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History of Caithness
Pref. 2nd Edition
Memoir of Author
Appendix 2 Roads
App 2 - Superstition
App 2 - Extracts
Notes To 2nd Edition
Caithness In 1887
COLONEL GEORGE SINCLAIR.
THE following extract from a letter, to Sir
George Sinclair of Ulbster from a Norwegian gentleman, relative to
the melancholy fate of Colonel George Sinclair, and the body of men
under his command in Norway, in the year 1612, will be found
interesting. It is without date, but its authenticity may be
depended upon :–
The Doctor has seen Sir Robert Gordon’s history, as well as an account of the expedition given by Laing in his work entitled a “Residence in Norway in 1834, ’35, ’36.” Laing, whose account is in some respects incorrect, suggests that the Sinclair families in Caithness may have traditional information which would be highly interesting in Norway, where the defeat of the Sinclairs is still dwelt upon as a great national exploit. The object of the expedition was to assist Gustavus Adolphus in the conquest of Norway. Munckhoven’s corps succeeded in joining the Swedes. The Sinclairs landed more to the south. Their commander or colonel was brother of Sir John Sinclair of “Stirkay” (Stirkoke), nephew of George, fifth Earl of Caithness. The second in command was Alexander Ramsay, who had two lieutenants under him – Jacob Mannerspange and Henrick Brussy(probably Bruce). Was the Colonel a legitimate descendant of the Earls of Caithness?
He was accompanied by Fru (or Lady) Sinclair. The title of Fru implies that she was his wife, and she is still affectionately remembered by the Norwegians. In their songs it is alleged that after the defeat she rushed into a rapid river, in which many of the soldiers were drowned, but being supported by her ample robes she was even able to carry her infant son safe across in her arms. When the child died she adopted a young Norwegian. A mermaid ‘appeared to Colonel Sinclair by night, and threatened him with death in case he should advance. The Colonel replied, “that when he returned in triumph from the conquest of the kingdom, he would punish her as she deserved.” The mermaid’s name was Ellen, and some allege that she was Fru Sinclair herself in disguise.
The Norwegians are very desirous to know her name, and whether she was really married. An entry in the registry of the parish proves that she and at least two others survived. In another account the number of survivors is increased to three officers and fifteen men, including Ramsay and his two lieutenants. Is there any tradition in Scotland that either she or they returned home? One of the Sinclairs, a prisoner, who was about to be murdered, rushed up to a peasant on horseback, exclaiming, “Protect me; I am not prepared to die !” The peasant saved him, and Sinclair afterwards sent a stained glass window to Norway representing an angel protecting a suppliant. The window has been preserved, and is highly valued by the people.
An insolent speech of Colonel Sinclair’s is still repeated by the Norwegians with great indignation : “ I’ll recast the old Norway lion, and turn him into a mole that will not venture out of his burrow!”
I enclose the music which the Sinclairs played as they advanced through the defile. The bass has been added, and is not good. Is the tune known in Caithness?
NOTE.-All the accounts of this tragical affair we have seen, including that in the above communication, differ from each other. So far as we know, there are no family papers in the county to throw any light on the subject. Colonel Sinclair was a natural son of David Sinclair of Stirkoke, and brother of John Sinclair, who was killed at Thurso in 1612.
That the Caithness men were cheered with music as they advanced through the defile, is a new feature in the story. If such were the fact—and it is not at all improbable—the instrument must have been the bagpipe; and it would afford a melancholy interest to know the particular tune that was played, and which on this occasion might be well termed their own “dead march.”
THE following is a list of most of the Caithness proprietors and wadsetters in 1668 :—
George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness; Sir William Sinclair of Mey; John Sinclair of Murkle; George Sutherland of Forss; William Dunbar of Hempriggs; Francis Sinclair of Stirkoke; Patrick Sinclair of Ulbster; Alexander Bain of Clyth; John Murray of Pennyland; Alexander Sinclair of Telstain; David Sinclair of South Dunn; William Budge of Toftingall; William Bruce of Stanstill; William Sinclair of Thura; John Sinclair of Brabster; George Sinclair of Barrock; John Sinclair of Stangergill; Robert Sinclair of Durren; George Sinclair of Olrig; George Sinclair of Assary ; Alexander Calder of Newton; David Calder of Scouthel; Charles Calder* of Lynegar; James Sinclair of Holburn-head; John Bruce of Ham; James Innes of Sandside; Donald Henderson of Achalibster; Donald Sinclair of Lybster; David Murray of Clairdon; David Coghill of that ilk; Francis Sinclair of Latheron; and David Sinclair of Freswick.
