clan sutherland - a personal view

by Gordon Douglas Duffus

The origins of the people of the Great Clan Sutherland are obscured by time and legend. It has been said that the first inhabitants of what would later become known as Sutherlandshire were "The Catti", a fierce tribe from the deep dark forests of Germany. They supposedly shared the area with bands of ferocious Mountain Cats who kept the bens and glens free of rodents and other pests. The Clan fosters these legends today by the use of a Wildcat as the Clansmen’s capbadge and the Chief’s Gaelic desig- nation as "The Great One of the Cat". The Catti not-with-stand- ing, it is more probable that the original occupants of Suther- landshire were roving bands of hunters from the continent who may have built temporary shelters during their visits. The Picts, that race without a written history, settled the land and built their stonetombs, hill-forts, and brochs throughout their territory.draw6.jpg (10316 bytes) Intermarriage with invading Norsemen and Celts eventually made up the stock from which most of the Sutherlands are descended. A further influx of people into Sutherland occurred during the twelfth century when the defeated adherents of the Royal House of MacAlpin were transported into the north from their homes in Moray.

Coincidentally, it was from these ill-fated rebellions that the Clan Sutherland was eventually to gain its initial line of chiefs. In 1150, King David the Saint marched north into the Province of Moray to put down what would prove to be the last in a long series of rebellions staged by the followers of the House of Alpin, the last truly Celtic Scottish Kings. In David’s army was an adventurer known variously as Freskin Ollec, Freskin son of Ollec, Freskin de Moravia, and/or Freskin of Strabrock.

Not only is Freskin’s name a mystery but his place of origin is also in some question; Lothian, Moray, and even Flanders have been put forward as possibilities. Although his early history cannot be stated with any certainty, it is certain that when the revolt had been crushed and the rebelling tribes had been destroyed or transported, Freskin became lord of a vast and far flung estate as a reward for his military support of the victorious David.

Freskin apparently married into the Duffus Branch of the Royal House of Moray and thereby furthered his territorial gains. He built defensive works at Duffus, just north of Elgin, and at Glen Fiddich in Banffshire. The Castle of Duffus was initially a wooden structure built upon a man-made hill which was placed upon a low ridge in the then substantial Loch of Spynie. Later additions, in stone and mortar, make up the present day ruin which occupies the original site.

The Castle of Gauldwell currently appears as a jumble of "massive fangs and fragments of masonry" and is perched above the steep ravine where Glen Fiddich meets the Altderne. draw3.jpg (15170 bytes)Freskin continued his role as a warrior for the king and was sent north, into Sutherland, to turn back a Viking incursion. From this expedition we have been given "The Legend of the Last Viking". Freskin and his force succeeded in locating the raiders near Embo and the shield walls formed on both sides of the field. Within minutes, the air was filled with flying spears and arrows. The otherwise silent hills began to echo with the cries of the dead and dying and the clash of metal on metal. Charge and counter charge flowed across the field. Each success and failure being marked by the bodies of the fallen. A final Viking charge succeeded in breaking through the Scottish formation and a wild melee ensued. Viking axes and swords bit deeply into shields and helmets as the combat became individualized and personal. At the height of the madness, Freskin was knocked to the blood soaked ground and lost his weapons. While attempting to regain his feet, Freskin observed certain death approaching him in the form of a huge Viking Chieftain with upraised sword. In desperation, he grabbed onto the only object within his reach... a discarded horse shoe. With all of his might, Freskin hurled the shoe at the Norseman. The missile found its mark squarely between the Raider’s eyes and before his blood had a chance to flow freely, he fell to the trampled heather, dead! As word of their leader’s demise spread through the scattered groups of Vikings still fighting on the field, they began to retrace their steps back toward the beach and their waiting long ships.

The orderly withdrawal soon became a rout as the Scots perceived their advantage and increased their pressure. The Vikings, giving up all pretense of defense, broke out of their small groups and raced toward the beach and the safety of the sea, never to return again! Freskin recovered from his wounds and returned to his lands along the Moray Firth. Life was good for The Hero of Embo and Freskin had the satisfaction of seeing three grandsons born to his children. Two of these grandsons, Hugh and William, founded the great houses of Sutherland and Murray, respectively.

