The Story behind the Stone – the families, estates and stories of Kirkmichael, Cullicudden, the Black Isle and beyond

Murray Macdonald M.P. and other distinguished descendants of Hugh Macdonald, gardener Poyntzfield and farmer Woodside

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos as given below each image

The stone behind which this story sits is a lichenous sandstone headstone. It stands at Cullicudden, but has rather distant connections:

Erected by WILLIAM MACDONALD Jamaica and H.F. MACDONALD, minister of Strachur, to the memory of their beloved father HUGH MACDONALD, farmer Woodside, who died 30th October 1860 in the 80th year of his age

Hugh Macdonald had been the head gardener at Poyntzfield for Major Gun Munro before farming at Woodside (close to the Burn of Newhall) and it is remarkable how successful his progeny were.

The headstone commemorating Hugh Ferguson, head gardener at Poyntzfield and farmer at Woodside; photo by Jim Mackay

Part of the extensive gardens at Poyntzfield, currently Poyntzfield Herb Garden, operated by Friend of Kirkmichael Duncan Ross; photo by Andrew Dowsett

The William Macdonald first mentioned on the dedication was a planter in Jamaica, the chief magistrate or “Custos” of the parish of St. Mary, and his title of “The Honourable William Macdonald” indicates his position of distinction in Jamaica. I wonder given the close Gun Munro connections with Jamaica if there had been an assist there earlier in his career.

The H.F. Macdonald (Hugh Ferguson Macdonald) mentioned on the dedication on the Cullicudden headstone began his career as the Resolis parochial schoolmaster and Kirk Session clerk. In the Disruption of 1843, he did not leave with the Reverend Donald Sage and most of the congregation to join the Free Church. Instead, he continued for several years as Session Clerk with the greatly-reduced established church, in the company of the lairds of Resolis and their close adherents. He became the minister of Strachur and Strathlachlan in Argyll, and was awarded the prized “D.D.” by the University of St Andrews in 1900.

One of Reverend Macdonald’s sons became the respected Liberal Member of Parliament Murray Macdonald M.P.

Another, a successful engineer, FitzCharles David Macdonald, was appointed Chinese Consul-General for Scotland. He purchased the estates of Glenbranter and Invernoaden in Argyll.

No wonder a good memorial was erected to commemorate the head gardener of Poyntzfield and farmer of Woodside, Hugh Macdonald. But his antecedents had also included someone well-known in his day in the Black Isle – his grandfather was Barrington Ferguson, an ordinary Resolis tenant but also one of the Reverend Donald Sage’s most devout Elders in the period following the Disruption when Resolis was seen as one of the most ardent religious parishes in Scotland. He must have been named Barrington for a reason, but I have never been able to find out why: all his siblings had perfectly normal Highland names. I see that one of his descendants, sadly killed in the first World War, was named Charles Hodson Barrington MacDonald, so the Elder’s unusual Christian name was carried forward through the generations.

Hugh MacDonald, the head gardener of Poyntzfield, married Cursty, Barrington Ferguson’s daughter. Unusally for the time, we have her testimony in a case that came before the Kirk Session – on which Barrington was an Elder!

Early days in Resolis

William Macdonald shoemaker in Culbo and Elizabeth Urquhart

The earliest members of this family of Macdonalds whom I have identified are shoemaker William Macdonald and his wife Elizabeth Urquhart.

I mistakenly looked for them for some time in the adjacent parish of Urquhart as in the 1851 Census the parish of birth of Hugh Macdonald was incorrectly given as Urquhart. In fact, he was born in the parish of Resolis, albeit not far from the border with Urquhart. There are five records for the couple and they demonstrate (Culbo, Brea and Blarakey) how often the family were moving at the time. At some point William became a servant in Blarikey (Blarakey, near to Newmills), but what kind of servant we do not know.

