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

The Scandal of Christian Grant, the Wife of the Poyntzfield Grieve,
and the family story of Mackenzies, masons of Balblair

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos as given below each image

This is the story of a scandal involving the Poyntzfield grieve’s wife, Christian Grant, and Captain William Mackenzie, a relative of the Poyntzfield laird, Major George Gun Munro. It developed shades of a French farce, with clandestine meetings of the alleged lovers in farm cottages and avenues around Poyntzfield and a cast of splenetic army officers, a dancing master and couthy servants.

Poyntzfield House, from a re-coloured photograph of the early 1900s.

I know little of Christian Grant’s background, save she was born in Cromarty. She and the future grieve married there on 16 February 1821: “Alexander Mackenzie Grieve at Udoll and Christian Grant at Cromarty Mains were married”. The Gun Munros of Poyntzfield in the parish of Resolis were to purchase in 1845 the adjoining small estate of Udale or Udoll in the parish of Cromarty, but at this time it was owned by Captain George MacKay Sutherland, who crops up in a separate Story behind the Stone about the Sutherlands of Flowerburn and Udale.

At some point Alexander Mackenzie moved from being the grieve at Udale to become the grieve at Poyntzfield. This resulted in the grieve’s family now living in close proximity to Poyntzfield House, where the laird and his family resided. The grieve was in day to day supervision of the farm workers associated with the home farm of an estate. It was an important and prestigious position for the family. Alexander and Christian named their child born in 1831 diplomatically with the full name of the laird of Poyntzfield!

25 February 1831 – Alexander McKenzie overseer at Poyntzfield & Christiana Grant – George Gun Munro 17 February

But alas, all was not well. Even by the time Alexander became the overseer at Poyntzfield, as emerged from later testimony, he and Christian were living separately, due to, allegedly, Christian’s “bad conduct”. The laird had persuaded Alexander and Christian to live together again.

But why was Christian’s conduct the subject of testimony anyway? Because her relationship with a guest of the laird had become the subject of a scandal in Resolis. Her conduct had been irregularly investigated by the laird himself, and she wanted her name cleared.


“as bad as any whore in Edinburgh”

The petition, signed both by herself and by her husband, was handed in to the Kirk Session on 3 November 1834:

Unto the Revd Donald Sage Minister and the Elders of the Kirk Session of the Parish of Resolis, The Petition of Alexander Mackinzie Grieve at Poyntzfield and of Christian Grant or Mackinzie his wife. Humbly Sheweth that your Petitioners have for some time part been much distressed in their minds in consequence of several ill disposed people in the Parish having raised and circulated a report that the female Petitioner had been guilty of adultery with a person of the name of Mackinzie who was for some time resident in the house of Major Munro of Poyntzfield as a visitor. That in the course of a Short time these false & calumnious reports gained credence & having reached the ears of Major Munro that Gentleman with more eagerness than prudence set about examining Witnesses, but whether with the view of criminating or exculpating the female Petitioner is not known as no part of the examination was allowed to transpire, except in so far as might suit the views & wishes of Such Parties as were allowed to be present, but being private & not committed to writing the Petitioners had it not in their power to contradict the false aspersions which were thereby attached to the Female Petitioners character. That not satisfied with these unconstitutional & hitherto unheard of proceedings on the part of Major Munro, that Gentleman called for the female Petitioners husband & stated to him that he must send away his wife and added that she was as bad as any whore in Edinburgh. The statement of these expressions is not given to obtain redress in your Court, as they may perhaps become the subject of investigation elsewhere, but merely to shew the feeling which excited and the treatment which the female Petitioner has met with, & that too upon which if taken as it ought to have been would have completely exonerated her. That since then Major Munro and others have recanted much of what they were formerly in the habit of saying, and endeavour to get rid of their former rash expressions saying that there is no evidence to prove her guilt. That proceedings and reports such as these are calculated to ruin the female Petitioner’s character and detract from her honesty and virtue, while they tend to bring jealousy and all its concomitant evils into her family and degrade the character and prospects of her Children. That the Female Petitioner in the most positive terms denys the crime laid to her charge and is anxious to prove her innocence, but as the evidence of the witnesses was improperly taken, the Petitioners are anxious to have all of them re-examined so that the female Petitioners character may be either freed from all false imputations, or the charge properly established against her and for that purpose the present application is humbly made, May it therefore please you to consider what is above stated and in respect thereof to cite before you the persons whose names are hereto annexed being those already examined by Major Munro, to take their evidence in relation to the charges circulated against the female Petitioner & upon such evidence being taken to deal therewith & with regard to her as the evidence adduced before you may warrant or to do otherwise as to you shall seem proper– According to justice (signed) Christian Mackinzie, Alexander Mackinzie” Along with the above Petition was also given in a List of Witnesses for examination as under viz “Alexander Urquhart Dancing Master Jemima Ville, Betty MacBean House servant, Poyntzfield, Christian Ross at Gordons Mills Anabella McLennan Colony and Major Munro.”

The Session agreed to take up the case and just a few days later, remarkably promptly, the first witness was called – none other than the laird himself!

At the Church of Resolis the 6th day of November 1834. … the Session proceed to take up the case of Alexander Mackinzie Grieve at Poyntzfield & of Christian Grant his wife, which at the last meeting was brought before them by Petition. The Petition was read coram & the Session appointed the case by the examination of witnesses to preceed, when being called Compeared Major George Gunn Munro of Poyntzfield

The pulpit from which the minister would upbraid sinners; photo by Jim Mackay

The former Church of Scotland, Resolis, within which the witnesses were examined; photo by Jim Mackay

Reverend Donald Sage, minister of the time, who was later to regret the Kirk Session investigating this type of case

The seriousness and novelty of this case cannot be over-emphasised. Here was the laird (who was to become Sir George in 1842) being called before the Kirk Session to give evidence.

Declares. That a Captain William Mackinzie on half pay & of the 34th Regt of Foot, a Relative of his, resided at his house for the space of two months, as a Guest or Visitor– Declares that during Captain Mackinzie stay at his house an evil report respecting him & the Grieves Wife very prejudicial to the characters of both became prevalent.– Declares that this report came to his knowledge at first by an anonymous letter addressed to his Grieve, & put into his hands four days after the Grieve had received it, by said Capt Mackinzie, Declares, that he gave no credit to the Report when he first heard it & that under this impression, so anxious was he to clear the character of both parties that he made every possible enquiry to discover the writer of this letter tho without success even untill now, believing it then to be a malicious attempt to slander their characters. Being interrogated declares that this anonymous letter is now in his possession & if required will produce it in Court. The letter being called for was produced & read, the tenor whereof follows.

