Friday, August 30, 2013

Christenings in New Zealand

I have already mentioned in a previous post an old settlement called Badbea whose residents frequently drew water from the Grey Hen’s Well.

A memorial monument was built to the former residents of Badbea by David Sutherland the son of Alexander Sutherland who had been born in Badbea in 1807. Alexander Sutherland, his wife Elizabeth McKay and their baby daughter Christy left for New Zealand in 1839.

David Sutherland visited Badbea in 1901, by which date the population of the village had dwindled to very few. Seeing many old granite stones of deserted houses lying about, David Sutherland decided to use the stones to build a monument to the people who had lived at Badbea and to his father Alexander, or Sandy as he was known. The monument was unveiled in 1912. The names of many who had lived at Badbea were inscribed on panels on the sides of the monument.

Some references suggest that many Badbea inhabitants emigrated to New Zealand. This is not correct. Alexander Sutherland was the only person born at Badbea who actually left for New Zealand. His eldest sister Christina Sutherland born in Badbea about 1798 married John McLeod of Ousdale. John and Christina McLeod raised a family of eleven children at the Rumsdale Estate in Caithness. Seven of that McLeod family, all born at Rumsdale, eventually made their way to New Zealand to settle. Here they kept close ties with their uncle, Alexander Sutherland with even some marriages amongst cousins. Thus there are many Sutherland and McLeod descendants born in New Zealand who still keep alive the stories of their fore fathers and mothers from Badbea. Many still return from the Pacific to visit Badbea.

Most Badbea inhabitants were deeply religious Free Church Presbyterians. Those who went to New Zealand continued to be faithful and even staunch Presbyterians. For many years it was the custom of visiting New Zealanders with ties to Badbea to collect water from both the Grey Hen’s Well and the nearby Badbea burn and transport it carefully home to New Zealand. This precious and symbolic water was used in New Zealand at family christenings where babies were "Baptised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be faithfully and prayerfully brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord". Thus the wellspring of water from the Grey Hen’s Well, that has never yet gone dry, and which sustained a fragile community for many decades, was used in rites and ceremonies of great importance in New Zealand for some Sutherland and McLeod families. This water symbolised what they saw as God’s ancient covenant with their fore fathers and mothers reaching out across time and space to their children’s children.

This photo was taken in the summer of 1924. It shows the Badbea memorial monument. Standing from left are: John Gunn formerly of Golspie Mills now at Glasgow, Miss Sutherland, her parents Mr David Sutherland who had the monument constructed., and Mrs Sutherland.

The Badbea monument taken in 2011

Unless some reader brings welcome new information, this post concludes my series on the Grey Hen’s Well. Other posts of related interest will follow. 

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