Bishop of Caithness – Lands in Caithness & Sutherland

Bishopric of Caithness Estate


The bishopric of Caithness held enormous estates in Caithness and Sutherland. From its first endowment it is plain that the bishop was expected to play a major role in the politics and society of the far north – as well as its religion. The bishop needed lands and tenants to support that role.


Which lands? We have various references over the centuries and the following tables attempt to capture that data. We have two important texts from the thirteenth century and we also have a cluster of documents from the time of the Reformation which allow us to describe parts of the estate in great detail.


Firstly, there is a Constitution for the Chapter of Caithness (1223-1245) which gives us the ecclesiastical lands which were assigned to the bishop and the cathedral chapter. Some of the resources referred to are tiends or tithes of produce (1/10ths); others refer to ‘altarage’ dues; others still refer to churches, chapels (and their pertinents), and parishes. (For what ‘altarage’ might include see Dowden, The Medieval Church in Scotland, pp 137-8). With each church or chapel there were usually some lands assigned to its upkeep. Often, this might be a davach or half-davach but the evidence is sketchy. There were also crofts and tofts in Dornoch to help support the canons on a day-to-day basis. (See Two Ancient Records of the Bishopric of Caithness, from the Charter-Room at Dunrobin. Bannatyne Miscellany III, Edinburgh, 1855, pp 11-15, 17-21; W. Fraser, The Sutherland Book, Vol III – Charters, No 4, Edinburgh, 1892; OPS II, II pp 601-2).


Secondly, there is an agreement between the Bishop of Caithness and the Earl of Sutherland dated 1275. (See Two Ancient Records of the Bishopric of Caithness, from the Charter-Room at Dunrobin. Bannatyne Miscellany III, Edinburgh, 1855, pp 15-16, 21-24; W. Fraser, The Sutherland Book, Vol III – Charters, No 7, Edinburgh, 1892; OPS II, II pp 603-4).


Thirdly there is a charter, dated 1557, by Robert, Bishop of Caithness to John Earl of Sutherland, and Helen, his wife, of extensive lands in Caithness and Sutherland. There is much detail about the rents. (See W. Fraser, The Sutherland Book, Vol III – Charters, No 97, Edinburgh, 1892, pp xlii-xliii, 116-124).


Fourthly, there is a royal confirmation (RMS IV (1669) 1565) of a charter by Robert, bishop of Caithness, following a direction dated March 1563/4, concerning the entry of Alexander Gordoun, son and heir apparent of John, formerly earl of Sutherland, in lands which John held of the bishop. This details lands and rents in Sutherland and Caithness. RMS VI (2155) 1608 (on an original of 1607) is a very similar document, the printed version of which includes some minor but important extra material. Subamster is given as 1d, Tayclyb is named as a croft of Sithera, and Ernoch is named amongst the lands of Dornoch. (Is Ernoch a mistake for a name like Embo)?


Fifthly, we have a number of entries from the Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices which date to the period 1561-c.1565. These are to be found in J. Kirk, (ed.), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices, Oxford, 1995, pp 627-649. (The bishopric is detailed pp 627-9 but the parishes and chapter lands are scattered through the following pages).


These last three sets of documents treat of the same lands paying the same (or very similar) rents and give us more confidence in the overall validity of the data.


Other relevant documents include:

RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455

RMS IV (2578) 1576 on original of 1560, (2965) 1579-80 on original of 1576, (2995) 1580 on original of 1561.

RMS V (277) 1581 on original of 1580, (1729) 1590, (1766) 1590 on original of 1587, (1977) 1591, (2078) 1592

RMS VI (2) 1593, (803) 1598, (1467) 1603 on original of 1600, (1729) 1606, (2155) 1608 (on an original of 1607)

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

RMS IX (1098) 1642


RSS VII (987) 1577

RSS VIII (1551) 1583


Retours (Sutherland) (2) 1605

Retours (Caithness) (6) 1605


Sutherland Book, Vol III, No’s 119, 120, 1591

Henderson, J., Caithness Family History, pp xxviii-xxix


The following 3 tables list the churches, church-lands and farms in the various documents describing the estate of the bishopric of Caithness.