You can see that the Major was sensitive about his role in investigating the case himself. He was now positioning himself as someone seeking to clear the character of the parties alleged to be involved. The anonymous letter to the grieve was read:


“on your guard about your wife”

Dear friend.– I am sorry to write you these few lines but it is not from an ill wish to you or yours but as a friend and wellwisher of yours I wish to put you on your guard about your wife, which I am sorry to let you Know that I am informed that she is taken up with that highland gentleman that is in your neighborhood. I understand it is concealed on you poor fellow but a regard that I have to you from Infancy I wish to warn you of what is said in the place– there is a report that she meets him let and early, & thier is a proof that she is seen standing with him through the day, she is not a companion for him or him for hir I am told he is a married man & I know she is a married woman. I am hearing that she is dressed like a lady Every day sense this mann Spoke to her first I am afraid she does not go to bed Every night when you go but poor woman the world got a hold of her befor and careful should she be on her guard. She is among friends and Enemies and we all have Enemies while we are in this world but dear Sandy I will not say any more on this subject till I het a better proof and I will not put my name to this but as sure as I am writing this I will come & make myself known to you & put my hand in your hand that it is not from an Ill wish to your or her that this is send to you and you may conceal this letter on her for some time & be on your guard as well as you can, although you would go to bed as before you may dread let and Early if there is anything in the matter when I will understand that you will find this report a false which I hope to god you will I will come and let you and her know how it came to me. I am yours true and faithfull– Dear Sandy since I finished writing the first page there came a person in to my house that tells me they were seen by some of your Neighbours at a let hour & you should try & find this out for there is not a word all over this place but her and him by why should she be seen with him through the day itself, besides any other woman in the town– no more– but keep this quiet with yourself for sometime and I beg of you to hunt day and night to find something out you will see me very soon. Yours truly

You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to trace the writer of the anonymous letter given the idiosyncratic spelling and manner of address. But as the rumours were universal there wouldn’t seem to be much point in pursuing the writer. But nevertheless, this is what the defamed Captain Mackenzie did, with quite surreal results:

Witness being further interrogated Declares. that on the day after he made this unsuccessful attempt to ascertain who the writer was of the above letter he and his family whilst at Breakfast were thrown into great agitation by seeing his friend Captain Mackinzie coming on the lawn before his house apparently lame & supported by Alexander Urquhart Dancing Master at Jamima Ville & by Witness’ Brother Mr Robert Munro, upon which he immediately went out to ascertain the cause & to help Captain Mackinzie up to his bedroom. Declares that Capt Mackinzie was at the time in a state of great excitement & suffering acutely from his lameness. & said to Witness that he was sure that this fellow Urquhart was the writer of the anonymous letter requesting, that Alexander Urquhart should be immediately put upon his oath. Declares that Alexander Urquhart was or appeared to be at the time both in bodily fear & suffering– Declares that he did put said Urquhart upon oath whether he was or was not the writer of the letter as also & at the request of Capt Mackinzie whether Urquhart had ever seen Capt Mackinzie & the female Petitioner together, Declares that Alexander Urquhart deponed he was not the writer of the letter & that he had seen Capt Mackinzie & the grieves wife walking the one after the other on the avenue leading to & within the Mains of Poyntzfield at night & saw the grieves wife return & go into a hut near the Square of Poyntzfield usually called Christy Ardoch’s cottage, that very soon after he saw her come out accompanied by Christy Ross the occupant of the hut & go into her own house in the square, That further he had been desired by Betty Macbean nursery maid at Poyntzfield to watch Capt. Mckinzie & the Grieves wife in consequence as Betty McBean told him of the disgraceful scenes going on between them.– Declares that Alexander Urquhart had been at Poyntzfield when this conversation between him & the Nursery maid took place in consequence of his having accompanied Mr Robert Munro then at Poyntzfield in Shooting & had returned with Mr Munro to get some refreshment. Declares that Urquhart on his oath deponed that this was all he knew about the matter.

The lawn over which the dancing-master helped the injured Captain Mackenzie, whilst the Gun Munro family looked out through the breakfast room windows in astonishment; photograph by Jim Mackay

The nursery maid Betty Macbean who was so scandalised has her own memorial headstone in a prestigious position adjacent to the nave at Kirkmichael. The nave, of course, had become the mausoleum of the Gun Munros of Poyntzfield so Betty as a long and trusted servant of the Gun Munro family was actually buried inside, and her memorial erected very close to, the family burial ground. The inscription, which is topped by a wreath and fused MB, reads:

In the vault within / are deposited the remains / of / ELIZABETH MACBEAN / for 28 years / the faithful and attached nurse / in the family of / SIR GEORGE and LADY MUNRO, / of Poyntzfield and Udale, / departing in peace and full of hope / in the atoning merits of her saviour. / She died 12th Nov 1849 / aged 65, / attended by those whom she had / so long / and zealously served. / This monument is erected as a small tribute / to her worth / by one / whom she had so tenderly nursed

The headstone outside the Poyntzfield mausoleum to honour the faithful servant buried inside the mausoleum; photo by Jim Mackay

I have been unable to get much background to the Christy Ardoch or Ross whose hut near Poyntzfield Square was going to become the focus of attention. The evidence states that she moved to Gordons Mill shortly afterwards, and I see in 1841 a Cursty Ross living there, whose rounded age was given as 70. I think it likely that this was she.As for the alleged anonymous letter-writer, Alexander Urquhart, the most surprising thing is that a dancing master could make a living in the Jemimaville area anyway!

The reckless and romantic Captain Mackenzie, having leaped a fence to lay hold of the dancing master, then had to be helped back to Poyntzfield House by his captive.

The Major continued his evidence, now rather putting the blame on Captain Mackenzie for the irregular investigation that was to proceed. The evidence reveals that the dancing master’s father was one Donald Urquhart from Jemimaville.


“a dreadful state of agitation”

Declares that from a conversation & wish expressed to him by Capt Mackinzie he resumed the examination of witnesses to discover the writer of the letter in the evening, that he sent a message to said Alexander Urquhart to come to his house for that purpose but that Urquhart declined coming untill he should be regularly summoned. Declares that he examined tho not on oath, that evening Donald Urquhart at Jemima Ville father of said Alexander Urquhart and a man of the name of McFarquhar also at Jemima Ville & who was formerly Gardener at Braelangwell. That Donald Urquhart declared solemnly he neither was the writer of the Letter nor knew who was the writer and that McFarquhar upon being examined said that he did not know either who the writer was but stated that he had a conversation one day with said Alexander Urquhart at the Mill of the Shore near Cromarty & that Urquhart asked him if he had heard of the scandalous conduct of the Grieves wife & Capt Mackinzie to which Urquhart added that it was notorious all over the place & that he (Urquhart) had a mind if none other did it to write the Greive about it to warn him. Declares further that after the examination of these persons were over he returned to his family & found Mrs Munro & other members of the family Strongly impressed with the belief that the Report was but too true & in consequence of this in a dreadful state of agitation & that from circumstances then stated to him by them & others he himself became convinced that it was true also & untill which moment he was impressed with the hope that the parties were not culpable.

