A teenager from Kildonan, Donald Sage, was a student in Aberdeen. He had walked the whole distance from Tain to Aberdeen to get to university, suffering a collapse at Inverurie, as it was too much for the fifteen year old. At the end of session he needed to get home and decided to travel by sea. Poor Donald’s three-day experience sounds almost as bad as his footsore journey at the start of the session! His account provides a great insight into travel around the north as well as how Sundays were spent and what people ate at sea.
‘I took my passage for Helmisdale, on a salmon-fishing smack, which was in the service of Forbes and Hogarth, who then held the Sutherland rivers in lease from the Marchioness of Stafford … The smack which bore me homewards was the identical one by which my brother sailed to London, but had a different master; Coy had been replaced by a rough fellow of the name of Colstone. I went on board about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and dined before we set sail. Feeling hungry I partook largely of a coarse, greasy dinner at the skipper’s table. It consisted of very fat broth and still fatter meat. Colstone, not content with swallowing the most enormous quantities of clear fat I had ever seen attempted even by a famished mastiff, after all was over greased his face with it, to keep out the cold as I supposed. This sappy dinner, as well as the remembrance of the skipper’s face, served me for a strong emetic during the voyage homewards, which was both tedious and tempestuous. On going out at the pier-head the billows rose ‘mountains high’, and as they rose, both my spirits and my stomach fell. The dinner with its associations presented themselves before me every half -hour, until I became grievously sick, and my very ribs ached again with the pressure of vomiting. The wind blew a hurricane from the west, and in the course of twelve hours we were close on the Sutherland coast, opposite Helmisdale, the place of our destination.’
‘But here again the wind chopped round in our very teeth, and we were for three days tossed back and fore on the Moray Firth in view of the harbour, without being able to enter it. The storm was so violent that even the skipper himself became sick. I was a Sabbath at sea; and although the wind blew contrary, the day was fine. The sailors observed the day with great decorum. There was nothing like social or public worship, but when any one of them got a spare hour, he laid himself face downwards on the floor of the cabin and conned over the New Testament. We left Aberdeen on a Friday, and landed at the mouth of the Helmisdale River on the Tuesday morning thereafter.’
‘I shall never forget the strong and penetrating feeling of joyous safety with which I leaped out of the ship’s boat on the pebbly shore of the river near the Corf-house. Mr. Thomas Houston, now of Kintradwell, met me on the beach, and with him I went to the house of Mrs. Houston, his mother. After a cordial welcome and a hasty breakfast I walked up the Strath to Kildonan, where I found my worthy father [Alexander Sage] engaged in the annual examination of the Parish School. He received me with a father’s kindness, took me into his large embrace, and kissed me before the whole assemblage.’
Donald Sage, Memorabilia Domestica: or parish life in the north of Scotland (Wick, 1889), 134-144.
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 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 … Nothingremains 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
… 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
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.
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, andGilbert Murray, Bishop of Cathness.
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.
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 havebeen 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 thesea; 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…
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 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.
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.
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 isa 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.
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 GOVERNMENTTONEW SOUTH WALES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AND THECAPE 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.
Agent to her Majesty’s Colonial Land andEmigration 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. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. MacKinnon was an unlikely lawbreaker: 68 years old, he was usually given the nomenclature ‘Mackinnon of Mackinnon’, his clan’s 35th chief. 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). Mackinnon’s solicitor successfully argued that the charge was irrelevant as both the station and its environs were within the ‘prescribed area’.
Access to the north of Scotland had become restricted on the 25th July. 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. 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. 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.
Everyone over 16 other than serving military, dockyard employees and local residents needed a permit. 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’. 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.
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. 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.
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.’ 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.
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. 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’.
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.
 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.
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.
 Pulling, A.(ed), Defence of the Realm manual (London, 1917), 535-536.
 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.
The Scotsman, 18 July 1916, 4; Inverness Courier, 25 July 1916; Strathspey Herald, 27 July 1916.
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.
In his second blog post about the impact of government decisions on Highland life during wartime, Neil Bruce considers the impact of the introduction of permits required to enter the region during World War Two.
