Friday, November 29, 2013

Ghosts of Badbea

This visit to Badbea had a bad start. In the Badbea car park next to my car was an expensive Hummer (someone’s steed) with guns, easily visible, lying in the rear. On glancing to the nearby skyline we saw a group of people, three men and one woman, walking across the moor with more guns at their elbows and a hunting dog. It was early in the shooting season and they were probably within their rights but as we scrambled down the track we hoped the hunters on the horizon could tell the difference between our movements and the grouse they were ferreting out! Being direct descendants of an old Badbea family it was not hard for us to get the feeling that the Laird was watching! The voices of our ancestors were saying to us “Be careful. Watch your step. Game is theirs!”

Our whole visit to Badbea was imbued with a sense of our ancestors. 

The stones remaining were not just stones. I found what may have been the stepping stones to the entrance to my great, great, grandmother Christina Sutherland's house. The feeling of kinship was strong.  I touched the stones to complete the connection between us. Did she run down these steps as she went on her way to her wedding with John McLeod in 1822?

What happened just before we left Badbea took my breath away.  I was standing by the monument high on the braes telling my companion the story of Malcom Sutherland. Of him coming in sight of home with a boat load of wood when he was overtaken by a storm and drowned. The skies were heavy with shadows and the chill of the past was affecting. Malcom’s story somehow acquired extra mythical value being told from the place where the disaster happened. We named Malcom Sutherland, and captured his story while rooted in his landscape, “Malcom Sutherland drowned right there.”

As I pointed my arm out to sea, to the waters of the Moray Firth, to the location the boat would have come into view of Badbea, the waters were strangely disturbed. They rose in a small feathery ‘spout’ about a metre high. It may have been a shoal of herrings but there were no sea birds hovering. Then there was the light!  A shaft of light hovered directly both over and in the shivering waters as they moved.

I got my camera out of its bag and was able to capture one quick shot as the waters receded and the strange light went out.  What had taken place was seen by both my companion and myself. My mind mulled over the ancient belief that when a person dies their soul is released but may lurk around if their death was unjust as was the death of young, brave Malcom Sutherland. Malcom has good reason to haunt this specific place as he does. He is asking us not to let such injustice ever happen again. 

We went back to the car, passed the rocks and hard places of the Badbea village to the car park where the Hummer with attitude and her cargo of guns added further to our sense of disquiet.

The ghosts of the living and the dead, both holy and unholy, were present with us this day.

Summer Sea by Joan Eardley 1962

In preparing this blog I have read:
The Ghosts of Place, Michael Mayerfeld Bell,1997
Narratives in a Landscape, Paul Basu, 1997

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Storm

The roof of a building at Laidhay near Badbea showing
how timbers were used (Note I have removed a light bulb) 
Roofs were a problem. The roofs of stone-walled houses needed timber frames, called cruck couples, to hold on the heather thatch. There was no timber at Badbea.  There were hardly any trees on the Caithness moors and cutting down a tree from one of the few thickets that grew was regarded by the landowners as a terrible crime punishable by deportation. The poor tenant farmers had always used any sort of timber they could get for their roofs – timber dug up from peat bogs, barrel staves, old oars, wrecked boats that might blow up in a storm. Smaller timbers were lashed or pegged together. But with the evictions, a lot of the precious timbers had been left behind or in some cases destroyed by the tacksman to stop people coming back to their old houses.

Staves in an old wash tub

Wood was also needed for staves for barrels for herrings at Berriedale where there was some employment.

Malcom Sutherland went to procure wood.

‘I hear there’s wood for sale at Inverness,’ Malcom said one day to his brother David.
‘I will go an’ get some. No cart or horse here and we can’t pass the track by th’ Ord precipice, but Ah can get there by boat.’

‘Malcom, nay yoo’re a mere lad an’ these waters ur noy safe e’en fur an auld sailor. I will come wi’ ye,’ replied David.

