Rooted in tradition and shrouded in the veils of time, the history of Clan Sutherland is full of enigma. It is believed that the genealogical tree of the Clan may have its origin in Flanders as well as Scotland with its tribal society of Picts and Celts. Much of the history, especially of the early period is lost, but from surviving written sources the genealogy of the Clan is traced from Moray in the 12th century to a new pattern of settlement and expansion, first in Sutherland and Caithness, later in Scotland and elsewhere.


In the tree of the Clan the Earls of Sutherland, the Lairds of Forse and the Lairds of Duffus and Skelbo together represent the stem and main branches. This essay is intended to give the descent of these three families: to indicate some of the younger branches; and to place the history of the Clan in its geographical setting for the period preceding the great changes of the 19th century. Chiefs, chieftains and clansmen, the 'clanna' or children of one common ancestor, survive in the records of that period, a span of seven centuries with more than twenty generations. In Highland history they took part in the affairs of their Clan and lands, well before the great changes which followed the conflicts of Culloden, the Bastille and Waterloo and which extinguished the ancient way of life in the Highlands. Many of the Clan were involved in historical events as far and wide as Bannockburn and Halidon Hill; the service of arms to the Low Countries and Russia; and the planting of new colonies from Nova Scotia to the West Indies. It is not intended to enter into these aspects of history. They form part of the background for the genealogy of the Clan. Information for this essay is taken from printed sources which are numbered in () and listed below. Much quoted in these sources is one especially interesting work from the 17th century. It is 'A genealogical history of the Earldom of Sutherland from its origin to the year 1630 .... with a continuation to the year 1651', written by Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, son of Alexander, eleventh Earl of Sutherland, and by Gilbert Gordon of Sailagh, printed in 1813. These sources hold much interest for students of the history of Clan Sutherland.


The genealogy of the Clan and the dynasty of the Earldom began with Freskin. His origin is uncertain. His descendants are described as 'of Sutherland', later 'Sutherland'. The eldest son succeeded as the head of the family, and eventually as chief of the clan and earl (old Norse: Earl chieftain, nobleman). As early as the 15th century, probably much earlier, the family lived at Dunrobin Castle, which is believed to be one of the oldest houses in Britain continuously inhabited by one family. The name is from the Gaelic Dun Robin, Robin's hill or fort.

1. Freskin, first recorded ancestor of the Earls of Sutherland, who may be of Flemish origin, had from King David I (1124-1153) Strabrock in West Lothian and Duffus in Moray. Freskin is named in a charter to his son William by King William the Lion (1165-1214) between 1166 and 1171.

2. William, son of Freskin,. witnessed a charter in 1160; had a charter of his father's lands between 1166 and 1171; and may have been William Fresekyn, "Sheriff of Invernaryn" named in 1204. William had three sons:

a. Hugh (as 3).

b. William, son of William son of Freskin, named with his brother Hugh as witness after 1195, was Lord of Petty, Bracholy, Boharm and Arteldol, and is believed to be ancestor to the Morays of Bothwell.

c. Andrew, named before 1203 as son of William son of Freskin, and as Parsons of Duffus, later as brother to Hugh Freskin and William, may have been alive in 1221.

3. Hugh, son of William son of Freskin, also named Hugh Freskin and Hugh de Moravia in charters from 1195 onward, was heir to Duffus and Strabrock. The Bishop of Moray gave him, Lord of Duffus, a free chapel in Duffus Castle between 1203 and 1214. By 1211 he also had Skelbo and other land in Sutherland. He gave Skelbo, Invershin and Fernebucklyn to Gilbert de Moravia, Archdeacon of Moray. Skelbo was given for the service of one bowman and service to the king. Hugh Freskin died before 1222 and was buried in the church of Duffus leaving three sons:

a. William (as 4).

b. Walter, son of Hugh Freskin married Euphemia, daughter of Ferquhard, Earl of Ross. He died c. 1263 and was buried at Duffus.

c. Andrew, son of Hugh de Moravia, named between 1203 and 1214 as Parson of Duffus and in 1222 as Bishop of Moray, may have begun the building of Elgin Cathedral. He died in 1242.

