Monday, November 16, 2015

Peter the Irishman – Article XIII - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea & Neighbourhood – Part A

Article XIII written by Alexander Gunn aka A native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 4 March 1880 – Part A

Berriedale Worthies - Peter the Irishman

Berrydale in 1820 by William Daniell  - showing herring fishing activities

"It is a strange thing, account for it as you may, that wherever you go, even at the most unlikely places, you meet with an Irishman. Peter Maganyle, a native of the (? ) Lake, found his way to Berriedale. I understand he came there in connection with the herring fishing, which was at that time carried on there. Peter took up his abode on the shore. He was the owner of a "kaste of a cuddy" - true to the instincts of his "counthry," where the cuddy is an indispensable member of an Irishman's family."

"Peter was a merchant, and kept a small shop of miscellaneous goods. I remember patronising him once, when a young shaver. Having gone to Berriedale to meet a wedding party at the Inn and wishing to make an appearance I invested a bawbee in snuff in Peter's shop. I received the weight of a sixpenny piece and that is the only time I ever saw a coin used to weigh out merchandise. Peter was not a bad sort of an Irishman, and he lived in peace and harmony with his neighbours."

Berriedale shore berriedalecirca1910
Berriedale shore Postcard of Berriedale about 1910 just inside the harbour

My Comments:

McGuingle, McGungle, McGungill, McGunnel, or Maganyle ?

Alexander Gunn seems to have a slightly bemused attitude toward the Irish while other locals struggle with the spelling of this Irish surname.

In another article (to be blogged later) Alexander Gunn states:
  • “The school at Berriedale was a mixed school. Gentle and simple meet on a common footing. It was the only school between the Ord and Latheron. The young ladies from Achastle, the daughters of Mr Grieve, the overseer and factor for the estate, stood side by side with the daughters of Peter MacGungle, an Irishman who lived down at the shore, and the only Irishman, I suppose, in the county at the time.”
As before, with Gunn, I have had to do a bit of my own research to find out about this ‘Berriedale Worthy’s’ wife and family.

Peter’s wife was Williamina or Minney Polson. Minney and Peter had at least three daughters and one son. The girls went to school at Berriedale. Peter the son may have gone to school also.

The first daughter Elizabeth Polson McGuingle was born in Berriedale on 18 Jan 1827. She was also known as Betsy McGungle. The 1841 census shows 13 year old Betsy working as a servant for some Polsons (probably relations) in Blackpark, Lybster.

Minney McGungle was born on 27 Dec 1833. The family were shown as living in East Clyth.

Williamina McGungill was born about 1836. I can’t find her birth record but sadly have found her death at age 22 from Phthisis Pulmonalis - which is tuberculosis of the lungs, gradually causing the body to waste away. Poor woman she had this for nine years before she died. She was at Blackpark Reisgill and was buried at Latheron. Peter is shown as a fisherman on his daughter’s death certificate.


Son Peter McGunnel was born 29 Dec 1831 in Berriedale. On this birth record I found his mother was also known as Minney.

skaffie Herring Fleet leaving Wick Harbour
An early Scotttish fishing boat with an open deck. Fishing boats leaving Wick harbour also with open decks

Now as for father Peter - it seems he managed to avoid the census man. I cannot find him on any census records although it stands to reason that his name may have been recorded in some other way I have not figured out yet. Being about the only Irishman in the country at the time (as Gunn claims) maybe Peter McGungle did not want to be located by the census man. I am intrigued by his “kaste of a cuddy”. A cuddy is a small room on or in a boat. Perhaps he was in his cuddy on census nights! I guess that the cuddy was remembered by Alexander Gunn as it was a different feature on a boat to the open deck fishing boats in common usage in Scotland at that time.

boats helmsdale Branscombe boat
Boats at Helmsdale. Obviously modern boats but some having a small ‘cuddy’ or cabin. A fishing boat at Branscombe with a small cuddy or cabin.

But Peter also had a small merchant business, probably from his house by the shore, selling this and that, including snuff. Snuff is a smokeless tobacco made from ground tobacco leaves. It is snuffed up the nose after a pinch of snuff has been placed on the back of the hand. Snuff has been used in Scotland for hundreds of years and was in common usage at the time of Gunn’s story. A bawbee is a coin of low value.

An exchange of snuff Land of Heather V._Alfeldt
‘An exchange of snuff’
Source: Land of Heather
A man takes snuff from a box in a 19th-century painting by V. Alfeldt.
4 3 1880 NE (Article XIII) part a copy 1
Sorry for the quality of this scan. That’s how it came. It was not easy for me to transcribe. Can anyone read the name of the lake?

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