John Murray's Grave at Rogart Cemetery.
Sandy Sutherland: This John II, born at Inchure, started a home of his own at Acheilidh. He was evicted from there about 1805-1810 when 35 years old and moved west about one mile where he acted as shepherd for Mr Gilchrist of Ospisdale, the first sheep farmer at Rhaoine.
RLM 1976, Sixth Series, Chart 1:
Acheilidh, a hamlet, is the East part of Rhaoine Farm, in which latter place John Murray II acted a shepherd - or grass keeper - for a short time, and lived at Rhaoine House, from which he was evicted when about 35 years old. He then had 3 children. His mother-in-law, Ann Matheson died there at his house in 1810.
R.J. Adam's book on the Sutherland Estate, and his letter to me (q.v.) pretty well pins to the date of eviction as around 1812. (Confirmed by other sources).
"At one time (before the clearances) Rhaoine was known as Blarich Farm" according to Sandy Sutherland (my 3rd cousin).
RLM: Epistle 1:
I will be heartless and start with a few authentic dates and facts about John Murray II, his life and times, and then I will interweave some of Helen Buchanan's memories of what her mother told her about John II and his wife, Ann Matheson.
1777. Birth of John Murray II, the second son of John Murray I and Ann Sutherland, at Inchure. He became known also as Iain mor, or Great John. (Not Big John!)
1798. Death of John I. John II by this time said to have had training in woodwork and joinery in Dornoch. Age 27, he would be good at crofting and possibly, with his older brother Alex, keeping the croft going for his widowed mother.
1800. First Clearances of crofters in Sutherland, around River Oykell.
1804. 27th March. John Murray II married Ann Matheson of Craigkilisie (Creag Caolisaidh) in Strath Carnaig.
1805. Their first child, Donald Murray, (the Banker-Provost), was born at the croft Rhaoine in Strath Fleet. The authority for this is Donald's own Diary.
1808. Their second child, Ann, was born, probably at Rhaoine.
1810. Their third child, George, was born, probably at Rhaoine. The authority for these two births derives from the Family Bible and from extracts from the Dunrobin Papers.
1809. Ann Matheson's widowed mother, Helen, arrived at Rhaoine, after eviction from Strath Carnaig.
1810. Helen died. (Diary of John Matheson)
1812. 19th October. John II and Ann have a lawful son, John III.
1814. 30th December. John II and Ann have a lawful daughter, Helen.
1817. 7th January. John II and Ann have a lawful daughter, Catherine. These births were at Cregnachlachul. (Parish Records). This place is seven miles almost due South of Rhaoine.
1818. In June, John II and Ann arrived in Glasgow with six children!
1818. 24th September. John and Ann have a daughter in Glasgow, named Margaret McIntosh Murray. Where are they staying?
1820. 24th May. John and Ann and their seven children left Glasgow. Authority for the last three items is John Matheson's Diary.
1821. 21st September. Elspeth Murray born at Aisdale.
1823. 4th December. William Murray born at Aisdale.
1826. 15th March. Janet (Jessie) Murray born at Aisdale. (RLM's Grandmother).
1851. The Census entry for Ausdale, Book 6. Sch. 12 states:
John Muray. Head. mar 73. Farmer of 8 Ac. Born Blarich. Anne Muray. Wife. mar 63. Born Rearchar, Sutherland. Ann Ross. gr. dau. age 12. Servant. Born Ross. Inver House. William Murray. gr. son. age 9. Born Dalquharn. Dumbarton.
1866. 21st April. Death of John Murray II at Aisdale.
Don't worry about spelling differences in the Highlands, in a race turning from Gaelic speech to English. For example: Aisdale, Asdle, Astle, Easdale, Ausdale are all one. So also are Rhaoine, Roin, Remie, Reme, Rymie!
1855, 1859 and 1863, Donald Murray (The Banker-Provost) visited his parents at Aisdale. He may also have visited them in 1838, soon after his marriage.
1863. The year when John II wrote to his sick daughter-in-law at Accrington, inviting her to convalesce after illness.
1833. An entry of this date in the diary of John Matheson suggests that by that date John Murray II had received the sum of £53 0s 11 1/2d from his wife's oldest brother, this sum being probably the total of gifts over a long period. Each of you will already have received a copy of John Matheson's honest story. Look for it in your deed box!
