Alexander MacHamishes Gunn of Killernan
Concerning some of the missing MacHamish Gunns…
There is much rubbish talked about Alexander MacHamish Gunn of Killernan, not least as two different Alexanders were merged into one in MR Gunn’s book - see page 168 – and elsewhere.
An Alexander MacHamish of Killernan and of Navidale was born in the late 1590s and he was dead by January 1658. He was a younger brother of ‘Chief’ William Mhor Gunn. This Alexander married Dame Mary Lady Foulis whose first husband was dead by April 1635. A 1658 National Records of Scotland GD84/1/27/7 document has Alexander Gunn and Dame Mary Mackay Lady Foulis (Fowlis) specifically mentioned and noted as dead. No questions about it.
This 1658 document also has a John Gunn being ‘of Killernan’, the senior MacHamish person. I suspect he married Catherine Sinclair, but that’s another entry. An April 1670 document also records John as having the lands of Killernan, Navidale and ‘Balnavaliache’ so John was still head ‘of Killernan’ MacHamish Gunns twelve years later.
But people get confused because Alexander’s second son was called Alexander. It is this Alexander who married Christina Mackay, perhaps ‘with issue’. There is much fuss in MR Gunn (page 168) and Thomas Sinclair (pages 156-157) books about a 1668 document involving an Alexander and his wife. It’s about this Alexander and his wife Christina - not his parents as they have been dead for around ten years. When considering the document one needs to note it’s a draft, a proposal. Alexander’s brother John of Killernan had debt problems but this Alexander married well (although also a big spender). Was the 1668 document an attempt to buy Killernan from his brother John? As noted John was still ‘of Killernan’ in April 1670 so the 1668 document did not succeed. It is not clear whether this Alexander Gunn ever became of Killernan.
Time to put two Alexanders and John Gunn into MacHamish history.
I have just put another entry on John MacHamish in Navidale, perhaps of Killernan – one of the mythical Gunn Chief line, in the 'Clan' Gunn chief section. He was a criminal thug.
eldestI am obviously writing the chapter on MacHamishes (‘Clan Gunn Chiefs’ for the fantasists) at the moment. The more I look at it the more so much of it falls apart like most ‘clan’ Gunn history
One example - Thomas Sinclair gives the translation of a legal document on pages 151-152. The story is also summarised on page 167 of Mark Rugg Gunn. In essence the document says in 1620 John MacHamish in Navidale and Alexander MacHamish his brother were brutal criminals. Yep that’s the MacHamish line.
For the myth supporters the problem is that these two MacHamishes supposedly must descend one from the other but this document clearly says they were brothers. And the document clearly also has two MacHamishes in existence at the same time showing that MacHamish is not a special title only held by one person at a time which is another idea beloved by Gunn myth supporters.
Now William Mhor MacHamish cannot be born before about 1595 as his mother Barbara Mackay has to be born around 1570 as her eldest brother was definitely born in 1561 and Barbara is the fifth child. This clearly means that William Mhor is a brother to John in Navidale and Alexander as William Mhor is not old enough to have adult / late teenaged children being brutal thugs in 1620.
So, we now have William Mhor, John in Navidale and Alexander being brothers, time to redraw those MacHamish family trees!
There is a lot more evidence to support the above but this legal document of the time clearly makes the point.
Thanks for the comment below...
17 December 2017. I have just placed a longer discussion on MacHamish as the first entry under 'Clan' Gunn Chief issues.
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...