Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

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 [writ for succession to property] 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 Master is very well, God be praised, 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 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, 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 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's Peerage", 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, heritable sheriff of Caithness, married Janet, daughter of William, Lord Strathnaver, and sister of William, Master [heir apparent] of Strathnaver, the 17th Earl of Sutherland. 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
[from Burke's Peerage and Debrett]

VIII. SIR JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER, the celebrated statistician of Scotland, was born in 1754, and was created baronet in 1788, with remainder, in default of male issue, to the male issue of his daughters. John Sinclair, on 14th February 1786, was created a baronet with remainder in default of his own male issue, to the male issue of his daughters respectively. A more complete notice of Sir John appears later on. He married, first, 26th March 1776, Sarah, daughter of Alexander Maitland of Stoke Newington, by whom he had one surviving daughter -

  1. JANET, married to Sir James Colquhoun, Baronet
He married, secondly, 6th March 1788, Diana, daughter of Alexander, first Lord Macdonald, by whom (who died 22nd April 1845) he had -
  1. GEORGE, next baronet
  2. ALEXANDER, born 17th June 1794; died unmarried 9th August 1877; formerly in Hon. East India Company's Service
  3. JOHN, born 20th August 1797; died 22nd May 1875; M.A., in holy orders; Archdeacon of Middlesex, and Vicar of Kensington
  4. ARCHIBALD, born 20th September, 1801; died 1st June 1859; captain Royal Navy, an officer of high repute, and much and very generally esteemed. Captain Sinclair founded the Naval and Military Club in Scotland, and was the author of a popular volume of naval reminiscences
  5. WILLIAM MACDONALD, born 4th September, 1804; died 1878; in holy orders, Rector of Pulborough, Sussex; married, first, December 28th, 1837, Helen (died 1842), daughter of William Ellice, and by her he had issue -
    1. ALEXANDER EDWARD, born in 1839
    2. WALTER, born 15th April 1841; died 1887; married 4th February 1874, Kathleen, daughter of Henry Dickenson of Ashton Keynes, and had issue - GLADYS MURIEL
    The Rev W.M. Sinclair married, second, in 1846, Sophia, daughter of the Rev. James Tripp, Rector of Spofforth, and by her he had -
    1. WILLIAM MACDONALD, The Venerable, born 1850; educated at Balliol College, Oxford (M.A., 1874; B.D., 1888; D.D., 1892); is Archdeacon of London, Canon of St.Paul's, Chaplain-in-ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen, and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of London. Residence - Chapter House, St.Paul's Cathedral, London E.C.; Club Athenaenum
    2. JAMES
    3. JOHN STEWART, The Rev., born 1853; educated at Oriel College, Oxford (M.A., 1878); is Vicar of St.Dionis', Fulham, and a Justice of the Peace; married, 1893, Clara Sophia, daughter of J. Dearman Birchall, J.P., of Dowdell Hall, Gloucestershire, and has issue living - RONALD SUTHERLAND BROOK, born 1894. Residence - Arundel House, Fulham, London S.W.; Club - Oxford and Cambridge.
    4. HUGH MONTGOMERIE, born 1855; is Major Royal Engineers, was D.A.A.G., N.E. District, 1892-95; Clubs - Junior United Service, Wellington
    5. HELEN SOPHIA, married, 1880, the Rev. George Edmund Hasell, Rector of Aikton. Residence - Aikton Hall, Wigton, Cumberland
    6. JANET MARY
  6. JAMES Hon. East India Company's Service, born 18th November 1805; died 20th June 1826.
  7. GODFREY, born in 1812; died at his residence in Edinburgh in June 1890. Accidentally lame in infancy, in spite of vast personal strength, he was never able to take an active part in life
  8. ELIZABETH DIANA, died 30th May 1863
  9. MARGARET, died 5th August 1879
  10. JULIA, married 13th November 1824, to George, 4th Earl of Glasgow
  11. CATHERINE, distinguished as an authoress; died 6th August 1864
  12. HELEN, married l0th August 1826, Stair Stewart of Glasserton and Whysgill, N.B., and died 25th April 1845
The Right Hon. Sir John Sinclair, Privy Council, who was Cashier of the Excise of Scotland, died 21st December 1835. He was offered a peerage, which he refused.

II SIR GEORGE SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER, M.P., was born on the 23rd August 1790.

He married, 1st May 1816, Lady Catherine Camilla, sister of Lionel, 6th Earl of Dysart, and had -

  1. DUDLEY, died unmarried at Auckland, New Zealand, in 1844
  2. JOHN GEORGE TOLLEMACHE, present baronet, born 8th November 1825
  3. GRANVILLE, died in 1833
  4. EMILIA MAGDALEN LOUlSA, married, first, on 12th August 1837, Henry Tollemache, which marriage was dissolved by the Court of Session in Scotland in 1841, and since also by the Court for Divorce in London; and second, to Major John Power, son of the late P. Power, of Bellevue, County Waterford
  5. ADELAIDE MARY WENTWORTH, married in August 1845, George, second son of John James Hope Johnston, of Annandale, Member of Parliament.
  6. OLIVIA SOPHIA, died 1895
SIR GEORGE died on the 9th October 1868.

III SIR JOHN GEORGE TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR, second son of the preceding, succeeded his father. He was formerly a Page of Honour to Queen Adelaide, and Lieutenant Scots Fusilier Guards; is Vice-Lieutenant and a D.L. for Caithness; sat as Member of Parliament for same (Liberal) 1869-85. Married 22nd November 1853, Emma Isabella Harriet (whom he divorced 4th July 1878), daughter of the late William Standish Standish, of Duxbury Park, Lancashire, and Cockell Hall, Durham. Issue -

  1. CLARENCE GRANVILLE, born 3rd April 1858; died 1895; D.L. for Caithness, late Lieutenant Scots Guards, and Major 2nd Volunteer Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, He married in 1889 Mabel (died 1890), daughter of the late Mahlon Sands, of New York. Issue ARCHIDALD HENRY MACDONALD, born in 1890
  2. GEORGE FELIX STANDISH, born 1861; formerly Lieutenant 3rd Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders); formerly Captain 2nd,Volunteer Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, the Duke of Albany's). Married, 1884, Margaret, only sister of Sir John Sinclair, 7th Baronet of Dunbeath, Issue -
    1. ALGERNON RONALD TOLLEMACHE, born in 1886
    2. DOROTHY EMMA OLIVIA, born in 1885
    3. OLIVE MARY CAMILLA, born 1892
    Residence - Thurso Castle; Club - Bachelors'.
  3. AMY CAMILLA, married 8th July 1874, John Henry Fullerton Udny, of Udny Castle, Aberdeen
  4. NINA MARY ADELAIDE, married 22nd July 1881, Major-General Owen Lewis Cope Williams, of Temple House, Bucks, Member of Parliament for Great Marlow
  5. CONSTANCE, died in 1861
Seat - Thurso Castle; Town Resdence - 14, King Street, St.James', London S.W.; Club Travellers. Five generations of this family have represented the Earldom of Caithness in the Imperial Parliament.

ARMS - See Armoury.

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com