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THE SINCLAIRS OF BRUGH, NESTING

The earliest notice of this family is to be found in the "Hay's Genealogie" on page 57, in these words: "The reversal concerning Orkney not being found sufficient by King Hakon, the ambassadors sent by the Earl of Orkney were allowed to continue in the city of Tesberge, in Norway; till his Majesty was satisfied. In the meantime there was a marriage concluded, as is said, betwixt JOHN SAINTCLAIR, brother to the Earl, and Ingeberg, natural daughter to Waldemar, King of Denmark, by Jova Little, who was a daughter of Sir John Little, Commissioner of Rugen. It is alleged that his son WILLIAM served the Emperor Henry in the Holy Wars; that in following times HENRY SAINTCLAIR, a second son of that House of Brook, and Laird of Stomue, left a son named HEUGH, who became Laird of Brock, and espoused Grisall Stewart, daughter to Robert, Earl of Orkney, upon whom he begot LAURENCE, Laird of Brock, who had by Margaret, daughter to James Saintclair of Salaway, in Shetland, HEUGH Saintclair, present Laird of Brock in Orkney; yet I scarcely listen to what is vulgarly reported of the pedigree of Brock or Brusck. Few evidences may clear that genealogy",

I. EDWARD SINCLAIR OF STROM was art and part in the slaughter of John St.Clair, Earl of Caithness, in 1529. About the year 1530 he acquired the lands of Brugh from Margaret Reid, heretrix of one Gilbert Cant. Edward Synclar of Strom was Fold of Zetland in 1536, on the 24th June in which year he conveys the merk lying in Russater in Fetlair to Adam of Still. [Researches by Gilbert Goudie] On the 19th September, 1539, he obtained a respite for his complicity in the slaughter of the Earl of Caithness and on the 28th October 1544, is found an attesting witness to the erection of certain offices in the Cathedral Church of Orkney. [From Barry and Peterkin's Rentals]. In 1549 Margaret Dischington, his wife, is noticed as under the special protection of Bishop Reid. [From Craven]. Strom is in the parish of Whiteness.

II HENRY SINCLAIR OF STROM AND BRUGH was probably his [second] son. On the 9th December 1561, Mr. Alexander Dick, Provost of the Cathedral Church of Orkney, and two chaplains there, found caution to underly the law on 15th April following, for convocation and gathering of our sovereign lady's lieges, to the number of four score persons, in September last, and searching for Henry Sinclair of Strom and Mr. William Mudy, with intent to slaughter them". [From Shetland County Families]. He died in 1575, having married Catherine Kennedy, and had issue -

NOTE - At the loch of Strom are the remains of a castle, once the residence of the Earls of Orkney, of whom a descendant is said to have been slain by his father's orders, at the standing stone of Tingwall. (Peace's Handbook)

  1. HUGH, his heir.
  2. CAPTAIN WILLIAM, born 1547, was a witness to the attempt of Cultmalindie to murder Arthur Sinclair of Aith at Scalloway in 1575.
  3. EDWARD OF MARRASETTER, in Whalsay, served heir to his brother Oliver, 18th August 1618, and died 14th September, 1622. He married Margaret, daughter of Andrew Gifford of Weatherstay, and had issue -
    1. ANDREW of Marrasetter.
    2. HENRY.
    3. DONSIE
  4. OLIVER OF EASTHOUSE, father of -
    1. HUGH of Easthouse, who married Lilias Sinclair
    2. MARTHA, who married William Adamson.
  5. JANET.
III HUGH SINCLAIR OF BRUGH got a charter uuder the Great Seal on 7th November 1587 - under the declaration that the lands were to descend according to the custom in Scotland, and not to be divided among his children as was usual in udal holdings - of the lands called the canonical lands of the Cathedral of Orkney, and lying in the parishes of Dunrossness, Burray, Goldberryvik, Quhyteness, Weisdaill, Sandsting, Delting, Yell, Fetlair, and Unst. The Vicarage of Nesting, Quhalsay, and Lunnasting was at this time set in tack [lease] to the "guidman of Burghe," and "the Channonis lands set in feu by Sir James Hay to Hew Sinclar of Burghe and pays yearly to his Majesty £20, 13 shillings and 4 pence".

