Dornoch and Barrow’s Castle

Hamish Mackenzie OBE, was born in 1937, graduated from Oxford, qualified as a Chartered Accountant and held senior executive positions in industry. In retirement in Ross-shire he has been President of the Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland and the U.K., played a leading role in the Tain & Easter Ross Civic Trust and chaired Tarbat Community Council, and he continues to research local history. During lockdown he published A Highland Legacy: the Maitlands of Tain, their Work and their World. The book tells the story of a family of architects who designed an astonishing range of buildings across the Northern Highlands in Victorian and Edwardian times. It brings to life the people who commissioned them, some of whom left footprints on the sands of time, others long since forgotten but interesting in their historical context, and it explains the social, religious and political factors that underpinned their demand. An earlier book, Tain, Tarbat Ness and the Duke, 1833 (about the efforts of the first Duke of Sutherland to incorporate the area between Tain and Tarbat Ness into his empire) is available from the Tain & District Museum.

The years 1870 to 1905 are regarded as one of the boom periods for Scottish domestic architecture, a period characterised by growth in the building of villas. Northern burghs and towns saw extensive development, particularly on the pastoral fringes. A number of factors led to this demand. One was the emergence of a new breed of client – men sufficiently successful in their profession or business to be able to afford the services of an architect, and sometimes the widows or unmarried daughters of such men. Another was the attraction of moving to the Highlands, particularly to burghs like Tain and Dornoch with golf courses and opportunities for social life and cultural events. Highland architects like A. Maitland & Sons of Tain met this demand by designing villas in a variety, and sometimes a mixture, of styles. Perhaps the most interesting mixture was in Dornoch.

A modern historian of Dornoch notes that ‘the 1890s saw a wide range of developments that transformed and modernised the burgh … an increasing number of inhabitants applying to the Dean of Guild for permission to extend existing properties or to construct new ones, and incomers to the town building their own holiday homes. … Dornoch was now attracting families of considerable wealth and status.’[i] The result was the building of several architect designed houses mainly on what was then the periphery of the old burgh, notably in what are now known as Evelix Road and Cnoc-an-Lobht. Many of these were designed by A. Maitland & Sons of Tain, who advertised in 1888, 1891, 1894 and 1895 for tenders to build new houses, and in 1896 and 1900 to effect alterations and additions to Burnside.

The Northfield in it’s context of the older town and the newer developments.
Image from Historylinks Archive Cat No:  | 2007_092_005 | Picture No: 4331
Monochrome postcard, from the Basil Hellier collection, showing the Burghfield House Hotel. The card is entitled Northfield, the property’s former name. The reverse of the card has a London address, and a Dornoch postmark of 10 Au 06, over a green Edward VII half-penny stamp.

Their most significant commission was in 1896, when the Maitlands advertised for tenders for building ‘a large residence’ in Dornoch for Mr J.J. Barrow.[ii] John James Jerome Barrow, to give him his full name, came from Derbyshire. His family had owned the largest collieries in the county and had developed iron foundries. They had sold the business in 1863 to the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, in which they became substantial shareholders. John Barrow, born in 1829, was a director of various railway companies, but his Staveley dividends enabled him to lead the life of a gentleman with sporting interests. He had a London house in Hyde Park Gardens and an estate of 100 acres at Holmewood, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. By 1891 he had taken a lease of Dornoch Castle from the Duke of Sutherland. The Castle, to-day a hotel, was then ‘the only shooting lodge in the kingdom which can boast of being situated not only within a Royal burgh, but in the very heart of a County town … the County Buildings are adjacent and a Sheriff Court is regularly held. The shootings in connection with it cover an area of 9,000 acres and there is much variety of game’.[iii] Barrow and his family entered into the life of Dornoch. He became a J.P., and was known as a major benefactor, and his wife Dorothea was particularly associated with the Dornoch Golf Club, of which Barrow himself, a keen golfer, had been one of the promoters.

Burghfield Hotel, Dornoch in 1900
Historylinks Image Archive Cat No:  | 2007_092_001 | Picture No: 3223
Monochrome postcard, from the Basil Hellier collection, showing the Burghfield Hotel. The card is titled Northfield, the original name of the Burghfield.

By 1896 Barrow wanted his own residence, and he chose to erect what became the most prominent building on the Dornoch skyline. The site he chose for Northfield – or ‘Barrow’s Castle’ as the irreverent called it – was in an elevated position on Cnoc-an-Lobht, from which it was highly visible from the centre of the town. At the heart of the building was a conventional Victorian villa. It was made even more visible by a Scottish baronial square tower, surmounted by a round turret. The juxtaposition of these two elements looks odd. The architectural historian John Gifford remarks that ‘the unadventurous domesticity’ of the building is ‘badly jolted by a very martial tower’.[iv] This must have been what their client wanted, but one wonders whether Barrow’s architects were happy with the instructions he gave them.