In 1940 Robert Michie was sentenced to a £2 fine or 10 days imprisonment at Inverness Sheriff Court for circumventing the army’s Beauly barrier which controlled the north road.[i] North and west of the Firth of Lorne and Great Glen had been officially designated as the North of Scotland protected area in the ‘interests of defence or the efficient prosecution of war’ on 11 March 1940.[ii]Restricting access in wartime resonates with 2020, when rural communities to protect themselves, warned would-be visitors, second home owners and others to stay away during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Forest of Birse, April 2020
Photo: Neil Bruce
The Highlands became a military-controlled zone.[iii] North-bound travellers’ credentials were checked at key points including Inverness railway station, the Kessock ferry and buses from Fort William.[iv] Those bound for the Northern Isles required a transit visa from Inverness’s military control office.[v] Adult residents needed permits to prove their identity if stopped, and proof of residency leaving or entering the area. In Inverness, almost immediately, ‘thousands’ queued to obtain permits from police headquarters.[vi] Residents from enemy countries required a specific permit and had to adhere to strict regulations: forgetting to report to their local police station before overnight curfew, Italian ‘aliens’ Enrico and Antonio Pizzamiglio were each fined £10.[vii]
Visitor permits were issued by military offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. Initial confusion and delay ensued: applications required both parents’ nationality and countersignature by a J. P. or someone-else of ‘respectable status’.[viii] The protected area covered 40% of Scotland, but the government initially rebuffed suggestions local registrars or police could issue permits, claiming security was ‘predominant’.[ix] Democracy came second to military authority: the government candidate in the Argyllshire by-election, a non-resident serving officer, still required a permit.[x] Holidaymaker Jessie Macleod freely crossed the Beauly barrier several times before being found to be without permit. Her defence that she believed her identification card was sufficient proof did not prevent a 10/- fine.[xi] Irishman John P. McGovern, a farm labourer in Caithness for 11 years received more leniency, remanded in custody while Wick police obtained the necessary military permit.[xii] A son was only allowed to attend his father’s funeral having ‘pulled certain very important wires which are not given to all men to reach.’[xiii]
There was other suspicion about ‘wires’ being pulled. Lord Redesdale and daughter Deborah Mitford’s visit to their Argyll island was contrasted with ‘legitimate and loyal persons’ inability to obtain permits.[xiv] Secretary for War, Anthony Eden defended Redesdale’s ‘valid reason for finding it desirable and necessary to reside there during part of the year’: seeing no ‘reasonable grounds for disquiet throughout Scotland.’[xv] Minister for Security and Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson responded that the island was ‘visited periodically by the police’, though he had no grounds ‘for prohibiting the present inhabitants from living there’.[xvi] In spring 2020 echoes reverberate when officials told citizens to stay at home, then ignored the same instruction; and elsewhere, police visited Lismore following concerns about a non-resident’s arrival.[xvii]
Tourism was ‘killed almost stone dead’ in 1940.[xviii] Slow issue of visitor permits brought sparse Eastertime trade.[xix]The Scotsman encouraged readers not to worry about food restrictions or petrol rationing, but was apprehensive that the bed and breakfast, and other tourist businesses built-up by that ‘modern regiment’, the ‘women of Ross’, could continue.[xx] Would-be visitors with permits intent on a summer Highland ‘staycation’ were prevented from ferry or rail travel without warning.[xxi] Shooting and fishing tenants could not obtain permits.[xxii] The government refused to compensate sporting estate owners, hikers or ‘holidaymakers of the humbler sort’ for losses incurred.[xxiii] Pressed why permit offices were instructed not to grant permits if the reason given was ‘holidays’, Anthony Eden replied cryptically, ‘There may be reasons which I would rather not refer to in public.’[xxiv] Those included an expected imminent invasion: defensive works were under construction to thwart an advancing enemy.[xxv]
Sign in Finzean, Lockdown 2020
Photo: Neil Bruce
Then as now, individuals circumvented the rules in force: in 1941, determined to holiday on Skye, James McLachlan arranged to receive the telegram, ‘Fanny seriously ill; come at once’. Permit granted and his deception discovered, he was fined £3 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.[xxvi] Though with very different origins, responses in wartime and to viral threat involved taking control of individuals’ lives to effect immediate change for the greatest impact and collective good.