4. William, son and heir of Hugh Freskin and Lord of Sutherland, confirmed his father's charter of Skelbo and other lands given to Archdeacon Gilbert, between 1211 and 1222. He is named in 1232 as William of Sutherland and perhaps in 1235 or later was made Earl of Sutherland. Sir Robert Gordon states that he helped Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness in the building of Dornoch Cathedral. The Earl, it is said, died in 1248 and was buried in the Cathedral. He had a son William.

5. William, son of William and second Earl of Sutherland. named in accounts of payment to the King (Alexander m, 1249-1286) in 1263 and 1266, witnessed in 1269 a charter by the Earl of Ross of lands to the Church of Moray. At Scone in Perthshire he attended in 1283-84 the Parliament which accepted the Infant Margaret of Norway as Queen of Scotland. As granddaughter of King Alexander III the Maid of Norway succeeded to the Kindom of Scotland in 1286, but died on her way to Scotland c. 1290. Earl William supported the claim to the throne of King Robert I ('The Bruce' 1306-1329) and at Berwick in 1296 signed the homage roll, but later adhered to the English King (Edward I, 'Longshanks,' 1272-1307) and died c. 1306-7. He had two sons:

a. William, son of William and third Earl of Sutherland. a minor when his father died, succeeded in 1306-7. His ward was given to John, younger son of the Earl of Ross. In 1308-9 the young Earl attended Parliament at St Andrews. Sir Robert Gordon states that the Earl fought at Bannock- burn (Stirling), the battle of 1314 which gave Bruce the rule of Scotland. The Earl signed in 1320 the letter of the nobles to Pope John XXII known as the Declaration of Arbroath asserting full independence of Scotland from the English Crown. He died before 1331.

b. Kenneth (as 6).

6. Kenneth, son of William and fourth Earl of Sutherland. succeeded his brother William before 1331. The Scots, endeavouring to raise the siege of Berwick, were with great losses defeated by the English, and the Earl was killed, in the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. Sir Robert Gordon states that Earl Kenneth married Mary, daughter of Donald, Earl of Mar. He had two sons and one daughter.

a. William (as 7).


c. Eastachia married c. 1330 Gilbert Moray of Culbin

7. William, son of Kenneth and fifth Earl of Sutherland, succeeded his father in 1333. The Earl is believed to have fought at Kilblene and participated in the siege of Cupar Castle, Fife. With the Earl of March he took part in a foray into England. Earl William married Margaret, sister of King David II (1329-71). The spouses had in 1345 lands in Angus, Kincardine and Aberdeen; "Sutherland was made a regality." They also had in 1346 the crag of Dunnottar in Angus, with license to build a fortalice. In 1346-47,after the death of the Princess Margaret his Countess, the Earl married Joanna Menteith. Apparently, the Earl with 'many men at arms' accompanied King David II into England and both were captured at the battle of Neville's Cross by Durham in 1346, but in 1351 the Earl had a safe conduct to confer at Newcastle on the King's ransom. For the King's return to Scotland the Earl gave his infant son and heir as hostage. In 1357 both the Earl and his son became hostages for payment of the King's ransom. They remained in England for more than ten years, occasionally visiting Scotland. In 1358-59 they had from the King the barony and castle of Urquhart by Inverness. Earl William died probably in 1370, perhaps killed in revenge for his part in the murder at Dingwallof Iye Mackay, Chief of the Clan, and Donald his son, that same year. Earl William had three sons, of whom the eldest by his first wife:

a. John, a hostage in England, apparently still very young died there at Lincoln of the plague in 1361.

b. Robert (as 8).


8. Robert, son of William and sixth Earl of Sutherland (in or before 1389) is named by the chronicler Froissart as a leader of the Scots invading into the West of England in 1388. In 1400-1 he gave to his brother Kenneth a charter of Drummoy and other lands. The charter gives the earliest known reference to Dunrobin Castle. The Earl married Margaret Stewart, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Buchan and is said to have died in 1442. He had three sons:

a. John (as 9).

b. Robert, named by Sir Robert Gordon as son of Earl Robert.

c. Alexander, also named by Sir Robert.

