Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Son of Ross-shire: Professor W. J. Watson

A figure sometimes overshadowed in the Carmichael Watson Project, but whose name certainly shouldn’t be forgotten, is William John (Ross) Watson (1865–1948). On his second marriage to Ella Carmichael (1870–1928), W. J. Watson became Alexander Carmichael’s son-in-law. Born at Milton in the parish of Kilmuir Easter in Easter Ross to Hugh Watson (1829–1893), a blacksmith, and Maria Buckle Ross (1829–1891), the precocious young Watson would grind himself out a brilliant academic career and would establish his name as the foremost Scottish onomastician of his generation. In an idle moment W. J. Watson jotted down some all too brief details about his birth and early childhood:

My mother’s people belonged to the Milntown of
New Tarbat, parish of Kilmuir Easter, where they
had some houses forming a small street. My
father belonged to Upper Kindeace, in the same parish
― a blacksmith, as his father was before him. The
smithy, now in ruins, stood by the roadside
above the brae from Tullich. The house, close by,
commands a magnificent view of the Cromarty
Firth & the Sutors & to the east the parish of Nigg
Through the Sutors we views the south opposite side of
the Moray Firth; altogether a view hard to
Milntown, where I
was born on February 17, 1865, is an old-
fashioned village, on record, in 1749 as “Myltoun
of Melthat with its two mills.” In my boyhood
I often visited our relations there, I enjoyed
their kindly company. There was (& is) a
village green, where a bonfire blazed on
New Year’s Day, Old Style. The village was
largely self contained – shops, public house, meal
mill, meeting house, shoemaker…

Educated initially by an uncle, James Watson, in Strathconon then later in Boath, Alness, he entered the Grammar School of Old Aberdeen in October 1880. From there he graduated with First Class Honours in Classics in 1886, and afterwards acted as assistant to Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, Professor of Latin at Aberdeen University. In the same year Watson entered Merton College, Oxford University, and graduated with First Class Honours in Classical Moderations in 1889, and again, in 1891, he achieved First Class Honours in Litterae Humaniores. During this period he was also an active athlete and gained a double blue in Throwing the Hammer and Stone. While at Oxford he came under the influence of the famous Celtic scholar Sir John Rhys. In 1894, after a short period in Glasgow, and at the early age of twenty-nine, Watson became the Rector of Inverness Royal Academy. At this time he became an active member of the Gaelic Society of Inverness and began to contribute articles to their Transactions. His main interest at this time was in onomastics, especially with regard to Gaelic place-names, as evinced by his early but still unsurpassed study of the Place-Names of Ross and Cromarty (1904). Some two years later Watson married – as his second wife Elizabeth (Ella) Carmichael; his first wife Isabella Christina née Munro had died aged 33 on 25 September 1902. With Ella he had two sons: Alexander or Alec Carmichael Watson, born 14 December 1908, who died aged only 15 on 3 September 1923; and James Francis, later James Carmichael, Watson, born on 12 March 1910. By the time of James' birth W. J. Watson was the Rector of the Edinburgh Royal High School, a position which he held from 1909 to 1914. On the death of Professor Donald MacKinnon, the holder since its inception in 1882 of the Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh, Watson succeeded him and occupied this prestigious post until his own retirement in 1938. He was then succeeded by his son James Carmichael Watson, who, despite having grounds to forego military service, joined the Royal Navy in World War II and was subsequently posted missing in action, presumed dead, in 1942. Some six years later, in 1948, W. J. Watson himself passed away on 9 March aged eighty-three. He had suffered a great deal during his life: the death of his two wives and perhaps the most grievous blows of them all the death of both of his sons by his second marriage. W. J. Watson is chiefly remembered today for The Celtic Place-names of Scotland (1926), a work thirty years in the making and one which still stands the test of time, the primary scholarly reference to this fascinating subject area.