[i]Northern Chronicle, 24 April 1940, A newspaper scrapbook history of Inverness, 1939 to September 1940: a year at war, http://www.scalan.co.uk/oldinverness/inverness/Invern33.gif accessed 13 April 2020. Michie from Markinch, arrived in Inverness believing his permit to work in Invergordon was being arranged. When he found it was not, he proceeded on the north road. The maximum sentence was a fine of £100 or 3 months imprisonment; The Scotsman reported an unnamed Fifer reached the Square in Beauly, disembarking from a bus before it reached the barrier: he was reported to the military, having asked someone how he could avoid the barrier. The Scotsman, 20 April 1940, 7; The barrier, across Station Road, five yards south of the Phipps Hall, was closed at 10pm each evening. The army also occasionally patrolled the surrounding countryside to prevent unauthorised entry. Harrison, H. W., compiler, The village of Beauly: parish of Kilmorack: a study of the history and demography of the village of Beauly, 1700-2000 (Kilmorack, 2001), 200-201.
[ii] Parliament passed legislation enabling the designation of protected places or areas the week before the declaration of war on 3 September 1939, The Times, 29 August 1939, 16; Scotsman, 27 February 1940, 7.
[iii] Coastal areas had stricter controls of access. Manchester Guardian,6 April 1940, 4.
[iv]The Scotsman, 12 March 1940, 5; 26 March 1940, 5.
[v]The Scotsman, 12 March 1940, 5. Entry to the Northern Isles required a special military permit.
[vi] Ibid. The local registrar issued 5,000 applications the day before when the protected area came into force.
[vii]Northern Chronicle, 29 May 1940, A newspaper scrapbook history, http://www.scalan.co.uk/oldinverness/inverness/Invern38.gif accessed 13 April 2020. Italian men between 17 and 60 had to report daily to a police station, could not use personal transport and were curfewed from 8pm to 6am.There were only four Italians resident in Inverness who were naturalised British citizens and 17 others were regarded as aliens; The Scotsman, 4 April 1940, 7.
[viii]The Scotsman, 28 February 1940, 7; 30 March 1940, 10.
[xii]The Scotsman, 18 May 1940, 7. The same court sentenced fellow countryman Charles McLaughlin 30 days imprisonment as he could not pay his £5 fine. McLaughlin had a permit to work in Invergordon, but, finding no accommodation available, decided to travel to Orkney, being was arrested en route.
[xiv] The War Cabinet had previously refused Lord Redesdale’s request that he take another daughter, Unity Mitford, with him because of expected public outrage and the precedent it would set. National Archives, CAB 65/6/4, War Cabinet, 59 (40), 4 March 1940.
[xxii] Sporting tenants were described as ‘people, who go, for so many months at a time, annually, to live in another part of the country.’ The Scotsman, 3 September 1940, 7.
[xxiii]The Scotsman, 3 September 1940, 7. Some estate owners achieved rates reductions at valuation appeal courts: in Ross and Cromarty, the County Clerk questioned why ratepayers should ‘suffer’ because the government had created a protected area. The Scotsman, 20 September 1940, 3. 20-25 shooting lodges were identified as suitable for occupation by evacuee children if needed. The Scotsman, 3 May 1940, 9.
Post by Lloyd Pitcher, former Head of History at Bomaderry High School, History Presenter at Shoalhaven University of the Third Age, Nowra, New South Wales, Australia. Lloyd can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Murray was a highly regarded carver and gilder in Glasgow, Scotland. His funeral card described a substantial person: ‘a Citizen of Glasgow for upwards of 45 years’. When I first looked at this card, it was among some papers in a box, passed to my father by his mother, and to her father by his sister in Scotland. No-one in the family had connected the information in the box.
After many years of research, the information in the box is now connected. On 26 October 1795, an entry was made in an old Parochial Register of Proclamations of Banns and Marriages for one Duncan Murray, ‘Soldier in Drummond’s Regiment of Fencibles’ and Barbara Sutherland, daughter of Alexander Sutherland, ‘Soldier in the First Battalion of Breadalbane Fencibles, at the Gaelic Chapel in Perth, Scotland. The resident minister of the Chapel, Duncan McFarlane conducted the marriage ceremony.
