In 1977, under the non-de-plume of Comraich, a series of articles were published in the John O Groat Journal entitled A Background to Badbea.
According to Comraich, from about 1813 the wall demarking Badbea from Ausdale was commenced. The main road north, which crossed the Ord and followed the coast, had now been replaced with the new Government road which had roughly the same route as today's road. Badbea was becoming isolated.
From about 1819 whatever mails and coaches were to pass were met at the Grey Hen's Well and a short distance later at the Berriedale Inn.
At least one Badbea resident, John Sutherland aka John Badbea Sutherland (1785-1864) was a prolific letter writer. Many of John’s letters would have been delivered from the Grey Hen’s Well to ‘The Men’ of the Free Church in Scotland encouraging and exhorting them in the discourses of their faith. Transcriptions of some of John’s letters still survive.
We can imagine the letters of the pious John Badbea Sutherland being taken up to the Grey Hen’s Well either by himself, or his faithful housekeeper and niece Catherine Sutherland, to meet the mail coach and the newspaper from Glasgow that he so enjoyed being brought back in return.
John Badbea Sutherland’s obituary notes:
‘He carried on a considerable amount of correspondence with Christian friends in different parts of the kingdom, and was known and prized as a correspondent by some who had never seen his face. A number of John’s letters, sewed together, constituted, in the case of one known to us, a highly prized part of the reading, on the bed of sickness, of one who was looking for a better country.’
An extract from one letter dated Badbea, 12th July, 1838 to Mr Sinclair, Thurso says:
My Dear Friend,
I have nothing particular to write to you – only I know that you are lonely, and I have heard that you are poorly. You need not to expect to get free of these as long as your pilgrimage will be in this weary wilderness – neither will I…..
I am, my dear Friend,
Sources: Auld, Rev Alexander, Ministers and Men of the Far North, Wick 1868. Pgs 202 & 397
John O Groat Journal, 20 May 1977, Comraich A Background to Badbea
On the old walking track between Badbea and the Grey Hen's Well. There are said to be plenty of adders hiding on this track. 2011