CW25B, fos. 109r-109v
Nicolaisen, W. F. H., ‘In Praise of W. J. Watson (1865–1948): Celtic Place-Name Scholar’, Scottish Language, vol. 14/15 (1995/96), pp. 15–30 [reprinted in William J. Watson, Scottish Place-name Papers (London: Steve Savage, 2002).
Professor W. J. Watson

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Underwater Churches in South Uist

In a fascinating piece about submerged archaeological remains recorded on 4 November 1873 by Alexander Carmichael from Kenneth MacKenzie (c. 1805–1889), a mason then living in Daliburgh, South Uist, the informant tells of an old church that lies near Upper Bornish which can only be visited (back then) at low tide. Carmichael was clearly intrigued by what the mason had to say about these ruins and went out to investigate for himself and where he took the opportunity to write down two folios of notes. Unfortunately, on this occasion, Carmichael, as was his wont, did not take the time to draw a rough sketch of the submerged church. It might have been the case that the tide was already coming back in when he visited and so he only had enough time to jot down some notes before returning to the safety of land.

Below Bornish Uarach & side
of point lowest of spring tide
the best tide. I was shearing
& us[in]g a sharp stone An old h[and]
said to me if you were at Caib
eal Mhic Ceallaich. “Where?
past below you search & find
a build[in]g with door & 1 side arch 20 in[ches]
visible freestone rebut. Half inch
bead ab[ou]t 4 inch[es] back fr[om] edge of corner
and an inch juniper on the face
Wall 21 inch[es] thick & ap[pears] to be a door
There was no way inside such as a
window w[ou]ld have – The up[per] end of the
arch ap[pears] to be ab[ou]t 15 in[ches] fr[om] the Key
Gothic arch. Door ap[pears] ab[ou]t 2½ f[ee]t at
real gothic juniper is wher[e]
edge is cut aw[a]y. Built of lime
& mosslayers inside small & far
larger stones out[side]. Wall cover[ed] over
with tangles large staimh. I tore
off these for 7 f[ee]t of all. There
was more wall but this was
all I bare. rubble filled up the
wall to near top. 200 y[a]rds out fr[om]
the triusa. When I saw the beaut[iful]
work so beaut[ifully] done I had not
the heart to touch it. Her[e] oth[er]
rebuts seemed to have been
taken away. This was ab[ou]t 30
y[ea]rs ago in Aug[us]t. On s[outh] side of
Ruairdvaoilein nearer
Bornish than Kildonan
Caibeal Mhic Cheall[aich] also
at Dallabrog. MacCeallan
request[ed] to be buried as low as
the tide went out & a caib[eal]
about him. But how was
soft lime to solidify?
My sons bro[ugh]t home some bits
of the masonry of the caibeal
at Dallabrog.
Mrs Martin Dallabrog (Allan
her son also) knows all the
Kil phead[air] is under
the sea – It is not seen
now but another.

CW111, fos. 2r–2
Image: Aerial view of Ruairdvaoilein nearer Bornish, South Uist.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Curse of Neist

Among transcriptions of various well-known Gaelic songs that Alexander Carmichael wrote down in  rather a neat hand appears a verse entitled Ùrnaigh Chlann Leòid (‘The Clan MacLeod’s Prayer or Petition’). This rhyme has been collected on a number of occasions and one – a thirty-four line version – was collected, or at any rate written up, by Carmichael and printed in volume four of Carmina Gadelica. Appropriately enough, it was collected from, among others, Archibald MacLellan, a master-mariner from Lochboisdale, South Uist. Carmichael also notes that it was known in Barra as well as on the mainland Highlands in Kintail. Sometimes this particular rhyme is connected with the Clann Mhuirich, or MacVuirichs, who are afforded powers of magic in Gaelic tradition. But perhaps it is best to see this rhyme as part of the historical tradition of a remnant of MacDonalds trying to make an escape from the sixteenth-century battle known as Blàr Milleadh Gàraidh, or the Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke. Briefly, the MacDonalds arrived by sea from Uist on the first Sunday of May in 1578, set fire to Trumpan church, and burnt the entire congregation apart from one teenage girl who managed to escape to Dunvegan castle to warn the MacLeods of the atrocity. The MacLeods lost no time: waving the fairy flag, they avenged themselves on the MacDonalds. It is said that all the MacDonalds of the raiding party were put to the sword and after the slaughter all their corpses were dragged over to the side of a stone and turf wall which was then subsequently thrown over them. Such was their heinous crime and act of butchery that it was so deemed that they did not warrant a decent burial. If there is any credence to this tradition then some of the MacDonalds managed to make their escape by fleeing in a galley but only, it would seem, to have been fated to a watery grave rather than to the one met by their comrades who had died in battle. It may be added that this atrocity was carried out by the MacDonalds in order to exact vengeance on the MacLeods in return for a similar atrocity on the isle of Eigg some two years earlier.

