Monday, March 30, 2015

Ousedale. Article VI, 16/10/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part C

Article VI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 16 Oct 1879. Part C

“Ousedale comes next in the way of recollections. It is situated about two miles to the west of Badbea and to the north of Auchencraig. At one time there was a flourishing tenantry in Ousedale. There was also the Borgue of Ousedale and the Struee, about half a mile to the west of Ousedale, on the western edge of the burn of that name, opposite Auchencraig – the burn running between them. There was fine fertile soil at both places, and abundance of hill-pasture for cattle grazing. It was much more suitable for farming than either Badbea or Auchencraig, as it was fine level ground, and easily cultivated. It is a pity to see such a fine tract of country lying waste, so to speak – only a few parks under cultivation, but yielding crops second to none in the country. There were about 50 acres brought under cultivation to the west of Ousedale, and this ground is yielding splendid cops. It was just brown heather in my young days.
Ousdale in 2011 showing the cultivated land
Looking toward the Borgue of Ousdale
There are hundreds, yes thousands, of acres around Ousdale, which are just as capable of being cultivated as those were, and which, if cultivated, would yield equally good crops. The Ousedale tenants were as comfortable as any on the estate, had they been let alone. But no, they had to be removed to make room for sheep, and left to shift as best they could.

The Ousdale burn showing the remains 
of stone works on the banks. 
Looking toward Auchencraig.
There was a corn-mill at Ousedale, where all the victual in the district was converted into meal. It was kept going till Auchencraig was turned out, after which it was discontinued. John Gunn, Badbea, was the miller, and just a few months before the mill was stopped he brought home a new millstone at considerable labour and expense; but there was no allowance made to him for it.

I really have no idea what the Ousdale Mill looked like but it 
may have been something like this old mill at West Murkle. 
Photo: Bill Fernie

Ousedale, too, could boast of its soldiers. Donald Sutherland, a brother of “John Badbea,” both born in Ousedale, was a soldier, and fell in Spain in one of those desperate battles which cost this country so much blood and treasure.”

My Comments:

As with other old place names there are variations of the spelling of Ousdale, Ousedale, Ausdale – all the same place. 

The comment about Donald Sutherland is interesting as there is plenty of other evidence that he died at Waterloo - see my blog 14 September 2014. My hunch is that Alexander Gunn made a slip-up here using 'Spain' but it is worth taking note of his comment. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Captain William Mackay. Article VI, 16/10/1879 – Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part B

Article VI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 16 Oct 1879 - Part B

"Another native of Auchencraig, of whom his acquaintances and friends might well be proud, was Captain Wm. Mackay, 91st regiment, whose remains lie in Berriedale burying ground, within a few hundred yards of the house his father occupied after leaving Auchencraig. John Mackay, the Captain’s father lived next door to William Ross, in Auchencraig, where all his family were born. William was but young when his father was put out of Auchencraig, and settled down on a piece of ground adjoining the Gribe, at Berriedale, and as I have already said within a few hundred yards of the burying ground there. William Mackay completed his education in the Society’s School under my esteemed friend, Murdoch Mackay. The writer of these lines was a classmate of his, and many a hard struggle we used to have trying who should stand highest in the class. 

When William was a young man, about seventeen years of age, he engaged as “little man” with Mrs Mackay, then of Kilmote, Loth. The writer was also engaged there as shepherd, but was Mackay’s junior by a year. Mackay was sent on some business to Brora market, and there took the shilling. Friends strove with him, and advised him the pay the “smart” and be free, but he would not listen to them, and entered the service; and after serving for a period of about thirty years retired with the rank and pension of captain – a rank which he held long before he left the service. 

Old Berriedale Cemetery
He settled down in Helmsdale where he died, and his remains lie in the ancient burying ground of Berriedale with a stone erected on his grave, with a suitable inscription. He lived an exemplary and godly life, and was much respected by all who knew him. It is not position or birth or influence that makes a man great. Captain Mackay had none of these advantages. All his surroundings were adverse to his rising to fame; yet a good early training, with a pushing and persevering spirit, overcame the disadvantages he laboured under, and he attained a position which is rarely reached except where wealth and influence gain it for its possessor."

