These three, parting from Sutherland with 36 men, came to the town of Thurso in Caithness, where Arthur Smith then dwelt, and there apprehended him; which, when John Sinclair of Skirkag (the Earl of Caithness's nephew) understood, he assembled the inhabitants of the town, and opposed himself to the King's commission. There ensued a sharp skirmish upon the streets of Thurso, where John Sinclair of Skirkag was slain, and James Sinclair of Dun left there, deadly hurt, lying upon the ground; Arthur Smith was there likewise slain; divers of the Sutherland men were hurt; but, perceiving Smith dead, they left Thurso, and retired themselves all home into their own country.
Thereupon, both the parties compeared before the Secret Council at Edinburgh. The Earl of Caithness did pursue Sir Robert Gordon, Donald Mackay and John Gordon for the slaughter of his nephew. These, again, did pursue the inhabitant of Caithness for resisting the King's commissioners. The Secret Council (having special commandment from His Majesty to that effect) dealt earnestly with both the parties; and, in end, persuaded them to submit these questions and debates to the arbitriment of friends.
A certain number of the Lords of Council were chosen as friends for either party. The Archbishop of St. Andrews and the Earl of Dunfermline, Chancellor of Scotland, were appointed oversmen by consent of both parties. These friendly judges, having heard the business reasoned in their presence, and, finding that the examination thereof would prove tedious and intricate, they direct a power to Marquis of Huntly to deal in the matter; desiring him to try, if, by his means and mediation, these contentions might be settled, happening betwixt parties so strictly tied to him by blood and alliance, the Earl of Sutherland being his cousin-germain, and the Earl of Caithness having married his sister.
The Marquis of Huntly did his best, but could not prevail, either party being being so far from condescending to the other's demands, and so he remitted the business back again to the Secret Council; which Sir Robert Gordon perceiving, he moved the King's Majesty for a pardon to Donald Mackay, John Gordon, and their associates, for the slaughter of John Sinclair of Skirkag; which His Majesty earnestly granted, seeing it was committed in the execution of His Majesty's service; yet, nevertheless, there still remained a grudge in the minds of the parties, searching by all means and occasions to infest one another, until the year of God, 1619, that the Earl of Caithness and Sir Robert Gordon (then, by his brother's death, Tutor of Sutherland) were reconciled by the mediation of George Lord Gordon, Earl of Enzie, by whose travel and diligence all particulars betwixt the Houses of Sutherland and Caithness were finally settled; and then went both of them familiarly to either's houses; whose perfect reconciliation will, doubtless, tend to the peace and quiet of these parts of the kingdom.