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

James Mitchell (1774–1810) and Janet Macdonald of Knockando and Teaninich, Resolis

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photography as set out below each image

This is the story of James Mitchell, blacksmith and farmer in Teaninich of Poyntzfield, his wife Janet Macdonald, and his family. James died relatively young in 1810 and Janet had a tablestone memorial erected to his memory on the north side of Kirkmichael. It does not tend to be noticed as it sits right beside the eye-attracting Lady Ardoch Tomb, but it is an expensive, quality memorial.

The James Mitchell tablestone erected by Janet Macdonald is overshadowed by the Lady Ardoch Tomb, but is a quality memorial; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Teaninich and Knockando

For a long time we had no idea who this family were as there was no back trail and also no records in the parish as to what happened to the family after James passed away. They had only one child while they were in Resolis:

1810 … James Mitchel Blacksmith Teninach and Janet Macdonell his spouse had a child born on Feby. 28 and baptized March 12th. named Ann.

The Session Clerk of this period recorded several known Macdonalds as Macdonells but why I know not. Fortunately, the inscription on the tablestone in Kirkmichael is clear enough:

Here lies the body of / JAMES MITCHEL late / blacksmith and farmer / at Teninich / who departed this life / the 12th November 1810 / aged 37 years / This stone is placed / here to his memory / by his spouse / JANNET MCDONALD

Teaninich lay on the far side of the saltings from Kirkmichael; photo by Andrew Dowsett

And there we stood for long enough as there were no clues as to the background of the family. And then we cast our net wider, and found that James and Janet were not from this area at all, but from the parish of Knockando, in Moray. The father of James was the meal miller at the Mill of Wester Elchies. They had arrived at Teaninich following a period at Clephanton to the east of Inverness.

Where was Teaninich? To quote from that reliable source Resolis “Slope of Light” Guide to a Black Isle Parish (obtainable from our sales page):

Tighninnich Gaelic: Tigh ’n aonaich, town of the market. Walker states: “During the last century a market used to be held at Tighninnich, between Jemimaville and Balblair.” As the name of Tighninnich (and variants) is much earlier, appearing on Gordon c1637 and Blaeu 1654 and a sasine of 1644, there must have been a market here in medieval times.

Teaninich (also spelled Tighninnich, Teninich or even, as above, Teninach) was part of the Poyntzfield Estate, and I see a series of advertisements in all the Scottish papers from late 1807 to early 1808 when the farms on Poyntzfield were being let, with entry from Whitsunday, 1808. I have emboldened key sections.

Inverness Journal 30 October 1807
The ESTATE OF POYNTZFIELD, Situated in the Shires of Cromarty, and Sutherland.
Notice is hereby given to Farmers, and Graziers, that all the Low Country and Highland Farms upon that property are now open, and will be Let on Leases, of from 7, to 21 years, as may be agreed upon.– Entry at Whitsunday, 1808.
The following CORN FARMS at POYNTZFIELD, viz. EASTER and WESTER BIRKS, BALLISKELLY, EASTER and WESTER BALLICHERRY, TEANINICH, and LITTLE ARDOCH, are of moderate sizes, from about 60, to 120 acres each, beautifully situated upon a gentle declivity, on the south side of the Cromarty Frith, within one mile of the sea, and five of the sea-port town of Cromarty; having a Northern exposure. The soil is good, and capable of great improvement, having several patches of rich Woodlands, which might be cultivated to advantage. These Farms have also the conveniency of abundance of wood and water, and a Flour and Corn Mill in the vicinity. Large Plantations of FIR and HARD WOODS are likewise upon the property.– LITTLE ARDOCH is regularly inclosed, and subdivided into Ten Fields, all the rest are unenclosed, and may be thrown into Larger Farms, to suit offers from spirited Improvers, who may depend upon every encouragement. The Farm-houses are also comfortable of their kinds, [lands in Sutherland are now described.]
Offers addressed to the Proprietor, Lieut. Col. Munro of Poyntzfield, by Cromarty; to Kenneth M'Kenzie, Esq. W.S. Edinburgh; or to Robert M’Kid, Esq. Writer in Tain, will be duly attended to; and names kept secret, if required.…

James Mitchell must have been attracted by these advertisements into offering for Teaninich, and moved in then presumably at Whitsunday (end of May) 1808. But alas, two and a half years later he had died. I don’t know if Janet continued with the lease until its expiry, but hopefully more information on this can be found. If I seem a little painstaking with this family it is because it is associated with much spurious information on the net, and I like to check all facts before proceeding.

