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

The Lyon-Mackenzie family of St Martins and Braelangwell

text: Jim Mackay     photos: as individually noted

Within the Gun Munro mausoleum at Kirkmichael is a small, rather lonely marble memorial to a child, one-year-old Colin Lyon-Mackenzie of St. Martins and Braelangwell. The marble panel had been subject to vandalism and graffiti in the 1960s, but in 2017 the Kirkmichael Trust had it cleaned, repaired and reinstated in the mausoleum. Young Colin is not buried in Kirkmichael – he died in London where his parents were at the time, and his death was recorded in Kensington. Surprisingly, he is the subject of a verse by local poet Angus Munro, to which we will come.

This is the only memorial to a Lyon-Mackenzie in Kirkmichael, despite the fact that the family were major land-owners and active participants in the community for a long time.

Who were the Lyon-Mackenzie family, and how did it come about that their son is commemorated in the Gun Munro mausoleum in Kirkmichael? And what was the verse by Angus Munro?

The smashed memorial to Colin Lyon-Mackenzie; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Restored in 2017 for the Kirkmichael Trust; photo by Jim Mackay

In 1797 wealthy Inverness merchant James Lyon married Flora or Florentia Mackenzie, daughter of the late Alexander Mackenzie, tacksman of Rogie, Parish of Contin, and Flora or Florentia McDonald. She had sisters Jacobina, Margaret and Helen, but more importantly for the purposes of this story, brothers Donald and Colin. Donald inherited the estate of Newhall through the entail of his uncle, Colin Mackenzie Dhu of Newhall, and when Donald died, it passed to Colin Mackenzie.

Colin Mackenzie of Newhall shortly before his death in 1842 settled a deed of entail on Colin Lyon, the son of his sister Flora and James Lyon, the Inverness merchant. These entails were tricky things, and the Newhall estate had become snarled up in litigation around an earlier entail involving brothers Donald and Colin Mackenzie, but this obviously did not stop Colin Mackenzie of Newhall from doing the same with St Martins and Drumcudden and, indeed, developing similar entails for other portions of his estate.

The beautiful mansion house of St Martins as it is today
photo by Jim Mackay

Anyway, legalities aside, Colin Lyon became Colin Lyon-Mackenzie of St Martins, in much the same way that Shaw of Tordarroch became Shaw-Mackenzie of Newhall in this period.

Walker in his “Parish of Resolis” states that “A niece of Colin Mackenzie Dhu [of Newhall] named Florence Mackenzie, married James Lyon of Inverness (died 1863), and her wedding dress can be seen in Inverness Museum [could someone get a photo, please?]. She lived in Braelangwell, and the Lady’s Bridge and Road were constructed to enable her to visit her brother at Newhall. Her son, Colin-Lyon Mackenzie of St Martin’s, became Provost to Inverness.”

I suspect Walker may have been conflating two stories here, as, as far as I can see from baptism records of her children, census records and her death certificate, Flora lived all her married life in Inverness and died (in 1863, that much is correct, aged 92), in 1 Rose Street Inverness. Furthermore, Braelangwell was purchased by her son after her death, so I do not know why she would be living there and visiting her brother (or brothers – both Donald and Colin had Newhall for a period after their uncle Colin Mackenzie Dhu died). I wonder if he was confusing Flora with Henrietta Gordon, who had married Urquhart of Braelangwell and was undoubtedly very fond of her brother, William Gordon of Newhall, and would have certainly visited him often at Newhall from Braelangwell.

As set out above, Colin Lyon-Mackenzie, the son of James Lyon and Flora Mackenzie, came into the estate of St Martins in the early 1840s and soon set it out to let, as per advertisements in the local press.

Advertisement in the Inverness Advertiser of 18 October 1844

St Martins set amidst its woodlands and rich cornfields;
photo and webpage link photo by Andrew Dowsett

Note the significance in the advertisement of the proximity to Foulis Ferry and Alness Ferry, and how the Inverbrecky Pier (the Telford pier at Balblair) was the point of export. Access to good sea transport was essential to success.

Note also that St Martins already had a threshing-mill, so was a well-advanced farm.

Lyon-Mackenzie, though living in Inverness, immediately provided for the Resolis community, as I note from the minutes of the Kirk Session of 18 July 1844 that he had donated a pound sterling to the Poor’s Fund. Not anything like the donation from Shaw-Mackenzie of Newhall (£20) but still, St Martins was a much smaller estate. He personally appeared at Resolis School-house on 11 June 1845 to agree to improvements to the parish School, and I note his presence in either the School-house or the Church of Resolis on other dates in the 1840s, so clearly he was taking his position seriously. Indeed, I note that “Colin Lyon-Mackenzie of St Martins” was the Chair in 1848 of the Resolis Parochial Board. At the same time, though, he was maintaining his presence in Inverness.

