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[Page last updated 01 April 2017]
Chief of the Clan
The Hereditary Chief of Clan Sinclair is The Right Honorable Malcolm Ian Sinclair, The Earl of Caithness.
Our Chief is an elected member of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament, the chief executive of the Clan Sinclair Trust, which owns Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, and also the patron of the Clan Sinclair Association of Canada.
Short Biography of The Earl of Caithness
Having completed the three-year course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Malcolm worked for a firm of land agents in Oxfordshire. That led him into commercial agency which involved working in London. In 1984 his career changed again when Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, invited him to join her reforming government. He started as a Whip and Lord in Waiting to The Queen before progressing to an Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport and then Minister of State at, successively, the Home Office, Department of the Environment, the Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and back to the Department of Transport. He is the only hereditary peer during the last century to have served in the three great Departments of State (Foreign and Home Offices and Treasury) and while in the Treasury was also Paymaster General. He was created a Privy Councillor to Her Majesty The Queen in 1990.
Since 1994 Malcolm has been doing consultancy work for various companies and jointly founded Victoria Soames Ltd., and more recently Rickett-Tinne, a flourishing London Real Estate Agency. As one of the 92 remaining hereditary peers he also still takes an active part in politics from the backbenches in Parliament in legislation and debates as well as serving on the European sub-committee considering legislation from Brussels on Agricultural and Environmental matters. As well as being the hereditary chief of the Sinclairs, he is chief executive of the Clan Sinclair Trust, a heritage charity, and is also involved with other heritage and charity work in the north of Scotland.
The Clan Sinclair Association of Canada began with the informal gatherings of one Ontario-based Sinclair family; CSAC is now a national non-profit group and part of the worldwide Clan Sinclair. Visit our History page to learn more.
The quarterly newsletter of Clan Sinclair Association Canada is called Roslin O Roslin after the historic war cry of the clan. More information at the Newsletter page.
One strong interest of clan members is genealogy. Forms to get you started are available from our Family History page.
Clan Sinclair has active groups based in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. To see contact information for clan volunteers, visit our Contacts page.
Annual membership dues are $15.00 for singles and $20.00 for families (in Canadian dollars). To join, and subscribe to Roslin O Roslin, mail a cheque or money order together with your contact information and a note about your Sinclair connection to the CSAC Secretary.
Clan Membership, Surnames and Septs
The spelling variations of our clan name include Sinclair, St Clair, Sinkler and many others. In his article on "Scottish and Irish Chiefs" for Burke's Peerage, genealogist Hugh Peskett explained how families unrelated to the chief came to use his surname:
"Chiefs gave their clansmen leadership, justice, housing, land to grow food, grazing for their cattle and, importantly in a more violent age, protection. In return the chief would expect able bodied clansmen to fight with him and for him. While many clansmen were of the chiefly kindred, others placed themselves under the chief's leadership and protection and assumed his name."
- Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th Edition, 2003
Other family names associated with Clan Sinclair are Caird, Clouston, Clyne, Flett, Gallie, Linklater, Lyall, Mason and Moar; these are usually called septs of our clan.
The Court of the Lord Lyon, which is the heraldic authority for Scotland, has a webpage on "Who is a member of a clan" which explains about clan membership, surnames and septs:
"Every person who has the same surname as the chief is deemed to be a member of the clan. Equally a person who offers allegiance to the chief is recognised as a member of the clan unless the chief decides that he will not accept that person's allegiance.
There is no official list of recognised septs. This is a matter for each chief to determine...."
– as posted at The Court of The Lord Lyon official website, retrieved 06 Jan 2008
The Engrailed Cross
Since 1057, a black engrailed cross on a white ground has been associated with the Sinclairs. "Engrailed" refers to the indentations along the cross's edge, as pictured on the shield at right.
The CSAC logo, available as a lapel badge through the clan shop, is an engrailed cross with, in the centre, a red maple leaf as on the Canadian flag.
The clansman's badge, available from retailers specializing in Scottish goods, consists of the crest of the chief's Arms:
A Cock sejant surrounded by the traditional belt and buckle with the Motto, "Commit Thy Work to God"
Some landmarks of interest to members of Clan Sinclair, with links to locator maps:</>
- Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, the Castle of Mey, and Thurso Castle in the old county of Caithness, Scotland.
- Ravenscraig Castle in Kirkcaldy, Fife, near Sinclairtown.
- Rosslyn Castle, Roslin, near Dalkeith in Midlothian, Scotland.
- Herdmanston Castle near Samuelston in East Lothian, Scotland.
- Saint-Clair-sur-l'Elle near Saint-Lô and Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, both in the Normandy region of France.
For further information, click here.
The Sinclair plant badge is furze (whin) or white clover,
worn on the cap or lapel.
Sinclair Peers, Baronets and Knights
The Sinclair clan chief, the Earl of Caithness, is an elected representative peer in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, as is the Earl of Rosslyn. Other Sinclairs in the Lords are the life peers Baroness Linklater of Butterstone and Baroness Masham of Ilton.
Another Scottish peer is Lord Sinclair, who inherited his title in 2004. The past five generations of his predecessors were representative Scottish peers in the House of Lords prior to its reform. His father had been an Extra Equerry to the Queen Mother for more than 50 years.
The Member of Parliament for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso. John Thurso is the first peer to sit in the House of Commons after being in the Lords.
Clan chiefs may be peers, but a chieftainship is not a peerage. Many peers have more than one title. Peerages – and chieftainships – have varied rules of inheritance, and some may be inherited by women. A life peerage is an individual distinction.
Baronets and knights are not peers. A baronetcy is inherited; as for a knighthood, its holder is addressed as "Sir". A knighthood is an individual distinction.
For more on Sinclair Peers, Baronets and Knights, click here.
The best-known Sinclair tartans are the Dress Red and Hunting Green. Both have modern, ancient, and ancient weathered versions.
The Sinclair tartan at right is Ancient Red. The Sinclair tartan background on this website is Hunting Green.