The Freskins,or Sutherlands as they were soon to be known, continued to reside on their Moray estates and draw4.jpg (15776 bytes)Hugh was named as Lord of Duffus around 1195. This Hugh was given the Clan’s first inroads into the northern counties when he was granted The Lordship of Skelbo and other properties in Sutherlandshire. About this time, the area was plagued by Harold Chisholm and his band of robbers. Chisholm and his group were on a rampage which included nailing horse shoes to the feet of all of his captives. These poor unfortunates were forced to dance on their new footwear, for Chisholm’s entertainment, before receiving the mercy of death at Chisholm’s hand. Surely, Chisholm must be stopped and Hugh was the man for the job! Gathering a force of armed men behind him, Hugh marched north on Chisholm’s trail [the original ? ] and managed to back the murderers up against the sea at John O’Groats. A bloody, but short-lived contest ensued and Chisholm’s band all were either killed or captured. As a just reward for their past indiscretions, Hugh took his captives to a small hill were he had them all castrated, saving Chisholm until the last. This location is still known as "The Stoney Hill" today! The local inhabitants rejoiced in Chisholm’s defeat and relative calm descended on the area. One of Hugh’s younger sons was raised to the position of Bishop of Moray and commenced construction of the beautiful, but now ruinous, Elgin Cathedral,"The Lantern of the North". Hugh’s first born son, William, became the first Earl of Sutherland when he crushed a rebellion led by the Sinclairs.This northern Family was attempting to have the Bishopric moved from Dornoch, and Sutherland control, into Sinclair country. The Sinclairs came south and incited the inhabitants of Dornoch to riot. All local Sutherland adherents were forced to flee and the Bishop, who resisted capture, was soon taken and was roasted alive over his own cooking fire. The rioters set the torch to Dornoch Cathedral and danced around the Bishop’s pyre. The fighting men of Clan Sutherland were called to arms and gathered at "The Head of the Little Bridge" near Golspie. The Clan marched north into Sinclair country, bringing fire and sword to the would be usurpers of Sutherland power. Eighty Sinclair captives were hanged during his punitive expedition and the Sinclair strongholds of Wick and Thurso were captured and burned to the ground. The Dornoch rioters were not forgotten and when the Sinclairs had been dealt with, it became their turn in the spotlight.The rioters, in remembrance of the toasted Bishop, were "roasted and fed to the town dogs"!

When Scotland found herself without a king, the Sutherlands supported acceptance of the Maid Margaret of Norway as Queen of Scots. Indeed, it was at Skelbo Castle, a Sutherland possession, that the Scottish and English commissioners had gathered to receive The Maid upon her arrival into Scotland. The festive mood changed when the welcoming party, rather than greeting their new sovereign, was advised that Margaret had died in transit.

Scotland’s political situation was again thrown into chaos and civil wardraw2.jpg (15610 bytes) ravaged he land. When Robert the Bruce had himself crowned King of Scots the Clan Sutherland supported this action. The King’s military setbacks and his apparent abandonment of the kingdom soon made this support too expensive for Clan Sutherland and the Sutherland chief hitched his wagon to the mighty Edward I of England who claimed overlordship of Scotland. Upon this chief’s death, his minor son succeeded to the leadership of Clan Sutherland and again threw the clan’s power behind a rejuvenated King Robert. The clan marched from their glens and bens into the unfamiliar south and stood with the other great clans and families of Scotland at the battle of Bannockburn [24 June 1314].

The Scot’s victory over England’s might forestalled English domination o Scotland for 400 years. The War of Independence would continue for years and Clan Sutherland would play its part. William, Earl of Sutherland, was one of the signers of the famous Declaration of Arbroath which asserted Scotland’s independence from England. When Earl William died, his brother Kenneth took control of the Clan and continued the fight against the English. Kenneth led his clansmen to the disastrous Battle of Halidon Hill [ 19 July 1333 ] where the Scots attempted to turn back an English army led by John Balliol, son of the ex-King of Scots. The English positioned themselves upon the hill and made the Scots attack them over ground of their choosing. The Scot’s advance was hampered by a bog at the base of the hill and as they struggled to get through this obstacle, the English archers rained arrows upon them. By the time that the advancing Scots reached the enemy lines, their numbers had been drastically reduced and they were routed! The Scottish army lost nearly 10,000 men, Kenneth among them. The English, it is said, lost barely 100!

