RLM: Epistle 1:
William Murray III had a son, John Murray I, who was born at Inchure, date not known. I am typing this out for you almost on the 200th Anniversary of his wedding to Ann Sutherland which was celebrated either in the little church at Blarich or at the bride's home nearby, possibly at both places, on the 23rd. December 1771.
I expect it would be a real cold day, with a snell wind coming down the Strath. Ann's mother was well prepared for it, and she had lots of home-made bread, scones, cakes and buns ready, and buttered oatcakes too, and a huge kettle of boiling water for the tea. For the men there was whisky. It was cheap then, and good, for the Matheson brothers, William and George, over the hill at Brea, were selling it at 4/0 per pint. There might be a piper who had served in one of the Highland Regiments, and whose time was up.
Colonel Sutherland, reputed to be some relation of the bride's family, would be a guest. His dates 1720-1815. He was the local tacksman for the Countess of Sutherland. Perhaps he proposed the toast of the happy pair. See the "Rearchar Papers", by Elizabeth R. Mackay. Dornoch 1970.
I don't know how Ann would be dressed, but John I would certainly be in a tweed suit, good to last for the rest of his life, for he would only wear it on Sundays or when he went out as a catechist. The Minister would speak at great length, a failing with ministers up there, before and since. Some of the guests would wear a tartan, more likely as a plaid for the homecoming than as a kilt.
As the fun increased Gaelic songs would be sung; perhaps that favourite with my grandmother, Janet Murray, "The Road to Rogart".
I do not know about Ann's family origins, (she came from Pittentrail), but as a crofter's daughter she would be real handy about the place, and a 'strapping lass'! That last word in Scots means tall, handsome. (I must have a session with her G.G.Grandson, Alex. Sutherland, of Balcharn, Lairg, about her). Ann lived for 58 years after her wedding day, so I fancy she was a good bit younger than John, probably in her teens. The ceremony over, John may have taken Ann to some wee croft in the hamlet of Acheilidh, possibly Inchure itself, and carrying her over the threshold as was proper then, and now! And work would begin the next day, for both!
John Murray I, doubtless aided by his three sons, built a wee house for his wife and family. It was completed in 1798, the year in which he died. I fancy his illness was sudden and unexpected. That particular house is now a barn to the new Inchure, built in 1911. See photograph. It contained "a wright's shop", according to the diary of Donald Murray (B) his grandson, who saw it last in 1855. So John, besides having the skills of a crofter was a wood worker too!
As a catechist, we assume John I was a religious man. With the minister's approval he would go about his district asking children questions from the Shorter Catechism, all about God, about Sin, and about The Devil. If the poor children did not know the answers he reported them to their parents, telling the parents to "see that they knew their lessons better next time".
This catechism was a small booklet of perhaps 12 pages, costing 1/2d. It was printed in Edinburgh and to satisfy the Scottish hunger for education there was a multiplication table printed on the back, outside of course. Religion and learning went hand in hand up there! I have read this wee book several times in recent years, trying to understand it, and have utterly failed. John Murray I would write me down as 'one of the lost', so you are lucky to have been spared that questioning!
I have gathered the following stories about him.
A cousin of my father, Alex Murray (1895-1970) (C) wrote to me from Glasgow:
A story my father, William Murray (1840-1916) (B) used to tell was that when John Murray I was on his death bed he asked for a drink of water. It was a Sabbath evening, and of course the water in the house had been drawn on the Saturday night from the well. Someone suggested that fresh water should be drawn. "No", cried out the old man, "if I were to take a drop of water from the well drawn on a Sunday it would burn on my tongue through all eternity".
Helen Buchanan from Kyle of Tongue wrote:
When our Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, John Murray I (Had he the Second Sight?) on his death bed at Inchure 'Saw' the Big Cheviot Sheep (The Black Drop) climbing the Ord, his good wife, Ann Sutherland, was taken up with other sorrows, and gave little heed to his vision. Only too soon did she realise its cruel truth when her second son, John Murray II (Great John or Iain mor) was ruthlessly evicted from his adjacent holding at Acheilidh, and a bit later from Rhaoine (Roin). The Big Cheviots were trotting steadily through Strath Fleet, Kildonan and the uncharted paths of Reay. The evictions were well on their way.
William Murray Goodwin (D) of Manotick, Ottawa wrote:
A close friend of John Murray I was Colonel Sutherland (1720-1815). He was tacksman for the area round Brea, and lived at Dalnama in Strath Carnaig in 1787. It is told that this gentleman committed some fault for which he was condemned in the Kirk. The usual penalty was to stand in the church with a rope round the neck, in front of the whole congregation, for a certain number of Sundays. But the Minister proposed that as the Colonel was a man of high degree he should stand in his pew instead. John Murray I rose at once and protested at this discrimination, and his opinion prevailed. His friend, the victim of the judgment, congratulated him upon his stand, and they were better friends than ever.
I expect that Goodwin got this story in 1928 from Alex Murray III.
Alex Sutherland, of Balcharn, Lairg, knew this story, and elaborated upon it during our visit to him this year, 1971:
When a member of the congregation at Rogart wanted to interrupt during a service, he had to rise in his pew, take off his jacket, turn the sleeves inside out, and then put on his jacket in that state, his back meanwhile being turned to the Minister. On turning round again, the Minister HAD to cease speaking, and the member could then put his point forward. Then the ritual took place in reverse!
I don't think Alexander was pulling my leg: he's not that kind! But you never know with these Highlanders! The church would be St. Callan's, at Rogart.
The friendship between the Colonel and John Murray I might be the reason for Inchure folk not being evicted, while surrounding crofters suffered. Another reason might be a family relationship of Ann Sutherland to the Colonel.
That's all I know about John Murray I. He takes his place as one of the same generation as Alexander MacPherson of Dounie and Meikle Daan, i.e. the Apex Generation. I have no stories about the others.
John and Ann Sutherland would be buried at the top part of the Cemetery at Rogart, where many of their descendants followed them in the fullness of time. I think the Murray pride would cause a stone to be erected over their graves, but I fancy wind and weather, frost and snow, would cause it to fall, either on its face or on its back, and become in-decipherable. En passant, I noted a memorial to Colonel Sutherland near the entrance.
John Murray I and Ann Sutherland had three sons, and recently, we have discovered they had two daughters!