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

The Four Urquhart Brothers, Quarriers at Cullicudden Quarry, and the 1843 Cromarty Riot and Jailbreak

text: Dr Jim Mackay    modern photos by Jim unless otherwise indicated

The 1842 Newhall and Drumcudden Estate Rental contains the following entry:

Cullicudden … Quarry Donald Urquhart

Donald, the holder of the tenancy from the Newhall Estate, was the eldest of the four Urquhart brothers who worked the quarry at Cullicudden. When Donald was born in 1811, parents Thomas Urquhart and spouse Janet Murray were living at Meikle Findon in the neighbouring parish of Urquhart and Ferintosh. When Thomas (1816), William (1819) and Jannet (1824) were born, their parents were farming in Cullicudden. The family were all crammed into the house which is now known as Cullicudden Croft, just along the track from Dell Farmhouse. The building is beautifully renovated, and marvellously the foundation stones are still visible at the base of the walls! Many thanks to Archie and Tina McLarty for letting me take these photos – a decade or more ago now – their home has been further enhanced since that time!

The old Urquhart home in Cullicudden.

Cullicudden Croft, which contains within it the home of the Urquharts

Isn’t it great? The foundation stones are still visible

Many of the family are recorded as being buried in Cullicudden Kirkyard but no slab commemorating them has yet been found – but there are plenty slabs at depth that have not yet been uncovered. However, most of the family are included in the one house in the 1841 Census at Cullicudden:

Donald Urquhart 39 Farmer
Mary Holm 26
John Urquhart 26
William Urquhart 2
Thomas Urquhart 20
William Urquhart 18
Jennet Urquhart 14
Widow Urquhart 60
Ann Simpson 12

We have here the oldest brother, Donald, who had married Mary Holm in 1838 (Donald Urquhart tenant at Cullicudden and Mary Holm at Ferrietown). John in just a few months would marry Isabella McDonald (John Urquhart farmer at Cullicudden and Isabella Macdonald at Birks). Thomas was to do a disappearing act in 1843 and his whereabouts thereafter are not known with confidence. William died relatively young in 1858, never having married – he did, however, have an illegitimate child in 1844 to Helen Ross in Balblair. The child was baptised in 1846 (Helen, to William Urquhart quarrier Cullicudden and Helen Ross Balblair). In the 1841 Census return, the unhelpfully entitled “Widow Urquhart” in the household would have been Janet Murray, their mother. She was still alive in the 1851 Census, in John’s house, where she is given as “Janet Urquhart”, a widow, but alas, she did not make it through to certification when her parentage would have emerged.

The event that brought notoriety to the Urquhart brothers of Cullicudden Quarry was the Riot and Jailbreak in Cromarty on 28 September 1843. This was the day after the Resolis Riot when the parishioners of Resolis had successfully resisted by force the induction by the Established Church Presbytery and the local lairds of a replacement minister. Donald, John and William are accused in the Crown Precognition (AD14/44/458) of “Mobbing and rioting, obstructing the Presbytery” although none of them appeared in court on this charge. The previous minister, Donald Sage, had left the Established Church for the new Free Church. During the rioting, Donald Sage’s dairymaid, Margaret Cameron, “a stout powerful virago”, was seized, arrested and lodged in the jail in Cromarty Courthouse. The following day a hundred Resolis parishioners descended upon Cromarty to seek Margaret’s release, by bail or by force. They were joined by Cromarty folk, including those who had been drinking at a wedding going on at the time. All four brothers were in Cromarty that day, but the youngest, William, is not identified in the action. However, Donald, John and Thomas were all involved to varying extents, and Donald and John were arrested and provided statements a fortnight later in Dingwall. They both appeared in court in Edinburgh in January of the following year. Thomas had absconded and was outlawed.

The Established Church around which the Resolis Riot took place; it became the Church of Scotland and is now a private residence (photo non-attributed)

The statements made by the two brothers, Donald and John, are fascinating. Quite apart from a description of the Riot itself, they provide details of the quarries’ working clothes, the business that was going on (and business was booming for quarries with all the new churches being built following the Disruption) and the routine nipping into various inns for a dram! I have emboldened the sections providing personal and business information or identifying other local worthies.