John Barrow died in 1903, and is commemorated in a stained-glass window on the south wall of the nave in Dornoch Cathedral. After his death Dorothea continued to spend time at Northfield. She sold it in 1921 to the immensely wealthy newspaper tycoon Lord Rothermere, who renamed it Burghfield House and used it to entertain the great and the good of the inter-war years. Rothermere also carried on an extensive correspondence with Adolf Hitler (who entertained him at the Berghof), Göring, Goebbels and Ribbentrop. Some of it must surely have emanated from Dornoch – though Rothermere did not return the Führer’s hospitality at Burghfield House. Rothermere died in Bermuda in 1940, his reputation in tatters after his toadying letters to Nazi leaders had been exposed in a sensational court case.

The property has retained the name Burghfield in its subsequent history as a hotel and as an outpost of the University of the Highlands and Islands.


[i] Michael Hook, A History of the Royal Burgh of Dornoch, Historylinks Museum, Dornoch, 2005, p.108.

[ii]  Ross-shire Journal, 24th January, 1896.

[iii] Evening Telegraph, 4th May, 1891.

[iv] John Gifford, Highlands and Islands, Pevsner Architectural Guides, The Buildings of Scotland, Penguin Books, 1992, p. 570.

The Collapsing Church and the Pyramid: Pococke’s Tour Part 4

On the 19th July 1760 Bishop Pococke and his fellow travellers came, from the Dornoch Firth,

a mile through a rich country to Taine pleasantly situated, about a quarter of a mile from the sea. They have here a Manufactury for preparing Flax and for spinning — are mostly Country people and Shopkeepers, and it is but a poor town. I was met at the entrance by the Magistrates and Minister, who would have presented me with the freedom of the borough if I could have staid.

The Bishop would have travelled through this land, at the edge of the ‘Kyle of Dornock’, en route to Tain. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

The town officials were clearly excited to have such an illustrious visitor and they gave him a tour around the Collegiate Church before he followed the main road out of the town, towards Fearn.

We passed over a heighth, and came into that fine plain country which extends all the way to Dingwall, and so on to; and in about three miles we came to the Abbey of Fern … Nothing remains but the Church and Chapels adjoyning to it … A most extraordinary accident happened here in the year 1742. There was a sudden hurricane in time of Divine Service, and about 600 Souls in the Church, the Couples all of a sudden gave way, and the roof of Deal slipped off on the North Side, and brought off the outer Casing of the Wall with it for some feet from the top, and the whole roof to the South fell in, the Canopies of the Seats saved them much, but 36 were killed and twelve [other accounts say 8] died afterwards of their fractures and bruises. A great number were stunned and had not the least recollection of what happened. The minister [Donald Ross] whom I saw, was found with his head pinned to the desk by the speaking board over him, and did not recover his senses untill the next day. They heard the Slates tumbling off and looking up, the roof instantly fell without any notice. They built a Kirk close to this, which together with the glebe house and offices took up most of the materials of the old Abbey

Fearn Parish Church, built in the remains of the Abbey. Today’s roof looks fairly secure. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

… I went to Catboll the seat of Roderick McLeod Esqr. I waited on this gentleman who is of the Episcopal Church, & a person of great learning, especially in the Scotch History and Coins, of which he showed me a curious collection, the gold he bought of Keith the nonjuring Bishop. And he presented me with some very valuable Coins in gold and silver: His land is on the highest ground of this Promontory called Tarbotness, and on that spot, he has raised a pyramid of Sods exactly on the model of the Egyptian pyramids; it is on a basis which at a medium may be about seven feet high and forms a terrace, I believe, about two feet wide all round it. It consists of seventeen steps each of them eighteen inches high, and about two feet wide; it is at top about two yards by three, & is one way twenty one yards at the steps. It has been raised by degrees, that is two or three steps every year by his Tennants.

I have never heard of the remains of such a pyramid! Does anyone know of it? It was common in the eighteenth century for part of tenants’ rent to be paid with labour for the landlord. Presumably McLeod diverted some of this labour from any farming or building operations he had to this pet project. I can only imagine what the tenants thought of it!

A little way beyond this hill we came to Ancherville, formerly the seat of one of the name of Ross, who from a very low beginning went into the service of Augustus of Poland, and being the only person who could bear more Liquor than his Majesty, got to be a Commissary, came away with plunder of Churches &c. in the war about the Crown of Poland, purchased this Estate of 100£ a year, built and lived too greatly for it, was for determining all things by the Sabre; and died much reduced in his Finances between twenty and thirty years agoe …

Half a mile more brought us to the house of Duncan Ross, Esqr., at Kindeace, who had met me at Geanies. After we had taken our repast Mr. McLeod of Geanies, and Mr. Mackay took leave, and Mr. Ross went with me to the ferry of Cromartie: from this part we saw Torbut which was the seat of Lord Cromartie, a most charming situation and delightfull place, finely wooded near the Sea.

And so we leave the Bishop, crossing over to the Black Isle and continuing his journey south. I hope you have enjoyed this traverse through the east Sutherland and Ross-shire, only a decade and a half after Culloden. The full account can be read on archive.org https://archive.org/details/toursinscotland00pocogoog/mode/2up

Pleasant Gardens and Ruined Cathedrals: Pococke’s Tour Part 3

In 1760 Bishop Pococke was not driving south to Dunrobin along the A9. Rather he would have been following the road, still passable on foot, that tightly hugs the coastline from Brora. He was therefore in an excellent position to see the remains of the broch at Carn Liath (I have omitted his description but it can be found on archive.org. https://archive.org/details/toursinscotland00pocogoog/mode/2up) and the gardens at Dunrobin, as well as the old castle – this being a generation before the current French chateau-style building was erected.

Coming along the coast near a mile to Dunrobin, Lord Sutherland’s castle and house, we were surprized at seeing half-a-dozen families forming so many groupes – viz., the man, his wife, and children, each under a coverlit, and reposing on the shoar, in order to wait for ye tyde to go a-fishing.

The old road just north of Dunrobin Castle, following the coastline where the fishing families were waiting. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

We arrived at Dunrobin, twenty miles from Dunbeath. This castle is finely situated on the end of a hill, which is cut off by a deep fossee, so that it appears on the south side, and next to the sea, like an old Celtic mount. Between it and the sea is a very good garden. The castle did consist of two square towers and a gateway. One tower only remains now, to which the house is built. There are good appartments in it, tho some have been destroyed by fire. The present earl has begun to plant the hanging ground from the house, and proposes to carry it on, which will make it exceeding fine. This castle was built by the first Earl of Sutherland.

A small mile to the north-west is a part called the old town and ye remains of a Pictish castle, which must have been the residence of the Thanes of Sutherland…

…We crossed the ferry at the river [Little Ferry at Loch Fleet] which rises towards Lough Schin, and they say it is most part of the way a fruitfull vale, and so it appeared as far as we could see. We travelled over a sandy head of land, and came to the cross set up there in memory of the defeat of the Danes (when they landed here in 1263) by William, Earl of Sutherland, and Gilbert Murray, Bishop of Cathness.

Remains of a pier on the south side of Loch Fleet, looking up the ‘fruitfull vale’ towards Rogart. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

We came to Domock, which is pleasantly situated on the head of land not far from … the Kyle of Dornock … There is very little trade in this town, and no manufacture but spinning of linnen yarn. The church here is the body of the old cathedral which belonged to the Bishop of Cathness. It seems to be pretty near a Greek cross, tho’ in the eastern part, now uncovered, there are four arches on each side supported by round pillars, with a kind of a Gothic Doric capital. In the body or nave are only three plain Gothic windows on each side; but what is most remarkable is a round tower within jiyning to the south-west angle of the middle part. It is built for a staircase, and is about ten feet in diameter, with geometrical stairs. The bishop’s house is a solid high building, consisting of four floors above the arched offices on which it was built. They show also the dean’s house, and it is probable several other houses now standing near the church did belong to the members of the chapter. These were granted with other parts of the church estate to the Earl of Sutherland. This is a royal burgh, of which they made me a burgess.

Dornoch’s manufacturing energies may not have impressed him, but it seems likely that a fair number of residents probably took in spinning from the gentleman farming a few miles along the road at Cyderhall.

In two miles we passed by Siderhall, a fine situation, now belonging to Lord Sutherland … Here a gentleman carries on a manufacture of flax in order to prepare for spinning; gives it out, and sells the yarn. A mile more brought us to Skibo, the seat of Mr. Mackay, half-brother to Lord Reay, and member of Parliament. It was a castle and country seat of the bishops of Cathness, very pleasantly situated over a hanging ground, which was improved into a very good garden, and remains to this day much in the same state, except that there are walls built, which produce all sorts of fruit in great perfection, and I believe not more than six weeks later than about London.

More flax-growing was in evidence the next day as he continued up the Kyle and when he arrived in Tain he saw where much of it ended up. We tend to assume that people in mid-eighteenth-century rural Scotland were self-sufficient farmers, so it’s interesting to see evidence of commercial flax production.

To be continued…

Petrified Oysters and Rock Grottoes: Pococke’s Tour Part 2

After surmounting the ‘frightfull hill’ of Berriedale and crossing the Helmsdale River in a coble, travelling Bishop Pococke probably started to relax as he entered the ‘beautifull country of Loth’, a parish that today most of us tend to dash through in our cars.

We soon came into the beautifull country of Loth. It is not easy to determine whether it had its name from the ancient Logi, situated here, or from some loughs. Loughs that have been drained, one part being called Lothmore (the great lough), another part Lothbeg (the little lough). A rivulet runs through it, formed by two streams which unite a little higher up. It is a fine narrow strip of arable ground, with several beautifull hillocks near the foot of the hills, and the supposed banks of the loughs are visible. Loughmore was situated towards the sea; Loughbeg is to the south-west. We took some refreshment at the house of Mr. [Robert] M’Cullogh, the minister at Lothkirk. He went with us to Lothbeg, where the banks of the lake are very plain, as well as the outlet that was made at the rocks towards the sea…

An old road running from the church at Clyne to Strath Brora, overlooking the area where Pococke searched for fossils. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

From this place we return’d to the road, and struck out of it again near the house of Clyne to the south-west, to a ridge of very low hills, where there are small quarries of a loose slaty limestone, in which there are petrified large oyster shells, the small Comu Ammonis, the Gryphites, and cockles, also the pecten, of most of which I brought away some specimens.

The editor of Pococke’s diary explains that what he actually did was employ ‘men to hew out masses of the rock, which he broke, and carried away a large quantity of shells.’ This claim of fairly large-scale excavation was apparently taken from Thomas Pennant’s travel account of 1769, but I can find no trace of it.

From this place we descended to the Brora, where to the west of the bridge is a beautifull natural cave opening to the river. We then went a little way to the south-west, to what is called the Dals, [the Doll] which is a most beautifull bason of a lake that has been drained, with an island in the middle of it. The flat is entirely covered with corn.

The River Brora, with the present village straight ahead and The Doll to the left. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

The cave was named as ‘Uai na Calman’. I wonder if anyone knows it? The ‘Dals’ is the Doll, still a rather lovely agricultural area. It is noticeable how often Pococke mentions good arable land. He was travelling at the prime time to see crops flourishing. That strip of good quality land down the east coast – and more patches appearing in what he describes as heath – would have been intensively maintained with manure to support the population. As he headed towards Strathsteven his geological interests resurface.

From that place we came to the sea-cliff, and descending, we afterwards ascended about fifty feet up a steep way to a grotto in the rock, where art has been used in cutting a bench or two, and about three feet higher is an inner appartment, which is worked out in a rough manner, with a large short kind of pillar between the two entrances, and opposite to the northern entrance is a part of it in which one may stand upright. As brambles and weeds grow upon the mouth of the outer cave, they have a beautifull effect, and the view of the fine strips of corn below and of the sea is most delightfull. This was probably the retreat of some hermit.

Does anyone know of this grotto today?

To be continued…

The Frightfull Hills of Berrydale: Pococke’s Tour Part 1

In the summer of 1760 inveterate traveller Bishop Richard Pococke passed down the east coast of Sutherland and Ross-shire. He was particularly interested in geology, fossils and archaeology. For brevity I have removed some of the detailed descriptions of the various brochs and other archaeological remains that he investigated, but you can read them – and his account of the rest of his tour – for yourself on archive.org. https://archive.org/details/toursinscotland00pocogoog/mode/2up

Pococke was one of the early travellers who published his account and it is written in the format of letters to his sister. We join him as he sits in Dunrobin Castle, recollecting his ascent of the Berriedale Braes, an experience familiar to all locals!

Dunrobin, 17th July 1760,

On the 16th the Sheriff and Mr. Sinclair accompanied me, and we travelled to the south mostly over heaths, diversified here and there with several spots of corn. We passed by the remains of a Picts house in which part of the circular wall remains, and in it an entrance stopped up. We came to a beautifull romantic vale, through which a rivulet runs that is formed a little higher by two branches which pass through such vales. They are called Berrydale … We soon reached the foot of those hills, out of which all the rivers rise that run to the east, north, and west.

This famous pass is called the Ord; and Berrydale river is difficult to pass in winter, when the torrent has brought down great stones, which are moved away in the summer to make an easy passage across that stream. The ascent to the Ord is steep, and the road over the steep hill is frightfull to those who have not been used to such kind of roads; but is not in the least difficult, only it is more pleasant to walk rather than ride over some parts of it …

Pococke then approaches what is today the fishing village of Helmsdale. It was then too, but it was not the herring port that we know which was created some decades after this account in order to promote commercial fishing and support the removal of the residents of the Strath of Kildonan.

The castle, destroyed to make way for today’s bridge, would still have been in evidence, and even this stone bridge woud not yet have been built. None of the fine stone houses would have been there. Most likely there was a cluster of stone-built, thatched houses near the river and the shoreline, plus also houses built of less substantial materials like wattle, sticks and clay. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

Having passed the principal heights we came to a rivulet called Navidale, which is the bounds between Cathness and Sutherland. We soon after got to Hemsdale, where there is a salmon fishery. Here the tyde being in, we crossed in a coble in the shape of a boat cut in two, and our horses forded over half a mile higher. By this dale there is a pretty good road towards Mowdale, which we passed in the way to Durness.

Mudale is pretty much one house today, however at the time Pococke was visiting it was an important location, home to an influential MacKay tacksman and at various points the poet Rob Donn (b.1714) and John MacKay (b.1690), a well-known hymn writer. What today are not terribly well maintained single-track roads were key routes connecting the south-east of the county with the north-west.

To be continued…

‘Incredible efforts by earnest souls’

Near the back entrance of St Callan’s church, Rogart, and within collapsing iron railings and low stone wall there is a somewhat difficult-to-read insciption on a gravestone for a minister: Alexander MacLeod. Although buried here and born on the other side of the county in Balchladich, Assynt, he is best remembered across the Minch. Everyone of a churchgoing disposition on the Isle of Lewis has heard of him and, only a year or two back, a service was held in the open air at the very location where thousands gathered two centuries ago to hear him preach. Why is a near household name on the island pretty much unknown in a parish in his own county where he was minister for the same amount of time?

MacLeod’s graestone in Rogart and the inscription. (Photos: Elizabeth Ritchie)

In late November it was my birthday and I got to choose where we would spend Saturday. For some time I had wanted to see where Alexander MacLeod had becone so prominent. We managed to get the baby fed, pack the car and reach Uig in enough time for a walk across the sands and back before dark. The old Manse (I don’t know if this is the same building that MacLeod lived in or not – RCHAMS does not have a date) is now a high-end restaurant. Whether it is the same house of not, it was to this site that MacLeod came when he took up the charge in 1824.

To my eyes this looks like an early C19th building, but if anyone knows more precisely when it was built, I would be pleased to know. I am sure that the Lewis Presbytery Records would say, but I have not been able to access them. (Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie)

When he arrived he was rather appalled at the religious state of things. One elder allegedly prayed for there to be a shipwreck so that they could gather the materials that would be washed ashore. MacLeod felt that the people did not have a grasp of the basics of the Christian faith and decided that there should therefore be no more communions or baptisms until that was remedied. MacLeod got to work preaching the core gospel message from the pulpit, he encouraged learning the catechism, led prayer meetings and promoted family worship within the home. There was stiff opposition among some but others, across the island, were drawn to the teaching.

‘Uig became the centre of attraction, not only to the people of that parish, but also to the whole population of Lewis. Incredible efforts were made by earnest souls in all parts of
the island to be present at the preaching of the Word, even on ordinary Sabbaths. Men, and even women, travelled from Ness, Back, and Knock, distances of from twenty to forty miles, to Uig Ferry from Saturday till Sabbath morning to overtake the boats for church, which often required to leave very early on account of head winds, and the distance to be travelled by sea, which cannot be less than ten or twelve miles.’ (Worthies, p. 227)

The large building behind is the manse and the people would have gathered on the hillside behind to hear MacLeod speak. (Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie)

After four years of teaching MacLeod felt that people could take part in these sacraments with understanding so he prepared for a communion season. These were multi-day events culminating in the dispensing of bread and wine. All over Scotland people would come from considerable distances to attend these. They enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, the sociability, and the spirituality. It was common for over a thousand people to participate, so they often took place outside. A minister might select a natural amphitheatre so the people could range them selves around and hear him. There is such a site in Rogart, just behind the Free Church, and there is another well-known one in Ferintosh on the Black Isle where occasional services are still held. There was often a preaching box which kept the minister and his Bible dry and sheltered from the wind. There’s a great example of one of these outside the old church in Edderton, and there is also one in the museum at Pairc, on Lewis. In Uig the heritage society board indicated that MacLeod would have preached from beside the wall of the manse, with the people gathered on the hillside behind.

Duncan MacAskill, current minister of Carloway Church of Scoltand, demostrates the use of the preaching box in Pairc. (Photo: Duncan MacAskill)

What had been happening in the parish was really quite remarkable. Many people had profound spiritual experieces and were fired with enthusiasm for a revived faith. People’s whole way of life altered, with consequences to the present day. One memoir records that ‘between the intervals of public worship, and after it was over, especially on communion occasions, every retired spot for miles around would be occupied by a secret worshipper, wrestling with God for the blessing on his own soul and that of others. It was quite common for one, who wished to be entirely alone with the Hearer of prayer, to be under the necessity of travelling miles into the moor or mountain to find a place of complete secrecy beyond the sight and sound of anxious pleaders at the throne of grace. It sometimes happened that an earnest one spent the whole night in the solitude of the moorland in communion with God, unconscious of the outward circumstances or situation until the morning sun appeared in the sky.’ (Worthies, p.228)

The author on her pilgrimage (Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie)

While these sorts of scenes were common in the twenty years he was in Uig, they did not follow him when he moved briefly to Lochalsh, and then for another two decades to Rogart. So the man who was at the centre of a lasting religious and cultural shift in Lewis and is remembered two centuries after his work there, is pretty much unknown in Rogart.

Sources: D. Beaton, Diary and Sermons of the Rev. Alexander MacLeod of Rogart (formerly of Uig, Lewis) with Brief Memoir (Inverness: 1925) available online at: http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/islandspirituality/1925-Alexander-Macleod-Uig-Dairy-Sermons.pdf

J. Greig, Disruption Worthies of the Highlands (Edinburgh: 1886) available online at: https://uigchurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/1886-Alexander-Macleod-Uig-Disruption-Worthies.pdf

‘Wanted Down Under’ – The Prequel

Graham Hannaford has recently gained his PhD from Federation University, Australia. His thesis explored the impact of emigration advertisements on Scots. He has a Dornoch connection, having gained his Masters from the Centre for History at the University of the Highlands and Islands and has visited the town several times.

If you have been following the many episodes of the TV series Wanted Down Under which explores the attractions of Australia for Brits, it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that the concept is far from new. The following advertisement, which appeared on page 1 of the Inverness Courier of 14 March 1848, was only one of many in the nineteenth century, and later, seeking to recruit Scots willing to move to the colonies.