Urnaigh Chlann Leoid

Gaoth an iar an Ruadha Feiste
Oidhche dhorcha ceo us uisge
Clann Domhnuill air bhordaibh brist
Leum cha misde
Biorlain[n] chaol chorrach
Siuil ard bhinneach
Sgriob fhann fheargach
Gun urram aon da cheile

The word curse perhaps describes this verse better than a prayer. It is usually referred to as The Curse of Neist and might be translated as follows:

A south-west wind towards Eiste point
Dark night of mist and rain
Clan Donald on a breaking board
I pity them not
Galley crank and narrow
Sails high and peaked
Crew weak and angry
Without respect for one another

Black, Ronald (ed.), The Gaelic Otherworld (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2005), pp. 181–182, 435–436.
Black, Ronald, 'I thought he made it all up: Context and controversy' in Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart (ed.), Alexander Carmichael: Life and Legacy (Port of Ness: Islands Book Trust, 2008), pp. 65–68.
Carmina Gadelica, iv, pp. 356–59.
CW 152, fol. 36r.
Trumpan church, Waternish, Isle of Skye.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Carmichaels in the Census - III: Mary Frances Carmichael, Episcopalianism, and the Creation of Carmina Gadelica

We saw in the last ‘Carmichaels in the Census’ blog how, after the death of her mother Elizabeth, Alexander’s future wife Mary Urquhart MacBean was ‘adopted’ into the household of the episcopalian minister the Rev. Arthur Ranken (1806–86) of Old Deer, husband of her mother’s sister Anne. Family tradition as retailed by Mary’s grandson James Carmichael Watson tells of another episcopalian clergyman who played a major part in her life:

From the Parsonage of Old Deer, and probably not long after leaving school, she went to be housekeeper and secretary to the revered Bishop Alexander Penrose Forbes [1817–75] at his house of Castlehill, Dundee, and at Burntisland in Fife. Of Dean Ranken and Bishop Forbes, the guardians of her early life, she often spoke with affection and regard, and it was clear that they had exercised a profound influence upon her. [CG iv, pp. xli–xlii]

Mary MacBean may well have spent some time in Alexander Forbes’ household while, as Bishop of Brechin, he was in charge of St Paul’s congregation, Dundee. It is tempting to think that his social conscience, his strong sense of vocation to tend to the poor of the city – ‘an example of slum ministry unique among Anglican bishops in the United Kingdom and rare even among Episcopalian and Anglican clergy’ [Oxford DNB] – might be detected in her later charity work as a ‘ministering angel’ among the poor cottars of Uist, not to mention the unsparing self-abnegation which so impressed and exasperated those close to her. Contemporary written records, however, suggest that it was not so much the bishop himself who influenced Mary MacBean, but rather his no less remarkable brother, the clergyman and scholar the Rev. George Hay Forbes (1821–75).

Although disabled by polio since early childhood, George Hay Forbes, having taken holy orders in 1847, ‘entered on zealous and unremitting clerical work’ [Skene, Memoir, p.44]. Mary Frances might first have met him in 1848, when he was working as a curate, and teaching at the school she apparently attended, in Crieff. The Rev. Forbes was subsequently appointed to supervise a mission in Burntisland, Fife, a task he carried out ‘with great energy and perseverance’, winning over initially hostile townspeople to the extent that he was eventually elected Provost – albeit for a truncated term – in 1869.