The next Sutherland Earl led his clansmen at Kilbene and at the siege of Cupar Castle. Along with the Earl of March, he led the Sutherlands on a number of spoiling raids into England, bringing the war to the war-makers. This Earl, also named William, married Margaret, the sister of King David II and thus placed the Sutherland heirs into the Royal Succession. The continuing war with England continued to sputter and smoke and soon exploded into flame again over the ravaged countryside. Clan Sutherland once more crossed into England and was a part of the army which met Sir Ralph Neville and his English army at Nevelle’s Cross near Durham [17 October 1346 ]. The English again chose a hilltop position and again the advancing Scots were subjected to a withering hail of falling arrows. The Scots succeeded in breaking into the English ranks but were eventually rolled back by the repeated charges of the English heavy cavalry. Earl William, along with King David II and a long list of Scottish noblemen, were captured and were forced to pay ransom for their eventual release, the king not returning home until 1357. During this time, the rest of the clan was not idle at home and the old clan feuds continued unchecked.

In an apparent attempt to put a stop to the bloodletting in the north,draw7.jpg (13662 bytes) Nicholas Sutherland of Duffus arranged a meeting at Dingwall and as an act of good faith, he was accompanied by his young son. Old wounds run deep and the meeting, to straighten out ownership of Strathnaver, must have had a lack of notable success in Nicholas’s mind. Never being one to admit defeat, Nicholas played his trump card and murdered both of the MacKays in their beds! Although this act must have seemed like the perfect solution at the time, the MacKays were to make the choice an expensive and deadly one.They sacked the Burgh of Dornoch, not forgetting to burn down the Cathedral during the festivities. Raid and counter raid followed and the MacKays gained their revenge when they succeeded in capturing the Sutherland chief and put him to death in 1370. It can only be assumed that the MacKays found it fitting that this event also occurred in Dingwall!

Clan feuds were, for once, set aside, when the next Earl again led the Clan south to have yet another shot at the English. The Sutherland Clansmen crossed into England in the army of James, 2nd Earl of Douglas. After ravaging the countryside, and capturing the pennant of the famous "Hotspur", the Scots headed back for the border. "Hotspur", a member of the haughty Percy family, would not allow the Scots to return home unchastened for the smear the had given to his honor. He gathered up a force of some 7 - 8,000 men and living up to his nickname, came upon the Scots near the small village of draw8.jpg (13467 bytes)Otterburn [ 19 August 1388 ]. The sun went down before both sides were ready to commence the dance and when the Scots attacked, it was quite dark. The Earl of Douglas sent one of his divisions directly at the English while he led his remaining troops around the English right. When the confusing fight was over, Douglas was dead on the field but"Hotspur" and his brother Ralph were in British hands. The English retreated and when the Scots realized that they were still capable of putting up a good fight, they resumed their march back into Scotland. It was during this period that the current Sutherland Earl, Robert, began construction of Dunrobin Castle[ "Robert's Fort" ]. The castle, at that time, consisted of one massive keep and would not receive its "Fairy Tale" appearance until later additions in the 17th and 19th centuries.

In 1407, the MacLeods of Assynt boiled over into Strathnaver, burning, raping, stealing, and killing...a 13th century version of today’s football matches! The Clan Sutherland found itself too weak to turn back the MacLeod tide without help. Earl Robert, putting tradition aside, entered into an alliance with the Sutherland’s ancient enemies, the MacKays. The combined strength of these two clans intercepted the MacLeods near Loch Shin. After the obligatory shouting of oaths and curses, both sides rushed across the field at each other. The Sutherlands and MacKays entered into an unofficial contest to see who could kill the most MacLeods. The final outcome of the contest is unknown to us today but the fight has been known as "The Great Slaughter" since that time! Every MacLeod, save one, was left dead upon the field. The one fortunate Son of Leod was able to save himself by throwing down his sword and targe and beating-feet over the Sutherland- shire hills (it has always been a good propaganda ploy to allow at least one survivor to return home with the news of a disaster!).

At the end of the 15th century, the 8th Earl of Sutherland took a drastic, but not unprecedented step by starving his two illegitimate brothers to death. From this act, we may surmise that the Earl wasn’t all that stable. Whether the Earl’s half brothers actually planned to usurp his title and power is a moot point as the brothers payed the ultimate penalty none the less.