[Footnote to page 302]* Chalmers,in his “Caledonia,” has the following note on the name Calder:-“The name of the parish of Cader (Lanarkshire) and of the lands of Cader appears in the charters of the 12th and 13th centuries in the constant form of Cader. In modern times it is called Calder, obviously derived from the British Cader signifying a fortress.” The Caithness Calders are said to have come originally from Morayshire, and their first place of settlement in the county seems to have been Watten.
LIBERTIES OF THE TOWN OF THURSO.
I, John Earl of Caithness, Viscount of Bredalbin, Sinclair, Borridie, and Glenorchy, heretable proprietor of the said Earldom and Baron, burgh of Thurso, annexed hereto. For as meikle as the deceast George Earl of Caithness, and our predecessor, be his order, warrant and commission made and granted be him to the baillies of Thurso, and their successors, baillies thereof, councelors, and inhabitants of the samen, tending to their weal and good government of in common will, within the said baron burgh, to be used and put in execution by the present bailies then for the time, and their successors, containing all prevelidges, liberties, and powers belonging and incumbant to any burgh of barony, to be used and execute to the said baillies, with advice of the counselors elected, and to be elected, within the said burgh, as the said commission, warrant, and order of the date the twenty-ninth day of December jaixii and fifty-nine years, in itself at length bears. And now seeing we find it very necessary that in such an Incorporation the same government in common will within the said burgh be used, and be put, execute, and kept in due and lawful execution hereafter be the magistrates and counselors thereof tendant to the glory of God, his Majesty’s laws and authority, and the good and weil of us their superior, we give, grant full power, commission, liberty, and warrant to James Innes of Thurso, Thomas Sinclair, merchant in Thurso, and James Campbell, merchant there, present baillies, and their successors, baillies thereof, and counselors of the samen, and to the several articles aftermentioned.
First. That the baillies and counselors be assisting to the minister and elders of the said burgh in maintaining the kirk, kirkyard dykes, keeping of the Sabbath, maintaining of schools, masters thereof, and all other things tending to God’s glory and worship, and in curbing and punishing of all vice and sin opposite thereto, to their power.
Secondly. We give, grant full commission, power, and warrant to them and their successors to decide cognitions, and decern in all civil actions, questions, controversies, for debts, buying, selling, lending, borrowing, feeing and untying of servants, and all other wrongs and injuries arising betwixt the inhabitants resident and trafecting within the said burgh ; and to determine and settle the same according to the burgh laws of any burgh of barony.
Thirdly. That the said magistrates decern and give out decreet against all inhabitants within the said burgh for whatsoever debts, sums of money, and other goods restand to others ; arrest and stress for the same until they make satisfaction of what other of them shall be found justly restand to others, at least to find caution for forthcoming as law will, the said being within forty shillings sterling money.
Fourthly. That the said magistrates suffer no merchant, nor other inhabitant of the said burgh, to buy victal or other commodity, that shall be coming to the market, until it be first presented on the ordinary market-place, except it be for old debts, for their own rents, and for sustaining of their families and houses, under the pains falling under the compass of any burgh of barony, to be inflicted upon the contraveeners, as they shall think convenient.
Fifthly. That when merchants, shippers, or owners of goods shall come with goods to the said burgh, by sea or land, to be sold in greate,that no inhabitant shall make any bargain therewith,until the baillies and councelors refuse the same; and that the said magistrates, upon the neat payment thereof, without fraud or guile, make offer to the merchants, craftsmen, and inhabitants of the said burgh, that they may have their proportion of the same, according to their necessitys and ability; and that none make merchandise in buying and selling privately or openly, in prejudice of the said merchants, craftsmen, and other inhabitants, under the pains of such laws as the said magistrates shall impose and inflict upon the contraveeners, both sellers and buyers, competent, according to the laws of the burgh.
Sixthly. That all carcases of beef and mutton that shall happen to come to the market to be sold, shall have therewith their hides, skins, and tallow, and that the beef and mutton shall not be minched, cut, or spoilt, under such pains as the said magistrates shall enjoin, sett down, and uplift, upon the contraveeners.