In the 1861 census schoolmistress ‘Mary MacBain’, born in Sutherlandshire, is recorded as living at the parsonage in Leven Street with George Hay Forbes and his wife Helen (Eleanor Mary Irby, daughter of Captain Wemyss of the Scots Guards). She may well have been living there for some time. Mrs Forbes was known in the town for her prudence in managing the household, making do with only one servant: in this case, doubtless, Mary MacBean. By the time the census was taken, it is clear that Mary, supposedly only 22, had already quietly subtracted two years from her life; by the time of her marriage in 1868, a further two years would have disappeared. As we shall see, she would follow this economical strategy with her children’s ages as well.

Mary evidently worked as one of the two female schoolteachers in Forbes’ Church school. According to the memoir compiled by Forbes’ cousin Felicia Skene, ‘after the children were dismissed, he always assembled the teachers in his own house for instruction’ [Skene, Memoir, p. 48].

George Hay Forbes is best-known today for the private printing press housed in his parsonage, the Pitsligo Press, named for his great-great-grandmother’s brother Alexander Forbes (1678–1762), the fourth Lord Pitsligo, forfeited for the part he played in the 1745 jacobite Rising. Under Forbes’ painstaking supervision, the Press turned out a eclectic selection of journals, polemical tracts, sermons, and above all high-quality liturgical works, distinguished by outstanding scholarship, free from misprints, and set in a bewildering variety of fonts. Although Forbes employed a man as a printer, he was assisted in his work by several women compositors, as well, it seems, as the older boys and girls of the Church school [Primrose, ‘Pitsligo Press’, p. 59].

Mary Frances Carmichael’s later interest in book design, which comes through so clearly in Carmina Gadelica, must surely have been inspired by her having shared a house for perhaps over a decade with a printing press – there is no question but that she must have been involved in Forbes’ work herself over the years. Again, the religious material itself which Forbes worked on must have influenced her, especially the editions he and his brother prepared of the magnificently illustrated Arbuthnott Missal (1864), the only complete service book known to survive from pre-Reformation Scotland, and the posthumously-printed Drummond Missal (1882), a volume originating in twelfth-century Ireland. It’s significant that Alexander Carmichael would draw rather spurious parallels between Arbuthnott’s patron saint, Ternan, and the Benbecula saint Torranan in a long essay compiled for Carmina Gadelica ii.

As a young woman, Mary MacBean worked in a household under a clergyman driven by an obsessive interest in liturgy, spurred by the acrimonious controversy over the Episcopalian Prayer Book then raging between the ‘Scottish’ and ‘English’ wings of the church. This interest was complemented by a fascination about native saints: we might discern the influence of Bishop Forbes here as well, with his research into national hagiography in his Kalendar of Scottish Saints (1872) – referred to directly by Alexander Carmichael in CW MS 120 fo.86 – and his edition of the Lives of S. Ninian and S. Kentigern (1874). Could it be that these interrelated liturgical and hagiographical streams come together in Carmina Gadelica, conceived of as a ‘lost liturgy’ of prayers, blessings, and charms whose fragments Mary’s husband had gathered in the farthest-flung islands of the west?

Finally, we shouldn’t overlook George Hay Forbes’ early interest in Gaelic and the Gaels, stimulated by anxieties that the newly-formed Free Church, victorious, and vigorous in religious controversy, might entice Gaelic-speaking Episcopalians away from the faith of their fathers:

In 1846 he took the lead in establishing the Gaelic Tract Society for the purpose of educating and maintaining Highland churchpeople in fidelity to their Church. A strong committee was formed to carry out the scheme, and on it, no doubt owing to Forbes’ family connections, Lord Forbes, The Macintosh, Lochiel, Irvine of Drum and others served for some time.

