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re David Sinclair 1812-1891 & Earldom of Caithness

Hi everyone

OOOPS  -  got some facts wrong in my recent message re the above.  That'll
teach me to do my mailing list at
work instead of from home where all my sources are.   

James SINCLAIR 'the chamberlain' was chamberlain at Thrumster House, not
Hempriggs house.  It wasn't David who stated that his wife was a daughter of
Peter SINCLAIR, a son of William SINCLAIR of Freswick, it was probably
David's son or daughter, John  or Isabella (=ALLEN) .  I guess it is
possible that the newspaper clipping to which I refer was from an Australian
paper reporting the contents of a letter to the editor of the Northern
Ensign, rather than to the Northern Ensign itself.  David's brother James,
not Alexander (had died), was one of the people making affidavits - it was
simply reported by their sister-in-law that Alexander had said certain

Someone has added a bit at the end which probably wasn't part of the
original letter?

Anyway, here is the document in full so that anyone interested can judge for
themselves.  It will be wonderful reading for anyone connected to these

Peter Sinclair DILLON
Christchurch New Zealand




SIR, - His Honour, Judge Pitt Taylor, the great authority on what is
evidence, admits hearsay and statements before law is moved as proper to
pedigree.  In July, 1843, at the Temple, London, he began his book for
English lawyers, founded on Dr Greenleaf's American treatise on the law of
evidence.  Declarations are not excluded till the suit is actually begun. 
"Pedigree is an exception to the general rule rejecting hearsay evidence,
as enquiries are over many years before the trial, and grievous failure of
justice would occur if the ordinary rules of evidence were enforced." 
Persons who are de jure related by blood or marriage are admitted to the
extent of allowing hearsay upon hearsay, and even general repute in the
family when the declarations may not be contemporaneous with the facts.  As
to this last point, Lord Brougham pithy fixed it, by saying that otherwise
the statement of deceased person as to the maiden name of his own
grandmother could not be taken, which would be totally absurd.  The
evidence of deceased persons is admitted as to facts which living witnesses
can prove.  Sir James Mansfield agrees with Brougham that " it being
impossible to prove by living witnesses the relationships of past
generations, the declarations of deceased members of the family are
admitted."  Pedigree evidence consists of oral declarations by deceased
relatives;  family ways or conduct as to recognising relationship and
giving property;  entries made in bibles, prayer-books, missals, almanacs,
or in any book or document, as to birth, death, or marriage;  deceased
correspondence, marriage settlements, family deeds, wills, even cancelled
wills and papers not of the family if in official custody;  inscriptions on
tombstones, on coffin plates, family portraits, engravings on rings,
mural[?] monuments, and lineage trees, the inscriptions provable by copy
armorial bearings, herald's boks, legal inquisition, parish registers, and
many other kinds of public documents, home and foreign.  Dickson in his
"Evidence in Scotland" says that conversations are admissable as to the
pedigree of claimants;  but he draws the curious line as to peerage books,
that they can only be used to prove that names in them had died childless. 
The slander put upon the Broynachs, in a manner, quite unintentionally, by
Burke, and other peerage writers is a good illustration of the acuteness of
Dickson's distinction.

But to avoid abstruse legal technicalities, let some family depositions of
exactly the right and admitted type now come.  That they have appeared
unexpectedly, and from the most distant quarters enhances their intrinsic

David Sinclair of East Bellarine, Geelong, Victoria, landowner, second son
of the Hon. John Sinclair and Barbara Cormack, Hempriggs, baptised 8th
february, 1812, witnesses David Mackay and John Cormack as by Wick parish
register, depones that his father's father was James Sinclair, chamberlain
at Thrumster House;  that he remembers that this James, his grandfather,
was at one time making salt in Sarclet Harbour;  and that he also has a
recollection of hearing that the chamberlain's grandfather, his own
great-grandfather, traded the salt made by James between Sarclet and Moray
side.  Depones that deponent's great-grandfather was Donald Sinclair;  and
that he owned a ship, and was its captain.  Depones that he heard that
James the chamberlain  and Donald his father were the descendants of the
former earls of Caithness, and were wrongly put out of their inheritance; 
but deponent does not recollect hearing that either of them put in an
actual claimto the earldom by legal process.  depones that James the
chamberlain had a house in the village of Sarclet, and deponent remembers
perfectly the names of the chamberlain's brothers and sisters, his own
grand-uncles and grand-aunts.  Francis lived in Ulbster, and was married,
but his wife died early in life;  John was a farmer in Gansclett, and
married;  Robert was another of deponent's grand-uncles;  Henry, a fourth,
in Milton, Wick, was lame;  and their sisters were Christina, Catherine,
Ann, and Elizabeth.  Depones that he never heard of a William in the family
of Donald;  nor did he hear of such a person as being a farmer in
Ross-shire.  If Donald had a legitimate son William, deponent would have
known his name, as the names of brothers and sisters, deponent's
grand-uncles and grand-aunts, are quite familiar to him;  but if William
was illegitimate, his name would not be mentioned, owing to anything
approaching illegitimacy being held in such contempt by the family. 
Deponent's grand-aunt Catherine was a school-mistress in Hempriggs, at a
place called charity, or at Brough;  and about the year 1820 he attended
her school.  She was then unmarried.  Depones that her brother, James the
Chamberlain, deponent's grandfather died about the time one of deponent's
sisters was born for he remembers that his mother, Barbara Cormack, was not
strong enough to go with her husband to the funeral, but he cannot
recollect which sister.  Depones that the chamberlain died between 1820 and
1823, and that he was about 80 years of age.  deponent remembers that
Elizabeth was the name of his second wife, and that his first wife's family
were Alexander Sinclair, farmer in Clyth, where he died, and Catherine (Mrs
William Fraser), who went south in youth, but returned, and died in
Sarclet.  Depones that by his second wife James the Chamberlain had
Francis, David , and John;  that Francis was an officer in the Royal Navy,
and left about 700, regarding which there was a scandal in 1816 as to its
not reaching the proper heir, his brother John, deponent's father; that
David was Born in Sarclet, married to Catherine Mackay, and died without
issue at Sarclet;  and that only John, the youngest of the second family,
had and has descendants.  Alexander of the first family, deponent
remembers, married Betty McRyrie (Elizabeth Sutherland).