Allowing for other folks' clerical errors and for my own, I accept the above dates as probably correct. Now we have to draw the picture of John II. To bring him to life! There is only one person now alive who can help, namely my cousin, Helen Buchanan, born about 1888. Helen's source of information was her mother, Ann Mackay (1853-1936) who was born in the croft next door to John II, as were her nine brothers and sisters. (Census returns). From her birth in 1853 until she left home for domestic service in Glasgow, around 1870, Ann would be in frequent contact with her grandparents, and in later life she would pass on her knowledge to Helen. Long before we came upon John Matheson's Diary, Helen wrote to me:
After disposing of their few possessions of furniture and books etc. among their friends, John got hold of some sort of vehicle to take his wife and children southwards. Their Highland cattle were sold at buyers' prices, and sheep sold as they proceeded along the old drove roads for the odd shilling. They would go over the wild Struie Brae by Tain. They passed through Argyll looking for a place in that county where they might settle, but without any luck. At last, they reached Glasgow, then the town of steeples. Matheson kinsfolk seem to have preceded them there, but there is no record of Ann contacting any Mathesons there.
Great John, as we always called him in our nostalgic causeries, was a MAN! No frock-coated Victorian factor's dummy. How did he win back to his native hills? God alone kens! Did he get another conveyance? I am almost certain that for their betterment he deposited one or two of his brood in safely behind in Glasgow. Was it Margaret, later Mrs. McLachlan, or that elusive George Murray of California?
So, Off again! Not merely 'by muirs and mossies mony o', but how on earth did he get his cargo over the passes by Wade's cruel, tough roads? It was but 40 miles to Leith! From Invergordon another 30 or so to Creich and Bonar Bridge. Tho' he was to be an octogenerian he would never again cross the Highland Line! Nor did Ann! Tho' all but four of his immediate offspring were to join the drift South, to cross the Border, and even the wide Atlantic.
Now home at last to Creich, S.W. of Rogart. First stop, i.e. in a real house, was at Ceann a Creig, a bittock to the North of Aisdale, (Dale of the River). First job was to make a weather-tight bield, i.e. shelter. Luckily John was a good joiner: most useful of all trades for a landholder or a crofter. Seems to be an inherited factor. The Inchure Seer, John Murray I, was also a craftsman. As yet John II was still young, but in a comparatively few years he would have the aid of two strong, and in one case skilled sons-in-law, Andrew and William Mackay.
Back to Aisdale. Sons grew up and departed, some to Vale of Leven, some to Glasgow. John was getting more and more pious. His Bible was his most cherished possession. Later, John's eldest son, Donald, was to send him more expensive gifts.
Aisdale was then sheltered by trees, usually elders, rowans, and even oak, fir and a gean. My mother was shocked when she saw its naked state in 1897. John left the marks of his knees on the clay floor of the room where he prayed night and morn. Family worship was not usual.
School trail began, a long, lonely three miles. Peats were carried to school to warm. Psalms and Paraphrases were in Gaelic. The catechist, often a teacher, was a dreadful visitant. Chelidhs were infrequent, for the Kirk's power of Calvinism was at its height, tho' both Ann Matheson and her daughter Janet dearly loved a song, especially a Gaelic one. John Murray's house at Aisdale was a well-fed one. It was not usual in the 18th and 19th centuries to have a high survival rate amongst children, even among the rich.
Holy Week! Both couples at Aisdale, i.e. John II and Ann and (next door) William and Janet Mackay, attended the Rogart Sacraments as well as those at Migdale and Kincardine. They had a good gossip, and of course, tea galore. All sorts of strangers used to turn up, filling barns and lofts, and some brought their own viands. As the Holy Fair continued for most of the week Janet used to fill a hamper with cheeses, fowls, butter, pork and mutton. Fairs! These resorts of the drunken and ungodly would be rarely attended by John Murray. Later he had sons-in-law to do the buying and selling.
Occasionally, when times were hard, John II got work over in Ross as a roadman or quarryman. Then he could only come home at weekends. When he was thus absent during the week some folk who had suffered eviction used to try to frighten Ann out of the house by making 'eldrich' (queer) noises in the night. But Ann was not deceived. She hung on!