Firstly, the constitution of the cathedral chapter – 1223-1245:

Office Parish or Church Garbal teinds Altarage Other lands Extent or Comment
Bishop (+

Abbot of Scone)

& rest of Chapter

14 parishes       To support bishop and chapter of 10 canons including bishop, abbot, 5 officials, 3 ordinary canons
Bishop 6 parishes (unnamed)       To support Bishop. See below.
Dean Clun Church(Clyne) Durnach


¼ of Durnach  


Methandurnach + Toft & Croft in Durnach

Dornoch (civitatis)

Embo (ville)

(Meadhan or Mid-Dornoch?)

Precentor Crech Church(Creich) Promci





¼ of Durnach Huchterhinche apud Durnach + Toft & Croft in Durnach Proncy


Strathormlary (Dornoch parish)



Chancellor Rothegorth Church (Rogart) Scelleboll (12 davach estate) ¼ of Durnach + Toft & Croft in Durnach Skelbo
Treasurer Larg Church (Lairg) Scitheboll


¼ of Durnach + Toft & Croft in Durnach Skibo &

Cyderhall. (Except precentor’s garbal teinds of Stradormeli = Strathormlary)

To resident canons Farr Church       Excepts teinds of Helgedall (Halladale). This was an incentive to reside.
Archdeacon Bouer Church (Bower)

Watne Church (Watten)

    + Toft & Croft in Durnach  




2 Herkhenys

+ common pasture of ‘civitatis’ of Durnach




Divided equally between them

Prebend of the Abbot of Scone Kelduninach Church (Kildonan)     + Toft & Croft in Durnach  
3 remaining prebends Olrich Church

Donotf Church

Cananesbi Church

Scynend Church

    + Toft & Croft in Durnach each Olrig



Skinnet –  (all 4 churches in common).

To providing light and incense Dyrnes Church       Durness
To bishop’s vicar in Cathedral Church   Thoreboll


  20 acres at Durnach + Toft & Croft Torboll, Dornoch

Kinnauld, Dornoch


The 6 parishes belonging to the bishop are unnnamed but almost certainly comprised:

Kilmaly/Golspie, Loth, (Sutherland); Reay (part Sutherland, part Caithness); Thurso, Wick, Latheron (Caithness). This is evidenced by the fact that these 6 parishes are the ones whose garbal teinds (teind sheaves) went to the bishop in the data from the Books of Assumption given below.


There is some uncertainty about the parochial situation in the early 13th century. OPS II, II p 601 fn 5 states:

Lairg at that period included Edderachillis; Far included Tongue; and Skinnet included Halkirk and Spittal. Assynt, the only remaining parish, was probably not a distinct parish at the time”.

(I have doubts with regard to Edderachillis and Assynt. Both lie west of Druim Alban and I am not persuaded they were formally attached to either Creich or Lairg – which lie east. Assynt may not have been considered a part of the bishopric when it was first consituted. By 1455 it certainly was – see Assynt text file. The relationship between the parishes of Skinnet and Halkirk, and the ‘hospitality’ of Spittal, is largely unknown).


The next important document is the agreement, dated 1275, which seems to have settled a long argument between the bishop and earl about the ownership of certain lands. All were claimed by the bishop but a compromise was reached whereby the lands were split between the two parties. In total the bishop had claimed 33¾ davachs. After 1275 he retained 16½ davachs, and the earl was allocated 17¼. Of the lands that the bishop ‘lost’ several are mentioned in the table above in the context of the bishop and chapter receiving the teinds. These include Promci (Proncy), Auelech (Evelix), Askesdale (Astle), Rutheuerthar (Riarchar), Thoreboll (Torboll) and Kynald (Kynnauld). The fact that these lands are specifically mentioned suggests the bishop had at least some claim on them. If we add their values to what the bishop retained in 1275 we may reach a better idea of the extent of the bishop’s estate c. 1200. The totals are 16½ (retained 1275) + Proncy (3 davachs), Evelix (2 davachs), Astle (¾ davach), Riarchar (1 davach), Torboll (3 davachs), Kinnald (2 davachs) taking us to 28¼ davachs. It looks as if 1275 saw a successful, secular, raid on the Bishop’s estate. This may have had political support from the highest level.



