We were contacted yesterday by a lady called St Clair from West Palm Beach, Florida. She will be here for The Gathering in 2009 and wishes to visit Inveraray Castle (below) where her 3 x great grandfather was a gamekeeper. Well, Inveraray Castle in the south west of Scotland is the seat of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell; the Sinclairs, on the other hand, come from Caithness in the far north east. Back in the early 19th century people did not move around that much and so this struck me as interesting.
I speculate that this may have its roots in an affair of 1680. The Sinclair Earl of Caithness was short of cash and sold his lands and title to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. The latter's claim was however disputed by George Sinclair of Keiss and Glenorchy marched north to settle the matter. The armies met in the evening of 12 July at Altimarlach, but it was too late to join battle. What happened next is open to debate but it seems the Sinclairs were able to lay hands on significant quantities of whisky in Wick. Next day they were ill-equipped to take on the Campbells and the Wick River was packed so full of Sinclair bodies that the Campbells were able to walk across it dry-shod.
Glenorchy became Earl of Caithness and laird of those lands for six years, during which time it seems that many Sinclairs took up the offer of employment down in Argyll. This, the last clan battle, also gave rise to two pipe tunes composed by the Campbell piper Finlay Ban MacIvor on the way north to Caithness: 'The Campbells are Coming' and 'The Breadalbane Gathering'. Play either of these in Wick at your own risk!
But all this may explain why our 2009 St Clair client is making a special journey to the seat of Clan Campbell.