JC/26/1844/366 / Judicial Declaration of John Urquhart Quarrier Cullicudden 16 October 1843
At Dingwall … Compeared John Urquhart, Quarrier residing at Cullicudden, in the Parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty, a married man, aged twenty nine years or thereby, who being Judicially examined and Interrogated Declares that the Declarant recollects of hearing on his return home from Kilmuir, where he had been with stones in a lighter for the Free Church, on the evening of the twenty eighth of September last, that there had been a riot and disturbance that day at the Church of Resolis, and that a woman of the name of Margaret Cameron had been taken to the Gaol of Cromarty. That the Declarant had occasion to go to Cromarty the next day to see Thomas Murray the Contractor for the Free Church there, about the dimensions of some stones which were wanted by him. That he and his brother Donald Urquhart left Cullicudden early in the forenoon of that day, to go to Cromarty. That when they had got as far as the Church of Resolis, about two miles from Cullicudden, they fell in with a Crowd of people, the greater part of whom were women. That he and his brother remained there upwards of half an hour, and heard some of them say that they intended to go to Cromarty and get Margaret Cameron out of Prison, but he cannot recollect any particular person who said so. That his brother and he accompanied by a good many of the Crowd proceeded towards Cromarty as far as Jamimaville, when the Declarant parted from his brother and the Crowd and went down to look at the new Church, where he remained about a quarter of an hour. That on proceeding to Cromarty, Declarant found the Crowd had got there before him. That on entering the Town, Declarant stopped a little while with Murray, the Contractor, at the new Church, and afterwards went east towards the Gaol, where he found the Crowd, standing before the Gaol. That soon afterwards, Mr Stewart the Clergyman came up and spoke to the Crowd, and dissuaded them from using any violence. That Mr. Taylor, the Sheriff Clerk, with whom Declarant was well acquainted, was there, and Declarant addressed Mr. Taylor, and asked him if there was any possibility of getting the woman out of Prison without disturbance. That Mr. Taylor replied that he would willingly let the woman out, but that it was not in his power to do so. That Declarant also mentioned to Mr. Hill or some other of the Magistrates before the Conversation with Mr. Taylor, that the Crowd would willingly have patience and wait on till ten Oclock at night, if the woman could be got out within any variance or disturbance; but Declarant did not, by way of threat or otherwise, limit the time within which the woman must be liberated, nor did he say that the people would only wait for a quarter of an hour, or any such period. That about half an hour as Declarant supposes, after Mr Stewart had done speaking, Declarant heard the door of the Gaol struck several times, and though he could not see the door on account of the Crowd, he knew when it was broken open by their huzzas, and by their rushing into the Gaol. That Declarant was in the Street at this time, and had he been disposed to assist in breaking open the door, he could not have reached it for the Crowd, the Court, in front of the Gaol, and between it and the Street being full of people. That after one or two of the doors had been forced open, Declarant got in as far as the front door of the Prison, at the Corner of which, but on the outside, he stood. That at this time he was seized hold of by the arm, by a man in the dress of a seaman, who swore at him for not joining in the work, Declarant being a stout fellow, and who pushed Declarant inside the door of the Prison. That Declarant was then met by the Crowd rushing out of the Gaol, with the woman whom by this time they had got a hold of. That Declarant accompanied the Crowd as far as the west end of the Town, when he and his brother Donald went into a Spirit Cellar kept by Duncan Ellison. That Declarant and his brother remained in Ellison’s for about twenty minutes and then proceeded homewards. That they overtook the Crowd on the road between Cromartry and Jamima-Ville, and accompanied them as far as the village, where Declarant and his brother again remained behind, and the Crowd went on. That Declarant did not again join them, and he and his brother went home together. Declares that besides Donald, Declarant has other two brothers, William and Thomas, both of whom were at Cromarty on the twenty ninth of September. That Thomas wore his working clothes that day, viz: a blue Jacket, moleskin trousers, and a cloth cap, with a peak in front, and fur around the sides of it; and Declarant also wore his working dress, viz: a blue Cloth Jacket, a moleskin vest and trousers, and round leather Cap, with hairy flaps hanging loose over his ears, and without a peak in front. Declares that in going into Cromarty, Declarant walked from the bridge at the east end of Jamima-Ville to the town of Cromarty, in company of Alexander Junor late Farmer at Ardevel, in the Parish of Cromarty; but Declarant cannot say whether this man joined the Crowd or not. That Declarant saw in the Crowd, on their way to Cromarty, two lads of the name of Murray, and James Holm Elder in Resolis. All which he Declares to be truth, and that he cannot write.

Cromarty Courthouse, the doors of which were broken open by the rioters; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Two tough inmates of the jail within Cromarty Courthouse