As events were to unfold, the Earl would have done better to have looked a little closer to home for wicked intentions; The Earl’s daughter had married Adam Gordon of Aboyne and this fun loving, happy go lucky couple set about having the Earl declared "an idiot" in 1494. The Earl was locked away and languished in his cell until his death fourteen years later. When the Earl was safely in the ground, his loving daughter and son-in-law hatched the next part of their plan. The Earl’s heir was declared to be"incompetent" and was given lodging in his father’s old cell where he lived out his days as a prisoner! There seemed to remain one small obstacle in the way of the Gordons gaining full control of the Clan and the Sutherland properties; the Old Earl’s son by a second marriage. The Gordons immediately had him declared a "bastard" and forced him, under pain of a rather nasty demise, to vacate Sutherland lands.

draw1.jpg (15232 bytes)This disinherited son, Alexander, succeeded in gathering a force of disenchanted Sutherland clansmen and recrossed the border into the lands of his fathers. Alexander had no trouble capturing the Burgh of Dornoch but his fortune reversed soon after. The Gordons, gay no more, were quick to react and their assault on the town succeeded in capturing most of the rebels and Alexander him elf. Alexander was beheaded for his"crimes" and his unhappy head was placed atop the cathedral where the visiting birds plucked out his unseeing eyes.

This act fulfilled the prophecy of a local witch who had declared that Alexander’s head would be "the highest there ever was in Sutherland". For all intents and purposes, Clan Sutherland now became a Cadet Branch of the House of Gordon. The Gordons of Sutherland were forbidden to take the surname of Sutherland and, as was the custom of the times, the Sutherland clansmen took the surname of their chief. In this case the name was Gordon. The surname of Sutherland began to disappear from the district and during the 1620’s Gordon and Murray were the two most common surnames in Sutherlandshire! This sad state of affairs was to continue for a number of years with but a few ripples to disturb the calm waters of Gordon domination. One such instance was when the Sutherland Lairds of Duffus and Forse aligned themselves with their ancient enemies, the MacKays and Sinclairs, in an abortive attempt to overthrow the usurping Gordons. The Gordons of the North were too well established at this point and also had the impressive power of the House of Gordon to draw upon in times of need.

The Laird of Forse even went as far as to claim the Chieftanship of the entire Clan but this gambit also came to naught and the Gordons remained in control, stronger than ever! During this period of Gordon domination, Margaret, daughter of the 14th Earl, fell in love with a penniless tacksman named Gunn. When the Earl learned of the relationship, he forbid it to continue. Love, always inventive but often not very discreet, usually finds a way and this case is no different. The two lovers managed to make plans to run away together. The Earl, with a spy system which would do credit to a modern day nation, learned of the scheme and locked Margaret up in a tower room at Dunrobin! The couple continued to plot, through intermediaries, and a date was set for Margaret’s escape. The Earl, again one step a head, also learned of this development and arrived in the tower prison just as Margaret climbed out of the window! The Earl rushed to the window and leaned over the ledge. Margaret, looking up at the screaming face of her father, lost her grip on the stone wall and fell to her death on the cobbled courtyard below. The young Gunn, realizing that his continued presence would now do no one any good, cursed the astonIshed Earl, shouting, "May she haunt you forever"! It is unknown what became of the thwarted bridegroom but it is said that Margaret still wanders the corridors of the older section of Dunrobin Castle and that her sobs can be heard on quiet nights. In 1702, the 16th Earl defied the House of Gordon and took Sutherland as his surname. This one event proved to be a turning point for the Tribe of Cat and insured that the Clan’s ancient name would survive. During the unpleasantness of the Jacobite Risings in the first half of the 1700’s, the main branch of the Clan remained loyal to the Hanoverian kings in London. Indeed, it was through the influence and armed might of Clan Sutherland that many in the far north failed to take to the heather ins upport of the Stuarts.

Although the Risings were directed against the Government in London, in Scotland they took on the aspects of a Civil War. Clan feuds were resurrected and brother fought against brother. During the 1715 Rising, Clan Sutherland split its allegiance when some of its branches rose in arms for "The King Across the Water".

Kenneth Sutherland, Third Lord Duffus was one such. He marched into Tain at the head of 500 Sutherlands and Mackenzies and proclaimed The Chevalier St. George as King James VIII. Kenneth led his troops at the Battle of Sherriffmuir [ 13November 1715 ] and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his commander to issue an order to charge. When the rebellion failed, Kenneth lost his lands, his title, and almost hishead for his trouble. He was eventually captured and was given a room, without a view, in The Tower of London. He was released, without trial, in 1717. During the 1719 Uprising, Clan Sutherland sent a militia company to bolster the forces of General Wightman at the Battle of Glenshiel [ 10 June 1719 ]. Fighting most of the morning against the Jacobite right wing, the men of Clan Sutherland succeeded in pushing Lord Seaforth and his troops off of the high ground and effectively out of the fight. Wightman, in turn, was able to rout the Jacobite left, which left a few hundred Spanish Regulars to surrender the nextday.

