Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Native of Badbea - Alexander Gunn 1820-1897

Alexander Gunn 1820-1897

I have a collection of newspaper cuttings from the Northern Ensign from about 1870 to 1897 signed
  • A Native of Badbea.
  •  A.G.
  • Alexander Gunn.

Alexander Gunn was born in 1820 in Badbea to John Gunn and Marion Sinclair. He was one of 11 children. He was my half-first cousin 3 times removed or to put it another way Marion Sinclair was half sister to my great, great, grandmother Christina Sutherland.
 "Alexander had the privilege of a pious upbringing, both on the part of his father and mother, and he cherished with the deepest affection the hallowed memories of his younger days and loved to dwell on them in after years."
Alexander Gunn is of great interest to me because he was the author of my newspaper cuttings, writing many letters to the Editor of the Northern Ensign over a period of 40 years. His obituary makes the following comments:
"..being of a keen and observant nature and possessing an excellent memory, the scenes of his childhood and youth were remembered as vividly as if they happened only yesterday.
His subjects were most varied from steam for fishing boats...evictions, recollections of Badbea and Berriedale, recollections of his schools and school days, to politics and religion.
There was not a spot he did not remember, nor a family in its depopulated straths that he could not recall.
He remembered distinctly the "good old" smuggling days, and he had many interesting stories to tell of these, and also of the press gang times."
Alexander Gunn was a nineteenth century blogger. Apparently he once had the idea of publishing all his letters in a book but did not think there would be enough interest. Pity. The writer of his obituary in 1897 claims:
 "He was probably the best living authority on the history of the locality for the last sixty years."

I have been collecting the letters of Alexander Gunn from various sources for a while now and recently received some additional material from the Wick Carnegie Public Library which I acknowledge with gratitude. A few more letters may be located yet. I live in hope. Unfortunately the Northern Ensign pages are not yet in the British Newspaper collection nor available on findmypast.
I have quoted extracts from Alex Gunn's letters already on this blog but for the next few weeks I intend to do a series of posts of the "graphic sketches from his pen."  

A Challenge for Wick cavers.

The writer of Alex Gunn's obituary records a memory of Alexander Gunn which is probably impossible to verify but is tantalising.

Uag Eachin Cave

He remembered specially the smuggling in Uag Eachin or Hector's cave in which the ashes and remains of the peats used are still said to be seen; and the clear, pure stream of cool water used for many a gallon of spirits that never paid duty may still be seen at the east side of the cave. At the inner end of this cave is another to which access is only got by creeping on the hands and knees, and can only be seen by carrying a light. This cave, owing to the limestone nature of the rocks, has many stalactites hanging from the roof, while small stalagmites are also being formed on parts of the floor. In the other cave are also beautiful specimens of hart's tongue ferns, with large fronds fully eighteen inches long and three inches across. This is one of the few places in Caithness in which this beautiful and graceful fern is found in abundance. Mr. Gunn remembered those since his boyhood, nearly seventy years ago, and one of his unfulfilled wishes was to see these scenes, and to get fern and stalactites from Uag-Eachin for his fernery at home.
Unfortunately I do not have a photo of Uag Eachin cave but have included a photo of a cave at Ousdale very close by. There are numerous caves at the base of the cliffs here.

Source: Northern Ensign 6 July 1897 The Late Mr Alexander Gunn, Glasgow. Formerly of Badbea, Caithness

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Thanks for keeping Mr. Gunn's work alive.