The Alexander MacHamish problem, part 2
There is a huge problem with the traditional view of Alexander MacHamish, the great grandson of Coroner Gunn.
Alexander’s supposed father William was joint second in charge of the Sutherlanders who fought at the Battle of Torran Dubh in 1517; a person who is in that position has to be, say, 35 years old. It is fair to assume that William would have had this supposed son Alexander by then. So let’s say this Alexander was born 1510.
But the traditional Alexander’s wife Barbara’s birth date is approximately known as her older brother Hugh has a birth date of 1561. So we can say Barbara was born around 1570. Okay, these dates are approximate but it’s roughly a sixty years age gap between Alexander and Barbara – and don’t forget Barbara MacKay is only Alexander’s first wife…
Traditional Gunn history just does not work. A new history is needed
I would suggest for Gunn history
'Concerning Chief' (not) Alexander MacHamish Gunn, great grandson of Coroner Gunn
There's a problem...
Alexander is normally regarded as the great grandson of Coroner Gunn.
There is a big issue with his years. It is accepted that Alexander first married Barbara, a daughter from the second marriage of Iye Du Mackay of Farr, 12th of Strathnaver, chief of Clan Mackay. Barbara had a brother Huistean (Hugh) Du Mackay 13th of Strathnaver who is consistently given as born in 1561. Barbara is normally listed as the fifth child of this second marriage, Huistean is the first mentioned of that marriage. A birth year for Barbara of about 1570 is reasonable given other females are listed before her, it was not a case of placing a sole female last in a list.
So when was Alexander born? His father William MacHamish Cattigh was fighting in 1517 at Torran Dubh. In fact more than fighting, William was joint second in charge of a large number of Sutherlanders (other Gunns are not mentioned, the idea that Torran Dubh is a 'Clan' Gunn event is wrong, but that's another entry).
You would have to be at least thirty years old, or so, to hold such a position. Around thirty is also a reasonable age to have your first son born, supposedly Alexander. So that gives Alexander a provisional birth year of around 1517.
So if Alexander was born 1517 his wife – and she is only his first wife, he has another - was born fifty years or so after him. That’s extremely unlikely. And the age gap is so large it would have been remembered and be in the history texts.
Solution? I'm working on it...
James’ descendants are often called the MacHamish line.
The term MacHamish was an indication of which Gunn family line was meant for legal and other reasons; there were many Gunns with the same name in the highlands of Scotland so the need to clarify which Gunns were under discussion was obviously of real importance. Mark Rugg Gunn says ‘William son of James, succeeded his father and was known as Uilleam mac Sheumais; he was the first MacHamish’. Another version of William’s name is ‘Uilleam - Mac-Sheaumais - Mhic-Chruner’ ; ‘William son of James, grandson of the Coroner’. Note the lack of any mention of Chief of the ‘Clan’ Gunn and, in fact, any mention of the surname Gunn in William’s names.
If the MacHamish line had been Chiefs of the Clan Gunn as Gunn myth would have it, then as Chief of the Clan Gunn is how the individuals would have been known in legal and other documents as Chief of a Clan was far more important than being ‘named’ after the basically anonymous James. In other words, there is no reason for the term MacHamish to exist if the line had been Chief of the ‘Clan’ Gunn, as Chief of the ‘Clan’ Gunn would have made the term MacHamish irrelevant.
The use of MacHamish in Gunn history again shows that the Gunns did not have Clan Chiefs.
 I have seen a document written on Lord Strathnaver’s behalf dated 23 September 1738 which is part of the Sutherland Estate papers held by the National Library of Scotland. The document twice uses the word Mckeamuish, and once Mckaimish, when referring to this Gunn MacHamish line - and it has no mention of a ‘Clan’ Gunn Chief in the document. MacHamish is an anglicisation of these 1738 Mckeamuish / Mckaimish spellings.
 To rely on place to identify a Gunn family line (such as Gunn of Wick) is inadequate as many Gunns could live in one named area – the clear identification is by family line such as MacHamish..
 Page 166 MRG
 Page 179, James Browne, A History of the Highlands and of Highland Clans, A Fullarton and Co, Volume 1, published 1840.