Entails were tricky things. They were a licence for lawyers to print money. I see that Lyon-Mackenzie in 1877 was at the Court of Session (Mackenzie v. Mackenzie’s Trustees) sorting out entail complexities, with this sort of apparently esoteric question (which, however, had profound financial consequences): “LORD PRESIDENT– The question here is, whether under the Thellusson Act the accumulation directed in the trust- deed of the late Mr Mackenzie of Newhall, dated 1st August 1838, is not illegal after twenty-one years from the death of the testator, i.e. since 1863, Mr Mackenzie having died in 1842?” The court did: “Find that the pursuer [Lyon-Mackenzie], as heir of entail in possession of the estates of Easter St Martins and Drumcudden, is entitled to the whole income of the free residue of the trust-estate in the hands of the defenders, the trustees of the late Colin Mackenzie of Newhall, which had accrued since the 1st October 1863, with any interest which may have accrued on the said income in the hands of the said trustees”. In this tangled case, Colin Lyon Mackenzie had brought an action against a) the trustees, b) Miss Helen Mackenzie and certain other persons, as representing the next of kin of the late Colin Mackenzie of Newhall, and c) his own son, Colin Lyon Mackenzie Junior, as next heir of entail to Easter St Martins and Drumcudden. Don’t ask! Scots lawyers must have been devastated when entail legislation ceased.

The old and very large steading at St Martins as it is today
photo by Jim Mackay

I see that in 1882, that son, the second Colin Lyon-Mackenzie of St Martins, was back in the Court of Session (CS46/1882/3/62) seeking “authority to record instrument of disentail, and to acquire trust property in fee-simple” so clearly he wanted to break the entail.

The northern newspapers of July 1850 all mention that a “large party of tenants and friends celebrated at Drumcudden” the marriage of Colin Lyon MacKenzie, Esq, St Martins, to Miss Anne MacLeod, of Orbost, Skye, which would tend to suggest he was a popular landlord (although such effusions in the press were the norm).

The children were all born in the home of the Lyon-Mackenzies in Inverness (54 Academy Street).

Lyon-Mackenzie became a Justice of the Peace, and was Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Cromarty and Inverness-shire, and further established his Resolis base when he purchased Braelangwell in 1879. He thereafter took up residence in Braelangwell House, but did not survive long to enjoy his new home. He died at Braelangwell in 1881, and was buried in Inverness.

Although he has no memorial in Resolis, he actually has two in Inverness. In Chapel Yard is the memorial: “In memory of Anne, third daughter of William McLeod, of Orbost, Skye, the beloved wife of Colin Lyon McKenzie of Saint Martins, who died 24th April 1865; also in memory of the said Colin Lyon- Mackenzie of St Martins & Braelangwell, J.P. for Ross-shire & Inverness-shire and D.L. for Cromarty-shire & Inverness-shire, who died at Braelangwell House June 30th 1881.” and in the Old High Church is a brass plate: “In loving memory of Colin Lyon-Mackenzie, of St. Martins and Braelangwell, Deputy Lieutenant for Cromartyshire and Inverness-shire, 14 years Elder in the Old High Church, died at Braelangwell House 30th June 1881.”

The memorial in Chapel Yard, Inverness, to James Lyon and Florence Mackenzie; photo by Jim Mackay

Bust of Major Colin Lyon-Mackenzie

The memorial in Chapel Yard, Inverness, to Major Colin Lyon-Mackenzie and Anne McLeod; photo by Jim Mackay

The son of Major Colin and Anne, Captain Colin Lyon-Mackenzie, inherited Braelangwell and St Martins and became the next laird. Like so many other proprietors, he was an officer of the Militia. He married Francis Emily Gunn Munro in Kensington, London, on 21 January 1884, but several of their children were born at Braelangwell House, including their first child, Colin Lyon Mackenzie, on 11 July 1885.

Local poet, Angus Munro, often read or sang at local events a specially composed poem, which wonderfully captures the spirit of an occasion. Thus it was that the following lines were composed to mark the birth of the laird’s first son:

In the year eighteen eighty five / On the eleventh of July
When the fields were decked so beautiful / And the sun shining high
That in Braelangwell mansion house / Was born a son and heir
To Capt. and Mrs. Mackenzie / Whose joy could not declare

Sadly, young Colin did not survive past childhood, and died in London, his death being registered in Kensington. However, he is commemorated in the truncated nave at Kirkmichael, the mausoleum of the Gun Munro family.

Why the Gun Munro mausoleum?

The answer lies in the name of his mother: Francis Emily Gunn Munro, the daughter of Captain Innes Colin Munro, the sixth Gun Munro laird of Poyntzfield, and his wife, Emily Abigail Mason. As a daughter of Poyntzfield, what would be more natural than to set up a memorial to her son in the family mausoleum?

The smashed marble wall panel states:

“He shall gather the lambs / in his arms, and carry them / in his bosom.” / In memory of / COLIN, / eldest son of / COLIN LYON-MACKENZIE, / of St. Martins and Braelangwell, / born July 11th 1885, / entered into rest / January 30th 1887.