James Sinclair, Point Henry, Geelong, retired railway contractor,
shipowner, and merchant, fourth son of the Hon. John Sinclair and brother
of the preceeding witness, aged 75, depones that he remembers going with
his father to his deathbed of James the Chamberlain, and he thinks the old
man would be about 78 or 80;  that deponent had at the time a baby sister
about two or three months old , and that she was Anne (Mrs Alexander
Fraser), Helmsdale, Sutherlandshire (born in 1822).   Depones that when his
father left the position of chamberlain, he went fishcuring in Sarclet;
that he once carried a herring net on his shoulder from Inverness to that
village, and that he walked twice within twenty four hours from Thrumster
House to Thurso for medical aid to the lady of Harpsdale at the birth of
one of her children.  Depones that the chamberlain's father was Donald,
shipowner and captain, a descendant of the elder lords of Caithness;  that
Donald's children's names were all known to him, and that there was no
William, unless he was an unlawful child.  Depones that the sister
Christina, deponent's great-aunt,was married to John Sinclair, a farmer in
Tannach, and that she died early in life, between 40 and 50.  Deponent knew
Francis Sinclair in Scarclet well, a farmer with his father in Ulbster; 
and eldest brother to George and James of Adelaide, Australia, and further
depones that James the Chamberlain was his grand-uncle, and therefore he
was deponent's second cousin.

This is the Ulbster chamberlain family, related by marriage to the
Broynachs.  It has to be added that the evidence of these two brothers came
in a combined form, and that it has been separated for greater clearness,
but that it is hardly possible to give the right proportions of what each
has contributed.  The union gives special strength, as both subscribe to
the whole.  They had the goodness and energy to meet specially at the house
of John Sinclair (David's son and James's nephew) in Portarlington,
Victoria in May 1890, to put down the truth accurately, as mutual
recollection and comparison would enable them;  and being men of sterling
worth and important standing, their statement is of the very highest value.
 The elder, David, is married to Catherine, daughter of Peter, son of the
William Sinclair of Freswick, who died aged 90 on 15th March, 1838;  and
when the couple left Caithness for Melbourne in 1851, he had considerable
private means, while his wife had a good portion left her by her father; 
their success in the colony corresponding naturally with a condition of
comparative affluence at the outset.  James from the time that he was a
merchant in Newcastle upon Tyne has shown all the signs of a man of real
genius, including the skill of making money, his earlier life of
theological effort being by no means the least interesting chapter of his
remarkable career.  The clever reporters of his and subsequent meetings of
the aged but still vigorous brothers, particularly the younger, are the
above John and his sister Isabella (Mrs Allen), also of Portarlington;  and
to the latter excellent additional evidence must be credited, at least as
its faithful amanuensis, of date 24th June, 1891:-

Anne Crowe [ sic - should be Crowl ] (Mrs James Sinclair, Point Henry) aged
67, of English birth,
depones that, she remembers the late Alexander Sinclair, her husband's
eldest bother, who was quite an authority on the tradition and history of
his ancestors, saying that his great-grandfather was a sea captain, and
owned the vessel of which he was captain.