Interested to see in the current Clan Gunn Society UK magazine that they are advertising their hugely expensive 19th International Gathering. It has a trip to Orkney as part of it because the Society has a quasi-religious faith in Gunn Orkney Islands origin. The key person for the myth believers is 'Chief Snaekoll Gunn'.
There is no academic support for the idea of an Orkney islands origin for the Gunns as there is absolutely no evidence for Snaekoll returning from exile in disgrace in Norway.
Professor Barbara Crawford's view is simple -
'Despite his part in the murder of the earl Snaekoll was not condemned to death at the trial in Bergen but "remained long with earl Skuli and King Hacon" and there is no evidence that he ever returned to Orkney or Caithness (she then footnotes and the footnote reads) ‘Despite the claims of Clan Gunn to be descended from him …’.
http://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/2723 accessed 14 March 2016; page 8 of her thesis.
She also says -
'Snaekollr Gunnison … went to Bergen (Norway) in 1232 … (but never seems to have come home again)'
Page 8, B. E. Crawford 'Medieval Strathnaver' in ed. John R. Baldwin The Province of Strathanaver, 2000, The Scottish Society For Northern Studies.
Now Professor Crawford’s academic credentials are beyond dispute - ‘Dr Barbara Crawford M.A., Ph.D., F.R.S.E., F.S.A., F.S.A. Scot., Member of the Norwegian Academy … Honorary Reader in History at the University of St. Andrews … Dr. Crawford is a Member of the Norwegian Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was a Commissioner of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland from 1991-2001, chaired The Treasure Trove Advisory Panel for Scotland from 1993-2001, and was President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 2008-2011. She was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to history and archaeology, and has recently been awarded an Honorary Professorship at the University of the Highlands and Islands….’ From https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/staff/barbaracrawford.html accessed 14 March 2016.
So if you believe Snaekollr Gunnison managed to make it back to Scotland after his exile in disgrace in Norway (and don’t forget he also joined a rebellion against the Norwegian King – and lost) you have to explain how the key academic in the area does not agree with you.
Believing in Gunn descent from Snaekollr Gunnison is like supporting a flat earth theory or believing that Elvis is alive or that pigs fly… but in this world of alternative facts (lies) some people believe absurd dreams to be true… It is absurd to think 'Clan' Gunn descend from the Orkney Islands.
Now, James’ descendants are often called the MacHamish line; I have seen a document in the National Library of Scotland written 23 September 1738 on Lord Strathnaver’s behalf where two spellings of the word Mckeamuish are used and one spelling of Mckaimish used when referring to this line and where no mention of ‘Clan Gunn Chief’ was made. MacHamish was a later anglicisation of this Mckeamuish / Mckaimish.
MacHamish was used as an indication of which Gunns were meant for legal and other reasons. Mark Rugg Gunn says ‘William son of James, succeeded his father and was known as Uilleam mac Sheumais; he was the first MacHamish’. If this line had been Chief of the Clan Gunn as Gunn myth would have it, then Chief of the Clan Gunn would have been how they were known rather than MacHamish, as Chief of a Clan would have been much more important than being ‘named’ after the basically anonymous James.
The use of the term MacHamish again shows that the Gunns never had Clan Chiefs.
 Page 166 MRG
I'm moving on to examine the post Coroner Gunn people, starting with his eldest son James Gunn. (I know that's the anglicised version of his name but for convenience I will use it.) There is very little known about James but some mythic Gunn history attached to him fails again, there's a surprise...
To explain. It is accepted that James Gunn did not die with his father, the Coroner, at the battle of or near St Tayres. James had either moved to Killernan before or after his father's death.
But why would James move from the Castle the Gunns are mythically meant to own? It doesn't make sense; castles are big enough to hold generations of owners. You certainly wouldn't leave it if you were the oldest son and so would inherit the castle, and instead move to the rural backwater of Killernan. And there is absolutely no story anywhere attached to a Gunn castle being attacked by Keiths (or others) and forcing James to flee.
The only logical reason for James moving to Killernan is that the Castle attached to his Coroner father was nothing more than a tied (albeit grand) house attached to his father's job and so with the Coroner's death the Gunns certainly had to leave. James may have left the Castle before his father's death to establish a home of his own at Killernan
The idea of a mythic Gunn owned castle fails again...