The Major then moved the blame for his private investigation on to his wife and family! His wife was Jamima Charlotte Graham, after whom Jemimaville was named.

Declares that next day being accused by Mrs Munro & the rest of his family of too much partiality in favour of his relative & Capt Mckinzie by confining his enquiries entirely hitherto to the discovery of the writer of the anonymous letter he thought that in justice he was bound to enquire into the truth of the report itself & for that purpose resolved to examine Anabella McLennan his greives maid servant Christy Ross occupant of the hut near the Square. That Christy Ross did not come before him to be examined having gone as it was said that day from home but that Anabella McLennan was examined by him on that day before witnesses tho not put upon oath & that she stated that she had several times been sent by her mistress, the Greive’s wife, with private messages to Capt Mckinzie to say that the Greive was not at home & that her mistress wished to see him at her house. That on one occasion her mistress sent her to tell Captain Mackinzie that she (her mistress) was going to Cromarty would be back at late hour & wished Capt Mackinzie to meet her on the road & further that she has repeatedly seen Capt Mackinzie & the greives wife together in Christy Ardoch Cottage. Declares that very soon after Capt Mackinzie arrival at his house the grieves wife forced her acquaintance upon him by sending him a message to say that her maid was an acquaintance of his that she was sure he would be glad to see her. Declares that these & other circumstances so convinced him of the guilt of the female Petitioner together with the fact so well known to both Petitioners themselves that when he first hired Alexander Mckinzie for his service it was when Mckinzie & his wife on account of her very improper conduct were living seperate, that he had brought them together but on the express conditions that should she shew any impropriety of conduct as formerly during her husbands stay in his service She Should that moment be turned from his household & live seperately from her husband as formerly. That being now convinced from the circumstances which he had already stated that she had behaved improperly he considered her residence in the square a scandal to his family & that Mrs Munro had expressly declared that if such a woman was to be allowed to remain at Poyntzfield she must leave it that therefore in such circumstances he had considered it as a duty which he owed to himself & his family to order Alexander Mackinzie wife away from his place.

You can see from this why the Major was worried, as he had opened himself up to a suit of defamation at the very least. But with his own wife threatening to leave if the grieve’ wife was allowed to remain he had placed himself in a desperate situation. The most entertaining evidence was now provided by super-sleuth, Alexander Urquhart, the dancing master.


“he should go & hunt them”

Alexander Urquhart Dancing Master at Jemima Ville being called compeared & being duly admonished to tell the truth & Interrogated Declares. That the first surmise he had of the evil report prevalent about Capt Mckinzie & the Grieve’s wife at Poyntzfield was from a conversation he had with Betty McBean Nursery Maid at Poyntzfield Declares that previously he had not the slightest suspicion of it having never heard the slightest hint about it. Declares that Betty McBean recommended to him to go to watch them for the purpose of detecting them & That the expression she made use of to him was, that he should go & hunt them.– That he agreed to do so & on the Friday thereafter being the 19th of September last he went to watch them & saw Capt Mackinzie going down the Udol avenue on the Mains of Poyntzfield & towards Udol & the grieves Wife following him at a little distance in the same direction,

The avenue from Poyntzfield to Udale; note the hedge behind which the dancing-master was following the Captain and Christian

that he followed them on the inside of the hedge beside the avenue, untill they came to a part of the avenue called the “cumhagag” where for a short time he lost sight of them. Declares that when he saw them again that the Grieves wife was returning back, on the same way she came out– that she went into Christy Ardoch’s cottage where she remained for some time, that he then saw her come out again accompanied by Christy Ardoch & that both she & Christy Ardoch went into the Grieves house & being interrogated Declares that he saw nothing more than this between them. Being further interrogated declares that he met with Capt Mackinzie on the Tuesday following at about a quarter before six in the morning, that Capt Mackinzie asked him if he saw or had any conversation with Betty Macbean & what it was that he replied he had but could not particularly say what it was– that Capt Mackinzie said to him that whatever he might hear he was to conceal for the future. Being further interrogated– Declares he was examined by Major Munro upon oath, that on that morning he met Capt Mackinzie and Mr Robert Munro that Capt Mackinzie asked him if he knew any thing about a letter which was written to the Grieve at Poyntzfield & that he must come up directly & make oath before Major Munro whether he did or not– that he said he was willing to go, but that he must be allowed first to go home & wash his face that Capt Mackinzie put his stick out before him & said with an oath that he should not go home but come up with him directly. Declares that he sprung over a fence to get off from Capt Mackinzie and that Capt Mackinzie pursued him & sprung over a ditch struck him with a stick in his hand & broke it with the violence of the blow on his shoulder. Declares that in springing over the ditch in pursuit of him Capt Mackinzie sprained his foot but had a hold of him & lay upon him as he was lying down upon the ground. Declares that he was in great pain & bodily fear for his life & said to Capt Mackinzie that if he must go up to Poyntzfield he would tell all the truth & entreated Capt Mackinzie to spare his life. Declares that upon this Capt Mackinzie allowed him to get up & walked with him leaning upon him all the way to Poyntzfield owing to his lameness. Declares that Major Munro put him upon his oath & that he made the statement upon Oat to Major Munro respecting all he kenned of Capt Mackenzie’s intercourse with the Grieves wife which he has already emitted before the Session & being further Interrogated That he has stated all he knows about the matter.

I asked the Trust’s Gaelic expert, Davine Sutherland, about the term “cumhagag” and she says “Cumhang (of which cumhac, cumhag, are obsolete variations) means narrow, tight or restricted, and –ag is a diminutive ending, so cumhagag would mean ‘the wee narrow bit’. Pronunciation approx. KOO-a-kug”.