The present Australian contribution of evidence, which effectively aids the
claim of James Sinclair, Mid Clyth, to be the rightful Earl of Caithness,
and head of the blood, closes with a signed statement by a New Zealand
member of the Broynach family:-

Peter Sinclair, Prebbleton, Christchurch, New Zealand, married, with four
sons and two daughters, surveyor and landowner, aged 51, eldest son of
David Sinclair of East Bellarine, Geelong, depones that he quite remembers
his father stating many years ago his great-grandfather was Donald commonly
called Donald the Sailor.  Deponent also remembers that  deponent's uncle,
the late Alexander Sinclair, brother of his father, David of East
Bellarine, said that Donald had a craft of his own, and traded with her
round the coast of Caithness and the neighbouring countries.  Deponent
remembers that Alexander stated that it was Donald the Sailor who completed
the task of carrying a herring net from Inverness home to where he lived in
Wick parish.  James the chamberlain was Donald the Sailor's son according
to Alexander's statement, who asserted on several occasions that James was
the proper heir to the title which the laird of Mey held, and that the so
earl knew it, and that this was why he was kept so long as chamberlain at
Thrumster House.  Deponent remembers that Donald, or his eldest son the
chamberlain, was reputed to be very fleet of foot, and could run nearly as
fast as people rode in the north at that time.  This made a great
impression on deponent and he remembers well the statement on the point,
made both by his uncle and his father, as, being a Victorian rider then, 30
or 40 years ago, deponent thought it would be a sharp man who could keep
alongside of him, though he now knows the way in Scotland was different in
the time of Donald and his son James.  Deponent had been 18 years in New
Zealand,and though he visited Victoria in January, 1889, he had not,
because of the pressure of business and time, the opporunity of conversing
with his people, especially his father and his uncle James, on their
ancestry;  but deponent thinks that being the eldest, he may remember
better than his sister, Isabella, their uncle Alexander's statements before
he died in Victoria. (Signed Peter Sinclair.  July 24th, 1891)

In Wick parish register, the following entry will explain this uncle
Alexander, who was so good an authority on his family's history:- "January
8th, 1810, John Sinclair in Thrumster and Barbara Cormack had their eldest
and lawful son Alexander baptized, the witnesses James Sinclair in Clyth"
(the Chamberlain) "and John Cormack in Hempriggs."  His opportunities of
knowledge were only second to those of his eldest sister Elizabeth (Mrs
Cormack, Reiss), baptized in 1806, whose evidence has been already
extremely valuable, and will be more so in new fields of of consideration,
especially with reference to "Scrutator's dilemma" which, with the greatest
respect for the acuteness of his intellect, is in the light of the facts
now in possession, published and unpublished, no dilemma at all, but the
plainest state of the case possible in favour of James of Mid Clyth.  But
this will develop in due time, and to the satisfaction of the most
trenchant logician, on the accepted lines of ordinary legality. - Yours,

James in Sarclet was probably the son of Donald mentioned in Henderson's
note, or a son of the third son of David of Broynach, whose name has yet to
be discovered, but who may have been a "James in Ulbster" of Wick Parish
Register.  In Sarclet there were families of exactly the Broynach names,
James, Francis, David, John, Alexander, and Donald, which is at cumulative
evidence.  Till Mr Macdonald's facts appeared, this descent had many
difficulties which now depart.  The tradition of Isauld descent had led in
other, but wrong, directions, namely, to the Asseries,an illegitimate
branch of the Murkle-Broynach Isaulds, and to the eldest Dunbeaths, who
were holders of Isauld early in the seventeenth century.  But the latest
discovery that the Broynachs were the Isaulds of my grandfather's reference
puts all other theories aside.  The consequence from this, if it can be
substantiated by documents and good evidence, is clear, namely, that the
descendants of James in Sarclet have a true claim to the earldom of
Caithness before the representative of the Durran family, or any other
member of the Meys.  If a nearer heir can be found, it will only be among
James in Sarclet's immediate relations, the Isaulds and their descendants,
supposing any exist outside of James's direct offspring, which is not
probable, as nothing is known of other Isauld representatives.  Should
careful search substantiate James in Sarclet as the only representative
with living descendants of David of Broynach, the present heir to the
earldom is David Sinclair, my father's eldest brother, cattle farmer near
Geelong, Australia, who is married to Catherine Sinclair, a grand-daughter
of William of Freswick.  His brother's names are Alexander, James, John,
Francis (which are specially Murkle-Broynach names), and George, who was
named out of his own family, after Sir George Dunbar, Bart of Ackergill.

                                          EARLDOM  OF  CAITHNESS

                                       FROM  ENGLISH  COURT  CASE "
 " ... 'John O'Groats Journal' was founded 1836. Of the other Caithness
newspapers, once flourishing but now extinct, including the 'Caithness
Charter', the most famous was the 'Northern Ensign', founded by John Mackie
and managed by William  Rae. " [ 'Caithness from 1800 to the present day'
in 'The County of Caithness' - The  Third Statistical Account of Scotland,
Vol. XIXA - ed. John S. Smith ] 

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