Courtly Lives - Clan Gunn

The Gunn Clan
Written and Researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.


The Gunn crest is a dexter arm wielding a broadsword, proper.
Motto = Aut pax aut bellem ("either peace or war").
Coats of arms= argent, a gallery of three masts,
sails farled and oars in action, sab.,
displaying at the mast-head, flags, gules,
within a bordure, azul on a chief of the third a bear's
head of the first muzzled of the second between two mullets of the field.
The name Gunn means battle, which is thought to be of Norse origins from gunn-arr.
Their plant badge (sauaicheantas) is the Juniper.
Their Pipe Music is "The Gunn's Salute."

The territory of the Clan Gunn was in Caithness (their original seat) and Sutherland. The Clan claims its descent from Olave the Black, the Norse King of Man and the Isles. The Gunn Clan had three brethen, Guin, Leod, and Leandris that came from Denmark. Guin/Gunni was the grandson of Sweyn Asleifsson, the pirate. The mother of these three men was said to be Aslief and she was from a noble Norwegian family. Gunni was the second son of Olave the Black (d. 1237) took possession of Ulbster near the Braes of Cathnes (now called Gunn). Leod, another son of Olave the Black, founded the McLeod sept. Leod married Cristina, daughter of Farquahar, Earl of Ross. The Gunns were a war-like Clan and extended their possessions until the 15th century in Sutherland. Through the favor of the Earls of Sutherland they obtained lands in the parish of Kildonan.

In 1426, the daughter of Lachlan Gunn was abducted to Akergill by a member of the Keith Clan. The abduction resulted in her throwing herself from the top of their Ackergill castle tower. This was thought to have been to avoid being dishonored/raped by the Keiths.

In 1455, the Earl of Caithness was given to the Sinclair family by the king of Scotland.

George Gunn was the 7th clan chief in the 15th century. George Gunn held the office of Coroner of Caithness and wore a silver badge as his recognized authority. He lived in Clyth Castle in a lavish style, but he was killed in 1464, while trying to make amends with the Clan Keith regarding their thirty-eight (38) year old feud. Clyth was located on the east coast of Caithness. Two other Gunn castles were at Clyth: Castle Gunn (now a total ruin). Castle Gunn was located om a peninsula and was left as soon as castle Halbery was built a mile south in the 15th century. Castle Gunn was used to build a causeway at a small harbor nearby. The keep of Castle Halbery can still be seen, but the stone from this castle we thought to have been used for dykes around the fields of Clyth Mains farm in the 19th century.

The feud between the Gunns and the Keiths would continue. George's grandson would kill Keith of Ackergill at St Tear's Chapel 100 years after his ancestor's death. In the Highland legends, they said they were killed near Strathmore. His grandson also killed Keith's son and twelve of his followers at Drummory in Sutherland. The Gunn clan lived mainly north of Dunrobin Castle, Sutherlandshire. They had Halburg Castle where George Gunn lived. The Gunn's biggest enemies were members of the Clan Keiths.

In 1562, Alasdair was the chief of the Gunn Clan. Aladair's mother was the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Aboyne. In 1616, John (another chief) was imprisoned in Edinburgh for the burning of the cornstalks of some enemy's tenants. It was most likely Wiliam Innes who he had vowed to kill.

The Gunns also feuded with the MacKays and the earls of Caithness and Sutherland. In 1585, the Earls of Caithness and Sutherland attacked the Gunns. The Gunns killed 140 of their enemies. Later on, the Gunns were defeated at Lochbroom by the Earl of Sutherland.

The Gunn's Castles of Kilearnan was destroyed by fire in 1690. At the time of the Highland clearances in Sutherland, many of the Gunn can were forced to emigrate to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

My Wilson family is a sept of the Gunn Clan and they emigrated to the United States, and settled in Detroit, Michigan, in the early 1900's.


Gallie ... Gaunson ... Georgeson ... George ... Henderson ... Jameson ... Johnson ... Kean ... Keane ... Maclomas ... Maciorkill ... MacCorkle ... MacIan ... MacKarres ... Mackeamish ... MacKean ... Mac Omish ... MacRob ... MacRobb ... MacWilliam ... Mann ... Manson ... Nelson ... Robinson ... Robson ... Sandison ... Swanson ... Will ... Williamson ... Wilson ... Wylie.


Mc Ian, R.R. (artist) and James Logan (text). Clans of the Scottish Highlands. New York: Crescent Books, 1985.

You are the visitor since January 20, 2006

Back to the Scottish Table of Contents

Webmaster: Margaret Sypniewska
Owner: Raymond Sypniewski, B.S., M.A.
Email Margaret: Margaret
Email Raymond: Raymond

This page was last updated on March 24, 2006

This page is hosted by