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

The Macdonald family of Castle Craig, otherwise Craigton or Craighouse

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated


Castle Craig perches on a small cliff above the Cromarty Firth. The farm settlement to the south of the ancient keep was known as Craigton, Craighouse or simply Castle Craig. The rich farmland in the 1700s held several tenants, but as tenancies increased in size the number of farming families dwindled to two, and by the time it was sold by the Newhall Estate in 1919 it had reduced to one.

The Macdonald family became tenants of Craigton, also known as Craighouse or Castle Craig, in 1762. The final Macdonald in Craigton, the retired Donald Macdonald, died in 1900. His son-in-law, Donald Ross, continued in the farm until his death in 1919. This was an exceptionally long time for one tenant family to be associated with a farm. Whilst the family remained at Craigton for over a century, naturally some of the children took on different roles. One became for decades the innkeeper at Bruichglass, the very first inn travellers reached on coming into Resolis from the west. One married the innkeeper at the Balblair Ferry Inn, the largest inn within the parish. One ran the post office and shop at Cullicudden, before taking over the Glasgow House, later J.E. Macdonald’s, in Invergordon. Some, of course, took up other tenancies and became successful farmers elsewhere in Scotland. And many emigrated.

As an introduction, I have a postcard of Castle Craig by Cullicudden photographer Donald Fraser. The postmark is 1907, so the scene was photographed whilst the land seen in it was farmed by son-in-law Donald Ross. Half the field is already ploughed, and the preliminary marking out of the ploughing for the remainder of the field has been carried out. Cartloads of farmyard manure have been tipped out to be spread over the soil before being ploughed in. The year’s crop would then be sown into the fertilised soil.

It is wonderful to see from so long ago the land of Craigton being actively farmed to the very foot of the ancient keep of Castle Craig; photo by Donald Fraser, Cullicudden

But the land of Craigton extended well up the slopes to Craigton itself.

Castle Craig on the left lies on the Cromarty Firth, and the fields of Craigton extend from the Castle up to the farmstead; first edition Ordnance Survey, surveyed 1872

The family was usually called Macdonald, but well into the 1800s the patronymic “alias Taylor” was occasionally applied to them, so when examining the records both surnames need to be checked. The family was called Taylor consistently in the earlier Newhall Estate rentals.

The other family who held a substantial tenancy for a long time at Craigton. the Mackenzie family, is the subject of a separate Story behind the Stone here. That story contains more information on Castle Craig. And please have a look at the Urquhart history of Castle Craig here. We will assist Clan Urquhart as much as we can in seeking to stabilise and restore, if possible, Castle Craig!



First Generation – Alexander Macdonald and Katherine Ross

Alexander and Katherine’s slab in Cullicudden Burial Ground; photo by Andrew Dowsett

The earliest couple in the records, Alexander Macdonald and Katherine Ross, are mentioned on two memorials within Cullicudden Burial Ground, a slab bearing date 1777 and a tablestone, to the south east of the superb Urquhart of Kinbeachie enclosure. These stones are close to another Macdonald slab also bearing date 1777 but associated with a different family of Macdonalds, suggesting a possible earlier connection – see this story here. In order to assist climbing about on the Macdonald family tree, I shall highlight in red the particular branch we are on – in this case the first Macdonald family in Craigton, Alexander Macdonald and Katherine Ross.

Alexander took up the tenancy at Craigton about 1762. In this period, Craigton lay within the Newhall Estate and hence we can utilise the Newhall Estate rentals to determine when he arrived. In the 1744 Judicial Rental (SC24/16/3) there is no Macdonald at Craigton or Craighouse; instead we have:

Ja: McKenzie
Wm Urquhart

The Mackenzie family was to continue in Craighouse for a long time, but the Urquharts were not. In the Judicial Rental of Newhall of October 1762 (RH15/44/199(iii) and (iv)) we see:

Thomas Mackenzie Tennant in Craighouse son of the deceased James Mackenzie late Tennant there
Alexander Taylor Tennant in Craighouse, former possessor Thomas Urquhart

Having secured his farm, Alexander now sought a spouse, and found her in the adjacent parish of Urquhart:

Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester Marriage Register
1764 … June 15th. Alexander McDonald Tenant in the Parish of Cullicuden was contracted with Cathrine Ross here and married the 12th of July.

And the first baptism is recorded the following year:

Parish of Resolis Baptism Register
1765 … 24 May Alexander McDonald Tacksman in Craighouse & Katherine Ross his Spouse had a Daughter baptized named Katherine

They went on to have eight children in total: Katherine (1765), William (1767), John (1768), another John (1770), Jannet (1772), Margrat (1775), Thomas (1778) and Alexander (1781).

For the 1770 baptism record, father Alexander is described as “Alexander Taylor al. Macdonald”. We see Alexander recorded (as Alexander Taylor) in the 1772, 1776 and 1782 rentals at Craighouse, along with Thomas Mackenzie.

At some point Alexander sought a family gravestone in Cullicudden Burial Ground. A very worn slab, buried under turf to the south east of the Urquhart of Kinbeachie enclosure, bears the following inscription:


the inscription extends out onto the camber; photo by Andrew Dowsett

At least one child had died before the date on this stone, and clearly the date does not relate to the deaths of either Alexander or Katherine who continued having children up to 1781. I think the year simply represents the year that the family had the stone placed there to mark the family burial area, or else the date does not relate to the couple at all!

Some years later Alexander purchased more burial space at this location. Within the few lair records within the Resolis registers can be found the following, on the top of page “C”:

I Lilias Lesly Spouse to Donald Reid Tenant in the Templan in the Parish of Avoch, hereby acknowledge to have received from Alexander McDonald Tenant in Craighouse, Parish of Resolis, the sum of Seven Shillings Sixpence Stg. being the price of the Grave Stone and burying Place lying at the South East side of Kinbeachie Tomb in the Church Yard of Cullicudden by me. / L. Lesly

The record is undated. The one on the bottom of the page before bears date 1796, and the one following bears date 1802, but not all the entries are in date order. Why Lilias Lesly had inherited the slab and burial place I know not, but clearly she no longer had any use for it herself.

The next slab to the north has no surviving inscription, but next to the north is a tablestone, bearing insciption:


the nearer tablestone holds the inscription, the slab with the same inscription is at the back; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Again, the inscription is one simply marking the family burial area, but I would love to know the significance of the date.

Of the eight children of Alexander Macdonald and Katherine Ross, we know the history of only Thomas and Alexander.



Second Generation – a) Thomas Macdonald (1778–1863) and spouse Isobel Mackenzie (c1783–1841/1851)

Son Thomas for a time became the tenant at Craighouse himself. In the 1798 Militia List we see:

1798 militia records – Craighouse
Thomas McDond. Farmer
Alexr. McDond. Servt.
Thos. McKenzie Farmer
Wm. McKenzie his son
Thos. McKenzie Do

But he moved away to Balnachrach (Balichrach, Baluchrach, Baluachrach) in the neighbouring parish of Urquhart, where he married in 1809:

Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester Marriage Register
1809 … Augst. 31st. Thomas Macdonald and Isobel Mackenzie in Baluchrach were married by Mr. Charles Calder

There is no building at Balnachrach any more, but it was located on the opposite site of the road to the Munlochy turn-off as you enter present-day Culbokie from the east. It was therefore only about three miles from the original home of Thomas Macdonald. They later moved to Badrain (Badrean) to the east of the road to Munlochy, even closer to the boundary of his old parish of Resolis.

They had Isobel in 1809 later in the same year that they married (the baptism register calls Isobel Mackenzie here “his party”, not acknowledging the marriage). Young Isobel was later to marry her first cousin Allan MacDonald. Subsequent children were Kate (1811), Janet (1813), Alexander (1815), Donald (1819) and Ann (1823).

The family returned to Resolis in 1833, to reside at Craigton. Isobel became a communicant in Resolis.