In 1847 the Society printed a translation in Gaelic of the Scottish Communion Office, and the Secretary [George Hay Forbes] knew enough Gaelic to correct the proofs, for a copy of the pamphlet lies before me with the corrections quite clearly written in his own hand. He turned his knowledge of Gaelic to good account later in life when he had to deal with Gaelic hymns in some liturgies. [Perry, George Hay Forbes, pp. 29, 31]

In the very first year of his incumbency Mr. Forbes put himself to no small trouble and expense in order to provide a number of devotional works printed in Gaelic, for the use of those to whom that language was the most familiar, and in spite of his infirm state which made it trying for him to walk, he was continually visiting at their houses, instructing, consoling, and sympathising with them in every way that he could. [Skene, Memoir, p. 46]

Given this background, could we suggest that Carmina Gadelica as printed is as much Mary Carmichael’s book as it is her husband’s? Might Carmina have an east coast as well as a west coast origin, Episcopalian as well as Roman Catholic? It may well be that Mary’s interest in early-medieval insular art (not just ‘Celtic Art’), the ‘artistic hand’ which devised the extraordinary illustrated initials in Carmina Gadelica, was first awakened during the years she spent as a young girl in Rosemarkie, home to one of the best collections of Pictish sculptured symbol stones extant (another Pictish stone, incidentally, once stood in the ruins of the abbey at Old Deer).

Might there be one final, personal mark demonstrating the influence of George Hay Forbes’ household? These were the years during which Mary Urquhart MacBean transformed herself into Mary Frances MacBean. Did Mary change her name as a tribute to the gifted, and equally driven, writer and philanthropist, Oxford-based Felicia Mary Frances Skene (1821–99), sister of the historian William Forbes Skene who was subsequently to play such an important rôle in her husband’s life, and biographer-to-be of her close and admired cousins Bishop Alexander Penrose Forbes and the Rev. George Hay Forbes?

Carnie, Robert Hay. ‘The Pitsligo Press of George Hay Forbes: Some Additions and Corrections’, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, iv (1955–71), pp. 233–43.
Perry, William. Alexander Penrose Forbes, Bishop of Brechin: The Scottish Pusey (London: SPCK, 1939).
Perry, William. George Hay Forbes: A Romance in Scholarship (London: SPCK, 1927).
Primrose, J. B. ‘The Pitsligo Press of George Hay Forbes’, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, iv (1955–71), pp. 53–89.
Skene, Felicia Mary Frances. A Memoir of Alexander, Bishop of Brechin, with a Brief Notice of his Brother the Rev. George Hay Forbes (London: J. Masters and Co., 1876).

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. ‘Forbes, Alexander Penrose’, ‘Forbes, George Hay’, ‘Skene, Felicia Mary Frances’.

Rev. George Hay Forbes

Monday, 15 November 2010

Carmichaels and the Stewarts of Appin

When Alexander Carmichael visited his native island of Lismore he would take the opportunity to write down snippets of information about historical traditions which had a bearing upon this part of Argyllshire. Being a Carmichael himself, he probably relished the thought of his clan name being the oldest in Lismore, the ones who could best claim seniority. But there may well be some historical veracity to this claim. Aside from being standard-bearers to the Stewarts of Appin, it is interesting to note the rôle carried out by the Carmichaels on the burial of a chief of the Stewarts of Appin. Carrying the coffin three times sun-wise (or deiseil) around the cemetery was a well-known phenomenon and, it seems, a very robust one: this presumably ancient burial custom was still being carried out within living memory.

Carmichael is said to be the oldest name in Lismore and the oldest in Appin and to have been in Appin before the advent of the Stewarts. […] Besides being standard bearers to the chiefs of Appin the Carmichaels were at the death of a chief (probably) to remove the body from the house to the […] upon lacking the place of burial the Carmichaels resumed possession of the body and carrying it three times sun-wise round the burying place laid it in the grave Then in conveying their heads and bowing reverently low towards the dead they all said together –

’Slan le fear mo ghraidh
Go m’ failtich mise rithist thu

Fare thee well man of my love
Till I hail thee again.

