|Motto||Sans Peur (Without Fear)|
|Slogan||Ceann na Drochaide Bige! (The Head of The Little Bridge)|
|Plant badge||Cotton Sedge|
|Pipe music||The Earl of Sutherland's March|
|Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland|
|The 24th Countess of Sutherland|
|Seat||House of Tongue (Tongue, Sutherland)|
|Historic seat||Dunrobin Castle|
Clan Sutherland is a Highland Scottish clan whose traditional territory is the shire of Sutherland in the far north of Scotland. The chief of the clan was also the powerful Earl of Sutherland, however in the early 16th century this title passed through marriage to a younger son of the chief of Clan Gordon. The current chief is Elizabeth Sutherland who holds the title Countess of Sutherland.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Origins of the clan
- 1.2 Wars of Scottish Independence
- 1.3 14th-century clan conflicts
- 1.4 15th century and clan conflicts
- 1.5 16th century and clan conflicts
- 1.6 17th century and Civil War
- 1.7 18th century and Jacobite risings
- 2 Disputed chiefship
- 3 Castles
- 4 Clan Profile
- 5 Tartans
- 6 References
- 7 Notes
- 8 External links
Origins of the clan
The progenitor of the Clan Sutherland was a Flemish nobleman by the name of Freskin, who was also the progenitor of the Clan Murray. It has been claimed that Freskin was Pictish but it is much more likely that he was a Flemish knight, one of a ruthless group of warlords who were employed by the Norman kings to pacify their new realm after the Norman conquest of England. David I of Scotland who was brought up in the English court, employed such men to keep hold of the wilder parts of his kingdom and granted to Freskin lands in West Lothian. The ancient Pictish kingdom of Moray (Moireabh in Scottish Gaelic) was also given to Freskin and this put an end to the remnants of that old royal house. In a series of astute political moves Freskin and his sons inter married with the old house of Moray to consolidate their power. Freskin's descendants were designated by the surname de Moravia ("of Moray" in the Norman language). Freskin's grandson was Hugh de Moravia who was granted lands in Sutherland and was known as Lord de Sudrland. Hugh's younger brother, William, was progenitor of the Clan Murray.[note 2] Hugh's eldest son (also called William) was William de Moravia, 1st Earl of Sutherland. The place name and clan name of "Sutherland" came from it being the 'land to the south' of the Norse Earldom of Orkney and Caithness. Although the senior line of chiefs who were the Earls of Sutherland had the surname 'de Moravia', they often used the territorial surname 'Sutherland' and the younger sons of the family also took the surname 'Sutherland', thus creating the cadet branches of the Clan Sutherland.
Wars of Scottish Independence
During the Wars of Scottish Independence, chief William de Moravia, 3rd Earl of Sutherland (William Sutherland) fought at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where the English army was defeated. Kenneth de Moravia, 4th Earl of Sutherland (Kenneth Sutherland) was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.
William de Moravia, 5th Earl of Sutherland (William Sutherland), whose wife was Margaret, the daughter of Robert the Bruce and sister of David II of Scotland, led the clan at Kilblene where he participated in the siege of Cupar Castle Fife. William, Earl of Sutherland accompanied King David II of Scotland into England where both were captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, by Durham. They remained in prison for over ten years before being released. John, the son of the Earl and Princess Margaret, was designated the heir to the Throne over Robert Stewart, who eventually became King Robert II in 1371.
14th-century clan conflicts
The habitual enemies of Clan Sutherland were the Clan Sinclair of Caithness and the Clan Mackay and Clan McLeod to the west of Sutherland. A feud with the Mackays came to a head when Nicholas Sutherland of Duffus, head of one of the junior branches, murdered the chief of the Clan Mackay and his heir at Dingwall Castle, where they had met in an attempt to patch up the feud. A retaliatory raid by the Mackays on Dornoch took place, where the cathedral was set on fire and many Sutherland men were hanged in the town square. William, 5th Earl of Sutherland was killed by the Mackays in 1370 in feud which lasted for the next four centuries. In 1388 the Earl of Sutherland was a leader of the Scots invading into the west of England. He married Margaret Stewart, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Buchan, a younger son of King Robert II of Scotland.
