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  • Gunni Óláfsson (c.1219 - d.)
    Gunni Óláfsson is said to have been the first chief of Clan Gunn. Traditionally, he was said to have been a younger son of Oláfr the Black , the Norse King of Man and the Isles, who died in 1237. Howev...
  • N.N. Henderson Gunn (c.1480 - d.)
  • Robert Henderson Gunn (c.1455 - 1506)
  • Elizabeth 'Bessie' / 'Mary' Gunn (c.1438 - d.)
    A daughter of George Gunn the Crowner married Hugh MacDonald of Sleat. Her name is unknown but she is variously called Mary, Elizabeth, and Bessie.> "It was in the time of this crowner Gun that Hugh Ma...

The Clan Gunn Project

This project is for users researching the Scottish clan Gunn, its history, and descendants.

Clan Gunn

  • Current Chief: Iain Alexander Gunn of Gunn and of Banniskirk
  • Gaelic Name: Guinne
  • Gaelic Title: Mac Sheumais Chataich (son of James of Caithness)
  • Crest Badge: A hand clasping a sword proper (not official)
  • Plant Badge: Juniper
  • Motto: Aut pax aut bellum (English: Either peace or war)
  • War Cry:
  • Lands: Caithness, Sutherland, and (perhaps) Orkney


A full size image of this this map is available - use the magnifier for an even larger image.

Origin of the Name

The name Gunn is derived from the Gaelic word Guinne, which means fierce or warlike. It is not clear whether the name was derived from a man named Gunni or from Castle Gunn.

Names Associated with Clan Gunn

  • Name Variations:
  • Septs: Henderson, Mackeamish, Robson
  • Other Names: Enrick, Eanrig, Gaunson, Ganson, Gallie, Georgeson, Inrig, Jameson, Jamieson, Jamison, Jaisson, Johnson, MacCorkill, MacCorkle, MacHamish, MacIan, MacRob, MacWilliam, Mann, Manson, Manus, Magnus, Nelson, Neilson, Robeson, Robison, Robinson, Sandison, Swanson, Will, Wilson, Williamson, Wilson.

Clan History and Origins

Traditionally, the Gunns claimed descent from Gunni, who was said to be a younger son of Oláfr the Black, the Norse King of Man and the Isles, who died in 1237. However, Oláfr probably did not have a son Gunni.

In modern times the line has been revised. The eponymous ancestor of Clan Gunn was probably either Gunni Óláfsson or Gunni Andresson, both members of the same Orcadian family.

Gunni Óláfsson was a brother of Sweyn Asleifarson, the famous Viking pirate. Gunni Andresson was Sweyn's grandson and his wife was a sister of Harald III, the last Norse jarl of Orkney.

Many modern clan histories say the ancestor of the Gunns was Gunni Andresson. However, new research has shown that Gunni's supposed son Snaekollr was probably the brother of Gunni's wife. Moreover, Snaekollr went into exile in Norway in 1231/2. He was still there in 1239, when the circumstances of his life make it very unlikely he returned to Scotland or left a family there. He has no known descendants.

The Gunns have been called "The MacGregors of the North" from their frequent conflicts with their neighbors. At various times they held Gunn Castle (also called Clyth Castle), Dirlot Castle, Halberry Castle, Kinbrace Castle, and Latheron Castle, all in Caithness.

The first recorded chief of Clan Gunn was George Gunn, who was coroner of Caithness in the 15th century. He was called Am Braisdeach Mor ("Big Broochy") from the insignia he wore. There is no direct proof about his ancestry, but also no reason to doubt he belonged to the family of Gunns who built Castle Gunn. He has a shadowy descent, with a lot of outright guesses, from a James de Gunn, who supported Robert the Bruce in the 13th century.

The chiefship became dormant after the death of the son of George Gunn of Rhives in 1874. In 2016 Iain Gunn of Banniskirk, previously Commander of the Clan, was recognized as chief by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Traditional Genealogy

This line has been largely abandoned since the discovery that Snækollr was probably brother-in-law rather than son of Gunni Andresson. Moreover, Snækollr left no known descendants.

