Changes to the Gunn MacHamish line
The William Mhor MacHamish Gunn story basically fails in its current form.
Let’s start off with rare things in Gunn history – facts. William Mhor’s mother was Barbara Mackay. Her father was Iye Du Mackay of Farr 12th of Strathnaver, chief of Clan Mackay. Barbara’s brother was Huistean (Hugh) Du Mackay, 13th of Strathnaver. Hugh Du Mackay’s children include Donald Mackay the 1st Lord Reay. You get the idea; their history is well known and properly recorded
Hugh Du Mackay was the first born child of Iye’s second marriage and Hugh Du Mackay was born in 1561; Barbara is the fifth child so let’s give her a birth date of 1570 (give or take few years). So this means William Mhor has an approximate birth date of 1590 (again give or take a few years). Fine.
And I do think he took over at Killernan, but in 1624 not 1614. But that’s another entry.
But now to the problems–
But we obviously have a William Gunn of Killernan with son Alexander then John mentioned. Doesn’t that sound like the traditional Gunn MacHamish line? Now I have copies of Sutherland Estate legal documents (Gunns get into a major legal brawl with the Sutherland Estate and it involves Edinburgh courts, but that’s again another entry) which clearly show, several times, the following descent
Now, I have always had problems with the idea that William Mhor and William Beag were brothers. I get that you can name a child after a child who had died, but two Williams at the same time just seems daft. And I have not come across the idea elsewhere.
Now suppose William Mhor died without issue.
Hmm. If William Beag was uncle (not younger brother) to William Mhor it would explain why no ‘place’ was given to the William at the start of the descent line in the legal documents – he didn’t have land. If it had been William Mhor the document would have said ‘of Killernan’. The William Mhor year problems for adult children vanish in a puff of smoke as the extra generation of ‘uncle’ William Beag allows the legal documents / criminal behaviour to work.
And given William Beag’s time fighting for the Earl of Sutherland one assumes the transfer of the Killernan wadset would be easy. The Earl of Sutherland visiting the Gunns of Killernan in 1602 also works – it wasn’t to visit the eleven year old William Mhor but the adult William Bheg.
This also means that the other known William Bheg sons Donald the Scholar and William of Acheneccan are the younger ones… Descendants from these lines are known.
There are many more reasons as to why this idea works and I am obviously writing it up. Yes, it all hangs on Barbara Mackay’s birthdate but believe me I have tried to find reason to challenge that but I just can’t…
‘Clan’ Gunn Society UK membership 2018
Interested to see that Clan Gunn Society UK membership continues to struggle with 311 members in 2018, 306 members in 2017 and 308 members in 2016.
When the CGSUK started in 1962 there were about 276 members, of those about 251 were UK residents. UK members in 2018 are roughly 187. That’s a massive drop from 1962. The drop is even more marked if one considers the growth in the UK population since 1962.
Of the new 2018 members there were 17 from the USA or Canada, just 4 came from the UK and no-one from any other country. Sort of sums up the membership problem of the CGSUK. Its message certainly does not appeal in the United Kingdom based on these new member numbers.
For more analysis on membership see clangunn1.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/clan-gunn-society-uk-membership-list.html
I note the new membership numbers have gone up slightly. The key number though is that only about 166 members have a UK base - that is nearly 100 UK members fewer than when the UK society started in 1962. Clan Gunn Society UK is arguably only held together by its overseas membership.
Morrison Gunn, born c. 1758
Morrison may have been six foot three inches.
It is supposed he joined the Second Battalion of the then 73rd Regiment - Lord Macleod’s Highlanders – on the basis that his brother joined the First Battalion and it is supposed that Morrison died at Gibraltar whilst part of that Second Battalion. These suppositions seem to originate from this story - ‘Morrison died of consumption, immediately after the siege of Gibraltar which he went through. He was most anxious to return to his native land as soon as the fortress was relieved, but his Colonel seeing that he had only a few days to live refused leave… The 2nd (Battalion) came home from Gibraltar in 1783…. Rev. Archibald Gunn, New Brunswick, Canada…says that the chief died not of consumption but of his wounds’. 
I think the whole Gibraltar idea is wrong. A Morrison Gunn was gazetted as a lieutenant from the war-office on 24 July 1779 to the Sutherland Fencibles which was raised in February 1779. The Fencibles recruits were from the Sutherland Estates. It was officially formed at Fort George (near Inverness) in February 1779 and then served at Edinburgh until it disbanded in 1783. It was a sort of ‘home guard’.
I suspect this Sutherland Fencibles lieutenant was ‘our’ Morrison Gunn as there were very few Morrison Gunns, the Sutherland Fencibles came from the Sutherland Estate where Morrison lived, Morrison had the example of his older brother joining the real army (an expensive occupation) and Morrison needed a job as the family no longer owned Estates as money had run out, especially after William’s commission had been bought. As well, the Sutherland Fencibles works with the being ‘refused leave’ of the original story; you could get leave from Edinburgh or Inverness far more sensibly than from war-torn, isolated Gibraltar. Also, this was the second incarnation of the Sutherland Fencibles, so supporting the use of ‘2nd’ in the original story. It is to be regretted that the records of the 2nd Sutherland Fencibles are minimal.
The Gibraltar story fails in its own right -
It is most likely, therefore, that Morrison died from consumption (given the lack of glamour of the death I suspect it may have a real origin), in Scotland, sometime after being commissioned on 24 June 1779 but the exact date – and cause - of his death is not known. Given William died 10 September 1780 it is not clear that Morrison was ever the most senior of the MacHamish line.
 Page 193, M. R. Gunn
 Page 196, M. R. Gunn
 The Great Siege of Gibraltar lasted 24 June 1779 – 7 February 1783.
 http://clangunn.weebly.com/thomas-sinclair-supplement-4-23-12-1902.html accessed 2 April 2018.
 http://www.electricscotland.com/history/sketches/highlandsketches91.htm accessed 2 April 2018.
 Page xii, R.H. Burgoyne, Historical Records of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, 1883 London, Richard Bentley and Son.
 https://www.archive.org/stream/historyofscottis02kelt#page/596/mode/2upaccessed 2 April 2018. Or http://www.electricscotland.com/history/scotreg/macleod/1777.htm
 http://www.electricscotland.com/history/scotreg/macleod/1777.htm accessed 2 April 2018.
 For example, John Drinkwater’s 1785 published A History of the Late Siege of Gibraltar. He was a member of the 72nd Regiment.
 Lord Lyon http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/files/Gunn,%20Michael%20James%20-%20Interlocutor%20and%20Note.pdf accessed 1 April 2018 provides a date of 1 May 1785 for Morrison’s death; this seems unlikely. If the Gibraltar story had been true then Morrison needed to die before May 1783 when his battalion returned from Gibraltar. The Sutherland Fencibles had been disbanded in 1783. Some supporting evidence is required to accept Lord Lyon’s seemingly random date.
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.