Lands Valuation Claimed by Allocated to Parish Comment
Scytheboll (Skibo) 6 davachs Bishop Bishop Dornoch  
Sytheraw (Sidera) 6 davachs Bishop Bishop Dornoch + ferry
Miggewet (Migdale)

Swerdisdale (Swordale)

Creych (Creich)

2.5 davachs Bishop Bishop Creich + fishing of Bunnach
Cuttheldawach 1 davach Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Mouimor 2 davachs Bishop Bishop Clynw  
Awelec 2 davachs Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Promsy 3 davachs Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Rowecherchar 1 davach Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Haskesdale 3 quarters Bishop Earl Dornoch = Astle
Hacchencossy ½ davach Bishop Earl Dornoch = Achosnich
Thorbolle 3 davachs Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Kynalde 2 davachs Bishop Earl Dornoch  
Largge 4 davachs Bishop Earl Lairg  
Total 33¾   16½ bishop

17¼ earl



The wealth of the bishopric is confirmed by entries in the Exchequer Rolls Vol I for 1328. On p 113 the receipts from the vacant seat are given as £133 6s 8d (200 merks). There were some expenses (listed on pp 114 & 116) but, in comparison, they were very small. The Earl of Sutherland got 50s (£2-10s (3¾m)) for looking after the bishopric for one term; 62s 4d (< 5m) was spent watching the castle at Scrabster and ‘Hermann’ got £8 (12m) for his service in the bishopric whilst it was in the king’s hands.


The next table compares the entries for the documents listed at points 3, 4, & 5 above. What is particularly important about these documents is that they give rentals. Rentals which are the same (or similar) give us added comfort that our data is correct.


SB = Sutherland Book Vol III; RMS = RMS IV (1669) 1565 based on an original of 1564; BA = Books of Assumption.

In the above entries, Skibo, Skelbo, Torboll etc refer to large estates of many davachs. In the table below the names just refer to the head farm from which the estate took its name.

For the sake of brevity I have not given all the spelling variants which occur in these documents.

Rental figures given are per annum. Under County: S = Sutherland, C = Caithness.

RM(2) = Rent details match between 2 separate documents. RM(3) = Rent details match between all 3 documents.

*indicates minor arithmetic difference.

Period covered = 1557-1565

Lands SB No 97, 1557 RMS IV (1669) 1564 BA, 1561-5 Parish/County Comment/Extent
West Skibo Wester Skebo Westir Skebo   Dornoch, S RM(2) 12d/2 davachs
    Skebo-castell + Bramoirt called Estir-part de Skebo   Dornoch, S  
    Dowcatland + brasina   Dornoch, S Dovecot + alehouse
Cyderhall Sythera Sithera   Dornoch, S RM(2) 12d/2 davachs
Cuthill/Ullestrie Vllest Wllest   Dornoch, S RM(2) 6d/1 davach
Ardalie Ardalles/Ardellis Ardeles   Dornoch, S RM(2) 6d/1 davach
  Ferretoun Ferritoun   Dornoch, S RM(2) 3d/½ davach
Davachfin Dawatsin/Dawauchsin Dawoichfyn   Dornoch, S RM(2) 6d/1 davach
Drumdivan Drumdewane Drumdewan   Dornoch, S RM(2) 6d/1 davach
Achvaich Auchiveyauch/Auchoveyich + pendicles of: Auchewaicht + pendicles of:   Dornoch, S RM(2)
Achormlarie Cuthegermolaye/Auchgormuta Auchegormoley   Dornoch, S RM(2)
  Auchenecolas/Auchenicholas Auchenicolas   Dornoch, S RM(2)
Skibo mill Skebo mill Skebo mill   Dornoch, S RM(2)
Embo       Dornoch, S 2 davachs
  Palace of Dornoch Palace of Dornoch   Dornoch, S  
  Tofts and crofts in Dornoch Crofts & tenements in Dornoch Crofts & tenants in Dornoch Dornoch, S.  
Ernoch       Dornoch, S. RMS VI (2155) 1608 (on original of 1607)
Brims   13½d (Half-)Brymms Brymis Thurso, C. RMS IV (2578) 1576 on original of 1560

RMS V (1766) 1590 on original of 1587

Half-Brymmes in (1607)

Thursetter       Thurso, C. RMS IV (2578) 1576 on original of 1560

RMS V (1766) 1590 on original of 1587

Fors Force Fors + mill and


Forss Thurso, C. RM(3)*
Baillie Ballze Bailye Bailyie Reay, C. RM(3)*
Lythmoir   ⅔ Lythtmoir Twa pairt Lochmair Thurso, C. RM(2)*
Lyth     Lycht Bower, C  
Lythmoir   2d of ⅓ Lythtmoir Tua penny land mair Thurso, C RM(2)*
⅓ Lyth       Bower, C RMS VI (2) 1593
⅔ Lyth       Bower, C. RMS IX (1098) 1642
1¼d in Kirk       Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593 &

