Clan Gunn – From Norse Viking to Modern Day

References taken from The Clan Gunn and Its Country, published by the Clan Gunn Heritage Center, Latheron, Caithness and The History of the Clan Gunn by Mark Rugg Gunn which are the documents the Committee have seen as our Official History. References will be given where possible but understand history from earlier periods was often from word of mouth or ballads which are open to interpretation and bias.

Gunn Clan Crest: An arm attired in the Gunn tartan with the hand grasping a basket hilt sword.

Gunn Clan Motto: Aut Pax Aut Bellum (Either peace or war).

Early Days

The Clan Gunn claims direct descent from Gunni, grandson of Sweyn Asleifsson, the “Ultimate Viking” and hero of the Orkneyinga Saga.

Clan Gunn is also descended from the Norse “Jarls”, or Earls of Orkney through Gunni’s wife Ragnhild, who was grand-daughter and eventual heiress of St. Rognvald, Jarl of Orkney. Through Ragnild’s father Erik Staybrails the senior heir of Moddan of Dale, the Clan also descends from Moddan of Dale and the ancient Mormaers or High Stewards of Caithness

The name originated from a Norse personal name “Gunni” (which means “war”). The first Gunni came to Caithness at the end of the 12th century when his wife inherited land there from her brother who was Jarl (Earl) of Orkney. Gunni’s wife was descended from St Ragnvald who founded the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. Gunni’s Viking grandfather had been killed in 1171 on a raid on Dublin. Orkney, Shetland and Shetland were still part of Norway at this time.

Gunni’s wife Ragnhild, who inherited great estates in Caithness and Sutherland in 1198 on the death of her brother Harold Ungi, Jarl of Orkney and Caithness. These lands were inherited by Snaekoll, Gunni’s son, the second chief of the Clan.

Although Ottar, a descendant of Gunni, is known to have lived around 1280 and is the assumed progenitor of the Gunn chiefs, . A number of separate lines of Gunns became established in Braemore (known as the Robson Gunns), Killearnan, Kildonan and also the Caithness Hendersons and Williamsons.

1200 onwards –

By the thirteenth century the Gunns were at the height of their powers and appear to have possessed the whole of Caithness.

There is some interesting evidence to indicate that Sir James (Seamus) Gun, Chief of the Clan Gunn, may have accompanied Henry Sinclair of Orkney on his reputed expedition to the New World, some ninety years before Columbus claimed to have discovered America.

An effigy of a mediaeval Knight in armour, reputed to be Sir James (Seamus) Gun is cut into a rock face at Westford, Massachusetts. Link to museum HERE

1400 onwards –

The first Chief of the Clan to be recorded with certainty was George (Seoras) Gunn who was the coroner of Caithness in the 15th century. He was known as “Am Braisdeach Mor” or “the great brooch-wearer” from his insignia as coroner.

He had a castle at Clyth on the east coast of Caithness. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (during an preceding George’s time) there were many skirmishes between the Gunns and their neighbours the Sinclairs, the Keiths and others who had obtained grants of land from the Scottish Kings, anxious to increase their influence over the fringes of their kingdom.

As a result the Gunns were gradually disposed of their lands in the more fertile parts of Caithness. By the mid fifteenth century George the Crowner of Caithness held his main lands at Ulbster and Clyth. He established his main seat at Halberry Head on the East Coast of Caithness, a mile south of Snaekoll, Gunni’s son’s Castle at Bruan.

The Gunns became established in the highland areas of Caithness and they were frequently in conflict particularly with the clan Keith. The source (excuse?) for the feud was said to have been when Dugald Keith, who had been spurned by Helen, a daughter of Gunn of Braemor, surrounded her home, reportedly at her wedding to Alexander Gunn son of Lachlan Gunn, killed a number of the inhabitants and carried her back to Ackergill Castle. Helen then threw herself from the tower there rather than submit. It’s said her ghost still wanders Ackergill Tower to this day!  A ballad written by LL Andrews can be located if you CLICK HERE

Times that followed were filled with war. Much blood was shed and neither Gunn nor Keith could continue this way.

