Sir Robert Gordon’s ‘A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland from its origins to the Year 1630’ is an important but underrated text for Gunn history. He was alive 1580-1656 and was well-connected throughout the Caithness / Sutherland area. The book was published in 1813.
His text is central for early Gunn history as it was the first written history. One should reject ‘facts’ not provided by Gordon which suddenly appear in various Gunn ‘histories’ hundreds of years later; too much Gunn ‘history’ is nothing but invented melodrama.
Gordon wrote of Coroner Gunn that ‘he floorished (as) there wes no Earle of Catteynes’ which is a great help as the Earldom of Caithness was in abeyance 1434-1452. Sir George Crichton was appointed Earl in June 1452 and returned it to the King before his death in August 1454. William Sinclair was appointed the next Earl on 28 August 1455. Gordon’s use of the word ‘floorished’ and the stories attached to the Coroner make it unlikely that the gap in the Earldom between August 1454 and August 1455 was the period when the Coroner worked. The Coroner had to have operated before 1452.
Gordon’s account is also backed up by logic. The position of Coroner was third in legal status in a county; the Earl was most important, then came the sheriff (Caithness’ sheriff was at Inverness in the Coroner’s time and presumably did not bother much with going to Caithness) and then came the Coroner. Without an Earl and with an absent sheriff it is clear why Coroner Gunn had so much power.
So, Coroner Gunn ‘floorished’ in the 1440s with a death no later than 1452.
More on Gordon to come, not least due to his version of the Coroner’s death…