A new chief for Clan Gunn after 230 years

At a ceremony in Edinburgh on April 16th Iain Alexander Gunn was appointed chief of Clan Gunn. The Clan has been without a chief for more than 230 years.  This is wonderful news for this Scottish Clan and the hard work of the Gunn Society.  This is a truly historic event.

Iain Alexander Gunn - Chief of Clan Gunn

Iain Alexander Gunn – Chief of Clan Gunn

The Clan Gunn is one of the oldest Scottish Clans descended from the Norse Jarls of Orkney and the Pictish Mormaers of Caithness. An incredibly beautiful area of Scotland.

The Clan Gunn Museum, Caithness - photo taken by Amanda at ScotClans

The Clan Gunn Museum, Caithness – photo taken by Amanda at ScotClans

After a long process of researching various connections and branches of people linked to the distant Chiefs of Gunn one claim was unanimously voted for and the claim from Commander Iain A. Gunn of Banniskirk was put forward the Lyon Court.  This was accepted.

“Edinburgh, 25 September 2015. The Lord Lyon King of Arms, having considered the foregoing petition, Recognises the Petitioner as Representer of the House and Family of Gunn, Chief of the Clan Gunn, and that he is entitled to the additaments of Chief to his Ensigns Armorial, the form of such Ensigns Armorial to be determined by His Lordship at a later date.”

The new chief said: “I am most grateful for the congratulations and messages of support from members of the clan worldwide on my recognition by the Lord Lyon King of Arms as chief of Clan Gunn.”



Iain Gunn is presented with the Letters Patent by the Lord Lyon, while his grandson Ben holds one of the new pinsels created for the Chief’s commissioners throughout the Scottish diaspora.


Finding a Chief
The last chief, Morrison Gunn died in 1785 with no traceable heir.    Since 1860 The Clan Gunn Society have been trying to find a chief, with no success.  In 1978 the Gunn Society resolved “that processes should be set in motion to recognise the Commander as Chief of the clan”.  Interested parties were invited to put forward their claims.   The outcome was that, by 1993, four possible claimants had researched their genealogy. In order of claimed nearness to the last Chief they were:

  • Robert E Kamp, of Rotterdam (now of Bilthoven), whose descent was researched by Willem de Graaff
  • Michael J Gunn, of London and Wick, who claimed that Robert Gunn in Thurso, grandson of Esther, daughter of the 6th Mackeamish, married his ancestress Ann Whear.
  • Dr Alexander Gunn of USA, believed to be heir male, whose lineage was researched by Edith Gunn Jensen with Michael Gunn’s help.
  • Iain A Gunn of Banniskirk, Commander,  did not put forward a formal claim in response to the Clan Gunn Society’s  motion in 1978 . While of proven descent  from Gunn Chiefs through both male and female lines, he accepted  that there might well be someone with a closer genealogical link to the last Chief, and if such a person could also prove an undisputed claim.
  • A fifth possibility with Jack Gunn in Australia – who was genealogically senior to Iain. He removed his claim.

A  petition was made to the Lord Lyon by leading members of the Clan worldwide.  On December 22, 2014 Lyon Morrow accepted the Petition and appointed John Malden Esq, Unicorn Pursuivant to supervise a Convention and report his findings to him.  More information on this can be found on the Clan Gunn Society website: http://www.clangunnsociety.org/chiefship/

A Change to the Gunn Crest
The last chief died in 1785 his arms are unknown, or at least not officially recorded in the Lyon Court’s records, so the Gunn Clan Crest has never been completely set in stone.  Now with the new chief it is.  There will be some changes (motto is the same, the sword is now basket hilted and the arm has tartan on it).  We are in the process of updating this on the ScotClans website and will be contacting other Scottish manufacturers of this change of crest.




About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

View all posts by Amanda Moffet →

14 thoughts on “A new chief for Clan Gunn after 230 years

  1. Carlin Knight

    Having met Commander Iain and his dear wife Bunty at an international clan gathering 20 years ago, I must say that this is very welcome news. My husband and, along with my mother Edith Gunn Moore, my step-father, and my then 13 year old granddaughter, Jessica, we’re guests of Iain and Bunty at their home in Caithness. Jessica was all dressed up for the reception and was wearing eyeshadow with glitter. Bunty said to her, “Oh, Jessica, you are so sparkly!” This has become one of our treasured memories of that gathering and we still delight in telling Jessica she looks all sparkly! My mother is now 95 and proudly carries the Gunn name. Congratulations to the new Chief of the Clan Gunn!