Seventhly. That no stranger, merchant, or chapman traveller, shall take booths or shops to sell their goods within the said burgh and liberty thereof, without special licence first had of the magistrates; and also of the said merchants and chapmen to consend and agree with the magistrates for their liberty of buying and selling within the said burgh, for such and such convenient days and times as they shall happen to condescend upon, under such pains and pecuniary sums as they shall inflict upon the contraveeners, for increasing upon the libertys of the said burgh.
Eighthly. We grant full commission, deputation, power, and warrant to the said magistrates to take, order, and execute justice upon all persons, inhabitants of said burgh, committors of riots, blood, bloodwitts, plays, and all other inormities, as well to strangers as others without the said burgh, as the inhabitants committing the same within the said burgh and bounds thereof: and upon breakers of kailyards, dykes, stealing of peats, kail, and other goods, casting down of dykes, lymming of hides and skins, meddlers with their neighbour’s moss, muirs, banks, peats, unorderly loading of peats under night, and anent the peat leaders with horses; and to make setts, acts, and orders thereanent as shall be found convenient, and to uplift the fines and penaltys thereof incumbent to any burgh of barony.
Ninthly. That the magistrates take an special care of all calsays, streets, and wynds, common property, to cause them to be bigged and repaired, kept clean, and the filth and gudding removed from the High Street to convenient places; and cause remove stranger beggars, and all sorts of vagabonds, unlawful persons setting of houses to unlawful tenants, and mainteners of them, and to appoint marcate places for selling of meal and fishes, and setting prices on the fishes, ale, beer, and aquavite, bread, and candles,—upon all sorts of craftsmen’s works, and sufficiency thereof,—upon workmen, and weavers, and to nominate surveyors for that effect, and to inflict penalties and punishments upon the contraveeners, as shall be thought meet. The said magistrates uplift and apply the same to the use and utility of the said burgh.
Tenthly. That the said magistratss take order of all unsufficient measures—liquid and dry—and with all weights, all yards, firlochs, pecks, and cause seal the sufficient with the town’s mark, and fine all users of unlawful measures and weights, upon tryall and conviction thereof.
Eleventhly. That the said magistrates are to receive count and reckoning from the collectors and all other receivers and uptakers of all cess and other stint imposed upon the said burgh, heritors, and inhabitants thereof; what the same extends to, how the same was paid and disbursed upon, and to be satisfied by them of the surplus, if any be, and apply it for the common well of the said burgh; and upon their disobedience and neglect to make count, reckoning, and payment to the treasury of the burgh that shall be nominate to fine and refine the recousants, ay, and while they have not obtempered the said order.
Twelfthly. That the said baillies shall go diligently and actively about the haill former acts, commission, and instructions, in putting of the same to due ejection, with all other acts, statutes, and ordinances anywise belonging and incumbent to kirk and burgh, made or to be made, pertaining or that may pertain, and come under the priveledge and liberty thereof. Penalties and fines upon all contraveeners to inflict, uplift, and apply the same to the behoof of the said burgh and inhabitants thereof.
Fourteenthly. We also order and ordain that the haill inhabitants within the said burgh, of all degrees of persons dwelling and trafecting in the same, shall give assistance and obedience to the said magistrates in all lawfull affairs, and expedients belonging to the said burgh, and good and lawfull government thereof, as they shall be required; and whatsoever person be disobedient to them or their officers, and break their lawful anectments, and convicted thereon, shall be fined and cashiered at the said magistrates’ deliverance and will, according to the greatness and measure of their offence and guiltness.
Fifteenthly. The said magistrates and council
shall be lyable to count for their intromissions, and how they are
or shall be employed, relating to what stints shall be imposed upon
the said burgh by them, either for repairing of the streets, or any
other necessary convenience, Whilk commission, deputation, power,
warrant, and order respective above mentioned by the said John Earl
of Caithness, we shall warrant, hold firm and stable to the said
baillies in all and haill things in form and effect as is above
mentioned, at all hands whatsomever.