Death record of William Mackay
My Comments:
  • William Mackay was presented for baptism by his father John on 12 September 1819.
  • When William was about 17 years old he ‘took the shilling’. To ‘take the shilling’ was to agree to serve as a soldier in the British Army. Sometimes the payment of a shilling was offered to tempt lowly paid workers to sign up for the army. Once the shilling had been accepted it was almost impossible to leave the army.  
  • William probably married twice. He had one son - William, whose mother I have not traced. Captain William Mackay married Margaret Mackay in 1868. She predeceased him without issue from that marriage.
  • William died in Helmsdale on 5th October 1872 aged 53 of stomach problems (probably cancer – death certificate hard to read).
  • I have found his will which gives further insights into Captain William Mackay. The will was first signed on 16th June 1872 on the Island of Jersey and witnessed by R. Roney Dougal, Lt Col & Major of Jersey and Pat Campbell the retired Collector of her Majesty’s Customs. William was dead within a few months so I suspect he knew he was sick, retired to Helmsdale, and arranged his affairs accordingly.
  • William was a Quartermaster in the 2nd Depot Battalion, Chatham and later a Captain in the Army. At the time of his death William was on half pay of 10 shillings per day.
  • William had a Life Insurance policy with the Scottish National Insurance company worth about £325 and a watch worth £5. No other effects are listed in his will.
  • William’s will ordered that his funeral was to be the plainest and most economical possible. The remainder of his estate was left absolutely to his son William and was to be invested for his education and later settlement into a profession or business. The will mentions a brother John, and sisters Mary, Jane, Chathrine and Annie. The executors were Rev P Clarke Parish of Kildonan, Miss Georgina Mackay and Miss Henrietta Mackay of Helmsdale.

Monday, March 16, 2015

William Ross. Article VI, 16/10/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part A

Article VI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 16 Oct 1879. Part A

“I have given a short sketch of Badbea and Auchencraig – the people and their habits. It may be said, what interest has the general public in either? I am of the opinion they have an interest in both. We are usually anxious to know the character and habits of people living in distant parts of the world, and the character and habits of the inhabitants of the place referred to are as little known beyond a few miles of the place they inhabit as if they lived in the unexplored regions of Central Africa.
Not a few of these unknown, simple people, were the salt of the earth, though unknown to the world, such as John Sutherland, Badbea, and a few others. In Auchencraig there were also men of prayer. Out of the thirteen houses of which Auchencraig was composed, there were several men who were humble Christians, whose everyday life testified that they were men of God, and while they were not numbered amongst “the men,” they could take part in any religious service to the edification of those privileged to hear them.

Your correspondent, “Once Again,” in his “Recollections of Berriedale,” mentions the names of the Rosses, extensive agriculturalists in New Zealand, as Berriedale men. Allow me to correct your correspondent in this manner. They were not Berriedale men. They were born in Auchencraig, their father being William Ross who had his lot about the centre of the town, and where all his family were born. Donald and John, referred to, were full grown men when their father was turned out of Auchencraig, and as their father got a bit of black hill to settle down upon in Badrinsary, Berriedale, which he, by the help of a family of industrious sons and daughters brought to a tolerable state of cultivation, and died there about seventeen years ago, an old man
He was a quiet, industrious man, and much respected by all who knew him.

Badrinsary in the 21st century is still not much more than 'black hill.'
Waste land at Badrinsary.
His sons, Donald and John, went to New Zealand upwards of twenty years ago, and landed in Wellington. Their first employment in the colony was sheep shearing at £1 per day. They were employed by Mr Alexander Sutherland, who belonged to Badbea, and who was a school companion of theirs in their school days, and whose death was noticed in the Ensign about a year ago, as one of the most successful, extensive and enterprising land-owners in the province of Wellington. The Rosses did not settle in that part of the colony, however, but proceeded to the province of Southland, where they settled down, and by their skill, industry and perseverance, became men of portion and of means. About seventeen years ago John Ross returned to this country on business, when he purchased and took back with him the machinery of both thrashing and grinding mills; and singular enough, during that time his respected and aged father died, and he had the melancholy satisfaction of being present to perform the last sad duties to his respected parent.”