Around 1478, although 1464 and other dates have been mentioned in other scripts, a meeting was appointed for their reconciliation, at the Chaple of St. Tayre, in Caithness, hard by Girnigo, with twelve horse on either side. The Crowner (George, chieftain of Clan Gunn) with the most part of his sons and chief kinsmen came to the chapel, to the number of twelve; and, as they were within the chapel at their prayers, the Laird of Inverugie and Ackergill arrived there with twelve horse, and two men upon every horse; thinking it no breach of trust to come with twenty-four men, seeing they had but twelve horses as was appointed.

The twenty-four Keith party rushed in at the door of the chapel, and invaded the Crowner and his company unawares; who, nevertheless, made great resistance. In the end the Clan Gunn slain included The Chief , with the most of the Keiths.

The book Conflicts of the Clans, written in 1764, has this to say; “Their blod may be seen to this day upon the walls within the Chapel at St. Tyre, where they were slain.” St Tayre chapel no longer stands.

Interesting reading and links can be found offsite HERE

Fantastic YouTube clip …. credits to Bagtown Clans … thank you

William, the grandson of the murdered chief was the first to hold the title “MacSheumais Chataich” (son of James of Caithness, his father).

Stories exist that the surviving Gunns tracked the Keiths and killed them on the road from Inverugie. Other stories tell how the surviving sons (and likely grandsons) made an attack on Dirlot Castle as the Keiths drunkenly celebrated their victory. Taking out the guards with longstaffs and shooting bows through the open windows, the small vigilante party were able to even the loss and reclaim their dead Chief’s brooch.

With the death of the Crowner and his sons at Ackergill, the Clan split into three main branches.

James, (Seamus) the eldest, was absent in Sutherland and heard of the tussle later (reference from the papers of Sir Robert Gordon).

Robert and John were killed but left issue (decendants).

William and Henry as we will see later survived.

The fate of Torquil and Alexander is doubtful; Torquil seems to have survived for a time but he fades out of history, and he may have died of wounds later. Alexander may have been killed but he left behind him descendants.

James, (Seamus) the Crowner’s eldest sosettled in Kildonan, Sutherland where he obtained lands from the Earl of Sutherland.

Robert’s line established his line in Braemore in the Southern heights of Caithness as Robson or Caithness Gunns. John’ the third surviving son,’s decendents established their own line and settled in Cattaig in Strathmore in the higher reaches of the River Thurso near Westerdale.

Treaty – In 1978 the Earl of Kintore, Chief of Clan Keith, and Iain Gunn of Banniskirk, Commander of the Clan Gunn signed a Treaty of Friendship between the two Clans at the site of the Chapel, thus bringing to an end a five hundred year old feud.

In 1586 the Sinclair Earls of Caithness and the Gordon earls of Sutherland agreed a pact to destroy the Clan Gunn and in order to strengthen their position Gunn of Killearnan married the sister of the chief of the clan Mackay. However, the lands of Killearnan were not lost through battle but by debt. They later obtained land at Badenloch and tried to establish themselves with all the accoutrements of a Highland chief.

In the 17th century, Sir William Gunn who was a brother of the Robson chief, rose to be a battalion commander in the service of the king of Sweden and then fought for King Charles I who gave him a knighthood in 1639. He later married a German baroness and became an imperial general in the Holy Roman Empire.

The Gunns, as a Clan, did not become involved in the 1715 Jacobite Uprising and when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745 the Gunns fought on the side of the Hanoverian government.

Gunns did independently fight for the Bonnie Prince and a list can be found in the publication No Quarter Given, the muster roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army 1745–46.

The Gunns suffered greatly as a result of the Highland Clearances in the 19th century and many emigrated or were forced to move to other areas of Scotland.