The above deed would seem, from the date, to have been drawn up about three months after Glenorchy had defeated Sinclair of Keiss at the burn of Altimarlach. It is in several respects a curious and interesting document, and throws not a little light on the state of matters in Thurso a hundred and eighty years ago. Some of the regulations which it contains are excellent, and as necessary to be enforced, in not a few places, at the present day, as they were in 1680; as, for instance, that which enjoins the keeping of the streets clean, and the removal from the town of "stranger beggars and all sorts of vagabonds." Among the several rights and privileges the reader will be amused with one, namely, the plenary power given to the magistrates to fix and regulate the prices of work, and of all commodities and necessaries of life brought into the town, even to the very fish of the sea! The obvious intention of this was to keep things at a moderate rate for the inhabitants. The motive was good, though certainly not in accordance with the principles of free trade and a sound political economy.
THE CAITHNESS FENCIBLES.
Rothesay and Caithness Regiment.
First Battalion—Colonel, Sir John Sinclair; Lieutenant-Colonel, David Rae. Major, J. Sinclair. Captains—George Dawson, George Swanson, William Falconer, William Brodie, George Sutherland, J. M‘Gregor, D. Campbell, S. Davidson, C.L. Lieutenants—John Sinclair, sen., John Sinclair, jun., John Yetts, George Taylor, A. Evans, James Brown, Benjamin Sinclair, J. Bethune, William Yetts, R. M‘Killigen, Robert Hall. Ensigns—John Pringle, A. Sutherland, A. Matheson, J. Thomson, A. Campbell, R. Stewart, Alexander Sinclair, John Mackay, William Innes, P. Nicolson, D. Campbell, G. Sutherland, S. Pringle, M. Russel. Second Battalion—Major D. Darrock. Captains—B. Williamson, J. Williamson, A. Henderson, H. Ferguson, James Dudgeon, John Dudgeon, Alexander Orr, J. Henderson, G. Williamson. Lieutenants—C. Reynell, John Matthews, J. B. Johnston, James Thorburn, John Sinclair, James Young, Robert Darling, D. Campbell, J. Henderson, M. Fraser. Ensigns—Simon Fraser, Jacobus Hojel, A. Fraser, J. Neismith, D. Sinclair, J. Sinclair, James Mould, D. Henderson, John Kay,———Martin, A. Fraser, J. Andersen, J. B. Johnston.
Colonel, Sir B. Dunbar; Lieutenant-Colonel, W. Munro. Major, W. Innes. Captains—Hugh Innes, Robert Sinclair, John Taylor, Jobn Burton, Alexander Strange, R. Kennedy, J. Yardley, D. Miller. Lieutenants—George M‘Beath, John Watson, W. Terrence, Joseph Nield, Peter Innes, W. M‘Pherson, A. M‘Pherson, Robert M‘Kay, G. Mackenzie, G. Carrick, W. Paton, G. M‘Kenzie. Ensigns—J. M‘Kenzie, J. Barton, J. Sweetman, S. Mason, John Blake, James Calder.
In connection with the Caithness Fencibles, there is an interesting anecdote of Sir John Sinclair not generally known, which places in a very striking, light his humanity and kindness of heart. The story was communicated to the writer by a gentleman in Glasgow, who had the particulars some years ago from an aged individual who had been a soldier in the corps. After the first battalion was embodied at Inverness, they were a short time quartered at Fort-George. It happened that one of the soldiers, a youth belonging to Caithness, of respectable parentage, was, for some slight disobedience of orders, put into confinement. The officer in command, a strict martinet, and a rigid disciplinarian of the old school, had the youth tried by a court-martial, and he was sentenced to receive five hundred lashes! The men of the regiment were shocked at the cruelty of the sentence, and expressed great sympathy for their comrade, whose fault was less owing to intentional disobedience than to inacquaintance with the rules of the service. Fortunately the sentence could not be carried into effect without the sanction of Sir John, the head colonel, who was then in London, attending to his parliamentary duties. As soon as the document requiring his signature reached him, Sir John posted direct for the north, and scarcely halted till he arrived at Campbelltown, about two miles from Fort-George. It was close on midnight when he came to the village inn, and being greatly fatigued he went to bed. In the morning it was whispered in the garrison that their much-respected colonel had arrived during the night at Campbelltown. The news fled like a wild-fire from one company to another. A simultaneous impulse seized them. The whole regiment, in defiance of officer and martial law, turned out, rushed past the sentries, and marched at a quick step to the village, where, as soon as they saw the worthy baronet, they rent the air with their exclamations. They then carried him shoulder high into the Fort. Having assembled the Fencibles on the usual parade ground, Sir John warmly censured the officer in command for the barbarity of the sentence, which he ordered to be cancelled from the regimental books. He ordered the prisoner at the same time to be liberated from his confinement. The acting colonel, whose pride was deeply wounded, immediately left the regiment; another was appointed in his place; and Sir John, after remaining a day or two at Fort-George, retraced his steps back to London.
