Sketch of the
Civil and Traditional History of Caithness from the Tenth Century
COLONEL GEORGE SINCLAIR.
The following letter, or rather
extract of letter, to Sir George Sinclair of Ulbster from a Norwegian
gentleman, relative to the melancholy fate of Colonel George Sinclair,
and the body of men under his command in Norway, in the year 1612, will
be found interesting. It is without date, but its authenticity may be
Dr Kraag, a Norwegian, now on a visit
to this country, is desirous to obtain information regarding the
invasion of his country by a body of Scots, chiefly Sinclairs, in the
year 1612. His father is Dean of the district where the invasion took
The Doctor has seen Sir Robert
Gordon's history, as well as an account of the expedition given by Laing
in his work entitled a "Residence in Norway in 1834, '35, '36." Laing,
whose account is in some respects incorrect, suggests that the Sinclair
families in Caithness may have traditional information which would be
highly interesting in Norway, where the defeat of the Sinclairs is still
dwelt upon as a great national exploit. The object of the expedition was
to assist Gustavus Adolphus in the conquest of Norway. Munckhoven's
corps succeeded in joining the Swedes. The Sinclairs landed more to the
south. Their commander or colonel was brother of Sir John Sinclair of "Stirkay"
(Stirkoke), nephew of George, fifth Earl of Caithness. The second in
command was Alexander Ramsay, who had two lieutenants under him—Jacob
Mannerspange and Henrick Brussy (probably Brace). Was the Colonel a
legitimate descendant of the Earls of Caithness ?
He was accompanied by Fru (or Lady Sinclair). The
title of Fru implies that she was his wife, and she is still
affectionately remembered by the Norwegians. In their songs it is
alleged that after the defeat she rushed into a rapid river, in which
many of the soldiers were drowned, but being supported by her ample
robes she was even able to carry her infant son safe across in her arms.
When the child died, she adopted a young Norwegian. A mermaid appeared
to Colonel Sinclair by night, and threatened him with death in case he
should advance. The Colonel replied, "that when he returned in triumph
from the conquest of the kingdom, he would punish her as she deserved."
The mermaid's name was Ellen, and some allege that she was Fru Sinclair
herself in disguise.
The Norwegians are very desirous to know her name,
and whether she was really married. An entry in the registry of the
parish proves that she and at least two others survived. In another
account the number of survivors is increased to three officers and
fifteen men, including Ramsay and his two lieutenants. Is there any
tradition in Scotland that either she or they returned home?One
of the Sinclairs, a prisoner, who was about to be murdered, rushed up to
a peasant on horseback, exclaiming, "Protect me; I am not prepared to
die!" The peasant saved him, and Sinclair afterwards sent a stained
glass window to Norway, representing an angel protecting a suppliant.
The window has been preserved, and is highly valued by the people.
An insolent speech of Colonel Sinclair's is still
repeated by the Norwegians with great indignation: "I'll recast the old
Norway lion, and turn him into a mole that will not venture out of his
I enclose the music which the Sinclairs played as
they advanced through the defile. The bass has been added, and is not
good. Is the tune known in Caithness?
Note.—All the accounts of this tragical affair we
have seen, including that in the above communication, differ from each
other. So far as we know, there are no family papers in the county to
throw any light on the subject. Colonel Sinclair was a natural son of
David Sinclair of Stirkoke, and brother of John Sinclair, who was killed
at Thurso in 1612.
That the Caithness men were cheered with music as
they advanced through the defile, is a new feature in the story. If such
were the fact—and it is not at all improbable—the instrument must have
been the bagpipe; and it would afford a melancholy interest to know the
particular tune that was played, and which on this occasion might be
well termed their own "dead march."