Before coming to Teaninich, James Mitchell’s whereabouts can be ascertained by the information given at the baptisms of his children, first in their native parish of Knockando, Moray, then in the parish of Croy, Inverness-shire, and finally in Resolis. There is no record of their marriage in the Parish Registers. This, however, has not daunted some family historians who have inserted the marriages of completely different couples of the same name from other regions of Scotland into their family trees. They are all incorrect, as can easily be checked as they go on to have children in their native areas while the correct James Mitchell and Janet Macdonald are producing children in Knockando, Croy and Resolis. I did not accept this was the same couple at each location until after additional corroborative evidence was found. The verified couple’s movements are thus:

the attractive re-built Knockando church; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Parish of Knockando, Moray
1796 … Augt. 6th Jean Daur. of James Mitchel and Janet McDonald in Stronedow Baptised Alexander Mitchel Merchant in Glenlivat and John Mitchel in Knockando Witnesses
1798 …December 9th. Elspet Daughter of James Mitchel and Jannet McDonald Stronedow Baptised Elspet Bain Balnigow & John Achnach Knockenriech Witnesses
June 28th 1801 Janet daughter of James Mitchel, and Janet McDonald, Stroendow of Knockandow baptised John Calder & Janet Younie witnesses
Parish of Croy and Dalcross, Inverness-shire
James Mitchell and Janet McDonald his spouse in Clepan-town had a child, baptized named Alexander, born 7th Novr. witnesses, Alexr. Fraser and Alexr. McIntosh the farmer in Old-Town Kilravock, and latter in Clepan-town.
Parish of Resolis, Ross and Cromarty1810 … James Mitchel Blacksmith Teninach and Janet Macdonell his spouse had a child born on Feby. 28 and baptized March 12th. named Ann.

Strondow in the parish of Knockando, where James and Janet lived for the first period after their marriage; some of the witnesses at church baptisms were from the neighbouring farms shown here

There are thus four children we know of, Jean (1796), Elspet (1798), Alexander (1805) and Ann (1810).


The Four Children

1. Jean Mitchell (1796–1860) married William Stewart, a cooper (no doubt in the distillery industry) in Aberlour in 1822, both of them being given as of that parish at the time.

And now something unusual. I note that in most cases the names of their seven children match one of the witnesses at the baptism. You see this on the odd occasion, but I have never seen it followed so consistently over so many children. Only with one of the seven children did they not achieve it, but they made up for that with double witnesses of the same name on two occasions! This is the list, with the similarly named witness(es) in brackets: Margaret, 1823 (Margaret Christie, New Inn); Jannet, 1825 (none); Penuel McPherson, 1827 ( Mrs McPherson, Penuel Grant); Elspet, 1830 (Elspet Mitchel and Gordon Stewart both in Charlestown); Hugh, 1832 (Hugh Stuart in Boginduie); Helen, 1834 (Helen Innes in Milford Cottage and Helen Stuart in Boginduie); Elizabeth, 1836 (Elizabeth Innes in Millford Cottage and Elizabeth Mitchel in Charlestown). Quite remarkable.

Jean and William emigrated in 1839 to Australia on the same ship from Cromarty as her sister Ann (born in Teaninich) and her husband. I’ll let the immigration records speak for themselves, although there are a few errors within them (and I am very suspicious that everybody seems to be able to read and write and had no complaints (about the voyage, presumably).

[Married Male Immigrant] Wm. Stewart [Arrived by the] Asia [Brought out by] Govt. [A Native of] Bamf Scotland son of John a farmer of the same place and Margt. McPherson his wife there [Calling] Cooper [Age on Embarkation] 36 yrs. [State of bodily health, strength, and probable usefulness] V Good [Religion] Presbyterian [Remarks] Reads & Writes / No Complaint

[Married Female Immigrant] Jane Stewart [Arrived by the Ship] Asia [Brought out by] Govt. [A Native of] Bamfshire, daughter of Jas. Mitchell Blacksmith of same place & Jane Donaldson his wife [Calling] House & Dairymaid [Age] 36 yrs in July 1839 [State of bodily health, strength, and probable usefulness] Very Good [Religion] Presbyterian [Remarks] Reads & writes / No Complts.

The ages and birthdays of their seven children are also given. Most of the family survived despite the tough conditions in Australia at the time. From the Australian Death Index, Jean died in Broulee, New South Wales, in 1860.