FREE EMIGRATION BY GOVERNMENT TO NEW SOUTH WALES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AND THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.

ALL Persons desirous of availing themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them, are requested to apply to Mr ANDREW RUTHERFORD, GOLSPIE, who will forward to the applicants the proper Form of Application, with a list of such regulations as they will have to conform to. None need apply but Agricultural and Farm Servants, or persons connected with country work, such as Shepherds, Miners, Country Mechanics, Blacksmiths, Wheelwrights, and Carpenters. The most desirable applicants are YOUNG MARRIED COUPLES, with few, or without Children.

YOUNG SINGLE WOMEN, of established respectability, who, though not employed as servants at present, but are desirous of becoming such in the Colony, may apply.

ANDREW RUTHERFORD,

Agent to her Majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.

Golspie, 23d February 1848.

Rutherford eventually acted on his own advice and emigrated with his wife to Australia, both of them ending their days in Melbourne.[1] He was also politically astute for his time, having subscribed half a guinea to the fund for the monument to the late first Duke of Sutherland.[2]

The advertisement made it clear that only agricultural workers and associated tradesmen were wanted by the promoters of the government emigration scheme. These were the categories of employees which had been sought for many years by those with large land holdings in the colonies. Married men were sought since these tended to be more stable in work and behaviour than bachelors who were inclined, it was believed, to waste their earnings and time on drinking. Wives were also believed to be useful in the role of hut keepers supporting shepherds.

A shepherd’s life in Australia, South Australia, 1864 [picture] / W. R. Thomas, National Library of Australia, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151835623/view

It is worth noting that the offer of passage was being made to those willing to migrate to the Cape of Good Hope, to South Australia and to New South Wales itself. In doing so, for those hesitant about the voyage, the Cape would have been more attractive and so too, to a lesser extent, would be the voyage to South Australia which was shorter than going all the way to Sydney.

The ongoing imbalance in the genders in the colony was reflected in the announcement that young single women willing to work as servants were also wanted. This was an issue which had been flagged over many years and was still without adequate resolution by the middle of the nineteenth century. Good marriage prospects awaited those seeking a husband.

It is clear from this advertisement that the emigration commissioners viewed conditions in the Cape colony as being similar to those in Australia, probably with the aim of moving surplus population out of Britain as much as finding the workers sought by the colonies. But it is also apparent that work was available for those willing to undertake it on the pastoral stations in New South Wales, whether as shepherds or in the associated trades necessary for operating large properties.


[1] https://www.bayanne.info/Shetland/familygroup.php?familyID=F55730&tree=ID1.

[2] James Loch, Memoir of George Granville, late Duke of Sutherland K.G. (London: S. Woodfall, 1834), 69.

Missionaries in Dornoch

In early October 1797 a small group of men rode in to Dornoch from the north. They had spent the last few months touring the north east, the Orkneys and Caithness. But these were not tourists. They were missionaries, enthusiastic and determined to share their Christian faith with the local population. Although Scotland had been Christian for many centuries, the men felt that for most people this did not deeply affect their deepest beliefs and ways of life. Their missionary impulse was part of the eighteenth-century ‘heart-felt’ Evangelical Christianity which had already swept North America, England, Wales and swathes of Scotland. One of the men was James Haldane, one of two brothers from a wealthy Stirlingshire family. They were both converted as young men who, their plans to become missionaries abroad stymied, developed a passion for evangelism in the north of Scotland. The institutional church at the time was very wary of itinerant preachers, particularly ones who were willing to criticise local ministers. They were also wary of the ‘enthusiastic’ religion of evangelists like John Wesley, George Whitefield and the Haldanes.

Haldane and Aikman would have crossed at Little Ferry, possibly landing at this pier, as they travelled south. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

Haldane recorded in his diary that, accompanied by Mr. Aikman, they entered

Dornoch, the county town, where they heard a melancholy account of the state of religion. But whilst the people were without the blessing of a preached Gospel, it was comforting to hear of the good done at prayer-meetings, instituted about the time of the Revolution of 1688.

The minister at the time was John Bethune. He was a renowned classical scholar but did not meet the Haldane party’s standards. It may well be that Bethune had a more intellectual style of preaching than was acceptable to the Evangelicals who wanted an emphasis on the message of salvation and spiritual experience. Despite this perceived inadequacy of preaching in church, there was clearly a community of local people who nurtured their faith through fellowship meetings. These appear to have been common throughout the district and it’s fascinating to hear this account of how ordinary people practiced their faith.

