Monday, October 21, 2013

Katherine Sutherland - Part B

Katherine Sutherland probably spent her childhood in Golsary living with her family.
Her siblings were at least:

  1. William born 1757
  2. Alexander born 1759
  3. Bethick born 1761
  4. Jean born 1767
  5. Francis born 1769 
  6. Henrita born 1774

The old Golsary homestead.

  • When she was nineteen, on 1 April 1784, Katherine married John Sinclair.
  • In 1787 Katherine's first daughter Marion was born. 
  • John Sinclair died leaving Katherine a widow and Marion a fatherless child. 
  • In 1797 Katherine Sutherland married William Sutherland of Badbhae whose first wife Christian Finlayson had also died. Katherine was thirty-two years old and William about fifty-one. 

The following year, 1798, the first child of this marriage was born. This baby girl was named Christian Sutherland, probably named after her father's first wife. The birth record of Christian has not been located but many other records of her life have been found. She was later known as Christina in keeping with changes in naming customs in Scotland. She is my ancestor. Christian was raised in Badbea. At home there would have been at least some of her half-brothers from her father's first marriage and Marion her half sister from her mother's first marriage.

Malcom was probably the next child born about 1800 to Katherine. His birth record has not been located. There are passed down stories of this Malcom drowning in curious circumstances - more later.

John was born in 1802.

Esther was born in 1803.

Margaret followed in about 1805. Her birth record has not been located but there are other later records of her life.

Alexander Robertson was born in 1807. There are many later records and stories of the life of Alexander (aka Sandy). Most records refer to him as Alexander Robert. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1839 and is the chief subject of the book Sutherlands of Ngaipu by Alex Sutherland his grandson.

About 1810 tragedy hit this family. William and Katherine Sutherland both died. Did they die about the same time as each other from a sickness such as TB? Or did they have an accident? There is no further information available. The old family historian John Sutherland says, "When the family of this marriage were quite young, both parents died, leaving them not very well off." William was about sixty-four and Katherine forty-nine at the time of their deaths. What a calamity. Christina at 12 years old, Malcom 10, John 8, Esther 7, Margaret 5, and Alexander 3 were left orphaned.
Source: Sutherlands of Ngaipu, Alex Sutherland, AH & AW Reed, Wellington 1947, pg 14.

The old Golsary homestead. Did the orphaned children come here for help? 
The Golsary Sycamore tree with the grass covered broch behind.
One commentator suggests the orphaned Sutherland children were found destitute wandering near Golsary. Perhaps they went to find their grandparents there. The children were taken in and brought up in Badbea by their father's cousin John Sutherland and also their eldest half-brother David.
Source: Comraich, John O Groat Journal, June 10, 1977. 

At this very time there were huge outside pressures coming on at Badbea as result of 'Clearance' policies being enforced in other nearby hamlets. Whole families were being sent to Badbea to live. Poverty and hardship were endemic and getting worse season by season.

The wall of an early house at Badbea

Katherine Sutherland of Golsary - Part A

Katherine Sutherland was born in Golsary, Caithness, Scotland in 1765. John and Marion Sutherland her parents, were tenants in the age-old Golsary croft where they farmed and raised their family.

The small hamlet of Golsary is not shown here but it was very close to Rumster as shown in the centre of this extract of the Thomson Map of 1832.

Like many other old farm steadings in the north of Scotland, Golsary is now totally deserted. A grassy hill by the Burn of Golsary covers a broch that was a fortified tower about 2000 years ago. At some stage a farm settlement was built from local stone, crofting families moved in and moved out. Stones from the old broch were taken from time to time to patch a wall or strengthen the kiln. Golsary was occupied into the twentieth century. In the 1940s the Forestry Commission planted the Rumster Forest in the area. Fortunately Golsary with its magnificent sycamore tree, old farm steading and broch was left undisturbed.

An eagle owl or a hen harrier?  It glanced at me with bright shining eyes then turned its head away to watch for more important things.

I badly wanted to get to Golsary. Having checked on Google Earth to get a sense of direction, I drove to Rumster Forest, hid my car in a grassy clearing, entered a gateway and took a hike through the forest tracks. With buzzards gliding silently overhead looking for prey, the eerie forest was near enough to unnerving. Was I really alone or was that a red fox watching me from the undergrowth? At ground level, the trails seemed much longer than shown on Google Earth, and it was hard to be sure I was on track. After walking for ever my ears picked up the sound of water where I thought the Golsary Burn was likely to be. Following the murmer of water, I spied the old stones of the Golsary steading standing staunch and proud midst the long seeding grasses, wild flowers and surrounded by large forest trees.

Approaching the steading cautiously in case any wild animals were taking refuge there I suddenly fell into a deep, wet, overgrown ditch. I thought of the snakes I have seen in ditches in other parts of the world - but no adders here thank goodness. It took me a while clambering round to find a safe access out of the ditch and into the ruins of the building.

Walking through this ancient doorway was just the most amazing feeling. Here was I, far from home and no-one knowing my whereabouts. But this was the very place my great, great, great grandmother Katherine was born to her mother Marion, two hundred and forty-five years before.  Was her DNA still buried where the midden had been? I doubt it.