‘Nay, we can only spare one man an' Ah will be awa' fur several days. David, yoo’re needed here. Th' men wi' bairns must also stay. Ye’re earnin' doon at th' Berriedale fisheries tae pay fur th' wood. T’will be an adventure. I’ll bide as close tae th' coast as th' wind allows. Ah am ne’re afraid. Ask cousin John to gab to God each mornin for me. Th' Lord will be wi' me.’ said Malcom.
(Apologies for my faulty Scottish) 

David agreed and went with Malcom to bargain with a local fisherman to hire his boat. They may have got the use of a small two-masted sail boat with an open hull called a skaffie, commonly used at that time for fishing in the Moray Firth region.  

The early skaffies were small with rounded stems and raked sterns. Skaffies were popular because the shallow design of the boats allowed them to be launched from beaches or small harbours. However, their open hull, while great for storage, provided no shelter for the crew. Worse, skaffies easily swamped and capsized in rough seas.  Because of the vulnerability of these boats they stayed only a few miles out to sea in full view of the land.
Brave young Malcom Sutherland set sail in the skaffie for Inverness. Everyone came out and watched him go. They could see Malcom in the boat from high on the Badbea braes. He was to find timber for sale in Inverness, buy it, stack it in the boat and then sail back to Badbea.
Sandy Linton his boat and bairns 
David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson
 Local fishermen warned him to sail close to the coast in full view of the land all the way there and back.  Storms were common and the Moray Firth was very dangerous. It is not known if Malcom was sailing alone or if there was a crew of others with him.
The weather was calm and Malcolm had a safe and successful trip to Inverness. He found timber for sale and bought it. He was able to pull his skaffie up to the shore and load the timber. That evening Malcom took a look at a few shops near the harbour, bought some bread then slept on the skaffie for the night.
Next morning Malcolm set off with his loaded boat, clinging closely to the coast and moving slowly toward the Berriedale harbour.

Malcolm and the skaffie of timber were in sight of home when the gale struck.

No-one knows the date of this terrible storm.
A report of a different storm says:
‘The storm of 25th December 1806, so fatal to fishermen all over the coast of the Moray was preceded by a pleasant temperate sunny day, with a gentle gale from the south. The morning of that melancholy day was ushered in by the warmth in the open air, sensibly and strikingly unnatural at that season,…then the wind veered into the west, and rose into the loudest temperance in remembrance, although had the damage been restricted to the uprooted trees, the houses unthatched, the corn-stacks drifted off into destruction, it would have comparatively attracted a short-lived remembrance.’
Source: The History of the province of Moray by Lachlan Shaw. Pg 196. Google Books

In a record of 1881, George Paterson, tells about the Eyemouth Fishing disaster:
‘…we were about four miles out when the squall struck us. It came like the clap of a hand, accompanied by sudden darkness and bringing rain….When we were about six miles out I was washed overboard and thought I was clean gone, but had the presence of mind to grip the mizzen-sheet when the boat dipped and was, with great difficulty, hauled on board by comrades. 
About ten minutes afterwards, the boat took another sea, and washed James Windram overboard. It was impossible to do anything to save him. After the sea broke the water was quite calm for a minute or two, and we saw Windram swimming bravely in the wake of the boat, but in the course of two or three minutes he became exhausted, hung his head, and sank.’
The Badbea braes looking down on the Moray Firth

The Badbea families knew these storms were perilous. Everyone was watching out for young Malcom. The gale was howling round and they had seen the storm coming. Some people may have hurried to the beach at Berriedale as was custom amongst the fisher folk in such circumstances. They more than likely scanned the wild horizon from the top of the cliffs while they were gathering their bairns and animals in.

 Yes. Malcom was in sight.

But the wind rose and the storm overtook the loaded skaffie. It was swamped by the huge waves and Malcom was drowned before their eyes.

For the Badbea families, it must have been a sad day indeed and another terrible setback in their struggle for survival.
Willie Liston Newhaven Fisherman

David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson


As soon as possible after the storm, a sorrowful William Sutherland and his sons would have clambered down the steep cliff to search for the body of Malcom. There is no record of success.

While the families at Badbea mourned for Malcom, the only noise that could be heard up on the Langwell braes of Sir John Sinclair was the bleat of the sheep.

While I have 'interpreted' the above story of Malcom, the source of the original data is: Sutherlands of Ngaipu, Alex Sutherland, 1947, pg 136 which reads:
His half brother, Malcolm (sic Malcom) Sutherland was drowned when overtaken by a raging storm coming from Inverness to Badbea with a boat-load of wood. The boat had come in sight of Badbea and some of the people saw the disaster happen.

