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THE SINCLAIRS OF GREENLAND AND RATTAR

The estates of Greenland and Rattar are in the parish of Dunnet.
In 2002 Greenland was owned by Helen B Hamilton

I. SIR JOHN SINCLAIR, KNIGHT, the first of this family, was third son of John, Master of Caithness, and was styled of Greenland, but his descendants have been designed of Rattar. He married Janet Sutherland, who was probably of the Sutherlands of Forse, since his nephew, Francis, son of his brother, James of Murkle, married also a lady of that family. From his brother George, the fifth Earl, he obtained, in 1609 (26th January and 16th May 1609) the feu farms of the lands of Rattar and others, by charter to himself in liferent and to his son, William, in fee; and in 1613 he got a disposition from the Earl of the lands of Rattar, Corsbach, Lieurary, Reaster, Murrsay, and Hailand, which are described to be pertinents of the Barony of Achergill, sometime pertaining to George, Earl Marischal, and William, Lord Keith, his son, and acquired by the Earl from them. In 1612 he occupied the Castle of Ormlie, near Thurso. He died in 1622, and had five sons and a daughter (Peerage case): -

  1. William, who died before his father. Of him Sir Robert Gordon writes: "This year of God, 1620, the eldest son of Sir John Sinclair of Greenland perished in the water of Risgill, as he was riding that river in a great speat and storm of weather. He was a young gentleman of good expectation". This event must have occurred earlier than 1620, for in 1618 his immediate younger brother, Alexander, obtained a precept as his heir
  2. Alexander, who in 1618 obtained from his uncle, Earl George, a precept of clare as heir to William. He died without issue
  3. John, who obtained in 1623 a precept of clare as heir to Alexander. He also died without issue, and was succeeded by -
  4. James of Reaster, who obtained a precept on 16th December 1634, and was afterwards of Rattar
  5. Francis, who died without issue
  6. There is mention of a son, Thomas, as alive about 1630, but there is no trace of any of his descendants.

  1. Elizabeth, Sir John's only daughter, married John Cunningham of Geise and Brownhill. In November 1630, her brother, James, borrowed from Sir John Sinclair of Geanies and Dunbeath 3000 "for payment of his sister Elizabeth's tocher to John Cunningham of Geise, her spouse". In Douglas's accounts of the Cunninghams there is much confusion and error as to this lady and her marriage
Sir John had a natural son, George, mentioned in a sasine in favour of his brother, Alexander, in 1619, but of him we have no further account.

II. JAMES SINCLAIR OF REASTER AND OF RATTAR married (1634) Janet, daughter of William Bruce of Stanstill, and had two sons, and, so far as has been ascertained, three daughters: -

  1. William, his successor
  2. John, who died without issue
In an assignation dated 14th December 1636, by James Sinclair, to his eldest son, William, whom failing, to his second son, John, he assigns a reversion of Rattar, in consideration of certain payments by "Janet Murray, Ladie of Stanstill, my mother-in-law".
  1. Janet, eldest daughter, who married Walter Bruce of Ham. Contract of Marriage, 20th December 1642
  2. Margaret, who married in 1655 John Smith, son of William Smith, Minister of Dunnet from 1614 to 1652
  3. Elizabeth or Elspeth, who married about 1652, William Bruce of Stanstill
In June 1864, it was stated in a notice in "Notes and Queries" that William Smyth, minister of Dunottar, afterwards of Bower and Watten, married a daughter of James Sinclair of Rattar, and had a son, George; but no evidence has been found of any such marriage. William Smith of Dunnet and William Smyth of Watten were different persons; and the writer in "Notes and Queries" has probably mistaken the connection of the Smiths with the family of Rattar. William Smyth was a rather remarkable man in his time, and notices of him will be found in McKay's "History" and in "Fasti Eccles. Scot".