Modern Day –

In 1960 the current Clan Gunn Society was established and has been a great source of information for Gunn and Sept decendants worldwide as well as organising some excellent Gatherings and visits.

On September 25, 2015, the Lord Lyon King of Arms for Scotland issued an interlocutor recognizing Iain Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk as Chief of Clan Gunn. He is now Iain Alexander Gunn of Gunn, Chief of Clan Gunn. At a Family Convention, held in Orkney on July 18, 2015, a petition to the Lyon Court requesting this recognition was approved and sent to the Lyon for action. For the first time in 230 years the Clan has a recognized Chief. Iain previously served as Commander of Clan Gunn for over forty-three years . Further details can be found here

In modern times the novelist Neil M Gunn wrote many books based on his childhood on the coast of Caithness.

The Gunn clan motto is “Aut Pax Aut Bellum” which means “Either peace or war”.

The Clan Gunn Society Membership List gives no less that 77 names “recognised as being associated with Clan Gunn, but the list given in Frank Adam’s “The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands”, revised by Sir Thomas lnnes of Learney is much shorter. This is the list the Chief and Council recognise and consists of;

Gallie – Georgeson – Jameson – Johnson – Keene – MacCorkill – Maclan -MacKeamish – MacRob – Manson – Robison – Sandison – Williamson – Gaunson – Henderson – Jamieson – Kean – MacComas – MacCorkle -MacKames – MacKean – MacWilliam – Nolson – Robson – Swanson – Wilson

These are nearly all derived from the sons or descendants of “the Crowner”-James, John (or Ian). Henry. Robert, William and George. Gaunson is Gunn’s son,Manson is Magnus’ son, Swanson is Sweyn’s son, Nelson is Neil’s son and Sandison is Alexander’s son.

The ‘Macfl‘hor-Ketils’ are mentioned as belonging to the Clan Gunn in a feud with the Mackays.

Surnames regarded as possible derivatives of Septs of Clan Gunn or affiliated with Clan Gunn include Anderson — Enrick — Galdie — Gallie — Ganson — Gauldie — Gaunson — Georgeson — GUNN — Henderson — Inrig — Jameson — Jamieson — Johnson — Kean — Keene — MacCorkill — MacCorkle — MacCullie — MacIan — MacKames –MacKeamish — MacKean — MacMains — MacManus — MacOmish — MacOomas — MacRob — MacWilliam — Mangus — Main — Mann — Manson — Manus — Neilson — Nelson — Robinson — Robson — Robison — Sandison — Swan — Swanney — Swanson — Will — Williamson — Wills — Wilson — Wylie — Wyllie.

This photograph of the Sept names in the Heritage Centre reflects some of those variations.

Sept List

While the onus would be on the applicant to show lineage to the original sept list we understand names were changed, shortened, translated from Gaelic and misspelled at many times in history. There may be other derivatives out there!

Gunn is still one of the top twenty surnames in the Highland region of Scotland according to the General Register Office.

References taken from The Clan Gunn and Its Country, published by the Clan Gunn Heritage Center, Latheron, Caithness and The History of the Clan Gunn by Mark Rugg Gunn which are the documents the Committee have seen as our Official History. References will be given where possible but understand history from earlier periods was often from word of mouth or ballads which are open to interpretation and bias.


George Gunn (?? – 1818)

We have been asked by  the London Gaelic Society if we have any information about a George Gunn who was listed as a Friend and Supporter of the Gaelic Chapel  with an address at the Admiralty. He left a wife and nine children, and is believed to have died on 15 December 1818 in Dulwich.

