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
New information on Braehour Gunns has just arrived. For information on the importance of the Braehour line, see - clangunn.weebly.com/clan-gunn-chief---braehour-line.html
The below John Gunn in Braehour’s father was George Gunn in Braehour c. 1757-1852; his brothers include William Gunn from whom came the Hon. Donald Gunn of Manitoba Canada with his many descendants, William Gunn of Waranga Basin and many more…
John Gunn in Braehour married Margaret MacKenzie. They sailed on the ‘North’ from Liverpool 31 October 1858 and arrived 27 January 1851 Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Issue with them on the trip -
They also had John b. 1843 who arrived later in Australia.
The above Angus Gunn moved to Victoria and later to New South Wales, he died Sydney NSW 15 April 1904.
The above Margaret Gunn b 1838 (died 29 August 1909) married 1861 a James Edward Cunningham b. Edinburgh 1838. Fourteen children! They moved to Victoria c. 1882. Margaret is buried at the Oakleigh cemetery in Melbourne along with her husband, a son and granddaughter.
The above Barbara Gunn married James Tucker in 1869 and remained in South Australia. She died 4 November 1887.
The above John Gunn moved to Victoria and died 14 November 1920 and is buried in Oakleigh Cemetery.
The Braehour line is part of my family tree…
Death of Gunn Coroner (Crowner)
The most useful way to think about Gunn Coroner’s death is like this -
Consider the earliest account of it by Sir Robert Gordon who died c1650. Robert Gordon was writing a history of the Earldom of Sutherland – he didn’t have an axe to grind about Gunns, he was writing a real history. Now, his account is written 150 / 200 years after the death of Coroner Gunn so we can question what he wrote as the event will have been ‘shaped’ by retelling, but the later accounts which appear three hundred years and more after the Coroner’s death with ‘information’ which did not appear in Gordon’s account have to be rejected as no-one gets new information that much after an event.
Worth noting, as it seems to be forgotten, is Gordon’s comment about the ‘Cruner’ –
This Cruner was a great commander in Catteynes, in his tyme, and wes one of the greatest men in that cuntrey; because when he flourished there was no Earle of Catteynes
This clearly gives the time the Coroner existed – before the Earldom of Caithness was recreated. This supports the idea that the Coroner died around the mid 1450s given the Earl of Caithness was appointed in 1455, but unlikely to have made Caithness for a couple of years …
Gordon’s account of the Coroner’s death, in summary -
Now, key points –
Problems with Gordon’s account
A local attack on Coroner Gunn and his party around 1450 is probable, the event most likely happened near St Tayre’s Church. In it all Gunns (including the Coroner) were killed and the attackers suffered heavy losses.
Gordon gives no consequences for this event, which seems unusual. Why did the Keiths – if they were the attackers - get away with it? Perhaps because the Keiths were a very powerful family and could hush the event up especially if Gunn Coroner had become very unpopular. But Keiths were very important in Scottish history; the Chief of the Clan Keith was Earl Marischal of Scotland at this time. I find it awkward that such an event concerning a senior branch of his family does not appear in any record. And the records of the Keith family are large and accessible. Also, Gunn Coroner was about arresting rogues and criminals; the Keiths of Inverugie would be unlikely to be part of those Gunn Coroner was involved with on a ‘professional’ level, so why would Keiths kill a servant of the King given that they were also serving the King? Keiths and Gunns were neighbours and both families were of importance; they would be more inclined to support each other than kill each other.
It makes more sense that it was not Keiths but a random band of Caiths, people of Caithness, who killed the Gunns. If Gunn Coroner and the other Gunns were killed by a random group of Caithness people who had grown to hate Gunn Coroner then it would explain the reason for the attack, and provide a reason for lack of any known consequence as without knowledge of who the murderers had been, no action could have been taken.
Local Keiths or local Caiths are both possibilities for killing the Coroner around 1450…
Concerning Gunn Coroner’s death
I’ve always had trouble accepting the stories attached to how Gunn coroner died.
1. There was meant to have been a long lasting Gunn feud with the Keiths.But the feud looks very questionable and will be a separate entry here another time…
2. The Gunns were meant to be randomly in a church in the middle of nowhere and did not hear anyone approaching – and no Gunn lookout was posted.
But it seems odd for Gunns to be randomly hanging around / in an empty church; it’s not as if a Minister was there with a congregation. And if the Gunn / Keith mythic feud was happening you would have posted a lookout if you had any intelligence, and Gunn coroner was meant to have had brains.
3. The Keiths and Gunns supposedly had a battle which the Gunns lost by trickery as the Keiths rode two men on each horse according to most accounts. Of course Gunns could never have lost in a fair battle, that’s not how Clan mythic history works…
Overall it seems likely Gunn Coroner and some of his family were attacked near the Church of St Tayre; the Coroner’s death meant the attack stopped. The Gunns may have been attacked by Keiths but that is unlikely as the Keiths could easily have removed Gunn from his Coroner’s position due to the their power at the King’s court. The death of Gunn Coroner seems more like a revenge killing by a bunch of ‘Caiths’ – people of Caithness - not Keiths. (Note how both Caiths / Keiths sound the same and that the 1450s is before spelling is fixed.)
No record of the Coroner’s appointment, death or appointment of a new Coroner appears in history texts although much else from this time is known. Did his death have any impact on the greater Caithness world? Perhaps not…
St Tears, the Coroner and more…
Gunn, coroner of Caithness 1450s
More on Gunn coroner, including information from Professor Houston’s The Coroners of Northern Britain c1300-1700 and Professor Crawford’s The Northern Earldoms Orkney and Caithness from AD 870 to 1470.
In brief –
Gunn coroner before Earl William Sinclair made it to Caithness was in a position of major, basically unchecked legal power. The lack of a local Sheriff and lack of a resident Earl allowed him ‘freedom’ to do things his way. The position Gunn coroner had – with its lack of checks - would probably have created enemies.
The story of Hugh MacDonald of Sleat visiting Gunn in a castle has credence - it just wasn’t in a ‘Gunn castle’.