Proncy farm and castle
From what remains of Proncy Castle, there seems little doubt that it was originally a motte of the early Norman period. The earthen mound, of a diameter of about 100 ft (seen at top left of this aerial photograph taken c.1960) rises 12 to 15 feet above the ridge to the south and is isolated bya ditch which is surprisingly distinct. The natural ground has been unifomly sloped. No traces can be seen of the timbered tower which would have first occupied the summit, enclosed by a palisade around the edge. Only excavation could find the post holes, which, since the first building was of wood, are all that will ever be found of the early thirteenth century fortification.
The great motte hill of Duffus has been dated between 1166 and 1172. There was a close family connection between the Sutherlands of Duffus and of Proncy and it is estimated the motte hill of Proncy to have been raised during the period of 1212 and 1224.
As at Duffus, so at Proncy, a small stone castle was later built. Duffus Castle is dated 1305 and Proncy can reasonably be given a later date. Certainly by 1562 there was a castle here with a tower and some fortification for in that year it was described as " Pronsie Castelltoun with tower and fortalice". It was in this year that John, Earl of Sutherland, granted the lands and barony of Proncy along with Skelbo, to Alexander Sutherland of Duffus.
The top of the motte (or mound) is surrounded by a rampart or wall of which traces can still be seen. There have been buildings on the inner side of the wall and in the centre of the enclosure are the stone foundations of a rectangular keep, extending about 20 feet from N.E to S.W and 12 feet from N.W to S.E. The walls appear to have been about 5 feet thick. There is a path leading diagonally up the mound to a gap about 18 feet wide in the south rampart. this was probably the entrance into the castle motte.
The History of Proncy from old records
Hugh Freskyn held lands in Moray during the reign of King david the First (1124 - 1153). His son William became the founder of the Duffus family in Moray. His second son Hugo became the founder of the Sutherland family and conveyed to Gilbert of Moray lands in Sutherland between 1203 and 1214.
Some of these lands were transferred to Gilbert, later the bishop of Cat, to his brother Richard, who died in 1240 and whose stone image is in Dornoch Cathedral. Apparently Gilbert, contrary to the terms of the grant, alienated other parts of the estate from his own family to the Church, for in 1224 the precentor of Gilberts Cathedral Church of Dornoch was given the tiends (or tithes) of Proncy for the upkeep of his position.
By 1275 the Earl of Sutherland claimed Proncy under the original grant and an agreed division was made between the eccesiastical and territorial dignatories. Archibald, the then Bishop of Cat, and the Cathedral chapter of Dornoch freely gave 3 davachs of land of Proncy to William Earl of Sutherland and his heirs. (A davach was an old Celtic division of land)
In 1360 William, earl of Sutherland, granted to his brother, Nicolas, the Barony of Proncy (1 davach of Proncy Upper, 1 davach of Proncy Nether and 1 davach of Proncycroy)
Adam Gordon, Earl of Sutherland in 1525 gave to William Sutherland of Duffus, the lands and lordship of Proncy which were vacant by reason of the death of Hugh Sutherland without a male heir.
By 1545 there were Murray's in Proncy as Murquhard Murray of Proncy swore an oath on the relics of Saint Gilbert in the Cathedral that he had not intended to hurt one Hugh Kennedy at the harbour of Unes (the Little Ferry). In 1561 one Alexander Murray is mentioned as the son and heir of Angus Murray of Proncy. He took a feu of some land in Dornoch and the document is in the town records.
In 1563 Queen mary "Granted anew to Alexander Sutherland of Duffus and to his heirs and assignees, Overpromsy in Strathfleet, Spromsycroy, Spromsymane...formerly held by Alexander Sutherland from John, Earl of Sutherland by whom they were forfeited by treason and lesemajesty on 28th May 1563".