15th century and clan conflicts
According to 17th-century historian Sir Robert Gordon, the Clan Sutherland joined the Clan Mackay in their victory over the Clan Ross at the Battle of Aldy Charrish in 1487. However, 19th - 20th-century historian Angus Mackay disputes the Sutherland's presence at the battle stating that it would be unlikely that the Earl of Sutherland at the time would have assisted against the Rosses as he was married to a daughter of the Ross chief of Balnagowan, and also that the feudal superiority of the Sutherlands over the Mackays "nowhere existed save in his own fertile imagination".
16th century and clan conflicts
In 1517 Elizabeth de Moravia, 10th Countess of Sutherland (Elizabeth Sutherland) married Adam Gordon, younger son of Gordon of Huntly. Their son was Alexander Gordon, Master of Sutherland who would become the legal heir to the Earldom of Sutherland and overall chiefship of the Clan Sutherland. According to Sir Robert Gordon, who himself was a son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, in the same year the Mackays rose up against the Gordons who had taken power in Sutherland which resulted in the Battle of Torran Dubh, where the Mackays were defeated. Sir Robert Gordon also states that at the battle, the Sutherland force had been led by Alexander Sutherland, brother of Elizabeth, 10th Countess of Sutherland. However, this version of events is disputed by both historian Angus Mackay and historian Sir William Fraser, who state that it can be proved that Alexander Sutherland was in prison in 1517 when the battle is supposed to have taken place. Whatever the truth, the following year in 1518 or 1519, Alexander Sutherland claimed the Earldom of Sutherland for himself and rose up against his sister Elizabeth, 10th Countess of Sutherland and her husband Adam Gordon, but he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Alltachuilain.
According to the book Conflicts of the Clans which was published in 1764, in 1542 the Battle of Alltan-Beath took place where the Clan Mackay were defeated by the Clan Sutherland. According to historian Sir Robert Gordon, in 1542, chief Donald Mackay, 11th of Strathnaver was captured by the Gordon Earls of Sutherland and Huntly, and imprisoned in Foulis Castle. However, this is disputed by historian Angus Mackay.
In 1545 at Dingwall, the Earl of Sutherland entered into a bond of manrent with John Mackenzie of Kintail for mutual defense against all enemies, reserving only their allegiance to the youthful Mary, Queen of Scots.
In 1555 the Battle of Garbharry was fought, which was the last battle between the Clan Mackay and the Clan Sutherland. In 1586 the Battle of Leckmelm took place where the Sutherlands, Mackays and MacLeods defeat the Clan Gunn.
17th century and Civil War
In the 17th century the Clan Sutherland began to acquire the reputation for enthusiastic and pious Protestantism. This is probably what made the Gordon Earls of Sutherland begin to distance themselves from their Gordon Earl of Huntly (Clan Gordon) cousins who were Catholics and later Jacobites. In 1645 John Gordon, 14th Earl of Sutherland led the clan against the royalists at the Battle of Auldearn but was defeated.
In 1650, the Clan Sutherland along with the Clan Munro and the Clan Ross joined forces with the Scottish Argyll Government to fight against James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and his royalist army of foreigners, who they defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale.
In 1685, John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland, raised men of the Clan Sutherland to oppose Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll's expedition that was known as Argyll's Rising. The Earl of Sutherland also raised two regiments from the clan after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The second of which he was a Colonel in command in Flanders in 1694.
18th century and Jacobite risings
Jacobite rising of 1715
During the Jacobite rising of 1715, John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland who later resumed the surname Sutherland, called out his men to fight for George I of Great Britain. The Clan Sutherland garrisoned Inverness Castle against the Jacobites.
Jacobite rising of 1719
In 1719, a detachment of men from the Clan Sutherland fought for the British government at the Battle of Glenshiel where they helped to defeat the Jacobites. The Earl and chief of Clan Sutherland had been of the surname Gordon ever since the early 16th century, however John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland resumed the surname of Sutherland and was officially recognized as chief of Clan Sutherland by the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1719.