The fields and woods above Poyntzfield, with the Cromarty Firth below; photo by Jim Mackay

On the evidence itself, it appears that Alexander Urquhart had a perfectly good case for grievous bodily harm and false imprisonment against Captain Mackenzie! The testimony of the servants in Poyntzfield House was now provided to the Kirk Session and it reveals much about life in the laird’s home:


“a damned pretty picture”

Betty MacBean Nursery Maid & house Servant at Poyntzfield being called, compeared & being duly admonished to tell the truth and interrogated Declares. That the evil Report about Capt Mackinzie & the Grieves Wife she has frequently heard as scarcely anything else indeed was the subject of conversation among the servants at Poyntzfield, for some time & especially during Capt Mackinzie’s residence there. Declares that in conversation with some of the House Servants in the Kitchen at her masters house She heard it mentioned that Capt Mckinzie intended to draw the Grieve’s Wifes Picture, that she remembers to hear Alexander Urquhart the coachman who was present, say, that if his Wifes picture were drawn by Capt Mackinzie he would kick her out at the door. Declares that she spoke to Capt Mackinzie himself on the subject & strongly dissuaded him from it saying that it would be a black picture to the poor woman when he was an hundred miles off from the place to which he only replied that “it would be a damned pretty picture then”. Being further interrogated, Declares that She had a conversation on the subject with Alexander Urquhart Dancing Master at Jemima Ville that she said to him as he was so good a Sportsman he had better watch & hunt the Village Girls in the evening who were coming about the place to the turnips Being interrogated Denies that she then desired him to watch particularly, the Grieves Wife & Capt Mackinzie but only the Village Girls. Being interrogated, admits that She said to him on another occasion that if he went to the Udol avenue he might see them there.

Udale nowadays is noted for its Clydesdales; the Kirkmichael Trust treasurer here with my pedigree chum, Ben the dog, and two of the Udale Clydesdales; photo by Jim Mackay

And from Christy Ross herself:

Christy Ross formerly at Poyntzfield Mains & now at Gordons Mills being called Compeared & being admonished to tell the truth And interrogated Declares. That Capt Mackinzie & the grieves wife had both of them asked her to allow them sit in her house at Poyntzfield Mains for the purpose as they said to her of getting the grieves wife’s picture drawn by Capt Mackinzie. That she did not know what it was to get ones picture drawn but that she allowed them to sit in her house & they were both in her house on three different occasions & about the middle of the day or at least during the day, & not one on any of these occasions at night Declares– that on the first occasion they were in her house she sat for some time with them & then went out on her own business & left them together,– Declares that on the two other occasions on which they were together in her house, she was not present at all. Declares that on the last occasion, it occurred to her that she was not acting a proper part in this allowing Capt Mackinzie and the Grieves wife to be meeting together secretly & alone in her house & that under this impression she went from the cornyard where she was working at the time to the window of her house to look in upon them & see what they were about. Declares that on looking in at the window. She did not see any of them standing or sitting upon the middle of the floor, but thought she saw or could perceive one of them in the bed, but could not say which of them it was as the window was small & the house consequently something dark. Being interrogated Declares that she could not be mistaken as to the impression on her mind that either one or other of them was in the Bed, for although the house was so dark that she could not just say which of them it was, she was convinced in her own mind at the time that either one or the other of them must have been in the bed. Declares that she then went away from the window & came round to the door. Declares that the Door was not bolted or snecked but lying to. Declares that she struck her foot on the Door & threw it wide open & then returned to her work in the Cornyard. Declares that Capt Mckinzie & the grieves wife on this last occasion were not a quarter of an hour together in her house. Declares that the Greives wife on hearing the door opened by her came out & said to her that the door of the house was not left open by them but kept lying to for fear that any of the servants about the square should see the Captain drawing her picture.

The house and steading at Poyntzfield in an 18th century lithograph courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies and photographed by Andrew Dowsett. The buildings around the steading would have included the grieve’s house and Christy Ardoch’s cottage

The next witness was little help as she could not well understand the conversation between the Captain and the grieve’s wife as it was conducted in the English language!


“carried on in the English”

Compeared Janet McBean Dairy Maid at Poyntzfield House who being suitably admonished to tell the truth and Interrogated – Declares. That the evil Report about the grieves wife & Capt Mckinzie was being current in the neighbourhood & had frequently heard it– Being Interrogated– Declares, that two or three days after Capt. Mackinzies arrival at Poyntzfield, She was in the Dairy & that the Grieves Wife had on that day come to receive from her half a pound of sugar which She had in the forenoon bought for her from the Village– That whilst the Grieve’s wife & she were speaking together Capt Mckinzie came to the Dairy to get some warm milk which he was in the habit of doing ever since he came. Declares that she heard Capt Mackinzie say to the Grieves wife “You are Mrs Mckinzie” that the grieves wife said “No I am not, who told you that I am Mrs Mckinzie”.’ & to which he replied that he was sure she was Mrs Mckinzie as Major Munro told him so. Declares, that they had some more conversation which as it was carried on in the English language & which she does not well understand, She did not much attend to & cannot now remember. That she put out the candle came out of the Dairy & that both Capt Mckinzie & the grieves wife followed her & that this is all she knows about the matter.

Well, not the most romantic chit-chat, but I suppose it was all in how it was said. We now learn of the strange use of a table…

Compeared Alexander Urquhart Coachman to Major Munro of Poyntzfield who being suitably admonished to tell the truth & interrogated– Declares. That he was on the evening alluded to by last witness standing at the Kitchen door. & [“over” struck out] heard the conversation between Capt Mackinzie & the grieves wife but tho he knew they were both in the dairy was not near enough to understand what they were saying. Being interrogated Declares– that after Capt Mackinzie left Poyntzfield he went to Udol & that he (witness) was sent there with his luggage. Declares that he met with Capt Mackinzie there who said to him in reference to the report about the Grieves wife “Well what are they all doing now at Poyntzfield, that he replied that the Greives servant maid had told the Major that she was sent by her Mistress with a message to the Capt to tell him that her mistress the grieves wife was going to Cromarty one day, & that the Capt might go in the evening to meet her. That Capt Mckinzie replied “Well I believe she did come & tell me so”, Declares that he also said to Capt Mackinzie that the grieves servt maid told the Major that she had seen the Capt and the Grieves Wife several times in the Cottage of Christy Ardoch & to which Capt Mckinzie replied “I was there with the Grieves Wife and once when there I heard the step of someone coming to the window & I got hold of a small Table in the house & put it between me and the window to hide us from the person on the out side” & that he then added “If I were not taken to Christy Ardoch’s house I never would have thought of going there myself”. Being further interrogated– Declares that tho he has frequently seen Capt Mackinzie and the grieves wife speaking to each other about the house during the day time he saw nothing in their conduct towards each other to excite suspicion.

I have to say the most comedic part of the proceedings was the usefulness of the next witness:


“not quite sure what his age was”

Compeared John Urquhart Footman at Poyntzfield who being interrogated what was his age & did he understand the nature of an oath Replied that he was not quite sure what his age was but thought he might be between eleven & twelve years old & that he did not know what an oath meant; The Session considered him unqualified for giving evidence in the case & no questions were put to him.

The laird’s brother was now called, and a shortcut used by the Captain in this romance emerges:

Compeared Robert G. Munro Esquire at Poyntzfield and being admonished and interrogated– Declares. That he came to visit his brother Major Munro at Poyntzfield House during Capt Mackinzie’s Stay there & on his arrival heard of the evil Report respecting Capt Mackinzie & the Grieves Wife first, by having seen the anonymous letter addressed to the Greive there. Being interrogated Declares– that he met Capt Mackinzie one evening in September last about 5 o’clock walking on the high Road towards Cromarty immediately below the Udol planting– Declares that upon asking Capt Mackinzie where he was going just about dinner hour Capt Mckinzie replied “I am just taking a walk but be sure you dont mention to Mrs Munro when you arrive that you have seen me here”. Declares that after Capt Mckinzie had parted with him & passed on, Alexander Urquhart Dancing Master at Jemima Ville who accompanied him carrying his Shooting bag, told him that the Capt was so far on his way to meet the Grieves wife who had that day gone to Cromarty & would then be on her way home. Being further interrogated Declares. that at night & in Capt Mckinzie’s bedroom at Poyntzfield house he taxed him with having that evening gone to meet the Grieves wife on her way home from Cromarty & that Capt Mckinzie replied “I was disappointed in that as I saw her husband coming to meet her & when I saw him I struck thro the Udol planting took a short cut thro Ardoch to Poyntzfield then went down the avenue & met the Grieve and his wife returning home”

Hearsay evidence…


“I was whilst holding the table up to the window sitting on the Bed”

Compeared Findlay Macrae Miller at Poyntzfield who being admonished to tell the truth and interrogated– Declares. That the evil Report about the Grieves Wife was so prevalent in his neighbourhood & so frequently mentioned to him and his wife, that his wife desired him to warn the Grieve himself & put him on his guard against it Declares that he refused to do so as he had nothing but the Report of others about it. Being further interrogated, Declares that he & his wife being at Cromarty on their own private business soon after Capt Mckinzie had left Poyntzfield, he met the Capt at Man’s Inn there, when he & his wife had gone to take a Dram. Declares that he asked the Captain there was it true that he had gone on an evening to meet the grieves wife on her way home from Cromarty? that Capt replied “It is very true that I did meet her that evening & was very close to her but I parted with her below Udol as I promised to call upon Capt Sutherland but when I went up to Capt Sutherlands house I did not see lights in the room where we used to meet & so I passed on to Poyntzfield without calling there went down the Poyntzfield avenue & met the Grieve and his Wife returning home and do you think if I were guilty with that woman would I go & meet her in that way” Declares that he also asked Capt Mackinzie if he were with the Grieves wife in Christy Ardoch’s house, that Capt Mackinzie said “I was but I never would think of going there unless I had been dragged to it by Mrs Mackinzie for it was she who spoke to Christy Rose about the house brought me there & we were there together alone Christy Rose herself being working at the time in the cornyard.” & he added “once when we were both there I felt someone coming to the window & I put up the Table to the window to prevent the person Standing there on the outside from looking in upon us but one corner of the window was not covered by the table and I was whilst holding the table up to the window sitting on the Bed.” Being further interrogated Declares. that the Captain proposed to him & to his wife to drink the Grieves wifes health that he said in reply that he would willingly drink the Grieves health as he had always found him a peacable obliging Man but that his wife refused the toast & upon the Captain’s asking her why she did not drink Mrs Mckinzie’s health. that she replied that she was not on such habits with Mrs Mackinzie as to feel herself at Liberty to do so & was not under any obligations to her or words to that effect & that Captain raising his foot said he had got his foot hurt by being at Poyntzfield & by his acquaintance with Mrs Mckinzie but that she deserved to have her health drunk notwithstanding.

Udale House, the home at that time of Captain George MacKay Sutherland

Given it seems to have been generally acknowledged that the next witness had a deep animosity towards the grieve’s wife, I would be tempted to think she was the anonymous letter-writer herself – except that she could not write!

The female Petitioner here stated upon being informed that the Millers Wife at Poyntzfield was next to be examined as a Witness in the case, that She had reason to believe, that woman to be actuated by malice against her & that she the Petitioner would not consider that justice should be done to her if Session did not put this witness upon Oath. The Session agreed & being called compeared Janet Dingwall wife of Findlay McRae Miller at Poyntzfield who being solemnly sworn & purged of Malice & partial council Depones. That the first surmise of any intimacy between Capt Mackinzie and the Grieves wife she learned from the Grieves Wife herself. That being at the Grieves house that evening along with her husband Findlay McRae, they were requested by the Grieves Wife to remain there for a little as she had some business at Poyntzfield House with the Dairy Maid. Depones what when the Grieves Wife returned, she told them laughing that she had met with Capt Mckinzie who took hold of her & handled her so roughly tho in fun that her sides were sore & that the Dairy maid had put out the candle. Depones that she was present with her Husband at Manns Inn at Cromarty when he met with Capt Mackinzie. Depones that she heard her husband put the questions, as above stated, to Captain Mackenzie to which Capt Mckinzie replied as above also Stated thus corroberatting in every respect her husbands declaration Depones that she heard Captain Mackinzie say of the grieves Wife that he thought a great deal of her & that there was no woman about Poyntzfield who was so hearty & fond of fun as Mrs Mackinzie. All which she declares to be truth & that she cannot write.

There were only a few more witnesses, but a key one was the servant maid who was supposed to have been conveying clandestine messages between the two. The Session had to squeeze the truth out of her:


“she never did carry any Message whatever”

Compeared Anabella Mackinzie servant maid to Alexander Mackinzie Grieve at Poyntzfield. who being admonished to tell the truth– Interrogated Did she ever carry any message from her Mistress the Grieves wife to Capt Mackinzie at Poyntzfield Replied that she never did carry any Message whatever. Being again exhorted to tell the truth with the assurance that if she did not, she should be put upon oath the same question was again put to her & to which she made the same reply. The Session then resolved, that as her answer to such a question did not coincide with evidence already given & that the Witness had evidently a design to conceal the truth that she should be put upon oath, when being solemnly sworn & purged of malice & partial council She was again Interrogated Did she ever carry any Message from her Mistress to Capt Mackinzie Depones that she did & Being further interrogated– Depones. that her Mistress the Grieves wife sent her to Capt Mackinzie to say to him that her Mistress was going to Cromarty, Depones that Capt Mckinzie replied “Very Well” or words to that effect. Depones that she heard her Mistress before her departure for Cromarty ask her Master if he would come to meet her in the evening & that She did not hear her Master say that he would– Did not hear him say any thing at the time. Depones, that in the evening of the day in which her Mistress went to Cromarty She saw the Grieve her Master go down the avenue to meet her mistress & that meeting the Dairy Maid She said to her She was afraid her Master would find Capt Mackinzie & her mistress together on the road & that her Master would suspect her. Being further interrogated, Depones that she was sent by her Mistress on one occasion to tell Captain Mackinzie that the Grieve was not at home & that her mistress would have an opportunity of Speaking to him about the picture. Depones. that She knew of her Mistress & Capt Mackinzie being in Christy Ardochs together but was not there with them. Knew they were there thrice, Once before Breakfast & twice afterwards between breakfast & dinner. All which she declares to be truth & that She cannot write.