2. Elspet Mitchell (1798–) I have been unable to trace. As mentioned, her sister Jean named one of her children Elspet, and one of the witnesses at that baptism was one Elspet Mitchell of Charlestown who may well have been her sister. Charlestown of Aberlour was founded by Charles Grant of Elchies in 1812.

Baptism Register, Parish of Aberlour, Moray
21 Jany. 1830 Elspet lawful Daur. to William Stuart in Charlestown and Jane Mitchel his spouse was baptised before witnesses Elspet Mitchel and Gordon Stuart both in Charlestown.

3. Alexander Mitchell (1806–1885) was relatively easy to track. As we have seen, he was born whilst James and Janet were residing at Clephanton, parish of Croy. He married Isabella McQueen in the Moray parish of Edinkillie in 1823, and resided the rest of his days initially in the nearby parish of Inveravon and thereafter in Edinkillie (both parishes adjoining Knockando, the touchpoint of this story). He was a heather thatcher, a trade requiring great skill and one much in demand, but he sadly ended his days a pauper. The 1871 Census return for the family is of particular interest as he made a revealing mistake. In all other census returns he correctly gives his birth parish as Croy; in 1871 he mistakenly gives the following information: “Alexander Mitchell head mar 66 heather thatcher Rossshire Resolis”. He certainly lived his early years at Teaninich, Resolis, and either he or someone else in the household must have become confused when giving the information to the census enumerator. But it certainly helps to corroborate that he is the son of the couple who lived in Resolis!

Example of heather thatching in progress; photo of Causeway House being re-thatched with heather by Jill Tate, and courtesy of the Landmark Trust

photo by Jill Tate, and courtesy of the Landmark Trust

I have not researched the children of Alexander Stewart and Isabella McQueen, other than to note from the Inveravon and Edinkillie Baptism Registers that the couple had Anne (1824), John (1826), James (1828), Helen (1832), Janet (1835), Alexander (1839) and an unnamed son in 1842, who must have died in infancy as he does not occur in the census returns. I see that his son John became a dancing master, surely not a common form of employment.

His death certificate (from which I note the dancing master calls his father’s mother “Janet Donaldson” instead of “Janet Macdonald”, just as Jean Mitchell and Ann Mitchell did when arriving in Australia):

Death Certificates, Parish of Edinkillie, Moray
Alexander Mitchell pauper (formerly a heather thatcher) (widower of Isabella McQueen) died 24 June 1885 at Culfern Edinkillie age 82 parents James Mitchell blacksmith (d) Janet Mitchell ms Donaldson (d) informant John Mitchell son present

4. Ann Mitchell (1810–1900), who was born in Teaninich, Resolis, just a few months before her father died, I am pleased to say went on to have a long and fruitful life herself. She was a housemaid and dairymaid. Ann married William Buie (later calling himself Bowie), the marriage being recorded in the two parishes within which they resided:

Marriage Register, Ardclach, Nairnshire, 1832
February 18th Then were contracted in order to marriage William Buie in the parish of Aberlour and Anne Mitchell in this parish and were married March 3rd following
Marriage Register, Aberlour, Banffshire, 1832
Aberlour 3d March 1832. William Buie in this Parish and Ann Mitchell in the Parish of Ardclach were married this day having been proclaimed and no objections offered.

Aberlour is just across the Spey from the parish of Knockando, in which the Mitchells had been living until James moved away, so Ann was coming to an area with many relatives. She had been residing in the parish of Ardclach, presumably in the capacity of house and dairy maid, the occupation she was later to state when emigrating. The couple went on to have children Janet (1833) and William (1835) a few miles away in Archiestown, back on the Knockando side of the River Spey. On Janet’s baptism William is given as “William Bowie Heatherer in Archiestown” so he was in the same trade as Ann’s brother Alexander, the heather thatcher. Coincidence? I think not.

Their next recorded child, though, was born a little further away – in Australia! The family had emigrated, and Christina Pillence Campbell Bowie was born on 9 January 1842 in Waverley, Sydney, Australia. Three more children followed in New South Wales. All the children I note are Janet Bowie (1833–), William Bowie (1835, dying, according to the Australian Death Index, in 1840 in Sydney), Christina Pillence Campbell Bowie (1842–1929), John Archibald Campbell Bowie (1844–1927), Margaret Stewart Bowie (1847–1902) (surely named after her grandmother Margaret Stewart) and James Bowie (1850–1927).

The ship they travelled out on was the Asia, which arrived in Sydney on 10th May 1839. The immigration records are fascinating. There are records of the two children already noted, Wm. (3 yrs old) and Janet (5 yrs old) and the parents:

[Married Male Immigrant] Wm. Buie Bowie [Arrived by the] Asia [Brought out by] Govt. [A Native of] Morayshire, Scotland son of Willm., a Merchant of same place & Anne Donaldson his wife [Calling] Thatcher [Age on Embarkation] 34 [State of bodily health, strength, and probable usefulness] Very Good [Religion] Presbyterian [Remarks] Reads & Writes / No Complaints

[Married Female Immigrant] Anne Buie [Arrived by the Ship] Asia [Brought out by] Govt. [A Native of] Rosshire – daughter of Jas. Mitchell Blacksmith of same place & Janet Donaldson his wife there [Calling] House & Dairymaid [Age] 28 years 10th. April 1839 [State of bodily health, strength, and probable usefulness] Very Good [Religion] Presbyterian [Remarks] Reads & writes / No Complts.

Immigration record for Anne Buie ms Mitchell in 1839

Again, you’ll note, the second name of Ann’s mother is given as Donaldson rather than Macdonald – quite understandable in that they mean the same thing, but the variation is curious.

According to Wikipedia: “Asia was a merchant ship built by A. Hall & Company at Aberdeen in 1818. She made eight voyages between 1820 and 1836 transporting convicts from Britain to Australia. … Immigrant voyage (1839–1840): Asia, barque of 563 tons, Govey, master, sailed from Cromarty on 17 September 1838 and from Plymouth on 22 January 1839, bound for Australia with 267 government-assisted emigrants. Asia arrived at Sydney on 10 May.”

Given that the Asia had been a convict ship, and an old convict ship at that, you would imagine that conditions on board would have been frightful. Funnily enough, the reports are somewhat conflicting on that front, although the journey did become a nightmare due to other reasons.

There was much reporting of the difficulties with the ship in the press. Here are some key snippets about that dreadful voyage.

Inverness Courier, 18 July 1838

the emigrant’s petition as reprinted in the Inverness Courier, 19 December 1838

The final entry here, below on the right, is a section of a long letter from a joiner called Andrew Ross from Dingwall; he goes on after describing his voyage on the Asia to set out just how tough life was for emigrants to Australia.

top: Liverpool Standard, 21 December 1838; bottom: Devizes andWiltshire Gazette, 27 December 1838

Initial section of letter in John O’Groat Journal, 10 July 1840

In 1867, according to her memorial, Ann moved to yet another country – New Zealand. She died on 4th July 1900 at Waverley, Taranaki, New Zealand, at the ripe old age of 90 years.

The family headstone within Waverley Cemetery carries a lot of information, some of it not quite accurate as no doubt it had been passed down a couple of generations. Annie appears to have gained a middle name, thus “Annie Gordon Mitchell”, but the origin of the “Gordon” is not known (could her mother have remarried a Gordon)? Her age is 1 year out (she was 90 not 91), William Bowie is given as from Aberdeen, and I suppose Moray is getting towards Aberdeen, but assigning Annie Mitchell to Inverness instead of the Black Isle in Ross and Cromarty is a mortal insult. The full inscription (minus a modern entry) reads:

In loving memory of / WILLIAM BOWIE / native of Aberdeen / died 18th Oct. 1874 – aged 68 years / Also his wife / ANNIE GORDON MITCHELL / native of Inverness / died 6th July 1900 – aged 91 years
They landed at Sydney by the second / immigrant ship “Asia” and came to / Waverley in 1867.
Also WILLIAM ROBERT DAVIS / native of Bristol, beloved husband of / CHRISTINA DAVIS / and son-in-law of the above / died 21st March 1916 – aged 80 years / came to Waverley 1870. / Also CHRISTINA PILLENCE / wife of above / died 31st Jan. 1929 – aged 67 years.
Thy will be done.

these images of the Bowie memorial in Waverley Graveyard were found on the internet but without the photographer’s name attributed; I would be very pleased to insert an acknowledgement here!

There can be no doubt that this is our Ann Mitchell, born in Teaninich, Resolis, in 1810, and dying as Annie Gordon Mitchell in New Zealand in 1900. However, I do like to check every fact, so I have ordered from New Zealand the information on her death certificate!


Janet Macdonald (or Donaldson)

Poor Janet Macdonald has not been treated well by the family historians. I see all sorts of unfounded “data” about her in the family trees on the net.

First of all, her birth. Some sites suggest she was the Janet Macdonald born in 1776 in the parish of Knockando:

Baptism Register, Parish of Knockando, Morayshire
1776 … June 23d. Janet daur of Alexander McDonald & Margaret Leslie in Altachoish baptised before the Congregation

Well, the parish is possibly correct given she lived there after she married, but honestly! there were literally hundreds of Janet Macdonalds born in this period all across Scotland.