Coastal Scene by John Wilson Ewbank 1820. The figures on the rocks are trying to salvage items from the wreck of a ship that is floating in the sea around them. The sea on this occasion is not a provider but a destroyer. Source:

A Grim Time

Interpretation panel on the Badbea path. I have some 
hesitation using this picture as the houses displayed 
are incorrectly drawn. The early Badbea houses had no 
chimneys and were more primitive. 
It was a grim time for crofters on the fertile Langwell Estates. From the time Sir John Sinclair started farming cheviot sheep in the late 18th century until he sold the Langwell estates in 1813 there were evictions.  

It can safely be said that conditions actually got worse under the next owner James Horne.

There are many accounts of the callousness and notoriety surrounding the clearances in Sutherland by Sir John’s cousin, the Countess of Sutherland, but such accounts have not been located in relation to the time when Sir John Sinclair was proprietor of the Langwell Estates.

But what became of the homeless in Langwell, Berriedale and Ausdale?

Some families walked further inland to the Forse Estate which was not owned by Sir John Sinclair.  They had to start again with nothing other than what they had been able to carry with them.

A herring fleet leaves Wick Harbour

Others went north to the coast at Wick where there was a busy fleet of herring fishing boats. There was work in Wick so the crofting fathers and older brothers had to quickly learn how to become fishermen, manage the nets and take their place as crew on the fishing boats. This was dangerous, cold and wet work especially for the inexperienced as these were. The women and girls helped mend the nets.
Some families went to Glasgow or emigrated.

Other families moved to the coastal, rocky village of Badbea the place Sir John had designated as suitable for evicted crofters. There was neither provision of shelter nor proprietor support to build new houses.

By 1804 there were about 12 families totally 72 people at Badbea all hemmed in by the sea cliffs on one side and the braes on the other. Many of the families were related to each other and went out of their way to stick together, knowing they would only survive if they looked after each other. 

William Sutherland and his sons did what they could to help the recently evicted families settle in at Badbea. Having lived there for many years, William knew the lie of the land, where the coarse moor grass and the rough brown heather grew. He knew the rise and fall of the braes, the difficulties of living in this rock strewn landscape and the near impossibility of turning any of it to account. William had also spent time at sea fishing, so knew how to bring the herrings in.

Rent still had to be paid to the wealthy Sir John Sinclair. The people also had to give landowners goods like dried peats, milk products from their cow, spun wool, or their time working on other parts of his land to pay off the rent due. Crofters who did not pay their rents could be evicted again at any time.
The remains of a Badbea house with the boulder strewn braes behind

At Badbea people had to live in the cold, open air at first. They quickly put together makeshift houses and stone walls to protect themselves from the wind. There were enough stones littering the landscape, as well as stone from a local granite quarry that people could use for their dwellings. Some of the stones still remaining at Badbea are massive and must have been a huge challenge to move.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Evictions begin in Langwell, Berriedale and Ausdale

Badbea had long supported the family of William Sutherland but by the early 19th Century he must have been scratching his head to figure out how more families could survive here.

The Highland Clearances are well documented on-line so I won’t explain the complex reasons the land use was changing. I have added three of my personal favourite Clearances websites to my website page.

Three specific historical characters associated with the clearance of people to Badbea worth mentioning are:

First, Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster who lived in Thurso.
A statue of Sir John Sinclair in Thurso

Sir John was an enterprising man who was very interested in improving agricultural methods.
Sir John Sinclair and his wife purchased the Langwell estate in 1788. In 1792, five hundred Cheviot Ewes were brought to Langwell to see if they would thrive. They were large framed hardy sheep that produced good wool and meat. Sir John was said to be well meaning and humane in consideration of his tenants but ‘improvements’ soon turned to ‘evictions.’ Sheep and small scale tenants were incompatible. Soon part of the plan to farm sheep on Langwell was to move the tenants from the Berriedale Strath and the Langwell settlements to coastal settlements, the nearest being Badbea.
The first removal from Langwell to Badbea was one Alexander Gunn in 1793. By 1802 evictions in Berriedale saw the whole Strath cleared out. Sir John provided free passage from Glasgow to America for those who wanted it but most of those who went to Glasgow on seeing the conditions of the ships wouldn’t board and stayed in Glasgow in poverty.