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
There is archaeological support for Castle Sinclair Girnigoe being built on a earlier castle; this earlier castle I suspect (no more) was the one used by Coroner Gunn.
I note 'Clan Gunn Society North America Eastern - Canada Branch' Summer 2017 reports no new members in 2017, that four members were 'inactive' as they hadn't renewed membership for over six months and that 'several' other members were viewed as active but they hadn't renewed their membership but were within the six months 'grace' period. So what's that then? Ten members or so lost from the Eastern Canada branch? A dying Branch one suspects...
Is the rate of membership dropoff typical of the CGSNA? It may well be ...
Not surprising really - as I wrote on http://clangunn1.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/clan-gunn-society-of-nova-scotia.html -
genealogical links to your own family can be easily explored on the internet, one certainly does not need a Society for such research.
That leaves a 'Clan' Gunn Society to do what? Pretend fictional history is real history, such as with the 'Clan' Gunn non-links to an Orkney Island / Viking origin? Or pretend the the non-existing Clan Gunn Westford Knight absurd story is true? Or to dress up in 'Gunn' tartan invented in the early 1800s for the tourist trade? You get the idea...
As well, Scottish Gunns are by origin a non-kindred group of people from the Highlands. Just because we share the same surname we do not necessarily share any ancestor so we have no automatic DNA link with other random people with the name Gunn who one would regularly meet in Clan Gunn Society events. People on one's actual Family Tree are, of course, different...
The non-existent Gunn / Keith feud, Part Two
The supposed Gunn / Keith battles were –
1426 The Battle of Harpsdale. Sir Robert Gordon – see previous entry – does not mention Gunns in this battle. It was a battle where Mackays entered Caithness, and ‘inhabitants of Caithness’ (Gordon) fought back. Mark Rugg Gunn records this battle when discussing Gunn Keith battles and says ‘it is by no means certain that Gunns were involved’. So the Battle of Harpsdale did not involve any Keiths but some Gunns may have been involved as they were normal people living in the Caithness area.
1437 Knock Stanger (near Sandside, Dounreay). The son of the main Mackay in the above battle raided in the Dounreay area. So again this battle did not involve Keiths; some Gunns were probably involved as they lived in the area. Mark Rugg Gunn – in his Gunn / Keith battles discussion area - admits ‘Gunns are not specifically mentioned’ in this raid / battle.
1438 (ish – some dispute on date). Tannach Moor battle. Keiths of Ackergill are in dispute with ‘Guns and other inhabitants of Caithness … The Keiths, mistrusting their own forces, they sent to Angus Mackay …) intreating him to come to their aid; whereunto he easily condescended. Then did the inhabitants of Caithness convene in all haste…’ etc. (Sir Robert Gordon) Finally a battle involving the Keiths – nice change. But note the Guns are only mentioned – once - as part of the ‘inhabitants of Caithness’ and it’s not specifically an attack on them; it’s not Keiths versus Gunns, it’s Keiths (and Mackays) versus inhabitants of Caithness (including Gunns).
There is also the absurd story of a Manistanes Hill battle between the Gunns and Keiths – where the Devil helped the Keiths. It is obvious – I hope - why this story is to be discounted.
So, there were three ‘battles’ which supposedly showed a Gunn / Keith feud, only one of which mentioned the Keiths. That battle also mentioned the Gunns – once – but Guns were only representative of inhabitants of Caithness. And the Helen Gunn of Braemore story is just fiction.
There was no historic Gunn / Keith feud, it’s a myth like so much 'Clan' Gunn ‘history’.
I just thought people might like to know I have fully revised the Helen Gunn of Braemore myth page - see clangunn.weebly.com/helen-gunn-of-braemore-myth.html
I note the July 2017 Clan Gunn Society UK 'Herald' magazine points out that paying membership is now down to 306... the drop in membership continues. It's nothing like the 476 paying members of 1976...
I note the CGSNA figures dropped from 1100 in 2012 to 873 members in 2014...
For more on Clan Gunn Society membership figures see clangunn.weebly.com/clan-gunn-society-uk-membership-list-analysis-1962-1995.html