In September of the same year, Queen mary granted to her brother Robert Stewart Junior the lands and baronies of the Earldom of Sutherland forfeited by Earl John. Amoung these lands were mentioned Prossecastle, Prossenayne and Pronnsecroy. Robert stewart held the Earldom for 3 years until in 1566 the former traitor, Earl John, regained his Earldom and was confirmed in his lands. These included Proncy and with the usual variations of spelling are to be found as Prompsecastell, Prompsenayne and Prompsecroy.
William Sutherland of Duffus and Skelbo held Proncy from his overlord the Earl in 1584 but in the same year he leased Proncy to John Chisholm of Achintreayrer (near Embo) which in 1224 had been given lthe land of the upkeep of the difnity of the Treasurer of St Gilbert's Cathedral Church in Dornoch.
For some years there had been argumenst and dusputes concerning the boundaries of the town of Dornoch and the neighbouring estates of Skelbo and Proncy. The Bailies of Dornoch had no difficulties about the town boundaries on the South and East, Earls Cross and the Firth. It was William Sutherland of Duffus on the North and West who had to agree to the marches in 1606. These were finally settled. The road from Dornoch to the Poles was fixed as the western boundary between the town and Proncy. It ran further west than the present country road. The Poles, or Rachan as it is called in the old Charters, was to be the town boundary on the North.
The Next year, 1607, the Church had apparently again taken possession of Proncy because with the consent of the Bishop, Dean and Chapter, Lands lying in the barony of Proncy namely, Pronsiecastelltoun, Pronsienaine and Pronsiecroy were leased to John, Earl of Sutherland for life. He had to pay to the Church each year for Pronsiecastelltoun 8 bolls, for Pronsienaine 6 bolls and fro Pronsiecroy 3 bolls at 10/- each boll. probably the bolls of grain were oats or bere.
In 1616 William Sutherland of Duffus was served heir to his father (William of the lands of Pentraill "called the lands and barony of Pronsie.) This is the only mention of Pentraill that has been made and nobody can find any evidence of its precise location.
1622 saw another quarrel between Sutherland of Duffus and the Earl over the teinds or tithes, not only of Skelbo and Torboll but also of Proncy. The Earl obtained an arrestment of the crop growing on Proncy lands in security for payment of his teinds. This interdict prevented Sutherland of Duffus from selling any of his crop until his first creditor, the Earl, had been paid. By some means, Duffus managed not only to have the arrestment removed but hastily to harvest all of his barley. The Earl's agent, Sir Alexander Gordon, invaded the farm yards where the harvest was stored and his men took away in carts as much of the grain as was needed for the payment of the teinds. In Court proceedings which ensued, Duffus lost his case.
Alexander was Sutherland of Duffus in 1655. Like his father, James, he held the lands of Proncy. It was during this time, in 1688, that agreement was reached with the Bailies of the Burgh of Dornoch over the cutting of peat. "Johnnie Dempster and William Gourdone, Bailies of the Burgh of Dornoch" acknowledged that for many years the townsfolk had cut their peats without legal right on the bounds of the Barronies on Pronssie by tolerance of the noble Lord his predecessors".
An agreed annual payment of 20 pounds Scots by the townsfolk gave them the right to "cast, win and lead peats and turfs upon the said bounds of Pronssie and Evelick be North and be East Rachan (the Poles) straicht westward by the hill head of Carndy to the hill of Riergr (Rearquhar) and from thence straight wesward to Loch Lavochie and to the north of the said bounds".
This annual payment continued until 1715 when Duffus forfeited his estates to the Crown because of his participation in the Jacobite rebellion of Prince James Stewart, the Old Pretender. 2 Years later, and so often happened with forfeited estates, Duffus' eldest son, James, took over Proncy and was served heir in 1727.
There are only three more recent dates which have been found to relate to Proncy. In 1784 Alexander James Grant was served heir to his uncle, James Sutherland of Proncy. In 1794 Murray Grant was declared heir to his Brother, Finally in 1808, mention is made of Davis Sutherland of Proncy.
Today Proncy Farm is owned by The Rutherford family where they still farm the land and also run a Farm machinery hire business.
A big thank you to Betty Rutherford for sharing the history of Proncy farm with me.