9. John, son of Robert and seventh Earl of Sutherland, accompanied his uncle Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, to Flanders c.1408. The contemporary chronicler Wyntoun states that the Earl of Mar knighted some of his esquires, of whom John of Sutherland "his newew a lord apperand of vertew, Heretabil Eri of that Country. In 1427 Earl John was probably one of the hostages for King James I who was held in England from 1406 to 1424. The Earl was confined at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire and from there he gave in 1444 a charter of Torboll in Sutherland to his kinsman Alexander Sutherland of Duffus. In 1448 he was at Dunrobin and in 1451, together with his wife Margaret Baillie, was given land in the Parish of Loth in Sutherland. Sir Robert Gordon states that Earl John died in 1460 and was buried in the chapel of St Andrew's at Golspie in Sutherland. He had four or five sons, a natural son and one daughter:

a. Alexander, son of John and Master of Sutherland named in 1449 died probably in or before 1456.

b. John (as 10).

c. Nicholas, named by Earl John in a charter of 1448 as his son.

d. Thomas Beg (Little Thomas), named by Sir Robert Gordon as ancestor of the Sutherlands in Strathullie, (the strath of Kildonan), a wide valley traversed by the river Uilligh (Helmsdale river) with tracts of flat, low lying land (srath), bounded by high ground in the parish of Kildonan in Sutherland.

e. Robert, may be the Earl's uncle named by Sir Robert Gordon as present at the conflict at Aldycharrish (Strath Oykell) in 1487.

f. Janet married in 1480 Alexander, son of Sir Alexander Dunbar of Westfield, brother of Sir James Dunbar of Cumnock.

g. Thomas Mor (Big Thomas), described by Sir Robert Gordon as the Earl's natural son whose two sons were killed by their uncle Earl John.

10. John, son of John and eighth Earl of Sutherland, named in 1455-56, was in 1494 declared insane and placed in care of Sir James Dunbar of Cumnock, who in 1497-98 accompanied the Earl and his son to King James IV (1488-1513). Sir Robert Gordon states that the Earl married a daughter of Alexander MacDonald. Lord of the Isles; that nearly drowned while crossing at Littleferry the river Unes (the Fleet estuary between Dornoch and Golspie), she was slain by a robber. The Earl's second wife was apparently Fingole, daughter of William of Calder, Thane of Cawdor, widow of John Monro of Fowlis, who died in or before 1491, a divorce between her and the Earl was being prepared in 1497-98 and he married thirdly Catherine, named as Countess of Sutherland in 1509-12. The Earl is said to have died in 1508. He had two sons and one daughter:

a. John (as 11).

b. Elizabeth, daughter of John and Countess of Sutherland married Adam Gordon of Aboyne in 1500, the year given by Sir Robert Gordon. Her spouse was the son of George, Earl of Huntly. Elizabeth succceeded her brother John by "infeftment" of 1515, resigning the earldom to her eldest son Alexander. ANCESTOR OF THE THE FAMILY OF GORDON, EARLS OF SUTHERLAND. The Countess Elizabeth died at Aboyne Castle, Deeside in Aberdeen in 1505.

c. Alexander, described by Sir Robert Gordon as the natural son of Earl John by a daughter of Ross of Balnagown, born in 1491, opposed his brother's succession, aged eighteen in 1509. Alexander's right of succession was reserved if his half sister Elizabeth's heir failed. He was also compensated with lands worth forty jerky yearly, but in 1514, assisted by his half-brother Robert Munro as procura tor he opposed his sister as heir to her brother Earl John. In 1515 he seized and held Dunrobin Castle whereupon he was incarcerated in Edinburgh. In 1515 he again took pos- session of the Castle, but was forced to surrender and in 1519-20 he was killed at Kintradwell by Brora. He married a daughter of Iye Roy-Mackay of Strathnaver and had descendants.

11. John, son of John and ninth Earl of Sutherland, at an early age was taken with his father in the presence of King James IV in 1493 and succeeded in 1508 as ward of the Crown, the Earldom being administered by Andrew Stewart, Bishop of Caithness. At Perth in 1514 the Earl was pronounced legally incapable. In the question of his successor the Earl declared that Elizabeth his sister and Adam Gordon her husband and their children were his nearest heirs. His death a month later in 1514 marked the end of the first dynasty of the Earls of Sutherland.