The following is a list of most of the Caithness
proprietors and wadsetters in 1668:—
George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness; Sir William
Sinclair of Mey; John Sinclair of Murkle; George Sutherland of Forss;
William Dunbar of Hempriggs; Francis Sinclair of Stirkoke; Patrick
Sinclair of Ulbster; Alexander Bain of Clyth; John Murray of Pennyland;
Alexander Sinclair of Telstain; David Sinclair of South Dunn; William
Budge of Toftingall; William Bruce of Stanstill; William Sinclair of
Thura; John Sinclair of Brabster; George Sinclair of Barrock; John
Sinclair of Stangergill; Robert Sinclair of Durren; George Sinclair of
Olrig; George Sinclair of Assary; Alexander Calder of Newton; James
Sinclair of Holburn-head; John Bruce of Ham; James Innes of Sandside;
Donald Henderson of Achalibster; Donald Sinclair of Lybster; David
Murray of Clairdon; David Coghill of that ilk; Francis Sinclair of
Latheron; and Mowat of Freswick.
LIBERTIES OF THE TOWN OF THURSO.
I, John Earl of Caithness, Viscount of Bredalbin,
Sinclair, Borridie, and Glenorchy, heretable proprietor of the said
Earldom and Baron, burgh of Thurso, annexed thereto. For as meikle as
the deceast George Earl of Caithness, and our predecessor, be his order,
warrant, and commission made and granted be him to the baillies of
Thurso, and their successors, baillies thereof, councelors, and
inhabitants of the samen, tending to their weal and good government of
in common will, within the said baron burgh, to be used and put in
execution by the present baillies then for the time, and their
successors, containing all prevelidges, liberties, and powers belonging
and incumbant to any burgh of barony, to be used and execute to the said
baillies, with advice of the councelors elected, and to be elected,
within the said burgh, as the said commission, warrant, and order of the
date the twenty-ninth day of December jaixii and fifty-nine years, in
itself at length bears. And now seeing we find it very necessary that in
such an Incorporation the same government in common will within the said
burgh be used, and be put, execute, and kept in due and lawfull
execution hereafter be the magistrates and councelors thereof tendant to
the glory of God, his Majesty's laws and authority, and the good and
weil of us their superior, we give, grant full power, commission,
liberty, and warrant to James Innes of Thurso, Thomas Sinclair, merchant
in Thurso, and James Campbell, merchant there, present baillies, and
their successors, baillies thereof, and councelors of the samen, and to
the several articles aftermentioned.
First. That the baillies and councelors be
assisting to the minister and elders of the said burgh in maintaining
the kirk, kirkyard dykes, keeping of the Sabbath, maintaining of
schools, masters thereof, and all other things tending to God's glory
and worship, and in curbing and punishing of all vice and sin opposite
thereto, to their power.
Secondly. We give, grant full commission, power,
and warrant to them and their successors to decide cognitions, and
decern in all civil actions, questions, controversies, for debts,
buying, selling, lending, borrowing, feeing and untying of servants, and
all other wrongs and injuries arising betwixt the inhabitants resident
and trafecting within the said burgh; and to determine and settle the
same according to the burgh laws of any burgh of barony.
Thirdly. That the said magistrates decern and
give out decreet against all inhabitants within the said burgh for
whatsoever debts, sums of money, and other goods restand to others;
arrest and stress for the same until they make satisfaction of what
other of them shall be found justly restand to others, at least to find
caution for forthcoming as law will, the said being within forty
shillings sterling money.
Fourthly. That the said magistrates suffer no
merchant, nor other inhabitant of the said burgh, to buy victal or other
commodity, that shall be coming to the market, until it be first
presented on the ordinary market-place, except it be for old debts, for
their own rents, and for sustaining of their families and houses, under
the pains falling under the compass of any burgh of barony, to be
inflicted upon the contraveeners, as they shall think convenient.
Fifthly. That when merchants, shippers, or owners
of goods shall come with goods to the said burgh, by sea or land, to be
sold in greate, that no inhabitant shall make any bargain therewith,
until the baillies and councelors refuse the same; and that the said
magistrates, upon the neat payment thereof, without fraud or guile, make
offer to the merchants, craftsmen, and inhabitants of the said burgh,
that they may have their proportion of the same, according to their
necessitys and ability; and that none make merchandise in buying and
selling privately or openly, in prejudice of the said merchants,
craftsmen, and other inhabitants, under the pains of such laws as the
said magistrates shall impose and inflict upon the contraveeners, both
sellers and buyers, competent, according to the laws of the burgh.