  1. Óláfr Hrólfson (c1075-1136), Gøding of Gairsay for Páll II, Jarl of Orkney. He married Ásleif (c1085-aft 1136). The Orkneyinga Saga says she was descended from a noble family. One source implies Ásleif was a daughter of Farquhar, earl of Ross, and that it was through her that the family acquired lands in Caithness. Orkneyinga Saga says their son Sweyn was a nephew of Helgi of Tingwall, so Helgi seems to have been a brother of either Óláfr or Ásleif.
  2. Sweyn Ásleifarson (c1110-1171), one of the heroes of the Orkneyinga Saga. He was immortalized by Eric Linklater as The Ultimate Viking. He married Ingrídr Þórkelsdóttir (c1115-?), who was related to Haraldr, Jarl of Orkney.
  3. Andres Sweynson (c1140-?). He married Fríða Kolbeinsdóttir (c1150-?), daughter of Kolbeinn “Hruga” and Herbjörg.
  4. Gunni Andresson (c1170-?), 1st Chief of Clan Gunn. Traditionally, he was said to have been a son Oláfr the Black, the Norse King of Man and the Isles. He married Ragnhildr Staegbrellsdóttir (c1175-?), daughter of Eiríkr “Staegbrells” Eiríksson and Ingrídr Rögnvaldsdóttir.
  5. Snækollr Gunnason (c1200-after 1239). 2nd Chief of Clan Gunn. He murdered his cousin Jon Haraldsson, the last Norwegian Jarl of Orkney, in a dispute over lands. By that murder, he lost the war and any hope of gaining the title himself. He seems to have been a brother of Gunni's wife rather than a son of Gunni. He left no known descendants.
  6. Óttarr Snækollsson (c1230-?), 3rd Chief of Clan Gunn. He is said to have married a daughter of Óláfr II Guðrøðsson, King of Man. It is not clear this Óttarr was a historical person, or if he was, that he was a son of the Snaekoll.
  7. James (Jakop) Gunn (c1260-?), 4th Chief of Clan Gunn. He was an adherent of King Robert the Bruce. There is no independent evidence for him.
  8. Ingram Gunn (c1290-1340), 5th Chief of Clan Gunn. He married a daughter of Gilbert, Earl of Angus, and Elizabeth de Comyn.
  9. Sir Donald Gunn (c1320-?), 6th Chief of Clan Gunn.
  10. James II Gunn of Ulbster (c1345-?), 7th Chief of Clan Gunn.
  11. George Gunn of Ulbster (c1380-1464), 8th Chief of Clan Gunn, and Coroner of Caithness. He was killed by the Keiths at the Battle of St. Tears. He is the first historical chief.

Example of a 19th Century Account

The Clan Gun.--The clan Gun have at all times been considered throughout the North Highlands as descended from the Norwegian Kings of Man; and Lochlin, the Gaelic name for ancient Scandinavia, or, perhaps, in a more limited acceptation, for Denmark, is still named by the few natives of the Highlands who now recollect the traditions of their fathers,--as the parent country of the Guns, the Macleods and the Gillanders. According to the Chronicle of Man, published with Camden's Britannia in 1586, Godred or Godfred, surnamed Crovan, and son of Harold the Black, of the royal family of Norway, was the first King of Man, and his sovereignity appears to have extended over a large portion, if not the whole, of the Western Isles. His reign is supposed to have commenced about the year 1077. The fifth King of Man, from Godfred the first King, and descended from him, was Olave, who succeeding his father when very young, was deprived on his kingdom by a natural brother named Reginald, and had the Island of Lewis assigned to him. After severe and protracted struggles, Olave succeeded in recovering his kingdom, and died King of Man in Peel Castle, 18th June 1237. He had been thrice married, and by his third wife, Christina, daughter of Farquhar, Earl of Ross, King Olave had three sons: I. Guin or Gun, the ancestor of clan Gun; 2. Leoid, Loyd, or Leod, from whom are descended the Macleods; and 3. Leaundris, from who were the clan Landers, or Gillanders of Ross-shire,--but many of this last clan afterwards assumed the name of Ross. At this period, the Earls of Ross were very powerful in the north of Scotland; and besides being masters of the present district of Ross, they held extensive tracts of county in several parts of the west coast, and along the Caithnes shores. The three grandchildren above-named, of Farquhar Earl of Ross, appear to have been provided for by that potent earl about the middle of the thirteenth century;--Guin or Gun having been settled in Caithness, where the Earl's authority at that period was considerable, Leod obtained Glenelg from him, and by marriage with the daughter of a Danish knight, Macraild Armine, also obtained Miginish, Braceale, Durinish, Dunvegan, Lindell, Vaterness, and part of Troterness, in the Isle of Sky; while Leander settled in the midst of his grandfather's territories in Ross.

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