We have no record of him in the society but wondered if any of our Web visitors can help  – if you can please post a comment…


Blog from the North – March / April 2016

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

Goodness!  Where did March go?  Well, for Iain and me it went to the Caribbean where we spent ten days island hopping.  We flew to Antigua and flew back from Barbados having visited so many islands in between that it all becomes a bit of a  beautiful daze.  It was a gorgeous holiday.  Never have we seen so many vibrant colours used on the houses.  Particularly in Antigua where you would find a sweetie-pink house with an orange roof and yellow shutters, or a seagreen wall with dark blue decorations, finished with a golden railing – absolutely joyous this celebration of colour.  The young ladies too liked to be daring;  bright yellow mini-skirts tugged over, in some cases, quite sizeable embonpoints, their hair highlighted with gold and dressed in ringlets, they were stunning in their beauty.  The only down side, for me, was the method of hopping from island to island.  When our boat, the SS Serenissima, couldn’t berth at a pier we had to assemble in our life jackets and make our way down a wobbly companion-way to where, at the bottom, two strong sailors took a hand and an elbow each and said “jump”.  At this point you aimed for the side of a rocking Zodiac rubber boat.  At the next command you jumped onto a box in the boat, and then into the boat itself.  As if this was not enough, you had to do the whole thing in reverse at the other end.  After six of these terrifying episodes I decided I had been publicly humiliated quite sufficiently and went on strike.  No more island hopping unless we were firmly attached to dry land.  But the holiday itself was the greatest fun, with charming company on the boat, a superbly trained staff and a really enterprising and professional young expedition leader.


We left Barbados in 26 degrees of heat and returned to Gatwick in 6 degrees.  How our hearts bled for new passengers in the searing sun and scorching heat as the sleet and snow battered our Caithness windows.  How we pitied them, taking their sundowners on the afterdeck as we clutched a warming toddy in our frozen hands.  Not too much time for reminiscing, though, as we had next to prepare for Iain’s inauguration as Chief of Clan Gunn in Edinburgh on the 16th April.  This was a great occasion, held at the Merchants’ Hall.  Ben Kinsman, our grandson, proudly carrying his grandfather’s flag, led the new Chief into position.. The Lord Lyon then spoke interestingly about Chiefs in general and  presented Iain with his Letters Patent – i.e. his new Arms;  Iain thanked the Lyon and the Clan and proceeded to re-commision Robert Kamp Gunn and Richard Gunn as Commisioners for the Netherlands and North America respectively, presenting them with a document and a pinsel – the kind of triangular flag you see in paintings of medieval jousting – and then he had pleasure in appointing Todd Wall, the newly retired President of the New Zealand Society of Clan Gunn, as Commisioner in New Zealand.


After three hearty cheers for the new Gunn of Gunn, the party retired for drinks.  Presents were given.  Iain was already wearing the kilt which had been made for him by Alexis Kehm in Florida and gifted by her and the North American Society.  A lot of whisky appeared , some beautiful glasses from Nova Scotia;  jellies and spreads  and a picture from Canada and a hunting knife authentically decorated and presented by Bucky Nelson.  Iain was very moved by all the kindness and evidence of people’s generosity. The very good dinner which followed was enjoyed by all.   It was certainly an occasion which we will remember for ever.


So April moves on.  We are in the icy grip of an Arctic stream of air bringing snow and very cold winds.  The daffodils are in full bloom, the lambs are sheltering in their mothers’ sides, the calves don’t seem to feel the cold the same way.  Trees are bursting into leaf – much later than down south – even in Edinburgh they were fully out.  I must say that I always rather enjoy a second Spring when we have been away, although my thoughts do tend to turn, at the moment, to the warmth and light of the Caribbean experience. Also something we will not easily forget.