JC/26/1844/366 / Judicial Declaration of Donald Urquhart Quarrier Cullicudden 16 October 1843.
At Dingwall … Compeared Donald Urquhart, Quarrier, residing at Cullicudden, in the Parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty, a married man, aged thirty three years or thereby, who being Judicially examined and Interrogated, Declares that on the evening of the twenty eighth September last, Declarant heard that a riot had that day taken place at the Church of Resolis, and that a woman named Margaret Cameron residing at Sheep Park of Newhall had been made Prisoner, and taken to the Prison of Cromarty. That Declarant had occasion to be in Cromarty on the following day, the twenty ninth of September to see Mr. John Grant Merchant there about an account Declarant owed him, and Declarant left home for Cromarty about ten Oclock in the forenoon of that day. That Declarant was accompanied from home by his brother John Urquhart, but they parted Company to the east of the Church of Resolis, Declarants brother having remained behind, and Declarant having gone on, with three men, whom he fell in with there, going towards Cromarty, and all of whom were strangers to Declarant. That at the Village of Jamimaville, Declarant and the said three persons came up with a large Crowd of men, women, and boys, going towards Cromarty to the number of three or four Hundred persons as he supposed. That before coming up with this Crowd, Declarant had heard that a man had gone round the Parish on horse back that morning, calling on the people to collect that day, and proceed to Cromarty to rescue the Prisoner. That Declarant accompanied the Crowd for about two miles, on their way to Cromarty, when he left them, and proceeded to the town alone. That the Crowd appeared to be about a mile behind the Declarant when he entered the Town, but they were in his sight. That while he was with the Crowd he conversed with James Holm, an Elder of the Free Church in Resolis, and Alexander and Donald Murray, residing at Drumdyre on the Estate of Newhall. That these persons informed Declarant that they were going to Cromarty for the woman, and one at least of them – the said James Holm, – stated that they meant to bail her out of Prison. That on going to the Town the Declarant first went to a Spirit Cellar kept by Duncan Ellison, where he had a glass of spirits, after which he proceeded along to the Gaol and while he was speaking to Mr. Junor at his Shop door, which is opposite the Gaol, he saw the Mob he had passed on the road coming up towards the Gaol. That as many of them as the Court in front of the Gaol would contain, went in there, and the rest stood on the street opposite. That the Crown remained standing for about ten minutes, waiting, as Declarant believed till they should see if the woman could be bailed out. That they were then addressed by the Reverend Mr. Stewart of Cromarty, but Declarant was at such a distance he did not hear what was said by Mr. Stewart. That the Crowd remained quiet for a short time after Mr. Stewart had done speaking, but in about ten minutes, Declarant heard a noise as if the door of the Prison had been struck with a stone. That Declarant at this time was at the outside of the Crowd conversing with Mr. John Taylor, Sheriff Clerk of Cromarty. That as soon as Declarant heard the door struck he went away, as he did not wish to be among the Crowd after this. That he never till then believed that the Crowd would proceed to force the Gaol. That Declarant went to the shop of William Creach, Grocer in Cormarty, where Declarant had some spirits with John Grant, and Adam Macrae Sheriff Officers. That Declarant became the worse of liquor in Cromarty, and he has no distinct recollection of anything that happened after he left the town, altho' he thinks he remembers seeing the Crowd leave Cromarty, at which time they were walking very briskly. Declares and adds that the said James Holm, the Elder, joined the Crowd when they were passing through the village of Jamimaville, and that Declarant believes the two Murrays also before named did the same, being at the time working at the Free Church of Resolis in that Village. All which he Declares to be truth, – and further Declares that Declarant being at the outside of the Crowd took no part whatever in breaking the Prison door and the Crowd between him and it was so great that he does not think he could have got to it had he been so inclined: Which is also truth.– Three words delete before signing.– Donald Urquhart John Jardine

High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, where the rioters were tried on 10 and 11 January, 1844; photo from Wikipedia under Creative Commons licence

At the trial in Edinburgh the following year, the case against John and Donald was argued, as reported in the press of the time. It should be noted that the evidence of other witnesses did contradict the Judicial Declaration of John Urquhart in particular, and he was reported to have been much more closely involved. One witness was quoted to declare: “Remembers of John Urquhart saying to witness, that they would give the authorities five minutes to let Cameron out of prison, and if she was not set at liberty within that time, they would have her out themselves.” (London Evening Standard, 13 January 1844). Another witness heard him shout “We will wait no longer!” The Scotsman of 13 January 1844 summarised the closing arguments of their defence lawyer:

Mr Crawfurd, on the part of the two Urquharts, said it was quite possible that the mob went to Cromarty for the purpose of applying for the liberation of the woman Cameron by bail, and admitted that his clients had joined the mob with that intention. This he held to be perfectly legal; and contended that there was no evidence to prove that the two Urquharts entertained any intention of rescuing the woman by force. The Solicitor General had said that presence alone was sufficient to convict the prisoners. He differed from his learned friend in that opinion, and would cite in opposition to that doctrine, what was said by the Lord Justice Clerk in the case of Culsalmond, wherein he declared that presence in a mob was not sufficient to constitute mobbing and rioting unless it could be proved that the presence of the individual was for the purpose of countenancing the mobbing and rioting. If presence alone was sufficient, what became of the banker’s clerk, whose evidence they had heard, and who was present, identifying parties concerned in the disturbance?
The jury then retired, and after being absent about half an hour, returned into Court with a verdict unanimously finding the case, in regard to Hogg, not proven; finding Donald Urquhart, by a majority, not guilty; and by a majority finding John Urquhart guilty of rioting and mobbing, but recommending him to the mercy of the Court. and the other being found guilty was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.

I note that the Court, in sentencing John Urquhart to be imprisoned in the prison of Edinburgh for nine calendar months, stated that they were influenced by the recommendation of the Jury, in the present case, to pronounce a much lighter sentence than they would be disposed to do in any subsequent case of the same nature.


The later days of Donald Urquhart (1811–1896)

Donald’s work seems to have been a mixture of crofting and quarrying, and later, having given up quarrying itself, delivering by boat quarried stone.