LORD CAITHNESS’S STEAM CARRIAGE.
THE present Earl of Caithness is a nobleman of high scientific acquirements, and honourably distinguished for his mechanical talent. Among other ingenious contrivances, he has invented the steam carriage, or at least constructed it so perfectly that it can be easily managed, and run on roads. The experiment, indeed, is allowed to be a complete success. Last season his Lordship brought it from London to his seat of Barrogill Castle, near John O’Groat’s; and we understand that he and Lady Caithness travelled in it a good part of the way; at all events, they came in it from Inverness to Wick, and thence to Barrogill Castle, a distance of some hundred and thirty miles. His Lordship encountered no difficulty on the road; and the steep and still somewhat dangerous passes for wheeled vehicles at the Ord of Caithness, Berriedale, and Dunbeath, with a gradient in some parts of one in twelve, were surmounted with the greatest ease. The rate of speed was from seven to eight miles an hour. On their arrival at Wick in their novel carriage, Lord and Lady Caithness, who are both great favourites in the county, were loudly cheered by the inhabitants of the burgh.
The subjoined description of this remarkable invention we copy from a periodical entitled the Parlour Journal, which contains an excellent engraving of the carriage, after a photograph executed by his lordship. Had the print come sooner into our possession, we would have had great pleasure in embellishing our book with an engraving of the carriage:—
“The success attending Lord Caithness’s experiment with his steam carriage for common roads, has drawn general attention to the invention; we therefore present an engraving, after a photograph condescendingly executed by the noble Earl for our use.
“It will be seen that the front view is that of a phaeton placed on three wheels, and made a little wider than ordinary, so as to have room for three or even four abreast. His Lordship sits on the right hand side and drives, resting his left hand on a handle at the end of a bent iron bar, fixed, below the front spring, to the fork in which the front wheel runs, and guiding with ease the direction of the carriage. Placed horizontally before him is a small fly-wheel, fixed on an iron rod, that, passing downward, works at the lower end by a screw, through one end of a lever, attached at the other end to a strong iron bar that passes across the carriage, and has fitted on it a drag for each of the hind wheels. By giving the fly-wheel in front a slight turn with his right hand, his Lordship can apply a drag of sufficient power to lock the hind wheels and stop the carriage on the steepest declivities of common roads. Inside the carriage, in a line backward from his right hand, is placed a handle, by which the steam is let on, regulated, and shut off at pleasure.
“The tank, holding about 170 gallons, forms the bottom of the carriage, and extends as far back as the rear of the boiler, where the water is conveyed from it into the boiler by a small force-pump, worked by the engine. There are two cylinders, one on each side, six inches diameter and seven inches stroke. These, and all that is necessary to apply the power to the axle, are well arranged and fitted in, so as to occupy the smallest possible space, between the tank and the boiler, and appear at first sight insufficient to exert nine horse-power. The coal, one cwt. of which is sufficient for twenty miles on ordinary road, is held in a box in front of the stoker, whose duty it is to keep up the fire, see that there is always sufficient water in the the boiler, and that the steam is up to the required pressure, as seen by the gauge on the top of the boiler.
“The power of the engine, and the perfect control his lordship has over it, enabled him on several recent occasions, to make long journeys over rough and mountainous roads at the rate of eight miles an hour; there can therefore be no doubt that carriages propelled by steam can be used for the purpose of traffic on common roads. A journey of 140 miles made in two days, at a cost of less than 1d per mile for fuel, proves this; and the fact that no accident to man or beast was caused by the steam carriage during the whole journey, answers the objections as to frightening horses.
“His lordship continues to use the carriage, and is most kind and courteous in explaining its construction and working. It is to mechanical science that much of our country’s greatness is due, and it is truly gratifying to see the Earl of Caithness lending the influence of his distinguished rank and talents to assist in fostering the improvements of his country.
THE BATTLE OF ALTIMARLACH : A BALLAD.
