The Feuds of the Clans, by Alexander MacGregor, , at sacred-texts.com
The year of God 1612, there happened some discord and dissensions betwixt Sutherland and Caithness, which troubled a little the peace of that part of the kingdom. The occasion was this:—One Arthur Smith (a false coiner), being, together with his servant, apprehended for making and striking of false money, were both sent to Edinburgh, the year of God 1599, where his servant was executed, but Arthur himself escaped, and retired into Caithness, and dwelt there with the Earl of that country. The report hereof coming to
the King's ears, the year of God 1612, His Majesty gave a secret commission to his servant, Sir Robert Gordon (the Earl of Sutherland's brother), for apprehending this Arthur Smith; but, as Sir Robert was going about to perform the same, he received a commandment from His Majesty to accompany Sir Alexander Hay (then Secretary of Scotland) in apprehending John Lesley of New Lesley, and some other rebels in Gereagh; which Sir Robert obeyed, and committed the execution of the commission against Arthur Smith unto his nephew, Donald Mackay of Farr, John Gordon of Gospeter, younger (nephew to George Gordon slain at Marie, the year 1587), and to John Gordon, son to John Gordon of Backies. These three, parting from Sutherland with 36 men, came to the town of Thurso in Caithness, where Arthur Smith then dwelt, and there apprehended him; which, when John Sinclair of Skirkag (the Earl of Caithness's nephew) understood, he assembled the inhabitants of the town, and opposed himself to the King's commission. There ensued a sharp skirmish upon the streets of Thurso, where John Sinclair of Skirkag was
slain, and James Sinclair of Dun left there, deadly hurt, lying upon the ground; Arthur Smith was there likewise slain; divers of the Sutherland men were hurt; but, perceiving Smith dead, they left Thurso, and retired themselves all home into their own country.
Thereupon, both the parties compeared before the Secret Council at Edinburgh. The Earl of Caithness did pursue Sir Robert Gordon, Donald Mackay, and John Gordon, for the slaughter of his nephew. These, again, did pursue the inhabitants of Caithness for resisting the King's commissioners. The Secret Council (having special commandment from His Majesty to that effect) dealt earnestly with both the parties; and, in end, persuaded them to submit these questions and debates to the arbitrament of friends. A certain number of the Lords of Council were chosen as friends for either party. The Archbishop of St. Andrews and the Earl of Dunfermline, Chancellor of Scotland, were appointed oversmen by consent of both the parties. These friendly judges, having heard the business reasoned in their presence, and, finding that the examination thereof would prove tedious
and intricate, they direct a power to the Marquis of Huntly to deal in the matter; desiring him to try, if, by his means and mediation, these contentions might be settled, happening betwixt parties so strictly tied to him by blood and alliance, the Earl of Sutherland being his cousin-german, and the Earl of Caithness having married his sister. The Marquis of Huntly did his best, but could not prevail, either party being so far from condescending to the other's demands, and so he remitted the business back again to the Secret Council; which Sir Robert Gordon perceiving, he moved the King's Majesty for a pardon to Donald Mackay, John Gordon, and their associates, for the slaughter of John Sinclair of Skirkag; which His Majesty earnestly granted, seeing it was committed in the execution of His Majesty's service; yet, nevertheless, there still remained a grudge in the minds of the parties, searching by all means and occasions to infest one another, until the year of God 1619, that the Earl of Caithness and Sir Robert Gordon (then, by his brother's death, Tutor of Sutherland) were reconciled by the mediation of George Lord
[paragraph continues] Gordon, Earl of Enzie, by whose travel and diligence all particulars betwixt the Houses of Sutherland and Caithness were finally settled; and then went both of them familiarly to either's houses; whose perfect reconciliation will, doubtless, tend to the peace and quiet of these parts of the kingdom.