Close to the Grey Hen’s Well were several settlements, one named Badbea, still accessible via a walking track. More on Badbea later. In 1901, David Sutherland, a descendant of a Badbea family, now living in New Zealand, visited Badbea and decided to build a monument from stones of ruined houses now long empty. Names of previous Badbea inhabitants were inscribed on panels on the walls of the monument.
In 1912 there was a gathering of over 100 people of neighbouring clansmen, and others, to unveil the monument.
There are two lengthy newspaper reports of this function one of which tells of the relationship between the Grey Hen’s Well and the people of Badbea.
THE MEMORIAL CAIRN AT BADBEA
AN INTERESTING UNVEILING CEREMONY
“THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED”
NOTES ON A VANISHED HAMLET AND ITS INHABITANTS
Halfway between Berriedale and Ousdale going south to Helmsdale, on the left hand side is a wire fence. Close beside the road are steps by which one gets over the fence. Before coming to these steps is a well or spring of clear water. This well is called the Grey Hens Well. It is sometimes called the wishing well and used frequently to supply water to a small township about to be described.
It was from the well beside the fence runs a path which at length comes to a gateway through which one goes, and at once there opens on the view a wild and unexpected scene. On the right hand runs a rough wall, five feet high, which extends for several miles. Between this wall and the sea are the remains of rough patches of cultivated land, in some places running to the edge of the precipices which here are of a great height. Close to these patches are the ruins of a number of houses. Behind where the houses are a rugged hillside, interspersed with innumerable boulders of rough grey and red granite with patches of brown heather in between. A small and picturesque burn divides the locality into two distinct portions.
Not far from this burn has just been erected an impressive memorial cairn on the site of the ruins of one of the houses. The cairn recently completed has been erected on the site of the residence of a distinguished and pious man who lived there, and is intended to commemorate not only this man, but also the other natives or residents in the locality who are mostly now all passed away, and their descendants scattered over many parts of the earth.
There is a nearer access from the Ousdale side coming Northward, for upon coming about a mile from Ousdale there is seen a rough-roadway track on the right hand side by which one arrives in a few minutes near to the head of the burn already referred to, called the Badbea burn, and the township is called Badbea.
John O Groat Journal 08.11.1912
The rest of the report will follow in a later post. I have the scanned image of the original article but it is not really good enough quality to post.
Source photo: Sutherland, Alex, Sutherlands of Ngaipu, A H & A W Reed, 1947, Wellington. There is a better photo of this event in the Johnston Collection. http://www.johnstoncollection.net Index Number JN22073B019