1) ‘The Lord Lyon can not ‘decide a disputed question of chiefship or chieftainship.’ (Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean, 1938 S.L.T. 49. From Introduction to the Law of Scotland by Gloag and Candlish Henderson, 9th edition, 1987, p. 25.
2) ‘From an allowance of proof the Court excluded all questions relating to the chieftainship and the relative positions of the parties within the clan, holding that neither chiefship of a whole clan nor chieftainship of a branch of a clan was a legal status justiciable in a court of law, but had the character of a social dignity only, and, accordingly, that the Lord Lyon had no jurisdiction to decide the disputed question of who had right to the chieftainship either directly or incidentally…’ Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean 1941 S.C. 613
3) ‘I agree with your Lordships that Lyon has no jurisdiction to entertain a substantive declarator of chiefship of a Highland clan, or of chieftainship of a branch of a clan. [...] The question of chiefship of a Highland clan, or chieftainship of a branch of a clan, is not in itself, in my opinion, a matter which involves any interest which the law can recognise… in my opinion, there is no practice or precedent which entitled Lyon to decide a question of disputed chiefship or chieftainship, either by itself or incidentally to a grant of arms…. ’ Lord Wark, in Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean 1941 S.C. at p. 657:
The limited nature of an ‘Interlocutor’ needs to be understood as it is not the final legal statement on a matter -
Interlocutor (Scots Law): A judgement or order of a court or of the Lords Ordinary, signed by the pronouncing or presiding judge. `Interlocutors, correctly speaking, are judgments or judicial orders pronounced in the course of a suit, but which do not finally determine the cause. The term, however, in Scotch practice, is applied indiscriminately to the judgments or orders of the Court, or of the Lords Ordinary, whether they exhaust the question at issue or not' (Bell Dictionary of the Law of Scotland 1861).
The first three points are from a superior Court (the Court of Sessions) to the Lord Lyon Court and show that the Court of Sessions has already rejected – or more accurately ‘set aside’- the right of Lord Lyon to decide on a ‘disputed question of Chiefship’. In fact ‘chiefship of a Highland clan, or chieftainship of a branch of a clan, is not in itself, in my opinion, a matter which involves any interest which the law can recognise’.
The Clan Gunn Chief issue is not resolved, it’s just been made a little more complex as some work must now first be done in the Court of Sessions.
‘... an elected Chief is alien to the whole principle of Celtic civilisation ...’
Lord Lyon Thomas Innes
page xxii from his Foreword to Frank Adams and Thomas Innes The Clans, Septs and Regiments of The Scottish Highlands 1934
‘it has become evident that there is in all probability clear and proveable lines of descent senior to that of the present Commander'
Lord Lyon Sellar 2012 http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/files/Gunn%20Family%20Convention%20-%20Interlocutor%20refusing%20petition%20in%20hoc%20statu.pdf
‘The derbhfine ... should not consider proposing a person for chief unless there is no real hope that a genealogically related descendant could ever be found.’
Lord Lyon Blair, 19 February 2002 http://www.clanmacaulay.org.uk/node/69
The clan society is thus, as above indicated, by the Law of Arms, a most important member or branch of the clan organisation but equally it is not "the clan."
Frank Adam's (revised by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney) The Clans Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, page 198
‘The question of who is the chief of the clan now, seems to me nothing better than an uninteresting logomachy.’ Rev. Dr Miller C.I.E. Principal of Madras Theological College. From a letter published as part of Thomas Sinclair’s Clan Gunn Sixth Supplement 6.1.1903
I was going to wait to comment on the recent judgement by the current Lord Lyon to create a third Clan Gunn Chief line until the details were published on his website, but I have decided not to wait. This is because the recent Clan Gunn Family Convention which passed the motion to make a modern Chief when known bloodlines from the old Chief lines exist, did not have an agenda, nor have minutes been circulated and nor did it follow the published Lord Lyon guidelines for holding such a Convention so it may be some time before an official announcement makes Lord Lyon’s website. The current status of Lord Lyon’s announcement is a ‘leak’.