Sixthly. That all carcases of beef and mutton
that shall happen to come to the market to be sold, shall have therewith
their hides, skins, and tallow, and that the beef and mutton shall not
be minched, cut, or spoilt, under such pains as the said magistrates
shall enjoin, sett down, and uplift, upon the contraveeners.
Seventhly. That no stranger, merchant, or chapman
traveller, shall take booths or shops to sell their goods within the
said burgh and liberty thereof, without special licence first had of the
magistrates; and also of the said merchants and chapmen to consend and
agree with the magistrates for their liberty of buying and selling
within the said burgh, for such and such convenient days and times as
they shall happen to condescend upon, under such pains and pecuniary
sums as they shall inflict upon the contraveeners, for increasing upon
the libertys of the said burgh.
Eighthly. We grant full commission, deputation,
power, and warrant to the said magistrates to take, order, and execute
justice upon all persons, inhabitants of said burgh, committors of
riots, blood, bloodwitts, plays, and all other inormities, as well to
strangers as others without the said burgh, as the inhabitants
committing the same within the said burgh and bounds thereof: and upon
breakers of kail-yards, dykes, stealing of peats, kail, and other goods,
casting down of dykes, lymming of hides and skins, meddlers with their
neighbour's moss, muirs, banks, peats, unorderly loading of peats under
night, and anent the peat leaders with horses; and to make setts, acts,
and orders there-anent as shall be found convenient, and to uplift the
fines and penaltys thereof incumbent to any burgh of barony.
Ninthly. That the magistrates take an special
care of all calsays, streets, and wynds, common property, to cause them
to be bigged and repaired, kept clean, and the filth and gudding removed
from the High Street to convenient places; and cause remove stranger
beggars, and all sorts of vagabonds, unlawful persons setting of houses
to unlawfull tenants, and mainteners of them, and to appoint marcate
places for selling of meal and fishes, and setting prices on the fishes,
ale, beer, and aquavite, bread, and candles,—upon all sorts of
craftsmen's works, and sufficiency thereof,—upon workmen, and weavers,
and to nominate surveyors for that effect, and to inflict penalties and
punishments upon the contraveeners, as shall be thought meet. The said
magistrates uplift and apply the same to the use and utility of the said
Tenthly. That the said magistrates take order of
all unsuffi-cient measures—liquid and dry—and with all weights, all
yards, firlochs, pecks, and cause seal the sufficient with the town's
mark, and fine all users of unlawful measures and weights, upon tryall
and conviction thereof.
Eleventhly. That the said magistrates are to
receive count and reckoning from the collectors and all other receivers
and uptakers of all cess and other stint imposed upon the said burgh,
heritors, and inhabitants thereof; what the same extends to, how the
same was paid and disbursed upon, and to be satisfied by them of the
surplus, if any be, and apply it for the common well of the said burgh;
and upon their disobedience and neglect, to make count, reckoning, and
payment to the treasury of the burgh that shall be nominate to fine and
refine the recousants, ay, and while they have not obtempered the said
Twelfthly. That the said baillies shall go
diligently and actively about the haill former acts, commission, and
instructions, in putting of the same to due ejection, with all other
acts, statutes, and ordinances anywise belonging and incumbent to kirk
and burgh, made or to be made, pertaining or that may pertain, and come
under the priveledge and liberty thereof. Penalties and fines upon all
contraveeners to inflict, uplift, and apply the same to the behoof of
the said burgh and inhabitants thereof.
