Clan Gunn Heritage Center
The Clan Gunn Heritage Center and Museum is housed in the old Parish Church, Latheron which was built in 1734. The church was gifted to the Society in 1974 and after considerable fundraising within the clan and with financial support from the Highlands and Islands Development Board, Caithness District Council, and The Scottish Countryside Commission it was officially opened on August 22nd, 1985.
The center tells the story of the clan from its Norse origins to the present day against the background of the history of the north of Scotland. It also contains one of the best clan archives in Scotland based on many years of research by Dr.Colin Gunn, the clan Seannachaidh (storyteller), and by the late Abb L. Gunn the previous Clan genealogist. Mike Pearson, our current genealogist continues to maintain and progress our history as material comes to light.
Moving into the modern age we are currently digitising our paper files and hope to have online access for members in the future. That said, nothing can compare to an actual visit to our Center.
The Viking Scots
Clan Gunn claims descent from the Norse Jarls or Earls of Orkney and from the ancient Celtic Mormaers of Caithness through Ragnhild daughter of Moddan in Dale, son of Moddan, Mormaer (High Steward) of Caithness, who was killed in 1040, and granddaughter of Saint Rognvald, Jarl of Orkney, who married Gunni, the reputed name-father of the Clan. Gunni was himself a grandson of Sweyn Asleif’s-son, the ‘Ultimate Viking’ and hero of the Orkneyinga Saga.
Sweyn Asleif’s-son had his long hall on the island of Gairsay, off the east coast of the Mainland of Orkney and lands in Caithness at Freswick, a few miles south of Duncansbay. The principal Gunn lands were, however, acquired through Ragnhild, who inherited great estates in Caithness and Sutherland on the death of her brother, Harold Ungi, Jarl in Orkney and Earl of Caithness in 1198.
These were inherited by Snaekoll (White head) Gunni’s-son the second chief of the Clan. His rights to the Norse Earldom were, however, forfeited as he had murdered John, the then Jarl in Orkney, over a land claim dispute arising from their mutual descent from the ancient Jarls of Orkney. Thus from the middle of the 13th century the Gunns were essentially a Caithness family.
The Gunn/Keith Feud
Bond of Friendship
By the 1970s, with North American members of both clans on friendly terms, the feud between them was no longer an issue. At the urging of their clan members, the Chief of Clan Keith, Sir James Ian Keith, Earl of Kintore, and the Chief of Clan Gunn, Ian Alexander Gunn of Banniskirk, signed a “Bond and Covenant of Friendship” on 28 July 1978, at the site of St. Tears on the 500th anniversary of the battle there. The treaty has since been celebrated by some members of both clans at Highland games and other common gatherings