Resolis Kirk Session Records
At the Church of Resolis the 22nd day of July 1833.… Thereafter the Moderator stated that three individuals had applied to him for admission to the Lords Table for the first time viz … and Isobel McKinzie wife of Thomas McDonald at CraigHouse. … That in respect to Isobel McKinzie she had lately come from the neighbouring parish of Urquhart with her husband & family to reside in this parish during the currency of the year. & had been by Mr McDonald of Urquhart informed him admitted many years ago as a communicant in that parish & that she had during her residence in that parish conducted herself in every respect consistently with her Christian profession. Several members of Session stated that they were also personally acquainted with her & knew her to be a communicant & a consistent character. She was therefore appointed along with Hugh Murray and Christy Forbes above mentioned to be added to the Communicants Roll of this year. … Dond Sage Modr

Isobel can be picked up on communicants’ rolls in 1834 and 1835 (on the latter, unhelpfully recorded as “McKinzie Elspat (Thomas McDonald’s Craighouse)”. However, her name does not occur on subsequent rolls (had she resigned?) although she was undoubtedly alive at the time of the 1841 Census:

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craghouse
Thomas McDonald 60 agricultural labourer
Isabel McKenzie 58 [making her birth date very approximately 1783]

Isabel must have died between this Census and the 1851 Census. And there was more misfortune for the family as Thomas fell on hard times and had to look to parochial relief for support. The records say:

Parochial Relief Board Meeting 2 June 1848
Added to the Roll were: … Thomas MacDonald, Craighouse

And hence in the 1851 Census, Thomas is recorded as a pauper.

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis
Thomas McDonald head widower 73 pauper farmer born Resolis
Thomas McDonald son 16 teacher born Resolis

Note that his grandson Thomas (incorrectly entered as son in the 1851 return) had become a teacher, presumably a pupil teacher at this time, although he did not pursue teaching full time, becoming a ploughman. He was destined to become a pauper. He had become head of the household by 1861:

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craigtown, house with one room with one or more windows
Thomas McDonald head unmarried 26 ploughman born Resolis
Isabella McDonald sister unmarried 17 housemaid (domestic servant) born Resolis
Jessie McDonald sister 10 scholar born Resolis
Thomas McDonald grandfather widower 83 pauper (formerly farmer) born Resolis

Old Thomas died a pauper two years later, at Craighouse, where he had been born.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Thomas McDonald pauper (formerly a farmer) (widower of Isabella McKenzie) died 24 August 1863 at Craig House age 85 parents Alexander McDonald farmer (deceased) Catherine McDonald m.s. Ross (deceased) informant William McKenzie his x mark son in law (not present)

Thomas is not commemorated by any surviving memorial in Cullicudden although he certainly will be buried there.



Second Generation – b) Alexander Macdonald (1781–1864) and spouse Margaret More or McLean (c1790–1875)

The marriage of Alexander to Margaret More, or McLean, was a remarkable affair to which we shall come. I think the tenancy at Craigton must have been lost when Alexander’s older brother Thomas had moved away from Craigton to Balnachrach in the parish of Urquhart. But Alexander gained a tenancy there again, replacing the long-established Mackenzie family, in 1818, according to a marginal note in the Newhall Estate rentals:

Newhall Rental 1816 (HRA/D32/J1a)
Craighouse – William Mackenzie, James Mackenzie & John Robertson 24 Hens 18 Bolls Meal 12 Bolls Barley £35.-.- money
Sept 1818 now Alexr McDonald at the same rent–

Thereafter he appears in rentals for 1818, 1820, 1821 and 1828. In that last year, he was shown to be greatly in arrears of rent (HRA/D32/J2c):

List of Tenants on the Estate of Newhall in arrears of Rent for Crop 1828 & preceding.
James Forbes Toberchurn 70.9.-
Widow Holm Do 83.13.-
Alex Mcdonald Craig House 144.5.5

Astonishingly, however, Alexander must have dug himself out of this pit of arrears, for he was still in tenancy in 1830. And what was the story behind his marriage? For this, we must look within the Kirk Session records for the Parish of Avoch:

Avoch Kirk Session CH2/794/2/41
At Avoch the Twenty fifth day of March Eighteen Hundred and Twenty. The Session being met and constituted, Sederunt, the Moderator, James More and David Jack Elders. The Moderator intimated, that he had been credibly informed that Margaret More, an unmarried woman at shore of Bennetsfield is with child, by a relapse in fornication, and that he had caused summon her to this meeting. The said Margaret More being called compeared, and being interrogated, & desired to make an honest confession, acknowledged herself with child, for four months past to Alexander McDonald at Castlecraig in the parish of Cullicudden, to whom she had two unlawful children before.
When the said Alexander McDonald being here today, was called and also confessed his guilt with said Margaret More, and added that with the Session’s permission, he would now marry the said woman– The Session considering seriously the case, were unanimously of opinion that ’tis best to put an end to this course of sin repeatedly practised by the said parties, upon their making the best amends for the scandal, & preventing such in future by their marriage, agreed to dismiss them with a private rebuke which the Moderator administered in presence of the Session; and further agreed that on the said Alexander McDonald’s paying a fine of Five Pounds Sterling for behoof of the poor of this parish the said offenders be now married, without proclamation and the Moderator did accordingly marry them in presence of the Session. Closed with prayer.

It did seem fated that they should marry!

Now, despite Margaret being clearly called “More” here, in the Resolis Baptism Register for all seven children subsequently baptised in the Parish of Resolis, she is given the surname “McLean”. Explain that! When she acted as the informant at the Registrar’s on the birth of her grandson John (son of William McDonald quarrier and Janet Matheson) she was recorded by the Registrar as “Margaret More her x mark grandmother”. Her name on her husband’s death certificate is given as “More” and her maiden name on her death certificate is given as “Moore” a slight error for “More”. She was definitely a More, and there were many representatives of the family of More in the Parish of Avoch.

The only explanation I can think of as to why her surname was given as McLean on the baptisms of all her own children is that in Resolis at the time More was viewed as a patronymic or byname for McLean. We have two documented examples of families being against their wishes recorded incorectly due to assumptions made about patronymics, and I don’t think Alexander and Margaret, neither of whom could write, would have had much say in the matter.

Alexander and Margaret had seven children recorded in the Parish of Resolis Baptism Register: Alexander (1820), Katharine (1821), Hector (1823), John (1826), Margaret (1827), William (1829) and Jennet (1832). They also had Donald, although he is not recorded in the baptism register, but from his age in later census returns he must have been born about 1815. He was thus one of the children born before the marriage in 1820. And there was also Allan, who must have been born even earlier, perhaps about 1810.

farmhouse at Craigton; photo by Jim Mackay

Alexander lived to the ripe old age of 84, dying as recently as 1864:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Alexander McDonald farmer (married to Margaret More) died 3 November 1864 at Craigtown age 84 parents Alexander McDonald farmer (deceased) Catherine McDonald m.s. Ross (deceased) informant Donald McDonald son (present)

Alexander’s widow, Margaret More, could not support her household. Both she and her unmarried daughter Margaret, in residence with her, were entered onto the poor’s roll on the same day, 17 August 1872. The Parochial Board felt that her son Donald, who had taken on the tenancy at Craigton, should be looking after her and the records indicate that he retrospectively repaid the Board for their support. The entry in the Parochial Board register states:

Parish of Resolis Parochial Records
Widow Alexander McDonald resides Craighouse age when first entered on register 85, date of minute when first entered on register 17 August 1872. Free house. [reason for admittance (birth or residence)] Residence. Daughter Margt pauper. Born Parish of Avoch. Widow. Farmer’s widow. Children not in family: Donald 57 Farmer on whose Farm she lives – married & family. William 42 Craighouse labourer.
Parish to prosecute son Dond for his mother’s support
1875 Oct 20 Died – Advances repaid by Son

As the Board register records, Margaret did indeed die in 1875, and her death certificate gives:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Margaret McDonald (widow of Alexander McDonald farmer) died 20 October 1875 at Craighouse age “about 89 years” parents Donald Moore crofter (d) Elspeth Moore ms Sutherland (d) informant Donald McDonald son farmer Craighouse Resolis

And daughter Margaret, as mentioned, was entered on the poor’s roll on the same date as her mother, but it would appear that no support was forthcoming from the family. In 1876 she was removed to the Black Isle Combination Poor House, and in 1877 she accidentally drowned on the sea shore, on the west side of the Ness of Fortrose, when she fell into the sea in an epileptic fit.