’TWAS morn; from rustic cot
Given up to thoughtless
For now the Campbell’s haughty
“To arms! to arms !” from
street to lane
Where Altimarlach opens up
They meet, they close in
Flushed with success,
There,’neath the Campbell’s
But who might paint the flood
The shrieking mother wrung her
Short time Glenorchy Caithness
While Keiss,* who firm upheld
That coronet which William†
[Footnotes to Page 309]* Sinclair of Keiss. † The second Earl of Caithness of the Sinclair line
GLEANINGS FROM DOUGLAS PEERAGE OF SCOTLAND,
EARL OF CAITHNESS.—This title is of great antiquity, Dungaldus, Earl of Caithness, occurring in the year 875, in Torfæus’ History of Orkney.—Douglas Peerage.
The compiler of this elaborate and valuable work says that much obscurity hangs over the early history of the earldom of Caithness. He mentions the names of only a few of its Scandinavian “Jarls” or Earls, but he enters very fully into the genealogy of the Sinclair family and its collateral branches.
WILLIAM SINCLAIR, EARL OF CAITHNESS.—William, who fell at Flodden, had two sons—John, who was slain in Orkney, and Alexander (styled of Stempster), who in the year 1529 obtained for himself and his spouse, Elizabeth Innes, by royal charter, the lands of Dunbeath, Reny, and Sandside, which were united into the barony of Dunbeath. In 1507 the township of Dunbeath was possessed by Alexander Innes of that ilk. Prior to this, in 1429, Alexander Sutherland * obtained a grant of the lands of Dunbeath on his marriage with Mariota, sister of Alexander, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles.—Douglas Peerage.
JOHN, MASTER OF CAITHNESS.—John married Lady Jean Hepburn, only daughter of Patrick, third Earl of Bothwell. She was the sister of James Hepburn (the notorious Earl of Bothwell), the widow of John Stewart, Prior of Coldinghame, and mother of Francis Stewart, afterwards Earl of Bothwell. This Francis Stewart, and John’s son George, fifth Earl of Caithness were therefore (as has been already mentioned) half-brothers on the mother’s side.—Ibid.
SIR WILLIAM SINCLAIR OF MEY.—This was the William Sinclair who, when a pupil at the High School, shot the Edinburgh bailie. He obtained a remission for the crime under the great seal of Scotland, and was afterwards knighted by James the Sixth. He married Catherine, daughter of Ross of Balnagowan. His brother John was bred a merchant, and acquired great wealth. He was knighted in 1631. He purchased the lands of Geanies in Ross-shire, and those of Dunbeath and Brabster in Caithness. He married Christian, daughter of Mowat of Bucholie, Laird of Freswick. By her he had a daughter, Margaret, married to Hugh Ross of Kilravock, to whom he gave, at her marriage, lands in Ross-shire and 50,000 marks as a dowry.—Ibid.
JOHN, MASTER OF BERRIEDALE (son of William, Lord Berriedale), who espoused the cause of the Covenanters in opposition to his father and grandfather, died of fever at Edinburgh in 1639, and was buried in the Abbey Church of Holyrood.—Ibid.
GEORGE, SIXTH EARL OF CAITHNESS.—He married, at Roseneath, 22nd September, 1657, Lady Mary Campbell, third daughter of Archibald, Marquis of Argyle. “Was committed prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh for the slaughter of a soldier sent to quarter for deficiency of cess and excise. Sold, before his death, his title and property to John Campbell of Glenorchy, his debts extending, as is said, to more than a million of marks.”—Ibid.
BATTLE OF ALTIMARLACH.—“The Council, 7th June, 1680, issued
[Footnote to Page 310]* This was the Alexander Sutherland whose Testament will be found in the Appendix, page 292.
an order to General Dalzell to assist, with a party of His Majesty’s troops, in the execution of their order. The Earl (Campbell of Glenorchy), raising his friends and followers, and attended by a detachment of the King’s troops, marched from the banks of the Tay, and engaged the Sinclairs at Old Marlach (Altimarlach), when victory declared in favour of the Earl.”—Ibid.
No other writer has mentioned, so far as I know, that the King’s troops were employed on this occasion to assist Glenorchy; but, as the author of the Peerage had access to the best sources of information, there can be no doubt of the truth of the statement; and it is therefore not to be wondered at that the Sinclairs were so easily overcome by the Campbells, aided, as they would seem to have been, by trained soldiers. Altogether, this story of Campbell of Glenorchy and Sinclair of Keiss is a curious one, and gives us anything but a favourable idea of the law proceedings, and of the Government measures of the day.