During The 1745 Rebellion, Clan Sutherland was, according to Government sources," too slow" in taking up arms in support of London. Their intentions, therefore, became suspect and reparations after the rebellion never materialized. However,once the Clan was mobilized, they became involved in there taking of Inverness. The Rebellion in the north slowed down as the main armies moved south. The Earl of Sutherland decided that now was a good time to disband the clan and have them all return home to gather the harvest of 1746.

The Mackenzies, back from raiding in the south, were quick to take advantage of this fact and came north with a vengeance! Dunrobin Castle was stormed and thus gained the dubious distinction of being the last castle in Britain to be taken by force. The Sutherland Chief just managed to escape capture. As the Mackenzies came in the front door, he was going out the back where he succeeded in getting himself on to a boat and away to safety. The Clan Lands now lay open to the tender mercies of The Earl of Cromartie and his boys!

The Mackenzies wasted no time and amused themselves by the usual methods of the time, ie: loot, burn, rape, and pillage.draw5.jpg (16637 bytes) Perhaps the only thing which saved Sutherland- shire from complete ruin was a summons, to Cromartie from Bonnie Prince Charlie, requesting his presence at Culloden. The Mackenzies,loaded down with Sutherland loot, marched south. A reorganized Clan Sutherland, moving quickly through the hills, managed to get in front of the MacKenzies and set up an ambush at Bonar Ridge. Under their leader, the Laird of Forse, Clan Southerland sprang from their concealment and handed the Mackenzies a crushing defeat, even managing to retrieve some of their stolen property in the bargain and capturing Cromartie himself! The Mackenzies were unable to make their appointment with Prince Charlie and their presence was sorely missed when he had to face his cousin, The Duke of Cumberland ("Billy the Butcher"), at Culloden Moor on 16 April 1746.

The Jacobite defeat at Culloden meant an end to Stuart attempts to regain the throne but also had a more profound, lasting effect on the highlands of Scotland. The Government, in an attempt to insure its own safety, set about disarming the clans, this time in earnest! The wearing of kilts and the playing of bagpipes were forbidden by law. Scots could not assemble in groups of more than two and the only weapon which they were allowed to carry was a pointless knife. The "Loyal" clans were not exempt from these laws and Clan Sutherland suffered along with the rest. The old Celtic way of life was being destroyed.

In 1766, the last of the Old Earls of Sutherland died leaving behind a one year old daughter to succeed him as leader of the clan. The Gordons re-entered the picture and attempted to regain control. Sutherland of Forse put forward his old claim to the title and it appeared as if the troubles of the 1600’s would repeat themselves. Fortunately, this was 18th century Scotland and clan warfare had gone the way of the bagpipe, the kilt, and the broadsword. The House of Lords-Gower, 2nd Marquess of Stafford, 3rd Earl of Gower, Viscount Trentham,4th Lord Gower of Sittenham, 8th Baronet of Sittenham, Knight of the Garter, Member of the Privy Council, Recorder of Stafford, Trustee of the British Museum, Hereditary Governor of the British Institution, Vice President of the Society of Arts, and for the last six months of his life, Duke of Sutherland. This marriage joined together the two largest estates in Great Britain. The new bridegroom now found himself the proud possessor of a vast territory which was losing money at an alarming rate but he was a man of vision and threw his considerablet alents into "improving" his wife’s inheritance. It had been shown on several other financially strapped highland estates that the leasing of "sheep walks" to lowland businessmen could turn a profit and Levenson-Gower was quick to latch on to this idea as a solution to his financial problems. Sheep, at first in small numbers, were introduced onto the Sutherlandshire hills but it was soon learned that the wooly four footed things required more grazing space, to turn a profit, than was presently available.

Levenson-Gower now came up with a solution to his original solution, ie; remove the lazy crofters and make the land profitable. In all fairness to the Countess and her husband, they did make a number of attempts to resettle the families which they had displaced. New villages were marked out on the rocky coasts and the people were instructed to go to these locations and commence building their new homes. The Sons of Cat were unused to their new lives on the windswept coasts.Their former lifestyle had been based on small farm holdings and black cattle in the interior of the country. In certain instances, the children, while at play, would have to be tied to a long rope to keep them from being blown from the cliffs into the North Sea.

This new life also contained a new profession; the collection and drying of seaweed which was used as fertilizer in the south. Those in power over the Sutherland families called them "slothful, lazy, and unappreciative" and it was felt that whatever happened to them was their own fault! The Old Days when the bright dripping swords in the hands of the men of Clan Sutherland where all that stood between life and death were gone. The families who had bred these hardy souls had outlived there usefulness and were now an incumberance and an embarrassment.