So much for Helen's story. We are beginning to see a personality, and the crofter's way of life. My father, George, born in the year John II died, told me his grandparents were a fine sturdy pair, and that Ann was the one with a sense of humour. He added that John left Glasgow because it was an evil place. Helen Buchanan thought John did work a while in Glasgow and made some money.
So far, I have submitted to you a number of important dates in the life of Great John, and given Helen's brief picture of the man. Some of you may regret that I am not a behavioural scientist or a psychiatrist. Had I been trained in these disciplines, if they be such, I could have put more colour into the characters of our ancestors. I leave that for your leisure hours.
For the sake of accuracy, and because I now have vivid memory pictures of the country, and of the ruined sites where they lived, I will make some few comments on the foregoing pages. I do hope you will be able sometime to go North and see these places for yourselves.
Cregnachlachul. An inhospitable spot to which John II and Ann repaired after eviction from Rhaoine by Gilchrist of Ospisdale, a minor tacksman and sheep farmer, probably acting for the major tacksman Captain Kenneth Mackay of Torboll. From the Dunrobin records I reckon Great John arrived there at the end of 1811, or very early in 1812. They remained until Spring 1818 with their six children. The place is marked on the 6 inch to the mile map as a hill some 714 feet above sea level, with no croft nearer than Ceann a Chreig (Craigton in English) some 400 yards or so to the South East. Anyway, last year, with the above map and their father's compass, Robert and Andrew located the spot and found the foundation of some old barn or croft there. It could have been anything, even a shelter for sheep.
Ceann a Creig is on this map and is, or was, a tiny croft in the hamlet of Aisdale, next door to the modern house presently occupied by a very Strict Seceder named Campbell. Don't call on him on a Sunday. He will not speak to any Heathen Strangers then! Doubtless he would classify you as such! On weekdays he relaxes, and I am sure he or his spinster sisters in the house would be pleased to show you the lintel of Great John's house, now a part of the wall of his barn.
Aisdale. Up till I visited the area I always thought that Aisdale was the name of a specific house, belonging to Great John. But the census description clearly indicates that Aisdale was the name given to a hamlet or clachan, consisting of several houses near each other. To complicate work for the postman, I observe from the map that in 1841, in addition to OUR Murrays there were 9 Mackay and 6 Murray families in crofts within 1 1/2 miles of Aisdale! (1841 Census).
Rhaoine. In Strath Fleet. There is a white house on the main site today, and some old walling beside it. I deduce from a long and helpful letter from Dr. Adams of St. Andrew's University who is working on the Dunrobin Papers that from 1802 until 1811 there was a single tenant at Rhaoine, name of Gordon. Throughout these dates he had sub-tenants. These included Great John and Ann, and John's older brother Alexander (who inherited Inchure) probably not yet married, plus no less than seven other sub-tenants and families whose names are not known to me. Great John and Ann had three children born here, namely Donald, Ann and George. Their rent throughout was £3 and their tenancy came to an end, with eviction, possibly mid 1811. So Rhaoine, like Aisdale, was really a Hamlet.
Achielidh. This will confuse you further! But I must get at the truth, though it takes long to find! Acheilidh was undoubtedly a hamlet, and still is today, and it includes our Inchure. The Dunrobin papers say, under the heading of Acheilidh: J.S. MacDonald's wadset of Muie, date 1811, Tenants John Murray, £4 4s, and widow Murray, £1 4s, and five others. This also applies to year 1812, but possibly not thereafter, for there are no named Murrays. Questions arise. Was widow Murray our Ann Sutherland of Inchure? Probably, for she did not die until 1839. Did Alex Murray, the heir to Inchure, go in 1811 to assist his still able widowed mother? He was a bachelor, born around 1775, and did not marry until about 1832, and then to a girl, Ellen Matheson, of Clash-na-Grave, age about 15! I suppose Great John's younger brother, William (1784-1841) was helping at Inchure. He was a slow starter too, for he did not marry Christina Matheson of Pittentrail until about 1820/1. But he made up for that later!
Finally, my kinsman, Alex (Sandy) Sutherland, asserts strongly that after being in Rhaoine, Great John went to a croft about a half mile due West of Inchure and was evicted therefrom. He could only have been there a few months, if we accept the dates of the Dunrobin documents. Finally, Sandy Sutherland has been able to place one of his three sons in the croft from which Great John was evicted at Acheilidh! Go and see it!
