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

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