The family descended from Freskin through Kenneth, fourth Earl of Sutherland and Mary, daughter of the Earl of Mar, his Countess. They lived at Duffus by Elgin in Moray and Skelbo by Dornoch in Sutherland, two castles of venerable antiquity, both now ruins.

1. Nicholas, son of Kenneth, fourth Earl of Sutherland, had in 1360 Torboll in Sutherland from his brother William, fifth Earl of Sutherland, for the service of one knight. His wife, Mary, daughter of Reginald le Cheyne and of Mary, Lady of Duffus, brought him part of Duffus in Moray and lands in Caithness In 1370 Nicholas was involved in the murder at Dingwall (Ross-shire) of Iye Mackay, Chief of the Clan, and Donald, his son. In 1408 he is named as Lord of the Castle of Duffus. He had two sons:

a. John, son and heir of Nicholas, ratified a grant of lands by his father to his brother Henry m 1408. From 1424 to 1427 John was one of the hostages for King James I (1406-24 captive in England, r. 1424-37).

b. Henry (as 2) . 2. Henry, son of Nicholas, had Torboll from Robert, sixth Earl of Sutherland. He died before 1434. Margaret Mureff (Moray) is named as spouse of Henry of Sutherland in 1438. At her death she had land with houses east of Wick in Caithness 'abon the sand' held of God and 'Haly Kirk' and of St. Fergus patron of Wick. Henry had a son (as 3).

3. Alexander succeeded his father Henry in Torboll and had Duffus in or before 1434, when he gave twenty-one oxgangs' of land in West Lothian to Robert Crichton of Sanquhar. He sold his lands in Forfar. In 1444 he had confirmation of his lands of Torboll from John, seventh Earl of Sutherland and may have visited the Earl who was then a hostage at Pontefract Castle. In a Crown writ of 1541 he is named Sir Alexander Sutherland of Duffus He married Muriel, daughter of John Chisholm of Chisholm in 1433-34 and had Quarrelwood and other lands near Elgin in Moray. He appears to have died before 1484 and had two sons and three daughters:

a. William (as 4).

b. Angus had Torboll and married Christina. They had issue.

c. Isabella, alive in 1502, married Alexander Dunbar of Westfield.

d. Dorothea, said to be daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Duffus, was named as contributing motive for the death in battle of Alli Charrais of Alexander Ross her spouse in 1486 (Note: Sir Robert Gordon mentions the battle as at Aldycharrish in 1487, DJJS).

e. Muriel said to be another daughter of Alexander married Alexander Seton of Meldrum and Andrew Fraser of Stanywood, with whom she had a Crown charter of Stanywood in 1501.

4. William is named 'of Berydall' (Berriedale in Caithness) in 1451 and as son and apparent heir of Alexander Sutherland and of Muriel his wife. He died soon after 1474. He had two sons and one daughter:

a. Alexander, probably he who had part of Strabrock in 1475, died before 1479 as grandson of 'Ald Alexander of Sutherland' and left a daughter Christina who is named in 1494 as daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Strabrock and succeeded to Duffus and lands in Caithness. She married c. 1489 William Oliphant and later Sir Thomas Lundin of Pratis. A dispute between Chnstina and her uncle William Sutherland was settled by an appeal to the Pope, c. 1507.

b. William (as 5).

c. Isabel married in 1474 Hew Rose, younger of Kilravock.

5. William, assumed second on of William, named in 1484 had Quarrelwood and Duffus, and in 1507, a Crown charter of Duffus. He impeached the legitimacy of Christina his niece He died in or before 1514, perhaps in the battle of Flodden (Berwiek), the defeat of the Scots under King James IV (1488-1513) in 1513. William apparently married Janet Innes 'Lady Greeship' and had a son (as 6).

