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Roll of Honour

The earliest notable man associated with the county was Sigurd (died 875) who gained permanent fame by his invasion of Scotland. He was buried on the top of a hill near Dornoch. In the Roman Catholic period the greatest name is that of Bishop Gilbert of Moray (died 1st April 1245). An ecclesiastical statesman of good standing, St Gilbert (the last Saint in the Kalendar) held important administrative offices. His literary work (in Latin) included Exhortationes ad Ecclesiam Suam and an essay De libertate Scotiae. Sir Robert Gordon (1580-1656), notable as a diplomatist, administrator and man of letters, wrote a Genealogical History of the Earls of Sutherland (published in 1813) containing much information upon Scottish history. In the Covenanting struggles of the seventeenth century the Earl of Sutherland took a prominent part and was the first to sign the National Covenant in 1638. Donald Mackay of Farr (who in 1628 became the first Lord Reay) distinguished himself in the German religious wars under Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, General Hugh Mackay of Scourie (1640-92), the opponent of Claverhouse at Killiecrankie, rendered important military service in Ireland and the Netherlands. He wrote Rules of War for the Infantry, His Memoirs by John Mackay of Rockfield, a native of Lairg, appeared in 1836. The most notable name associated with Sutherland in the eighteenth century was George Dempster of Skibo (1732-1818), next to Sir John Sinclair, the greatest contemporary follower of Adam Smith. He was for nearly thirty years Member of Parliament for the Forfar burghs, and wrote several works upon economic and political topics. Sir James'S Matheson (1796-1878), a native of Lairg, and the third Duke of Sutherland (1829-92) both spent large sums upon land improvement and railway extension. The Memorabilia of the Rev. Donald Sage (1789-1869) secures for him a place among notable Scottish writers. Few books shed a shrewder light upon the social condition of the north of Scotland in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Rev. Mackintosh Mackay (1793-1873), Editor of the Highland Society's Gaelic Dictionary, and of Rob Donn's Poems, a prolific Gaelic author, was a native of Eddrachillis. Alexander Munro (1825-71) a Sutherland man by descent, was a sculptor of good repute, who for many years exhibited at the Royal Academy. The Rev. J.M. Joass, LL.D. (1838-1914), for over forty years minister of Golspie, was an eminent archaeologist. The Rev. Angus Mackay, Westerdale (1860-1911), a native of Strathy, occupies a worthy position among the historians of the north of Scotland. He wrote the Book of Mackay (1906) and the History of the Province of Cat (1914).

Among notable sons of natives of Sutherland were Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-91), the great Canadian statesman; Dr George Matheson (1842-1906), author of many books on philosophical and devotional subjects; Dr Robert Rainy (1826-1906), a notable ecclesiastical statesman, and Dr Charles Mackay (1814-89), the well-known poet, whose father, Lieut. George Mackay, belonged to a Strathnaver family.

In Gaelic literature Sutherland produced one poet in the front rank and several lesser lights. Bishop Gilbert's Gaelic version of the Psalms is no longer extant. Gaelic hymns by John Mackay, Mudale, became popular in the seventeenth century as a means of conveying religious instruction when no Gaelic version of the scriptures existed. Between 1750 and 1850 a succession of Gaelic poets flourished in Kildonan, of whom the best known were Donald Matheson, Badanloch (1719-82); and his son, Samuel Matheson (died 1829). Donald Matheson was a contemporary of Rob Donn, who claimed to have "more poetry but less piety" than the Kildonan bard. Lieut. Joseph Mackay, a Waterloo veteran, wrote Gaelic Laments upon eminent people of the Reay country. Robert Macdonald (1795-1870), a native of Loth, wrote Gaelic hymns.

Rob Donn (1714-78), the great Gaelic bard of the northern Highlands, like many Gaelic poets of his time, was quite illiterate. A poet of nature in the truest sense, he excelled in realistic description and in the expression of emotional feeling. His love songs and elegies sank into the hearts of the people and became widely known by oral transmission before any of his work had been committed to writing. His satire upon Robert Gray of Creich is a good specimen of his pungent style. Two brothers, George Ross Gordon and William Gordon, soldiers, one in the Reay Fencibles, and the other in the Black Watch, who published Gaelic poems in Glasgow in 1804 and 1819, the worthy Dr Thomas Ross of Lochbroom (1760-1845), author of a Gaelic Psalter and editor of the second edition of the Gaelic Bible (1807) and John Munro (1791-1837), author of the song 0, theid sinn, theid sinn, whose poems were published in Glasgow in 1819, were all natives of Spinningdale. Donald Mackenzie (1768-1861), for sixty years catechist in Assynt, his native parish, maintained in his Laoidhean Spioradail the tradition of the Kildonan poets.