 But here against the warm granite stones were the remains of an ancient garden bursting with ripe red and black currants. They were growing from Katherine and Marion's earth. I pulled the berries off in strips and ate handfuls. The sweet red fruit juice was a sacrament, a sign of a sacred thing. I drank from the Golsary Burn, then sank against the warm ancient stone wall, soaking up the atmosphere and feeling I was in heaven - but no-one else was there so I couldn't be - could I?

On 28 January 1765 John Sutherland walked down the Burn of Golsary, till it branched off to join the Burn of Forse, on to the coast and to the Latheron Kirk (see top map) where he presented his baby daughter Katherine to be baptised. His brother James Sutherland of Rumster was a witness along with Donald Bain the Latheron Parish Catechiser.

Burn of Golsary

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Good Spot For Haddock

One of the main foods for the people of Badbea was fish. Haddock was an important available fish variety. Alexander Gunn, born in Badbea in 1820 wrote the following article confirming the plentifulness of haddock when he was a boy. I think it can safely be assumed that haddock were also available to William Sutherland to catch to feed his family some decades before Alexander Gunn. William's access to the sea would have either been through Berriedale or down the steep cliff access at Achnacraig, a nearby settlement.

Alexander Gunn wrote:
"Fishing was the principle employment of the inhabitants, and had they had the facilities to dispose of the proceeds which exist now-a-days they could have done well by it, as there is not a better spot for haddock fishing in all Scotland than that which lies right opposite Badbea. I have seen the hauls of haddock so great that the very starfish were carefully picked off the line, and cast overboard lest the boat would be too deeply loaded. Tons of fish could be landed in one day were there an outlet for them. I have seen as high as 800 dried haddocks in our house at one time, and those who had no-one to prosecute the fishing for them, such as widows with young children, had their share every day laid aside for them as soon as the haul came ashore".

My version of haddock drying. The stones would also catch any warmth. 
Haddock were either strung up and dried in the sun and the wind (there was always wind but not always sun), or else they were hung up inside in the smoke of the household peat fire. Smoking helped preserved the fish for the winter. Later salt was used to preserve fish but it was too expensive at the time William Sutherland was at Badbea.

Food and Fodder

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit
The Selkirk Grace - an old Scottish blessing, 'Meat' meaning 'food.'

The main foods for Scottish crofters at this time were oats and barley meal, some dairy food, kale and in coastal hamlets like Badbea there was fish. 

The barley meal was known as bere. It was a very old grain, important for growing in northern Scotland. It did well in a short growing season with the long hours of northern summer daylight.
Bere is the grain on the right- 6r

Oats were grown for human and animal feeding. The oats were sown in the spring and cut in the autumn. The cut oats were tied into bundles called sheaves, and left to dry, after which they were threshed to obtain the grain. Some hamlets had a kiln to help dry the oats and barley which could easily rot if not dry. Note: In the Highlands 'corn' may also mean oats.
Corn Yard in the Shetland Islands. Source: Shetlopedia

A  course oatmeal was made by grinding the kernel between two large millstones called a quern. There was a grain mill at Ausdale but it seems unlikely that William and Christian would have been able to get their grain to that mill with the difficulties of access across the moors and no horse.

Bread was bannocks of oats or barley meal. Generally round in shape, bannocks might be thick or thin, and were baked on a griddle before toasting in front of a fire. Sometimes bread was baked on an old bannock-stone set in front of the fireside. Here a woman at Newtonmore bakes bannocks. 

There were some eggs available, but often eggs had to be provided to the proprietor, or sold to help pay the rent. This hen and her chicks pecks round at Newtonmore.

Here is a crop of potatoes at Newtonmore, probably a much newer variety than grown 150 years ago when potatoes were still a relatively new crop in Scotland. They quickly became a staple food.

The green leafy vegetable kale was grown in Badbea. Because of its hardiness kale has been a staple food in Scotland for hundreds of years. Even snow does not ruin the kale leaves. It was grown in specially built kale yards to help protect it from the worst of the weather and roaming animals. Below is a full kale yard.

Source: The Edge of the World 1936

                                                The remnants of an old kale yard at Badbea

Hardly any meat was eaten but most families had a cow that gave milk for at least part of the year. Some cheese was made.
Blood was sometimes drawn from cattle and mixed with meal and eaten as a sort of cake. The cows kept in early Badbea were the small Scottish variety, not the stocky beauties of today’s Highland cattle. Cows were kept inside in the winter and were often in very poor condition by the time they were able to be taken to summer grazing.

This small Highland beast looks like a steer to me rather than a cow but it is an old breed.

Gruel - a thin drink of oats with hot water, was a regular drink. 
Brose - put uncooked oatmeal into a bowl. Pour over a cupful of hot water or hot milk. Possibly add a piece of butter. 
Bannocks - Two handfuls of oats or barley meal, half a cup of milk, a small piece of butter. Heat the milk and butter together, then stir in the meal. Press into a round shape. Cook on a griddle until both sides are cooked.