Colbein Ormeson of Symbuster conveys certain lands on the 20th November 1581, to "An honorable man and my god friend Hew Sinclair of Burt," with obligation, in the event of himself or heirs requiring to dispose of any portion of his lands in Symbuster, to offer the same first to the said Hew, and if he or they should do so otherwise in ignorance, the same to be null and of none effect, because "the said land is lineally descended of the house and stock of Burt". The deed was dated at Burt, that is, Brugh. [Goudie]

On 7th October 1590, Robert, Earl of Orkney, was bound in 5,000 merks not to harm Hew Sinclair of Brugh. He also got a charter from Robert, Earl of Orkney, to him and "to the heirs lawfully gotten betwixt him and umquhill [deceased] Grissell Stewart, our daughter natural, each one after other is successively without any division of lands", of the lands of Howsbie and the Isle of Auskerry in Orkney, on 21st April 1591. On 30th June 1597, he is ordained by the Privy Council to find caution to the extent of 5,000 marks. On 23rd December 1597, he amongst others preferred a complaint against the Balfours of Montquhanny, Stratherne, and Garth. He died about 1605, having married (first) the said Grissell Stewart, and (second) Jean, daughter of Alexander Bruce of Cultmalindie, and had issue -

  1. ROBERT, his heir.
  2. LAURENCE, after mentioned (Number V)
  3. HENRY, married Margaret Umphray (died 4th March 1645), and had -
    1. HEW
    2. PATRICK
    3. HELEN
    4. JEAN
  4. ALEXANDER
  1. MARGARET, married Malcolm Sinclair of Quendale
  2. CHRISTINA, married James Sinclair of Goat, and served heir portioner of her brother Robert, on 14th March 1626.

IV ROBERT SINCLAIR OF BRUGH was served heir to his father and grandfather on 8th October 1605, in the Barony of Brugh, consisting of 182 merks of land in Nesting, 23 ¾ in Weisdale, 7 in Whiteness, 16 in Sandsting and Aithsting, 43 ½ in Walls, 9 in Northmaven, 37 in Bressay, 15 in Delting, 5 in Burra, and 9 in Dust, amounting in all to 347 ¼ merks, The inventory of his plate and household goods shows that he was possessed of 82 horses, 38 mares, 60 oxen, 118 cows, 3,060 sheep, 165 barrels of oats, 212 barrels of bear [barley], and 3 chalders of bear [barley]. He died before 31st July 1607, apparently unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother

V LAURENCE SINCLAIR, FIFTH OF BRUGH, who on that date (31st July 1607) was served heir to his father Hugh in the Barony of Brugh. He was a witness at the trial of Patrick, Earl of Orkney, before the Privy Council, in 1610; and was appointed on 10th August 1614, a commissioner to apprehend any of the rebels of Orkney who may proceed to Shetland. He died in December 1659, having married Margaret, daughter of James Sinclair of Scalloway, and had issue -

  1. HUGH, his heir.
  2. JEAN, married to David Stewart in Sandwick.

VI HUGH SINCLAIR. LAST OF BRUGH, only son, served heir to his father on 6th June 1671, and again on 11th June 1706; was a Commissioner of Supply for Shetland in 1678 and 1704. He granted a wadset for 500 merks to James Mitchell of Girlesta over his 9 merks land in Stensland, in the parish of Walls, 3 merks in Tresta in Aithsting, and the island of Linga, lying in Whalsay Sound, on the 26th January 1697. He married a daughter of Murray of Clairden. The estate of Brugh became the property of the Bruces of Symbister, in whose possession it still remains.

An incident known as "The Skerry Fight" has reference to this family [See Description of the Shetland Isles]

Some fishermen on the Busta estate erected a booth in pursuance of an old custom since legalised. Re-occupying it the following summer, and armed in expectation of dispute, they were besieged by the Sinclairs, headed by their lady. After a discharge of firearms on each side. Magnus Flaws, one of the Sinclair party, on attempting to break in through the roof, was shot dead by the Giffords, upon which the Sinclairs at once retired, leaving their chieftainess in the hands of the enemy. Gifford of Busta was at that time (after 1706) steward of the Islands, but did not think it necessary to take official cognizance of the misdeeds of the family dependents. Till within the last twenty years or so the remains of the chapel of the Sinclairs, Barons of Brugh or Burgh, delineated in Hibbert, were standing not far from the head of Catfirth Voe, but, stones being scarce in Shetland, they were pulled down to build a dyke round the burial ground of Garth. [From Tudor]. On the south side of the bay of Nesting are the ruins of the mansion-house of the Barons of Brugh, the Scottish family named Sinclair, established in Shetland by James VI in 1587, on condition that they should hold their land by feudal tenure, and not according to the ancient law of Udal succession, the king at that time being desirous of obliterating all traces of Norwegian rule. In the same vicinage are the ruins of an ancient chapel, of which tradition vouchsafes no history. [Peace's Handbook] The arms of the Brugh family appear in the Armoury.

NOTE - There are Sinclairs at Dunedin, New Zealand, claiming to derive from the Barons of Brugh.

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