6. William, son of William, had Duffus. probably also had Quarrelwood in or before 1513-14. and by infeftment of 1519-26 had his father's lands of Birchmond (Brichtmony in Nairn). in 1524 Ring James V (1513-42) gave him Kinsteary (Nairn). In 1525 he had Torboll and Pronsy. The earthworks of Pronsy Castle in the parish of Dornoch are the remains of an ancient stronghold. These lands had previously been held by Hugh Sutherland, son of Angus (as 3b), from Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland and Adam Gordon as overlords. He married Janet daughter of Alexander Innes of Innes and died in 1529. He had two sons and one daughter:

a. William (as 7).

b. Alexander was Rector of Duffus in 1512, Chaplain for the chapel of Duffus Castle in 1524, and Dean (head of the chapter for a cathedral) of Caithness. (It was Gilbert of Moray, Bishop of Caithness and patron saint of Dornoch who founded Dornoch cathedral in the diocese of Caith- ness including the Earldom of Sutherland, DJJS}. Alexander founded anniversaries (the celebration of mass in memory of some one on the day of his or her death) for his parents, his brother William and others. In 1549 he was curator for his grandnephew Alexander Sutherland of Duffus and was still alive in 1551.

c. Elizabeth married John, third Earl of Caithness.

7. William succeeded in 1527-29 as eldest son his father William Sutherland of Duffus and Quarrelwood in Elgin and Nairn the lands of Brichtmony, Kinstearie and Auldearn. In 1529 he bought from John Kynnard of that Ilk certain lands including Skelbo in the overlordship of the Earl of Sutherland, paying 2300 merks Scots and giving a bond of manrent (the men whom a lord could call upon in war) as tenant and vassal to the Earl. In 1530 King James V gave him certain rights in Stratnaver previously held by Hugh Mackay of Farr. As stated by Sir Robert Gordon, William Sutherland of Duffus was by instigation of the Bishop of Caithness killed by the Clan Gunn at Thurso in 1530. He had a son (as 8).

8. William, son of William Sutherland of Duffus, challenged the Bishop to answer for his father's death. When the Bishop ignored his challenge. the young laird Sized the Bishop's servants, whereupon he and his uncle, the Dean of Caithness, were incarcerated and by the Privy Council compelled to make peace with the Bishop. In 1535 William inherited Terboll other lands, and in 1540 gave Kinsteary and Brichtmony to John Campbell of Calder. In 1542 a jury declared him lawful heir to his father's infeftment in lands and rents in Inverness-shire. Also in 1542 he settled a violent dispute with Donald Mackay of Farr over lands granted to his father in 1530, the Earl Moray acting as arbiter. William died in 1543. His wife Elizabeth married secondly James Murray of Culbardie. He had four sons:

a. Alexander (as 9).

b. William of Evelix (parish of Dornoch), a witness in 1562, took part in the taking of Berriedale Castle (Caith- ness) in 1566 and in the raid on Dornoch of 1570. where he is said to have scattered the ashes of Bishop Gilbert Moray ('Saint Gilbert') and died soon afterwards. (The Castle is now a much reduced ruin).

c. Nicholas, also a witness in 1562, named in charters of 1562 and 1566, was at Berriedale in 1566.

d. Walter is (perhaps in error) named as brother to Alexander in 1562).

9. Alexander succeeded his father William Sutherland of Duffus before 1544. Still a minor in 1554, he was infeft with dispensation from the Earl of Sutherland as overlord in the lands and castle of Skelbo, also in Invershin and other lands. He had sasine of Duffus in 1555. In 1562 the Earl of Sutherland made Skelbo. Invershin, Pronsy, Torboll and all other lands in Sutherland to be held by Alexander Sutherland of Duffus for 'ward and relief' and other services into the Barony of Skelbo. In 1560 he attended the Parliament which ratified the first Confession of faith. In 1563 the Earl had forfeited the Earldom and Alexander held Skelbo from the Crown. In 1559 the laird of Duffus and the Earl of Caithness entered into agreement for marriage of their respective eldest children. He became involved in the Earl's disputes and probably consented to the seizure by his brothers of Berriedale Castle from Lord Oliphant. Alexander also took part with the Earl's men in raiding Dornoch in 1567 and 1570. He married (contract dated 1552-53) Janet, daughter of James Grant of Freuchie. She married secondly James Dempster of Auchterless (contract of 1577). Alexander had three sons and one daughter:

a. Alexander, born c. 1554 is named in the contract of his intended marriage with Elizabeth Sinclair.

b. William (as 10).

c. James, born in 1561. was placed 'in fostering with Angus Hectorsone' to whom James' father Alexander gave 'fyve meris (mares) with ane stallione' and by whom were added 'four meris' for the benefit of the child. In 1590 James was cautioner for his mother Janet Grant. On his marriage to Violet, daughter of Thomas Fraser of Strichen, he had Kinsteary in Moray from his brother William Sutherland. James was ancestor to the Sutherlands of Kinstearie.

d. Elizabeth married (contract of 1590) Archibald Douglas of Pittendreich.

