In his letters, John used a number of devout terms to refer to death, for example:
They are to be envied that die in the Lord - 17 May 1844
Called to eternity - 18 Sep 1846
Now glorified - 21 Sep 1854
Called home from this vale of tears - 21 Dec 1857
So whatever he liked to call it - there he is!
In late summer, August 1864, John Badbea’s health took a serious turn for the worse. It seems likely that Doctor Thomas Rutherford, an Edinburgh trained surgeon living in Helmsdale who certified John’s death was also called to attend to John in the days before he died. Doctor Rutherford certified that John had been sick with a fever and cerebral symptoms for two weeks before his death. I like the thought of an Edinburgh surgeon leaving his substantial house with windows in eight rooms, driving over the Ord in his own conveyance and arriving at John’s simple old stone dwelling to attend to this dying man of God. Both men leading lives of devotion to others.
John’s niece Catherine who so faithfully and tenderly cared for him for well over twenty years was with him when he died and signed her X on his death certificate. What a wonderful woman she was.
1864 Deaths in the Parish of Latheron in the County of Caithness
John Sutherland, Farmer, Single; 1864 August Thirtieth 12 h.p.m Badbea, Berriedale; Male, 76 years, Father James Sutherland, Farmer (deceased) Mother Catherine Sutherland M.S. Sutherland (deceased); Cause of death - Continued fever with cerebral symptoms Two weeks As cert by Thos. H. Rutherford M.D.; Informant - Catherine Sutherland her X mark, Niece (present) Wm. Sutherland, Registrar Witness. Signature Registrar. 1864 September 7th At Latheron Wm Sutherland Registrar
To Berriedale Old Burying ground
Sometimes funerals at this time involved celebratory eating, and drinking of whisky but I wonder if scripture readings and prayers might have been more in keeping with John’s wishes. I can certainly see eight sorrowing pallbearers putting John’s coffin onto the bier, and hoisting it on their shoulders. He would have been taken from his house, carried past his peat stack and on up to the road to Berriedale. The bearers perhaps stopped at the Grey Hen's Well for a short break before resuming their load. Down the hill and over the two bridges, on and up the braes to the old Berriedale burying ground. Several hundred men followed conversing as they walked, about the life of one just departed.
|From Timespan Museum, Helmsdale|
The inscription on John's tombstone reads:
“Erected to the memory of John Sutherland Badbea, a native of Ousdale, who feared the Lord from his youth and was a lover of good things, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word as he had been taught. He was a counsellor and comforter of many and an example to all. He died 31st August, 1864, aged 76 years.”
“The memory of the just is blessed”
“Achcumhn is ionmadh maith a chaoidh bidh air an fhir ear choir”
Translation of Gaelic: The memory of the kindly just man will ever be in high repute
Note: The stone was originally upright. The inscription is now hard to read
|At the Berriedale Old Cemetery. John's grave is just centre right of this photo|
I have located three obituaries for John Badbea Sutherland and include a short extract from each:
“His remains were conveyed to the burying ground at Berriedale on the 2nd September and numbers were present who travelled great distances, to show this last mark of their respect to the memory of one who had lived beloved and died lamented. A friend who knew him well, suggested for his epitaph, what we understand has been adopted - “In all things showing himself a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that could not be condemned.”
Source: Ministers and Men of the Far North by Alexander Auld, 1868, Pgs 199 – 203, Pub. W. Rae, Wick. Available in full on www.ambaile.org.uk
"This excellent and estimable Christian departed this life, aged seventy-five, after about two weeks illness, on the night of Tuesday, the 30th August, and it has rarely fallen to our lot to record any death, occurring in humble life, which will be so justly and so generally lamented.”
…his numerous friends in the north will experience with intense sorrow that they can no more resort to the retired locality of Badbea and ‘The chamber where the good man lived, Privileged beyond the common walk of virtuous life, quite on the verge of heaven,’ there to listen to the outpourings of his heart, habitually set upon divine things, and a permanent and overflowing sense of the love of Christ which enabled him so to reflect on every event of daily life that, like his great Master, he made every little incident a source of devotion and an instrument of holy zeal…his remains were carried to the burying-ground at Berriedale ..Followed by several hundreds of people, many of whom came long distances to pay this mark of respect to his memory
Source: John O Groat Journal 8 Sep 1864 THE LATE JOHN SUTHERLAND, BADBEA. Two different correspondents.
In another article about The Men there is a touching reference to John.
“There are, of course, however, gentle natures among them (The Men) whose cry is ever ‘Comfort ye my people.’ One of these meek primitive teachers, whom I knew, was gathered to his father’s a month or two ago. He was a man whom many friends would describe as one who literally ‘walked with God.’ He was regarded as one of whom it might in a special sense be said that his ‘life and conversation was in heaven.’ He lived far away from any church, but he held that the presence of the Father of All was not limited to consecrated stone and lime, that God dwelt with men and not with agglomerations of masonry. Solitary dwellers in the wilderness sought his lonely cottage on the day of rest. And to him and them the humble dwelling was the ‘house of God’ and the ‘gate of heaven.’ Nor was his influence confined to those within walking distance of his moorland home. With persons many miles away he carried on a remarkable correspondence; tenderly breaking to them, in his own way the Bread of Life and proclaiming the unbounded love and goodness of his Father in heaven. His surname was, I think, Sutherland, but he was known and is remembered as John Badbea – Badbea being the name of the place where he lived.
Source: THE MEN Chambers’s Journal John O Groat Journal 23 Feb 1865
Angels Accompany John
In the previous blog I mentioned that The Men were said to receive intimations of present and future events. John Sutherland confirms that John Badbea was recognised as having special gifts and an insight into the unseen. In a fascinating incident John Gordon of Strath Brora claimed to have been visited by the spirit of John Badbea at the time of his death:
“One morning towards the end of August 1864, Gordon was asked how he was, “Oh we had a feast during the night for the angels were accompanying the spirit of Godly John Sutherland to glory”. The neighbour expressed the hope that good John was still spared, “Oh no,” said Gordon, his spirit took its departure at three o’clock this morning.” Seeing the other was still sceptical, Gordon said, “The Wick coach has not passed yet: go and enquire what is the latest news from Badbea.” When the coach arrived, the diver confirmed the fact that John Sutherland had passed away that morning at three o’clock.” (Note: he actually passed away at midnight)
Source: Records of Grace in Sutherland, Ed K McRae 1953, pg 51, Pub Free Church of Scotland, Edinburgh. John Sutherland, History of Ancestors
One Hundred and Fifty Years GoneIt is almost 150 years to the day since John Badbea was ‘called to eternity’. His influence was certainly evident in the lives of those he reared. My great, great grandmother Christina Sutherland who, when orphaned as a child was taken in by John Badbea, reared her own eleven children with devout adherence to John Badbea's Christian doctrines and values. This influence followed her offspring and that of her brother Alexander Sutherland to New Zealand where strong religious beliefs were the norm for at least another generation and are still evident in some families.
So the last word goes to John Badbea Sutherland.