Third Generation – i) Allan Macdonald and spouse ii) Isobel Macdonald

The marriage of Allan Macdonald and Isobel Macdonald joins both strands of the family from the previous generation together again.

Allan Macdonald was one of the children born to Alexander Macdonald and Margaret More before they were married, and hence his census entries state correctly that he was born in the Parish of Avoch, although he grew up at Craigton. He is one of the few men I have seen in the Kirk Session records to be held up for a trilapse in fornication with three different women, albeit he married the third lady, who, it emerges, was his first cousin, Isobel Macdonald.

Allan appears to have been away labouring some of the time. We read in the Kirk Session minutes of 1828:

Parish of Resolis Kirk Session Records
Margaret McInnear being also called compeared & being suitably admonished & interrogated.– Acknowledges that she is with child– that Allan McDonald an unmarried man & son of Alexander McDonald alias Taylor, Tenant in Castlecraig is the Father of her Pregnancy– That they were guilty with each other two different Times, first, on the Wednesday before Christmas Old Style (2d day of Jany 1827) in the wood near Brae and about 9 o clock at night & next on the Monday after new years day Old style (14th day of Jany) in the same place– never had any carnal connection with any other man– that the said Allan McDonald left the parish two days after they were guilty with each other the last time & has not returned since– Does not know where he is but his parents do as she understood they heard from him lately.

Alexr McDonald alias Taylor cited before this meeting to give information respecting the place & Parish where his son Allan McDonald the delated Father of Margt McNears Pregnancy resides did not appear but sent by one of the members of Session a letter from his son dated from Portsoy & from which place the letter states the said Allan McDonald resides at the distance of Nine Miles.

With Margaret McInnear, we have no information on the child. We know she was pregnant in December 1825, and he confessed to the Resolis Kirk Session that he was responsible.

With Margaret Paterson at Culbo, he had Ann (1831), and again confessed to the Kirk Session that he was responsible.

With Isabel Macdonald he had Alexander (1832), Thomas (1835), Margaret (1837), another Alexander (1839), Jessie (1841), Isabella (1843), John (1850) and Janet (1851).

He was recorded initially as tenant at Craighouse within the baptism register, but in later records he is given as labourer at Craighouse. On the 1831 Militia List he is given at Craighouse as “Allan McDonald tenant’s son under 30 years of age”.

Allan Macdonald confessed his trilapse in fornication late in 1832, saying he had married the lady, so it should have been easy to locate his marriage. It wasn’t! I eventually found it in the Forres register, as again he had been away labouring:

Forres Baptism Register
Allan Macdonald, Day labourer in Forres, and Isabel Macdonald there, after publication of banns, were married, February 4th 1832 – Witnesses, John Macrae, Gardener, and Robert Smith, Cartwright in Forres

He returned to the Parish of Resolis, admitted the trilapse in fornication, presumably as Isabel was visibly pregnant, and the family can be seen at Craigton in the 1841 and 1851 Census returns:

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craighouse
Allan McDonald 30 agricultural labourer
Isabel McDonald 28
Thomas McDonald 6 / Margaret McDonald 4 / Alexr McDonald 2

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis
Allan McDonald head married 43ag lab born Avoch
Isabella McDonald wife married 41 born Resolis [sic; in reality she was born in Urquhart when her parents were farming at Balnachrach]
Margaret McDonald daur 13 scholar born Resolis / Alexander McDonald son 11 scholar born Resolis / Isabella McDonald daur 7 scholar born Resolis

And there I lose him. But one clue emerges from the marriage record of their daughter Margaret.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
11 November 1859 at Wester Newhall Marriage (after banns) was solemnized between us according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
Henry Ferguson age 22 Drumcudden ploughman (bachelor) parents Robert Ferguson ferryman and Isabella Ferguson ms McLeod
Margaret McDonald age 22 Drumcudden domestic servant (spinster) parents Allan McDonald labourer (d) Isabella McDonald ms McDonald
Dond Sage Minr. Donald McDonald witness John McDonald witness

So Allan was recorded as deceased in November 1859, and as I don’t see him in the civil registration records of death which began in 1855, he must have died in the period 1851 to 1854. Did he die of an accident, or from one of those prevalent diseases such as tuberculosis?

The remaining children were there at Craigton in 1861, but their mother was not, presumably away working. In household with the children was their maternal grandfather, Thomas Macdonald. I confess I had some difficulty sorting out this census return until I realised that Allan and Isabel were first cousins, and then the reason why Thomas was in the household as grandfather suddenly became clear.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craigtown, house with one room with one or more windows
Thomas McDonald head unmarried 26 ploughman bornResolis
Isabella McDonald sister unmarried 17 housemaid (domestic servant) born Resolis
Jessie McDonald sister 10 scholar born Resolis
Thomas McDonald grandfather widower 83 pauper (formerly farmer) born Resolis

By 1871, Isabel was back at Craigton:

1871 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craigtown
Isabella McDonald head widow 61 born Urquhart
Thomas McDonald son unmarried 35 ag lab born Resolis

Her parish of birth was recorded correctly here as Urquhart. Her son Thomas was now in household with her. He had been a teacher but was now an agricultural labourer. He suffered from physical and mental problems.

The final Census Return in which Isabel appears is in 1881 when she is now recorded as a pauper, although I have been unable to find her in the Resolis pauper records.

1881 Census Return Parish of Resolis – 2 Craighouse, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Isabella McDonald head widow 71 pauper born Ferintosh speaks G
Thomas McDonald son unmarried 45 ag lab born Craighouse speaks G
Isabella McDonald daur unmarried 37 pauper (invalid) born Craighouse speaks G

Her daughter Isabella, living in house with her in 1881, suffered from serious ill health for a long time. The Parochial Relief records say:

Parish of Resolis Parochial Relief Records
Isabella Macdonald Craighouse age 33 when first admitted to roll, minute when first admitted to roll 28 February 1877. Reason for admittance Birth. Born Resolis Parish. Single. Dom. Servt. / … Spinal Disease with nervousness / 1878 May 13 Infirmary to 14 June / July 10 do. to 17 July / 1878 Sept 3 offered Indoor Relief / 1879 July 22 Sent to Glasgow Infirmary p Dr Mackay’s advice / Oct Returned no better / 1880 Febr 26 Reponed to Roll at 19/6 qrly / 1885 Novr Died

As the Parochial Relief records report, she died in 1885, yet another victim of that dread disease phthisis (tuberculosis):

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Isabella McDonald pauper (single) died 20 November 1885 at Craigtown age 41 parents Allan McDonald general labourer (d) Isabella McDonald ms McDonald informant Thomas McDonald brother (present)

Her mother Isabel herself died in 1890, having reached the respectable age of 80.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Isabella McDonald (widow of Allan McDonald general labourer) died 7 December 1890 at Craighouse age 80 parents Thomas McDonald farmer (d) Isabella McDonald ms McKenzie (d) informant Thomas McDonald son (present)

At the subsequent Census Return, it was only son Thomas who remained in their house at Craigton:

1891 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craigtown, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Thomas McDonald head single 55 pauper formerly general lab born Resolis

As the census mentions, Thomas by now was on Parochial Relief, and the parochial records state:

Parish of Resolis Parochial Relief Records
Thomas MacDonald Craigton 49 5 Sep 1884 Residence Born Resolis Late Teacher Partially Physical & mental Debility / 1893 Sep 28 House Rent 20/ discontinued / 1909 Mch 6 Increased to 2/6 per week / 1911 Jany 6 Old age Pensioner

The minutes of the Parochial Board of 2 March 1886 record that “Thomas MacDonald. The Meeting agree to grant 20/- to take him to Greenock on a visit to his sister as the change may do him much benefit.” On the assumption that this is the correct Thomas, it is interesting to wonder which sister was in Greenock at the time.

