Saturday, March 1, 2014

Christina (aka Christian) Sutherland 1798-1872

Christina was the first child born to Katherine Sutherland and William Sutherland who married in 1797 and lived at Badbea. Christina was very probably born in Badbea in 1798. Although the birth record of Christina has not been located, many other records of her life are available. Some records refer to her as Christian and others as Christina.
The site of Christina's Badbea home
Alex Gunn describes the Badbea houses: The one entrance served for man and beast. On entering, the cattle sheded to the right and the rest of the inhabitants to the left, having a wooden partition separating the cattle and the family. There was the fire in the middle of the floor, and the peat neuk close at hand. The furniture was all home-made, and ranged on each side of the fireplace: but, need I say, there was no soft-bottomed chairs - just the hard board, with a rung an inch thick in front and back. … there was a "but" and a "ben” [meaning it had a sleeping area and a living area].

At Newtonmore Outdoor Museum

How large families managed in a small house that was shared with their cow and other animals, plus had a hot peat fire that never went out on the floor in the centre of the room, I cannot comprehend.

Christina would have helped her mother mind the babies, taken her turn with the quern, fetched water from the Badbea burn, helped in the Kale garden, learned to card wool for her mother to spin, gathered shell fish and snail bait from the nearby shore and many other jobs.
Quern at Newtonmore
Sea snails on the shore
Mussels in the cleft of the rock

A Highland Burn by Foster Myles Birket

When she was about 10 years old both Christina’s parents died. There is no record of the cause of William and Katherine’s deaths but several family sources make note of the tragic circumstances of the orphaned children. One story suggests the children were found destitute wandering near Golsary (the home of their mother’s parents). 

Ruins at Golsary

The young Sutherland children were taken in by their cousin John Badbea Sutherland and their adult half-brother David Badbea Sutherland. I have no doubt that Christina had to work very hard helping in these households that now had two less adults to provide for the children.

On 5 May, 1822, in Kildonan, Christina married John McLeod a young shepherd working in Ouagbeg who had previously lived in Ousdale next door to Badbea

For the first year of their married life Christina and John lived in an old longhouse at Ousdale. Kitty was born in Ousdale in 1822.

Here is the Ousdale farm in 2011. The house in the foreground is built on the foundations of the old longhouse where Christina and John lived in 1822

In 1823, at a time of extreme hardship for many families in Scotland, with clearances and emigration high, John was chosen to be shepherd on the Rumsdale estate managed by Donald Horne. John McLeod’s shepherding skills must have impressed Donald Horne as he won the job over southern shepherds who were entering Caithness looking for work. John held his job for 40 years.

An old glass plate photo of Rumsdale

The remains of the lintel at Rumsdale 2011

Thus Christina and John left coastal Badbea and went inland to Rumsdale. For the first few years while getting the sheep farm established at Rumsdale they seem to have lived in the nearby settlement of Altnabreck. Eventually a substantial house was built for the Mcleod family at Rumsdale.

John and Christina's family was as follows:
  • 1822 Kitty (aka Catherine) was born in Ousdale.
  • 1824 Donald was born at Altnabreck.
  • 1826 Elizabeth was born probably at Altnabreck (birth record not located).
  • 1828 Mary was born at Altnabreck.
  • 1830 William was born in Rumsdale.
  • 1833 Esther was born at Rumsdale (Note: the birth record for Esther names her Sarah but all subsequent records including census records name her Esther)
  • 1835 James was born in Rumsdale.
  • 1838 Janet was born probably in Rumsdale (birth record not located).
  • 1839 Farquhar was born in Rumsdale.
  • 1842 Alexander was born in Rumsdale.
  • 1846 Catherine (aka Kitty) was born probably in Rumsdale (birth record not located).

The huge sheep enclosure at Rumsdale on Google Earth
Christina and John worked hard on Rumsdale for 40 years. Some of the challenges of shepherding at that time and in that locality will be covered in a later blog. Donald Horne had a reputation of being a very hard taskmaster. According to Alexander Gunn (1855), Horne was given to evicting people on his estates for no good reason so it is very impressive that John & Christina survived 40 years under his command.

1863 Donald Horne sold Rumsdale to Sir Tollemarche Sinclair. John and Christina retired to a cottage at Rangag.

The remains of the house at Rangag where John and Christina lived.
The three windows at the rear are where Alexander had his shoemaker's workroom.
The animal enclosure at Rangag looking toward Rumsdale
From the shoemaker's workroom
Christina soon established a small grocery business in the front of the Rangag house. For a few years, son Alexander had a small boot making workshop at the back of the house. Catherine helped her mother in the grocery business.
My collage of Christina in the Rangag house.

Plaque at the Halsary church where Christina
 and John worshiped when they lived at Rangag

McLeod gravestone at Dalnawillan
Upper Thurso River from Dalnawillan
1872 Christina died in Rangag and was buried in Dalnawillan.

1869 John died in Rangag and was buried in Dalnawillan cemetery.