Jacobite rising of 1745
The Clan Sutherland also supported the British government during the Jacobite rising of 1745. At the start of the rising William, 17th Earl of Sutherland and chief of Clan Sutherland reconciled with their ancient enemies, the Mackays, settling the ancient feud. In 1745 the fighting force of the Clan Sutherland was given as 2,000 men. During the rising, Jacobites under George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie occupied the Sutherland's Dunrobin Castle, and the Earl of Sutherland narrowly escaped them through a back door. He then sailed for Aberdeen where he joined the Duke of Cumberland's army. However, this same Jacobite force under the Earl of Cromartie was defeated by the Clan Sutherland militia, who formed an Independent Highland Company, in what became known as the Battle of Littleferry. However, despite all these efforts by the Earl of Sutherland to defeat the Jacobites, including his victory at Littleferry, he struggled to prove to the parliament in London that he had not had Jacobite sympathies.
The chief of Clan Sutherland was the Earl of Sutherland. When William Sutherland, 18th Earl of Sutherland died in 1766 he left an only daughter, Elizabeth. This led to a legal battle over the succession to the title. Elizabeth's right to succeed as a woman was challenged firstly by George Sutherland of Forse, who was a direct male descendant of the original de Moravia/Sutherland Earls of Sutherland and secondly by Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun who was a direct male descendant of the later Gordon Earls of Sutherland. The case was heard by the House of Lords on 21 March 1771 and it decided in favour of Elizabeth. She married George Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford who later became the first Duke of Sutherland in 1833. The Duke set up businesses on the coast and ruthlessly cleared his tenants off the land, abandoning the customary obligations of a Scottish clan chief. However, two tacksmen of the clan, the brothers Alexander and John Sutherland of Sciberscross, were opposed to the clearance of tenants in Sutherland. Alexander Sutherland of Sciberscross, an army officer, fiercely opposed the clearances and was the source of much of the London press's critical coverage of the clearance events in Sutherland. His brother, John Sutherland of Sciberscross, gave "covert aid" in 1813 to the Kildonan rebels opposing the clearances in Sutherland.
Upon the death of the fifth Duke of Sutherland, the chiefship of the clan and the earldom of Sutherland devolved upon his niece, Elizabeth Sutherland, 24th Countess of Sutherland, the current chief of Clan Sutherland.
Castles that have been owned by the Clan Sutherland include amongst many others:
- Dunrobin Castle, a mile to the north of Golspie, Sutherland is the historic seat of the Earls of Sutherland, chiefs of Clan Sutherland. The current castle was developed out of an old stronghold that was remodeled in modern times by Robert Lorimer. During World War I the castle was used as a naval hospital and between 1963 and 1972 as a public boys school. The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl although there are different stories behind her appearance. One is that she fell to her death from an upstairs window when she tried to elope with her lover and another that she was seized by one of the earls who desired her, but she refused him and also fell to her death. Dunrobin Castle is still held by the Countess of Sutherland although she resides at the House of Tongue in Sutherland and also in London.
- House of Tongue, about a mile north of Tongue, Sutherland is now the property of the Countess of Sutherland but was previously held by the Mackay Lords Reay. There was once a tower house that belonged to the Clan Mackay but the present mansion dates from 1678.
- Dornoch Castle, also known as Dornoch Palace was originally held by the Bishops of Caithness but passed to the Earls of Sutherland after the Protestant Reformation. In 1567 George Sincliar, 4th Earl of Caithness had the town and cathedral burnt, and the castle besieged in order to secure possession of the young Earl of Sutherland. However, it is also said that Sutherland was abducted from Skibo Castle. Dornoch Castle held out in the siege for a month, surrendering on fair terms, but the hostages that were given by the garrison were subsequently murdered. The castle was then burnt and left in a ruin until it was restored as a court house and jail in the nineteenth century. The castle is said to be haunted and there are also stories of a tunnel linking it to the nearby cathedral. The castle is now a hotel.
