Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Local Celebrities, John Nicholl - Article XI - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, & Neighbourhood – Part E

Article XI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 29 January 1880 – Part E

Local Celebrities

John Nicoll

“John Nicoll was well known and much respected in the village. He was the only merchant in the place. He was a shoemaker, and supplied the district the shoes, and was the means of abolishing the local manufacture of "brogues." He also supplied the district with everything required for the households of the inhabitants, from a needle to an anchor. His amiable wife was also much esteemed, and considering the population, they made a fair thing of it, and their removal by the hand of death was universally regretted.”

An egg box to safely transport eggs to market A wicker creel for peat
023 027
Grocery shop in Timespan Helmsdale Pottery jars in Timespan Helmsdale

My Comments:

Small Grocery Shops

Small shops at one end of the family residence were quite common in the Highlands. Some of the goods were imported and others traded locally such as eggs. It was also common to have a shoemaker’s workshop at the same premises such as this house of my great, great, grandparents at Rangag. These shops were also an important communal meeting place where people would stop when they came to buy or collect mail from the nearby inn and catch up on news. I am glad Alexander Gunn mentioned the wife of John Nicoll even if he didn’t give her a name. Her name was Jane Tait and she was from Wick. They had married on 6 Feb 1840.

The dwelling house of my great, great grandparents at Rangag. The front was used for a grocery shop, the middle the family residence, while the extension at the rear was the shoemaking workshop.

Reay's Village Grocer

Village grocer, William Innes Manson, in 1855 used to travel up and down Strath Halladale in his horse and cart selling at the following prices:-
  • Butter 1/- per lb
  • Eggs 5½d per dozen
  • Sugar 4/- per lb
  • Tea 2/-4d per half lb
  • Coffee 1/-8d per lb
  • Peas Meal 2/- per lb
  • Flour 3/-9d a Stone
  • Oat Meal 20/- a Boll
  • Bere Meal 15/- a Boll
  • Barley 2/-2d a Stone
  • Biscuits 6d per lb
  • Indigo 6d per lb
  • Soft Tobacco 1/-3d per lb
  • Tobacco 4/- per lb
  • Molasses 11/-2d per lb

The Brogues 

Alexander Gunn has mentioned them before - because of the considerable distances people walked often in wet and cold conditions – ‘brogues’ made of locally cured leather were not durable and were smelly. Many people went bare feet of necessity. But some of the shoes made by a craftsman were of impressive quality such as these in the Laidhay Museum – manufacture probably in the early 1870s.
These old shoes were found at Badbea. Even though they are now delapidated it is clear they were originally well made. They are at the Laidhay Museum. 

More about John and Jane.

Census 1841

The 1841 census shows that Jane was 20 years younger than John and they had a 5 month old baby named Anne. They also have a female servant – John’s sister Helen Nicoll, and an Ag Lab (Agricultural Labourer).

1841 Census John Nichol copy
Census 1841

Census 1851

The 1851 census tells us that John was farming 5 acres as well as running the shop – he is now described as a grocer. The family has grown to: Anne 10, Alexander 6, Elizabeth 5, George 2, and John 3 months. There are three adult women also living there as House Servants including John’s sister Helen Nicoll and niece Elizabeth Wilson.

Some agricultural implements such as John may have sold in his shop. Timespan museum

Census 1861

The 1861 census records four of the children at home including the youngest daughter Jane aged 8. Sister Helen is still living with the family and niece Elizabeth Wilson is now a dressmaker and teacher so she has obviously managed to get herself some independent income.
John is surrounded by good women!

Death 1865 John

In 1865 at age 75 John was sick for 9 days and then died of unknown causes. He was still living in Berriedale and running his business.
Death John Nicoll 1865 copy
John Nicoll Death 1865

Universally Regretted

I have not been able to locate the death record for Jane. Following John’s death, she may have remarried or moved to another district. Alexander Gunn indicates he was aware of her death and it was much regretted, as with John’s, by those who knew them.

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