Catherine Munro, wife of Alexander Urquhart, the coachman at Poyntzfield, testified she whilst she had scarcely heard anything else among the servants at Poyntzfield during the Captain’s visit but the evil Report about him & the grieves wife, she herself never saw anything in their conduct towards each other calculated to excite her suspicion. She often saw them speak to each other in broad daylight but nothing more.

Gavin stands guard at the head of the north avenue from Poyntzfield to the main road to Cromarty; photo by Jim Mackay

There was no other topic of gossip in the corridors and stairwells of Poyntzfield; photos by Andrew Dowsett

The first hint of Captain Mackenzie’s own character comes out in the evidence of Christy Ferguson. She was the daughter of elder of the church Barrington Ferguson, and she and her husband were the progenitors of distinguished descendants such as Murray Macdonald MP. See their Story behind the Stone for more details.


“he was evil spoken of in reference to married women”

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 great 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 Kirk Session had now heard all the witnesses that the Major had previously interviewed. Note that Christian Grant now had heard all the evidence that had previously been denied her, and what’s more, it was now in writing. The Kirk Session deliberated.

The Session having heard the evidence emitted before them by the Witnesses aforesaid at this & the former meeting held here on this case, on a careful & impartial review of the whole of said evidence Find unanimously that the charge of Adultery alledged against the Female Petitioner is Not proven or brought home to her by the evidence of All or of Any of the aforesaid Witnesses. But also find that the conduct and deportment of the Female Petitioner in regard to Capt Mackinzie has been, during his stay at Poyntzfield, on several occasions very ungauged light & unbecoming & very much calculated to excite strong suspicion of an improper intimacy between them. Inasmuch as, on one occasion the Female Petitioner when going to Cromarty on her private business. Did by a private message to Capt Mckinzie sent by her servant make an assignation with him to meet her at a late hour in the evening on her return home from Cromarty & which has been proved he accordingly Did in a clandestine manner. And further that the Female Petitioner Did at three different times meet with said Capt Mackinzie in the house or Cottage of Christy Ross or Christy Ardoch on the Mains of Poyntzfield, secretly & alone without any third person on any of these occasions being present with them & then & there Did both of them remain together for some time. In these circumstances so much calculated to excite suspicion tho not sufficient to prove the guilt of the Female Petitioner The Session unanimously Find, that they are not at liberty to grant a certificate to the Female Petitioner clearing her character of the aspersions thrown upon it as in the absence of the suspicious circumstances of the case above stated they would have felt themselves called upon to do. Closed with prayer. Dond Sage Moder.

And so the investigation by the Kirk Session ended, not very satisfactorily from anybody’s point of view, which was probably a fair outcome. What is so striking in a modern context is how the blame seemed to lie with the grieve’s wife rather than the philandering, married Captain Mackenzie. Nobody seems to have criticised the laird’s relative!

I feel sure that the minister, Donald Sage, had this case at least partly in mind when he was to write in later life that some of the Kirk Session investigations of defamation of character were ill-advised. He was to say in his Memorabilia Domestica that “I cannot help thinking, however, that the session, in taking up such cases indiscriminately, exceeded their powers; and that, with the best intentions, they did not sufficiently consider whether their decisions might not be productive of much greater strife than if malignant talk were allowed to die out without notice.”


What happened to the main characters? Well, the grieve and his wife rather surprisingly remained at Poyntzfield long afterwards, despite the laird’s wife having given the laird the ultimatum that either she of the grieve’s wife had to leave. I feel fairly sure that with the testimony safely in the Kirk Session minutes the Major simply would not have risked legal action by turning out Christian, whatever his wife threatened.

And so Alexander Mackenzie and Christian Grant were still together in 1841 at Poyntzfield along with their family:

Alexr McKenzie 50 Overseer Agricultural
Cursty Grant 32 (giving a birthyear of approximately 1809, but as she married in 1821…)
William McKenzie 12 / Peter McKenzie 10 / George McKenzie 8
Lilly Murray 20 FS

And in 1851 they were still in “Poyntzfield Square” albeit their children had all flown the coop.

Alexr McKenzie head m 57 farm grieve Nigg (giving a birthyear of approximately 1794)
Chirsty McKenzie wife m 45 housekeeper Cromarty (giving a birthyear of approximately 1806, which still cannot be accurate)
Catharine McDonald servt u 14 house servant Fodderty

Thereafter I know not where their paths led.

The family of William Mackenzie (c1748–1801) and Janet Fraser (c1759–1809)

Let us move back in time, long before the scandalous events at Poyntzfield in 1834, to take a look at the grieve’s parents, William Mackenzie and Janet Fraser. Although William was a farm labourer, two of his daughters married masons, and one son actually became a mason, so there must have been some history in the industry within the family. As an agricultural worker, William Mackenzie would have moved around the parishes and farms as work opportunites presented themselves, although I suspect he may well have originated in Resolis as so many families were drawn back to their parish of birth. He and his wife Janet Fraser are buried in Kirkmichael, where a handsome tablestone to them was erected by their son Alexander, the Poyntzfield grieve.

Here lies the body of Wm. McKENZIE / who departed this life July 28th / 1801 aged 53 years. Also JANET / FRASER his spouse who departed / this life June 10th 1809 aged 50 years. And DAVID McKENZIE / their son who died December / 12th 1809 aged 21 years / This stone is erected by / ALEXR McKENZIE to the memo / rie of his afectionate / parents and brother.

With the movements of their parents, the children themselves later on became very confused about where they were born. Census returns indicate Nigg, Cromarty and Resolis as the parishes of birth of some of their children, sometimes wrongly. Only two are recorded in the baptism register of any parish. David was baptised in the parish of Cromarty where William was working on the farm of Nielston: “1784 … 21 Novr. David LS to William McKenzie & Janet Fraser Nielston.” At that, this is out a few years from the date on the inscription on his parents’ tablestone, but one can assume that brother Alexander the grieve had the tablestone erected many years later when he could afford it and the years on the memorial (as is often the case) are inaccurate. Janet was also baptised in the parish of Cromarty: “Jannat Lawfull Daughter to William McKenzie & Jannat Fraser both in toun was Baptized the 2 Jany. 1789.” These are the five children of whom we are aware and the following notes should serve as a warning to treat the parish of origin given in census returns with caution.