Adrian! Cathy! You are my youngest correspondents! I hope you won't read this letter till you have both passed you school certificate examinations and have got settled down to still more difficult subjects. Then, if you read it, you will say this ancient document is too dry, dusty and complicated to be understood properly. It is teaching me, however, as I go plodding along with my typewriter, how difficult it is to get historic truth from quite decent people, widely scattered in time and distance, and with no personal political axe to grind. Memories fail or become blurred, and documents can show mistakes. There have been a lot of contradictions for me to sort out. So this is not a novel or a chronicle. Only an attempt to find out who were our forebears and with what difficulties they met, and what characteristics, if any, they may have in common with you and me! I may send a second letter about their relations, with sufficient stories in it for either of you to write a novel. We'll see!
David Murray! You already have travelled far! Here's a problem for you! My Cousin Helen B. wrote that Great John travelled by horse and cart from Aisdale in Sutherland to Glasgow with his wife and six children, through Argyllshire, in 1818. Poor roads and poor tracks. About 250 miles. The oldest child only 13. Say 10 miles per day, omitting Sundays. Nearly a month on the road! Is it not more likely that he and his brood got the cart to the port of Invergordon, sailed from there to Leith, and then got a cart to Glasgow or some kind of stage coach? And in 1820 returned by the same route?
But John and Ann's situation had been desperate for some years. Married in 1804, evicted with three children from Rhaoine in 1810, possibly a few months later from Acheilidh, then residence in a place at Cregnachlachul, not much more than a hovel, for six, maybe seven years. Unable to 'make a go of it' there. Two years striving in Glasgow, perhaps in the building and joinery trades, and in the midst of people who were strangers to his ways.
No wonder he longed for his Highland Hills, and went back to where he belonged. Glasgow was a failed venture. He even had to accept financial help from his rich brother-in-law, and probably much hospitality too, during his two years stay. They would have many an anxious talk, these two, John and Ann, at night, as they watched over their family, now numbering seven. Back to Aisdale!
I am in agreement with Helen when she suggests that they may have left their 15 year old son, Donald, in Glasgow, and that his uncle John Matheson got him into the Turkey Red industry in Vale of Leven. In John Matheson's Diary one notes that he had no family by his wife Margaret MacIntosh.
John and Ann called the daughter who was born during their stay in Glasgow Margaret MacIntosh Murray. I think this may have engendered a special interest in this daughter by the Matheson pair, and facilitated later social opportunities for this daughter when she grew up. She married a partner in the ship-building firm of Bow and McLachlan. I remember my father, George, taking me to see this old lady (his aunt) when I was very young. She gave me 6d. each time! She lived in a big house, named Dunrobin, in Ibrox. Maybe it was Dunrowan! For there were rowan trees in the garden! Dunrobin would have been treachery to out family! We owed NOTHING to Dunrobin!
John Murray II and Ann Matheson, (A).
These last five pages contain far more about John II than about his good wife Ann. A failing among Highlanders of those days, who rarely wrote or spoke much about their mothers or wives or sisters! I must in some way make amends, but the material is a bit scanty.
Ann Matheson's dated and named lineage is further back than the Murrays and Mackays. Thus: her father was Donald Matheson of Creagkilisie in Strath Carnaig. He died there in 1793. Donald's father was Hugh Matheson, of Brae (Brea) and Torboll in Strath Carnaig. His dates were 1720/5-1805. Ann's mother was Helen MacDonald of Rearchar, near Dornoch. She died on 3rd March 1810 at Ann's home in Rhaoine. Ann's other grandfather was John MacDonald, of Shinness, Loch Shin, in Sutherland. I made MacDonald contacts in Rearchar, but failed to trace any relationship. The fascinating story of the Mathesons is dealt with in John Matheson's Diary, q.v.
According to the above diary, John, eldest brother of Ann Matheson, was born "at a small farm called Craig Kilisie" (Creag Caolisaidh) in Strath Carnaig, in 1786. The croft is long in ruins there. The amiable Miss Elizabeth R. Mackay, the local historian, has sited it about 300 yards East of the outlet of Loch Carnaid and on the North Bank of the stream.
An alternative place of Matheson residence is a little to the East, namely a ruined croft beside the remains of the Pictish Tower, or Broch, at Brea. These two places were essentially the territory of our Mathesons, perhaps for 100 years, before the whole glen was cleared by the tacksman, Mackay of Torboll, in 1809.
