Despite having strongholds in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney, the origins of the Gunn clan can be traced back to their eponymous ancestor Gunni, who arrived in Caithness at the end of the 12th century from Norway.
The first Gunn clan chief to appear in the records was George Gunn who was crowner of Caithness in the 15th century. He was often referred to as the ‘great brooch-wearer’ thanks to an insignia worn by him as coroner.
The traditional homeland of the Gunns was Gleann na Guineach, ‘Gunn’s Glen’, located around the upper River Helmsdale, although the chief also possessed castles at Clyth and Dirlot. By the 15th century, the chiefs would eventually settle at Killearnan.
The Gunns would retain a traditional rivalry with the Keith clan over the years as the two often fought over wealth and power. In fact, the clan was almost destroyed after one such conflict in 1586 – during which the house at Killearnan was wiped out.
The clan would eventually fade into the background until the mid-twentieth century when serious efforts were made to revive their heritage. In 1960, a Clan Gunn Society was created and in 2015 Iain Gunn of Banniskirk was appointed as Chief – the first since the original line came to an end in 1859.