Second James Anderson.
The house built by James Anderson in 1804 at Ausdale.

In 1804 Ausdale was let out as a sheep farm to James Anderson. Eight families were removed immediately. Some made their way to Badbea without any shelter to go to while James Anderson built a very fine house for himself and his family. This house is still used by the head shepherd of Ausdale. This sheep farm did not do well and Anderson left in disgust after a few years. In the Obituary of John Badbea Sutherland we learn that his family  - mother, Kathrin a widow with five, possibly six children - was evicted from their home which was stone’s throw from where James Anderson built his substantial house. Kathrin and her children had no dwelling to go to at Badbea and would have had to build one in a hurry from stones available on-site. Kathrin Sutherland was a sister to William Sutherland of Badbea so it is likely that William and his sons helped her family gather materials and build a house.
Ausdale Farmhouse 2012

Ousdale 1934. The tree to the right of the Anderson house would have been about the exact location of the home of Widow Sutherland who with her 5 or 6 children was evicted to make room for the new house. 

Third, James Horne is mentioned in the letter below but he needs to have a separate blog to tell all the stories associated with him. James Horne was a proprietor of Langwell after Sir John Sinclair. 

Of the families mentioned below probably about twelve families settled permanently in Badbea on tiny little plots of land on which they could scarcely survive and on which they still had to pay rent in ‘cash or kind’ doing such obligatory jobs as helping with harvesting on the Laird’s property.
The Badbea destination of the evicted. 

In a letter to the Northern Ensign in 1884 Alexander Gunn (not the same Alexander Gunn evicted as above)  has this to say:

To the Editor of the Northern Ensign
SIR, - Allow me through your valuable columns, to give a detailed account of the evictions in Berriedale, both by Sir John Sinclair and by Mr James Horne, his successor. The account of the matter by your correspondent, “Old Man Narrator,” is not altogether correct. Sir John Sinclair, who was considered the greatest agriculturist in the country, and who was a real or honorary member of almost every agricultural society in the three kingdoms, as well as of several societies on the continent of Europe, was the first to introduce what were called the “big sheep” to Caithness. The small sheep or “Kerry,” was the only breed in the country before that time. To make room for his sheep, Sir John evicted 61 families from the Berriedale straths, and laid the whole under sheep.

The townships on the Millary or Berriedale straths were these, viz., Glut,1 tenant; Eskbin,1; Eskmaealmag,1; Haborgue,1; Esknabing,1; Upper Millary,1; Lower Millary,1; Ardachigh,1; Toreshey,1; Duin 3; Taigh-an-Duin,1; Dalgheamich,2; Knock Feune,1; Ellaw-an Duinag,1; Upper Borgue,2 – in all 19.
From the Langwell Strath there were evicted from the township of Inver,5; Knocktorinrectan,1; Elonluisg,1;  Capernach,1;  Taigh-an-Asary,1;  Ruharigy,1; Turnal,1 (held by George Gunn who had seven sons, the equal of whom were not in the country); Taighnault,1;  Bardnachie,1;  Struan,1; Bualnahaoden,1;  Bualtarach,1;  Garvary,1;  Brainaheaglash,1;  Auldnabeath,1;  Uag More 1; Uag Bhaig,1;  Borgue, Langwell,1 (where my great-grandfather, who came from Cattag, lived during the proprietorship of Sutherland of Langwell); Corrag,1;  in all 23.

From the Ousdale district there were evicted from the township of Ousdale, 9 families: Borgue of Ousdale, 2;  Struie, 8; in all 19; giving a grand total of 61.