- Duffus Castle, near Elgin, Moray, was the seat of the Sutherland of Duffus branch of the clan. It was originally built by Freskin, Lord of Strathbrock, from whom both the Sutherlands and Murrays are descended. Duffus passed from Freskin to the Cheynes but went to the Sutherlands by marriage in 1350. The Sutherlands held the lands until 1843. At the end of the seventeenth century the Sutherlands abandoned the castle for nearby Duffus House. The Sutherlands of Duffus have a burial aisle at nearby St Peter's Church.
- Forse Castle, near Dunbeath, Caithness, was the seat of the Sutherland of Forse branch of the clan. The castle was abandoned in the eighteenth century and Forse House was built in 1753.
- Golspie Tower, Golspie, Sutherland, the site of a large tower held by the Earls of Sutherland.
- Helmsdale Castle, Helmsdale, Sutherland, site of a castle held by the Earls of Sutherland. It was at Helmsdale Castle that Isobel Sinclair, aunt of the Earl of Sutherland poisoned John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland and his wife, in order make her own son the earl. She also attempted to poison the earl's heir but the cup of poison was actually drunk by her own son who died two days later. She killed herself before being executed in Edinburgh. This affair was a plot apparently hatched by George Sinclair, 4th Earl of Caithness.
- Langwell Castle, Latheron, Caithness, was held by the Earls of Sutherland but was replaced by Langwell House, a mansion, in the eighteenth century. The property was sold to the Sinclairs in 1788 and then to the Dukes of Portland who still own and occupy it.
- Skelbo Castle, near Dornoch, Sutherland, is now a ruinous castle that was held by the Sutherlands of Skelbo. In 1308 the castle was captured by Robert the Bruce. The Sutherlands of Skelbo acquired the Lordship of Duffus in the fourteenth century. This Sutherland family were forfeited for their part in the Jacobite rising of 1715 and the property then passed to the Earls of Sutherland.
- Clyne, near Brora, Sutherland is the site of a castle that was once held by the Clyne family but passed to the Sutherlands in 1550 who still owned the property in the middle of the eighteenth century.
- Berriedale Castle, at Berriedale, near Dunbeath in Caithness was originally held by the Cheynes in the fourteenth century but passed by marriage to the Sutherlands. It had passed to the Clan Oliphant by 1526 and in 1606 to the Sinclair Earl of Caithness.
- Cnoc Chaisteal, near Dornoch, Sutherland is the site of a castle that was believed to have been built by the Sutherlands of Evelix in about 1570.
- Skibo Castle, near Dornoch, Sutherland, is now a mansion on the site of a castle. The castle has been held by the Mackays, Grays, Dowalls and the Dempsters of Dunnichen. It was remodeled for the Sutherlands in 1872 but was purchased by Andrew Carnegie in 1895. It is now an exclusive country club.
- Aberscross Castle near Dornoch, Sutherland was the seat of the Murrays or Morrays of Aberscross, a sept of the Clan Sutherland, they were the principal vassals of the Earl of Sutherland and were charged with the defense of the shire. Their name appears predominantly on the front line in the feuds with the Mackays and Sinclairs. Aberscross Castle fell into ruin in the 17th century. (The name of the original line of Earls of Sutherland was "de Moravia" which means "of Moray" or "of Murray"). Aberscross Castle was held by the de Moravia (Murray) family from when they first moved to Sutherland at the end of the twelfth century.
- Gaelic Names: Suithearlarach (Singular) & Na Suithearlaraichean (Collective)
- Motto: "Sans Peur" (French for "Without Fear")
- Slogan: "Ceann na Drochaide Bige!" (Gaelic for "The Head of the Little Bridge!")
- Pipe Music: "The Earl of Sutherland's March"
- Crest: A cat-a-mountain saliant Proper
- Supporters: Two savages wreathed head and middle with laurel, holding batons in their hands proper.
- Plant Badge: Butcher's Broom, Cotton Sedge
- Animal Symbol: Cat.
