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The Westford Knight

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The Westford Knight

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"A Mysterious Knight Buried in the USA,
Before America was discovered!"

"A Clan Gunn Knight Who Traveled with Henry Sinclair and His Expedition?

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by N. MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot


The following information is taken from the brochure "The Remarkable Prince Henry Sinclair". The brochure itself is based on an article entitled "Was Glooscap a Scot?", reprinted as 'Yours Aye', August 1988, giving credit to 'Atlantic Insight' of June 1983.

Born in Scotland in about 1345 A.D. Henry Sinclair became Earl of Rosslyn and the surrounding lands as well as Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg (Denmark), and Premier Earl of Norway. In 1398 he led an expedition to explore Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. This was 90 years before Columbus "discovered America"!

Prince Henry Sinclair was the subject of historian Frederick J. Pohl's, "Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus," which was published in 1961. Not all historians agreed with Pohl, but he made a highly convincing case that this blond, sea-going Scot, born at Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh in 1345, not only wandered about mainland Nova Scotia in 1398, but also lived among the Micmacs long enough to be remembered through centuries as the man-god Glooscap".

Henry Sinclair's ancestry was a mixture of Norman, French, Norwegian, and Scottish. The first Sinclair known in what is now the United Kingdom had arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066.

Sinclair's grand-father, a friend of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, died fighting the Saracens in Spain in 1330. His father, Sir William Sinclair, also died in battle while fighting the Lithuanians from a base in Prussia in 1358. Henry was 13 at the time. He was trained in martial exercises with sword, spear, bow and arrow.

He spoke Latin and French, and became a knight at the age of 21 years. His first wife, who died young, was the great-grand-daughter of King Magnus of Sweden and Norway. His second wife, Janet Holyburton of Direton Castle, bore him four children.

Sinclair was installed as the Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland when he was only 24, and held his appointment at the pleasure of King Hakon VI of Norway. As "jarl", he was next to royalty. He had authority to stamp coins, to make laws, remit crimes, wear a crown, and have a sword carried before him.

He had already been rewarded by Kind David of Scotland for a successful raid into England, with the title of Lord Sinclair and the position of Lord Chief Justice of Scotland. Sinclair excelled in a furious time. Sinclair happened to be in the Faeroe Islands, which were part of his earldom in 1390, when he heard that a ship had been wrecked and, since shipwrecks were fair game for pillage at the time, the local fishermen were attacking the crew. Sinclair rescued the mariners, and discovered they were Venetians. Their commander, Nicolo Zeno, was a brother of the most famous admiral of the time, Carlo Zeno. Sinclair hoped to dominate the northern seas, and promptly appointed Nicolo commander of his fleet. After Nicolo's death, Sinclair appointed another Zeno brother, Antonio, as fleet commander. Nicolo and Antonio used to write to Carlo "The Lion" in Venice, and this correspondence was published in 1558 by a great-great-great-grandson of Antonio. Historians call it the Zeno Narrative, and it is a basic source for Pohl's intriguing account. This Zeno Narrative told about a survey to make a map of Greenland in about 1393;it was conducted by Nicolo Zeno, and later by Prince Henry's ships.

This Zeno Map of the North proved to be the most accurate map in existence for the next 150 years!. Not only did the Zeno Map chart the sea with uncanny precision, it also showed certain landmarks. For example, it illustrated two cities in Estotilanda (Nova Scotia), possibly founded by Sinclair at Louisburg Harbor and St. Peter's. A castle or fortification was shown. There is speculation that Zeno based his map upon a much more ancient map, coming from the Templars in the Middle East, carried in secrecy by them for safekeeping in Rosslyn Castle, until Price Henry commissioned its update by Zeno. The Zeno Narrative reported that as far back as 1371, four fishing boats (the fishermen were Sinclair's subjects) were blown so far out to sea that they eventually came ashore on land that was probably Newfoundland. They spent more than twenty years on the island, and apparently on the lands to the south, and then one of them made contact with some European fishermen and managed to return to the Faeroes. Sinclair decided to explore these new lands and set sail around April 1, 1398. His fleet consisted of 13 little vessels, two of them driven by oars. The Zeno Document suggests he tried to land at Newfoundland but was driven off by natives, and then sailed into Chedabucto Bay. It is believed he dropped anchor on the first of June in Guysborough Harbor. Sinclair then sent 100 soldiers to explore the source of smoke they saw swirling above a distant hill. The soldiers reported back that the smoke was a natural thing proceeding from a great fire in the bottom of a hill, where a spring, from which issued a certain substance like pitch, ran into the sea. Thereabouts dwelt a great many people, half-wild, and living in caves. They were of small stature and very timid.

Geographical detective work, archaeology, modern science and various documents have pinpointed the burning hill as the asphalt area at Stellarton, about 50 miles direct from the head of Guysborough Harbor.

The Scots liked the soil, the rivers, even the air, and wanted to establish a settlement. A portion of his party returned home, but he kept some men with him, together with two oar-powered boats, which were good for exploring rivers and coasts. He took them through the Strait of Canso to meet the Indians at Pictou.