RMS IX (1098) 1642

Oust   ⅔ Owest Twas pairt Albist Thurso, C. RM(2)*
Stemster Stambuster/Stambustar Stambustar Stainunsteir Reay, C. RM(3)
Wick 10d 10d Weik 10d Weik 10d Weik Wick, C. RM(3)*

RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455

RMS VI (1467) 1603

Piper’s Croft, Wick       Wick, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603
Tenement, Wick       Wick, C. RMS VI (2) 1593
  Canzeouch Quyis/ Kennochquyis Kennochquyis Canis Quyis Wick, C. RM(3)*
  Bischopis Quyis Bischopisquyis Bischopis Quyis Wick, C. RM(3)*
N. Killimster North Killummister/Kilimster North-Kilmister North Kilmster Wick, C. RM(3). 18d.
S. Killimster South Killummister/ Kilimster South Kilmister   Wick, C. RM(2). 18d.
Winless Mill of Wyndeles Mill of Windeleis Miln of Vindleis Wick, C. RM(3)
⅜d Myrelandnorne 3 octiuinis in Myreland Norne 3 octams in Myreland-nornie 3 ottounis in Netherland Norne Wick, C. RM(2)
½d Myrelandnorne       Wick, C. RMS VI (2) 1593 &

RMS IX (1098) 1642

3¼d Myrelandnorn       Wick, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

Lythmoir Mill of Lyche/Lychmoir Mill of Lytht[moir] Mylne of Lychtmoir Thurso, C. RM(3)
Scrabster 9½d Scrabustar/Scrabuster 9½d Scrabistar Strabusteir Thurso, C. RM(2)
  Crofts of Scrabustar Crofts of Scrabistar Crofts of Strabuster Thurso, C. RM(3)
Lie Wairdis & Langrig de Scrabister       Thurso, C. RMS VI (2155) 1608 (on original of 1607)
  ¼ of salmon fishing of River Thurso ¼ of salmon fishing of River Thurso ¼ of Watter of Thurseth Thurso, C. RM(3)
  Annuals of Thurso     Thurso, C.  
      Barony of May* Canisbay, C. See below
May       Canisbay, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

Nesseter       Canisbay, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

Hollandmey       Canisbay, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

2d in Stroma       Canisbay, C. RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455

RMS VI (1467) 1603

RMS VIII (481) 1623 on original of 1622

2d in Olrik       Olrig, C. RMS VI (1467) 1603
3d Ormelie       Thurso, C. RSS VII (987) 1577
    The following are the components of the 15 davach barony

£81 6s 8d (122m)

15 Davach barony of Ardurmes


£81 6s 8d (122m)

Durness, S. RM(2)
Galdwell   Gauldwale   Durness, S.  
Keoldale   Kualdale   Durness, S.  
Cranagak   Crannega   Durness, S.  
Borley   Borrole   Durness, S.  
Slains   Slanis   Durness, S.  
Oldshoremore   Aistlairmoir   Ex Durness, S.  
Oldshorebeg   Estlarbeg   Ex Durness, S.  
Sandwood   Sandwat      
    Carragavife alias Carragarrow     Carragavis (1607)
          Carnagarrow (1607)
    R. Awingarroun     Now Rhiconich River
R. Sandwood   R. Sandwatt     R. Sandwood
Eilean Hoan   Island of Hoa   Durness, S.  
Laxford   ½ fishing of Laxfurde      
    Fishery of Ardurnes   Durness, S.  
    Fishery of the Cruves      
    Garbal teinds of parish of Ardurnes   Durness, S. Total income (rents etc) =  £81 6s 8d
Skail   Skaill Skaill Farr, S. RM(2), Strathnaver
Ribigill = Regeboll   Regeboill Regeboll Tongue, S. RM(2), Strathnaver


  Dorare Dorare Thurso, C. RM(2), RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455
Olgrinmore   Ulgraniemoir or Mekle Wlgranie   Halkirk, C.  
Olgrinbeg   Ulgraniebeig Lytill Ullagrahame Halkirk, C. RM(2)
1d Subamster in 1607.

