As we move towards the Clan Gunn Convention (Derbhfine) - now roughly one month away - it is worth bringing the issues back to mind.
Firstly, why is a Convention called? The answer is provided in Lord Lyon’s guidance for the holding of such Conventions –
(1) Where a blood link to a past Chief or Head of Name is likely but is not conclusively proven and it is wished to propose a particular person in that situation to be recognised as Chief.
(2) Where the main line of descent from a past Chief has died out and it is wished to recognise the Representer of a cadet line as Chief.
(3) Where neither blood link to a past Chief nor Representer of a cadet line can be identified but it is wished to propose a particular person of the surname as Commander. It is generally desirable that such a Commander should live in Scotland.
Now his third point is not relevant as there is a Clan Gunn Commander but the other points are relevant. Using Lord Lyon’s guidance the sole activity of the Gunn Convention should be with ‘likely’ blood links from the old Clan Gunn Chiefs, and such ‘likely’ Gunn Chief blood links are known. I note, as well, the following Lord Lyon judgement 19 February 2002 -
The derbhfine … should not consider proposing a person for chief unless there is no real hope that a genealogically related descendant could ever be found.
So the Convention has no provision for randomly choosing someone to be Chief if those with a ‘likely’ blood link to past Chiefs exist.
In other words the Clan Gunn Convention, following Lord Lyon’s guidelines, should be solely about requesting Lord Lyon to appoint a ‘likely but is not conclusively proven’ blood link to the old Chief line to be made Chief, if the Convention makes any decision at all.
My Braehour line is from the old Clan Gunn Chief line. The Commander also has acknowledged Braehour line descent. My line is the more senior – and my line has always had the name Gunn. Yes, there are two possible descents from the old Chiefs for this line – see Burke’s Peerage for one view and see the 1896 Clan Gunn Family Tree of Captain Alexander Gunn for another (Captain Alexander Gunn’s tree shows descent from Chief Alexander 5th Mackeamish, Burke’s Peerage has descent from his father John of Navidale 4th Mackeamish). But both descents have my family line as more senior than the Commander’s line. I am also sure other Gunn Chief lines exist.
It is worth remembering why the first petition (which specifically nominated the Commander to be Chief) for a Clan Gunn Convention was rejected by Lord Lyon –
it has become evident that there is in all probability clear and proveable lines of descent senior to that of the present Commander.
So Lord Lyon ruled ‘in all probability’ that Commander Gunn was not the most senior line from the old Chiefs; in other words Lord Lyon accepted that more senior Chief lines to the Commander probably exist. My family line is more senior, as already said. And note that the reason for Lord Lyon rejecting the first petition fits totally within his guidance for holding the Convention (as it should!) – and he is also (by implication) ruling that appointing someone Chief following a Convention must be based on the most senior line from the old Chiefs.
So in my view the result of the Convention will be one of the following
· A nomination based on either of the first two of Lord Lyon’s guideline points, but it should be from the most senior Gunn line known (and fulfilling Scottish law on entitlement to be Chief) or I will object as, at the very least, it will be against the implication of Lord Lyon’s judgement when he rejected the first petition.
· A nomination ignoring the first two points of Lord Lyon’s guidance (which I would strenuously oppose as it would be against Lord Lyon’s guidance and legal judgement).
It is, as well, worth noting that Lord Lyon’s guidance also states -
It should be noted that the Lord Lyon is unlikely to recognise a person recommended by a Family
Convention as Chief or Head of a Family or Name, unless that recommendation is unopposed or, at
the very least, has been approved by a substantial majority of the Family Convention.
The reason, I suspect, for this sentence is that the legal status of these Family Conventions is questionable. See http://www.heraldica.org/topics/britain/lordlyon.htm which quotes from Introduction to the Law of Scotland by Gloag and Candlish Henderson, 9th edition, 1987, p. 25
"The Lord Lyon King of Arms has jurisdiction, subject to appeal to the Court of Session and the House of Lords, in questions of heraldry, and the right to bear arms. (Hunter v. Weston (1882) 9 R 492,Mackenzie v. Mackenzie (1920) S.C. 764, affd. 1922 S.C. (H.L.) 39.) He has no jurisdiction to determine rights of precedence (Royal College of Surgeons v. Royal College of Physicians, 1911 S.C. 1054.), nor to decide a disputed question of chiefship or chieftainship. (Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean, 1938 S.L.T. 49; and see 1941 S.C. 613.)"
Note that Lord Lyon cannot decide a disputed question of chiefship - Lord Lyon’s need for unanimity in a Convention is therefore obvious as he does not want to be challenged in a higher court on any decision made based on a contested Convention’s chiefship motion as his lack of jurisdiction to decide a disputed question of chiefship has already been decided in law.
There is no instance in the registers of any judicial decision by Lyon in a disputed question of chiefship or chieftainship.
Lord Justice-Clerk, in Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean 1941 S.C. at p. 636: