Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Successful Badbea Boys - Article XIII - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea & Neighbourhood – Part E

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

Successful Badbea Boys

“I believe that natives of Berriedale and neighbourhood have gained to themselves positions in society, according to their circumstances, as honourable as are to be found anywhere; and if we trace their descendants, we find them following the example of their fathers.”

As an example of this we find descendants and natives of Badbea at the present time occupying very honourable places.

  • One of them is the gentleman whose very interesting diary from Livingstonia is so familiar to the readers of the Ensign

  • Two of them are prosecuting the study of medicine

  • And one of these is qualifying himself for missionary work in the foreign field.

  • Another holds the important and responsible position of head-master in one of the board schools in your own town of Wick, with credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of the public.

  • Another has charge of a most extensive business in London

  • Another has the management of an extensive and responsible business in connection with the shipping interest in Glasgow;

  • Another is the enterprising and much-respected miller of Golspie Mills.

  • There are several also in positions of trust in Caithness and elsewhere: so that the spirit of perseverance and enterprise which characterised the fathers seems to have been imbibed by the children, and, as a matter of course, success follows.

My Comments:

First comment is that this blog has given me a ‘headache’! It’s been tricky for me – not a Gunn, although connected to the Gunns through Marion Sinclair, wife of John Gunn of Badbea, who was my great, great grandmother’s half sister – to work out which Gunn was which, especially since given names are repeated in families over and over again. I have tried to add correct dates to names to clarify who I think Alexander Gunn is referring to.

But yes that is an impressive list of achievements listed above. A Native of Badbea has rolled out the big Gunns indeed.

Although he has not actually named them, most of the men mentioned in Alexander Gunn’s list are relatives of his and descendants of his parents John Gunn (1787-1876) and Marion Sinclair (1787-1837) of Badbea. Sad to say some of them died within a very short time of his writing.

Livingstonia - John Gunn

The man from Livingstonia was John Gunn, (1851-1880) eldest son of William Gunn (1825-1906) and Margaret Simpson (1829-1922) of Dunbeath and later of Redmill, Whitburn. William was the fifth son of John Gunn and Marion Sinclair of Badbea. The Livingstonia Mission, in Central Africa, named in honour of the explorer David Livingstone was founded by the Free Church of Scotland. It was initially based on the southern shores of Lake Malawi at Cape Maclear, but was moved not long after the death of John Gunn to a higher and healthier site. John died of Blackwater fever in 1880. More information on the history of Livingstonia is available on-line.

As Alexander Gunn mentions John wrote several articles from his diary which were published in the Northern Ensign. I have included a small extract below. 

The Aberdeen Journal 1881 notes:

Mr. John Hood, sculptor, Wick is presently engaged in the preparation of a very handsome column monument which is about to be erected in Berriedale burial ground, to the memory of the late Mr. John Gunn, Free Church Missionary, Livingstonia, Central Africa.  It is constructed of polished Aberdeen granite, about twelve feet in height and has a very imposing appearance.  On the front tablet is the following inscription "In affectionate memory of John Gunn, Dunbeath Mills, missionary, Livingstonia, Lake Nyassa, where he died 1st April 1880 age 29 years.  Well done good and faithful servant". On the right hand side "One of the Pioneers of Livingstonia, he was much admired for his eminent success.  At daybreak, after his death about 400 natives were seated before the house weeping". On the left hand side "Friends in Dunbeath and elsewhere, by whom he was much esteemed, have raised this monument to his memory".

A transcription of the Obituary for John Gunn, Missionary in Livingstonia, can be located at

The memorial at Berriedale Old Cemetery also says about this family:

In affectionate memory of John Gunn, Dunbeath Mills, Missionary of Livingstonia, Lake Nyassa. Where he died 1 April 1880 aged 29 years. George A Gunn died Lenzie 6 March 1900 aged 31; Janet Gunn died Caves, Isle of Wight 18 November 1900 aged 29; Alexander Gunn, Sgt 93 Highlanders died Upper Burmah 21 July 1903 aged 31; sister and three brothers born at Dunbeath. Angus Gunn Doctor for Helmsdale and Loth died 4 May 1882 aged 29.

Here are the mother,sisters and a brother-in-law of those who died in the above sad list.

Seated from left Annie, Margaret Simpson Gunn, Margaret. Standing Isabella, James Wallen and Catherine.

Angus Gunn 

Of the two studying to be doctors one of them was Angus Gunn (1853-1882) another son of William Gunn and Margaret Simpson. Angus died of cancer in 1882.

Dr William Gunn 

The other doctor was William Gunn (1854-1935) who later served in Futuna. This William was the fifth son of James Gunn (1818-1893), miller at Westerdale Mill, and Margaret McLeod (1815-1899).

Rev Dr William Gunn - Futuna 

The missionary mentioned was the same William Gunn (1854-1935) who with his wife Margaret Mathieson (1854-1932) were missionaries in Futuna, New Hebrides between 1883 and 1917. Three of their six young children died on Futuna. He is referred to in the missionary literature as the Rev Dr William Gunn, Medical Missionary of the United Free Church of Scotland.


1. Meeting with the Catechumens, North Coast of Futuna. 2. Rev. Dr. Gunn, Futuna. 3. Futuna Church. 4. North Coast of Futuna. 5. Manse, Futuna.” Press cutting of five photographs depicting Futuna Island. The Presbyterian church first provided doctors in 1883, when Dr. William Gunn (1853-1935) arrived from Scotland, and by the early 1900s there were six medical missionaries in the New Hebrides [Vanuatu]. He worked on Futuna until 1917 and died at Roseville, New South Wales.

George Gunn

George Gunn (1846-1933) F.E.I.S., F.S.A. (Scot) was 42 years headmaster at North Public School Wick. George was a son of James Gunn and Margaret McLeod. His wife was Helen McCulloch (1853-1933) L.L.A., F.E.I.S.

George assisted with the building of the Badbea memorial cairn. Both George and Helen officiated at the unveiling of the Badbea memorial in 1912 both giving very informative speeches. Not only were the Badbea descendants very high achievers but many also had big families with George noting the difficulty he had in selecting the names of those to be included on the plaques “One of the natives of the district who died some time ago had, I found, 125 descendants, including 68 grandchildren and 46 great grand children!" 

Sons of James Gunn and Margaret McLeod 

Angus1844-1928 Miller Portagower, William 1854-1935 Futuna Missionary, Alex 1852-1936 Tailor, George1846-1933 Wick School, John 1842-1927 Golspie Mill. 

John Gunn - Golspie 

John Gunn of Golspie Mill (1842-1927) son of James Gunn and Margaret McLeod.

At the foot of the Badbea Memorial Cairn – John Gunn, formerly of Golspie Mills, and now of Glasgow; Miss Sutherland, daughter of Mr and Mrs Sutherland; Mr David Sutherland, New Zealand, by whose instructions the memorial was erected, Mrs Sutherland. Source: John O Groat Journal 25 Dec 1924

I have not found out who had the business in London or Glasgow but suspect that the Glasgow man may have been a son of our ‘Native of Badbea’.

No comments:

Post a Comment