= Sibster, Halkirk

  Subambustar Subunster Halkirk, C. RM(2) RMS VI (2155) 1608 (on original of 1607)
Halkirk   Halkirk + mill Halieerik Halkirk, C. RM(2)
Wester Dale   Westir-Dale Wnsterdaill Halkirk, C. RM(2)
Easter Dale   Estir-Dale Kisterdaill Halkirk, C. RM(2)
Tormsdale   Thormeskaith alias Thormesdale Thornisdaill Halkirk, C. RM(2)
    Miremichaelis Mereinethalis   RM(2)
Durran   Diren Derane Olrig, C. RM(2)
Alterwall   Alterwall Atterdaill/Alterwaill Bower, C. RM(2), RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455
Stanstill   3½d Stanstell

2½d Stanstell

Stansall Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593 & RMS IX (1098) 1642
Trala & Tinga       Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593
Lie Beillis & Medosched       Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593
½ Bulsett       Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593
Hestycrow       Bower, C. RMS VI (2) 1593
          Total =

£475 12s 10d

Kilmallie Kirktoun   Kilmale-Kirktoun + pendicle called Auchnachaill Kilmallie, Kirktoun Kilmallie, S Auchnacalzie (1607)
Rogart-more   Rogartmoir + mill & alehouse Reard Rogart, S.  
Swordale     Stoirdaill Creich, S.  
Migdale     Nygdaill Creich, S.  
Little Creich     Lytill Creicht Creich, S.  
      Teind sheaves Reay Reay, C.  
      Teind sheaves Thursoche Thurso, C.  
      Teind sheaves Weik Wick, C.  
      Teind sheaves Lothrin Latheron, C.  
      Teind sheaves Loth Loth, S.  
      Teind sheaves Kilmaly Kilmallie, S.  
      Parsonage & Vicarage of Kildonan 80m Kildonan, S.  
      Parsonage & Vicarage of Assynt 60m Assynt, S.  
      Parsonage & Vicarage of Farr 80m Farr, S.  
      Deanery of Caithness 10c. bere + 40m for vicarage of Kirktoun of Clyne & Clyne, S.  
      Denes feild (Auchindean) Dornoch, S.  
      Chantory of Caithness £100 Creich, S.  
      + 40s for the Chantouris feild Dornoch, S.  
      Treasurership of Caithness 3½ c. bere + 100m. Lairg, S.  
      + 40s for the Thesaureris feild Dornoch, S.  
      Chancellory of Caithness 6 c. bere + 100m Rogart, S.  
      + 40s for the Chancellaris feild Dornoch, S. = Pitgrudy
      Archdeaconry (‘archdenrie’) of Caithness – teind sheaves of Bower & Watten. 2 different rentals: £55 18s 8d, 27c. 11b.  OR 240m   ‘archdene, his corporall landis’: Scarneclati with Larillis, Galthie Feild, Cloak & Camster = 18d

(Above all Bower, C.)

      Vicarages of Bower & Watten £40 Bower, C.

Watten, C.

      Parsonage (175m, 17c. bere) & Vicarage (20m+) of Canisbay Canisbay, C.  
      Parsonage & Vicarage of Olrig £134 9s Olrig, C.  
      Vicarage of Thurso (£16) Thurso, C. p 631 and p 648
      Halkirk & Skinnet (8c. bere) Halkirk, C. ‘called the common kirks of Cathnes’
      Parsonage of Spittal £80 Halkirk, C. Part of Halkirk?
      Vicarage of Wick £40 Wick, C.  
      Vicarage of Reay £20 Reay, C. & S,  
      Vicarage of Latheron £40 Latheron, C.  


This table is of ecclesiastical lands that were not part of the bishopric

      Chaplainry of St Andrew (15m) Golspie, S. Golspie
      Chaplainry of Helmsdale (30m) Loth, S. St John’s, Loth
      Chaplainry of Clyne (15m) Clyne, S. To Moray cathedral
      Chaplainry of Kinnald Dornoch, S. OPS II, II p 622


* Barony of May

PSAS 11 (1875): John Stuart, ‘Articles by Robert, Bishop of Caithness’, … AD 1549, starts with an address to the Earl of Caithness whom the bishop refers to as ‘his wassall [vassal] and tennent of the baronie of May’. See also RMS VI (1467) 1603, on original of 1600.


For Skibo Castle see also RMS II (1404) 1478 on original of 1455.


The Cathedral dignitaries were supported by parishes elsewhere but they also seem to have had plots of ground in Dornoch to maintain them whilst in residence. So we know of ‘fields’ in Dornoch parish belonging to the Chancellor, Treasurer, Chanter, Dean and Archdean. We know the first three rented at 40s p.a. c. 1561. Since Achinchanter was 3d in 1623 it is probable Achintreasurer and Pitgrudy had the same value. See, for example, RMS V (1729) 1590.