CAITHNESS.-The district anciently known as Katanes, or the Nes, included the modern earldoms or counties of Caithness and Sutherland. Sutherland was termed Sudrland, or South Caithness.—Origines Parochiales Scotiæ.
THE CHEYNES of CAITHNESS.—Reginald Cheyne, third of that name, is styled in ancient charters “Ronald, Lord Schen.”—Ibid.
ST. BAR.—The original parish church of Dornoch (not the cathedral), the date of whose foundation is unknown, was dedicated to St. Bar, a native of Caithness, and Bishop of Cork, in Ireland.—Ibid.
Sir Robert Gordon, in his History of the House of Sutherland (sec. 1, page 25), says that St. Bar was appointed Bishop of Caithness by Malcolm Canmore in 1079, but this statement does not seem to be correct, more especially as the prelature of Caithness was not established till about the year 1150.
ABBEY OF SCONE.—The Abbey of Scone, near Perth, was, from an early period, peculiarly connected with Caithness. One of the Earls of Orkney and Caithness (Harold) granted a mark of silver yearly to the canons of Scone, for the weal of the souls of himself and his wife, and for the souls of his predecessors. *—Cosmo Innes, Liber de Scon, 58.
STATE OF MATTERS IN CAITHNESS IN 1801.—“This year was remarkable in three different respects:—1st. A great crop, and yet victual at from 35 to 45 shillings per boll. 2d. Most part of the men in the county fit to bear arms trained to the exercise of war. 3d. That a resolution has been entered into by the land proprietors of Caithness to enforce winter herding, the sowing of grass and turnip seed on the open fields, and enclosing the commons, by which the use of feal for manure and building is prohibited.”—Extract from the Session Records of Dunnet.
AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.—The Caithness Agricultural Society originated in 1829. It gave the first impulse to the improvement of stock in Caithness. At the period in question there was not a single Tees-water, and few or no Leicester sheep in the county. The Society bas two general meetings, one at Wick in the month of February, when the county fiars are struck, and the other on the last Wednesday of July, on the Georgemas Market, where the competitions for the premiums given by the Society take place.—Local Paper.
[Footnote to page 311]* The mark was equal in value to 40 shillings sterling.
ANCIENT CUSTOM.-Of old it was customary in Caithness (and the practice in some degree still continues) for beginners in the farming line, who had not much capital, to go about begging seed-corn, or, as it was delicately termed, “thigging.” On this occasion, the “thigger” threw over his shoulders a large sack, and having provided himself with a well-filled snuff-box, commonly one of horn, he called at every farm-house as he went along, when he received more or less, according to the generosity of the giver or the tact he had in exciting it. The thing was so common that there was no disgrace in thus soliciting a mite for a beginning. The same custom would appear to have prevailed in some of the other northern counties. The following amusing anecdote is given in the Banffshire Journal:-“An old man, who had frequently tried the thigging, used to say with glee—‘I kent fu to dee with them (the farmers); I had aye on a clean, ruffled sark, and as I gaed in ower to the toon, I drew out my ruffles, got my snuff-box in my hand, ready to present to the guidman finiver I sud see him; syne, gin there happent to be ony lasses, I was sure to be frankest wi’ them—reised them oot for being elean, clever, bonny queans, and promised to tak my second wife oot amon them; and syne laying a clap at this ane’s cheek, an’ a smack at the next ane’s mou’, keept them in sic humour that I cam aff wi’ a good thigging ; and gin the guidman’s snuff-box happent to be teem, I never suffered by tumblin’ a pickle intill’t.’ ”
“LIMBS OF THE LAW.”—The following is an extract from the old statistical account of Thurso (of date 1798), and, judging from it, the spirit of litigation would appear to have been very active in the “far north” about the end of the eighteenth century:-“There are a greater number of limbs of the law in Thurso than in many places of much of extent. There are no fewer than eight public notaries, five of whom are messengers-at-arms, and there is besides one messenger who is not a notary. One half,” says the writer, “would be fully adequate to the business in town and county.”