14 Mar 1781 William McDonald shoemaker in Culbo & Elizabeth Urquhart – Hugh
20 Apr 1783 Wm. McDonald shoemaker in Culbo & Elizabeth Urquhart – Jean
12 Nov 1786 William McDonald at Brea & Elisabeth Urquhart – Elisabeth
3 Mar 1788 William McDonald in Brea & Elspat Urquhart – Janet
12 Apr 1790 William McDonald servant in Blarikey & Lizy Urquhart – Anne

Hugh Macdonald gardener (1781–1860) and Christian Ferguson (1794–1864)

We have in another Story behind the Stone observed how John Blair moved from being the gardener at Ardoch to become the gardener at Newhall. This was before Ardoch became Poyntzfield and occurred presumably when Adam Gordon sold the estate in 1761, and after Charles Hamilton Gordon of Newhall had died in 1761. In a reverse twist, set out within another Story behind the Stone, we have seen how map-maker to the Highlands, David Aitken (c.1739–1809), started his career as gardener at Newhall before transferring to become gardener at Poyntzfield.

In this current story, Hugh Macdonald moved from being gardener at Braelangwell to gardener at Poyntzfield. “Musical gardens”! And he seems between the two to have been a gardener at Agneshill, a hamlet established not long before by Urquhart of Braelangwell. Why he should have been a gardener there I simply do not know: I suspect that in reality he was gardening at one of the estate houses and simply residing at Agneshill. The gardens at estate houses fulfilled several functions – aesthetic and practical – and the gardener was high in the pecking order of estate servants.

The gardens at Braelangwell at their greatest extent

The front garden of Poyntzfield; there were – and are – extensive gardens to the rear

Braelangwell was sold by Charles Gordon Urquhart in 1812, following the death of his father David in 1811, and there was a period of short-term ownerships for the following period. I imagine this would not have suited Hugh Macdonald and he would have welcomed the stability offered by the Gun Munros at Poyntzfield. He was still in Braelangwell in 1814 as the militia list for September 1814 contains, for Braelangwell, “ Hugh Macdonald gardener” with his age given as over 30.

In the similar militia list for 1825, he now appears under Poyntzfield: “Hugh McDonald gardener”, with his age given again as over 30, but with the addition now of four children.

I note that he and Christian named one of his daughters after the laird’s wife – Jamima Graham, she who gave her name to the planned village of Jamima Village, or Jemimaville as it became. This was both a mark of respect and a good way to keep in with the laird!

Hugh Macdonald was remembered long after his death, and I note that when his son Hugh Ferguson Macdonald was awarded the honorary degree of D.D. in 1900, the Press and Journal of 11 April 1900 said:

The older inhabitants of Resolis who remember Dr Macdonald’s father, not only as a skilful horticulturist, but latterly as the genial farmer of Woodside, on the Newhall estate, will be gratified to learn of the honour conferred on the minister of Strachur. Mrs Ross, Newmills Farm, Resolis, is the last local survivor of this well-known family.

Woodside lies beside Newhall Burn and is well buried in the woods!


The Laird’s Name

Let us step back up the family tree for a moment to look at Barrington Ferguson’s origins. John Ferguson, servant in Ardoch, and his wife Christian Munro, had six children recorded in the baptism register (Adam, 1751; John, 1753; Margret, 1756, Ann, 1759; and twins Barington and Jean, 1761). By “servant in Ardoch” I take it that he was on the staff at Ardoch House. This was in last years of the Gordons of Ardoch, before the Gun Munro family purchased the estate, renaming house and estate “Poyntzfield”. The last Gordon of Ardoch was Adam Gordon, and I see that John and Christian cannily gave the name of a son the name of the laird.


Barrington Ferguson (1761–1850) and Henrietta Fraser

The child we are interested in, the twin Barrington Ferguson (named after whom?), married one Henrietta Fraser and we can track the farms he tenanted by the location given whenever they had a child baptised. These records also suggest the locals found his name challenging, given the number of variants:

18 Oct 1786 Barrenty Ferguson at the Birks & Henny Fraser – Mary
19 Aug 1788 Barry Ferguson in the Birks & Henny Fraser – David
16 Jul 1794 Barny Ferguson at Woodhead & Henny Fraser – Christian
22 May 1799 Barny Ferguson tent. in Brea & Henrietta Fraser – Henrietta
6 Mar 1803 Barry Ferguson Brea & Heny Fraser – John

I also have seen church records where he is named Barrie, Barnabas and Barandine! We have an early story regarding Barrington Ferguson, from tales about the famous minister of Resolis, Hector McPhail (1716–1774). In McDougall’s Life of Hector McPhail we hear:

Mr. McPhail was ever most anxious that the young should be led to the Saviour, and never lost an opportunity of teaching them to pray. On one occasion he engaged in devotional exercises by the bedside of a young boy, Barrington Ferguson, who was seriously ill. As he was leaving the chamber, he said very earnestly to the youth, “Be you much in prayer, and you will one day be in a lovely place beyond the sun.” The little boy recovered. He became in time a worthy and devout elder, fruitful in old age, and lived until 1850, when he soared into the land that is brighter than the sun.