Blog From the North – February 2016

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

What of Caithness in January? Well – we missed the worst of the flooding that affected both Scotland and England to the south of us, although Halkirk had a problem with the water table leading to flooded basements. What we did have was a lot of very cold weather with fiercely strong winds and sprinklings of snow, followed by days of thaw which made everything either slippery or muddy – usually both. This is when I discovered that in Caithness you do not call a spade a spade; whatever its ultimate use, it is called a shovel. A lorry driver made rather a mess of the verges in the driveway and told me he had moved the mud with a shuffle – which is how you say it up here.
This led me to think of other Caithness idioms; for example where I would say that something is “no good”. my neighbour would say it was “no use”. And where I would say something was “no use”, my neighbour would say “it’s not handy.” Gutters are – well – gutters along the edge of a roadway, but the things along the edge of a roof are rhones. And a bucket for floor cleaning use is a pail, your actual bucket being something to put rubbish into. You soon learn.
There are also lovely words like “swak” which is quite difficult to translate but means something like hale and hearty. A fork (garden variety) is a graip and in order to empty your barrow, you coup it onto the rubbish heap (or midden).
You don’t take advantage of anyone, you “take a lend” of them. But I think my very favourite expression was overheard at the check-out of the local supermarket. Two elderly gents were queuing to pay and one, spotting the other, said “Now then, Johnnie. I’ve no’ seen ye for a whilie. How’re you doing?” To which the somewhat surly reply was “Yer seein’ it”!
So now we’re just into February and “Henry” is raging round; the Canada geese are feeding peacefully in the field in front; the ponies up the road have got their jackets on, Morven and Scaraben are covered in icing sugar and through it all the sun is shining. The days are getting noticeably longer and the daffodils are pushing through. Spring may yet come.

Blog From the North: December 2015 / January 2016

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

Well, quite a bit of excitement, really in the last months.  We were told that the Lord Lyon King of Arms had recognised Iain as Chief of Clan Gunn.  Rather than be “of that ilk” which he thought was a bit Victorian, he will be Iain Gunn of Gunn and our son will be John Gunn Younger of Gunn.  In the days gone by the Chief’s wife was Lady Gunn, but I don’t hold with that, as Iain has not been ennobled, so I have been told (on high authority!) that I am now Madam Gunn of Gunn. Wow!

What is good about this is not that it is our family to be so honoured, but that there can now be continuity in the Gunn hierarchy.  Every time we go abroad and visit Clan Gatherings we see for ourselves how important it is that there is a Head of the Family.  It means that even in a huge country like the United States of America you are not lost, you have roots and a provenance.   The new Chiefly Arms are to be presented to Iain by the Lord Lyon  in April at the St. Donan’s Day Dinner, which will be held in the Merchants’ Hall  in Edinburgh on the 16th April.  It would be great to see as many of you as possible there.  Details will be going out shortly in The Herald.

Talking about the Arms, apparently the older the Clan, the less there is on the shield.  As Chiefly arms have never been registered, the Lyon ordered that new ones should be designed.  Help in this matter is being given by Mr. John Malden, who rejoices in the title of Unicorn Pursuivant.

The first draft suggestion showed, as a supporter, a very fierce Viking warrior, armed to the teeth with just about every weapon you could imagine and apparently wearing sun glasses.  This has now been modified and the other supporter is a Pictish woman, holding a bunch of juniper.  I’m not sure about the other details  but I’m sure it will look fine when it is done.  The motto stays the same, so the Gunns are either peaceful or warlike, depending on your point of view.

Caithness avoided the heavy rain that caused so much flooding during the last few months, but we were raked by fierce winds which must have come straight off Siberia, they were so cold.

When you shop in Lybster’s main street you need to know which way the wind is blowing and park accordingly because you could easily lose a leg if the car door shut on you, so strong are the gusts.

We were down in Pitlochry just before Christmas and were astonished by the fields  covered in water – lakes as far as the eye could see.  Every river, it seemed, had burst its banks and there were little knots of sheep stranded on high ground with water all round them.  Today, as I write, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and a flock of Canada geese is feeding in the field in front of the house.  They seem to like the salty grass – or more likely, the well-seasoned beasties they find in it.  The grass is green and healthy looking and all in all it is more like summer than Christmas.

So from sunny, warm and pleasant Caithness I wish you all a very prosperous New Year.