A sandstone block in a quarry being cut to the desired size by tapping a row of wedges in sequence until it splits; image courtesy of the British Geological Society

Curiously, he became involved a few years after the Riot and Jailbreak in Cromarty in another riot, but this time as the victim. The food shortages of 1847 led to rioting in many locations across Scotland, including around the shoreside girnals and piers of the Moray Firth where grain was being exported while local people starved.

Copy Letter Pror Fiscal Cromarty to Crown Agent 5 Mar 1847. … Sir / County of Cromarty / I have to report that a Steam Boat belonging to Donald Urquhart Quarrier at Cullicuden in the Parish of Resolis & County of Cromarty, having on the afternoon of the 4th. current arrived at the Beach, near the Harbour of Cromarty for the purpose of discharging a Cargo of Stones, a number of riotous and evil disposed persons assembled and violently attacked the Boat. The Rioters then tore away some of the Sails, Ropes, Blocks, and the Rudder of the Boat. The mob afterwards took possession of a small Boat belonging to Urquhart which he uses for carrying himself and his crew from the Steam boat to the shore and dragged it furiously through the streets of the Town in a riotous and disorderly manner. The more peaceable portion of the inhabitants being afraid to interfere with them.
On enquiring I am informed that this attack and riot arose out of the Circumstances of Urquhart having sometime before in the exercise of his Calling as a Boatman Conveyed a small quantity of Grain from the shore below Finden in the Parish of Urquhart to a ship at that time lying in the Roads of Cromarty. / Today this District is apparently quiet and I am / your Most Obt. Sert. / James Grigor

Donald gave up the occupancy of Cullicudden Quarry about 1850, a date drawn from an unusual source:

The Parochial Board of Resolis Minutes (Volume 1) Meeting 15 Aug 1853
Donald Urquhart, Cullicudden, is relieved from the Poor Rates effeiring to the Quarry of Cullicudden for 3 years, as up to Whitsunday 1853– the Board being satisfied, that he was not in the occupancy of the Quarry during that period, & that, on the statement of the Ground Officer of Newhall, who is a member of the Parochial Board.

Despite giving up the tenancy of the Quarry, Donald, along with John, was delivering the quarried stone. Thus, in the 1861 census, his occupations are given as “seafaring, quarry stone boating”. I note the census returns usually give his parish of birth as Resolis, although he was born in the adjacent parish of Urquhart a few years before the family moved to Cullicudden.

The Urquhart brothers gave up working in the quarry itself (seen here with Trust volunteers)

Instead they transported the quarried stone by boat from the pier at the quarry (one of the quarry piers at Cullicudden still survives after a fashion) to Kilmuir, Dingwall or wherever it was needed

Both John and Donald went on to have sizeable families, although many children were lost due to the diseases so prevalent at the time. Donald’s wife herself became seriously ill, and to add to his misery he suffered a serious boating injury. His distress is captured in the Parochial Records:

CRC6/14/5 Parochial Board of Resolis – Record of Applications 1856–1892
11 Mar 1861 – Inspector’s home visit to: Donald Urquhart Cullicudden born Scotland Wife present Married Quarrier & Boatman / Disabled at present from a hurt / This applicant recd a hurt in his occupation of a Boatman – Has a young Family, & is in destitution.
11 Mar 1861 received 7/6 To receive Temporary relief until cured of late hurt. J. McK.
13 Nov 1862 … He is at present in good health – but his wife is far gone in Consumption His daughter said to be dying of the same Complaint …

His wife did indeed die the following year, and her death certificate reveals her to have been the daughter of someone who may well end up having a Story behind the Stone himself, Sergeant William Holm of the 93rd:

Mary Urquhart (married to Donald Urquhart boatman) died 29 April 1863 at Cullicudden aged 47 parents William Holm Sergeant 93rd. Highlanders (deceased) Ann Holm m.s. Lochart (deceased) informant Donald Urquhart widower (present)

According to Census returns, Mary Holm had been born in Resolis, but she does not appear in the baptism record. The registers were very badly kept in that period, with no entries at all in the most likely year when she was born.

Donald never recovered from his injury, and continues on the Parochial Relief records until his death. Given how informative these are for Resolis, I shall set out as an example Donald’s later history:

[Name] Donald Urquhart [Residence] Cullicudden [Age] 65 [Resources etc.] Free house [Nature of Settlement] Birth & Residence [Minute of Parochial Board admitting Liability and authorising relief] 28 February 1874 [Place of Birth] Cullicudden, Resolis … Widower … Boatman … Partially disabled … Disabled in Legs … Partially Destitute / [Children in Family] Jessie 13 / [Children not in Family] Donald 35 Ploughman in Morayshire / Willina wife of A. Wilson ship carpt. Pt. Glasgow – 6 chldrn / Edward 15 herding / Johan wife of J. McPhail B… 3 chdr Aberdeen / [further dated notes] 1892 May 3 Jessie wife of D. McDonald Ploughman, Brae, Fodderty with whom Pauper went to live on 28th April 1892. / 1875 Sep 28 Increased to 16/- quarterly and a Blanket ordered / 1882 Sept 13 Increased to 19/- qrly / 1892 May 15 Now with daughter in Parish of Fodderty & paid there / 1893 Feby 25 Increased to 1/9 per week & 10/- granted for clothing / 1894 March 5 Increased to 2/- p week / 1895 Aug 24 Increased to 2/6 p week / 1896 Mar 7 Clothing applied for refused – Poor House if dissatisfied / April 11 Died.