10. William, son and heir to Alexander Sutherland of Duffus, was infeft in Duffus and Greschip in 1579. He also had Quarrelwood and other lands. Although he had been appointed to keep order in the North, he is said to have reset (harbour) 'broken men' (outlaws) on his lands in 1587. In 1588 Duffus, Quarrelwood, Greschip and other lands were made into the barony of Duffus. In 1606 the laird of Duffus and the burgh of Dornoch agreed the boundaries between the lands of Skelbo and Pronsy and the burgh, a subject of prolonged disputers He married first in 1579. Margaret, daughter of George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness and secondly, before 1604, Margaret. daughter of William Macintosh of Dunachton. He died in 1616 and had three sons and two daughters:

a. William (as 11).

b. James bought Kinminitie in Banff from James Grant of Freuehie and Blanch in the parish of Rogart in Sutherland together with other lands from John Murray of Aberscors in 1624. He was tutor to his nephew Alexander Sutherland of Duffus. He married Margaret, daughter of Sir John Seaton of Mionylangain, Longford. He died in 1679-80 and was ancestor to the Sutherlands of Kinminitie

c. John, ancestor to the Sutherlands of Clyne. (parish of Clyne, Sutherland).

d. Margaret married (contract of 1610) Colonel Robert Monro of Fowlis. She died young.

e. Janet married George Ogilvy, first Lord Banff.

11. William, son and heir to his father William Sutherland of Duffus inherited the barony of Skelbo in 1616. He was involved in several disputes with Sir Robert Gordon, with the Earl of Sutherland in or before 1617 over tithes; and with John Gordon of Embo, a feud breaking out in 1625. In 1612 he married Jean or Janet, daughter of John Grant of Freuchie. He died in 1626 and had three sons and one daughter:

a. Alexander (as 12).

b. William, heir to his brother John in the lands of Kinminitie and other lands in Banff, infeft in 1662: named in the testament of his brother Lord Duffus in 1674 had Inverhassie in 1694.

c. John, named in 1649 as brother to the laird of Duffus and Commissioner of Supply for Elgin. He married (contract of 1656) Isabella, daughter of David Ross of Bainagown who married secondly (contract of 1659) James Innes Lichnet. John died in or before 1658.

d. Anne married Patrick Grant. As lieutenant-colonel took part in the battle of Worcester in England in 1651. She was still alive in 1663.

12. Alexander succeeded his father William when five years old In 1627 she was named heir to Duffus. His uncle, James Sutherland of Kinminitie, became his tutor. In 1641 Alexandar accompanied the Earl of Sutherland on his visit to England attending that same year the Parliament at Edinburgh and the arrival of King Charles I (1625-49). He was knighted before 1643 and served as a Commissioner for Sutherland in 1646. In 1647 he petitioned and received from Parliament, for loss in adhering to the Covenant, 3000 merks Scots of which one third for his uncle James Sutherland. He travelled in France and Holland returning from the continent with King Charles II (1649-85) to Scotland in 1650. He was fined for his opposition to Cromwell and the taking of Perth with 600 men. Alexander married first Jean, daughter of Colin Mackenzie, Earl of Seaforth; secondly Jean, daughter of Sir Robert Innes of Innes; thirdly Margaret, daughter of James Stewart, Ear] of Moray; and fourthly Margaret, daughter of William, Lord Forbes. Lord Duffus died in 1674. He had three sons and three daughters:

a. James (as 13).

b. son (unnamed) dead in 1666.

c. Robin, named in his father's letter of 1666.

d. Marie, (named as Robin her brother).

e. Margaret, named in her father's will.

f. Henrietta, named in her father's will, married George, Earl of Linlithgow.

