Clan Sutherland is in the far north of Scotland. We get our name from the Vikings who called the land “Suderland” or Southland, because to them, it was to the south.
The origins of the earliest residents of Sutherland date back some 6,000 years and are somewhat obscure. There were ancient Picts and Celts, who built stone tombs, hill-forts, and brochs – ancient stone round-houses – throughout their territory. The 17th century historian Sir Robert Gordon stated, "In the year of Christ four score and two, there arrived a great company of Germans named "Catti," a valiant people of mighty bodies who were banished out of their native land for the killing of a Roman general. At their first arrival, their captain went onshore to spy the land, when he was suddenly invaded by a company of monstrous big wild cats that much molested the country. The fight between them was cruel, yet in the end he killed them all. From thence the thanes and earls of Catti, or Sutherland, even unto this day do carry on their crest or badge, above their arms, a cat sitting with one of its feet upwards ready to catch his prey." He continued, "There is not a rat in Sutherland. And, if they do come thither in ships from other ports, which often happeneth, they die presently as soon as they do smell the air of that country." Whatever the fate of rats in the area, there is tradition that after landing in the north of Scotland, the Catti named the area of Caithness and their chief married the daughter of the Pictish king Brude.
From the end of the 8th century onwards, Norsemen attacked Scotland, gradually gaining a foothold. By the end of the 9th century, they had conquered Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, and by the early 11th century, the Norsemen were in control of Scotland beyond the Moray Firth near Inverness. They referred to the lower half of this province a "Suderland" as it was south of their homeland and of Caithness. This is the origin of the name "Sutherland." These groups, with their intermarriages, comprised the earliest ancestors.
A further influx of people into Sutherland occurred during the twelfth century consisting of the defeated followers of the Royal House of MacAlpin, the last truly Celtic Scottish Kings. In 1150, King David I (1124-1153) marched north into the Province of Moray to put down what would be the last in a series of rebellions.
The Sutherland forbear was Freskin de Moravia, whose father was probably a Flemish noble named Ollec with lands in Morayshire and elsewhere ("de Moravia" being "of Moray"). He was given a commission by King David I to gather the Sutherland Gaels together and clear the Norsemen from the area, and he received Strabrock in West Lothian and Duffus (Scottish Gaelic: Dubhais, pronounced DUH’ fuss) in Moray from King David I.
Some hold that he was therefore probably the hero of the clan legend about the killing of the last Norseman. The crucial battle took place near Dornoch – not far from the present-day Dunrobin Castle in Golspie – where the Norse chief had gathered his men in a desperate attempt to stop the Scottish advance. The fight at first went the Norsemen's way when they penetrated the Scots’ formation and the Sutherland chief was injured. As the chief lay wounded though, he spotted a Norse general coming up to support the attack. Finding a horseshoe at hand, he threw it with all of his might striking the Norseman squarely in the forehead, killing him, and turning the whole battle around. By the end of the day, all of the Scots' foes had been killed or captured.
Today, our Chief is Miss Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, who became Countess of Sutherland in her own right and the 24th holder of the title in 1963. She is married to Mr. Charles Janson and they have three sons and a daughter. The Countess’s eldest son and heir to the ancient Earldom of Sutherland is Alistair Charles St. Clair Sutherland, Lord Strathnaver.
Dunrobin Castle, the seat of Clan Sutherland, is located in Golspie, Scotland, making it the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses. The castle has 189 rooms, many of which contain opulent collections of furniture, art and family memorabilia. Among the rooms at Dunrobin is the “Clan Room” that includes a computer on which family trees can be entered. The estate also features magnificent gardens, falconry displays and a museum with items including ancient Pictish carved stones.
The Clan Sutherland Society of North America (CSSNA) was founded in 1976, incorporated in the state of Florida as a voluntary, non-profit organization. The Society serves as an educational, historical, patriotic, social and benevolent organization, reaching across generations and throughout North America to keep the spirit and tradition of Clan Sutherland and Celtic culture alive and help it thrive. We would be honored if you would drop by our tent and have a chat.