References: CW MS 383, fos. 183r–184v.
Image: Stewart of Appin Arms.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Ancestors of the Duke of Tarentum

Interspersed among notes about the traditions of Argyll, Alexander Carmichael managed to collect some genealogical information regarding the MacEachen ancestors of the Duke of Tarentum. From whom Carmichael got this family snippet he does not, unfortunately, say but it would appear that it was probably a tradition bearer from South Uist. Two patronymics of Neil MacEachen are given and their connection with Ronald of Arisaig and with Howbeg and Marshal MacDonald. One of these Neil MacEachen’s (later MacDonald) was the father of the Duke of Tarentum, otherwise known as Jacques Étienne MacDonald (1765–1840). His 1825 visit to his ancestral lands in South Uist has already been the subject of a pervious blog. The change of the family name to MacDonald by Alasdair Mòr while the others remained MacEachen is noted. It also appears that Alexander Mòr Howbig, or Alasdair Mòr Tobha Bhig (fl. 1800), had four daughters along with several illegitimate daughters, something that was not particularly unusual as this time.

(1) Neill Maceachain the son
of Hector son John son Hector
son of John son of Alexander son
of John ic Raoil, from Arasaig
– the first from Arasaig to How
(2) Neill Maceachan son
of Alexander son of John son
of Ranald from Arasaig.
Alexander father of
Neill father
of the Marshal had Neill
Ranald Howbeag. He is the
first called of Howbeg.
Raol had Alexander
who was called Alexander
Mor Howbig. This Alastair
had daughters (4).
and several illegitimate daughters.
Alexander Mor called himself
Macdonald prob[ably] after his cousin
the Marshal – all the others
kept to Maceachains.
Neil, Ranald, John & Angus
Ranald being the father of Alas
tair Mor – the father of the Marshall.
Raoil Howbeg this Raol being
the first called of Howbeag
Raoil had no son except Alastair

CW 126(f), fos. 191r–192v
Hache, Jean-Didier (ed.), The French MacDonald (Port of Ness, Isle of Lewis: The Islands Book Trust, 2007)
Image: Jacques MacDonald, portrait by François Gerard.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Carmichaels in the Census - II

Mary Frances MacBean, future wife of Alexander Carmichael, was born as Mary Urqhuart MacBean in Kirkiboll, in the parish of Tongue in northern Sutherland, on 31 October 1837. She was daughter of Kenneth MacBean (b. 1809) and Elizabeth or Elisa née Fraser (1812–47). Kenneth had been born on 26 January 1809 to John MacBean (1761–1843), then grieve at Davidston on the Black Isle, later farmer at Flowerburn Mains, Rosemarkie, and his wife Mary Urquhart (1773–1853), the paternal grandmother after whom our Mary was named. Kenneth MacBean married Elizabeth Fraser on 20 February 1835, when working as an exciseman in Fortrose. The couple had two other children: Mary’s older sister Anne Calder MacBean, probably called after her mother’s sister, was born on 7 December 1835 in the parish of Inverkeithing, Fife, while a younger brother John Fraser MacBean, probably named for both his grandfathers, was born in Kirkiboll on 12 February 1839.

Although contemporary records are scant, it is difficult not to draw conclusions about Mary’s childhood and youth. A restless and rootless upbringing, punctuated by a catastrophe, or even a series of catastrophes, do much to explain her drive, resourcefulness, and strength of character; it may also help to explain why Mary Urquhart MacBean the child would go on to recreate herself as Mary Frances MacBean the adult. Here is her grandson James Carmichael Watson (1910–42) writing about her in the fourth volume of Carmina Gadelica:

My grandmother’s forebears for many centuries had belonged to the Black Isle in Ross. Her father was Kenneth MacBean (or MacBain), civil engineer, of Kessock Ferry, and her mother Elizabeth Fraser, daughter of John Fraser of the Ness, Chanonry. John Fraser, her maternal grandfather, had been an employee of Broadwood the piano-maker in London, and, retiring to his native croft, his own ancestral property, became the Inspector of the Poor in Fortrose. Her father was alive at the time of her marriage, but her mother died while she was still a child, and she had neither sister nor brother. [CG iv, xli]

James’ grandmother clearly identified with her mother’s family rather than her father’s.

The 1841 census shows the three-year old Mary Urquhart living with her parents, elder sister, and younger brother in Bridge Street, Montrose, the latest excise posting of her father. Within a few years the family would fall apart.

