Clan Gunn

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Clan Gunn
Guinne (Surname)
Clan member crest badge - Clan Gunn.svg
MottoAut Pax Aut Bellum; translated literally as "Either peace or war", colloquially translated as "In peace and war" or, alternatively, with the raised sword of the crest, as "Stand ready for peace or war."
SloganClyth
Profile
Plant badgeJuniper
Pipe music"The Gunn's Salute"
Clan Gunn has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seatClyth Castle (Castle Gunn)
Dirlot Castle
Halberry Castle
Last ChiefNone
CommanderIain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk
 
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Clan Gunn
Guinne (Surname)
Clan member crest badge - Clan Gunn.svg
MottoAut Pax Aut Bellum; translated literally as "Either peace or war", colloquially translated as "In peace and war" or, alternatively, with the raised sword of the crest, as "Stand ready for peace or war."
SloganClyth
Profile
Plant badgeJuniper
Pipe music"The Gunn's Salute"
Clan Gunn has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seatClyth Castle (Castle Gunn)
Dirlot Castle
Halberry Castle
Last ChiefNone
CommanderIain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk

Clan Gunn is a Highland Scottish clan associated with the counties of Caithness and Sutherland as well as the Orkney Islands. The clan is not an Armigerous clan, as Lord Lyon has never legally established a Clan Chief so no Chiefly arms exist. Given that the Clan crest must, by Scottish law, be derived from the Chiefly arms the crest badge associated with the Clan has no legal status. It is worth noting that the upraised sword in a fist appears on Gunn-Munro of Braemore's coat of arms and this may be the origin of the 'crest badge'. [1]

The Lord Lyon has recognised a Clan Commander.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Traditional origins[edit]

The traditional origin of the 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.[2] His wife descended from St Ragnvald, who was the founder of the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney.[2] 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.[2]

Recorded origins[edit]

The first chief of the Clan Gunn to appear in historical records definitively was 'George' (his actual first name is not known) Gunn, who was the crouner or coroner of Caithness during the 15th century.[2] 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.[2] This was due to the insignia that was worn by him as coroner.[2] George is said to have held court at his Clyth Castle in such splendor that it would rival any Highland chief.[2] It is interesting that he is not recorded as 'Chief'. His parents are not known.

15th century and clan conflicts[edit]

Clanngvn tartan, as published in 1842 in Vestiarium Scoticum.

The Battle of Harpsdale was fought in 1426 where the Clan Gunn fought an inconclusive battle with the Clan Mackay.[3]

The Gunn's traditional enemies were the Clan Keith, who from their Ackergill Castle, challenged the Gunn chiefs for both political needs and for land.[2] In one such feud it was claimed that Dugald Keith coveted Helen, daughter of Gunn of Braemor.[2] The girl resisted Keith's advances but on learning that 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 submitting to her kidnapper.[2] The Gunns retaliated and repeatedly raided the Keith's territory however they suffered defeat in 1438 or 1464 at the Battle of Tannach.[2] 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 horse.[2] However the Keiths arrived with two warriors on each horse and slaughtered the outnumbered Gunns.[2] This was in turn avenged by the chief's remaining son James who killed Keith of Ackergill and his son at Drummoy.[2]

16th century and clan conflicts[edit]

In 1517 the Clan Gunn supported the Clan Sutherland in defeating the Clan Mackay at the Battle of Torran Dubh.[4]

Alistair Gunn, son of John Robson Gunn, had become a man of much note and power in the North. He had married the daughter of John Gordon, 11th 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, 1st Earl of Moray, and his followers on the High Street of Aberdeen. The Earl of Mray 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 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.[5]

In the late 16th century the Gunns were involved in a number of feuds against the Earl of Sutherland and Earl of Caithness.[2] 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.[6]

17th century and Civil War[edit]

During the 17th century the Clan Gunn strengthened their links with the Clan Mackay when Gunn of Killearnan married Mary Mackay, sister of Lord Reay, chief of Clan Mackay.[2] The next Gunn chief married Lord Reay's daughter.[2]

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.[2] 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.[2] He later fought for Charles I and received a knighthood in 1639.[2] He later returned to the Continent where he served the Holy Roman Empire and married a German baroness.[2] He became an imperial general and was created baron of the Holy Roman Empire in 1649.[2]

18th century and Jacobite uprisings[edit]

The Gunns did not support the exiled Stuarts and instead fought for the British government during the Jacobite rising of 1745.[2] Alexander Gunn, chief of the Clan Gunn was a Captain of an Independent Highland Company that fought for the British Government.[7] He was later killed in action in India.[2] The chiefship passed to a cousin with whose line it remained until the 19th century, when the tenth chief died without an heir.[2]

Chieftainship[edit]

A flag outside the Clan Gunn Heritage Centre, bearing the crest badge suitable for clan members.

The clan continues to have as its leader the current Clan Commander, Iain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk; his Uncle was the first commander appointed in modern times.

In 2012 there was a petition before the Lord Lyon arguing for a Family Convention to convert the current Commander to Chief. The petition has been refused by Lord Lyon as 'it has become evident that there are in all probability clear and provable lines of descent senior to the present Commander. That research continues, but in the meantime it seemed only right to refuse the Petition in hoc statu, that is to say, as it stands. That does not mean that the Petition cannot be presented again in future, perhaps in altered form. It certainly does not indicate any lack of confidence in the present energetic and successful Commander.'.

Commanders[edit]

Iain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk was appointed the second Commander of Clan Gunn, by commission of Lord Lyon on 9 June 1972.[8] He was Secretary of the Clan Gunn UK Society on its establishment in 1961. (The first Commander was his Uncle who held the title 1967–1968.) It is understood that his Chief inheritance line is twice through the female.

Castles[edit]

The remains of Dirlot Castle

The base of a small tower, built either by the Cheynes in the 14th century or the Gunns in the 15th century, 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 9.5 m by 6.5 m with walls 1.6 m thick. It had a courtyard on the south-east, measuring 13 m by 7 m, 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.

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 11.3 m by 7 m, with walls about 1 m thick.

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, 10 m wide and 2 m deep, which presumably once had an inner wall or bank and stockade. Close behind the ditch are grass-covered foundations of a tower house, measuring 13.5 m by 8.3 m. It was probably in existence by the mid 15th century, when George, chief of the Gunn clan had a residence there.[1]

Tartan[edit]

The Gunn tartan is found in 'weathered', 'ancient', 'muted', and 'modern' colourings. [A picture of the Tartan;[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Court of the Lord Lyon Information leaflet 2 Scottish Crest Badges http://www.electricscotland.com/webclans/lordlyon2.htm
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 399 – 400.
  3. ^ "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland". p.63 – 64, by Sir Robert Gordon (1580 -1656).
  4. ^ ” The Guns" by Thomas Sinclair. 1890. Page 36.
  5. ^ Clan Gunn history Electric Scotland.
  6. ^ "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland" .p.183. By Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656).
  7. ^ Simpson, Peter. "The Independent Highland Companies, 1603 – 1760". (1996). Pages 214 – 215. ISBN 0-85976-432-X.
  8. ^ Chiefship of Clan Gunn Clan Gunn Society.

External links[edit]