My view of the Clan Gunn Chief question, in summary -
- Clan Gunn is a non-kindred tribe of the original settlers (Picts / Pre-Pictish) of Caithness / Sutherland / Strathnaver. So, no Clan Gunn Chiefs.
- Clan Gunn has no Orkney ‘Noble family’ link. See http://clangunn.weebly.com/why-gunns-are-not-of-norse--orkney-descent.html Note that Dr. Barbara Crawford[i], So, no Clan Gunn Chiefs. Honorary Reader in History at the University of St. Andrews, does not support the Gunns having an Orkney origin.
- There were never Clan Gunn Chiefs – although there may have been one or two treated as such from the MacRob line by outsiders who did not understand that, at best, Gunns were an agglomeration of loosely linked families. To prove the lack of Gunn Chiefs there is a primary source document written by ‘Chief’ Alexander Gunn when he was in the midst of a major legal battle with the Sutherland Estate where it would have perfectly suited his argument if he could have said he was ‘Chief’ of the Clan Gunn – but he could not say it as it was not true and the Sutherland Estate knew he was not Clan Gunn Chief. And ‘Chief’ Alexander wrote the document so the lack of ‘Chief’ was not an accidental omission. This Alexander was the father of the last two ‘Chiefs’ and he seems to have been a ‘not nice’ individual by the way… See http://clangunn.weebly.com/alexander-gunn-of-badenloch-later-wester-helmsdale-not-chief-of-the-clan-gunn.html See, as well, http://clangunn.weebly.com/how-the-mckaimish-line-was-manipulated-into-being-viewed-as-chief.html for how this line was later manipulated into being viewed as ‘Chiefs’.
- But the unique, democratic, non – Chief Gunn history did not fit the romantic /sexist[ii], hierarchical and mythic rubbish encouraged by the Sir Walter Scott / 18th and 19th century view of Scottish history. It is this re-invented Scottish ‘history’ (Named tartans[iii]! All Clans must have Chiefs – any Chief! Everyone must descend from someone famous even if there is no proof for it! Manliness! Warriors! Vikings! Crowner Gunn sounds more regal so let’s call him that even though his position was Coroner! And let’s call him George so we make him more English – a Celtic first name sounds too foreign! Highland Games![iv]) which is beloved by Clan Gunn Societies as shown by the history such societies support. See http://clangunn.weebly.com/on-scottish-clan-re-invention-in-the-18th-and-19th-centuries.html
- So to fulfil this mythic history Clan Gunn Societies required a Chief – any Chief. I could see this coming which is why I fought for the eldest, eligible line from the Coroner (the first Gunn to be visible in history) to be made Chief. I did this as I wanted a logical, genealogical basis for a Chief (if a Chief must be had – and this line is viewed as the original Chief line by Clan Gunn Societies), not a Chief created as a reward for years of managing an organisation. Incidentally the Clan Gunn Society UK membership is still about the same as when it started in the 1960s - so that's in effect a membership loss of around 30% if one considers the growth in the UK population. The American Clan Gunn Society seems to hover around a thousand members – this apparently makes them not one of the larger Clan Societies in the USA[v].
- But historic logic – a Chief based on descent from Coroner Gunn - was not acceptable for those who called the Convention (and note that, as far as I am aware, no Clan Gunn Society was ever allowed to discuss the Convention motion, let alone vote on it). Also note the ‘Commander’ certainly accepted the old Clan Gunn Chief idea – it was his descent from this old Chief line which he used when he submitted a claim to be Chief in 1984.
- So Lord Lyon’s decision to convert the Commander to ‘Chief’ is a logical extension of Clan Gunn Society’s mythic ‘history’ - Clan Gunn now matches the stereotypes of Clan history by having a Chief, any Chief. It's an example of the 'Balmoralisation' (or ‘Disneyification’) of Clan Gunn history which is discussed in point 4. This mythic view of ‘history’ is shown by at least some members of the Clan Gunn Society UK who provisionally think the party for the new Clan Gunn ‘Chief’ should be held on St Donan's day - a Saint who had nothing to do with Kildonan, nor the Gunns[vi].
