Conflicts of the Clans

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The Troubles Between Sutherland and Caithness in 1587-1590

The year of God 1587, there happened some dissension betwixt the Earls of Sutherland and Caithness. Upon this occasion George Gordon of Marle in Sutherland (base son to Gilbert Gordon of Gartie), had done divers attempts and indignities to the Earl of Caithness and his servants, occasioned through the nearness of George Gordon's dwelling-house, which bordered upon Caithness.

These insolencies of George Gordon's the Earl of Caithness could not or would not endure; and, so assembling a company of men, horse and foot, he comes under silence of the night and invades George Gordon in his own house at Marle. George makes all the resistance he could; and, as they were eagerly pursuing the house, he slays a special gentleman of Caithness, called John Sutherland; therewith he issues out of the house and casts himself into the river of Helmsdale, which was hard by, thinking to save himself by swimming; but he was shot with arrows, and slain in the water. This happened in the month of February, 1587.



The Earl of Caithness, to repair his former losses, convened his whole forces the year of God 1590. He entered into Sutherland with all hostility, and encamped beside the Backies; having stayed one night there, they returned homeward the next day, driving a prey of good before the host. By this time some of the inhabitants of Sutherland were assembled to the number of 500 or 400 only, and, perceiving the Caithness men upon the sands of Clentrednal, they presently invade them at a place called Clyne. There ensued a sharp conflict, fought with great obstinacy on either side, until the night parted them. Of the Sutherland men, there were slain John Murray, and sixteen common soldiers. Of the Caithness men, there were killed Nicholas Sutherland (the Laird of Forse's brother), and Angus MacTormoid, with thirteen others. Divers were hurt on either side.

The next morning timely the Earl of Caithness returned with all diligence into Caithness, to defend his own country; for, while he was in Sutherland, Uistean Mackay had entered with his forces into Caithness, and had spoiled that country even to the town of Thurso; but, before the Earl of Caithness could overtake him, he returned again to Strathnaver with a great booty.

Thus they infested one another with continual spoils and slaughters, until they were reconciled at the mediation of the Earl of Huntly, who caused them to meet at Strathbogie; and a final peace was concluded there, betwixt these parties, in the month of March, 1591. Here ends this book of Sutherland.

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