Next, her marriage. I have already mentioned that her marriage to James Mitchel has been incorrectly assigned to several other couples bearing that combination of names. Unlike the above baptism, which might possibly be correct if proven, the suggested marriages are all demonstrably wrong.

And finally, where she ended up in her old age. Several sites say Janet was alive in 1841, in Elgin, aged 65. In the Census returns there is indeed a lady in the Elgin Institution (for the Support of Old-age & Education of Youth) called Janet Mitchell with the rounded age of 65, but really! she could be one of a dozen Janet Mitchells. There might be some evidence from the poor relief records of the time, but otherwise one simply cannot say. To put it into context, there were 77 women aged 55 or over named Janet Mitchell (with variant spelling) in Scotland in the 1841 Census – and she may not even have been alive in 1841.

I am quite sure there will be records out there, kirk session records, poor relief records, estate records, family Bibles, correspondence, carrying evidence of the correct Janet Macdonald. However, I have not seen any definite sightings of her following the inscription she had carved on her husband’s tablestone in Kirkmichael back in 1810.

Given three of her children gave her surname as Donaldson instead of Macdonald, further research on Janet should keep an eye out for her appearing under that surname too.


The parents of James Mitchell (1774–1810), blacksmith and farmer at Teaninich

From the death certificate of James Mitchell’s heather thatcher brother, Alexander Mitchell, we know that their parents were William Mitchell (c1744–1832) and Margaret Stewart (c1755–1830). They are easily tracked. William was for several decades the meal-miller at Wester Elchies, again in the parish of Knockando. He married Margaret Stewart in Knockando in 1773, and James was born the following year, the eldest child:

Baptism Register Knockando, Moray
1774 … Febry 17th James son of William Mitchel and Margaret Stuart at Mill of Wester Elchies baptised. James Stuart & James Cumming in Blackfold Witnesses

The mill dam at Wester Elchies was still present when the Ordnance Survey surveyed the area

More children were to follow, but this is not the Story to follow their lives. Having resided at Wester Elchies for a considerable period, the family moved to Refrush in the parish of Inveravon, not far away, and that is where their last child was born:

Baptism Register, Parish of Inveravon, Banffshire (near Dufftown)
1797 … June 28th. Alexander Mitchel lawful son to William Mitchel & Margaret Stuart in Refrush was baptized. Witnesses John Turner in Clashnore and John Sharp in Achnarrow

I am grateful to the excellent Moray Burial Ground Research Group who provided me with a superb image of the headstone. It commemorates William Mitchell and Margaret Stewart, and was erected by son William, who is also commemorated upon it along with his wife, Ann Cumming. The headstone is in Dallas Churchyard. Son William worked and lived in Dallas for many years so I presume the elderly couple had moved to reside with him. You may have already noted that quite a few of the Mitchell family lived to be a considerable age, and here we see more evidence of their longevity:

Dallas Churchyard transcription courtesey of MBGRG
Erected by WILLIAM MITCHELL Wright Village in memory of his mother MARGARET STEWART who died December 3rd 1830 aged 75 years. – And of his father WILLIAM MITCHELL who died Aprile 12th 1832 aged 88 years.
And his beloved wife ANN CUMMING who died May 19th 1875 aged 76 years.
Also of his son WILLIAM, who died the 3TH. Jan, 1877, aged 48 years,
(the said) WILLIAM MITCHELL, Carpenter, Village of Dallas, who died 1ST. day of December, 1883, aged 90 years,
Also of his daughter, MARGARET MITCHELL, who died at Dallas Village, on 8TH. Feb. 1890, aged 55 years.

Dallas Churchyard; photo by fionamac courtesy of

The Mitchell Headstone in Dallas; photograph courtesy of Moray Burial Ground Research Group

On various family history websites the origins of the family are pushed back into Aberdeenshire, with one ancestor involved in the Battle of Culloden. I have not sought to validate any of this older information as my focus has been on James Mitchell and Janet Macdonald and their daughter Ann because of their Resolis connections.

I am particularly pleased that Ann, born in such difficult circumstances with her father dying when she was only a few months old, lived to a great age and, though losing some children, saw her surviving children marry and start families of their own.

The James Mitchell tablestone on the left, long before Kirkmichael was restored; photo by Andrew Dowsett

the inscription; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Click here to return to the Story behind the Stone gallery