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Sutherland Tartan

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Motto: Sans Peur (Without Fear)

The name Sutherland comes from the county of Sutherland in the North of Scotland.  It has been claimed that this name is of French origin, but this is disputed.  Others point to the name coming from the Norse ‘Sudrland’, meaning ‘southernland’, the Norse Sea-Kings, who in ancient times held sovereignty of the Orcades, styled the region south of the Ord mountain, Sutherland, as it lay south of Caithness, their only possession on the mainland of Scotland.  First record of the name is in 1332 when David de Sothirlandae was partner to an agreement and in 1370 Nocholas of Sothrland had a charter from his brother, the Earl of Sothyrland of sixteen davachs called Thorbal.  

The Clan Sutherland seems to be comprised of a mixture of peoples.  The ancient Gaelic population of the district now known by the name of Sutherland were driven out or destroyed by the Norwegians when they took possession of the country after its conquest by Thortinn, the Norse Jarl of Orkney in 1034 and were replaced by settlers from Moray and Ross.  Hence there are no clans that descend from the Gaelic tribe who originally inhabited that area.  Instead they derive from two sources; from tribes of Ross-shire gradually spreading, chiefly of the Clan Anrias and secondly from Hugh Freshin, ancestor of the chiefly line and a descendant of Freshin de Noravia.  He was the common ancestor of both the Sutherlands and the Murrays.  His family were a branch of the ancient Gaelic tribe of Moray although Flemish in origin and received a grant of extensive lands early in the 13th century of Sutherland.  

It was Hugh’s son, William who was created Earl of Sutherland by Alexander II c.1235 seemingly for assisting in quelling the northern savage of the Gillespies, his creation as Earl thus established the name of his race and the oldest Earldom in Scotland.  His son William supported Edward I and swore fealty in 1296 but later joined Bruce, being one of eighteen Highland chiefs who fought at Bannockburn in 1314 on the side of Bruce and who subscribed to the letter from the Scots nobles to the Pope, April 1320.  His son Kenneth fell at the Battle of Halidon Hill 1333, supporting the cause of David II.  

The next Earl, William, married Princess Margaret, eldest daughter of Robert I by his second wife.  John 14th Earl joined the Covenanters against Montrose and his son George, 15th Earl with the same sympathies, was deprived of his office as Hereditary Sheriff under Charles II returning only on William of Orange’s accession to the crown.  They fought in Cumberland’s army at Culloden.  A son of the 4th Earl, Kenneth, Lord Duffus, joined the 1715 rising for the Jacobites.  His portrait is one of the earliest of a nobleman wearing the kilt.

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