention with the hopes of eroding Cleveland's strength. They went so far as to try to get New York released from the instructions imposed upon the delegation by the State convention in Syracuse. This motion was soundly defeated. With that out of the way, Cleveland's friend, Dan Lockwood, put Cleveland's name in nomination. Wisconsin's political general, Edward Stuyvesant Bragg, seconded the nomination and gave the party its rallying cry "They love Cleveland for his character, but they love him also for the enemies he made."

The first ballot left Cleveland short of the two-thirds majority 547 votes he needed for nomination. He amassed 392 votes, the rest going to Bayard of Delaware, Allen Thurman, former House Speaker Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania, Indiana Congressman Joseph E McDonald, and a smattering of favorite sons. Late the night of the first ballot, John Kelly covertly organized a stampede for his friend, Governor Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana. He conspired with the Sergeant-at-Arms to pack the gallery of the next mornings session with men pledged to cry "Hendricks for President" and then have the popular Hoosier appear on the convention floor. Thomas, during his congressional terms in both houses of Congress, was a constant critic of every previous major policy and had been nominated for President at every convention since 1868, except that of 1872. In addition, Thomas was an advocate for machine politics.

Chairman Manning learned of the conspiracy and sent his lieutenants to warn every anti-Tammany delegate at the convention. When Thomas walked onto the convention floor, the galleries exploded with shouts and applause; the main convention floor remained quiet. Thus, "The Hendricks Boom" went bust and the influence of Boss Kelly and the Tammany minions waned.

On the second ballot, Cleveland still failed to attain the required two-thirds majority vote, even after Randall and McDonald withdrew. McDonald, being from Indiana, swung his support to Thomas A. Over the vocal disapproval of the Tammany Delegates; all of New York's 72 votes were cast for Cleveland. Though his vote was short, Cleveland was formidable and nearly all of the delegates tripped over each other to switch their vote after the roll call was ended and before the official announcement of the second ballot was made official. The revised vote total gave Cleveland 683 votes, 136 more than was needed. Part of Gov. Bragg's famous line "We love him for the enemies he has made" became the party's slogan for the election of 1884. The ever popular, Thomas A. Hendricks was nominated for Vice President by acclamation.

The main issue of the 1884 National Election was that of integrity and Blaine failed miserably in that department. Hurt by the defeat at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Boss John Kelly threw his support behind Ben Butler and the Greenback Party. He supported The New York Sun's editorial stance, which demanded that Cleveland drop out of the race. Thomas A. Hendricks brought Kelly back into the fold. Thomas, a personal friend of Boss Kelly, convinced him of the political facts of life as it concerned national politics.

Upon his election as Vice-President of the United States, Thomas was asked to provide an autobiography for the Congressional Record. The information provided was starkly deplete of any generations prior to his father. He stated that his father was of unknown origins. Therefore, the conversion to his wife's Presbyterian beliefs left Grandpa Abraham strikingly absent from Thomas' life and ancestry. This absence of previous history led many researchers astray, and left family descendants with the daunting task of, not only making the family connections, but also documenting them. On a visit to Indiana, ten months after his inauguration, Thomas died of unknown causes. Family stories recount it as hard living. If his cousin, William Chalmers is any measure, he was accustomed to excessive use of spirits. Nevertheless, Thomas Andrews Hendricks remains an icon of Indiana politics.

The above was compiled and written by Scott Hammon Hendricks, 1st cousin 3 times removed.

The City of Hendricks, Lincoln County, Minnesota and Lake Hendricks, which sits on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota were named after Thomas Andrews Hendricks the source is the city records for the City of Hendricks, Lincoln County, Minnesota.

For more information about TA Hendricks type in Thomas Andrews Hendricks in a Google Search

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posted by [Living King]
Hi Scott i made the clan photo box smaller it was stretching your page i hope you dont mind
posted by Terry Wright
Hi Scott you have done such a wonderful job on this page it looks amazing it makes me realize how much work i need to do on my clan category pages there is so much information here for anyone researching Clan Gunn great job
posted by Terry Wright

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