Saturday, July 19, 2014

Catching up with Robina Grant

Robina Grant Gets Here

In the Grant blog I mentioned I had not traced the eldest daughter Robina further. Well someone else did and forwarded me some data (thanks J). So since the Grant family of Badbea are already missing a brother, a father and a sister, all by misadventure, it will be good to include Robina and find out just a little about her.

Marriage 1896

The first document located for Robina is her marriage in 1896 to William Sutherland (yes another one!) of West Garty – near Helmsdale. Several interesting extra bits of information can be picked up from this marriage certificate.

Edinburgh Evening News 12 Dec 1896
Her name on the marriage record has the variation of Robertina. It is extremely common in tracing Scottish family members to find variations of a name. This may be to do with the census taker or the minister. The minister for this marriage was Thomas Grant. I wonder if he was a relative. Of course Robina may have supplied the name Robertina herself. The newspaper notice uses Robina so she was probably known by both names. I will stay with Robina. 

Robina had been living at 45 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, working as a Domestic Servant. Heriot Row was and is an extremely desirable location in Edinburgh and the house a posh terraced building. I was wondering if she had any regrets about moving to a farm dwelling at West Garty until I read the following about Heriot Row houses:
The house with the green door is 45 Heriot Row, Edinburgh.
The house to the right is No 43 as described in the extract.
"No 43 Heriot Row, Edinburgh Heriot Row is an elegant south-facing terrace overlooking the wooded gardens of Queen Street. Designed by Robert Reid in 1802-3 as two sections, divided by Howe Street, it was the first street to be built in the northern New Town. The first-floor drawing room is lit from the south by three elongated windows with elegant balconets. The street floor is rusticated, and the basement, below pavement level, is distinguished by the 'rock-faced' appearance of the stonework. In New Town houses, the dining room was on the street floor, the drawing room on the first floor, and bedrooms over the drawing room. As there was limited sleeping accommodation, servants had to sleep in odd rooms and closets, or even under the staircase".

On her marriage certificate Robina gives her age as 41 which may be accurate but going by the first census record we have of her in 1861 as an 8 year old (making her birth date 1853) she just may have dropped her age a couple of years. I wonder if William did the same.

Mother Hannah Grant had died in 1894. It is possible that Robina had spent time with her mother in her unmarried years. 

Father Joseph Grant is said to be a ‘Wright’ hinting I guess at a shipwright. This may be Robina elevating her father’s occupation, as elsewhere he is said to be a fisherman, or it could be a clue that he was a craftsman, who did actually make boats and perhaps made the very fishing boat he lost his life in trying to save.

Caledonian Hotel Dingwall

The Caledonian Hotel, Dingwall
The part I really like about this marriage record is that the ceremony was conducted at the Caledonian Hotel, Dingwall. I don’t know why they went to Dingwall. There were church buildings nearer home. There are several possibilities. The minister was Thomas Grant of the Free Church in Tain. He may have been a relative of Robina's and pleased to travel to facilitate at this wedding. But it also stands to reason that since both Robina and William were in their forties and thus perhaps not totally penniless, they may have decided to celebrate and go for a little trip. Dingwall, well serviced by train from Helmsdale, was a busy market town and had at least one interesting castle to visit. The Caledonian Hotel was a genteel early 19th century building (now a listed historic building) and without doubt they would not have had to sleep in an odd room, a closet or under the staircase the night they got married! Good choice. I hope they had a fine time. They had a couple of friends as witnesses and may well have had more come for a wedding party.
The railway line from Helmsdale runs right past the West Garty farm.

1901 Census

The next record of these two I have located is the 1901 census. William and Robina are living and working in what the census calls Mid Garty (although the next dwelling is called West Garty).  William and his unmarried brother Donald are farming together and employing some labour. The size of the land they are farming is not given. There is a female ‘General Serv. Domestic’. I guess Robina enjoyed that after her years as a domestic servant especially as she has taken over a house that seems to have had two middle aged bachelors living in it. I reckon their quality of life will have impoved.  There is no record of any children for Robina and William who are now in their mid forties. 


The Emigrants Statue in Helmsdale with the Gartymore hills
in the background.
The small crofting township of Gartymore near Helmsdale, Loth (aka Kildonan) was created in the early 19th century at the time of the clearances.  The people allocated ground there had mostly been cleared from the Straths.  They were given very small pieces of land in the hope that would take up fishing but they did not.  They continued to live as crofters.  With her early links to Badbea I don’t doubt that Robina knew how to manage in a Clearance settlement. 

Crofter’s struggled for fair rents and land rights in a period of Highland history known as the Crofter’s War. This turbulent episode was no more evident than in Gartymore, where a number of courageous individuals lit the torch for political change and established the inaugural branch of the Land League Movement. Their victory was hard won and resulted in the Crofting Act of 1886.
Today at Gartymore there are over 50 ruined crofts.

The Timespan Museum website has a lot of fascinating information about Gartymore including these photos of items used by Gartymore crofters.



Robina lived at West Garty for 28 years. Sadly on 4 Feb 1924 she died at home on the West Garty farm, Loth. Robina (aka Robertina) was 71 years old. The cause of death given is: Intracapsular Fracture of the Left Femur Cardiac Failure. From the little research I have done it seems that neck of femur fractures are considered intracapsular fractures (or hip fractures) and in elderly women are often due to osteoporosis. They can cause disruption to the blood supply and death. William her husband was with Robina when she died. 

Helmsdale Cemetery

Source: Chris Stokes
Robina was buried in the Helmsdale Cemetery. William arranged for an elegant pure white marble headstone to be placed in memory of his wife. Robina Grant’s first home at Badbea is a ten minute drive by car from the Helmsdale Cemetery. 
William lived for another decade before he died on 5 October 1935. He is buried in Helmsdale alongside his wife Robina Grant. 
Helmsdale Cemetery looking toward the old bridge

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