- Arms (Earl of Sutherland as recorded for the fifteenth Earl, 1719):
- Shield: Gules, three mullets Or, on a bordure of the second a double tressure flory counterflory of the first.
- Old Sutherland (Ancient)
- Old Sutherland (Dress)
- Old Sutherland (Modern)
- Old Sutherland (Muted)
- Old Sutherland (Weathered)
- Sutherland (Modern)
- Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- Clan Sutherland Profile scotclans.com. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 563 - 564. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
- Gordon, Sir Robert (1580–1657). (1813). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. pp.85-106.
- Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. p. 3. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
- Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 284 - 285.
- Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 332 - 333.
- Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. pp. 7 - 9. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
- Clan Sutherland History ihug.co.nz. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 -1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. p.65 - 66.
- ’Conflicts of the Clans’ published in 1764 by the Foulis press, written from a manuscript wrote in the reigh of James VI of Scotland.
- Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the Clan and House of the Name MacKay. pp. 86. Quoting from Gordon, Sir Robert (1580–1656), A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland.
- Mackay, Angus. (1906). Book of Mackay. (St Andrews University). Printed by William Rae, Wick. Pages 70 -71.
- Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. p. 11. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
- Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of Mackay. pp. 100 - 106. Quoting: Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical history of the Earldom of Sutherland.
- Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of Mackay. pp.100 - 106: Quoting from Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 -1656) A Genealogical history of the Earldom of Sutherland.
- Mackay, Angus. (1906). 'The Book of Mackay. pp. 82 - 83. Quoting: Fraser, Sir William, The Sutherland Book.
- Gordon, Sir Robert. A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Re-published in 1813. Pages 95 – 97.
- Foulis Press. (1764).The History of the Feuds and Conflicts Among the Clans in the Northern Parts of Scotland and in the Western Isles: from the year M.XX1 unto M.B.C.XIX, now first published from a manuscript wrote in the reign of King James VI." The only changes made is the modernising of the orthography to 1890 standards:-- . electricscotland.com. Retrieved on January 05, 2013.
- Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of the Name Mackay. pp. 114 - 118. Quoting: Gordon, Sir Robert (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland.
- Mackay, Angus. (1906). The Book of Mackay. p. 92.
- Mackenzie, Alexander. History of the Mackenzies, with genealogies of the principal families of the name (1894). 
- Mackay Robert. "History of the House and Clan of the Name MacKay" (1829). p.126 - 127. Quoting Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 - 1656). "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland".
- Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 - 1656) "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland" .p.183.
- Gordon, Sir Robert. A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Re-published in 1813. Pages 202 - 203.
- Battle of Carbisdale Archived 27 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. scotwars.com. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "The Scottish Clans and Their Tartans". W. & A. K. Johnston Limited. Edinburgh and London. 1886. Page 95.
- Simpson, Peter. (1996). The Independent Highland Companies, 1603 - 1760. pp. 135 - 136. ISBN 0-85976-432-X.
- Clan Sutherland History clansutherland.org. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. p. 32. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
- Hunter, James. (2015). Set Adrift Upon the World - The Sutherland Clearances. pp. xviii - xix. ISBN 978-1-78027-268-9.
- Hunter, James. (2015). Set Adrift Upon the World - The Sutherland Clearances. pp. 86 - 87. ISBN 978-1-78027-268-9.
- "Langwell Castle". Stravaiging Around Scotland. Archived from the original on 29 September 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Early History of the Clan Murray (Clann Mhoraidh) in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) chebucto.ns.ca Retrieved 1 Jan 2012
- Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 446. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
- The Keiths who were septs of the Clan Sutherland were in fact a branch of the Clan Keith of Aberdeenshire who had settled in Sutherland and Caithness.
- The chiefs of the Clan Sutherland and Clan Murray shared a common ancestor in the direct male line. The surname of both families was originally "de Moravia" meaning "of Moray" or "of Murray" and as a result there were some people by the name of Murray who were septs of the Clan Sutherland in the far north. Most notably the Murrays or Morays of Aberscross who were the principal vassals of the Earl of Sutherland and were charged with the defense of the shire.