Thomas continued to reside in the parish, living in a wee house in Cullicudden by himself, where he appears in the 1901 and 1911 Census returns. He died in 1915 in the Ross Memorial Hospital in Dingwall, and the death certificate reveals he had relocated from Resolis to Inverness some time before this:

Dingwall Deaths
Thomas McDonald retired school teacher (single) died 22 Sep 1915 at Ross Memorial Hospital, Dingwall (usual residence 15 Innes Street, Inverness) age 80 parents Allan McDonald farm servant (d) Isabel McDonald ms McDonald (d) informant Margaret Davidson nurse

His sister Margaret, whom we saw marrying ploughman Henry Ferguson back in 1859, resided in Resolis for many years before Henry became a farm grieve across the Firth at Inchnadown, Parish of Rosskeen.

Henry died when quite young there in 1883, and Margaret moved with her children to 15 Innes Street, Inverness – this was the address to which her brother Thomas had moved to in his last years, so he had gone to live with his sister. Margaret died there herself in 1915.



Third Generation – iii) Donald Macdonald (c1815–1900) and spouse Isabella Simpson (1813–1883)

Donald Macdonald, retouched photo from the Macdonald Ancestry page by Catriona Fulton

Isabella Simpson, retouched photo from the Macdonald Ancestry page by Catriona Fulton


From his age in various Census returns, Donald was born about 1815, and those Census returns give his place of birth as Craigtown or the Parish of Resolis. In fact, he would have been born in the Parish of Avoch where his mother Margaret More or McLean resided until she married Alexander Macdonald and moved to Craigton.

Donald was an agricultural labourer at Craigton before becoming a shopkeeper (“general merchant”) at Cullicudden. He married Cullicudden girl Isabella Simpson in 1837, and they had children: Margaret (1837), twins Alexander and John (1838), Katharine (1841), Isabella (1842), and, recorded in the Free Church Baptism Register, Donald (1845), Hannah (1848), Evan (1850) and, recorded in the civil registers, Allan (1855).

Donald was described as a shopkeeper in Cullicudden in the 1861 Census return, and I have sought to place his exact location. The house, which was a sizeable one with six rooms with one or more windows, was very close to the Drumcudden Inn, nowadays known as Ellan Vannin, at the top of the side-road which leads down and then west to Craigton. The Inn is a good “locator”. I realised that the Macdonald home had to be the location now known as Torvaig, just to the east of that side-road to Craigton. This was where the Old Post Office at Cullicudden was located (with Achmonie a few hundred yards to the east becoming the New Post Office).

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Cullicudden, house with six rooms with one or more windows
Donald McDonald head married 45 grocer, [merchant deleted] born Resolis
Isabella McDonald wife married 45 grocer’s wife born Resolis
Hana McDonald daur 14 farm servant born Resolis
Even McDonald son 10 scholar born Resolis
Allan McDonald son 4 born Resolis
John Ferguson serv unmarried 18 farm servant born Rosskeen
Jessie Murray serv unmarried 21 domestic servant born Resolis

The Old Post Office at Cullicudden, on Ordnance Survey 25 inch surveyed 1872

But by 1865, he had become the tenant and occupier of the farm of “Castlecraig” with a rent, according to the Valuation Roll of 1865, of £45. He was to remain at Castlecraig (Craigton) for the rest of his life.

Craigton Farm extends to the shore of the Cromarty Firth, and I see an incident at this extremity of the farm from 1876, when Donald was clearly seeking justice for wilful or negligent fire-raising.

Cromarty Sheriff Court Records SC24/13A/273
Unto the Honourable the Sheriff of the Shires of Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland The Complaint of James Grigor Procurator Fiscal of Court for the Public Interest Humbly Sheweth
That Alexander MacLennan Fisherman then and now or lately residing at Teanafealich near Fowles Ferry in the Parish of Kiltearn, in the County of Ross has been guilty of the crime of culpably and recklessly setting Fire to a Hedge or Fence of growing Whins the Property of another Person or Persons Actor or art and part; in so far as on the Eighteenth day of May [1876] years or about that time the said Alexander MacLennan did culpably and recklessly set fire to some growing Whins forming a Hedge or Fence at the bottom of a field situated near to the Shore below and part of the Farm of Craigton in the Parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty, then and now or lately occupied by Donald MacDonald Farmer there by throwing or dropping upon or otherwise applying a lighted match or matches or some other ignited Substance to the Complainer unknown to the said Whins, or in some other way or in some other manner to the Complainer unknown, and the said fire did take effect and did burn and destroy One Hundred Yards or thereby of said Hedge or Fence of Growing Whins the same being the property of John Andrew Shaw MacKenzie Esquire of Newhall or of the said Donald MacDonald or one or other of them.

The fisherman at Cromarty in court on 31 July of that year confessed that he was guilty, and was fined two shillings and sixpence.

Between the Census returns of 1881 and 1891 Donald Macdonald retired, and the farming was taken on by his son-in-law, Donald Ross, who had married daughter Hannah in 1884. At that time, Donald Ross was a cattle dealer at Balluachrach in neighbouring Urquhart Parish (Balnachrach, which you may remember was where Donald’s Uncle Thomas had resided for a long time).

Let’s take a short sidestep to look at Donald Ross and Hannah Macdonald. First, their marriage:

Parish of Resolis Marriages
1 February 1884 at Craigtown Resolis After Banns and Publication According to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
Donald Ross cattle dealer (bachelor) age 28 Balluachrach Urquhart parents Donald Ross farmer Ann Ross ms MacKay
Hannah McDonald farmer’s daughter (spinster) age 32 Craigtown Resolis parents Donald McDonald farmer Isabella McDonald ms Simpson (d)
Minister John McIver Minister of Free Church Resolis John Jack Witness John McDonald witness

Donald took over the farm, whilst his father-in-law old Alexander continued to reside at Craigton. Tragically, Hannah died in 1888 of phthisis (tuberculosis) whilst still a relatively young woman, having had four children, so this is how Craigton looked in 1891 (young Donald having been farmed out to another household in Cullicudden):

1891 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craigtown, house with three rooms with one or more windows
Donald Ross head wdr 36 farmer born Parish of Urquhart speaks GE
Isabella Ross daur 6 scholar born Resolis
Anne Ross daur 5 scholar born Resolis
Hanna Ross daur 4 farmer’s daur born Resolis
Ronald Ross servant single 31 farm servant born Parish of Urquhart speaks GE
Eliza McKenzie servant single 27 general servant (domestic) born Torridon
William Ross servant single 16 farm servant born Cromarty
– Craigtown, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Donald McDonald head wdr 72 retired farmer born Resolis speaks GE
– Craigtown, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Thomas McDonald head single 55 pauper formerly general lab born Resolis

I understand from helpful descendant Linda Stewart in a communication back in 2009 that:

You asked me at one point about what happened to the Ross family from Craigton. Donald and his wife Hannah had 4 children. Isobella, Annie, Hannah and Donald. Hannah (senior) died after her son Donald, was born. He tragically died when he was 24. He had been swimming off a boat at Craigton when he was caught in seaweed and drowned. Isobella left home to become a lady’s maid/companion. The lady was titled and came from ‘up north’ but I don’t know where. Isobella travelled to America at least 4 times in her role as companion. She married when in her late forties. She married Duncan McIvor, the gardener from the ‘house’ where she worked and they moved to Gairloch where they had a small croft.

I think that story about Donald drowning is just one of those things about family stories – it was James Ross, the 35-year old brother of Donald Ross and brother-in-law of Hannah Macdonald, who lived with them at Craigton, who drowned off Craigton in 1908. In reality young Donald Ross, son of Donald Ross and Hannah Macdonald, died of tuberculosis, that dreadful killer, in 1913. You can see how the two stories became conflated over time. And lady’s maid Isabella Simpson Ross married a MacIver, but it was gardener Murdo MacIver, not gardener Duncan MacIver, whom she married, in 1931. Family traditions are incredibly important, but always need checking.

Additional information is included on the substantial family headstone, a grey granite obelisk topped with an urn, in Cullicudden.

In / loving memory / of / DONALD ROSS, / who died at / Craigton Cullicudden, / 7th Augt., 1919, / aged 63 years. / And his beloved wife / HANNAH McDONALD, / who died / 26th. Nov. 1888. / Also his son / DONALD, / who died 24th May 1913, / aged 24 years. / And their daughter / ANNIE ROSS / died 31st January 1964 / aged 78 years.

sale particulars of Craigton in 1919 when much of the Estate of Newhall was sold; note that it refers to “the late Donald Ross”

and the plan accompanying the sale particulars; I have highlighted Castle Craig in blue, Craigton in red and the main road to Cromarty in blue. All the green area comprised the farm of Craigton.

Having made that short detour to look at the life of Donald Ross and Hannah Macdonald, let us now return to Hannah’s father and mother, Donald Macdonald and Isabella Simpson. Simpson is a name associated with Cullicudden tenants back into the 1600s, but which family of Simpson was Isabella from? She had married Alexander in 1837, but apart from the Census returns revealing that she had been born in the parish, little was known about her origins. She died at Craigton in 1883:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Isabella McDonald (married to Donald McDonald farmer) died 7 November 1883 at Craigtown age 70 parents John Simpson farmer (d) Catherine Simpson ms Jack (d) informant Donald McDonald widower (present

Now, with the names of her parents revealed, we could see when and where she was born:

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
baptised 24 August 1813 John Simson farmer at Woodhead & Kathrine Jack – Isabell born 20 August

John Simson and Katherine Jack were the tenants in Woodhead for decades. Katherine orginally came from the Parish of Avoch, where they married in 1810. I see that Katherine, in fact, was the daughter of my great-great-great-grandfather, Alexander Jack, the tenant in Auchterflow! One of his sons, John Jack (and my great-great-grandfather), became a tenant at Toberchurn, the next farm along from Craigton, so there seems to have been a migration to Resolis.

Parish of Avoch Marriage Register
1810 … March … 15th. Simpson John Tenant Katharine Jack L.Dr. of Alexr. J. Tent. Auchterflow [future residence] Parish of Resolis

Isabella died in 1883, but her husband survived her for a long time, making it through to the next century. In the death certificate his mother’s surname is given as “Moor” when it should have been “More”.

Dingwall Deaths
Donald McDonald farmer (widower of Isabella Simpson) died 18 Feb 1900 at Ross Memorial Hospital, Dingwall, usual residence Cullicudden, Resolis) age 85 parents Alexander McDonald farmer (d) Margaret McDonald ms Moor (d) informant D. Macdonald grandson High St. Invergordon

A sandstone headstone was erected in Cullicudden Burial Ground to commemorate the family at Cullicudden, but sadly at time of writing it is lying face down, broken in two parts. Repairing memorials in Cullicudden is outwith the remit of the Kirkmichael Trust, but we have repaired stones in much worse condition in Kirkmichael. This stone should be capable of being rescued and we urge descendants to look at this, and the Trust will assist where it can.

the broken headstone lies beside the pillar memorial to Donald Ross and Hannah Macdonald; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Part of the broken headstone commemorating Hannah’s parents, Donald Macdonald and Isabella Simpson, photographed many years ago; photo by Jim Mackay


I recorded this memorial many years ago and it reads:

Erected / by / DONALD McDONALD, / farmer Craighouse. / In affectionate / remembrance / of his beloved wife / ISABELLA SIMPSON, / who died 7th November 1883. / Aged 70 years. / And their son / ALLAN McDONALD / who died 20th December 1884 / aged 29 years. / The above / DONALD McDONALD, / died 18th February 1900 / in his 86th year. / And their children / ISABELLA, CATHERINE, and DONALD / who died in infancy.



Third Generation – iv) William Macdonald (1829–1884) and spouse Janet Matheson (1824–1903)

To end, we shall look briefly at William. He became a stone quarrier, at least as early as 1857, and was still recorded as a stone quarrier as late as 1881. As he continued to reside at Craigton I presume his workplace was the nearby Cullicudden Quarry. His son John became a stone quarrier too.

William married a girl from the parish of Urquhart, as so many of this Macdonald family did, in 1852:

Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester Marriage Register
1852 … Novr. 27th William Macdonald, Parish of Resolis, and Janet Matheson, Muckle Findon, in this Parish, married by the Rev: Malcom McGregor Minister of the Free Church Ferrintosh

Janet was the daughter of James Matheson, a shoemaker, and Catherine Fraser, and was born in 1824; her brother Alexander became a crofter in Bog of Cullicudden, and the Matheson family at time of writing are still resident on the same croft!

Several of the children of William and Janet were lost in infancy. They had Alexander (1855–1879 – he had become a mason), Catherine (1855–1864), John (1857 – he became a quarrier and resided in Fortrose), Margaret (1860–1864)), Jamima (1862), Janet (1867–1867) and Williamina (1868).

William Macdonald, as was the case with so many stone quarriers, died young, and a pauper, in 1884. The cause of death was given as phthisis (tuberculosis) but most quarriers died early due to lung problems caused by stone dust.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
William McDonald pauper (formerly stone-quarrier) (married to Janet Matheson) died 10 August 1884 at Easter Brae age 55 parents Alexander McDonald farmer (d) Margaret McDonald ms More (d) informant Williamina McDonald daughter (present)

Janet Matheson also needed parochial relief, and her entry in the parochial records mention when she moved to reside with the family of her stone-quarrying son, John, who lived in Rose Street, Fortrose. As the records state, she died on the very lasat day of 1903.

Parish of Resolis Parochial Records
Widow Wm. MacDonald Er Brae [age when entered on roll] 58 [date of minute authorising support] 4 Feb 1885 / 10/- per quarter / Prot / Widow / Labouring / Partially / 1893 May Left parish & gone to reside in Fortrose, when allce. ceased / 1893 Sept 28 1/- per week granted / Increased to 1/6 / 1905 31 Dec Died

Parish of Rosemarkie Deaths
Janet MacDonald (widow of William MacDonald farm labourer) died 31 December 1903 at Fortrose age 81 parents James Matheson shomeaker (d) Catherine Matheson ms [blank] (d) informant John MacDonald son (present)

Son John (1857–1934), who had acted as informant at the Registrar’s on his mother’s death, moved on from being a quarryman to a labourer, residing first in Fortrose, then in Rosemarkie, and finally at Ardmeanach, still within the parish of Rosemarkie, but almost back in his home parish of Resolis again. Elizabeth or Betsy Gray (who had been married to journeyman mason William Thomson) can be seen in the 1901 Census as John’s wife, but in the 1911 Census he is given as a widower. Their one child, daughter Jessie, was born in 1894 and married wood feller Charles K. Ross in 1920.



Fourth Generation – the children of Donald Macdonald and Isabella Simpson

I have not pursued all the children of Donald Macdonald and Isabella Simpson, but here are a few pieces I have picked up. I’ll give them letters to show order of birth: a) Margaret (1837), twins b) Alexander and c) John (1838), d) Katharine (1841), e) Isabella (1842), and, recorded in the Freee Church Baptism Register, f) Donald (1845), g) Hannah (1848), h) Evan (1850) and, recorded in the civil registers, i) Allan (1855),

From the gravestone, we know that d) Katharine, e) Isabella and f) Donald died in infancy. I have been unable to track a) Margaret. We have already looked at g) Hannah (1848–1888), who, as set out above, married flesher Donald Ross who took over the farm at Craigton where Hannah resided until her early death. h) Evan (1850–) I cannot trace after his 1861 appearance in family at Craigton. There is an unmarried 19 year old Evan McDonald birthplace Ross-shire lodging with a family in Blythswood, Glasgow, in 1871, a commission agent, who might be him, but I cannot find him thereafter. Could he have emigrated? And i) Allan Macdonald (1855–1884) became an insurance agent but was yet another victim of tuberculosis, dying at Craigton in 1884. He is commemorated on the family headstone in Cullicudden Burial Ground.