 It is singular that after Sir John had turned out these 61 families, and occupied their places with his sheep, he began to break up large tracks of ground on the hill-side to the west of Berriedale, at a place called Carterfield, and got it under cultivation, having taken several crops of oats off it. Also at Borgue, Langwell, he brought in a large park, the first turf of which was cut by Lady Janet, and was known ever after as Park-na-Bainthighearn, or “Her Ladyship’s Park.” There was also broken up a large square piece of moor, or moss, to the west of Carterfield. It was planted with curly greens about Christmas, and, as might be expected, the frosts of winter destroyed every plant of them. These fields which were broken up and put under crop for a year or two, instead of being given to the tenants evicted from the straths, were allowed to fall out of cultivation into grazings for sheep, and a few years saw them covered with their original heather.
The singular thing is that while by all accounts the Ulbster family have been the most extensive evictors in the country, as appears from the recent correspondence in your spirited paper, they were yet looked up to and esteemed by the whole community. No doubt there were some good traits in their character, but these were sullied and tarnished by their treatment of those respectable and happy families that were so ruthlessly driven out of their comfortable holdings. As stated in some of my previous communications, when Sir John got his regiment of Fencibles embodied, he got 60 men from Berriedale, said to be the finest men in the regiment, and yet this was the treatment they received at his hands.

Your correspondent is also at fault in saying that James Horne evicted none at Berriedale. Horne evicted 13 families in the township of Auchencraig. Three families were evicted by him from the Cairn, 4 from Rinsary, and 6 from Badbea. True, some of these as your correspondent says, got miserable patches elsewhere on the estate, but so did some of those evicted by Sir John; but I consider they were entitled to be numbered among the evicted nevertheless, as they were driven from their comfortable homes without justice or reason, and the plots on which they were allowed to settle down were not entitled to the name of land, being bare rocks or black moss, whilst the arable land they were driven from was given over for sheep grazings.

The Ulster family may well pray to be saved from their friends, since Mr Logan, who shows great zeal on their behalf , has been the means of bringing to light matters that had been entirely forgotten, and which would never appeared before the public but for Mr Logan’s zeal without knowledge. I would venture to give him a bit of advice for his guidance in the future, and that is let sleeping dogs lie. – Yours &c.,

Alex Gunn. Glasgow

Cheviot ewes and lambs on the Ousdale side of the Badbea stone wall

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Good Neighbour - Part B

David Badbea Sutherland Part B

Dying near kin

In the autumn of 1854 David Sutherland knew his time on earth was nearing an end. He was 84 years old. He must have had some indication that he was not going to live much longer as word had got back to New Zealand to his half-brother Alexander Sutherland that David was not very well. It was deeply significant for Highlanders to die with, and if possible be buried near, kin. Having no wife or immediate kin at Badbea and no descendants what was he to do? The thought of David, this kind and generous man who had always cared deeply about those around him, pondering his imminent death alone is poignant.


David left home. He walked away from the place of his birth. He knew where he wanted to go. I can picture David embracing his dear next door neighbour, life long friend and cousin John Badbea Sutherland before he left. What those two had been through together caring for the orphaned children and all the other destitutes who arrived at Badbea! Taking leave of his dwelling, which may again have had the busy patter of another family's feet, David set out for Rumsdale.

John Thomson's Map 1831 showing Badbea to Rumsdale

He may have walked through  Helmsdale and up the Strath of Kildonan or he may have followed an old drover's trail up the Langwell Strath. He had to walk about twenty-four miles - a long way for a failing old man. With the small communities long cleared for sheep there would not have been too many welcoming places to stop on the way. At his destination were his beloved half-sister Christina Sutherland and her husband John McLeod. David made it 'home' to kin with just a few days to spare.

Forty years before David had taken Christina in when she was destitute and now she was there for him as he approached his death.

Death and Burial

The lintel at the  Rumsdale house where the 
fire stones would have warmed David's old body

David Badbea Sutherland died at Rumsdale on September 18, 1854 a few days after he had arrived. Christina and John were there to help him go. John McLeod, practical as always, attended to the funeral arrangements.
David was buried at the old cemetery at Dalnawillan - but not with John's approval and not without trouble.
We can follow what happened through a letter from Alexander Sutherland in Wellington, New Zealand, sent to John McLeod in Rumsdale.

Lyall's Bay, Wellington, 29th December 1855
Mr John McLeod,
Dear Sir,
Your two sons, William and James, arrived safe and are comfortably situated up the country in my employment. They informed me the draft for ten pounds No 3204 on the Union Bank of Australia, dated 19th February, 1855, in favour of my late brother David Sutherland, reached your house on the day he died; I have therefore asked the agent for the Union Bank here to request that bank in London to pay the same on your endorsement of it, and also the enclosed second Bill of Exchange, which can both be forwarded to London for payment, and you can get this money after the Bank Agent hears that it is paid.