Barrington was appointed an Elder in Donald Sage’s time. Sage was as usual very candid about the man:

The session thus constituted added five to their number, namely, Donald Maclean, tenant of Kirktown; David Murray, tenant at Cullicudden; James Forbes, tenant at Tobarchourn, catechist of the parish; Thomas Munro, tenant, St. Martins; and Barrington Ferguson, tenant at Brae. The character and standing of all the Elders were according to godliness, each and all being men possessed of weight, and to whose judgment the people readily submitted. … Donald Maclean had made money in London as a slater, and took a farm, first, in the parish of Roskeen, and afterwards in the parish of Resolis. His habits were penurious, and, while his piety was a reality, yet it was not a little derived from his close intimacy with many of the most eminent of the Ross-shire Christians who lived in his immediate vicinity. … Barrington Ferguson was his superior in spirituality. But his understanding was very clouded, and in prayer or in speaking to the question he was long and tedious. He had been, at one time, a substantial farmer at Brae, but afterwards became reduced in circumstances. His death took place in 1850.

Donald Sage, minister of the Established Church in Resolis until 1843, and thereafter minister of the Free Church in Resolis

The former Church of Scotland in Resolis where Donald Sage was minister and Barrington Ferguson an Elder

Sage mentions that Barrington became reduced in circumstances after farming at Brae, but he was in difficulties much earlier in life, when he was farming in Birks (above Ballicherry). I came across a 1791 action in the Sheriff Court “Summons of Removal Duncan Davidson &c. v. Isobel Millar &c.” In this, “Duncan Davidson Esqr. of Tulloch & Charles Graham Esqr. of London Trustees in Trust upon the Estate of Poyntzfield and Alexander Anderson Esqr. of Udol & Mr Robert Arthur Minister of Risolis Factors appointed by the said Trustees seek removal of Isobel Millar Widow of the late Thomas Simpson tenant in Ballicherry & John Ferguson & Barry Ferguson joint tenants in Wester Birks and John Holm tenant in Balliskelly”. I imagine the John Ferguson here would have been Barrington’s elder brother John. I think he escaped eviction at this point as in the paperwork all the names except John Holm are deleted, and only John Holm is mentioned in the related execution. However, we know from the baptism register that by 1794 Barrington was farming at Woodhead instead of the Birks, so he had changed farm and estate by that time.

We know where he was located during his time as “a substantial farmer at Brae” as he is shown on the “Plan of the Estate of Braelangwall.Lying in the Parish of Risoles County of Cromarty. / Belonging to C.G. Urquhart Esq. / Surveyed by Geo. Brown. / 1812”. On this “Barry Ferguson” can be seen on land between Easter and Wester Brae.

I don’t know when Barrington’s wife, Henrietta Fraser, died, but I see a Kirk Session record of 25 August 1830 referring to him as “Barrington Ferguson Widower Elder Brae” so Henrietta had died before this date. Barrington himself, as noted by Sage and McDougall, died in 1850.

Christian or Christy Ferguson (1794–1864)

Barrington’s daughter Christian married, before 1814, the well-respected gardener Hugh Macdonald, he who is commemorated by the headstone at Cullicudden. They had children over the period 1814 to 1831, during which period Hugh transferred from the gardens of Braelangwell to the gardens of Poyntzfield.

19 Apr 1814 Hugh McDonald gardener Braelangwell & Christian Ferguson – Henrietta
14 Mar 1816 Hugh McDonald gardener Braelangwell & Christian Ferguson – William 8 Mar
8 Apr 1818 Hugh McDonald gardener Braelangwell & Christian Ferguson – Hugh 3 Apr
17 Jun 1820 Hugh McDonald gardener Agnus’ Hill & Christian Ferguson – David 13 Jun
16 May 1823 Hugh McDonald gardener at Pointzfield & Christian Ferguson – Elizabeth 10 May
6 Jul 1825 Hugh McDonald gardener at Poyntzfield & Christian Ferguson – Christian 3 Jul
18 Sep 1828 Hugh McDonald gardener at Poyntzfield & Christian Ferguson – Jamima Graham 12 Sep
7 Jul 1831 Hugh McDonald gardener at Poyntzfield & Christian Ferguson – Jane 3 Jul

The extensive gardens at Poyntzfield

We are lucky to have an extract of evidence provided by Christian herself, in a scandal in 1834, when Captain Mackenzie, a guest of the Gun Munros at Poyntzfield, was thought to be having an affair with the Grieve’s wife. Christian’s father, Barrington Ferguson, was of course one of the Elders investigating the scandal.