However, many more children followed, and the family can be seen in the 1891 Census:

Braelangwell Mansion House 28 rooms with one or more windows

Colin Lyon McKenzie head m 31 landed proprietor Inverness
Francis E. Lyon McKenzie wife m 31 England
Florence M. Lyon McKenzie daur 4 Resolis
George Lyon McKenzie son 3 Resolis
Kenneth Lyon McKenzie son 2 Resolis
Norman Lyon McKenzie son 1 Resolis
Jane Fraser nurse s 29 nurse Kiltarlity
Helen Urquhart nurse s 25 nurse Rosemarkie
John Morris servant s 16 groom Aberdeen
Jessie Clark servant s 27 general servant Daviot
Annie McLeod servant s 27 general servant Inverness
Annie Ross servant s 16 general servant Kilmuir

Braelangwell House about the time it was occupied by the Lyon-Mackenzie family

A lovely account of a concert at which the Laird of Braelangwell presided is given in the Scottish Highlander of Thursday, 16 December 1886:

RESOLIS. / Concert.- A concert in aid of funds for supplying water and light for the village of Jemimaville, was given in the Newhall Public School, Resolis, on Friday evening. Captain Lyon-Mackenzie of Braelangwell presided, and there was a large attendance. The Misses Graham opened the entertainment with selections on the piano, and the other ladies who kindly took part were– Misses K. Thomson and C. Davidson, Cromarty, and Miss L. Graham, Invergordon. Messrs. Calder and Munro, Invergordon; Mr. Junor, Cromarty; and Mr. Morgan, Newhall, also sang a number of songs. Misses Graham and Munro, Invergordon, played the accompaniments very tastefully. A class of young people, led by Mr. Morgan, teacher, Newhall, sung in good tune. Messrs. Munro, Newhall, played some violin selections, accompanied by Mr. Mackenzie, Jemimaville, on the piano. Captain Lyon-Mackenzie handed the committee a subscription of £1 in aid of the funds.

I think it must have been at this event that local poet Angus Munro, always ready to provide a recitation for a public occasion, produced his poem, and several others.

Lyon-Mackenzie maintained a famous herd of shorthorns at Braelangwell. Founded in 1883, many prizes were won by stock from the herd before it was rouped off in 1896.

The 1900/1901 Valuation Roll for Resolis sets out how the estates stood at that moment:

Charles F.H. Shaw-Mackenzie of Newhall (Newhall Mansion House and Newhall Mains, Bog of Cullicudden, Muir of Cullicudden, Alness Ferry, Resolis Mains, Springfield, Drumdyre, Ferry, Ferryhouses, East, West and Mid Brae, Kirkton, Woodside, Burnside, Balblair, Agneshill, Fleucherries, Craigton, Toberchurn, Cullicudden Quarry, Sheeppark, Auchmartin, Capernich, part of Chapelton, Henrietta Park, Ferryton, Storehouse) £2,903.1.3

Trustees of Major Colin Lyon-Mackenzie (Braelangwell House and land, St Martins, Mill, Drumcudden Inn) £818.7.6

George Mackenzie Gunn Munro of Poyntzfield (Poyntzfield House, Mains and Mill, Upperwood, Ballicherry, Ardoch, Ballyskilly, Wood of Brae, Tighninnich) £954.7.6

Findon Estate (part of Culbo, Badgrinan, Badgalach) – James Auldjo Jamieson, W.S., and Geo. Dalziel, W.S. £285.10.0

Murdo Macrae and Evan Mackenzie Macrae of Kinbeachie (Kinbeachie Mains Farm, Bruichglass Croft and Inn, Farm of Lower Kinbeachie) £192.0.0

Representatives of the late William Ord Mackenzie of Culbo (part of Culbo) £202.0.0

James Douglas Fletcher of Rosehaugh (Woodhead, Farm of Ardmeanach) £163.13.0

Other Proprietors £38.10.0

In his time, then, Colin Lyon-Mackenzie, though holding considerably less land than Newhall, was not far behind Poyntzfield, and held far more than any other proprietor within Resolis. They were an important family in the area.

I don’t know what happened at the end. Major Lyon-Mackenzie had set up trustees for his estate, and he emigrated to Canada for a long period, although returning to the UK and dying in Inverness in 1916. Two of his sons had also emigrated to Canada, Kenneth, who set up as a farmer, and Norman, who sailed to meet up with his brother in 1907 and became a clerk. Both joined up in Canadian forces during World War 1, Kenneth surviving, but Norman dying at Armagh Woods in 1916, a few months after the decease of his father.

By this time, of course, their property connection with Resolis was long gone. Braelangwell and St Martins had been sold by Lyon-Mackenzie by auction in 1901. Braelangwell was purchased by Peter Brown Macintyre, who also farmed Findon Mains, and St Martins by Robert Macintyre, of Newton, Evanton. The Inn and shop at Drumcudden (now Ellan Vannin) had been sold separately. At this time then, the Lyon-Mackenzie family influence was lost to Resolis, leaving only one small, smashed marble memorial in Kirkmichael to mark their time there.

But now the Kirkmichael Trust has repaired that memorial to young Colin Lyon-Mackenzie, behind which this whole family story lies.

photo by Andrew Dowsett


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