Dr Gustavus Aird of Creich (1813-98), a notable Gaelic preacher, was an authority on the ecclesiastical traditions of the northern Highlands. The Rev. George Henderson (1872-1913), minister of Eddrachillis, besides editing the poems of John Morrison, Rodel, and the Memoirs of Evander MacIver, Scourie, published volumes upon The Survivals of Belief among the Celts and The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland.

Lord Kennedy (Neil John Downie Kennedy, 1854-1918), the first Chairman of the Scottish Land Court, who made notable contributions to Scottish jurisprudence, particularly in regard to land rights, was born at Roschall.

Andrew Carnegie (1837-1919), during the last twenty years of his life, spent the summer and autumn at Skibo, his Scottish residence.

Chief Towns and Villages of Sutherland

(The figures in brackets after the names give the population in 1911, and those at the end of each section are references to pages in the text).

Bettyhill (named after Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland), is a centre of agriculture and fishing.

Bonar bridge (392), Gaelic Bhannath, "the low ford", founded in 1817 where previously there had been a ferry and ford for cattle. Bonar district is noted for fine scenery and possesses many antiquarian remains.

Brora (572), Norse Bruar-a, "bridge-river", established at the beginning of the seventeenth century as a burgh of barony, and revived a century ago, is now the chief industrial centre in the county. It possesses a wool mill, distillery, brick works, coal mine, quarries, and marine and river fishings. It is also a summer resort, and possesses a good golf course.

Dornoch (741), Gaelic Dorn-achadh, "pebble-field", is the county town, a notable watering-place and fashionable summer resort. St Bar's Church, founded in the eighth century, is no longer extant. A great part of the bishop's palace (probably begun in the thirteenth century, and extended in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries) was burnt in 1570. The tower with corner turrets and crow-step gables is still occupied. The Academy was erected in 1912. The Dornoch Grammar School was endowed in 1641, and the burgh had the services of several successful teachers in bygone times, The burgh received its charter in 1629, and its records are complete from 1731. Possessing two excellent golf courses, Dornoch is one of the best known golfing resorts in Scotland. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland took place at Dornoch in 1722.

Durness, Norse Dyranes, "wild-animal headland", at one time the hunting-seat of the bishops of Caithness, and later of the Lords of Reay, possesses fine surroundings. A mile east of Durness is the cave of Smoo, 110 feet wide and 53 feet high at its mouth, and penetrating into the limestone a distance of 450 feet.

Embo (588), (about 1230), Ethenboll, in Gaelic Eireabol, was founded about 1820 and is the most populous fishing community in the county. Situated at the innermost shore of the Moray Firth, Embo adjoins valuable fishings, but greatly needs improved harbour accommodation. Its inhabitants, mainly Celtic, retain some of the older Celtic customs.

Golspie (1046), Norse Gols-by, the most populous village in the county, is in a richly wooded country. Near it is Beinn-a-Bhragie, on which is a monument to the first Duke of Sutherland. Dunrobin Museum contains a representative collection of the antiquities of the north of Scotland.

Helmsdale (7S2), Norse Hjalmunds-dalr, with the best harbour on the east coast of Sutherland, was long an important centre of the fishing industry.

Kinlochbervie, Gaelic Cean-loch, "head of loch", Norse Bergje "rocky", on the north shore of Loch Inchard, with striking rock and headland scenery.

Lairg (336), Gaelic Lairg, "the pass", a growing village, is the centre for Lochinver, Scourie, Durness, and Tongue. There is here a handsome memorial to the late Sir James Matheson. The antiquarian monuments of the district are numerous.

Lochinver (165), Gaelic Loch-an-inbhir, "river mouth", possesses a good harbour, and is the centre of magnificent mountain scenery and excellent fishings.

Melvich, Norse Mel-vik, "sand-bay," and Portskerra, Gaelic Port, "harbour", Norse Sker-je, "skerry", industrious fishing villages.

Rogart (about 150), Gaelic Raord, situated in romantic surroundings, is growing in popularity as a health resort.

Scourie (77), Norse Sker-je, "skerry", the centre of extensive loch fishings.

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