At the Church of Resolis the 15th day of November 1834 years … Compeared Christy Ferguson wife of Hugh McDonald Gardener Poyntzfield who being duly admonished & interrogated Declares that she has often seen the Grieves wife & Capt Mackinzie speaking to each other during the day time but did not see any thing unbecoming. Declares that She had a private conversation with the Grieves wife about the evil Report in circulation about Capt Mckinzie & her. Declares that the Grieves wife asked her if Capt Mackinzie was evil spoken of for being too free with young girls about the place or with married women. Declares that she replied that he was evil spoken of in reference to married women & that She took that opportunity of warning the grieves wife & said to her that she should not so often be seen speaking to him and in his way as that excited suspicions That the Grieves wife replied that notwithstanding, She would speak to Capt Mackinzie when & wherever she happened to meet with him.

The Reverend Hugh Ferguson Macdonald (1818–1901), son of Hugh Ferguson, farmer at Woodside

We pick up the young Macdonald in a professional context in Resolis in the 1840s. He first acted as Session Clerk on 2 May 1842 with his father-in-law Barrington Ferguson sitting as one of the Elders (it was a case of fornication reported in the Story behind the Stone entitled Sex and the Session).

He was the parochial schoolmaster, and must have felt his allegiance fell with the heritors rather than with the people as he was one of very few who did not walk out of the established church in 1843 with the Reverend Donald Sage to join the new Free Church. There was clearly some coolness between Macdonald and Sage. In 1844, when the heritors were retrospectively challenging Sage over all kinds of minor matters, they wanted the session minutes from him, and it was Macdonald who was sent to get them. You can feel the frost in Sage’s response:

By Mr. Alexr. McCommie, one of the Elders of the Free Church, in this parish, I send you the Minutes of our Session whilst in the Establishment, and which by McDonald, your Schoolmaster, you demanded on two former occasions.

Macdonald’s final entry in the Kirk Session records for Resolis occurs on 1 May 1846, where the minutes are signed by “Mr. McKenzie Moderator and the Revd. Hugh F. McDonald Session Clerk”. By this time, then, Macdonald had become a minister in his own right.

Thereafter, his obituary in the North Star of 28 February 1901 provides a useful summary of his life:

Resolis – Death of a Clerical Native. – The death is announced, at the ripe age of 83, of the Rev. Hugh F. Macdonald, D.D., minister of Strachur and Stralachlan, Argyleshire. Deceased was a native of Resolis, his father having been head gardener to the late Major Mackenzie of Poyntzfield. Mr Macdonald studied for the ministry in St Andrew’s University, but commenced life as a parochial schoolmaster in his native parish. In 1846 he was called to Poolewe as parish minister, and after the agitation of the Disruption had somewhat subsided, he was preferred to the joint charges of Strachur and Strathlachlan. This took place in 1848, so that for upwards of half a century this venerable churchman has ministered to the same flock. For about twenty of those years he was clerk to the Presbytery of Dunoon. Among the most outstanding of the many tokens of regard conferred on Dr Macdonald – who received the honorary degree of D.D. from the senatus of St Andrew’s last year – were two successive purses each containing 100 sovereigns. The one was given in the twenty-fifth year of his ministry, the other when his jubilee had been attained. On the latter occasion he also received a solid silver epergne of the value of £50. An illuminated address from his colleagues in the Presbytery accompanied the latter gifts. Dr Macdonald had been a widower for a number of years, and of a large family there are only five survivors. Of these two are daughters. The eldest son is a well-known medical practitioner in Dennistoun; the second formerly represented Bow and Bromley, London, in the House of Commons, while the third is the superintendant of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, Rangoon. Mrs Ross, Newmills Farm, Resolis (sister of deceased), is the only local survivor of this once well-known family.