They originated at a time when much of the power of godliness was experienced. They generally met at first in the minister’s house, or in some private house in the parish. The parochial fellowship meetings are now all so numerous, that they meet in churches. The minister acts as moderator. He begins with singing, and then prays. In many places, especially if the meeting be thin, he reads a portion of Scripture, and explains it. He then asks if any person has a question, or a case of conscience to propose for the consideration of those who are to speak at the meeting. A passage of Scripture is then mentioned, and a question proposed from it, relative to experimental [today we would use the word ‘experiential’ – i.e. the personal experience of faith] religion, by some person present. The moderator elucidates the passage, and states the question as intelligibly as possible. The speakers then deliver their sentiments with an earnestness suited to the importance of the subject, and the moderator collects their different ideas, corrects anything that may be improperly stated, and gives his own opinion. The man who proposes the question never speaks to it. In many places there is a prayer offered up about the middle of the service. One of the speakers prays after the service is over, and a psalm is sung. Occasions of this nature are highly and deservedly valued by the people. In many places, we understand they are the chief means of maintaining and carrying forward the work of Christ. It is here also worthy of particular remark, that until within these few years that some ministers have discountenanced them, it was the practice of a great part of the north country to hold public fellowship meetings on the Friday previous to the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Experienced Christians here discoursed freely of the manner of the Lord’s dealing with them, and we are enabled often to speak much to the comfort and edification of their weaker brethren.

It is often assumed that clergy were very controlling of the people but here we can see that while the minister offers some teaching and chairs the meeting, there was considerable input and direction from the participants. There was a balance of prayer, singing, reading of the Bible and discussion. However, some ministers obviously felt that the meetings challenged their control over their congregation, and tensions had arisen which became more pronounced over the next few decades. These ‘old Scottish fellowship meetings’ impressed the Haldanes and their colleagues and this type of social worship inspired some of the practices they promoted through the Baptist and Congregationalist movements. The Friday meetings before communion are still practiced by many Presbyterian churches in the Highlands and Islands to this day.

As they left Dornoch they would again have taken the ferry, just in front of where today’s road bridge can be seen. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

Having left Dornoch, where the Gaelic was so generally spoken, that the people did not understand English, they came to Tain, where they found the people highly favored, being blessed with a zealous and faithful minister of the Established Church, who is the fifth of that character, in immediate succession. This was Angus Mackintosh who had just been become their minister earlier that year. After preaching at Tain, Milton, Invergordon, and Drummond, they arrived at Dingwall, where they preached, both in the street and in the Town-hall, and then crossed the Ferry, and by the Lord’s good hand upon us, arrived in safety at Inverness, in the afternoon of the 18th October.

Source:

Alexander Haldane, Memoirs of the lives of Robert Haldane of Airthrey, and of his brother James Alexander Haldane (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1868), p.172-3.

Two clan chiefs: defending the realm and the impact of travel restrictions on the Highlands in 1916

Neil Bruce continues his consideration of how access to the Highlands and Islands was restricted during the two world wars. The situation faced by authorities to defend the realm in 1916 has some semblance of similarity with 2020, albeit for very different reasons.

On 10th October 1916 Fraser Alexander MacKinnon appeared in Inverness Sheriff Court charged with entering the railway station ‘without lawful authority or permission of the relevant military authorities in contravention of the orders of the Deputy-Commandant of the North of Scotland special military area.[1] MacKinnon was an unlikely lawbreaker: 68 years old, he was usually given the nomenclature ‘Mackinnon of Mackinnon’, his clan’s 35th chief.[2] The region’s Depute-Commandant responsible for upholding Defence of the Realm Regulation 29b was Lieutenant Colonel Donald Cameron of Locheil (25th chief of clan Cameron).[3] Mackinnon’s solicitor successfully argued that the charge was irrelevant as both the station and its environs were within the ‘prescribed area’.[4]

Access to the north of Scotland had become restricted on the 25th July.[5] The special military area included Inverness and the mainland north and west of the River Ness, Loch Ness and the road from Invermoriston Pier to Kyle of Lochalsh.[6] There was considerable military presence in Inverness, with the commandant’s officer in Hamilton Street, ‘vulnerable points’ throughout the area were guarded and the navy patrolled the Caledonian Canal.[7] Inverness was described as a ‘continental frontier station’ which would-be passengers could only reach if the railway company had sight of the required permit.[8]

Everyone over 16 other than serving military, dockyard employees and local residents needed a permit.[9] In practice, locals also had to apply and obtain a pass as the commandant could require them to carry one ‘authenticated by a Chief Constable’.[10] The introduction of controlled movement was generally smooth, though locals unable to prove their identity attempting to enter Inverness could only leave on production of a duplicate national registration card obtained from the chief constable. One unintended consequence was that islanders were initially unable to board ferries to the mainland if they could not show identification.[11]

Those who wished to travel to the military area had to follow a strict procedure to obtain a permit-book, providing a photograph, personal details, address and description of any distinguishing marks. The applicant’s details required to be validated by two British subjects who were householders. They had to apply to the local commandant, stating the purpose and length of their visit, and the name and address of the British subject with whom they were to stay. Permits were checked on entry to the military area.[12] Police in Aberdeen and the ‘county constabulary’ quickly exhausted their supply of identification cards as people anticipated their need when travelling from the east by train.[13]

