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THE SINCLAIRS OF ULBSTER

The estate of Ulbster is in the parish of Wick.
Amongst the places mentioned is the castle of Brims www.brims.co.uk

The ancestor of this family was William Sinclair, first laird of Mey, the second son of George, fourth Earl of Caithness, who granted him the lands of Mey in 1572. His elder brother, John, Master of Caithness, having, with his connivance, been imprisoned by his father in Girnigo Castle, he was, on the occasion of a visit to the dungeon of the Master, laid hold of and strangled by him. This event took place in 1572 or 1573, for in the latter year his brother, George, got a precept of clare constat as his heir. By Margaret, daughter of James Mowat of Buchollie and Lucy Gordon, daughter of Gordon of Gight, he left two sons, Patrick and John. In the Great Seal Record, Edinburgh, Lib. 45 , No. 18, there occurs a legitimation, dated 20th June 1607, "Patricio et Magistro Joanni Sinclair filiis naturalibus quondam Willelmi Sinclair de Mey". Further notices of the family are to be found in "Stewartiana", 1843, by Mr. John Riddell, Advocate; in "The Gentleman's Magazine", vol. xx. P: 260; and in Father Hay's account of the St. Clairs of Roslyn, printed in 1845.

I. PATRICK SINCLAIR, FIRST OF ULBSTER; got a disposition of these lands in 1596 from his cousin, George, fifth Earl of Caithness, and, dying without issue, he was succeeded by his brother, John.

II. JOHN SINCLAIR of ULBSTER was a man of education and ability, and as his name is seldom mentioned without the prefix of Mr. or "Maister", there is ground for thinking that he was brought up as a pedagogue or teacher, although it was not unusual to designate as "Maister" gentlemen of landed property, as well as pedagogues, preachers, notaries, and the like. In 1601 the General Assembly arranged that certain ministers should plant themselves in the families of the Catholic nobles; and Lord Gordon - eldest son of the Marquis of Huntly, and the Master of Caithness, eldest son of the Earl, "were brought up together under the care of two pedagogues, Thomas Gordon and John Sinclair, who were compelled to declare themselves adherents of the reformed faith". That John Sinclair, the pedagogue, was John Sinclair, afterwards Mr. John Sinclair of Ulbster, seems to admit of no doubt, for we find by a letter from him to his uncle, George of Mey, that, in 1604, he and the Master lived in the family of the Marquis of Huntly at Bogg Gight and in regard to the Master he writes: "always the Mr. is verie weill, God be praysit, and commends him heartily to you". ("Domestic Annals of Scotland").

John Sinclair was twice married - first, to Jean Chisholm, who is no doubt the "Kesolme, daughter to the laird of Straglass", who is said by Hay to have married the first laird of Ulbster; and, secondly, to Katharine Stewart. . By his first wife he had two sons and a daughter: -

  1. Patrick, his successor
  2. George, a merchant in Leith
  1. Henrietta, who married William Abernethy (son of John; Bishop of Caithness), who was minister of Halkirk in 1627, and of Thurso in 1636
By his second wife John Sinclair had a son and two daughters: -
  1. John of Tannach and Brims, who served in the German wars, and in 1660 purchased Brims from the heirs of the first Sinclairs of Dunbeath. He married Ann Goldman, and had three sons and two daughters: -
    1. John, afterwards of Ulbster
    2. William of Thrumster (who married Margaret, daughter of James Innes of Thursater) [William Sinclair of Thrumster seems also to have had Oust, for his wife had it in liferent, but at all events their son, William, had Oust, which he disponed in 1719 to John Sinclair of Brims]
    3. Charles
  1. Jean, who married Francis Sinclair of Dun, and afterwards David Sinclair of Southdun
  2. Elizabeth, who married William Sinclair of Rattar
John Sinclair of Tannach had two natural sons, one of whom was James, probably James Sinclair "in Lythmore", and the same James Sinclair who, in 1702, obtained from his brother, John of Ulbster and Brims, a wadset of Holbornhead, Uttersquoy, and Sandiquoy.