There are thus only two children from the Fourth Generation on whom I would like to focus, twins b) Alexander and c) John. Both of them ran commercial businesses in the parish of Resolis, although John developed his further when he moved to Invergordon. The twins have complementary red granite dyke enclosures at Cullicudden.

The large red granite panel in the enclosure, and the smaller red granite panels further along the dyke, commemorate twins John and Alexander and their families.



Fourth Generation – Alexander Macdonald (1838–1913) – the Innkeeper at Bruichglass, and his spouse Ann Young

Alexander became the long-established inn-keeper at Bruichglass, on the Kinbeachie Estate, on the very western periphery of the Parish of Resolis. I have always thought that this inn originally came about due to its proximity to the Foulis Ferry/Shoreton ferry. The ferry came in to Easter Shoreton originally, but the landing point was moved eastward a little to Toberchurn. The inn was located just beside the side-road down to Shoreton and Toberchurn, and would have been well situated for travellers.

1904 25 inch Ordnance Survey map of Bruichglass area, with high road to Cromarty coloured red and sideroad to Shoreton and Toberchurn coloured blue

My father used to tell me that Alexander was known locally as “Exactly”. Dad said:

“Exactly” got his name from a trick he had of always adding “Exactly” in his speech; he went to Castleton Avoch later.

Dad wasn’t quite right on that last point – son James and widowr Ann went to Castleton, Avoch, but Alexander himself died at Bruichglass.

But to go back to the beginning. Initially Alexander became a schoolmaster. He taught at the Free Church School at Stratherrick, Inverness-shire. While he was there, he married inn-keeper’s daughter Annie Young in 1864, and they had several children in the area. I imagine that with the imminent introduction of state schools and a wife with experience of inns, the opportunity to take up an inn and store close to his birthplace would have been very tempting.

Parish of Boleskine Marriages
6 October 1864 at Inverfarigaig after Banns according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
(signed) Alexr McDonald age 25 Errogie parents Donald McDonald farmer, Craigton of Resolis and Isabella Simpson
(signed) Ann Young age 18 Inverfarigaig parents William Young innkeeper (d) Isabella Young ms Fraser
(signed) John Fraser, Minr of the Free Church of Scotland, Parish of Kiltarlity (signed) Alexander Fraser witness William Fraser witness

They had children Caroline (1865–1950), Ann (1867–1870), George (1870–1901), Donald (1872–1876), Isabella (1874), Florence (1876–1920), Mary (1878–1966), Henry or Harry (1879–1907) and James (1882–1952).

Despite becoming widely dispersed, the children kept up their associations with themselves and with Cullicudden. For instance, George Macdonald was working as an Asylum Attendant whilst residing with his sister Caroline and brother-in-law, William Allen, then a groom, in Haddington. William and Caroline Allen subsequently became innkeepers themselves in Langholm, Dumfriess-shire, which is where sister Mary Mcdonald passed away in 1966. She is buried in Cullicudden. Brother James Macdonald became a farmer at Castleton Farm, Avoch, where his mother resided until her death. He subsequently became a farmer at the other Braelangwell near Ardgay, but was buried in Cullicudden Burial Ground.

Bruichglass no longer exists, and a small group of trees stands where the inn was once located.

The first edition Ordnance Survey shows another set of buildings to the west of the inn, and these presumably were the croft buildings associated with the inn. I see in the papers reports of sales of livestock by Alexander Macdonald of Bruichglass, so clearly he was not wholly financiallly dependent upon inn trade.

From its low-profile in newspaper reports, it would seem that Bruichglass Inn never suffered from the drunken shenanigans reported so often in other pubs in the parish.

In 1886 Alexander Macdonald responded to a report in the press that Bruichglass had lost its licence. The letter is nicely put, quite what you would expect from a former schoolmaster.

Invergordon Times and General Advertiser 28 April 1886
Sir,– I write to correct a statement that appeared in your last week’s issue, in the paragraph entitled Cromarty Licensing Court; in which it is said that the license was refused to this house. This is not the fact. It was not refused. It was granted; and granted too, willingly, without note, comment, or dissent.– Yours truly,
A. Macdonald.
Bruichglas, 26th April, 1886.

A neighbour (and there must have been very few of them!) was unhappy with the decision:

Invergordon Times and General Advertiser 12 May 1886
Sir,– I see Mr Macdonald, innkeeper, Bruichglass, has contradicted your correspondent’s report in your issue of 21st int., where it was stated his licence for the sale of liquors was refused. The Magistrates undoubtedly have made a mistake when they granted him a licence without (as he states) note, comment, or dissent. For my part I can’t see the use of having an Inn at Bruichglass when we have Culbokie only two miles distant on the one hand, and Drumcudden the same distance on the other, both of which places are situated in populous districts, while there are comparatively very few people in Bruichglass. I should have much pleasure in receiving an explanation as to how the Magistrates refused so may licences in Jemima, and yet granted one too many in the west end of the parish.– Yours, &c.,
Bruichglass, 30th April, 1886.

I presume that Alexander would have known the true identity of the anonymous “Observer”!

The Chief Constable at Licensing Committees was constantly urging reduction or removal of licences, and he pushed for this in relation to several of the Resolis inns in 1910. He wanted Bruichglass Inn to sell only beer. This was rejected.

North Star and Farmers’ Chronicle 21 April 1910
Bruichglass Inn.
The Chief-Constable recommended the reduction of this licence to an ale and porter.
Mr Burns, who appeared for Alex. Macdonald, innkeeper, said there had been no complaints against the applicant, who had held the licence for over thirty years. It would be hard that without any evidence this licence should be reduced in any way.
Bruichglass Inn remains as at present – full licence.

But by now the Inn had deteriorated. The Inland Revenue carried out a survey of properties in the early 19teens, and this is what they said of the croft, house and inn at Bruichglass:

Inland Revenue Report
Property: Bruichglas. / house and croft 39 acres
Owner: Macrae, Duncan Mackenzie, as curator
Tenant/occupier: Macdonald, Alex
House materials: ruin
House condition: ruins
Agricultural buildings: stone, thatch: steading very dilapidated
Property: Bruichglas. / inn Owner: Macrae, Duncan Mackenzie, as curator
Tenant/occupier: Macdonald, Alex
House materials: stone
Roof material: thatch
House description: kitchen, parlour, taproom, bedroom, 3 attic bedroom
House condition: poor, roof entirely done in

It was clear that the days of the inn were numbered, but it would have been closed in any case due to the nationalisation of pubs in consequence of World War 1 restrictions. Before the War started, there were four pubs in Resolis, from west to east, the ruinous Bruichglass at Shoreton, Drumcudden Inn (nowadays Ellan Vannin), Balblair Ferry Inn and the Poyntzfield Arms (in Jemimaville). There was concern over liquor being too easily available given how many servicemen were in the vicinity. For example, in 1916, William and James MacPhee on the public road from Balblair to Craggan Point gave or sold a bottle of whisky to a stoker, Harry Bath, off HMS Agincourt. James was given 30 days with land labour.

In 1918, the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) examined the trade of the Inns in Resolis and concluded that Balblair was the only one that was actually needed. Bruichglass had already closed, but the Board bought out the licences for the Drumcudden Inn and the Poyntzfield Arms, closed them, and nationalised the Balblair Inn.