* * * * *
Fourteenthly. We also order and ordain that the
haill inhabitants within the said burgh, of all degrees of persons
dwelling and trafecting in the same, shall give assistance and obedience
to the said magistrates in all lawfull affairs, and expedients belonging
to the said burgh, and good and lawfull government thereof, as they
shall be required; and whatsoever person be disobedient to them or their
officers, and break their lawful anectments, and convicted thereon,
shall be fined and cashiered at the said magistrates' deliverance and
will, according to the greatness and measure of their offence and
Fifteenthly. The said magistrates and council
shall be lyable to count for their intromissions, and how they are or
shall be employed, relating to what stints shall be imposed upon the
said burgh by them, either for repairing of the streets, or any other
necessary convenience. Whilk commission, deputation, power, warrant, and
order respective above mentioned by the said John Earl of Caithness, we
shall warrant, hold firm and stable to the said baillies in all and
haill things in form and effect as is above mentioned, at all hands
We have subscribed these presents, with our hands, at
Thurso, the fourteenth day of October, one thousand six hundred and
eighty years, before these witnesses, Alexander Campbell of Bredalbin
and William Campbell, notary public.
The above deed would seem, from the date, to have
been drawn up about three months after Glenorchy had defeated Sinclair
of Keiss at the burn of Altimarlach. It is in several respects a curious
and interesting document, and throws not a little light on the state of
matters in Thurso a hundred and eighty years ago. Some of the
regulations which it contains are excellent, and as necessary to be
enforced, in not a few places, at the present day, as they were in 1680;
as, for instance, that which enjoins the keeping of the streets clean,
and the removal from the town of "stranger beggars and all sorts of
vagabonds." Among the several rights and privileges the reader will be
amused with one, namely, the plenary power given to the magistrates to
fix and regulate the prices of work, and of all commodities and
necessaries of life brought into the town, even to the very fish of the
sea! The obvious intention of this was to keep things at a moderate rate
for the inhabitants. The motive was good, though certainly not in
accordance with the principles of free trade and a sound political
THE CAITHNESS FENCIBLES.
The following are the names of the Officers belonging
to the Caithness Fencibles, taken from an Edinburgh almanac of the year
Rothesay and Caithness Regiment.
First Battalion—Colonel, Sir John Sinclair;
Lieutenant-Colonel, David Rae. Major, J. Sinclair. Captains—George
Dawson, George Swanson, William Falconer, William Brodie, George
Sutherland, J. M'Gregor, D. Campbell, S. Davidson, C.L. Lieutenants—John
Sinclair, sen., John Sinclair, jun., John Yetts, George Taylor, A.
Evans, James Brown, Benjamin Sinclair, J. Bethune, William Yetts, B.
M'Killigen, Robert Hall. Ensigns—John Pringle, A. Sutherland, A.
Matheson, J. Thomson, A. Campbell, B. Steward, Alexander Sinclair, John
Mackay, William Innes, P. Nicholson, D. Campbell, G. Sutherland, S.
Pringle, M. Russel. Second Battalion—Major, D. Darrock. Captains—B.
Williamson, J. Williamson, A. Henderson, H. Ferguson, James Dudgeon,
John Dudgeon, Alexander Orr, J. Henderson, G. Williamson. Lieutenants—
C. Reynell, John Matthews, J. B. Johnston, James Thorburn, John
Sinclair, James Young, Robert Darling, D. Campbell, J. Henderson, M.
Fraser. Ensigns—Simon Fraser, Jacobus Hojel, A. Fraser, J. Neismith, D.
Sinclair, J. Sinclair, James Mould, D. Henderson, John Kay,------
Martin, A. Fraser, J. Anderson, J. B. Johnston.
Colonel, Sir B. Dunbar; Lieutenant-Colonel, W. Munro.
Major, W. Innes. Captains—Hugh Innes, Robert Sinclair, John Taylor, John
Burton, Alexander Strange, B. Kennedy, J. Yardley, D. Miller.
Lieutenants—George M'Beath, John Watson, W. Terrence, Joseph Nield,
Peter Innes, W. M'Pher-son, A. M'Pherson, Robert M'Kay, G. Mackenzie, G.
Carrick, W. Paton, G. M'Kenzie. Ensigns—J. M'Kenzie, J. Barton, J.
Sweetman, S. Mason, John Blake, James Calder.
