Friday, May 9, 2014

Idiotic From Birth Part A

More stories of the lives of Badbea folks and families

Margaret Sutherland
About 1804 a third daughter was born to William and Katherine Sutherland of Badbea. They named her Margaret. Although her birth record has not been located, I think it is probable that Margaret was born at Badbea given that her siblings on either side of her, both of whom have birth records, are shown as being born at Badbea. Margaret is named on the Badbea monument.

Badbea Monument
Margaret would have experienced the hardships and pressures of life at Badbea but would also have known the warmth and comfort of sitting round the hearth in her parents’ stone house. She would have snuggled onto her heather bed on the dirt floor along with the other little ones. Margaret would have only been about six years old when her parents both died from unknown causes. She was probably brought up by her cousin John Badbea Sutherland with help from Margaret's older half-sister Marion (Mary) Sinclair

Heather at Badbea

Margaret gets married

The first record of Margaret I have located is her marriage on 24 May 1831 to James Dunbar. James and Margaret were both residing at Forse. James was an Achastle, Forse, local so probably knew James Gunn the man who married Margaret’s sister Esther just a few weeks later.

A shoemaker's bench at Laidhay, Caithness

James was a shoemaker with one record showing him as a ‘Master Shoemaker’.

Family Life and problems
Within a month of the wedding, on the 28th June 1831 in Forse, Margaret gave birth to her first-born daughter, naming her Catherine after her mother, as was the custom.

From here on Margaret’s and James’ lives undoubtedly became complicated. The rest of this story is not easy to write about especially from a 21st century perspective. The language used in census records to label four of the children seems archaic and judgemental but was probably simply seen as plain language at that time. However it is not until the 1861 census, when she was 30 that we ‘find out’ about Catherine and her siblings.

The children of James and Catherine were as follows, all born in Forse, Latheron Parish, Caithness, Scotland:
  • Catherine Dunbar 28 June 1831
  • George Dunbar 4 November 1832
  • James Dunbar 7 July 1836
  • William Dunbar 29 December 1840
  • Mary Sinclair Dunbar 11 November 1842
  • John Dunbar 1850
Scotland Census 1841
The 1841 census shows the family living at Forse with James aged 30 as a shoemaker, Margaret aged 30 and the children, Catherine aged 8, George aged 7, James aged 4, William aged 4 months. There is a servant girl Heneritta Forbes. There is no clue about the difficulties the family are experiencing.

Scotland Census 1851
Shoemaker's Tools Laidhay Museum, Caithness

The 1851 census shows the family living at Forse with James aged 45 as a Shoemaker, Margaret, Wife, aged 46 and the children, Catherine aged 20, House Servant, George aged 18, James aged 14, William aged 10, scholar (so at school),  Mary aged 8 and baby John aged 1. James elderly parents George Dunbar aged 85 Pauper, Farmer, and Isabella Dunbar aged 78 Pauper, Farmer’s Wife, are living with the family. The family would probably have lived in a Caithness Longhouse that was typical at that time so the household including the elderly grandparents was very full.

There is a new ‘disability’ section in the 1851 census asking whether ‘Blind or Deaf and Dumb’. Here we get the first indication that things are not all well in the family. Sons George and James are both shown as ‘Idiots’. In this census neither Catherine nor Mary are recorded as having a disability even though later census records show otherwise.

Scotland Census 1861
In the 1861 census things are worse. The 1861 census shows the family still living at Forse with James aged 55 as a Shoemaker, Margaret aged 56 Shoemaker’s Wife with the sons and daughters, Catherine aged 31, George aged 29, James aged 25, William aged 20 Herring Fisherman, Mary aged 18 General Servant and John aged 12, scholar. In this census Catherine, George and James are all recorded as ‘Idiotic’ but strangely Mary’s disability is not revealed in this census.

Scotland Census 1871
In the 1871 census things are really sad. The 1871 census shows the family still living at Forse with James aged 65, Shoemaker, Margaret aged 66 Wife, and the family, Catherine aged 40, James aged 35, William aged 30 Shoemaker, Mary aged 29, and John aged 22 Fisherman. In this census George is gone. Catherine, James and Mary all have a disability recorded as ‘Idiotic from birth’.