The fiery cross would no longer call the warriors of the clan to battle. The dead clansmen who had fallen fighting the Vikings, the English, Clan Chisholm, the Sinclairs, the MacKays, the MacLeods, the Gunns, the Murrays, the Mackenzies, the Gordons, the Rosses, and the Innes had, as their monument, the empty glens of the country for which they had died! The beginning of this movement had its origin in 1792["The Year of the Sheep"] when some of the land in the highlands was depopulated and the first lowland flocks were introduced. The first "Clearances" in Sutherlandshire occurred in 1800 when a small number of families were forced from their homes just north of the River Oykel.

The removal of the people from the land continued and the land was given over to the shepherds and their mindless charges in Farr andLairg [1807], Dornoch, Rogart, Loth, Dlyne, and Golspie [1809], Assynt [1812], Lower Kildonan [1813], Strathnaver [1814], and the remainder of Strathnaver and Upper Kildonan [1819], Gruids [1821], and finally Durness [1841]. Without roofs over their heads and without any place to go, the dwindling population had to contend with famine and periodic outbreaks of Cholera. The "relocation" scheme, as far as the people were concerned, was a dismal and deadly failure and the few roads in the area were dotted with the bodies of the dead and dying! The children, as always, were the first to die and the wails of their despondent families could, for atime, drown out the noise made by the wandering sheep.

The reports of houses being burned down over the heads of those reluctant to leave were not rare and are well documented. Armed resistance was useless and when resorted to, it was the women who bore the brunt of the policemen’s charges. Their aprons filled with stones, the women blocked off the paths and roads leading to their homes with their bodies. They were ridden down, knocked down, clubbed senseless, and left bleeding on the ground until their friends and families could return for them.

The soldiers and the police, the official arm of the government, were acting under orders of the Chief of Clan Sutherland against her own people! "Once our valleys were ringing with sounds of our children singing but now sheep bleat in the evening and shielings are empty and broken." What could not be accomplished by centur-   ies of warfare had now been accomplished by the pen. Clan Suth- erland was no more! Harriet Beecher Stowe, that great American humanitarian and the celebrated author of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" was a guest at Dunrobin Castle during this time where she gathered enough information to write a charming little book describing the wonderful time she and the Countess had during her visit. Miss Stowe, who had never met a black slave in person, failed to note the people around her, who were less than slaves, as they were forced from their homes and dropped dead from lack of food and shelter.

It is hard to imagine that this great authoress failed to notice that the hills and glens of Sutherlandshire were now dotted with the white bodies of grazing sheep but that there were no people around to mark her presence. The missing populace had gone off to the tenements of Glasgow to starve in the squalor of over crowding and neglect.

Hundreds more had boarded ship in an effort to find new lives in North America and far off Australia. Still more were buried beneath the ground on which their fathers and their father’s fathers had fought and died. Even during this time of broken faith and broken promises, it was possible for the Chief to raise a regiment of red-coated soldiers from the diminished Sutherlandshire population.

These young men, the descendents of renowned warriors, strapped on the broadsword and donned the kilt and plaid.They were shipped across the oceans and were blown apart by American marksmen at New Orleans for the glory of the Duke and the Crown! The recruits were told that if they volunteered and fought bravely, their families would be left in peace on the land. The regiment did indeed fight bravely, earning undying fame as "The Thin Red Line" at Balaclava [October 1854].

When the few survivors managed to return to their homes, it was only to find that, in many instances,another promise had not been kept and that their families hadbeen "removed". The effects of "The Highland Clearances" can still be seen in Sutherlandshire today. The glens are devoid of people and the hills are marked, as far as the eye can see , by the small white shapes which are the descendants of the original usurpers of the homes of the people of Clan Sutherland. The ruins of the small settlements and crofts once populated by the forgotten forsaken people are now covered in heather and bracken, their walls tumbled down into unrecognizable mounds.The great empty stretches of hill and valley turn brown in the fall almost as if they too mourn the passing of the lost children of Clan Sutherland.

Today, Clan Sutherland is undergoing a rebirth with Clan Societies throughout the world. The old traditions, and some new ones, are being observed and passed on to our children so that the events of our past will give us strength and pride for our future. Our present Chief, Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, hosts an annual meeting at Dunrobin Castle for clansmen from around the globe and a Clan Room has been set aside as a repository for the history of our race. Clan Sutherland, once destroyed and dispersed, is coming alive again. Our future, unlike our past, is full of promise.


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