In connection with the Caithness Fencibles, there is
an interesting anecdote of Sir John Sinclair not generally known, which
places in a very striking light his humanity and kindness of heart. The
story was communicated to the writer by a gentleman in Glasgow, who had
the particulars some years ago from an aged individual who had been a
soldier in the corps. After the first battalion was embodied at
Inverness, they were a short time quartered at Fort-George. It happened
that one of the soldiers, a youth belonging to Caithness, of respectable
parentage, was, for some slight disobedience of orders, put into
confinement. The officer in command, a strict martinet, and a rigid
disciplinarian of the old school, had the youth tried by a
court-martial, and he was sentenced to receive a thousand lashes! The
men of the regiment were shocked at the cruelty of the sentence, and
expressed great sympathy for their comrade, whose fault was less owing
to intentional disobedience than to inacquaintance with the rules of the
service. Fortunately the sentence could not be carried into effect
without the sanction of Sir John, the head colonel, who was then in
London, attending to his parliamentary duties. As soon as the document
requiring his signature reached him, Sir John posted direct for the
North, and scarcely halted till he arrived at Campbelltown, about two
miles from Fort-George. It was close on midnight when he came to the
village inn, and being greatly fatigued he went to bed. In the morning
it was whispered in the garrison that their much-respected colonel had
arrived during the night at Campbelltown. The news flew like wild-fire
from one company to another. A simultaneous impulse seized them. The
whole regiment, in defiance of officer and martial law, turned out,
rushed past the sentries, and marched at a quick step to the village,
where, as soon as they saw the worthy Baronet, they rent the air with
their exclamations. They then carried him shoulder high into the Fort.
Having assembled the Fencibles on the usual parade ground, Sir John
warmly censured the officer in command for the barbarity of the
sentence, which he ordered to be cancelled from the regimental books. He
ordered the prisoner at the same time to be liberated from his
confinement. The acting colonel, whose pride was deeply wounded,
immediately left the regiment; another was appointed in his place; and
Sir John, after remaining a day or two at Fort-George, retraced his
steps back to London.
LORD CAITHNESS'S STEAM CARRIAGE.
The present Earl of Caithness is a nobleman of high
scientific acquirements, and honourably distinguished for his mechanical
talent. Among other ingenious contrivances, he has invented the steam
carriage, or at least constructed it so perfectly that it can be easily
managed, and run on roads. The experiment, indeed, is allowed to be a
complete success. Last season his Lordship brought it from London to his
seat of Barrogill Castle, near John O'Groat's;
and we understand that he and Lady Caithness travelled in it a good part
of the way; at all events, they came in it from Inverness to Wick, and
thence to Barrogill Castle, a distance of some hundred and thirty miles.
His Lordship encountered no difficulty on the road; and the steep and
still somewhat dangerous passes for wheeled vehicles at the Ord of
Caithness, Berridale, and Dunbeath, with a gradient in some parts of one
in twelve, were surmounted with the greatest ease. The rate of speed was
from seven to eight miles an hour. On their arrival at Wick in their
novel carriage, Lord and Lady Caithness, who are both great favourites
in the county, were loudly cheered by the inhabitants of the burgh.
The subjoined description of this remarkable
invention we copy from a periodical entitled the Parlour Journal,
which contains an excellent engraving of the carriage, after a
photograph executed by his Lordship. Had the print come sooner into our
possession, we would have had great pleasure in embellishing our book
with an engraving of the carriage:—
"The success attending Lord Caithness's experiment
with his steam carriage for common roads, has drawn general attention to
the invention; we therefore present an engraving, after a photograph
condescendingly executed by the noble Earl for our use.