III. PATRICK SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER was served heir to his father, John, in 1640, and in 1647 he married Elizabeth, daughter of John McKay of Strathy and Dirlot. He had two sons and seven daughters: -

  1. John, his successor
  2. Sir George of Bilbster and Clyth, who married Jean, daughter of William Sinclair of Dunbeath, and had no issue. He had, however, three natural daughters: - Jean, who married William Sinclair, younger of Thrumster, Mary, and Anne
Patrick Sinclair's daughters were: -
  1. Anne, who married Francis Sinclair of Stirkoke
  2. Elizabeth, who married, in 1660, John Sinclair of Brabster
  3. Mary, who married, in 1675, Sir Robert Dunbar of Northfield
  4. Isabel, who married, in 1673, George, eldest son of James Sinclair of Assery
  5. Margaret, who married, in 1679, her cousin-german, Hugh McKay of Cairnloch, son of John McKay of Skerray
  6. Jean, who married Angus McKay, apparent of Bighouse
  7. Katharine, who married James Sinclair of Lybster
In 1660 Patrick Sinclair and his son, John, purchased from the Earl of Caithness, for 22,485 merks, or little more than 1200 sterling, East and Mid Clyth, Roster, and Tannach. In 1676 Lord Glenorchy granted a wadset of West Clyth, and the rest of that estate, redeemable for 15,465 merks, and in 1706 he disponed these lands so wadsetted, and Swordale, Aimster, Carsgo, Gerston, Achscoraclate, Stainland or Staneland, and fishings of Thurso.

IV. JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER, married Janet, daughter of William Sinclair of Rattar and his second wife Jean Cunningham.

Having no family, John Sinclair settled the estates, in 1709, by an entail, the first substitute called being his cousin, John Sinclair of Brims, the eldest son of John of Tannach and Brims, and the subsequent heirs being Charles Sinclair of Bilbster, George McKay of Bighouse, George Sinclair of Brabster, Patrick, his brother, John Sinclair of Lybster, William, Robert, and George, his brothers, John Sinclair of Assery, Patrick Dunbar of Bowermadden, and his brothers, William, James, and David, the whole substitutes, except John Sinclair of Brims, being the descendants of his sisters.

V. JOHN SINCLAIR OF BRIMS AND ULBSTER was twice married, first to Jean, daughter of Munro of Culrain, and, secondly, to Jean Cores. By his first marriage he had four sons and three daughters: -

  1. John, his successor
  2. Patrick of Brims. There is a tradition that he had an intrigue with a daughter of James Sinclair of Uttersquoy, who was probably the natural brother of John Sinclair of Brims and Ulbster, and that she having mysteriously disappeared, was supposed to have been made away with by Sinclair, and her body concealed in the castle, which consequently had the reputation of being haunted. Patrick left the county, and is said to have enlisted in the Guards
  3. James of Holbornhead. This property was disponed to him by his father, and by him sold to Robert Sinclair of Geise
  4. Gustavus, a merchant in Leith
  1. Sidney, eldest daughter
  2. Jean or Janet, who married, first, Benjamin Dunbar, younger of Hempriggs; and, secondly, George, third Lord Reay
  3. Elizabeth, who married John McKay, second of Strathy
VI. JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER, sometime younger of Brims, married Henrietta, daughter of George Brodie of Brodie, and died in 1736. He had three sons and a daughter: -
  1. George, his successor
  2. James of Harpsdale, who married, first, Marjory, daughter of David Sinclair of Southdun, by whom he had two daughters, Henrietta of Southdun, and Janet, who married Colonel Williamson of Banniskirk. His second wife was Mally Sutherland, Spinningdale, by whom he had a son, Alexander, who died young. His third wife was Katharine, daughter of Alexander Sinclair of Lybster, by whom he had two daughters, Katharine, who married Major George Williamson, and Helen, who married Captain David Brodie of Hopeville (Sibster)
  3. Captain John Sinclair, in "Burke", called Major John, who married Elizabeth, widow of John Wilmer, Esquire
  1. Aemelia, only daughter, married John Sutherland of Forse
VII. GEORGE SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER married Janet, daughter of Lord Strathnaver. He died in 1776, and left a son and three daughters: -
  1. John, his successor
  1. Helen, eldest daughter, who married Alexander Campbell of Barcaldine, whose daughter, Jane, married James, Earl of Caithness, in 1784
  2. Mary, who married James Homerigg of Gamalshiels
  3. Janet, who married William Baillie of Polkemmet, Lord Polkemmet of the Court of Session
VIII. SIR JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER was born in 1754, and was created baronet in 1788, with remainder, in default of male issue, to the male issue of his daughters. He married, first, in 1776, Sarah, daughter of Alexander Maitland of Stoke Newington; and, secondly, in 1788, Diana, daughter of Alexander, first Lord Macdonald, and had issue by both marriages. He was succeeded by his son, of his second marriage, Sir George Sinclair.

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