He married Christina McIver (1823–1880) in Cromarty in 1846:

25 August 1846 The Revd. Hugh F. Macdonald Minister of Poolewe in the Parish of Gairloch and Christina McIver in Cromarty, were married.

The Census returns give Christina as having been born in Cromarty but in fact she was baptised in Tarbat parish, with her parents at that time living in Portmahomack, although all her siblings were later born in Cromarty. Christina and Hugh’s children, mostly born at the Manse in Strachur, included Hugh Barrington (1847), Alexander (1848), William (1851), John Archibald Murray (1854), David FitzCharles (1856), Jessie Christina (1858), Mary Georgina (1861) and Annie Olivia (1862).

Several of these children were registered by one Dugald Paul, Registrar, antecedent of Friend of Kirkmichael, Michael Paul of Munlochy! The Reverend Hugh F. Macdonald knew the Paul family well, and in 1861 presented on behalf of the residents of Strachur and district Dr Dugald Paul and his spouse with gifts for his long service as their medical practitioner.

I see that the Manse at Strachur was also home at times for other relatives, including his brother’s son from Jamaica. On an elevated position, and sitting in over 2.5 acres of woodland garden, the Old Manse has been described as one of the prettiest houses in Argyll.

The Church of Scotland in Strachur, within which Hugh Macdonald preached for 50 years, is also an attractive building and contains a most unusual feature – medieval gravestones were just over a hundred years ago built into its external walls. Very different in style from those on display (somewhat more sympathetically) at Kirkmichael, they nevertheless are preserved for posterity!

Strachur Church of Scotland

Photo © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

The attractive Old Manse in Strachur


The Honourable William MacDonald of Water Valley (1816–1885), son of Hugh Macdonald, farmer at Woodside

William was the eldest son of the farmer at Woodside. I confess I have been unable to find out how he became established as a respected planter and magistrate in Jamaica. It is quite a jump. Given that the Gun Munro family of Poyntzfield had strong connections with Jamaica, I do wonder if William was given a start by them in some way.

William’s estate of Water Valley was located in the Parish of Saint Mary, the capital town of which is Port Maria.

Given he was born in 1816, it surprising I can pick him up for the first time only in 1871, when the Kingston Daily Gleaner of 28 April of that year announced:

His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to appoint the Honorable William Macdonald to be Keeper of the Rolls and Records of the Peace for the Parish of St. Mary, and the following gentlemen are associated with him in the Commission of the Peace for the said Parish, viz:– … His Excellency the Governor has also been pleased to appoint the Honorable William Macdonald to be Chairman of the Municipal Board, and the Board of Parochial Road Commissioners for the Parish of St. Mary.

Mountains, river and jungle in St Mary parish, Jamaica, where William Macdonald ran his plantation and acted as Custos

James Bond Beach in St Mary parish, Jamaica

The parish of Saint Mary contains, of course, the house and estate named “Goldeneye” – the home of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. After Ian Fleming’s death it was purchased by none other than Bob Marley, and then sold to the owner of Island Records, Chris Blackwell. Just along the shoreline lies the appropriately named James Bond beach. The first James Bond film, Dr No, was largely filmed in Jamaica.


Writer Ian Fleming at home on his beach

Goldeneye House, where celebrities from Prime Minister Anthony Eden to film star Harrison Ford were guests

The book Dr No was written at Goldeneye, and filming took play in its locality. Sean Connery became a world-wide sensation as James Bond

Actress Ursula Andress emerged as a star through her role as Honeychile Rider in Dr No

The estate was purchased after Fleming’s death by Jamaican superstar, Bob Marley

There is of course another connection between James Bond and Kirkmichael. John Fleming, the grandfather of his creator, Ian Fleming, lived and died in the parish of Kirkmichael – but alas, it was the Perthshire Kirkmichael, not the Black Isle Kirkmichael!

Returning to the Honourable William, there are many snippets regarding his work within the Daily Gleaner. That of 10 August 1883 reveals an interest in education shared by most of the members of this family:

Educational Meeting at Port Maria. … After devotional exercises, conducted by the Rev. W.D. Henderson (Baptist) upon his nomination the Hon. William Macdonald, Custos of the Parish, was called to the chair. The Custos addressed the audience at some length, entering into the question of the desirability of giving all children a good education, showing that education and labour should go hand in hand, and not be severed; that education and civilization are inseparably connected, and that if we are to form a civilized people in Jamaica, we must be an educated people. He urged upon parents, with much emphasis, the duty of educating their children. The Chairman in concluding his address introduced …

He and his brother, the Reverend Hugh F. Macdonald, combined to erect the headstone in Cullicudden graveyard to their father, the farmer of Woodside.