Blog from the North – September / October 2015

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

Is there anyone out there who still remembers “Mrs. Dale’s Diary”?  It was a long-running radio “soap” about a doctor and his wife and the life they led.  It often used to begin “I’m rather worried about Jim..”

Just at the moment I’m worried about our swallows.  We have two pairs that come every May during the first week and depart every September during the first week, but this year one pair has lingered on, having hatched a second brood .  There they are, flying happily around in what is becoming  colder and less welcoming weather, obviously finding plenty to eat in the way of insects, but not thinking about the long journey to come.  Every now and again I go out and suggest they get ready to leave as they swoop joyously overhead – and I do really worry about them.  Silly isn’t it?

We have kissed goodbye to Summer, although we are having some beautiful days – windy and cool, but sunny and bright.  We had a wonderful trip up the Glen of Kildonan last week and it was magical with heather and autumn colours lining our route.  We didn’t see any raptors, though.  I still live in hopes of repeating a wonderful moment when we passed a gateway and there was what I took to be a stone garden ornament parked beside it.  “Why would anyone leave such a thing there?” I wondered to Iain.  “That was an eagle,” he said.  “Probably having  rest.”  Well, I suppose they do from time to time.

Once a year up here we have a Doors Open day for museums, cafes, castles – you name it.  Visitors can come and look over the places without having to pay entry fees, so the Clan Gunn Centre  hosted quite a few guests.  At “Waterlines” the cafe at the harbour that Iain and I are associated with, we were asked to provide a special dish for the day.  One of the fishermen, George Carter, is famed for his fish soup, so he provided industrial quantities of it and very good it was too.  I asked him for the recipe and it went like this:  “Some good cod I caught myself;  some haddock I got hold of;  a few onions from the garden, tatties from John O’Groats, a bit of this and that (secret ingredients I expect), Caithness water, boil it all up and there you have it.”  Delicious.

An enterprising local cafe owner at Whaligoe Steps has started providing special menus from round the world.  Booking essential.  Iain and I are off this evening for a Mediterranean Meal which sounds exotic in the extreme, what with Kapuska from Turkey and Mujadara from Spain.  Sounds good, don’t you think?

This is the last you will hear of the Most Northerly Lemon.  It played its part and turned out to be very nice and lemony.  But it appeared to be the only fruit on the tree.  I was just deciding to prune the thing to a bristle – and probably try to get another one – when I noticed, coyly tucked inside a leaf, a tiny new baby lemon.  So the tree is reprieved for another year.  However, I shall not trouble you with grandmotherly-like up-to-date accounts of its prowess as you’ve been through all that with me already.  Suffice it to say that unless climate change really does become dramatic, citrus fruit will probably not prosper in Caithness.  I shall just buy it at the store, like everyone else does.

Blog from the North – July / August 2015

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

Whilst tidying Iain’s study – a task more suited to a modern-day Hercules – I happened upon a copy of the John O’Groat Journal from August 3rd 1962.  And spent a whole morning reading it. Just the front page was fascinating.  The Picture House in Thurso was showing “The Young Ones” with Cliff Richard, whereas the Wick Pavilion had Frank Sinatra in “Sergeants 3”.  If these didn’t float your boat, then what about the Electric Bingo Stall and Amusement Arcade being set up by Bill Spencer at the Thurso Riverside?  The Dentist gave notice of his holidays and the “Gent’s Hairdresser” – Mrs. H. Bannerman – declared herself open for business that week.

“From Our Old Files” – a feature that still continues today – in 1862 “Mr. Alexander Sutherland had reared in the garden at Bilbster a cucumber measuring 20 inches in length and  8 and a quarter inches in circumference”.

Amongst the news items it was reported that thirty home-sick Tristan da Cunans who came to Britain after a volcanic eruption ravaged their island in 1961 wrote to  a welfare officer in Capetown asking for help to return home.  Iain and I were both in Southampton at that time and we remember these poor souls being brought to what had been a series of camps for oil workers at Fawley.  The camps were clean, minimal and no doubt unfriendly and I daresay the natives were a bit the same.  And the climate must have been very different from what they knew.  Volcanos would be preferable, it seemed.