Apparently he persuaded the Micmacs to act as guides in his exploration. Sinclair may have travelled to Annapolis Basin and across the Micmac canoe route to Liverpool. By October, he was back on Green Hill, southwest of Pictou harbor, to attend a gathering of the Micmacs. "Twas the time for holding the great and yearly feast with dancing and merry games." His winter campsite was on the high promontory of Cape d'Or, overlooking Advocate Harbor. During the winter, the expedition built a ship and, when spring arrived, Sinclair sailed away from Nova Scotia. They traveled southward, perhaps carried by a northeaster, to the New England Coast, just north of Boston. The party landed and spent the winter, living peacefully with the Indians. To the west they could see a hilltop from which the Indians frequently sent smoke signals. Accompanied by his 100 men, Henry marched inland to the summit of this hill, now called Prospect Hill, located in Westford, Mass. It is 465 feet in altitude and afforded a good view in all directions. While at this area, one of Prince Henry's loyal attendants by the name of Sir James Gunn, also from Scotland, died. In memory of the lost companion, the party carved a marker on the face of a stone ledge. It consisted of various sizes of punched holes, which depicted a Scottish knight, with a 39 inch long sword and shield bearing the Gunn Clan insignia. The punch-hole method of carving involved making a series of small impressions with a sharp tool, driven by a mallet. Where glacial scratches or rock colorations existed, they were incorporated into the man-made design. Some holes were larger and deeper than others, probably due to the dulling of the carver's tool and centuries of weathering. In the words of Frederick Pohl, "the following are undeniably man-made workings: the pommel, handle, and guard of the sword; below the guard the break across the blade that is indicative of the death of the sword's owner; the crest above the pommel; a few holes at the sword's point; the punched-hole jess lines attached to the legs of the falcon; the bell-shaped hollows; the corner of the shield touching the pommel; the crescent on the shield; and the holes that form a decorative pattern on the pommel." Now weatherworn and faint, one can see just enough of the carving to visualize the rest of it.

Of course, there have been many investigations to verify the authenticity of this carving. There remains little doubt that this memorial is not a hoax, nor some Indian marking, but rather, the true monument created by Prince Henry Sinclair, or his crew, nearly 600 years ago!

Soon you will have the opportunity to participate in the 605th Anniversary celebration of Prince Henry's exploration of North America. His remarkable achievements carry many symbolic messages, which are meaningful to us today. He had the skill and the courage to sail to "the ends of the earth" in pursuit of his beliefs and to establish peaceful relations with the people he encountered. Henry was admired and his leadership was followed. Since he did not seek personal fame, his accomplishments have nearly slipped from view.

Join the crusade now, celebrate the Six Hundredth AND 5TH Anniversary of Prince Henry Sinclair, which will be celebrated often.

Authored: Sinclair's brochure "Yours, Aye".

[Nance's note:] I remember reading, many years ago, about the discovery of the Westford gravesite. There was a gentleman tending the site, removing weeds and planting flowers. He thought it to be a gravesite, but was not sure whether it was an Indian chief or what, however, it was near his home and he decided to honor it by keeping it weed free and respected.

It was later that someone, and I don't remember who, discovered that the markings looked like a knight. Tracings were rubbed from the site and sent off to The Lord Lyons in England, thinking he must be an English knight.

The information came back that the crest on the shield was that of Clan Gunn, and of course Clan Gunn has been interested in it ever since. The history was poor on travelings to this continent in the days of the Knights (pardon the pun) but they kept on digging into the history. I learned many years ago that it was a Knight of Clan Gunn, and that he sailed and traveled with Sir Henry Sinclair, so we knew a little about him. Now they have put the puzzle together and that is the story of the Westford Knight. He was named the Westford Knight by the people of the area of Westford, Mass.

It is good to know as much about it as we now do, and all due to the good recordkeeping of the Zeno family now called the 'Zeno Narrative'. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Italian Zeno records, that helped find out who these wanders to early America really were.

National Geographic, of which I am an avid reader, had an issue out about 20-25 years ago, just before Columbus day, to tell everyone that the archeologists who were reporting to NG magazine had reported Viking relics and remains of their homes in Canada and Vinland (Vineland) probably being around the New York area where there were many, many wild grape growing vines. (There was once a great wine making industry in Ohio from the vines of the great grape vinyards around the Great Lakes. Blight hit the grape vines in the 1800's and they basically all died).

The magazine showed pictures of the tools, some rune stones, and other viking artifacts along with sites where they had dug in New Brunswick. They (wanderers) buried their dead in ship shaped graves, exactly as the Vikings buried there people.

This is all the information I have, and Clan Gunn has, unless their are any newer updates. It is very interesting to me, as a member of Clan Gunn, and of course is important to 'all' members of Clans Gunn and Sinclair. Vikings Guh Brath!

Truth is stranger than fiction and certainly is more interesting!

Nancy MacCorkill. F.S.A. Scot,
Author, Poet
Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland.
"All Rights Reserved 05/97© NAMacCorkill"




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