13. James, second Lord Duffus, succeeded his father Alexander in 1674. He attended the Scots Parliament in 1678, 1681 and 1685, and became a Privy Councillor in 1686. Much indebted he sold or mortgaged his estate to his son James. In 1688, apparently in exasperation, Duffus drew his sword and killed William Ross of Kindeace, who had been pressing him for payment. Duffus fled to England but later appears to have been pardoned. In 1639 he supported the Prince of Orange and in 1690 took oath of allegiance to him as King William III (1689-1702). In 1695 his privilege of fairs and markets at Duffus was enacted in the Scots Parliament and in 1701 he supported the Darien Company, the dream of a Scots merchant colony in Central America (1698-1700), perhaps the worst economic disaster in Scottish history. He married (contract of 1674) Margaret daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie, Earl of Seaforth. He died in 1705 and had five sons and seven daughters:

a. Kenneth (as 14).

b. James, advocate, in 1704 acquired his father's estate with a loan from Archibald Dunbar of Thunderton. Unable to pay, he parted with the estate to his creditor. After he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs. Assuming the surname Dunbar, he was made a baronet. He died before 1739 and had issue.

c. William of Roscommon married (contract of 1702) Helen, daughter of William Duff of Dipple. As a Jacobite he left Scotland after the rebellion of 1716.

d. John.

e. Alexander.

f. Elizabeth had dancing lessons in Edinburgh in 1704 and married (contract of 1709) Sir John Gordon of Embo.

g. Frances.

h. Henrietta born 1684.

i. Mary married James Sinclair of Mey.

j. Katharine married John Cuthbert, town clerk of Inverness.

k. Isabel was buried at Greyfriars, Edinburgh, in 1694.

1. Esther married John Ross. They were infeft in Easter Balvraid, parish of Dornoch, Sutherland, in 1711.

14. Kenneth, third Lord Duffus, succeeded his father James in 1705. As a captain in the Queen's Navy (Queen Anne.1702-14), he, in 1711 with his frigate of forty-six guns, engaged eight French privateers, and wounded by five bullets was captured. Although he voted for the Union of the English and Scottish Parliaments (1707), he joined the Jacobites in 1715, leading that year more than four hundred of the rebels into Tain and there proclaimed the Chevalier St. George, 'The Old Pretender' as King James VIII. The Lairds of Culloden and Kilravock refusing to surrender, the rebels marched South to join the Earl of Mar at Perth. After the Jacobite defeat of 171S the estate of Duffus was forfeited and Lord Duffus, by way of Caithness, escaped to Sweden. Preparing to return to Britain he was seized in Hamburg and imprisoned in the Tower of London but freed without trial in 1717. Later he entered the Russian Navy. He married (contract dated 1708) Charlotta Chnstina, daughter of Eric Sioblade, Governor of Gottenberg in Sweden. He died in or before 1734 and had one son and two daughters:

a. Eric (as 15).

b. Charlotta named in 1778 as one ef her mother's executors.

c. Anna married Baron and Count Marshall Gustaff Adolf Palbitzki of Sweden. She also was named in 1778 as one of her mother's executors.

15. Eric, baptized in 1710, succeeded his father Kenneth as titular Lord Duffus. In 1734 he petitioned King George II (1727-60) but his claim to the Lordship of Duffus was reflected by the House of Lords. It is said that Eric was an ensign in Colonel Disney's regiment in 1731. Residing at Ackergill Castle by Wick in Caithness and on a friendly footing with the Earl of Sutherland, he supported King George in the Jacobite rising of 1745-46. He married his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Dunbar of Hempriggs. He died probably at Skelbo, perhaps at Skibo, in 1763 and had two sons and three daughters:

a. James born in 1747, named as heir to his father in 1770 was captain in the 26th Regiment when he eloped with Mary, daughter of James Hayt Earl of Erroll, wife of General John Scott of Balcomie, who divorced her in 1771. The title of Lord Duffus was restored to James by Act of Parliament in 1826. He died unmarried at Marylebone in 1827. His death marked the end of the Sutherlands of Duffus.

b. Axel or Axley.

c. Elizabeth married first Captain Alexander Sinclair, son of Sir William Sinclair of Keiss; secondly Charies Sinclair of Olrig and thirdly, in 1772, the Reverend James Rudd, rector in Yorkshire.

d. Daughter (unnamed).

e. Anne, third daughter born 1750, married at Embo in 1766 George Mackay of Skibo, advocate in 1737, 'captain in one of London's independent companies' in 1745. (1)


(Words marked- may require explanation)

Archdeacon: chief of the attendants upon a bishop.

c.: circa, about.