The introduction of restrictions prevented freedom of travel. Newspapers, though, expected that Locheil ‘with his intimate knowledge of the district as an asset’, would enforce the regulations ‘tactfully and with a minimum of friction.’[14] He used his powers judiciously, finding a temporary solution to enable islanders to travel. Within a month of restrictions being in force, he arranged with the railway companies that those who had an urgent need to visit the area could purchase a ticket and travel to Inverness if in possession of a telegram from himself permitting entry. The traveller was expected to report on arrival at Inverness railway station to have the required official permit book completed and authorised.[15]

During World War Two the strictness of the permit application process and its then administration from London caused Inverness County Council to call for it to be relaxed because of the impact on ‘hotelkeepers, farmers and crofters’ seasonal incomes. Locheil, the council’s convener, commented that when he had been in charge during the previous conflict, he could issue permits whereas his then successor did not have the same power.[16] In his civil office, Locheil commented that as  control of the area was of national importance, losses should not be shouldered by ‘one of the poorest Districts in the British Isles’.[17]

Then as now authorities acted to protect lives and society. However, restrictions have implications: earlier this year islanders could only travel to the mainland in emergency situations and implementing two metres social distancing on ferries limited the number travelling. Businesses were forced to close to limit transmission of Covid-19 and protect the NHS: then as now, the impact on seasonal tourism and related enterprises, and the wider community caused considerable concern, threatening their economic wellbeing.


[1] The Scotsman, 11 October 1916, 6.

[2] The Times, 28 February 1947, 7.

[3] Locheil had been invalided home that May from the Western Front from command of the 5th battalion of Cameron Highlanders he’d raised in 1914, Herald Scotland, 17 August 2015, The Times, 12 October 1951, 6.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/13600601.calling-descendants-of-cameron-highlanders/ accessed 14 June 2020; The press regularly described Locheil as commandant of the special military area.

[4] The Scotsman, 11 October 1916, 6. MacKinnon won on a narrow legal point: the sheriff told a perplexed procurator fiscal that Mackinnon had not been properly advised which section of the order he was being charged under. The fiscal questioned whether the sheriff regarded the railway station as not covered under the relevant section of the order to which the latter replied he had ‘no opinion’ on its validity.

[5] The Scotsman, 24 July 1916, 3, 4.

[6] Pulling, A.(ed), Defence of the Realm manual (London, 1917), 535-536.

[7] Royle, T., ‘The first world war’, in E. M. Spiers, J. A. Crang & M. J. Strickland (eds), Military History of Scotland (Edinburgh, 2012), 506; Carter, H., The control of the drink trade: a contribution to national efficiency, 1915-1917 (London, 1918), 133.

[8] The Scotsman, 18 July 1916, 4; The Guardian, 22 May 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/22/uk-quarantine-plan-what-will-it-mean-for-travellers

[9] The Scotsman, 24 July 1916, 3, 4. Residents of Inverness, Ross, Elgin or Nairn were those ordinarily resident from 4th August 1914.

[10] Inverness Courier, 25 July 1916.

[11] The Scotsman, 26 July 1916, 6.

[12] The Scotsman, 24 July 1916, 4.

[13] The Scotsman, 26 July 1916, 6.

[14] The Scotsman, 18 July 1916, 4; Inverness Courier, 25 July 1916; Strathspey Herald, 27 July 1916.

[15] Glasgow Herald, 9 August 1916, 6. Checks on travellers were much more rigorous than for passengers arriving in the UK in June 2020 who were required to provide the address they would self-isolate for 14 days, with a one in five likelihood of being checked by Border Control. Herald Scotland, 8 June 2020, 4; http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/169/made  accessed 10 June 2020.

[16] The Scotsman, 3 May 1940, 9.

[17] Ibid.

A Man’s Place

There’s a lot of talk today about identity: gender identity, sexual identity, national identity. Identity strikes at the heart of who we feel we are, but it is also shaped by the mores of the day, so it’s possible to study it historically.

Alexander Forbes from Rogart clearly had a strong Christian identity. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

A few avid followers of this blog might vaguely recall a couple of posts on gravestones and how they could be used to think about people’s identity. Well, out of that research I wrote a much longer piece for ‘Genealogy’ journal on how places helped to form a man’s sense of identity in the nineteenth century.

One type of place-based identities I discuss is an identity which is bound up in the British Empire. A superb example here of a family from Golspie Tower who relocated and developed strong identities grounded in Canada West (now Ontario), Yorkshire and Australia. These were the key things that Donald and George Sutherland wanted noted about them and their sister on the gravestone which they paid for. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

The article just got published this past week so I enclose a link here for anyone who might be interested. Feel free to skip the literature review and methodology (or indeed any other part!) There are a good few examples from Dornoch, Golspie, Rogart, Ardgay, Tain and surrounds. It has been great fun justifying my enjoyment of wandering around graveyards while trying to figure out something about what went on in the minds and hearts of people from a very long time ago.

Here’s the link: https://www.mdpi.com/2313-5778/4/4/97

Who can resist a wander around a graveyard on a sunny evening? Creich, with the Dornoch Firth in the background. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie.

Can anyone identify the graveyard in the header – at the top of this post?