"It will be seen that the front view is that of a
phaeton placed on three wheels, and made a little wider than ordinary,
so as to have room for three or even four abreast. His Lordship sits on
the right hand side and drives, resting his left hand on a handle at the
end of a bent iron bar, fixed, below the front spring, to the fork in
which the front wheel runs, and guiding with ease the direction of the
carriage. Placed horizontally before him is a small fly-wheel, fixed on
an iron rod, that, passing downward, works at the lower end by a screw,
through one end of a lever, attached, at the other end, to a strong iron
bar, that passes across the carriage, and has fitted on it a drag for
each of the hind wheels. By giving the fly-wheel in front a slight turn
with his right hand, his Lordship can apply a drag of sufficient power
to lock the hind wheels, and stop the carriage on the steepest
declivities of common roads. Inside the carriage, in a line backward
from his right hand, is placed a handle, by which the steam is let on,
regulated, and shut off at pleasure.
"The tank, holding about 170 gallons, forms the
bottom of the carriage, and extends as far back as the rear of the
boiler, where the water is conveyed from it into the boiler by a small
force-pump, worked by the engine. There are two cylinders, one on each
side, six inches diameter and seven inches stroke. These, and all that
is necessary to apply the power to the axle, are well arranged and
fitted in, so as to occupy the smallest possible space, between the tank
and the boiler, and appear at first sight insufficient to exert nine
horse-power. The coal, one cwt. of which is sufficient for twenty miles
on ordinary road, is held in a box in front of the stoker, whose duty it
is to keep up the fire, see that there is always sufficient water in the
boiler, and that the steam is up to the required pressure, as seen by
the gauge on the top of the boiler.
"The power of the engine, and the perfect control his
Lordship has over it, enabled him, on several recent occasions, to make
long journeys over rough and mountainous roads at the rate of eight
miles an hour; there can therefore be no doubt that carriages propelled
by steam can be used for the purpose of traffic on common roads. A
journey of 140 miles made in two days, at a cost of less than 1d per
mile for fuel, proves this; and the fact that no accident to man or
beast was caused by the steam carriage during the whole journey, answers
the objections as to frightening horses.
"His Lordship continues to use the carriage, and is
most kind and courteous in explaining its construction and working. It
is to mechanical science that much of our country's greatness is due,
and it is truly gratifying to see the Earl of Caithness lending the
influence of his distinguished rank and talents to assist in fostering
the improvements of his country."
THE BATTLE OF ARTIMARLACH.
'Twas morn; from rustic cot and grange
The cock's shrill clarion rung;
And fresh on every sweet wild flower
The pearly dew-drop hung.
Given up to thoughtless revelry,
In Wick lay Sinclair's band,
When suddenly the cry arose,
"Glenorchy's close at hand!"
For now the Campbell's haughty chief
The river Wick had crossed,
With twice seven hundred Highlanders—
A fierce and lawless host.
"To arms! to arms!" from street to lane
The summons fast did go;
And forth the gathered Sinclairs marched
To meet the coming foe.
Where Altimarlach opens up
Its narrow, deep ravine,
Glenorchy's force, in order ranged,
Were strongly posted seen.
They meet, they close in deadly strife,
But brief the bloody fray;
Before the Campbell's furious charge
The Caithness ranks give way.
Flushed with success, Glenorchy's men
Set up a savage cheer,
And drove the Sinclairs panic-struck
Into the river near.
There, 'neath the Campbell's ruthless blade,
Fell more than on the plain,
Until the blood-dyed stream across
Was choked up with the slain.
But who might paint the flood of grief
That burst from young and old,
When to the slaughtered Sinclairs' friends
The direful tale was told!
The shrieking mother wrung her hands,
The maiden tore her hair,
And all was lamentation loud,
And terror, and despair.
Short time Glenorchy Caithness ruled,
By every rank abhorred;
He lost the title he usurped,
Then fled across the Ord.
While Keiss, [Sinclair of Keiss.] who firm upheld his
Against tyrannic might,
Obtained the Sinclairs' coronet,
Which was his own by right;
That coronet which William [The
second Earl of Caithness of the Sinclair line.]
Who loved his Prince so well,
And with his brave devoted band
On fatal Flodden fell.
GLEANINGS FROM DOUGLAS PEERAGE OF SCOTLAND, AND OTHER
Earl of Caithness.—This title is of great antiquity,
Dun-galdus, Earl of Caithness, occurring in the year 875 in Tor-faeus'
History of Orkney.—Douglas Peerage.