So Alexander Mackenzie was the last innkeeper at Bruichglass. He died in 1913, just before the start of the war:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Alexander McDonald innkeeper & farmer married to Annie Young died 7 May 1913 at Bruichglass Resolis age 74 parents Donald McDonald farmer (d) Isabella McDonald ms Simpson (d) informant James McDonald son (present)

Annie Young lived much longer than her husband. She moved to reside with her son James, who was farming at Castleton Farm, Avoch at this time, and she died at his home. Her death was announced in the Scotsman:

The Scotsman 11 September 1928
MACDONALD.– At Castleton Farm, Avoch, on 9th September, ANN YOUNG, widow of ALEXANDER MACDONALD, late of Bruichglass, Resolis. Funeral on Wednesday, 12th September, at 12.30 P.M., to Cullicudden Burying-ground, arriving about 2.30. All friends invited. The only intimation and invitation.

A large rounded red granite panel, inserted in the west dyke at Cullicudden, commemorates Alexander and Ann and their family. It complements the red granite panel set into the west dyke nearer the gate which commemorates John Macdonald (brother of Bruichglass Alexander) and Margaret Macrae. It also complements the smaller red granite panel set into the west dyke that commemorates two of the children of Bruichglass Alexander.

Not every family is commemorated by panels inset into the churchyard walls, and it is a measure of the importance of the Macdonald family that in this case there are three of them.

Erected by / ALEXANDER McDONALD, / Bruichglas, / in loving memory of his children / ANNIE, / died at Stratherrick, 23.June.1870, interred at Boleskine. / DONALD, / died at Bruichglas, 2.April.1876. / GEORGE, / died at Coalstoun, Haddington, 5.July.1901, and interred here / HARRY, / died at Bruichglas, 6.April.1907 / Also the above / ALEXANDER McDONALD, / died at Bruichglas, 7.May.1913, / aged 74 years. / And his wife / ANN YOUNG / died at Castleton Farm Avoch 9.Sep.1928

In loving memory of / JAMES MACDONALD, / farmer, Braelangwell, Ardgay, / died 9th November 1952, / beloved husband of / CATHERINE N. FRASER. / And his sister / MARY MACDONALD / died at Langholm, Dumfries shire / 30th July 1966 age 88 years / last survivor of the family

memorial on the left to Alexander McDonald and his family, memorial on the right to James Macdonald, wife and sister; photo by Andrew Dowsett

A brief note on the Bruichglass children (the Fifth Generation).

Ann and Donald died in infancy, and Isabella I have been unable to track.

Caroline married an English lad and moved to Haddington where he was employed as a groom. The wedding took place at the Balblair Inn where her sister Florence and brother in law Robert Mackenzie were the innkeepers.

Parish of Resolis Mariages
17 February 1900 Balblair Resolis After Banns According to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland
William Porter Allen coachman (bachelor) age 28 Coalston Haddington parents Arthur William Porter Allen (d) Matilda Allen ms Barry
Caroline McDonald hotel keepers daughter (spinster) age 28 Bruichglass Resolis parents Alexander McDonald hotel keeper Ann McDonald ms Young
Robt. McDougall Minister of Resolis A. McDonald witness R. MacKenzie witness

William Allen moved on from being a groom to become an hotel-keeper himself in Langholm, Dumfries-shire. Caroline died there in 1950.

George worked as an Asylum Attendant. He resided with his sister Caroline and brother-in-law, William Allen, then a groom, in Haddington, and died there in 1901, of emphysema, still a young man.

Florence in 1898 married the larger-than-life innkeeper at Balblair, Robert Mackenzie. This was a union of Inns! The wedding was a big affair in Inverness involving many of the distinguished families in the area. It received a big write-up in the Ross-shire:

Robert Mackenzie outside the Balblair Hotel; photo courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies, North Kessock

Ross-shire Journal Friday 4 March 1898
Marriage of Mr Mackenzie, Balblair.– The marriage of Mr Mackenzie, hotelkeeper, Balblair, to Miss Florence Macdonald, third daughter of Mr Alexander Macdonald, Bruichglass, took place at the Imperial Hotel, on Wednesday of last week. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr Maciver, Resolis. Miss Macdonald acted as bridesmaid, and Mr Macrae best man.
After the ceremony was over, the company sat down to dinner. Mr Macrae proposed the health of the newly married couple, to which the bridegroom responded. Major Lyon Mackenzie proposed the ladies, to which Mr Murdo Campbell replied. Dr Lawson, Jemimaville, proposed the bridesmaid, and Mr Macrae, Brahan Mains, Mrs Macdonald, and Mr Macdonald suitably replied.
After dinner the majority of the company left for Balblair, where an enjoyable evening was spent. Among those who presented presents to the bride and bridegroom were– Mrs Mackenzie, Mrs Mackay, Rosehall; Miss Mackenzie, Seafield; Mrs Grant, Dingwall; Miss Macdonald, Sheep Park; Mr Maclennan, Inch; Dr and Mrs Lawson, Mr Gray; Mr Campbell; Mr and Mrs Macandie, Invergordon; Mr Urquhart, do.; Messrs C.& J. Urquhart, Dingwall; Mr and Mrs Macarthur, Drumcuddin; Messrs Macrae, Kinbeachie; Misses Thomson, Macdougall, Watt; Mr Husband, Calderwood Castle; Messrs Glegg & Thomson, Aberdeen; Mr Dewar, Perth; ex-Provost Macleay, Dingwall, &c., &c.

the massive memorial in Kirkmichael to Robert Mackenzie and Florence Macdonald; photo by Davine Sutherland

The marriage certificate was more prosaic:

Inverness Marriages
23 February 1898 at 3 Academy Street, Inverness After Banns according to the Forms of the Free Church
(signed) Robert MacKenzie Hotel Keeper (Bachelor) age 42 Balblair, Resolis parents James MacKenzie Farmer Barbara MacKenzie ms MacKenzie
(signed) Florence McDonald (Spinster) age 22 Bruichglass, Resolis parents Alexander Macdonald General Merchant Ann Macdonald ms Young
(signed) John MacIver Free Ch. Minister Resolis (signed) M. MacRae Witness Caroline McDonald Witness

This is not the place to go into the history of the Balblair Inn but suffice to say that Robert and Florence were very popular. Robert died in 1915 and Florence in 1920, and their red granite memorial in the modern section at Kirkmichael is one of the most substantial in the burial ground. The urn on top seems disproportionately massive.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

In loving memory / of / ROBERT MACKENZIE, / Balblair Hotel, / Invergordon, / formerly of the Reay Forest, / Sutherlandshire, / who died 2nd July, 1915. / And his wife / FLORENCE MACDONALD / who died at Chapleton, Craggan / Balblair / 22nd September 1920. / Deeply mourned.

Mary I know little about. I located her death certificate due to the inscription on the granite wall panel within Cullicudden Burial Ground.

District of Langholm County of Dumfries Deaths
Mary McDonald farmer (retired) single born 15 Apr 1878 age 88 died 30 Jul 1966 at 26A, Charles Street New Langholm parents Alexander McDonald general merchant (d) Ann McDonald ms Young (d) informant Joseph Martin nephew-in-law

Note that she is described as a farmer, but where she farmed I know not. I presume that she had retired to Langholm to be in the company of her sister Caroline’s family. Despite dying in Langholm, she is buried in Cullicudden.

Aberdeen Press and Journal 1 August 1966
MACDONALD.– Suddenly, at Langholm, Dumfriesshire, on July 30, 1966, Mary MacDonald, last survivor of the family of the late Mr and Mrs Alexander MacDonald, Bruichglass, Cullicudden. Funeral to Cullicudden Cemetery on Wednesday, August 3, cortege arriving Conon Bridge 2 p.m.

a lovely butterfly feature on the railing of the Macdonald of Bruichglass enclosure in Cullicudden Burial Ground; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Harry became a Police Constable but died, still a young man, at Bruichglass in 1907.

