History of the Clan

Gunn means "war" or "guinneach" - sharp, fierce. The Gunns were a fierce clan, descended as they were from Vikings. One chronicler says they were courageous but more desperate than valiant. They were descended from Guinn or Gunni, the second son of Olaf, a chief in Caithness in the 12th century. Some believe the ancestor was the son of Olaf the Black, King of Man and the Isles in the 13th century. They fought with and against the Earls of Sutherland and the Mackays, but their greatest feud was with the Keiths. It started when Helen, the beautiful daughter of Lochlan Gunn of Braemar, was kidnapped on the eve of her wedding by a rejected suitor, Dugald Keith. He carried her to his home in Ackergill where she threw herself from the tower. The feud continued for years until George Gunn, Coroner of Scotland, was chief. In 1464 George attempted to settle the feud and it was agreed that a trial-by-combat would be held between the Gunns and the Keiths. Each would bring 12 horsemen. The Gunns were betrayed: the Keiths came two on a horse. The Gunns berserker fighting qualities saved them from complete defeat, but George was killed and his sword, armour and silver badge of office stolen. The five surviving men, said to be his sons, followed the Keiths as they returned to their House of Dalraid. As they celebrated victory, Eanruig Gunn, looking through a small window, sent an arrow into the chief's heart and escaped. The coroner's sons all gave their name to the clan septs. James went to Sutherland and from him came the Jamesons, and the MacKeamishs; from William came the Wilsons; from Robert the Robsons; from Eanruig (or Henry) came the Enricks, and the Hendersons, and from John came the Johnsons and MacIans..