It may be as well to take this letter to the Bank near you, so they will understand how the matter stands.
I wish you to get this 10 pounds and 5 pounds sent thro' the late Mr Kenneth Bethune to cover your outlay on my brother's funeral which was a debt due by me.
I regret exceedingly at a difference of opinion about the arrangements made by my brother regarding the coffin expenses with Donald MacKay - and was much vexed on hearing about it because it was only fair to follow out his wishes - on this account I have no wish to hear again from Major Gunn.

Dalnawillan Cemetery

The vexation of Alexander very likely arose from the internment of his brother David in the burying ground at Dalnawillan under a plain stone. Apparently his wish to have been buried in the Berriedale old cemetery, wherein lay generations of his relations was not complied with by Major Gunn whose decision to bury David at Dalnawillan may have come about by the circumstances that David had died at Rumsdale and Dalnawillan was the nearest cemetery.
The remote old Dalnawillan cemetery
Looking toward the Thurso River from the lonely Dalnawillan cemetery

Berriedale Memorial

Alexander Sutherland in New Zealand must have had his brother's wishes in mind for the rest of his days. Before dying at Lyall's Bay, he appears to have given instructions to his sons William and David Sutherland that a memorial stone for David Badbea Sutherland be placed in the Berriedale ground. There appeared in the Northern Ensign of 9 October, 1894 the following:
A headstone of an elegant design has been erected in the old burying ground (Berriedale) in                           memory of David Sutherland, Badbea who died at Rumsdale, and was buried there about 40                       years ago; also of his brother, Alexander Sutherland, who died at Lyall's Bay, NZ about 17 years                 ago.'

The inscription on the stone reads:
In Memory of David Sutherland, Badbea, who died at Rumsdale, September 18th, 1854, age 84. This stone is placed here at the request of his brother, Alexander Robert, who died in Lyall's Bay, Wellington, N.Z. Oct 21, 1877, Aged 71

David Sutherland's elegant stone still keeps watch out over the Berriedale shore in memory of a 'braw' man nearly 160 years after his death.

A Good Neighbour - Part A

David Badbea Sutherland - Part A

David Badbea Sutherland is a 'braw' man to pull up from the Grey Hen's Well. He was described by Alexander Gunn as 'Our Good Neighbour.' I'll tell why.

David Sutherland was born in Badbea in 1770 and lived there all his life. He probably could have left at some stage but he didn't. His father was William and his grandfather David Sutherland of Ousdale. His mother was Christian Finlayson of Langwell.

Little is known of the early life of David but the stories told of him in later life show that he learned many skills growing up in Badbea. Keeping in mind that Badbea was a hostile place, extremely cold in winter, with salt laden winds and frequent fierce storms hammering the settlement a lot of the year, David's skills and knowledge of this environment must have made the difference between eking out an existence and insufferable hardship for the families cleared to Badbea.


Census Badbea 1851

Barrels at Timespan, Helmsdale

The census of 1851 tells us that David was a cooper, meaning he was a maker and repairer of wooden barrels. The barrels were used in the fishing industry.

Although the herring industry in the North of Scotland grew substantially in the mid-nineteenth century, the 1818 engraving of 'Castle Berrydale' by William Daniell shows fishing activity established in Berriedale then.

The Berriedale scene is of fishing boats pulled up on the shore, nets spread to dry, lasses gutting fish and barrels made by coopers ready to pack the catch. Berriedale was only a four mile walk from Badbea so it is likely that David Sutherland worked in the Berriedale fishing industry as a cooper, passing the Grey Hen's Well every day on his way to work. From Berriedale he would have undoubtedly learned early to help catch fish for his family, thus gaining important local knowledge of the sea and its dangerous currents. 

Here is a 21st century view of this inlet and the remains of the ancient 'Castle of Berrydale'  from the old Berriedale Cemetery.