Following his death on 14 December 1885 (reported in several Scottish papers), the Daily Gleaner contained the usual announcements. This is from 29 June 1886:

Pursuant to Law 19 of 1871 Estate of the Honorable William MacDonald, late of Water Valley in the Parish of Saint Mary, Planter, deceased. / Creditors and others having claims against the above-named Estate are requested to send particulars thereof to Mrs Anne Olivia MacDonald, of Water Valley, Annotto Bay P.O., the duly qualified Executrix of the will of the above named William MacDonald, deceased…

And on 13 July 1891 there is the account of a notable Jamaican wedding:

Port Maria. … The Parish Church at Port Maria was on Thursday the 9th the scene of a very pretty wedding. Mr. Henry McCrea the indefatigable Police Inspector of St. Mary was married to Miss Olive youngest daughter of the late Hon. M. William McDonald the esteemed Custos.
At a little after 12.30 the bridegroom was at his post accompanied by two brother officers Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Clarke, best man, all in uniform of the Jamaica Constabulary. There was quite a congregation, the invited guests occupying seats in the new chancel which had been tastefully decorated for the occasion. At 1 o’clock all eyes were turned to the south door to see the winning bride enter the Church. She was escorted by her brother Mr. Hugh McDonald and followed by her page Master Pringle and four bridesmaids … Mrs McDonald dressed in grey moire silk with bonnet to match, gave her daughter away. … and drove off to Mosic Hall the comely residence of Mrs. MacDonald, where subsequently the invited guests assembled. … Among the guests we noticed the Hon. Dr. Pringle, Custos of St. Mary in the uniform of Captain of Volunteer Militia…

Old St Mary Parish church, Port Maria, where Olive Macdonald was married in 1891


FitzCharles David Macdonald (1856–1912), seventh son of the Reverend Hugh Ferguson Macdonald

I draw upon two complementary obituaries for the life of FitzCharles. First, from the Scotsman of 5 February 1912:

Death of Chinese Consul-General for Scotland. The death took place on Friday at Bombay of Mr FitzCharles David Macdonald, of Glenbranter and Invernoaden, Argyllshire, who was last year appointed Chinese Consul-General for Scotland. … He served his apprenticeship on the Clyde as an engineer, and was afterwards in the employment of the Allan Line Steamship Company at their London offices. Leaving that position, he went to Rangoon, where he attached himself to the Irrawaddi Flotilla Company, of which company he eventually became the superintending engineer. While he was in this position the expedition to Mandalay took place, which resulted in the annexation of Burmah. He was in charge of the principal arrangements up the river Irrawadi. He was one of the original shareholders of the Burmah Oil Company. Having amassed a considerable fortune, he returned to Scotland, when he commenced business in Glasgow in name of F.C. Macdonald (Limited.) Some years ago he purchased the estate of Invernoaden, and afterwards Glenbranter, in his native parish. …

And then from Homeward Mail from India, China and the East of 10 February 1912:

The death is announced from Bombay of Mr. FitzCharles David Macdonald, of Glenbranter and Invernaoden, Argyll. Mr. Macdonald was the seventh son of the late Rev. Dr. Hugh Macdonald, minister of Strachur and Strathlachlan, and was about fifty-five years of age. He was educated at Glasgow High School and University, and at the conclusion of his engineering apprenticeship he went to Burma. In 1880 he joined the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company and proceeded to Rangoon, where he was for about twenty-two years. He was for several years chief engineer of the port defence system, and commanded for a season the Rangoon Submarine Mining Engineers. One of the most notable incidents in Mr. Macdonald’s career was the part he took in the Burmese war in 1885. He was present at the Palace of Mandalay when King Thebaw and his Queen surrendered to General Prendergast. On behalf of the Indian Government and the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, Mr Macdonald proceeded to the United States for the purpose of studying the system of conservancy of the Mississippi. Returning to this country about 1901, he purchased the estate of Glenbranter. Mr. Macdonald, who was a brother of Mr. J.A. Murray Macdonald, M.P. for the Falkirk Burghs, is survived by a widow, five sons, and a daughter.

