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.

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