My comments :

  • William Ross was born in 1771 in Berrydale and presented for baptism by his father Donald.
  • William Ross married Helen Gunn – date unknown. They had at least the following children: Donald, Christina, John, Ann, William, Elizabeth, David. That such a large family managed to eke a living out of such poor land is extraordinary.
  • In the 1841 census the family are living in Badrinsary having been turned out from their comfortable way of life in Auchencraig by the Laird of Langwell, Donald Horne.
  • The 1841 census shows William Ross age 72 as a Tenant (Farmer) in Berriedale, Badrinsary. At home are Helen his wife age 55, John age 28, Ann age 25, William age 19,  Elizabeth age 16, David age 13.
  • The 1851 census shows the Ross family still in Badrinsary. William is getting on in years at 82. Daughter Christina age 40 is now living at home along with David who is a labourer. Both are unmarried.
  • The 1861 census shows William at 90 years of age. Helen is 75. Christina and David are still at home   Granddaughter Janet Gunn age 18 is in the house.
  • William died in 1862 at the age of 93. Helen lived on a few more years and died in 1868 age 84. How very satisfactory that son John was home from New Zealand and present with his very old father William as he passed away. John signed his father’s death record.

  • By the 1871 census Christina and David are still at the Badrinsary croft. Their parents William and Helen have both died.
  • It is worth noting that while the Cheviot sheep were the cause of the clearances in Scotland, many of those who emigrated to New Zealand farmed sheep in their new homeland displacing native land owners in the process.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Achencraig Clearance. Article V, 2/ 10/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, and Neighbourhood – Part B

Article V. written by Alexander Gunn, aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 2 Oct 1879. Part B

"Though none of the Achencraig folk could be said to be rich, one could get the loan of a twenty pound note from a neighbour fast enough. They lived a frugal, simple, and honest life: industrious and pushing, and very comfortable. There was this difference between them and the Badbea folks, that while one pony was all the horses Badbea could boast of, the Achencraig folk could turn out one each, at least, and all their farming being done in the usual way they raised excellent crops. I have seen as good crops in Achencraig as I have seen anywhere, but no matter. It was laid waste, and the people, some of them born in the place, and who had reached the allotted span, had to tear themselves away from a locality associated with everything that made their lives happy and comfortable. It may be asked, Where did they find a resting place for the sole of their feet?

Berriedale Church and Newport
OS One-inch to the mile maps of Scotland,
st Edition, 1856-1891. Sheet 110-Latheron.
 Publication Date: 1877
This 21st C image shows the Berriedale 
Church, centre left, surrounded by land 
that is still unproductive 

A closer look at the unproductive land near the Berriedale church
Well some of them settled on a mossy piece of ground above Berriedale Church, and some at Newport, on a rocky barren soil, which no manner of toil or expense could make fruitful, whilst some of them went off the estate altogether, and I do believe none of them succeeded to the same amount of ease and comfort and contentment which they enjoyed at Achencraig. Ah, what a loss to the county! The money which was emanated by means of fishing and curing, and all the other industries connected with the place, is lost for the sake of raising a few fat sheep.

A Cheviot sheep at Badbea
A sheep is a very harmless animal, and a very useful and necessary animal, for sure the introduction of Cheviot sheep by Sir John Sinclair then of Berriedale, has been the greatest curse and the most unfortunate disaster ever befell the north. What devastated Kildonan Straths, as well as Ousedale, but the same thing! And Sir John, who had been held up as one of the greatest friends to agriculture that Britain has ever produced, was the man who inaugurated the system of clearances referred to above."
Sir John Simclair at Thurso