III. WILLIAM SINCLAIR, THIRD OF RATTAR, acquired the lands of Freswick in 1661, from Mowat of Buquhollie and his son, Magnus. He married, first, in 1642, (Contract of Marriage, 24th March) when in apparency only, Elizabeth, daughter of John Sinclair, first of Ulbster; and, second, in 1647, (Contract of Marriage, 12th August) Jean, daughter of John Cunningham of Geise and Brownhill, and relict of Alexander Sinclair of Latheron. John Cunningham, it has been seen, had for his second wife Elizabeth, aunt of William Sinclair of Rattar; but it is thought that his daughter, Jean, was not Rattar's cousin-german, but was the daughter of John Cunningham by his first marriage. Jean Cunningham was long famous in the locality under the name of "Jeanag of Rattar".

By his first marriage William Sinclair had John, his successor in Rattar, (Last Will, 1663)

By his second wife he had three sons and two daughters. (Disposition by their father, 30th March 1650. Crown Charter, 30th April 1672, in favour of Jean Cunningham and her three sons).

  1. James of Freswick, said to have died in France, having been taken prisoner when on his way to Edinburgh to be married. In Chambers's "Domestic Annals" (vol. iii. p. 25, anno 1690) it is stated that having made his case known to the Scottish Privy Council, he was released in exchange for Mr. David Fairfoul, a priest detained in prison at Inverness
  2. Robert
  3. David, who succeeded to Freswick on the death of Robert. (Retour, 1696, of David to James and Robert)
  1. Janet, eldest daughter, who married John Sinclair of Ulbster, son of Patrick Sinclair. (Retour, June 1712)
  2. Anne, who married, first, Robert Sinclair of Durran, and, second, John Campbell of Castlehill, Commissary and Sheriff-clerk of Caithness. (Retour, 20th January 1713)
IV. JOHN SINCLAIR, FOURTH OF RATTAR, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Sinclair of Mey, and had two sons and four daughters: -
  1. John, his successor
  2. William, who, on the death in 1712 of his uncle, David of Freswick, succeeded to that estate
  1. Barbara, eldest daughter, who married John Sinclair of Forss. By their descendant, William Sinclair Thomson Sinclair, Esq., the estates of Freswick are now possessed under an entail executed in 1775 by John Sinclair, then of Freswick
  2. Frances, who married James Sinclair of Latheron
  3. Margaret, who married, first, Alexander Sinclair of Brabster, and, second, Alexander Gibson, Minister of Canisbay.
  4. Katharine, who married George Manson of Bridgend
V. JOHN SINCLAIR, FIFTH OF RATTAR, married Janet, daughter of Patrick Sinclair of Southdun, and died in 1733. (Retour, 1719) He had two sons: -
  1. John, who died unmarried in minority
  2. William, who succeeded his father
William was a minor at his father's death, and the estate was taken charge of by his uncle, William of Freswick. His mother also claimed the management, and, pending the dispute, "lodged in the garret while Freswick occupied the other parts of the house of Rattar". The widow afterwards married one Dun, a stay-maker in Edinburgh.

VI. WILLIAM SINCLAIR, SIXTH OF RATTAR, married Barbara, daughter of John Sinclair of Scotscalder, and died in 1779. (Retour, March 1773).

In 1772 his claim to the dignity of Earl of Caithness was sustained by the Committee of Privileges. He had five sons and two daughters: -

  1. John, his successor
  2. William, an officer in the army, who died in America unmarried
  3. James died young and unmarried
  4. Alexander died young and unmarried
  5. David died young and unmarried
  1. The eldest daughter, Lady Isabella, died unmarried
  2. Lady Janet, married to James Traill of Rattar, and had issue.
VII. JOHN SINCLAIR, SEVENTH AND LAST OF RATTAR, succeeded his father in 1779, and was the eleventh Earl of Caithness.

In 1772 he entered the army as an Ensign in the 17th Foot, and became Major in the 76th Foot in 1777. (Scottish Nation). He served for some years in America, and was wounded at the siege of Charlestown. In 1783 he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He died unmarried in 1789, and was at the time of his death the last male representative of the family of Greenland and Rattar.

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