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THE GUNNS

A detailed notice of the Clan Gunn is beyond the scope of these notes: for such we must refer to Gordon and other authorities; nor shall the debatable question be entered upon, whether their ancestor was Gunnius, brother of Sweyn, the Freswick pirate, or Guin, son of Olave, king of Man. By the most credible accounts, they are of Norwegian origin, and it is at least certain that they settled in Caithness at a remote date, and in course of time so increased in numbers as to have attained to the position of "The Clan Gunn". The Gunns seem to have occupied chiefly the highland portions of the county, although their burial-place was at Spittal. Their connection with Caithness as a distinct clan ended about 1619. It is singular that, until the middle of the seventeenth century, we find no written evidence of their tenure of land. Probably, as in the case of Donald Gunn of Braemore, noticed in "Ministers and Men in the Far North", what possessions they had were "gained by the sword", and retained by the same title during their period of prosperity.

George Gunn was chief of the clan in the fifteenth century, and lived at the castle of Harberry, in Clyth. This chieftain was popularly styled the "Cruner Gunn", from his holding the office of "Cruner" or "Crouner" of the district, an ancient office which empowered the holder to attach the persons of offenders against the Crown. By his clansmen and highlanders generally he was known as the" Nin Braistack-more", from the great silver brooch worn by him as a badge of office.

He is reputed to have had seven sons, of whom four, along with himself, fell in 1464, in a combat with the Keiths, their hereditary foes. Of these sons, James succeeded to the chieftainship; Robert, the second son, is ancestor of the Gunns of Braemore and other respectable families; from John, the third son, are descended the Gunns of Dalmore and Dale, and others; Henry, the fourth son, is the traditional ancestor of the Caithness Hendersons; and William, the fifth son, of the Williamsons and Wilsons. James has been supposed to be the fifth son; but it appears certain that on his father's death in 1464 he took up the chieftainship, and that he, along with his brothers, William and Henry, retired into Sutherlandshire; and at Killearnan, in Kildonan, the succeeding chiefs had their residence until the accidental destruction of the mansion-house by fire in 1690.

That there was a "Cronner" in the county at a remote period, whether of the Clan Gunn or not, is shown by part of the names still attached to certain localities,for instance, the "Crouner's Garden", near Strath, and the like; while in an ancient document, entitled The Gunns. "Inventar of the Gudes of Alexander Southerland, 1456" (father-in-law of William St. Clair, first Earl of Caithness), there are entries proving the "Crouner" to have had a son Henry, and a son Alexander, thus: "Item, Alexander the Crouner's son an (owing) me for the teind of Dael, Thurso, and the begyn, with uther geeds that he tuk of myn that comes to 24 of Marks and mair"; and "Item, Henry the Crounars son an me for tends and ky (teinds and cattle) that he tuk of myn 40 merks and mar, as vitail (victual) was sold in the countrie that tym".

In 1664 John Gunn appears to have been in possession of Braemore, under the peaceful title of a written lease from the Earl of Caithness, at a rent of 490 Scots. It is said that a section of the clan claimed the chieftainship for this John, but that, on a formal discussion of the question at a meeting in Thurso, the honour was adjudged to a rival candidate.

John Gunn in Braemore obtained in 1664 a wadset over that estate, for 1000 merks, from John, Earl of Breadalbane. He appears to have lived down to at least 1698, for in that year his son and successor, George, is designed in a tack of Dirlot as "Younger of Braemore".

In 1715 George Gunn got another tack of Braemore from Lord Glenorchy, reserving the "salmond fishings with the deer and Rae"; and in the same year he obtained a wadset for 3000 merks.

In 1732 George Gunn got a wadset for 17,000 merks from Sir James Sinclair of Dunbeath. Sir James acquired Braemore in 1729 as part of the Caithness estate purchased by him and Ulbster from Lord Glenorchy.

The representatives of this branch of the Gunns appear to be the Gunn-Munroes of Poyntzfield. The first Sir George Gunn Munro of Poyntzfield was a son of the Reverend John Munro, minister of Halkirk, by his wife, Janet Munro, only child of George Gunn of Braemore.

The genealogy of the Gunns of Braemore is stated by the Rev. Mr. Gunn of Watten, who has given much attention to the subject, to be as follows: -

  1. Robert, second son of George Gunn, "the Crounar" (killed in 1464)
  2. Donald, his eldest son
  3. David, his eldest son
  4. Alexander, his eldest son, who married Christian, daughter of Donald, first Lord Reay
  5. John, his eldest son
  6. George, his eldest son
  7. Janet, his only child, married John Munro, minister of Halkirk, who died in 1743 or 1746. His third son was the first Munro of Poyntzfield
  8. Captain John Gunn Munro, eldest son of Janet Munro, married Elizabeth Sutherland of Torboll, and had three sons and four daughters. In 1752 he acquired Braemore in fee-simple
  9. William Gunn Munro, eldest son, had no family, and was succeeded by his brother
  10. George Gunn Munro succeeded his brother in Braemore, and also inherited Poyntzfield under an entail executed by his uncle, Sir George, in 1784. In 1793 Sir Robert Anstruther purchased Braemore for about 4000 at a judicial sale, and obtained a decreet of sale in his favour

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