  2. Jason Kenneth Gunn

    Congratulations! All the best! JKGUNN

    Universal Bagpipes

    21 year pro piper, Houston Texas U.S.A.

    As soon as I have enough money saved, I wish to come back to Scotland and come up and visit the clan Gunn Museum.

  3. john mcmillan

    Glad to here it I worked up in Thurso there were plenty of Gunn’s and McKay seemed every second person was called 1 or the other good luck to you Lang may yer lum reek



  5. Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson

    I wish I could have made it to see the installation. What a kind, gentleman the Chief is. I am glad to see him as Chief and proud to be part of Clan Gunn USA. Hope to see you again.

    Chief Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson
    Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of Pokanoket.

  6. Nick Wood

    Our Chief, Timothy Wood of Largo, and the Council of the Clan Wood Society congratulate Clan Gunn and your new Chief whose succession is a truly great achievement.

  7. sean gunn

    no no no. how can ian gunn be chief? wasnt he happy with the great title commander? and now the tartan has changed? come on, we will resist. as we always have. this smacks of tartanry and meddling from outsiders. clan gunn has and doesnt want a chief. we are a war clan with a commander. nuff said.

    • Robert D Gunnyon


      I understand people desperate to make their mark in history, but changing a 200+ year tartan and crest… and to a basket? Like with fruit and a dangling piece of cloth? What’s next, our official colour becomes lavender? Like with most here, I’ve also researched our war clan heritage and am under the impression our “yon” (translated “battle on”) was added when my ancestors went south from the traditional lands, to keep things on ‘that’ side of the wall. Some people had to stay (population), and some people had to actually fight, (Anyone know the emoji for a DNA sequence waving?), no surprise there aren’t too many of us around these days.

      I’m confident they would have picked a different battle, should a “leader” declare “this Tartan sucks we need a new one, this crest has to go, blah blah blah”… Perhaps there’s something about seeking what is specifically defined as a “traditional role” that maybe, just maybe, that heritage should be respected? Maybe being “traditional” in said role?

      Without respecting the people, a “leader” is simply doing their own version of a highland cleansing.


      • P. T. Gunn

        Really? Are you so ignorant that you do not understand plain English? It simply says they will change the Clan badge from a plain sleeved arm holding a sword to a tartan clad arm holding a basket hilt sword. Don’t you know what a basket hilt sword is? It says NOTHING about a change to our tartan! Also, never heard of Gunnyon last name being associated with our clan or name. Ian Gunn has done much for Clan Gunn and I am honored to have him as my chief! P.T.Gunn

    • Rodger Moffet

      When a new chief is appointed then his personal arms becomes the arms that any crest is derived from, this is fine when you have a more or less unbroken line because arms are a ‘heritable property’ so its unlikely that a crest would change. When there is a considerable break then its not uncommon that the arms will be markedly different and so, naturally, will be the crest (Wood of Largo – Macdonald of Keppoch are two recent example). Im not aware of any change to the tartan but remember the tartan is from Logan’s “Scottish Gael” it hails from the post 1822 tartan revival and is no older. (it was officially recognised as the Gunn tartan in 1960).

  8. Michael Vickery

    I’ve only recently discovered my relation to the Gunn family through my great grandmother Janie E. Gunn . I’ve been reading and learned so much and am very proud of this lineage. Congratulations and i hope to visit soon.

  9. Frances Jamieson Iglinsky

    Congratulations Ian Gunn,I recently discovered I’m a decended of Mary Gunn who lived with her family in Bayhead Street Stornaway
    Around 1841. Please don’t change the Tarten

  10. Dolores Wood

    My husband and children are twice descended from clan Gunn through Elvira Gunn (b. 1803, Massachusetts) and Eunice Gunn, (b. 1791, MA.) daughters of Able Gunn, (b. 1776, MA). We are proud to be Gunn descendants. We congratulate and welcome Iain Gunn of Gunn as our clan chief. Clan Gunn sons and daughters on both sides of the waters never give up and never give in, so we now have a clan chief again. We are happy that our tartan and motto have remained the same, and that there are only slight changes to our clan badge.

  11. Ann Roberts

    I came upon this page whilst reading another article. I am amazed the Clan Gunn have gone so long without a Chief!! I am proud to say that I too descend from the Gunn’s through my great-grandmother Margaret Gunn Sutherland, who was the daughter of Margaret Gunn and Donald Dunn Sutherland. She was born in Edinburgh but most if no all the rest of her family Came from Caithness, particularly Latheronwheel, Thurso and up almost to Wick. I was born in Canada, and am seriously proud of my Scottish roots. Thank you very much for this great site and taking the time to read my “blurb”. Take care.


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