I mention Iain and I having been in Southampton in 1962 because it is where we met and where in November of that year we became engaged to be married.  That was also the year of the first Gathering of Clan Gunn, well reported in the “Groat” that I found..  There is a large picture of Banniskirk House, home of Iain’s uncle, Dr. William Gunn and a splendid portrait of the “exiles” who had returned – 80 strong – to celebrate the first Gathering of its kind for 100 years.  Iain, looking remarkably boyish, is in the front row with many members of his family and the clan family.  The Gathering happened at the end of July, before Iain and I had met and so my first Gathering was three years later with a wedding ring and a small son.

That same small son and his wife were instrumental in putting together the programme for the International Gathering held in Caithness in late July of this year. Everyone, including their children and those of Helen our daughter, really rolled up their order tramadol india sleeves and helped in so many ways, which made Iain’s and my job (tweaking things at the Caithness end) much easier.  It was so heartwarming to see that they could enjoy themselves at what was quite an adult event.  Bodes well for the future, we hope.

Caithness is basking in blissful sunshine at the moment, having had an horrendous torrent of rain, thunder and lightning last night.  Dunbeath Gardens were open on Sunday to the public and 1,000 people went there.  Several charities are benefiting from the visits.

Iain and I were delighted to meet. Bruce Keddie and his wife Caroline at the Clan Centre a couple of days ago.  Bruce, from New Zealand, is one of the Christchurch Pipe Band and taking part in the Edinburgh Tattoo.  He had been really anxious to visit his family homeland which his forebears left 150 years ago and so had been given a couple of days off by the Parade Commander.  It’s a tough life performing at the Tattoo – every night from 9 p.m. and then back to the barracks at about midnight, twice on Saturdays.  The soldiers all live together in the student accommodation at Pollock Halls, but the wives have to fend for themselves, so Caroline and three others had taken an apartment in Edinburgh and were really enjoying themselves.  Bruce’s dream had been to play the pipes at the Clan Centre and Iain and I were treated to a most splendid recital – he is a great piper – ending, poignantly, with “Going Home” which is also known at part of the New World Symphony by Dvorack.

Today, down at the harbour in Lybster, we met another man fulfilling a long-held wish;  a windsurfer who is circumnavigating the British Isles in aid of cancer research.  He set off from Clacton in Essex two and a half months ago and hopes to be back home (going down the East coast) in another month or so.  What a brave, fit man.  He has a website called Windsurfer round Britain and if anyone wants to donate, it’s through that.  We watched him take off from the harbour when the wind was right and it is hard work, I tell you.  Apparently he had always wanted to do this, so really is living the dream.  Too many people don’t, he believes.  We certainly had a friend who  said one would always regret not having done something.  I’m sure that’s right.

I am about to regret losing the Most Northerly Lemon – but to a good cause;  a really excellent glass of gin and tonic with some friends from afar..  Cheers!

Blog from the North – June 2015

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

I’m sorry about May.  Apart from the election it was a month where all you wanted to do was pull the duvet over your head and wait for summer.

The election was a fairly bitter pill for the Lib Dems of Caithness (of whom I am one) to swallow.  A huge surge of nationalism, triggered by the Referendum, ousted John Thurso and elected Dr. Paul Monaghan. Just about the first thing he had to do was deal with a shoal of letters and e-mails, begging him to intercede in the affairs of the Royal Bank of Scotland versus Lybster. The bank proposes to close its branch here, causing huge upset in the area and a lot of ill feeling towards an enterprise which the taxpayer is supposed to own, but in which the taxpayer has no say. The bank has just had to pay a huge fine for wrong selling of products, but it was hardly the fault of its clients who feel they are being penalised for something they did not do.  I don’t know whether the petitions, the phone calls or the afore-mentioned letters and e-mails will do any good, but at least we will go down having tried our best.