The compiler of this elaborate and valuable work says
that much obscurity hangs over the early history of the earldom of
Caithness. He mentions the names of only a few of its Scandinavian
"Jarls" or Earls, but he enters very fully into the genealogy of the
Sinclair family and its collateral branches.
William Sinclair, Earl of Caithness.—William, who
fell at Flodden, had two sons—John, who was slain in Orkney, and
Alexander (styled of Stempster), who, in the year 1529, obtained for
himself and his spouse, Elizabeth Innes, by royal charter, the lands of
Dunbeath, Reay, and Sandside, which were united into the barony of
Dunbeath. In 1507 the township of Dunbeath was possessed by Alexander
Innes of that ilk. Prior to this, in 1429, Alexander Sutherland [This
was the Alexander Sutherland whose Testament will be found in the
Appendix, page 261.] obtained a grant of the lands of Dunbeath on his
marriage with Mariota, sister of Alexander, Earl of Ross and Lord of the
Isles.— Douglas Peerage.
John, Master of Caithness.—John married Lady Jean
Hepburn, only daughter of Patrick, third Earl of Bothwell, sister of
James, Duke of Orkney (the notorious Earl of Both-well), widow of John
Stewart, Prior of Coldinghame, and mother of Francis Stewart, Earl of
In the eighth chapter of this work I have mentioned,
on the authority of Sir Robert Gordon, that Francis Stewart, Earl of
Bothwell, who took refuge in Caithness, was related to the lady of
George, fifth Earl of Caithness, but from the above passage it would
appear that they were half-brothers, sons of the same mother.
Sir William Sinclair of Mey.-—This was the William
Sinclair who, when a pupil at the High School, shot the Edinburgh
bailie. He obtained a remission for the crime under the great seal of
Scotland, and was afterwards knighted by James the Sixth. He married
Catherine, daughter of Ross of Balna-gowan. His brother John was bred a
merchant, and acquired great wealth. He was knighted in 1631. He
purchased the lands of Geanies in Ross-shire, and those of Dunbeath and
Brabster in Caithness. He married Christian, daughter of Mowat of
Bucholie, Laird of Freswick. By her he had a daughter, Margaret, married
to Hugh Ross of Kilravock, to whom he gave, at her marriage, lands in
Ross-shire and 50,000 marks as a dowry.—Ibid.
John, Master of Berriedale (son of William, Lord
Berriedale), who espoused the cause of the Covenanters in opposition to
his father and grandfather, died of fever at Edinburgh in 1639, and was
buried in the Abbey Church of Holyrood.— Ibid.
George, Sixth Earl of Caithness.—He married, at Rose-neath,
22d September, 1657, Lady Mary Campbell, third daughter of Archibald,
Marquis of Argyle. "Was committed prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh
for the slaughter of a soldier sent to quarter for deficiency of cess
and excise. Sold, before his death, his title and property to John
Campbell of Glenorchy, his debts extending, as is said, to more than a
million of marks."—Ibid.
Battle of Altimarlach.—"The Council, 7th June, 1680,
issued an order to General Dalzell to assist, with a party of His
Majesty's troops, in the execution of their order. The Earl (Campbell of
Glenorchy), raising his friends and followers, and attended by a
detachment of the King's troops, marched from the banks of the Tay, and
engaged the Sinclairs at Old Mar-lack, when victory declared in favour
of the Earl."—Ibid.
I never saw it stated before, by any other writer,
that the King's troops were employed on this occasion to assist
Glenorchy; but, as the author of the Peerage had access to the best
sources of information, there can be no doubt of the truth of the
statement; and it is therefore not to be wondered at that the Sin-clairs
were so easily overcome by the Campbells, aided, as they would seem to
have been, by trained soldiers. Altogether, this story of Campbell of
Glenorchy and Sinclair of Keiss is a curious one, and gives us anything
but a favourable idea of the law proceedings, and of the Government
measures of the day.