Brea might have been a hamlet of perhaps half a dozen crofts when Ann and Great John did their courting. Ann was born at Brea. I expect Ann went to school at Torboll, which had a population of 200 at that time. Now there are only six families in Torboll area today.
Ann was 18 when she married Great John at Brea on 27th March 1804, and John was ten years older, strong, handsome, black haired. His courting had entailed a five mile walk over the hills from Inchure, and round the lochans and by wee burns to see her. So he was very fit indeed!
My father, George, remembered his grandmother as a fine character, with bright eyes and good spirits. She was generous and hospitable. When the glen was cleared in 1809 she took over her widowed mother (Helen MacDonald) to her home at Rhaoine. Later in life, when her grandson, William Murray of Vale of Leven was orphaned, she took him into her household at Aisdale. Likewise, she seems to have looked after her grand-daughter, Ann Rose, for a while.
There is an entry in the Murray Bible in big letters: "Awful Drowning at the Meikle Ferry, 1809. 81 in the boat." It is most curious to me that the writer made no mention of the fact that Ann's older brother, George Matheson, was drowned then, leaving a pregnant widow and four young children. I expect Ann would be helpful then, as well as her other brothers.
The first 16 years of Ann's married life with Great John must have been tough indeed. Before she settled at Aisdale in 1820, she had experienced eviction from Rhaoine, and possibly from Acheilidh, the hardships of Creagnachlachul, the journey to Glasgow, and the failure there. She had produced seven children, and at Aisdale was to produce three more, the air being so bracing up on these hills! Little wonder they made a home there for the remainder of their lives, farming some 8 acres and some hill pastures. They both reached about 90 years, John dying in 1866, and Ann in 1875.
My father, George, with his mother, Janet, attended Ann's funeral at Rogart. He was then 9 years old, and it was a cold winter's day, 24th November 1875, up beside the Kirk on the hill. I often wonder what route the cortege took. It would be some 26 miles round by the coast road. Going by Loch Buidh it would be less, but very rough indeed. They would take two days. How often and where did they stop to rest the horse, and refresh the mourners?! Who all were in the party? With Janet would be her sister Elspeth, and their husbands William and Andrew Mackay II. Elspeth died next year, age 55!
The orphaned grandson, William Murray, 1841-1915, whom Ann had befriended, erected a very fine headstone in the memory of his grandparents. It is at the highest part of Rogart Cemetery, next to the stone of Alexander Murray II (B) their nephew, and Alexander Murray III (C). The stone suggests Ann's age as 92, which shows that memorials can err! She was 89!
RLM Epistle 4:
John Murray II. 1777-1868. My Great Grandfather. My first Epistle contains all that is known about him and his wife Ann Matheson, 1786-1875, who was 9 years his junior. Briefly, he was born at Inchure, became a crofter and catechist, married at Blairich in 1804, and soon after took up residence at Rhaoine (Rymie), where he remained until evicted under the tacksmanship of Gilchrist of Ospisdale, about 1811. When evicted he had three quite young children. He and Ann then moved to what must have been a wreck of a place some 200 yards or so North of the hamlet of Asdle, named Craignachlachul, and remained there until about 1817. Alex. Sutherland says they were also evicted from a pseudo-crofting at Acheilidh, but is not sure whether this was before or after their short stay at Rhaoine.
In 1818, John decided to try his luck in Glasgow, and he moved there. By what transport? With six young children and a pregnant wife! The ever generous Sergeant, now Mr. John Matheson, (Ann's brother) would appear to have befriended him for two years. The ex-Pay Sergeant had another 10-children family on his hands at the same time, belonging to his younger sister Elspeth, and married to a man Mackay! (No relation, no trace, which is strange).
In 1820 John and Ann returned to Bonar and settled in a croft named Craigton, in the hamlet of Asdle. They appear to have left their 7th child in Glasgow to be brought up by relatives or friends there. The Sergeant probably helped. At Asdle three more children were born.
John and Ann were a splendid pair, even though dogged by misfortune for long. I have a photocopy of a letter of John's written when he was 83 years old to his son, William, in Accrington, Lancashire, inviting his son's wife to Bonar to recuperate after an illness. A steady, clean, clear handwriting, generous sentiments and uncomplaining.