A fencible was a soldier belonging to a British militia which could only be called up for service on home soil for the duration of a war, to free up regular soldiers for overseas duty. This force was especially necessary in Scotland, which had no substantial militia until 1798. Beginning in 1793, fencibles were initially formed by landowners – often descendants of the old clan chiefs. The term is derived from Middle English and means ‘fit or suitable for defence.’
The centre of the parish of Rogart, from near the church. Photo: Robin Pitcher, 2012.
William was born to Duncan Murray and Barbara Sutherland on 2 September 1796 in the parish of Rogart in Sutherland, 85 kilometres north of Inverness. His mother was only twenty when he was born. William Murray was baptised on 23 October 1796 at Torbreck of Morness, Rogart. Of his childhood, his siblings and his early years, nothing is known until his marriage to Margaret McCallum in Bridgetown, Glasgow in 1821.
William and Margaret had eight children, six of whom survived. The family lived in a substantial mansion in Glasgow. Evidence shows William Murray to a very successful carver in wood, making high quality furniture. One item which recently appeared for auction described his highly detailed work. ‘The rectangular sienna marble top above a deep relief carved border, the moulded and panelled frieze decorated with paterae and cartouches, the tapering legs of architectural form and with corinthian capitals, the panels filled with bellflower pendant chains, and joined by moulded stretchers, the scrolled trees enclosing suppressed balls.’
William IV pinewood marble-top table with provenance and authenticity label attached. Image courtesy Neal Action House, New Orleans USA.
In 1849, Margaret Murray passed away. William married Ann Ewing of Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1851. Perhaps this was a catalyst for three of William’s sons to leave Scotland. In 1852 Archibald and Hugh made for the gold fields of Ballarat, near Melbourne, Australia. There is no evidence they ever returned. Son William travelled to the West Indies and New York, later settling in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1881 William visited his family in Scotland and returned to New Orleans. In 1855 Margaret Anne married China tea clipper captain, Donald MacKinnon, from the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. They had three children and for a time lived not far from William and Ann in London. Son Duncan and daughter Christina remained single.
Wax portrait of Captain Donald MacKinnon. Portrait restored by The Scottish Conservation Studio. Reproduced by kind permission of An Iodhlann, Isle of Tiree.
William Murray suffered severely from bronchitis. This was a genetic family predisposition which continues among descendants to the present day and which is referred to as ‘the Murray chest.’ By 1865, William and Ann had moved from Glasgow to 2 Seymour Terrace, Loughborough Road, Brixton, London. The belief was the London air was ‘softer’ compared with the air of Glasgow and would be better for William’s health. In an 1865 letter to his son Archibald in Sydney NSW, William Murray wrote that he had sent ‘a small specimen of his handywork of former days. It is a small plaster model of a likeness of William’s uncle, Dr [Adam] Sutherland, in Scotland.’
Plaster of Paris casing of Dr Adam Sutherland, William Murray’s uncle, sent to William’s son Archibald in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Photo: Lloyd Pitcher.
The years 1865 to 1867 were productive for William. During his convalescence from bouts of bronchitis he made wax and plaster of paris models. Models to be sent overseas were made in plaster of paris as wax models could distort in the heat.
By 1867, William and Ann had relocated to 13 Fairfield Place, Bow. But London air is still very cold in winter and in 1867, the bronchitis from which William suffered so severely eventually overwhelmed him.
As far as can be determined, William Murray’s grandchildren in Scotland had no children of their own. William never saw any of his seven grandchildren living in Australia. They all married and had families of their own. William Murray’s antipodean descendants are today scattered all over Australia.
From his beginning in Rogart, William Murray is remembered today as a successful carver in wood and as a citizen of Glasgow, Scotland. His six children lived very different lives from his own. Three left Scotland and two never returned. From 1852 to 1867, he never again saw them. It is fortunate some of the letters he wrote have survived to the present and enabled his descendants to gain insights into the life and times of William Murray.
Sideboard, and closeup of the centrepiece, carved by William Murray circa 1860.
Lloyd Pitcher The Life of William Murray 1796-1867: Carver and Gilder, Citizen of Glasgow (Vincentia: New South Wales, 2018)