Chalder: 16 bolls or 64 firlots of corn (1 boll: 6 imperial bushels 1 bushel: 2218.19 cubic inches). Charter: document or evidence for certain privileges or rights granted, originally by the sovereign to a subject.

Crag of Dunnottar: Gaelic, creag, rock (of difficult access): locality with ruins of ancient stronghold on the coast of Angus.

Esquire: old French, esquier, shield bearer; in chivalry, a young man of gentle birth.

Fier: the owner of the fee-simple of a property (as opposed to a life-renter). Fee-simple: an estate in land belonging to the owner and his heirs for ever in absolute possession.

Forfeited: from forfeit, to lose in consequence of a breach of law.

Homage roll: (in feudal law) record or list of acknowledgement of allegiance by tenants or vassals declaring themselves men of the king or the lord of whom they hold and bind themselves in service.

Ilk: same, identical; of that ilk, of the same place, territorial designation or name.

Infeftment: from enfeoffment, the action of putting a tenant legally in possession of a holding, or to surrender a holding.

Lord apperand: lord from old English hlaford, (hlaf, loaf and weard, ward or keepers master, ruler. Apperand: heir apparent, manifest heir, successor.

Master: heir apparent to a Scottish peerage (noble title).

Moravia: Latin for Moray or Morayshlre.

Merk: money of the value of a mark weight of pure silver or, in history, 2/3 of the L Sterling. In Scotland, a coin worth 13 shillings and four pence Snots: 13 l/2 pence English (1480) .

Oxgang: the eighth part of the ploughland, 10 to 18 or more acres. Ploughland: the unit of assessment of land after the Norman Conquest (1066) based upon the area capable of being tilled by one plough team of eight oxen in the year.

Parson: holder of a parochial benefice in full possession of its rights and dues, (clergyman).

Petty, Bracholy, Boharm and Arkldol:

Privy Council: the counsellors of the sovereign.

Procurator: law-agent, attorney.

Regality: sovereign rule, territorial jurisdiction of a royal nature granted by the king; area subject to a lord of regality.

Sasine: the act of giving possession of feudal property.

Sheriff: the representative of the sovereign, responsible for certain administrative functions and the execution of the law in a shire.

Teinds: from teind. tenth part or tithe of yearly produce from land, payable for the support of the clergy by the laity.

Thane: person ranking with the son of an earl, holding lands of the king.

Tithes: see teinds.

Toune: from Gaelic, dun, fortified place, hence enclosed ground. 'In Scotland a single house may be called a town' (Sir Walter Scott in 'Waverley').

Vassal: In the feudal system, one holding lands from a superior on conditions of homage and allegiance. (See homage).

Ward and Relief: Ward, the control and use of the lands of a deceased tenant by knight service and the guardianship of the infant heir; which belonged to the superior until the heir attained majority. Relief: a payment made by the heir of a feudal tenant on taking up possession of the vacant estate.

Writer to the Signet: a clerk in the Secretary of State's office who prepared writs to pass the royal signet; later a law- agent practicing before the Court of Session and preparing Crown writs, charters, etc. Signet: a Small seal.


1. Paul, Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon King of Arms, 'The Scots Peerage founded on Wood's edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that Kingdom', Vol. VIII, Edinburgh, 1904-14.

2. Fraser, Sir William, 'The Sutherland Book', 3 Vols., Edinburgh, 1894.

3. Henderson, John, 'Caithness Family History', Edinburgh, 1884.

4. Grant, F. J. 'Register of Marriage, Edinburgh 1751-1800'. Edinburgh, 1922.

5. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and other sources.

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1998 David Duffus. All rights reserved.

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