On 15 March 1847, when the MacBeans were living in Perth Road, Dundee, Mary’s mother Elizabeth died from typhus, a disease rife in industrial British cities at the time and epidemic in Dundee during that particular year. The records suggest that Kenneth resigned his post in the excise and took the family back to the Black Isle. In the 1851 census he is listed as living at the family home of Flowerburn Mains, Rosemarkie, with his widowed mother, his brother David and sister-in-law Janet, their five children and a nephew. There is no sign of Kenneth’s own children.

Mary told the story to her grandson James Carmichael Watson as follows:

On her mother’s death she found a new home. Her people, like many others in the district, were of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and her mother’s sister, Anne Fraser, was the wife of the Rev. Arthur Ranken [(1806–86)], priest of Old Deer and later Dean of the united Dioceses of Aberdeen and Orkney. She became for the time an adopted child of Dean Ranken’s house, and went with his daughters to the College for Girls established at Crieff by Canon Alexander Lendrum, the Episcopal clergyman there – a school co-eval with Trinity College, Glen Almond, and similar to it in purpose, but not now in existence. [CG iv, xli]

It may well have been the case that Mary did go to school with the Rev. Ranken’s only daughter Anna Elizabeth (1834–64). This must have been during the late forties, for in the 1851 census Mary MacBean is recorded as the servant of William Campbell, innkeeper, living at Shore Place, Rosemarkie, near her father and grandmother. Although her siblings have not been traced in this census, it appears that her sister Anne died on 23 March 1853 at Fortrose. Her brother John probably did not survive childhood.

In 1861 Kenneth MacBean is recorded as an auctioneer, still living in the household of his brother David in Flowerburn Mains, Rosemarkie. Ten years later, the family seem to have vanished. We do not know what happened to Mary’s resourceful but restless father, although she did tell her grandson that he was still alive at the time of her marriage in 1868. A Kenneth MacBean of the right age is recorded as having died in the State of Victoria, Australia, in 1873. Mary’s second son, born on the 31 March 1872, was named Eoghan Kenneth Carmichael.

Carmina Gadelica iv, p. xli.
David M. Bertie, Scottish Episcopal Clergy (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000), pp. 410–11.

Rosemarkie in the Black Isle

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sir Walter Scott in Appin

Between notes about his own family and general genealogical notes about the Carmichaels, Alexander Carmichael wrote down an anecdote regarding the time that Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) visited Appin. The date of Scott’s visit is not known but it must have been prior to the publication of his first historical novel Waverley which took the literary world by storm in 1814. Scott may be given credit for the creation of the modern historical novel and some of his writings, such as Rob Roy (1817), were deeply influenced by Highland history. It must be said that Scott’s views of the Highlands were not detached from romanticism, such was the lingering influence of James Macpherson’s Ossian, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century his writings proved to be immensely popular. This anecdote begins with two Appin men who may have been escaping from Culloden, before the connection is then made with Sir Walter Scott.

Maccoll and a Carmichael were
pursued by horsemen and wishing
to preserve their swords they drove them
into the moss over which they were
pursued. They were imprisoned in
Castle Stalker Appin and when
liberated they went back in search
of their swords and found them.
When Sir Walter Scott was in
Appin he taught Archibald the son of this
Maccoll the rudiments of English [and] Latin
grammar along with the boys of his host
Stewart of Invernaoile
It was here that Scott heard mostly from the
miller of Inverfolla adjoining the episodes
of the 45–46 woven into the web of
Waverly. He took jottings
in house a bit of which is still up and
used as a milk-house and then went
to a cave up the hill side and then
extended his notes. This was his habit and
when at a subsequent period when he
became famous Scott visited Appin
he went to see the cave by the river on the hillside
where as he pathetically said he spent
some of his happiest hours.
This cave is notable from its having
been the place where his muime hid
Domhnull nan Ord Donald
the Hammerer when an infant
The history of Donald the Hammerer
is given by Sir Walter Scott in Jamieson’s
edition of Burts Letters from the Highlands.

Reference: CW 383, fos. 179r–180r
Image: Sir Walter Scott by Henry Raeburn (1822)

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]