Such a goldmine of information! All the family details provided check out. Daughter Williamina married Andrew Wilson journeyman shipcarpenter in Port Glasgow in 1870. Daughter Johan or Hannah married journeyman blacksmith John McPhail in Elgin in 1881. Daughter Jessie married ploughman Donald McDonald in Lemlair, Kiltearn, in 1888, and they moved to the parish of Fodderty, where Donald joined them, dying in 1896.

Donald appears in the 1881 and 1891 Resolis Census returns, living by himself in the house that would become known as Cullicudden Croft. And then, as mentioned in the Parochial Relief records, he relocated to Fodderty to live the last years of his life with his daughter Jessie and her husband Donald McDonald. Jessie must have become confused when providing the information to the registrar on her father’s death. The age is in accordance with his baptism and the age he gave in his precognition in relation to the 1843 Riot trial. He is described as the widower of Mary Holm which is also correct. However, two parents are grafted onto him who simply do not occur in the records and certainly aren’t the parents of his brothers and sister! This is the record, for what it is worth:

Parish of Fodderty Deaths 1896
Donald Urquhart General Labourer Widower of Mary Holm died 11 April 1896 at Fodderty Farm Fodderty aged 86 years parents Donald Urquhart Farmer (d) Williamina Urquhart ms Munro (d) Informant Jessie Urquhart Her x Mark Daughter (Present)

How many descendants have been stymied in their family research by that incorrect entry?


Donald Urquhart (1843–1922), the son of Donald Urquhart and Mary Holm

I have not pursued the children of the four brothers Urquhart, except for one child, and that is because I have a photograph of him!

Donald Urquhart was born in 1843, one of the last children to be baptised in the old Established Church before the Free Church came into being. As the Parochial Relief records mention, he worked as a ploughman in Morayshire. As was the case with agricultural labourers who were hired seasonally, Donald moved around a great deal, working on a number of Moray farms. He married Margaret Allan in Speymouth, Moray, in 1869, and they had a considerable family.

The bearded Donald Urquhart carrying, perhaps, whin-cutters and fork; photo courtesy of descendant Allan and Jean Donaldson

Donald became farm grieve at Knockomie Farm, near Forres. This must have been by 1899, as I see in the Forres Gazette of 25 January of that year:

At Knockomie, Forres, on the 19th inst., by the Rev. Dr Keith, James Lobban, railway porter, Inverness, to Barbara Urquhart, daughter of Donald Urquhart, farm grieve, Knockomie.

And I see in the Forres News and Advertiser of 11 January 1919:

GOLDEN WEDDING.– On the 2nd inst., Mr and Mrs Donald Urquhart, Knockomie, Forres, and late of Invererne, celebrated their golden wedding. The worthy couple were married by the Rev. Mr Cushnie, at the Manse, Speymouth, on the 2nd January, 1869, and had a family of five daughters and one son, the latter being deceased. They have eleven grand-children and two great grand-children. A few of the family were present at the celebration, and the old couple were the recipients of many handsome gifts.

He died at Knockomie Farm, near Forres, in 1922, where his death certificate gives his occupation as farmer (retired), and parents Donald Urquhart and Mary Holm. The Forres News and Advertiser of 17 June 1922 contained the death notice:

URQUHART.– At Knockomie, Forres, on the 15th inst., Donald Urquhart (late of Invererne Farm), aged 78 years. Funeral on Monday, 19th inst., at One o’clock P.M., to Cluny Hill Cemetery. Friends please accept this (the only) intimation and invitation.

His widow Margaret Allan later lived with her daughter Hannah at Burn Road, Inverness, dying there in 1935. I met up with descendant Allan Donaldson and wife Jean back in 2007, and as well as information on later generations they very kindly provided me with paper copies of two family pictures which I have digitised. One image is of Donald Urquhart (1843–1922) at Forres and the other is of the crofthouse at Cullicudden in which the Urquharts lived. In the image with the horse and two men, Donald has the beard and is carrying – whincutters? and a fork? or Dutch hoe?

The image of the crofthouse is worth its weight in gold. Cullicudden looks rather bare and windswept in this photograph. If I remember the story correctly, Donald came back years after he had left to re-visit the old family home. The fenceposts outside I think may be there to keep cattle from damaging the windows and door of what appears to be a sound but unoccupied building. The farm steading to the east is Cullicudden where the Grigor family farmed, and beyond that is the farmstead where Ian MacFarquhar was the farmer when I was young, and generations of Macfarquhars before him, which is why the quarry down below was known, when I was a child, as “MacFarquhar’s Quarry”.