George Dies 1861
George died in 1861 from Phthisis (or Tuberculosis). He was 28 years old and single. The doctor George Burn had come.  James his father was present and signed his son’s death certificate.
George Dunbar's Death record
Margaret Dies 1873
21 August 1873 Margaret died from supposed Phthisis. She was 69. Margaret had not had any regular doctor. James was present with her when she died and signed her death certificate.
Margaret's Death record
Scotland Census 1881
The 1881 census shows James as a widower, aged 76 living in Mains of Forse, still supporting his family.  He is now shown as a crofter and has ticked the ‘Speaks Gaelic’ box. Catherine, still living at home, aged 52 is shown as a General Servant, James 45 is an Agricultural Labourer, Mary, 39 is a General Servant. Catherine, James and Mary have a disability shown as ‘Imbecile’.

Son John has married Isabella. They are living next door and John is a Fisherman.
William is not located in the 1881 census.

James dies 1891
On 10 March 1891 (just before the next census) old father James died. The cause of death was Disability from Old Age. He was 85. Son John was with his father when he died and signed his death certificate.

Scotland Census 1891
The 1891 census shows interestingly that Catherine age 47, James 50 and Mary 60 are living in their own household together at Mains of Forse. The ages given are wrong – they should be Catherine 60, James 55 and Mary 49. They are all shown as ‘Lunatic’ but interestingly shown as speaking both Gaelic and English. Their house has only one window so it is probably a small older style house. Brother John shown as a Farmer and Isabella his wife are living nearby.

Scotland Census 1901
The 1901 census shows the three Dunbar siblings getting old now but living together in the Torravaich Hospital Clyth. Catherine is now shown as 75 (should be 70), James as 72 (should be 65) and Mary as 67 (should be 59).  They are the only ‘Inmates’ but an Isabella Budge, who puts her occupation as ‘Caretaker in the Hospital’, is there with her two children. Catherine, James and Mary are each shown as ‘Imbecile from Childhood’.

Catherine dies 1901
In 1901 Catherine Dunbar died in the Torravaich Hospital in Clyth. Her age is given correctly as 70. She was said to be a ‘Pauper and Imbecile’. The cause of death is some sort of Rheumatism (hard to read) which she had for 9 months according to the doctor. Her brother John came and signed her death certificate.

Scotland Census 1911
The 1911 census shows James, aged 75, and Mary, aged 63 (should be 69) living as Boarders in the ‘Newlands, Old School’, Clyth, Latheron Parish. There is a Maggie Sutherland recorded as Caretaker and working for the Parish Council looking after James and Mary who are both described as ‘Lunatic’.

James dies 1916
In 1916, James Dunbar died aged 80. He was described as a Pauper and Lunatic. He was still living in Newlands of Clyth. The cause of death was Cardiac Failure and Syncope. A doctor had been called. James was certified by the Inspector of the Poor.

Scotland Census 1921 Unavailable yet

Mary dies 1929
In 1929, over a decade after James. Mary died at the age of 85. She was said to be at Achavar, Clyth. The cause of death was Bronchitis and Heart Failure. A doctor certified Mary’s death but strangely ‘A Neighbour’ who lived in the Village of Lybster was the informant..


Is this the place?
I have carefully looked at the relevant census records and neighbouring place-names and think that the Torrovaich Hospital, and the Newlands Old School, and Achavar are possibly all the same place with name changes over time and different people filling out records. There are two buildings visible on Google Earth next door to each other that are in the location shown on the map as 'School House'. It seems to me that one of them maybe the house that the elderly Dunbars lived in for many years and also died in. What do you think?
Possible Old Torrovaich hospital. for Caithness, Sheet XXXIV, 
Ordnance Survey six-inch 1st Edition 1877
shows this as the Free Church School for Boys and Girls.

Further information on brothers John and William was not located.

Continued in 'Idiotic From Birth Part B'

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