Sutherland Clan

Sutherland Clan Crest: A wildcat sejant.

Sutherland Clan Motto: Sans Peur (Without fear).

History of Clan Sutherland:
The surname originates  from the 'South Land,' discovered and colonised by Norse invaders from Scandinavia and Orkney. Many of today's inhabitants of Sutherland are said to be directly descended from the Celtic tribes who retreated away from these Vikings, and the Chiefs of Clan Sutherland are descended from Hugh, grandson of Freskin de Moravia, a knight of Flemish origin, who was given the lands of Sutherland by William the Lion in 1197. Hugh was also the ancestor of Clan Murray. At that time, Sutherland territory extended south into Nairn and Moray, and north into Cromarty.

William de Moravia was created 1st Earl of Sutherland around 1236, and William, 2nd Earl, fought for Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn, and was one of the Scottish noblemen who, in 1320, signed the letter to the Pope, known as the Declaration of Arbroath.  The 3rd Earl was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, but the Freskin line of earls of Sutherland survived until 1514, when the title passed to the 9th Earl's sister, Elizabeth Gordon. Thereafter, both lands and title were held by the Gordons until the 18th century.

The 11th Earl and Countess were poisoned by their aunt who wanted the lands and title for her own son. She failed, however, to dispose of their son, the 12th Earl, who married the former wife of Mary Queen of Scots' third husband, the Earl of Bothwell. 

The 14th Earl was appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal in Scotland, and the 15th Earl supported William of Orange by fortifying Inverness on his behalf. With the ability to field 2,000 fighting men, Clan Sutherland was an invaluable asset to the Hanovarian Government during the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings.

In 1771, the 18th Earl's daughter Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland in her own right, married George Granville Gower, Marquess of Stafford who was created 1st Duke of Sutherland a year before his death in 1834. The 5th Duke of Sutherland married twice, but had no children. When he died in 1963, the ducal title passed to his distant cousin, the 5th Earl of Ellesmere, who became 6th Duke. The more ancient Sutherland earldom, however, went to the 5th Duke's niece, Mrs Charles Janson, who, under the old Celtic system of inheritance, became 24th Countess of Sutherland in her own right.

Graham Sutherland (1903-80), born in England, was a distinguished artist and painter. Dame Joan Sutherland (1926- ) was an Australian soprano who joined the Royal Opera in London.
Douglas Sutherland (1919-1998)wrote the English Gentlemen series of books, along with other publications including The Yellow Earl – The Life of the 5th Earl of Lonsdale (1965), Against the Wind (1966), The Fourth Man (1980) and Born Yesterday (1992). Donald McNichol Sutherland (1935- ) was born in New Brunswick, Canada, and became a prolific actor of stage and screen.

Places of Interest:
Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Sutherland. Seat of the earls and dukes of Sutherland. Said to be ancient, but virtually all of the existing building dates from the Victorian era and was transformed by the 2nd Duke of Sutherland . The 3rd Duke donated a large sum of money to the building of the Highland Railway and had his own line built from Golspie to Helmsdale.

Helmsdale Castle, Sutherland. Scene of the murder of the 11th Earl and Countess of Sutherland in 1567.

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, Sutherland. A major restoration was sponsored here by the Duchess of Sutherland between 1835 and 1837.

Ben Braggie, Golspie, Sutherland. A statue of the 1st Duke of Sutherland who died in 1833 towers over the landscape. A renowned and much respected Liberal Reformer, he built the town of Golspie, but is largely held to blame for the Highland Clearances of the 19th century.

Carbisdale Castle, Ardgay, Wester Ross. Built by an estranged Duchess of Sutherland in the 19th century.

Surname distribution in Scotland: Most instances of the Sutherland name occur in Highland (unsurprisingly highly in Sutherland and Caithness), The Shetland Islands (Zetland) and Orkney.

Associated family names (Septs): Chiene, Cheyne, Clyne, Duffes, Duffus, Federith, Gray, Keith, Mouat, Mowatt, Murray, Oliphant.

Sutherland Clan membership certificates.