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Clan Battle

Dear John,

I liked your tale about a Clan Battle c 1550s and your euphoria about the
beauty of Sutherand.
I would agree.  It is the coastline of Caithness which marks the beauty of
that County.
Nevertheless, I can never hear the name Sutherland without thinking of the
huge sheep sales at
Lairg which I used to attend and, with the thought of sheep, came the
thought of the Highland
Clearances which are almost synonymouys with the name of Sutherland..
There have been
many shameful episodes in Scotlad's history but this was one of the worst:
in the misery it 
caused; the heartless way in which it was carried out; and the permanent
emptying of a vast area of country - however much it may have helped the
overseas development of Canada where most of the people were forced to go.
That these evictions took place when so many Highlanders were actually
fighting in the Napoleonic wars made the action of the Sutherlands all the
more disgraceful.  Every time I travel up to Caithness and pass through
Sutherland, I look at the dyke at the top of the cliff face because the
area between that dyke
and the sea was the only piece of Scotland which was left to the displaced
crofters whose
only sin was in not having any written right to the crofts which had been
their family homes for generations.  The Kirk didn't help.  The poor
crofters, who had had their homes burned around them, were told:  "It is
God's judgment because of your sins of rebellion  and idleness"  Insult was
added to injury when the Duke of Sutherland erected a huge statue 
on the top of the highest hill and added the words: "Erected by a grateful
tenantry" when he
had paid for it himself.........

And now back to your battle.   The 16th Century was a period of constant
bitterness between the Sinclairs and the Sutherlands which began when
Isabel Sinclair administered poison to the Earl and Countess of Sutherland
and their son, the Master of Sutherland.
Mackay of Far invaded Sutherland on behalf of the |Earl of Caithness who
eventually took
Skibo Castle and occupied Dunrobin Castle and burned the Sutherland
archives.  And so it
went on.

I have no details of any specific battle but, during an earlier period,
when there was a dispute
between Ljot and Skuli as to who should be Earl of Orkneyat a time when
Caithness and
Sutherland were part of the Orcadian 'jarldom' a battle took place in
Sutherland at which
Skuli had enlisted the aid of the Scottish King (Kenneth III) to oust Ljot
from Caithness.
Ljot and his Norsemen (mainly from Orkney) defeated Skuli and the Scots in
the Parish of Loth (which takes its name from Ljot).  There is still a
vestige of an ancient road which is
referred to as Ca Skuill or the road of Skuli.  Ljot took possession of
Caithness but was
killed soon afterwards in another battle with the Scots

Ljot was known as Ljot 'Nithing' a term of abuse.  He had married Ragnhilda
who had
previously been married to Ljot's elder brothers, Arfinn and Havard, whom
she had arranged
to have killed as she had grown tired of them.  No other Norse 'jarl' had
ever been given the
epithet of 'nithing' .  Ljot had broken the Viking code of conduct.

But, then, we Sinclairs have committed more than our fair share of
misdemeanors and, if I
am to write articles about notable Sinclairs, it may be as well to balance
the picture with
stories about those who have taken the law into their own hands.  We have
also had our
quota of eccentrics including a Countess of Caithness who always dressed as
Mary Queen of Scots (and France)  and held regular 'discussions' with her
long dead Queen.

And, on that note, I'll sign off before I am classified as one of the
eccentics I speak of.

Niven Sinclair 

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