March 29th, 2011
My great-great grandmother, Agnes Gray (Grey), was Scottish. I’m not sure if she was born in Scotland, or if her parents immigrated to America first. Regardless, my own grandmother has always been interested in our Scottish heritage. She had a suit made in the Sutherland tartan, but I was never quite sure how that connexion worked. How could someone named Gray belong to the Sutherland clan?
Well it turns out that the Grays (Greys) are a sept, or sub-division of the Sutherland clan. The Grays came over to England with William the Conqueror, and later fled up to Scotland after doing something naughty down south. By the 16th century, they were allied with the Sutherlands and installed in Skibo Castle. The Grays intermarried with the Gordons, whose line still holds the ancient (created in the early 13th century) Earldom of Sutherland, and, until recent generations, held the newer (created in the early 19th century) Duchy of Sutherland.
Skibo Castle, which was held by the Grays for more than 200 years, until the 1770s, was rebuilt in the late 18th century. So I couldn’t find a picture of what it might have looked like during the years when “my family” held it. In the early 20th century, the new castle was purchased by American millionaire Andrew Carnegie. The castle is still owned by the Carnegie club, and is run as a posh estate hotel. Madonna was married at Skibo Castle.
Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Which isn’t to say that I am actually related to Scottish nobility. We probably came from the poor-relation branch of the family. But I think it is fair to say that I am descended from the same Gray (Grey) who accompanied the Normal conqueror. Why do I suddenly have even less sympathy for Ivanhoe?
You can read more about the Sutherland clan on their website.