The old Urquhart home at Cullicudden; to the right can be seen the farmhouse and steading occupied for many years by the Grigor family and beyond that the farmstead occupied for many years by the Macfarquhar family; photo courtesy of Allan and Jean Donaldson

Hector Grigor of Redfield Farm, North Kessock, whose family farmed at Easter Cullicudden for several generations, back in 2007 provided me with much useful information about the wee crofthouse. He confirmed that the steading behind the crofthouse was his old steading at Easter Cullicudden and he remembered the house much as it was in the photograph, although the photograph must have been before his time as the house seemed in better condition in the photo. His grandfather came to Cullicudden in 1894 or 6, and Hector himself was born in 1927. He remembered that when he was young, in the mid 1930s, an Annie Ross lived in this weee house – amazingly she had a piano and Hector remebered this being played. She left the old house and moved further east into a house in Easter Cullicudden itself on his road, the one down to Cullicudden old churchyard. A single man called Jimmy Ross then lived in it. The house as Hector remembered it was only two rooms, with a very rough partition between them made of cut branches of trees with clay plaster on it.


The later days of John Urquhart (c1814–1879)

Like Donald, John’s life seems to have involved a mixture of crofting, boatwork and quarrying. He can be seen at his most active in the 1861 census, next door to brother Donald’s family. On early Ordnance Survey plans, a couple of additional buildings can be seen in addition to the crofthouse in the photograph, and either John or Donald was occupying one of them. In 1861, John was in the bigger house (three bedrooms with windows) than Donald (two bedrooms with windows) so I think his house would be the crofthouse that survived.

The group of buildings occupied by the Urquharts at Cullicudden Croft, with Cullicudden Churchyard and one of the Cullicudden Quarries below

In the 1861 household are John, his wife, five children, his sister Janet, and five lodgers! The lodgers’ occupations are related to his own activities: there are three quarry labourers and two ship carpenters. This all supports the supposition that the quarry that was operational at the time was the one on the shore directly below Cullicudden Croft. At this time he and Donald were not operating the quarry, but were involved in the less financially risky delivery by boat of the quarried material.

Cullicudden 1861 Census return – house with 3 rooms with 1 or more windows
John Urquhart head m 48 seafaring, quarry stone boating Resolis
Isabella Urquhart wife m 48 Contin
Elizabeth Urquhart daur 15 scholar Resolis
Christina Urquhart daur 13 Resolis
John Urquhart son 9 Resolis
Jessie Urquhart daur 7 Resolis
Thomas Urquhart son 5 Resolis
Jessie Urquhart serv u 35 domestic servant Resolis
Alexander McBeth lodger u 36 quarry labourer Applecross
Alexander McDonald lodger u 28 quarry labourer Lochcarron
Duncan McKenzie lodger u 30 quarry labourer LochcarronJohn Cumming lodger u 39 ship carpenter Cromarty

Donald had suffered a serious injury in his boating trade. But John suffered far worse – he became paralysed. Presumably he was plunged into poverty straightaway. He is recorded as a pauper when his wife died in 1870. However, he was in financial difficulties earlier than this. Was drink a contributory factor?

You will have noted that John and Donald during the Cromarty Jailbreak were in and out of hostelries downing spirits. Poor John suffered a serious injury when frequenting a more local bar, the Drumcudden Inn, nowadays Ellan Vannin:

Drumcudden Inn in the 1890s, nowadays Ellan Vannin; image courtesy of Andrew Mowat, Woodhead

Inverness Courier 11 December 1856
Dingwall Sheriff Criminal Court.– Jury Trial– First Diet.– On the 27th ultimo., Alexander Simpson, labourer at Springfield, in the parish of Resolis and county of Cromarty, was brought before Sheriff Cameron, at the instance of the Procurator-Fiscal, for having, upon the 29th day of October last, within the inn or public-house situate at Drumcudden, in the said parish of Resolis, occupied by Donald Fraser, committed an assault upon John Urquhart, quarrier, at Cullicudden, to the great effusion of his blood and serious injury of his person. Simpson pled not guilty, and Mr Moffat, writer, who appeared as his agent, raised an objection that the locus delicti was situated within the county of Cromarty, and not within the county of Ross, but the Sheriff repelled the objection, and ordered the pannel to stand his trial before a jury on the Tenth last. The parish of Resolis is partly situated in Cromarty and Ross, but we understand that the inn at Drumcudden appears in the valuation list of Mr Geo. Campbell Smith, the assessor under the Valuation Act for Ross, as within the county of Ross.

I wonder if that injury contributed to his later paralysis. You can tell from the records that he was in financial trouble as he crops up in debt recovery at Cromarty Sheriff Court:

SC24/10/277 John Forsyth, merchant, Cromarty vs John Urquhart, quarrier in Cullicudden, Cromarty: Debt
… complained to me by John Forsyth merchant in Cromarty that John Urquhart quarrier in Cullicudden is owing the Complainer Two pounds seven shillings Sterling as per account herewith produced … fifth day of May eighteen hundred and forty five years …

The account owed is fascinating. It includes nails, iron hoop, gun powder, shott, snuff, rope, iron hoops, snuff box and snuff, seam nails, spicks, timber nails, iron bolts, snuff, coffee, tea, sugr., salt, 1 Patent Scythe, 2 Crans Herrings, and much more.

