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Caithness Folk In History
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Arthur St Clair - 9th President Of The United States in Congress Assembled February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787

Born in Thurso, Caithness, 23 March 1734 -  died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 31 August 1818.
This entry has been suggested by Donald Sinclair of Indianapolis following his research on his own Sinclair family.  He has not been able yet to make a connection between his own family and Arthur St Clair originally Sinclair who changed his name back to the old French version even though they lived in the same area.  Donald said  -
I found another member of the family there. In Greensburg Pennsylvania one can find St. Clair Park. Here lies the body of General Arthur St. Clair and his wife Phoebe Bayard. It is a shady, hilly park with a stately iron fence and a modern amphitheatre. The next day, we drove to Ligonier, where Arthur St. Clair's farm, called Chestnut Ridge, once was. The road follows a heavily forested gorge along the Loyalhanna Creek. There we found another monument to the general and a small road called St. Clair Hollow.
I do wonder about this man and my very own family. They lived here at the same place, in the same time in history. I do not however know of any connection between them.
I am sending a few photos to you of his gravesite.
Also see the link below for more on this son of Caithness."
for lots of information and more links
Sinclair Connections On Caithness.org

David J Mackay
Swein Asleifsson was not a person with whom anyone would wish to fall out. He punched above his weight. He literally put the fear of death into his nominal overlords, the Earls of Orkney. Unlike Earls Magnus and Rognvald, who also lived in the 12th Century, Swein was never a candidate for sainthood.

We learn virtually all we know of Swein from the Orkneyinga Saga, written around 1200 by an unknown Icelandic scribe. The Saga described Swein as being, among his peers, “the greatest man in the Western Lands, either in olden times or present day”.

Neil Miller Gunn
1891 - 1973

A writer who incorporated Zen philosophy into his novels before it became fashionable, Gunn remains as one of the mystical figures in the literary history of Scotland. Born in Dunbeath, Caithness, the sea, the rivers and landscapes of northern Scotland are an integral part of his writings. From his early teens he lived in Kirkcudbrightshire with an older sister and her husband. There, he received private tuition from two locals, one a poet. Success in Civil Service exams took him first to London, then Edinburgh in 1909. Like Robert Burns before him, he was appointed an Excise Officer, serving in the Highlands from 1911 to 1921.

Posted to Wigan, Lancashire for two years, he married Jessie Frew, the two moving back north to Lybster, Caithness, where his writing began in earnest. His poaching was also apparently on the up at this time too, as he was (allegedly) the best poacher in Caithness. He was also secretly involved in various Nationalist activities, perhaps partly through meeting Hugh MacDiarmid and others in Inverness, and was instrumental in forming the Scottish National Party.

His first recognised success was Highland River in 1937, after which he gave up his full-time work in order to write. The two moved to Dingwall, and finally the Black Isle, where they lived from 1959 on. In his writings, Gunn demonstrates his wide and deep knowledge of Highland history and folklore. The constant undercurrents of sea and a boy's experiences and development are well shown in Morning Tide (1931), where in a village dominated by the sea the story depicts a boy's growing experience of reality.

Unfortunately, for some unfathomable reason, Gunn has never been a favourite of the literary press or publishers for that matter. He is not even mentioned in Martin Seymour-Smith's Guide to Modern World Literature. There are some bright stars still twinkling however; Canongate, Polygon, Souvenir Press, with others, have reissued most of his books.

In The Green Isle of the Great Deep (1944), a sequel to the earlier Young Art and Old Hector (1942), Gunn has woven both a fantasy and a commentary on the wartime situation, with a dig at the inhumanity of some fashionable leftisms. Gunn's dedication to The Green Isle reads 'For Old Hector and others like him who were friendly to many a Highland boy, this phantasy'. It is set in a tyrannical state operated by brainwashing methods.

Some of his books are less allegorical and more historical; The Silver Darlings (1941) for example is of the heyday of the herring industry in Caithness, in the early 19th century. Sun Circle (1933) tells of 9th century conflicts of Viking and Pict.

Gunn stayed close to his people and his land; it runs through his works just as the rivers ran through his childhood days and the sea met the coast. If some reference books have missed the point, it is to their detriment. His autobiographical book The Atom of Delight is as much about Zen as it is about the author. It was published in 1956.

William Alexander Smith
Founder Of The Boys Brigade
1854 - 1914

Born in Thurso, in 1854, the son of an officer in the dragoons who later became a businessman. When his father died, Smith moved to Glasgow, aged 13, to be brought up by an uncle in the wholesaling business. He joined his business as an apprentice, and later started his own firm along with a brother.

Smith joined the Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, the YMCA, and the Free Church. In the latter he became associated with the Rev George Reith (father of the BBC's Lord Reith). All of these activities ignited one day in 1883. Smith was taking a Sunday School in North Woodside, full of young, energetic, but somewhat bored pupils. Why not, Smith thought, introduce some discipline to these pupils, in the way of a paramilitary youth organisation. And so 'The Boys' Brigade' was created.

It spread rapidly throughout Scotland, Britain and the Commonwealth. It was dedicated to 'the advancement of God's Kingdom among Boys'. Entrants wore a simple uniform of belt, diagonal sash, and a small, round hat which maintained its position via a chin-strap. Eventually, summer camps were part of the scheme, and always with a firm church base. The organisation was quasi-military, with companies, brigades and so on. There was a fair bit of drilling and marching, all intended to introduce some personal discipline into youthful hooligans, and it worked for many.

Smith married twice and had two sons; he gave up his business to concentrate on the organisation, becoming its Secretary and organiser. Knighted in 1909, he died the day after a mass rally in London, in the Albert Hall. He was succeeded by both sons, one of whom, Stanley, followed in his footsteps as Brigade Secretary.