Just a note to add to the story of FitzCharles. His son FitzCharles MacDonald of Strachur was very successful in Glasgow, and in 1915 he purchased Carfin Hall, near Motherwell, selling Glenbranter a year later, in 1916, to none other than … Harry Lauder!

Sir Harry found that running an estate and a large manor house was not a very profitable concern, but fortunately the newly formed Forestry Commission took the estate off his hands.

Glenbranter House, demolished in 1956

Sir Harry Lauder, at one time the most highly paid entertainer in the English-speaking world, and purchaser of Glenbranter


Murray Macdonald, M.P. (1854–1939), fourth son of the Reverend Hugh Ferguson Macdonald

John Archibald Murray Macdonald was educated at Glasgow High School, the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. From an early age, he expressed a desire to be something in politics, and always dedicated himself to the Liberal Party. In 1885 he married Alice Mary Noel, daughter of Edward H. Noel, cousin of Lady Byron, wife of the poet. Mrs Macdonald died in 1929. Murray Macdonald was Liberal Member of Parliament for Bow and Bromley from 1892 to 1895, for Falkirk Burghs from 1906 to 1918 and for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs from 1918 to 1922. He was also an elected member of the London School Board for Marylebone in 1897 and 1900, resigning in 1902. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1916.

Murray Macdonald M.P. in 1907; photograph by Benjamin Stone


Local connections

Whilst all these descendants of the farmer of Woodside were doing great things elsewhere, there were plenty of relatives getting on with life back home in Resolis. There are too many to enumerate. However, here are a couple of daughters of Hugh Macdonald, Farmer at Woodside, who are commemorated in Cullicudden graveyard. Each married a Donald Ross.

Central below is the grey granite headstone to Donald Ross and Christina Macdonald, daughter of Hugh Macdonald. It stands adjacent to the headstone to her father which has begun to lean alarmingly. The Ross-shire Journal of 25 September 1896 announced:

On Tuesday of last week the grave closed over the remains of Mr Donald Ross, who, for the long period of fifty-one years, was a faithful and energetic servant on the Mains farm of Poyntzfield. Fifty-one years ago he entered the farm as a herd boy, and rose step by step till he became manager, which place he retained until a year or two ago, when he retired in favour of one of his sons, who now holds the situation. Last year he gained a prize as one of the longest servants on one farm, in a competition by a Dundee contemporary. Being of a quiet and obliging nature, he was much respected in the district, as was testified by the large number of farmers and others who attended the funeral, which took place to the Cullicudden burying-ground on Tuesday. Mr Ross had attained his 75th year, and had enjoyed good health till within a few weeks ago. He leaves a widow and grown-up family, for whom much sympathy is felt.

The inscription reads:

Erected / by / the family / in loving memory of / their father DONALD ROSS / died at Poyntzfield / 12th Sept. 1896, aged 75 years / Their mother / CHRISTINA McDONALD / died 1st. July 1902, aged 76 years / Their brother DONALD / died 14th Dec. 1861, aged 3 years

On right below is the grey granite headstone to Donald Ross and Jemima Macdonald, daughter of Hugh Macdonald. The Ross-shire Journal of 15 March 1907 announced:

Mrs Ross, one of the best known and most highly respected members of our community, died at Newmills on Thursday of last week after a short illness. She was 77 years of age and leaves a family of five daughters and a son. The funeral took place on Monday to Cullicudden churchyard and was largely attended.

The inscription reads:

In / loving memory / of / DONALD ROSS, / farmer, / New Mills, Resolis, / who died 29 January 1892, / aged 61 years. / Also of his wife / JEMIMA MACDONALD, / who died 7. March 1907 / aged 76 years. / And their only son / HUGH / died 3. March 1927, aged 65 / Also their daughter / CHRISTINA / died 26 October 1947, aged 81 / Also his wife / REBECCA MACLEAN / died 4th September 1946 / aged 65 years / Erected by their son HUGH


The Hugh Macdonald Woodside stone leans precariously

The Donald Ross/Christina Macdonald stone stands adjacent to the memorial to Christina’s father

The Donald Ross/Jemima Macdonald stone lies within the Aisle of Ardullie

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