About the Author

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Bruce Henderson is a computer engineer living in Southern California. With the help of his cousins he is researching the history of the Henderson family of southern Caithness. You can contact him at bruce@sigalarm.com

A Visit To St. Tears

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A stone marking the site of the St. Tear’s Chapel near Ackergil Tower

One of the emotional moments of the this spring’s trip to Caithness was an expedition early in the morning of my last day in Caithness.  I have read and written about the pivotal battle at the Chapel of St. Tears, where the Gunn clan was slain by an overwhelming force from Clan Keith.

The morning was bright and warm, especially for Caithness.  The locals were very tolerant of a large American stumbling around their fields, and eventually they helped put me in the right area.

The site of the chapel is a few yards from the shore between Ackergil and Girnigoe? castles, and much to my surprise is marked by a small memorial stone, shown above.

On this site, I could not help but think what impact the Gunns would have had on Scottish history had the fight never happened.  The Gunns resisted the feudalization of Scotland, and their elimination as a force in the north removed a counterweight to the Sinclairs, the Sutherlands and the Mackays.  After St. Tears, the Gunns never again held their hereditary role of arbiters and enforcers in Caithness.  One could imagine what Scotland might look like had the Kildonan, Langwell and Berriedale clearances had not paved the way for so many “improvers” to push the people from the land.

2 comments to A Visit To St. Tears

  • Donald Sinclair

    I am interested in what you know about St Tears’ Chapel. My family must have worshiped there at some time. Is there more than the marker for the battle? Any foundation ect?

    I was also in Caithness in 2010 with 97 Sinclairs from 7 different countries. It was our 3rd International Gathering.
    I will be back in 2015 as I am hosting the Sinclair golf cHallenge at Reiss Beach Golf Club.

  • T

    You forgot to mention how the Keiths lied and came two to one to slaughter the Gunns after making an agreement to meet for talks of peace. Filthy scums, those Keiths. Scotland would indeed be very different had the Keiths not destroyed the best hope of independence from the British at that time.

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