- So we now have an 'ancient Clan Gunn Chief line' which has descendants alive today - and is the Senior Clan Gunn line - a ‘Chief Hector Gunn’ line created in 1803 to satisfy the Countess of Sutherland (and fully supported by the Clan Gunn Society of the time, was linked to the old Clan Gunn ‘Chief’ line and which has descendants alive today) and a modern Chief line. The only Clan with three Chief lines, all identifiable and alive... It makes the Clan Gunn look very foolish and illogical...
- And it’s all due to a few, self-chosen members of Clan Gunn Societies. What is the point of a Clan Gunn Society?
- In the first generation which left Scotland such societies (Highland Society / Gaelic Society) were for mutual help and support. That’s useful, but it’s no longer true.
- In modern times a Clan Society is not for genealogical research in any meaningful way as huge access to primary records, many millions of users and family trees can be found on websites such as ‘ancestry’ and so these website have supplanted anything Clan societies may offer.
- It’s not for academic research[vii] as shown by the myths supported by the Clan Gunn Society websites, some of which I have dealt with above. I note the ridiculous Clan Gunn Westford Knight story[viii]. I note, as well, that at least two members of the Clan Gunn Convention believed that all Gunns directly descend from the Crowner - I am not aware of any support for the idea that Chiefs (of any Clan) produced all people bearing a surname. It’s ludicrous as ‘fictive kinship’ is fully accepted in Scottish history, but these two people could vote at the Convention. (I also note that at the Convention I did not hear a Scottish accent which sums up the relevance of the event – and Clan Societies - in modern Scotland. When one is dealing with the reality of life in modern Scotland, the tartanised past is unimportant.)
- It can be argued that to be a member of a Clan Society requires a quasi-religious ‘leap of faith’ to accept the myths which a Society views as ‘history’ – and, like with religions[ix], the people of the faith dislike academic analysis of their belief system.
- The sole point of Clan Gunn Societies seems to be social events celebrating a mythic past, such as the previously mentioned St Donan’s day idea. I suspect many Clan Gunn Society members like the myths as from them they get self-identification. (Vikings! Royalty! Saints! Discovered America before the Hispanics!) This self-identification idea is explored by Professor Celeste Ray who writes ‘clan names confirms belief in one's kinship within the community and integrates clan history within one's own perception of self and identity[x]' Professor Ray also highlights that the growth in American ‘Highlandism’ was due its integration with the Confederate mythology; both were ‘lost causes’[xi] full of manliness, soldiers, failure and women with a ‘Gone with the Wind’ social role and style. So are Clan Gunn Societies now just the equivalent of a Morris Dancing Society[xii]? Or a War re-enactment Society[xiii]? After all, they share the characteristics of dressing up in ‘old’ costumes to recreate myths masquerading as history…
- There is little (if anything) uniquely ‘modern Gunn’ as we are all created / modified by our upbringing / nationalities and various cultures / religions through which we and earlier generations have moved. The further generations from a Scottish past, the more social / cultural leftovers from that time will have dissipated - but what our ancestors really experienced is of historic importance as are our genealogical links. So a Clan Gunn Society should focus on these matters, not the myths. Funding a post-doctoral student to explore the Sutherland Estate documents in the National Library of Scotland, as there is much real Gunn history there which has not yet been explored, would provide a real purpose for such societies…
Overall our Clan Gunn history has been diminished by the current Lord Lyon’s leaked interlocutor. I am certainly very tempted to challenge it in a higher court. My family line is the most direct from the Coroner Gunn to have always held the name Gunn – see http://clangunn.weebly.com/clan-gunn-chief---descent-from-donald-crotach-gunn-6th-mackeamish.html and http://clangunn.weebly.com/clan-gunn-chief---braehour-line.html . It is not, though the most senior line. Following earlier discussion with the Lyon Court descent lines not holding a family name retain seniority; all the senior line (the ‘Chief’ line) would have to do is firstly challenge the current interlocutor in the Court of Sessions (see start of this entry), change their surname to Gunn and then apply through Lord Lyon’s Court. And the real Clan Gunn Chief line can be found from the John Gunn in Durness line. See http://clangunn.weebly.com/real-clan-gunn-chief---john-gunn-in-durness.html[xiv]
So the Clan Gunn Chief issue is certainly not settled; the real Chief now has two legal jumps to get through, rather than the earlier one.