Originally a Norse stronghold, Caithness was gradually encroached upon by Gaelic speakers from the south and west. The issue of linguistic division was a source of comment over the centuries. The church was not immune to this. Clerics had to be able to speak the language of their congregations:

Caithness and Sutherland Records Vol I, Part VI, London, 1912, p 154, 1366, John Wasil prepared to resign canonry of Caithness ‘especially as he is ignorant for the most part of the language of the people of that part’.



PSAS 11 (1875) pp 87-102: John Stuart, ‘Articles by Robert, Bishop of Caithness, against George, Earl of Caithness’, … AD 1549.


This is a valuable source concerning a dispute between the Bishop of Caithness and the Earl of Caithness. The Bishop makes 9 accusations of wrongdoing against the Earl. To each the Earl makes a reply and in turn the Bishop offers a further response or ‘confutation’. At this distance it is difficult to weigh merit, not least because the Bishop always has the last word! Some further detail is available in Pitcairn’s ‘Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland’ Vol 1 Parts I (pp 149, 222) & II (pp 337, 394-5). We may deduce the following:


There was ‘sanctuary’ at the Kirk of Wick, in the parish of Watten, and at the kirk of Farr. It also appears there were ‘field chapellis’ (field chapels) in Farr – which, it is implied, the Earl had burned. We know of a great many chapels scattered through the Highlands so the phrase ‘field chapellis’ gives us an idea of their status. They were of lesser importance than parish churches and appear not to have offered sanctuary, but for the widely dispersed rural population they made religious observance accessible. In a huge Highland parish such as Farr travelling to the parish church could be a major undertaking.


The last article or allegation concerns the judicial execution of some men who had been taken out of a ‘gyrd’ (girth or garth). In the Bishop’s ‘confutation’ it appears that the ‘gyrth’ was that of ‘Saint Magnus’ which suggests Spittal in Halkirk parish. What was the difference between a ‘gyrd’ and the sanctuary provided by a normal parish church? A girth was probably more formal with (at least) 4 girth crosses marking the boundary at the 4 cardinal points. The parish churches of Caithness each provided sanctuary. The girth of Halkirk was bigger. It was situated near to the ancient place of assembly on Spittal Hill. The area of the girth may well have been big enough to accommodate herds of livestock. There was also a ‘gyrth’ at Tain in Ross – ALI No 29 (pp 45-6) 1439.


The Earl had the ‘steding of Substerwyk’ (‘steading of Sibster Wick’ – so called to distinguish it from other Sibsters such as that in Halkirk).

‘Vestmistar’ is mentioned in the context of Watten. This is the Westbuster which is now lost to the map.


The Bishop was upset by the Earl’s ‘brekking of sanctuarie’ or ‘violatione of sanctuarii’. Goods had been taken from the church of Farr including ‘the chalice chrissumstok [chrism-vessel for the holy oil] Eucharest [the pyx or container for the consecrated bread] and ornamentis of the altaris’. The Bishop wanted the Earl to make ‘Johne Sutherland in Barredale [Berriedale] restoir the messe buik [mass-book, missal] of the kirk of Far, and utheris [other] Cathenes men the ornamentis of the altar thairof’.


The Earl had helped himself to corn from Deran (Durran in Olrig parish). The Earl had also withheld ‘the few male of byrsbanis myln’ (feu mail [feu duty] of Brisbane’s mill);

broken down the mill of ‘Ormelye’ (Ormlie in Thurso parish);

stopped the ‘bigging of ane myll in litill Wlgrame pertenyng to the said reverend fader, inuist withhalding of ane strath of gyrss and ane watter fisching callit sleacht pertenying to the said toun’ (stopped the building of a mill in Olgrinbeg [Halkirk parish] pertaining to the said reverend father, unjustly withholding a strath of grass and a river fishing called Sleacht pertaining to the said toun [i.e. Olgrinbeg]);

[Sleach Water lies west of Loch More – into which it drains. Evidently this was the shieling for Olgrinbeg – and the Earl had usurped it];

certane landis reft maisterfullie fra the tennentis of Deran and Vyk be the said Erle and his tenentis’, (certain lands torn masterfully from the tenants of Durran and Wick by the said Earl and his tenants);

and ane mert tane fra ane puir man in Stamistar and ettin be the said Erle in Brawle’ (and a mert [cow] taken from a poor man in Stemster and eaten by the said Earl in Brawll).


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