And James became a farmer. He married in Elgin (and I am not sure why he went so far given both he and the girl lived in the Black Isle, and she was born in Ardersier):

Elgin Marriages
8 Nov 1934 at Gordon Arms Hotel Elgin After Banns according to the Forms of the Church of Scotland
James MacDonald (Signature) J. McDonald Farmer (Bachelor) age 46 Castleton Farm Avoch Ross-shire parents Alexander MacDonald Hotel Keeper (d) Ann MacDonald ms Young (d)
Catherine Norrie Fraser (Signature) C. Fraser (Spinster) age 29 Mill Lands Farm Avoch Ross-shire parents John Fraser Farmer (d) Catherine Fraser ms Clark (d)
(Signed) William M. Graham Minister of the East Church of Ardersier (Signed) Roderick McIver Wester Raddery, Avoch, Witness M. Fraser Blackpark, Ardersier Witness

And at some point he took up the farm of Braelangwell at Ardgay, much further to the north, in the parish of Kincardine which has alternated between the counties of Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland. He died there as recently as 1952.

Parish of Kincardine, Ross and Cromarty, Deaths
James MacDonald farmer (married to Catherine Norrie Fraser died 9 November 1952 age 70 parents Alexander MacDonald hotel-keeper (d) Ann MacDonald ms Young (d) informant Cameron neighbour Braelangwell, Ardgay

His wife, Catherine Norrie Fraser (who remarried George McIver in Easter Auchterflow, back in Avoch, and died in 1961), must have been responsible for the matching red granite panel in the dyke at Cullicudden commemorating her husband. I do wonder if until that time sister Mary had been in residence with them, and moved to Langholm on the death of James. It seems unusual for her inscription to be added to her brother’s if there hadn’t been a closer tie than usual. And as she was described on her death certificate as a retired farmer, perhaps she helped with the farm up at Ardgay. More information would be desirable!

In loving memory of / JAMES MACDONALD, / farmer, Braelangwell, Ardgay, / died 9th November 1952, / beloved husband of / CATHERINE N. FRASER. / And his sister / MARY MACDONALD / died at Langholm, Dumfries shire / 30th July 1966 age 88 years / last survivor of the family

the memorial on the right, inside the Macdonald of Bruichglass enclosure, commemorates James, wife Catherine and sister Mary; photo by Andrew Dowsett



Fourth Generation – John (1838–1908) and spouse Margaret Macrae (1842–1927)

John Macdonald and Margaret Macrae have one of the most obvious and impressive memorials in Cullicudden Burial Ground. A large red granite curved panel is inserted into the west dyke, with a separate red granite rectangular panel inserted below it. A high iron railing surrounds the enclosure, which stands at the very entrance to the graveyard. The shape and colour of the panels perfectly complement similar, but smaller, panels commemorating his brother Alexander and his family further along the dyke. The information on the two granite panels contains the bare bones of the family history. It reads:

Erected / by / JOHN McDONALD, merchant Cullicudden, / in affectionate remembrance of his son / ANGUS McCRAE McDONALD, / born 22nd June 1873, died 13th May 1874, / aged 10 months. / And his daughters / GRACIE, born 2nd May 1879, died 23rd May 1879. / HELEN, born 20th March 1883, died 6th July 1883. / MARGARET JANE, born 22nd November 1871, / died at British Honduras 27th Feb. 1895. / Also the above / JOHN McDONALD, / who died at Invergordon on 25th Dec. 1908, / aged 71 years. / And his sons DONALD ALEXANDER, / born 8th Novr. 1868 [chisel mark is 1868 but painted over as 1888], / died at Port Elizabeth, S.A. 14th April 1912. / JOSEPH McCRAE McDONALD, M.B., CH.B. / born 14th Decr 1880. / died at Marydale, Cape Colony, S.A. 19.Oct.1918.
[Rectangular insert in wall immediately below above.]
And his son DUNCAN DONALD, who was killed in a mine accident / at N Dola, Northern Rhodesia on 3rd January 1927, aged 49 years. / Also his wife MARGARET MACRAE, who died on 17th February 1927, aged 85 years. / And their daughter HANNAH, who died on 23rd June 1929, aged 54 years. / Also their daughter ISABELLA CHRISTINA MACKENZIE MACRAE / who died on 9th February 1959 aged 88 years.

the enclosure and wall memorial to John Macdonald and family – the tower of Castle Craig appropriately just appears on the right; photo by Andrew Dowsett

For the life story of John Macdonald, I can do no better than quote the epitaph in the Inverness Courier. I note that just like his twin brother Donald, he initially began his career as a teacher, and also gave it up to take up a career running a store. He clearly achieved greater prosperity than his brother.

Inverness Courier 29 December 1908
Invergordon – Death of Mr John Macdonald, Wine Merchant.– Much regret was expressed by many friends in Easter and Wester Ross and the Black Isle when it became known that Mr John Macdonald, wine merchant, the Glasgow House, passed away on Friday afternoon. Although deceased had been laid aside from attending to business for a considerable time past, he was able to be out daily, but on Wednesday he was seized with paralysis, from which he never rallied, and the end came quite suddenly.
In early life, after Mr Macdonald had finished a successful college training, he took to the teaching profession, which he followed for a number of years, at Jemimaville, Resolis, and elsewhere with great success.
On being appointed postmaster at Cullicudden, he relinquished teaching. In connection with the Post-Office, deceased established a drapery, grocery, and ironmongery establishment, which, from his tact, excellent business abilities, and his generous and affable disposition, he soon made one of the best-going businesses in the Black Isle. About twenty years ago MrMacdonald purchased one of the principal blocks in High Street, Invergordon, owned by the late Hugh Urquhart, wine merchant, where a successful draper and wine business has been since carried on.
Deceased was on several occasions asked to take a seat in the Town Council, but being rather of a retiring disposition, and not desirous of taking any part in public affairs, always declined. His cheerful and obliging manner made him one of the most popular business men in town, and his familiar figure will be much missed. Mr Macdonald leaves a widow and grown-up family, and in their present sore bereavement they have the sympathy of the community. His remains are to be interred to-day (Tuesday) in the family burying-ground at Cullicudden.

The epitaph does not mention John’s wife, Margaret Macrae, whom I imagine was one reason for John’s prosperity. For she was the daughter of the substantial farmer at Kinbeachie Mains, Angus Macrae, and I would take long odds that John’s move to establish the Glasgow Warehouse in Invergordon was assisted by the Macraes. And John’s twin brother, Donald, took over the shop and inn at Bruichglass a few years later: Bruichglass is sited on the Kinbeachie Estate. A generation later and two sons of Angus, Murdoch Macrae and Evan Mackenzie Macrae, actually purchased Kinbeachie.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
7 February 1868 Kinbeachie after Banns according to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland
Ino. McDonald [John McDonald] grocer & postmaster (bachelor) age 28 Drumcudden Resolis parents Donald McDonald farmer Isabella McDonald ms Simpson
Margt. McRae farmer’s daughter (spinster) age 24 Kinbeachie, Resolis parents Angus McRae farmer Isabella McRae ms McKenzie
P. Mackenzie Minister of Urquhart Donald MacRae Kinbeachie witness John Cameron Findon witness

John Macdonald, retouched photo from the Macdonald Ancestry page by Catriona Fulton

Margaret Macrae, retouched photo from the Macdonald Ancestry page by Catriona Fulton


Margaret lived to the grand old age of 85, having seen, sadly, her husband and most of her children die before her. There were many tragedies in her life. But it was a large family, and she did have several children to survive her. She is buried in Cullicudden.

The Scotsman 19 Feb 1927
MACDONALD.– At Ellandonan, Saltburn, Invergordon, on the 17th February 1927, MARGARET MACRAE, widow of JOHN MACDONALD, Glasgow Warehouse, Invergordon, aged 85 years. Funeral to Cullicudden Churchyard on Monday, 21st, leaving Saltburn at 11 A.M. Resolis friends please meet at Cullicudden Post Office at 1.15 P.M. