Friday, October 30, 2015

The Miller of Berriedale - George Fraser - A Supplementary Chapter – Part A

The article The Miller of Berriedale was written by “Onlooker” in reply to Mills and Millers by “A Native of Badbea”. As it gives such an interesting description of George Fraser (who was still alive at the time of writing) and a little bit about his wife Bell, I have decided to include it in this series of Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood.

It was printed in the Northern Ensign on 4 March 1880. The letter is so long I will blog it in Part A and Part B.

To The Editor of the Northern Ensign

SIR: - I last week’s Ensign “A Native of Badbea” gives a brief sketch of George Fraser, the miller of Berriedale. Natives of the dear old place – famous for its natural grandeur, and the Swiss-like beauty of its scenery – who are readers of the Northern Ensign, cannot fail to be deeply interested in the graphic, historical, geographical, and pleasing biographical “Recollections” which have graced its pages of late, from the fertile pen of this ancient “Badbeaite.” For my own part I have to say that I have been exceedingly interested in these articles. They have, moreover, to a large degree been very instructive. The writer’s chaste reference to a near relative of my own showed me that he can compress many facts in a few well-chosen sentences. But to write the history of the “Miller of Berriedale” and not to introduce any reference to Bell, the miller’s wife does seem matter for grave astonishment, and a seeming want of gallantry on the part of the “historian.” I hope it may not appear invidious if I should, in the following brief notice, seek to supplement what has already been given of the miller’s history, with a few personal recollections of the man, and a kindly word or two about his wife Bell.

Through forty years of faithful service, of unswerving honesty, and almost, I may add, of stern integrity, has George Fraser reigned a little king in his sphere at Berriedale – a man of great physical proportions, possessed of strong mental qualities, stout-hearted enough at times when he “opened-fire” on some poor unfortunate soul who, by laziness, or perhaps through the unpardonable sin of whispering in the Gaelic tongue to a fellow workman, had thereby excited his ire – and nothing opened the floodgates of his wrathful indignation more than when he came upon any of his workmen indulging in idleness, smoking, or, above and beyond all else, chatting in Gaelic. Nothing seemed to be more obnoxious to his notions of “good manners” and “honesty” than for his men to drop the English and begin to speak in what, to him, was the unknown tongue. Then was the time to “stand by for squalls.” The Miller’s invectives, at such a supreme moment, were none of the choicest. They were sufficiently pungent to make the hairs stand on end upon the head of everybody within earshot, and liable to be affected by strong expressions. During one of these vocal storms at the mill, I have seen the truant youths of old Berriedale flying in all directions, like chaff from the thrashing floor. These volleys came forth spontaneously, roundly, and in successive detonations loud enough to be heard above the grinding stones of the mill, or the hissing saw as it cuts its way through the beech log on the bench.

Bishops Lydeard Mill - Meal Floor Bishops Lydeard Mill - Spur Wheel and Wallower
Bishops Lydeard Mill - Meal Floor Bishops Lydeard Mill - Spur Wheel and Wallower

Nevertheless, George Fraser, on the whole, was a kind-hearted man. His wrathful moods were shortlived, and burned quickly out in their unique fierceness. Beneath a rough surface was a large, warm heart that glowed with kindness and encouragement, especially to the young and rising generation around him. “His bark was aye waur than his bite.” George was neither a smoker nor a snuffer. I well remember, though it is many years ago, of often looking up the portentous inscription on the lintel of his work-shop and mill doors – “No smoking allowed here,” and woe-betide the luckless wight who dared to infringe on the stern orders by lighting his “cutty” within reading distance. His only safety and peace of mind lay in his heels. Although an abstainer from tobacco and snuff, George was by no means a good Templar: on the contrary, he had all his life long a strong predilection for the “national beverage,” and the hearty style with which he was wont to toss over his glass at the old inn table was one of the incidents of his life to be ever remembered by those who have witnessed such a customary event, followed by a smack of relish and a loud “guffaw” of laughter bursting up from his broad, open chest, which made roof and rafter ring, and might be re-echoed by hill and valley.

To Be Continued.