SC24/10/370 Robert Paul, Manager, Commercial Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh vs John Scott, farmer, Cullicudden, and Donald and John Urquhart, quarriers, Cromarty: Debt
… Complained to me, by Robert Paul Esquire Manager for the Commercial Bank of Scotland at Edinburgh that John Scott Farmer at Cullicudden, Donald Urquhart Quarrier there and John Urquhart Quarrier there Defenders are owing the Complainer the Sum of Five pounds sixteen shillings Sterling being the amount of a Bill including Interest and Expences dated 26th. March 1852 and payable Four months after date drawn by James Duncan farmer Cromarty upon and accepted by the said Defenders and indorsed by the said James Duncan to the Commercial Bank of Scotland … [complaint dated 1 Oct 1852] [execution of citation:] to the said Defender John Scott being personally apprehended and for Donald Urquhart and John Urquhart with their wives in their dwelling place

The John Scott whom the bank was also pursuing farmed at what became known as Dell Farm and features in our Story behind the Stone “The Scott and Campbell families of Auchmartin, Cullicudden and Newmills”. His nearest neighbours would have been the Urquhart brothers along in Cullicudden Croft.

John is recorded as a pauper when his wife died in 1870:

Isabella Urquhart (married to John Urquhart pauper formerly stone quarrier) died 15 October 1870 at Cullicudden aged 56 parents Alexander McDonald farmer (deceased) Janet McDonald m.s. McDonald (deceased) informant Christine Urquhart daughter (present)

He himself died in 1879:

John Urquhart Pauper formerly Boatman (Widower of Isabella McDonald) died 7 January 1879 at Cullicudden aged 64 parents Thomas Urquhart Farmer (d) Janet Urquhart ms Murray (d) Paralysis 13 years As certified by John MacKay Phyn. & Surgn. Informant Christina Urquhart Daughter (present)

You will have noted that on his death he had been suffering from paralysis for 13 years, and with no earnings coming in it is no wonder the family would be destitute. The Parochial Board minutes gives more detail:

CRC 6/14/9 Resolis Parochial Board – General Register of Poor 1865–1912
John Urquhart Cullicudden aged 53 (as dealt with on Board Minutes 16 Feb 1866)
Born Cullicudden / Boatman / Disablement: Paralysis of one side / Pays no rent / wife Isabel McDonald / daur Elizabeth 18 (living in family) / not living in family: Christian 16, John 13, Jessie 11 [note says they are all in service]
1866 sent for health to “Strathpeffer Wells” [the Spa].
1868 “Assistance to be given to repair of House.”
7 Jan 1879 died.

So the Board had even tried sending John to the Strathpeffer Spa to attempt to cure him. It sounds rather as if he had at one time suffered a serious stroke.


The later days of William Urquhart (1819–1858)

I have little information on William’s life subsequent to the Jailbreak. But then, he was the first to die, in 1858, still a young man.

William Urquhart (single) (labourer) died 11 February 1858 at Cullicudden aged 36 parents Thomas Urquhart farmer (deceased) Janet Urquhart m.s. Murray (deceased) Typhus Fever buried Church Yard of Cullicudden As certified by William Holm Sexton informant Donald Urquhart his x mark brother present

William, like many more of the quarrying Urquhart family, is buried in Cullicudden Kirkyard, but no memorial has yet been found; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Janet Urquhart (1824–1861)

Sister Janet never married. After her parents died, she lived in John’s home, appearing as a servant in his household in both the 1851 and the 1861 Census. A few months following the latter Census she died, a relatively young woman. It was John, of course, who notified the registrar.

Janet Urquhart agricultural labourer (single) died 23 September 1861 at Cullicudden aged 41 parents Thomas Urquhart farmer (deceased) Janet Urquhart m.s. Murray (deceased) informant John Urquhart his x mark brother (present)


Unfinished business: the absconding Thomas Urquhart (1816–1881?)

And what about brother Thomas? Let’s recap on the trial following the dramatic events in 1843.

In the Inverness Courier of Wednesday 3 January 1844 the lists of persons to stand trial before the High Court of Justiciary, at Edinburgh, were published. There were lots indicted for the separate Resolis Riot charge, but we are focusing on the Riot and Jailbreak in Cromarty.

For Rioting at Cromarty, and Prison Breaking, on the 29th day of September–
John Urquhart, quarrier, at Cullicudden, in the parish and county of Cromarty.
Donald Urquhart, quarrier there.
Thomas Urquhart, quarrier there.
Colin Davidson, tailor, at Jamimaville, parish of Resolis, county of Cromarty.
Donald Murray, mason, at Drumdire of Newhall, parish and county aforesaid.
Robert Hogg (sometimes called Property), fisherman in Cromarty.
John Finlayson, weaver in Cromarty.
In this case there are twenty-six witnesses cited.