William McKenzie farm servant (c1748–1801)=Janet Fraser (c1759–1809)
David (1784/1788–1809) (baptised Cromarty)
Janet (1789/1791–1869) (born Resolis according to 1851 and 1861 census returns, but actually baptised Cromarty)=Charles Aird mason Balblair
Alexr (c1794–?) (born Nigg according to 1851 census return) (the grieve at Poyntzfield, married Christiana Grant)
Elizabeth (c1798–1868) (born Nigg according to the 1851 census and Cromarty according to the 1861 census), married Donald McKenzie mason Balblair, the son of one of the first families to settle in the new village of Chapelton or Newhall Point; their story is give in a separate Story behind the Stone
Peter (c1799–1855) (born Nigg according to his death certificate and the 1851 census), mason Jemimaville=Ann Hood

The William Mackenzie and Janet Fraser tablestone, with descendant Jane Hall; photo by Jim Mackay

The tablestone commemorating daughter Elizabeth, and her mason husband Donald McKenzie; photo by Jim Mackay

Janet Mackenzie (c1791–1869) and Charles Aird (c1787–1864)

Janet continued a family connection with masonry by marrying Charles Aird of Balblair, at that time a mason. The Airds were a family long associated with Balblair, and the modern Aird Place is named after them.

Returning to the scandal surrounding the grieve’s wife, Charles back in 1834 was also asked by the Kirk Session to give evidence in the case of his his wife’s brother’s wife, Christian Grant.

Compeared Charles Airde Mason at Newhall who being duly admonished & interrogated Declares that he has repeatedly heard of this evil report from others but saw nothing himself improper or suspicious in the conduct of the Female Petitioner. Being interrogated Declares, that he was present with some others on an occasion soon after Major Munro had taken Alexander Mackinzie into his service as his Grieve That to his certain knowledge Alexander Mckinzie & his wife then lived seperately Declares that on the occasion aforesaid Major Munro proposed to the Grieve to take back his wife & which the Grieve declined saying that if any difference of a similar nature with that now standing between them should afterwards take place it would be better that they had never come together. Declares that he heard the Major say that he wished to be the means of bringing Husband & wife together in the hope that they might be a blessing to each other, but should the grieves wife should after this shew any levity or impropriety of conduct she should as a servant be dismissed from the Major’s service.

As well as being a mason, Charles tenanted land at Balblair and sometimes was referred to as a farmer or grocer, so his masonry must have taken second place at times. I see that by the time of the 1861 census, he was well established as a grocer and employing help. His house held three windowed rooms.

Charles Aird head 74 grocer & farmer of 12 acres, employing 1 man Resolis
Janet Aird wife 74 merchant’s wife Resolis

The house in which the Airds a generation later lived was on the land to the south-west of the sharp corner at Balblair, but I don’t know if this is where it was located in 1861 when Charles Aird ran a grocer’s business there. Balblair was ideally placed for travellers on the busy Balblair to Invergordon ferry.

I note from the official return of the Caledonian Banking Company that “Charles Aird, Balblair, Poyntzfield, mason” was one of the many subscribers who made up the “persons of whom the company or partnership consists” (Inverness Courier, 4 March 1846), so clearly he had money enough to invest. The same return in 1847 lists him as a feuar, so he had by this time purchased the feu for his land from the Newhall Estate.

Charles was one of two victims of a most unusual crime in 1861, an attack by a proprietor, as reported by the Inverness Courier of 24 January 1861:

Sheriff Criminal Court.– Dingwall, 22d January.– William Tulloch, proprietor of Gordonsmills, near Cromarty, was charged, at the instance of the Procurator-Fiscal, with three acts of assault committed upon Mrs Piries, a respectable married woman, and Charles Aird, an old man of seventy-three, under circumstances of considerable aggravation. He at first pleaded not guilty; but on the first witness for the prosecution being called and sworn, he craved leave to retract that plea, and pleaded guilty. Sheriff Cameron inflicted the highest fine in his power to impose on a summary trial, viz., £10, and intimated that, had the case gone on trial, and been proved, he would not have taken a fine, but would have sentenced the panel to sixty days’ imprisonment. The fine was paid.

Aird died a few years after this incident:

Charles Aird farmer (married to Janet McKenzie) 31 Mar 1864 Balblair aged 77 years parents Donald Aird weaver (deceased) Catherine Aird m.s. Stewart (deceased) informant William Aird son (present).

Charles had nominated two of his sons-in-law as executors of his will, written on 27 April 1861. Gilbert Urquhart, blacksmith at Newhall, did act as executor whilst Donald Macdonald of the Citadel, Inverness, declined to take up the role. The provisions within the will reveals the state of the family:

First to make payment of all my just and lawful debts, deathbed and funeral expenses;
Secondly to make payment to my son David Aird should he survive me of the sum of Ten pounds Sterling and likewise to make payment to my son William Aird of the sum of Five pounds Sterling in full of all he can claim as bairn’s part of gear or otherwise of my succession, the said William Aird having already cost me nearly Fifty pounds Sterling of my money.
And Thirdly to pay the whole of the rest and residue of my means Estate and Effects equally share and share alike to my two daughters Catherine Aird or Urquhart wife of the said Gilbert Urquhart, and Harriet Aird or MacDonald wife of the said Donald MacDonald, reserving always my own liferent of the premises.

The witnesses were William McKenzie mason at Balblair and George MacKenzie Miller at Gordon Mills. The Inventory upon his death amounted in value to £45.9s.7p – a substantial sum.

His widow continued to live at Balblair until her own death, in 1869:

Janet Aird (widow of Charles Aird, mason) 26 Feb 1869 Balblair aged 78 years parents William McKenzie agricultural labourer (deceased) Janet McKenzie m.s. Fraser (deceased) informant William Aird son (present).

Not all the children of Janet and Charles were recorded in the baptism register, but we know of William, c1817; Kathrine, 1819; Hariot or Harriet, 1822; Donald, 1827; Charles c1831 and David, 1833.

The death register contains a sad tale of the early death of two of them, Charles and David, both by the dreadful wasting disease of consumption:

Charles Aird farmer (single) died 14 Apr 1857 at Balblair aged 26 years parents Charles Aird mason and Janet Aird maiden name McKenzie buried Churchyard of Kirkmichael as certified by William Holm sexton informant William Aird brother (present).

David Aird stone mason (married to Margaret Fraser [they had married in Edderton in 1857, and had one child, Catherine]) 3 Aug 1861 Balblair 28 Charles Aird grocer Janet Aird m.s. McKenzie … as certified by Alexander Ross Surgeon informant William Aird brother (present)

Despite dying a relatively young man, David had by this time rather blotted his copy books, and I note that his father left him a straight lump sum of £10. He seemed to like his drink. We see from the Inverness Courier of 8 April 1858:

DINGWALL SUMMARY CRIMINAL TRIALS. / On Friday week Sheriff Cameron held a Criminal Court at which the three following parties were tried:– … (2) David Aird, mason, residing at Chapelton of Resolis, pleaded guilty to the crimes of breach of the peace and malicious mischief, in so far as, on the 12th day of January last, (New Year’s day, old style), he did, within the Inn at Balblair, in the parish of Resolis, create a great noise and disturbance, to the alarm of William Graham, the innkeeper, and his household, and did also maliciously and mischievously break two chairs in the taproom of the inn. Aird was sentenced to pay a fine of 21s., and, failing payment, to be imprisoned for six days. The fine was paid.