A Merry Meeting Geikes image electric scotland

My Comments:
  • There is some query about this mill being a meal mill and/or a saw mill but I wonder if the comments about the noise of the grinding stones and the hissing saw suggest that it was used as both – is this possible? The old maps call it a ‘Corn and Saw Mill.’
Golspie Mill stones
Old mill stones at the Golspie Mill
  • The No Smoking Rules seem to me to possibly be associated with safety as much as anything else. I have included a couple of photos of the workings of other mills and it is clear that a great deal of the ‘machinery’ was wooden. A fire in the interior of a mill would have been disastrous for anyone inside. Sparks in the dry chaff would also be very dangerous.
  • Noting the wooden working parts, floors and walls of the mill explains also why George’s skill as a joiner (he calls himself a carpenter in the 1861 census) were so useful.
  • George Fraser married Isabella Wink of Elgin in Latheron on 28 November 1832. Correction: In my previous blog I quoted Roydhouse who wrote that George Fraser married Isabella Wink in Moray – that seems to be incorrect. The marriage record says they were married in Latheron.
  • There were two daughters of the marriage. Margaret married Andrew Logan and they migrated to New Zealand c.1865. Betty married James Sinclair, master-mason of Berriedale. James Sinclair was the informant at the deaths of both George and Bell.

George Fraser 1 George Fraser 2
George Fraser 3 George Fraser 4

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mills and Millers - Article XII - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, and Neighbourhood – Part D

Article XII written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 19 February 1880 – Part D

Old corn and saw mill Berriedale
Caption: Waterpowered sawmill, Berriedale. The old waterwheel is just visible in the lower opening.

“After the Berriedale and Langwell straths were depopulated, Millary and Langwell mills were discontinued, and a new mill, on an improved scale, was built at Berriedale, a short distance below the west bridge. John Mackay, and John Gunn, Badbea, were millers in succession in the new mill, but the laird wanted a man who combined the trades of miller and joiner, which was found in the person of George Fraser, who has been miller at Berriedale ever since, fully a period of 40 years. Many a pocketful of "shellings" we used to pick up about the mill in our school days, as well as the warm oatmeal from the mill, which George many a time served us with on a shovel. Sometimes we got a "scowl" from the miller when we went beyond the score, as school boys are apt to do at a time; but George was a most kind, obliging, and agreeable man, and a faithful public servant, as the long time he has fulfilled his office, with credit to himself and satisfaction to the public clearly testifies. Our sincere wish is that his employer and the public may have his faithful services for many years to come.”

Old corn and saw Mill Berriedale
Location of the old Corn and Saw Mill Berriedale

  My Comments:
  • Scotland’s Places refers to the ‘Corn and Saw Mill’ at Berriedale. The mill was originally a meal mill. The date the mill was adapted for use as a saw mill is not known although it was shown on old maps in 1871 as a Corn and Saw Mill. At some stage (as my next post will show) the mill seems to have been used as both a corn and saw mill at the same time. The old mill now has protected status as a listed building (B) 7922: Berriedale, Saw Mill
  • HER.Highland states about the Berriedale mill: Described in listing as a former grain or meal mill, despite the house name of Berriedale Saw Mill. An L-plan structure comprising two separate buildings; a hipped roof one-storey and attic structure with roof vent and hoist with a wooden extension attached to the S gable. The second building is attached at right angles to the first's N gable and is one story and basement rubble structure with roof lighting and chimneys in each gable.
Listed Building Corn & Saw Mill Berriedale corn and saw Mill
The Berriedale Mill from the road
  • Alexander Gunn writes positively and with kindness about George Fraser – who was still alive at the time of his writing. He obviously doesn’t hold any grudge against George personally but in other places he tells of the hardships his father and family suffered over time by the replacement of John Gunn with George Fraser as miller at Berriedale.

  • John Gunn’s obituary tells us that after he left the Army, and with his wife Marion Sinclair of Badbea, they settled down in Badbea, and John became miller of Ousdale (aka Ausdale) mill. “He never served a day to the business of a miller, but that made no difference to him. He could turn his hand to anything which came his way. He was a millwright, engineer, mason, joiner and everything…”

  • The meal mill of Ausdale during those years was working, grinding the corn from Auchencraig and whatever was still grown at Ausdale. The 'girnal man' (miller) was John Gunn, father of Alexander Gunn of Badbea. This mill closed with the clearing of Auchencraig in 1830, much to the loss of John Gunn who had with considerable labour, and no little expense, bought and fitted new mill-stones in the mill. Thereafter, what little corn was grown at Badbea and available for grinding, was taken to the Berriedale mill. (Roydhouse Unpublished manuscript 1977)
  • The 1841 census for Badbea shows John Gunn as a fisherman. So after losing his job at the Berriedale mill John and Marion stayed on in Badbea for a decade raising their family and trying to make ends meet by fishing. Marion died in 1837.

