Sinclair Families


Sinclairs of Swandale

The part of Scotland where the Sinclair name is most common is Caithness on the northern coast of the Scottish mainland, and separated from Orkney by the stormy Pentland Firth.  There is an old story that the first Sinclair to settle in Orkney made the perilous crossing of the Firth in a rowing boat because he was about to be hanged for sheep stealing in Caithness.  If there is any truth in this story then it is highly likely that thoughts of the noose lent strength to his oars.

All the Sinclairs in Rousay appear to have been descended from Thomas Sinclair who was born c1680.  I have managed to trace my Sinclair line 8 generations back to him, further back than any other of my ancestral lines.  Thomas' grandson George farmed Faraclett for a time.  George's son Archibald was later in the farm of Swandale and was followed there by another two generations of his family.  Archie was one of my ancestors on my mother's side of the family and his sister Betsy was another but on my father's side (see the Marwick page).

Archie's son John Sinclair spent seven years working for the Hudson Bay Company before returning to Rousay to take up farming at Tratland.  Archie's son, James, moved to Newhouse in Rousay which is still owned by a descendant of his.  Archie's third son, Robert, farmed Swandale for most of his life.  He was the grandfather of Thomas Sinclair Sr whose photo appears at the foot of this page.  A son of Robert, also named Robert, went to New Zealand where he married and had 2 sons, James and Robert, seen in a photo below.  James 1888-1952 married  Emmeline McKay and their son, James B Sinclair, became a High Court judge in Auckland.  Robert married Janet Hislop in 1921 and they had 4 children, Iris, Esme, Roy, and Alan.  Roy and his mother were electrocuted in their home in 1942.  Their photo appears three down.

Robert I. Sinclair 1838-1922 (son of Robert Sinclair of Swandale) in NZ with his sons Robert (standing) and James   Here are the brothers (L to R) Robert and James Sinclair who appear as boys in the photo on the left.

Photos by courtesy of Donald Sinclair, Australia.


James B. Sinclair, who was born in 1924 and died in the 1990s, was a judge in the High Court of New Zealand in Auckland. He was a son of James Sinclair in the photos above.

(Photo - By courtesy of of his son Stuart Sinclair, Auckland)


L to R. Alan Abernethy Sinclair, his sister Esme, his mother Janet, his sister Iris, and his brother Roy

(Photo by courtesy of Donald Sinclair)

 Other houses in Rousay associated with Sinclairs are Tratland, Sketquoy, Newhouse, Knarston and Banks in Frotoft.


Sinclairs of Newhouse

The first Sinclair to move to Newhouse was James, a brother of Archie in Swandale.

 Hugh Sinclair of Newhouse, 1854-1934, with his wife Margaret McKinlay and children (l to r) Robert, Harry, John, and Mary Ann. James was a  grandson of James Sinclair of Newhouse ,born 1783.
(Photo - Janette Sabiston)



Sinclairs of Stenisgorn and Sketquoy in Rousay

Hugh Sinclair born in 1821, a son of James born 1783. moved to Stenisgorn and his descendants to Sketquoy.  He married Isabella Gibson of Langskaill.  Their son Hugh, born in 1853, became harbourmaster at Greenock.  Latterly he lived at Bellona in Rousay.


Hugh Sinclair 1821-1909 of Stenisgorn and his wife Isabella Gibson


Hugh Sinclair 1853-1937 of Bellona, son of Hugh and Isabella (left)


Sinclairs of Swandale and Banks, Frotoft

Another one of Archibald Sinclair's sons was Robert (1795-1884) who farmed Swandale after his father.  A grandson of Robert was Tom Sinclair of Banks, Frotoft who ran the Rousay-Evie postboat in the 1920s and 30s.  His son, also Tom, took over the postboat after his father and ran it till about 1970.  Photos of the two Toms appear below.


Tom Sinclair Sr

Tom Sinclair Jr

Tom, and his son Tom (right), ran the post boat service between Evie and Rousay for many years.

Photos by courtesy of Muriel Johnston, daughter of Tom Jr