Caithness.—The district anciently known as Katanes,
or the Nes, included the modern earldoms or counties of Caithness and
Sutherland. Sutherland was termed Sudrland, or South Caithness.—Origines
The Cheynes of Caithness.—Reginald Cheyne, third of
that name, is styled in ancient charters "Ronald, Lord Schen." —Ibid.
St. Bar.—The original parish church of. Dornoch (not
the cathedral), the date of whose foundation is unknown, was dedicated
to St. Bar, a native of Caithness, and Bishop of Cork, in Ireland.—Ibid.
Sir Robert Gordon, in his History of the House of
Sutherland (sec. 1, page 25), says that St. Bar was appointed Bishop of
Caithness by Malcolm Canmore in 1079, but this statement does not seem
to be correct, more especially as the prelature of Caithness was not
established till about the year 1150.
Abbey of Scone.—The Abbey of Scone, near Perth, was,
from an early period, peculiary connected with Caithness. One of the
Earls of Orkney and Caithness (Harold) granted a mark of silver yearly
to the canons of Scone, for the weal of the souls of him and his wife,
and for the souls of his predecessors.— Cosmo Innes, Liber de Scon,
State of Matters in Caithness in 1801.—"This year was
remarkable in three different respects:—1st. A great crop, and yet
victual at from 35 to 45 shillings per boll. 2d. Most part of the men in
the county fit to bear arms trained to the exercise of war. 3d. That a
resolution has been entered into by the land proprietors of Caithness to
enforce winter herding, the sowing of grass and turnip seed on the open
fields, and enclosing the commons, by which the use of feal for manure
and building is prohibited."—Extract from the Session Records of
Agricultural Society.—The Caithness Agricultural
Society originated in 1829. It gave the first impulse to the improvement
of stock in Caithness. At the period in question there was not a single
Tees-water, and few or no Leicester sheep in the county. The Society has
two general meetings, one at Wick in the month of February, when the
county fiars are struck, and the other on the last Wednesday of July, on
the Georgemas Market, where the competitions for the premiums given by
the Society take place.—Local Paper.
Ancient Custom.—Of old it was customary in Caithness
(and the practice in some degree still continues) for beginners in the
farming line, who had not much capital, to go about begging seed-corn,
or, as it was delicately termed, "thigging." On this occasion, the "thigger"
threw over his shoulders a large sack, and having provided himself with
a well-filled snuffbox, commonly one of horn, he called at every
farm-house as he went along, when he received more or less, according to
the generosity of the giver or the tact he had in exciting it. The thing
was so common that there was no disgrace in thus soliciting a mite for a
beginning. The same custom would appear to have prevailed in some of the
other northern counties. The following amusing anecdote is given in the
Banffshire Journal:—"An old man, who had frequently tried the
thigging, used to say with glee—'I kent fu to dee with them (the
farmers); I had aye on a clean, ruffled sark, and as I gaed in ower to
the toon, I drew out my ruffles, got my snuff-box in my hand, ready to
present to the guidman finiver I sud see him; syne, gin there happent to
be ony lasses, I was sure to be frankest wi' them—reised them oot for
being clean, clever, bonny queans, and promised to tak my second wife
oot amon them; and syne laying a clap at this ane's cheek, an' a smack
at the next ane's mou', keept them in sic humour that I cam aff wi' a
good thigging; and gin the guidman's snuff-box happent to be teem, I
never suffered by tumblin' a pickle intill
"Limbs of the Law."—The following is an extract from
the old statistical account of Thurso (of date 1798, and, judging from
it, the spirit of litigation would appear to have been very active in
the "far north" about the end of the eighteenth century:—"There are a
greater number of limbs of the law in Thurso than in many places of much
greater extent. There are no fewer that eight public notaries, five of
whom arc messengers-at-arms, and there is besides one messenger who is
not a notary. One half," says the writer, "would be fully adequate to
the business in town and county."
Printed by Thomas Murray and Son,
241 Parliamentary Road.
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