  • In his statement, prepared for the Crofter Commission (not delivered to the Commission on account of time but published in the Northern Ensign, Nov 15, 1883) Alexander Gunn states: “When Sir John Sinclair, who was proprietor before Mr Horne, raised a regiment of Volunteers or Fencibles, as they were then called, 60 men from Berriedale joined the regiment, and they were considered the pick of the regiment. My father who stood nearly six feet was one of them. My father and grandfather served their Queen and country, and the martial spirit is not extinct in the family yet, as one of my sons carries the colours in the Scottish Rifles … My father was evicted from Badbea, and also an uncle of mine, who had been bedridden for some years. He removed to the barn at the term, but he was only there a few weeks when two men appeared with graips and spades and 'tirred' the roof of the barn, leaving the sick man with nothing to cover him but the blue vault of heaven. He lay there for five days before he could be moved to Helmsdale - a distance of 8 miles - being the nearest place where he could get shelter.” The Laird responsible for this eviction was Donald Horne. 
  • These were the first known evictions from Badbea and occurred about 1845. Several other families were also evicted at that time. Alexander Gunn did not disclose the reason for the removal of his father and uncle, but stated that there was no rent outstanding at the time. 
  • Giving more detail of the history of the mills in Ausdale and Berriedale, Alan Roydhouse states: 
  • “This chapter has already mentioned the closure of the meal mill of Ausdale. The mill of Berriedale then in use, and which all the estate relied upon for their grinding of their corn, was sited at a place known as Ruecarigie on the Langwell burn. The mill, which had served the 23 families of the Langwell Strath, and some from the Berriedale Strath, had as 'girnal man', John Mackay. Following the clearing of the straths for sheep, the old mill fell into disrepair. With the closing of the Ausdale mill, the produce from Auchencraig and Badbea warranted repairs to the Reucarigie mill, but the proprietor, James Horne, considered it better to build a new mill. Accordingly a new mill was erected just below the confluence of the Langwell and Berriedale Streams. John Mackay, the 'girnal man' of the old mill, was transferred to the new mill, but he was aged, and within a year was replaced by John Gunn, late miller of Ausdale. This coincided with the death of James Horne (1830/31) who was succeeded by his nephew, Donald Horne. Auchnacraig was immediately 'turned out' and the new laird decided upon a tradesman-joiner, millwright, miller and sawyer combined. Such a man with the necessary capabilities was found in George Fraser from Morayshire. He was to serve in his capacity as miller etc for upwards of fifty years, commencing at Berriedale in 1832, from where he departed life in 1889.” 
  • “Following the arrival of George Fraser, John Gunn worked with him on occasion, but by 1835 his services were no longer required. He remained at Badbea, where, in 1837 his wife, Mary Ann Sinclair, commonly known as 'Marion' passed away, and John Gunn shortly after evicted from Badbea.” “Before losing sight of George Fraser, the following item appeared in a tribute to his memory published in the 'Northern Ensign' of 3rd September, 1889: ‘For many years Mr Fraser kept a regular diary not only of the local births, deaths and marriages, but also of all the noticeable events of the day. This diary is quite a modern history of the district. For long, when anyone wanted any historical information, it was to George Fraser they went, and his authority was never disputed. It is hoped this diary will be preserved, as much of it is more than mere local interest. His annual trips to Wick are duly recorded. At that time there were twenty-seven public houses between Berriedale and Wick, or nearly one to every mile. Every penny of his expenditure is recorded, and every letter is filed and docketed…” 
  • “Upon his appointment at Berriedale, George Fraser had returned to Moray to marry Isabella Wink. She pre-deceased her husband by seven years. There were two daughters of the marriage. Margaret married Andrew Logan and they migrated to New Zealand c.1865. Betty married James Sinclair, master-mason of Berriedale. Unhappily, despite numerous enquiries, no trace of George Fraser's diary has been found at the tine of writing this history."

    Roydhouse. Unpublished manuscript 1977
In my next blog I will write more detail and some interesting anecdotes about George Fraser, Miller of Berriedale.