Son William, at least, lived to a reasonable age:

William Aird shoemaker (married to Mary Polson) 16 Nov 1880 Balblair 63 Charles Aird mason (d) Janet Aird ms McKenzie (d) informant Charles Aird son (present)

His father in this will says that William Aird had cost him quite a lot of money so there is a story there yet to be found. His death was a rather sudden one, as reported by the Ross-shire Journal of 3 December 1880:

Resolis – Sudden Death.– A striking instance of the uncertainty of life occurred here on the evening of Tuesday, the 16th ultimo. William Aird, a shoemaker, residing at Balblair, was seized with a fit of apoplexy, fell off his seat and in a short time became insensible. Dr Meikle, Cromarty, was in immediate attendance, and remained at his bedside until he expired, at 9 o’clock p.m. Deceased was sixty-three years of age, and of a kind and obliging disposition. His remains were interred in Kirkmichael churchyard, by a numerous body of friends and acquaintances.

Harriet or Hariot married one Donald Macdonald, a shoemaker at Jemimaville (although born in Avoch), in 1849, and they had many children both in Jemimaville and in Inverness, to which they moved. Apart from a spell in Wick, they resided in Inverness for the rest of their lives. He had several posts in his life after he gave up the shoemaking, including managing mussel scalps and acting as coal agent. When Harriet died in 1916 he was recorded as having been “Superintendant of Mussel Scalps” so that was how the family viewed him.

Harriet Macdonald widow of Donald Macdonald Superintendent of Mussel Scalps died 24 October 1916 at 2 Abban Terrace Inverness aged 86 parents Charles Aird farmer (d) Janet Aird ms MacKenzie (d) informant James MacRae son-in-law

And Kathrine, or Catherine, also lived to a ripe old age

Catherine Urquhart pauper widow of Gilbert Urquhart crofter 13 Feb 1902 Jemimaville Resolis 78 Charles Aird crofter (d) Janet Aird ms McKenzie (d) informant Jessie Urquhart daughter (present)

Strangely, despite many of these Airds being recorded as buried in Kirkmichael, we have no gravestones commemorating them. We have Aird stones from the 1700s, but there is a long period in the 1800s when, despite so many of them being masons, no stone was placed.

Peter Mackenzie (c1799–1855), mason, and Ann Hood (1800–1879)

Peter Mackenzie’s headstone and his parents’ tablestone propping each other up in Kirkmichael; photo by Jim Mackay

Peter was born in the parish of Nigg, his father presumably working there as a farm servant at the time. Peter became a respected mason in Jemimaville. I note that he himself was interrogated as part of the Kirk Session inquiry into his sister-in-law’s conduct.

Compeared Peter Mackinzie Mason at Jemima Ville who being duly admonished and interrogated Declares That the evil report respecting the Grieves wife he had heard in common with he believes every other person residing in the neighbourhood– saw nothing himself in the conduct of either to excite his suspicion. Being interrogated Declares that Alexander Mckinzie Grieve at Poyntzfield is his brother, that he knew perfectly well that his brother & his wife were living seperately before his brother entered Major Munro’s Service & that his brother did not live with his wife on account of her bad conduct. Declares that he was in the knowledge of his brothers wifes intention of prosecuting her husband for aliment. when he engaged with Major Munro as his Grieve Declares, that he was present together with Charles Airde the last Witness when Major Munro proposed to the Grieve to take back his Wife, that Major Munro said on that occasion to the Grieve in Witness’ hearing that if his behaved ill or improperly She should be turned off from the place.

Obviously little love lost between Peter and his sister-in-law! He married Ann Hood, the daughter of Alexander Hood, farmer in Peddieston, and wife Ann Thomson.

Like many of the masons of the time, Peter died a relatively young man. His death occurred in 1855, which has a special significance in Scotland, as civil registration was introduced that year. Scotland had come late to civil registration, but was determined to make a better job of it than other countries. A very detailed set of information was required, which after the first year was cut back radically following complaints. But that means for one year we have much better information about the family of anyone who died than at any time before or after. Peter’s death certificate is thus brimming with information:

Peter McKenzie, mason, 56, born Nigg Rossshire, 15 years in Resolis, parents William McKenzie farm servant (D) & Janet McKenzie m.s. Fraser (D), wife Ann McKenzie m.s. Hood, children 1. William (D aet 23 in 1852), 2. Jessie 22, 3. Alexander 17, 4. Peter (D aet 12 in 1852). Died 27 Dec 1855 Jemimaville, buried Kirkmichael of Resolis, informant Alexander McKenzie son.

The “years in Resolis” is an under-estimate, but we assume that son Alexander had liaised with his mother to ensure the remaining data, which paint a rather sad picture, were correct.

The information on Peter’s 1855 death certificate is complemented by his headstone in Kirkmichael, carved by memorial makers Davidsons of Inverness and not by the family themselves. It reveals that Peter’s son, Alexander Hood Mackenzie, was a feuar at Jemimaville, that is to say he owned his house in Jemimaville.

Erected / to / the memory of / PETER MACKENZIE, / mason. Jemimaville, / who departed this life in Novr. 1855. / Also his two sons / WILLIAM and PETER, / who both died in July 1851, / the former aged 19 / and the latter 13 years. / Also / ANN HOOD / the beloved wife of the above / PETER MACKENZIE who died / 4th Septr. 1879 / This stone is placed here by his son / ALEXANDER HOOD MACKENZIE, / feuar, Jamimaville, 1869. / Also who died on the 7th of Aprile, 1881.

Peter Mackenzie’s inscription; photo by Jim Mackay

Jemimaville; photo by Reverend Sandy Sutherland

Despite being a feuar at Jemimaville, Alexander Hood Mackenzie moved to become a crofter at Loch Ussie, where he died in 1881. The stone in Kirkmichael has Ann Hood’s date of death incorrect, as the announcement in the Ross-shire Journal of 7 November 1879 makes clear:

At Brahan Cottages, Brahan, on the 4th inst., Ann Hood, relict of the late Mr Peter Mackenzie, mason, Jamimaville, Resolis, and daughter of the late Mr Alexander Hood, farmer, Peddiston, parish of Cromarty. (American papers please copy.)

The reference to American papers is a sure sign that some members of the family had emigrated there.


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