At a subsequent period the whole of these “limbs of the law” would appear to have been needed. “In the ten years ending 1832,” says Dr. Henderson, “there were no less than 6934 cases decided in the justice court for the Thurso district, embracing the parishes of Reay, Thurso, Halkirk, Olrig, Dunnet, and Bower, and involving transactions to the amount of £9854. This gives an average of 639 cases and £985 for that district; and if we suppose, at least, as many for the Wick district comprehending the remaining parishes of the county, we have 1278 cases before the justices annually with £1970 in dispute. Add to this, 3000 cases before the sheriff’s small debt court, involving £4500, and the whole will amount to 4278 cases and £6470.” In the “good old times,” most of these cases would have been decided by the stick. A great improvement has taken place in this as in other things; and there is now as little litigation in Caithness as in any county in Scotland.
TRADITION RESPECTING THE EARL OF CAITHNESS
The Earl in his flight from the field outran his pursuers, and entered a farm house to solicit refuge. There was nobody in but an old woman who was sitting before the fire, and spinning from a distaff. The Norse tongue was then the language of the common people, but the Earl, by means of signs and the magic power of a few pieces of money, contrived to make her comprehend the purpose of his visit. She rose from her seat, led him to the far end of the byre which was quite dark, signed to him to lie down, covered him with straw, and then returned to her work. A little after, a party of ten entered, and asked the old woman if he was in the house. She replied, “he is not here,” but while she said so, she pointed with her finger to the spot where he lay concealed. Thither they accordingly went. Finding that he was betrayed, the Earl started up, and with his drawn sword defended himself for sometime with unshrinking courage. At length, however, be was overpowered and slain, but not until four of his cowardly assailants had fallen down mortally wounded before him. He was buried in a field not far distant from the cottage, and a slab was erected over his grave, which was afterwards broken and carried away for some domestic purpose. The tradition says nothing about the sending of his head to Caithness. It would appear, however, to have been by no means a bloodless victory to the Orkneymen, though by their acquaintance with the ground, and being well prepared for the contest, they possessed many advantages which the invaders did not.
Note.—The above interesting tradition was communicated to the author by Mr Alex. Louttit, a native of Caithness residing in Glasgow. He had it from a relative of his, a Mr George Louttit, who was parochial schoolmaster of Birsay in Orkney. The Louttits belonged originally to that county; and the schoolmaster of Birsay had an ancestor James Louttit who was in the battle of Summerdale on the side of the Orkneymen, and had particularly distinguished himself on that occasion. This family tradition, handed down from father to son, in which they must all have felt a pride and an interest, appears to me to bear the impress of truth.
EXPEDITION OF THE CAITHNESS VOLUNTEERS TO ORKNEY.
The weather during the following month of January (1807), proved more than usually boisterous. About the 12th of the month, a Dutch transport with troops and stores for Curacoa in the West Indies went ashore in a snowstorm at a place called the Holma of Syre, in the island of Sanday in Orkney. The whole of the troops, amounting to 500, were saved, but a great many of them died of cold and fatigue among the rocks soon after landing. At first, the presence of so large a body of the enemy—for Holland was then in league with France—created great alarm among the inhabitants, and an express was sent from Kirkwall to the Lord-Lieutenant of the county of Caithness requesting him to send over without delay the Caithness volunteers for the protection of the island. The regiment, under Colonel James Sinclair of Forss, speedily mustered at Thurso, and was embarked in companies in some fishing smacks (then in Scrabster Roads) which had been engaged to transport the corps to the island of Sanday. Soon after the smacks left the roadstead a violent storm of wind arose, nearly equal in fury to that of the 25th of December, and it was with great difficulty that they reached Orkney. One or two of the vessels were in imminent danger of being foundered. After all, the services of the volunteers were not required. On Colonel Sinclair’s arrival in Elwick bay, near Kirkwall, he learned that the poor Dutchmen, who ware in great distress and were objects of pity rather than of fear, had peaceably delivered themselves up to the authorities in Orkney. In these circumstances, finding it unnecessary to proceed to Sanday, Colonel Sinclair shortly after returned home with his men to Thurso. Such was the pacific issue of the Caithness volunteers to Orkney.
The Dutchmen lay in prison for some months in Kirkwall. They were afterwards sent to Leith. About 95 of then volunteered into the British navy, and the remainder were put on board the Norfolk sloop of war, 22 guns, and conveyed away home to Holland.