Tee Names

It was common practice in Caithness in those time to attribute to some people Tee-names or community nick-names. This was the case with several Badbea personalities whose given names were in widespread use. David Sutherland was thus known as David Badbea Sutherland.

David's House

About the time David's father William married for a second time and there was a new young family in that household, David, about 30 years old, built himself a house very near his father's house. David's house was an improvement on older Badbea houses. It was the largest house in the hamlet, had two chimneys and was the only house at that time that had a level foundation. David was a home maker and an entrepreneur!
He was also said to be the builder and handy-man for the settlement. Despite having a new house David never married. The new house showed his commitment to staying in this difficult place and over time it was well used. 

 Could these be the ruins of David Badbea Sutherland's house

These ruins are very near the centre of the old community on flat land. Clearly there is also a fireplace at the end of the house. 

About ten years after David built his house, his father William and step-mother Katherine both died. David's half brothers and sisters were left orphaned. David and his cousin John Badbea Sutherland (another Tee name) shared the responsibility of caring for these children. It seems probable that Christina lived with David until she married in 1822 and left Badbea. Christina and David remained especially close to each other right until David died. As well David was held in remarkably high esteem by his brother Alexander in New Zealand. David kept working in the fishing industry and supporting his orphaned brothers and sisters. 

The 1841 census shows a whole family living with David. The 65 year old bachelor has a Gunn family with 5 young children plus a Female Servant living with him in his house. 


There was a long history of Highlanders distilling whisky at home or in nearby bothies or caves. In the eighteenth century the government began to tax whisky, thus driving the distillers underground. The illicit distilling of whisky was known as smuggling and was standard practice for most Highland communities, Badbea included, with no moral stigma attached. The tax was difficult to enforce in remote districts. Battles between smugglers and the gaugers or excise officers were regular and ongoing. 

Whenever the excise men stopped at the Berriedale Inn on their way round the district a signalling system from the owner of the Inn and the Badbea people went into action.
Highland Whisky Still by R R McIan

At Badbea stills were cleverly hid in the heather clad hills or in a cave at the bottom of the cliffs. Distilling whisky was an important way money could be raised. 

Alexander Gunn reports on the outcome of a visit by the excise officers to Badbea.

'Should there be found any tubs or barrrels in the bothy, they would be hurled over the cliffs down the face of the rock and would reach the shore in staves. With the excise out of sight the staves lying scattered on the shore would be gathered up and handed to David Sutherland, better known as 'David Badbea' who combined the offices of joiner and cooper, and in twenty-four hours they were all in their former shape and ready for use..' 

The News

David Badbea was able to read and write and was knowledgeable with figures. He read English, surprising when Gaelic was used in much of the Highlands. There was no school close to Badbea when he was young and it was not common for everyone to read well. How he learned to read is anyone's guess but one commentator has a theory that Christian Finlayson, David's mother, had a brother who was a school teacher in Dunbeath. Perhaps Christian could also read and taught her eldest son, or perhaps David's uncle the school master taught him.
Source: Roydhouse unpublished

Alexander Gunn who was a lad in Badbea has this to say:

News travelled very slowly in those days, and was but very imperfect when it did come to hand. There was not much startling news came our length, and I must say that a newspaper was not the most welcome visitor to us. If my father got hold of a paper, our good neighbour, David Sutherland got word of it, and whatever business might be on hand, and however important or pressing, it got leave to stand, and David came to our fireside, when the whole contents of the paper were gone into, and every word read, and read aloud, with the greatest of interest. If David got a paper he acted in like manner. We could not imagine how the old folks felt such an interest in reading the papers. As for us, it was the greatest punishment that could be inflicted upon us, as we dare not move from our seats, or speak a word louder than a whisper. Should we forget ourselves, and speak a loud word we did not miss our punishment. We could sit a live long winter night and listen to stories about fairies and ghosts till our hair would stand on end, but we had no taste for politics, or general news, and we could not conceive how anybody else could have cravings that way.

Newspapers were a rarity in the far North. The 'Northern Star' and the 'John O Groat Journal' came into existence at this time I speak of. Both were diminutive sheets, perhaps about 12" X 10", Their price was at the time 3d., and the postage would be as much as the cost of the paper.

Source: Northern Ensign 17 Nov 1881

A Cooper at work