I have obviously not seen Lord Lyon’s leaked interlocutor on the Clan Gunn Chief announcement, but in similar cases on the Lyon website he has an ‘aught yet known clause’ – this is saying it’s possible to challenge the interlocutor in the Lyon Court for twenty years. This important qualification may yet be in the Gunn judgement…
 Dr Barbara Crawford is also ‘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. https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/staff/barbaracrawford.html
[ii] The vision of woman in Scott’s novels is of the delicate, home-based female and this stereotype infects Clan histories. The ‘Helen Gunn of Braemore’ story is a Gunn example supporting this image (see http://clangunn.weebly.com/helen-gunn-of-braemore-myth.html). Professor Celeste Ray highlights the limited role for women in today’s Clan Societies because it’s about ‘male visions of the (Scottish) heritage’ see pages 90-94 Prof. Celeste Ray Highland Heritage ; Scottish Americans in the American South, University of North Carolina Press 2001. Professor Ray is Professor of Anthropology at ‘Sewanee; The University of the South’. Certainly this issue was reflected in the limited number of females at the Clan Gunn Convention. Was it just one female? Dated sex role stereotypes help to explain the elderly profile of Clan Society membership – and suggest a major challenge in the future as younger generations are progressively alienated from being restricted to such roles.
[iii] ‘Individual tartan’s connections to family names developed mainly as a nineteenth century innovation.’ Page 32, ibid.
[iv] ‘Highland Games and Gatherings, in the form we know them today, began with the Highlandism of Sir Walter Scott’s era.’ Page 100, ibid.
[v] Page 83, ibid.
[vi] The key evidence for St Donan having nothing to do with Kildonan is simple – if St. Donan had anything to do with Kildonan one would expect the earlier – and / or - current Celtic names to reflect this. The names don’t have this link. So the supposed St. Donan - Kildonan link must be based on a mistranslation when anglicising Celtic words for the area. See http://clangunn.weebly.com/on-saint-donan--saint-donnan-and-on-kildonan-having-nothing-to-do-with-him.html for more on Kildonan. Note that Prof. W. F. H. Nicolaisen (who was for many years the Director of the Scottish Place Names Survey at the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh) questions all anglicised Scottish place names beginning with Cill / Kil.
[vii] ‘visions of heritage most commonly alter and even distort history, page xii Prof. Celeste Ray, op. cit.
[viii] See http://clangunn.weebly.com/on-a-gunn-helping-discover-north-america---sir-james-gunn-of-clyth-crowner-of-caithness-and-the-westford-knight-myth.html Major academics such as Elizabeth Chilton, associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Professor David Schafer of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard reject the idea, but the Clan Gunn Society USA supports it.
[ix] For more analysis of ‘heritage mythology’ as religion see pp. 200-203, Prof. Celeste Ray, op. cit..
[x] Page 80, ibid.
[xi] Chapter 7; Scottish heritage, Southern Style’ ibid.
[xii] 'as with many folk customs, the origins are hidden in the mists of time and coloured by later perceptions, which may or may not have been correct', Alun Howkins
[xiii] See http://www.salon.com/2011/05/08/civil_war_sesquicentennial/ for an example of the poor ‘history’ of the re-enactors in the USA.
[xiv] If all Durness lines are extinct then it’s my greater family line which matters, but it’s not my immediate family line as I can trace senior female lines.