19 2 1880 NE (Article XII) part b copy 6
1879, 17 July NE Original 1 copy B

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Famous Fox Hunt - Article XII - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, and Neighbourhood – Part C

Article XII written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 19 February 1880 – Part C

“The foxes were very plentiful in some parts of the estate, and especially that part of it called "Clachan Garbh," which was swarming with them. Alexander Fraser was in the habit, from time to time, of collecting all the shepherds of Berriedale, with their collie dogs and fowling pieces, to join him in his raids on the foxes. On one of these occasions, the hunter unearthed three full grown foxes in the Clachan Garbh. They made for the level ground, climbing the rocks with all speed, and reached the level just at the east end of Badbea. They then took to the westward, and Alexander Fraser and his hounds in hot pursuit, accompanied by the shepherds and their collies.”

Foxhounds at the Buccleuch Hunt Barbara Carr
Fox hounds A shepherd’s Collie
Source: Barbara Carr 3446610

“The foxes passed close in front of Gordon Grant's house, when George Anderson, one of the shepherds, in his eagerness to kill the foxes, fired at them, but unfortunately missed his aim, and lodged most of the contents of his piece in the thigh of Eppy Grant, Gordon's sister, who had chanced to be standing at the house door at the time. The poor woman fell to the ground, uttering a loud scream, and it was thought she was mortally wounded, but a doctor who was sent for extracted some 30 lead pellets from her flesh, and poor Eppy was not long in recovering. The huntsmen never halted their pursuit, notwithstanding what had occurred, and I well remember seeing the three foxes, nose to tail, and the hounds and collies in full cry behind. One of them was run down about Auchencraig burn and was carried home in triumph.”

Fox foraging  along Allt Dubh-mor Dead fox
Mr fox foraging A dead fox

“Many a good fright we got with Sandy’s hounds, as they used to pay us a visit occasionally in the passing by, but Sandy himself caused no dread. He was a social homely man, and a kind and obliging neighbour.”

The area the foxes ran was probably somewhere in this vicinity.

House 5 Show photo 1 On the Coastal Track 3kms from berriedale
The north end of the Badbea settlement. On the coastal track 3kms from Berriedale near the north end of Badbea.

My Comments:  Re the Famous Fox Hunt

  • I think this hunt probably took place before 1841 as I can’t find Alexander Fraser or George Anderson in the 1841 Latheron census records. Alexander Gunn, who witnessed the event, was still at Badbea in 1841 but gone by 1851.

  • While the illustration below was probably drawn several decades after the Badbea fox hunt it still tells the same story of the fox marauding the lambs and the gathering of locals to drive the fox out of the rocks and shoot him.

Highland Fox Hunting

  • But really I can’t help feeling this story is as much about poor Eppy Grant who got peppered with lead pellets, as it is about the frenzied fox hunters.

  • Eppy (aka Elizabeth) was born in Ausdale about the turn of the century. Her mother was Janet Munro and John Grant her father, was a Tailor. There were at least six children in this family. The family may have been evicted from Ausdale to Badbea at the time of other evictions when James Anderson leased Ausdale and built his big house.

Badbea memorial
  • Eppy (aka Elizabeth) never married and lived with her brother Gordon and his wife Georgina in a stone house near the north end of the Badbea village.

1841 Badbea census pg 2 side A 1851 Badbea census pg 4
1841 Census Badbea 1851 Census Badbea
  • This may be the remains of the Badbea house of Gordon Grant.
104 photo 2 133
Remains of house at the north end of the Badbea settlement Woman near the door of her house – Newtonmore Outdoor museum
  • Here was Eppy, by chance standing at the door of the Grant family home, perhaps wondering what the on-coming commotion is about, when she was shot, at virtually point blank range, by an irresponsible shepherd, and seriously injured. Eppy screamed, fell down, and for all the hunters knew was dead. But still the hunt went on. How outrageous. Thankfully someone called the doctor who removed 30 lead pellets from Eppy’s thigh. That must have hurt. Who knows whether or not the doctor found all the pellets, or if Eppy suffered any long term effects from lead poisoning, but this dreadful incident can’t have been exactly good for her health.

  • Eppy died in 1855 at age 55 at the Badbea house of her brother Gordon, from pericarditis (a heart condition). Her family had called the doctor a week before her death and were with her at the end. Gordon signed her death record. Eppy was buried at the Navidale cemetery just over the Ord from Badbea. She does not seem to have had a gravestone – which is perhaps not surprising as she is described as a pauper in the 1851 census record and on her death certificate. She lived at Badbea for 36 years. What a tough life she had.
Elizabeth Grant 1855 Death
162 19 2 1880 NE (Article XII) part b copy 5
Navidale cemetery

1879, 17 July NE Original 1 copy B