June has arrived but with no let-up from the wintry weather.  Temperatures in the teens|(occasionally) during the day and minus 3 degrees at night.  I am very sorry for the swallows who arrived a week late and must wonder why they bothered to come at all, it is so cold.  The gorse is in glorious bloom and the broom is just beginning to flower.  It is curious that they can both be yellow, but quite different yellows and also have different scents.  The gorse, in the sun, is coconut-smelling.  The broom is flowery.  There’s a lot of activity in the fields with cows and calves in abundance, including the lovely little Highlanders who look just like cuddly teddies, but who could give you a fine bunt if you messed with them.  Tractors are out, fields are ploughed and the far from delicate stench of slurry fills the air as the acres are “dunged”. The Lands End to John O’Groats walkers have started, and the cyclists and the vintage car rallies.  We have a friend who lives near Lands End and I always wish that I could send a message with the walkers as they pass our gate on the way back.  In a cleft stick, of course.

The village is gearing up for the Fete on the 27th June, held in the garden of the Manse, although our Minister has retired through ill-health.  We have a rolling list of lay-preachers and there is another retired Minister who takes over from time to time.  I don’t know what the future will be.  So many churches are closing or amalgamating and I cannot say that we have a very large congregation.  As it is we box and cox with the church in Dunbeath.  Still, the faithful do attend and the Fete always attracts a good crowd and the money goes to good causes.  Let’s hope for a decent day for it.

The Most Northerly Lemon is almost ready to be picked.  We are saving it until Gathering time and will dispatch it with due ceremony.  Perhaps even to celebrate the continuation of the village branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland.  Well – we can dream, can’t we?



Blog from the North – April 2015

Bunty Gunn
Bunty Gunn

Up here in Caithness March kind of morphed into April without our really noticing it.  It snowed, it hailed, it rained and the wind blew mercilessly – and you honestly couldn’t have said whether we were in Spring or the middle of Winter.  There is a saying that “April is the cruellest month” but March wasn’t far off and May looks as though it is going the same way.  We had tourists at Easter, shivering along the shores and huddling into cafes serving hot tea and coffee.  Occasionally the sun would put in an appearance and all the young girls would appear in strapless dresses and very short shorts for about five minutes.  During all this we had a number of events to do with tourism and getting people here earlier than the Summer.  A good deal of hollow laughter was heard.

However all was not doom and gloom, I assure you.  The St. Donan’s weekend in April was delightful.  The dinner was held in Lumley Castle, near Durham and very splendid it is, too.  When you arrive by car, the only entrance appears to be an open door at the foot of some very impressive steps.  Entering there, though, finds you in the dungeons – or so it seems – and you get a good idea of what it must have been like to live there in days gone by.   Gordonstoun school has – or certainly used to have – a similar sort of arrangement and you arrived at the headmaster’s study by way of the kitchens where various cooks and bottle-washers indicated the direction you should take.  Novel, if not very quick.

Very slightly brighter weather prompts the movement of cows and calves between pastures. The field in front of us is currently receiving a new batch and I can seen the farmer trying to persuade them that the field is infinitely preferable to the grass verge outside it that seems to have taken their fancy.  Lambing is almost over – we are late lambers up here, to try and take advantage of warmer weather.  Some hopes this year!  I’ve noticed a lot of triplets amongst the babies which is great for the farmer but must be bewildering for the mothers.  The daffodils are just going over, but the white narcissi are in full and lovely bloom, although knocked sideways by the snow we had the other day.  I’m going to stop this – I am becoming a weather bore.  Let’s just say that the fields are green, the lawn has had its first cut and the gorse is golden and everywhere.  The swallows should be here this week, but it may be a bit chilly for them (there I go again) and the Most Northerly Lemon continues to ripen.