Colin Davidson, Donald Murray and John Finlayson, who had like all the other accused been out on bail, appeared in court but in the event the case was not pursued against them. The cases of John Urquhart, Donald Urquhart and Robert Hogg were however carried through, with results Guilty (of mobbing and rioting, but not of jail-breaking), Not Guilty and Not Proven respectively. Thomas Urquhart had not been apprehended and was declared outlaw. As the Scotsman of 13 January 1844 put it: “Thomas Urquhart, who was libelled in the same indictment, was outlawed for non-appearance.” and the London Evening Standard of the same date said: “Thomas Urquhart, quarrier, was also charged in the same indictment, but he has absconded.”

Now, Thomas Urquhart had been reported as being the very person who picked up a large rock and threw it at the door of the prison, and then attacked the door with several other stones. Very appropriate for a quarrier! The door eventually gave way and the crowd surged in and carried out the arrested dairymaid, Margaret Cameron.

His was potentially a much more serious case than that of John, his brother. John was given nine months for being guilty of mobbing and rioting, but was not found guilty of jail-breaking. A longer sentence could have been the result for Thomas if the claim of actually assisting in the jail-breaking could have been proved. It was more understandable why he might abscond. However, did he return to face the music?

There is nothing in the newspapers of the time to say he did return. But I do see a Thomas Urquhart residing in Cullicudden a few years later. He married a Martha Jack in 1846, moved from Cullicudden to Ferryton to Newmills, and had five children. And then the whole family emigrated to Canada about 1855, where another two children were born.

He appears in the Census return of 1851 for Ferryton, and it confirms he was born in Resolis (and Martha in Avoch). His age and parish of origin are all in accordance with the absconding Thomas Urquhart. I think given there is no other record of a Thomas Urquhart being born in Resolis in anything like the right period that it has to be the absconding Thomas Urquhart, returning to his home parish. But I would like just a little more confirmation to be sure!

1816 … Thomas Urquhart Cullicudden & his spouse Janet Murray had a child baptized May 22nd named Thomas

The banns of Thomas Urquhart residing at Cullicudden, and Martha Jack residing at Baliskilly, both in this Parish, were proclaimed in the Parish Church, on Sabbaths the 29th. November, 6thand 13th December 1846, and no objection was offered.

Thomas Urquhart and Martha feature in the 1851 Census in Ferryton, Resolis, Scotland, and in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 Censuses in Mornington District in Perth County, Ontario, Canada. In 1861 he is a farmer, residing with Martha and all his children – supplemented by new arrival Mary – in a log cabin. In 1871 and 1881 Census returns he is recorded as an innkeeper, which is how he is described on the death register later in 1881.

All the children who were born in Scotland were first entered in the Resolis Free Church Baptism Register. These records show his movements within the parish:

1847 … Urquhart Thomas, Labourer, Bog of Cullicudden and Martha Jack his Wife had a Daughter, born 9th October and baptized 13th Octr. named Martha
1849 … Urquhart Thomas, Cottar, Ferryhouse, and his wife, Martha Jack, had a daughter, born 18th March and baptized on the 25th Do. named Janet
1850 … Urquhart Thomas, Crofter Ferryhouse and his wife Martha Jack had a daughter, born 22d October and baptized 24 Novr. named Jane
1852 … Urquhart Thomas, Labourer, Ferryhouse and his Wife Martha Jack had a son born 5th Sepr and baptized 10th Novr named Alexander
1855 … Urquhart Thomas Crofter Newmills and his wife Martha Jack had a daughter born 5 December 1855 [sic] and baptized 5 April 1855 named Helen

Curiously, all five entries were re-recorded (inaccurately) on the one page of the Church of Scotland Register in 1855. I think that this would have been Thomas and Martha seeking what they saw perhaps as a more “official” record of their children when emigrating to Canada. In the 1861 Ontario Census return they are recorded as adherents of the “F.C.” i.e. Free Church. They had two further children in Mornington, Mary and Thomas William, sometimes recorded as William Thomas.

Thomas Urquhart died on 21 November 1881 at Mornington Township, and is buried in the North Mornington Presbyterian Cemetery. Martha Jack survived much longer, dying on 20 December 1901, still in Mornington Township, and is buried with her husband. Her parents were Hugh Jack and Martha Mackenzie. Hugh was a farmer in Auchterflow, parish of Avoch. They moved to farm at Crask, in the parish of Urquhart, very close to the parish of Resolis. Their children included the well-known Evan Jack, and other children came to reside in Resolis itself.

Thomas Urquhart inscription, Mornington, Canada; image courtesy of

Martha Urquhart inscription, Mornington, Canada; image courtesy of

The children of Thomas and Martha married and multiplied in Canada and you can see their numerous family trees on the internet. But none of those trees identifies the parents of Thomas Urquhart. The Ontario death register did not give parents of deceased in the period when he died. However, if some enterprising Canadian researcher could discover any document that Thomas Urquhart may have completed during his lifetime giving the details of his birthday or the names of his parents then I would be very grateful! Was this Thomas Urquhart the absconding Thomas Urquhart?


Click here to return to the Story behind the Stone gallery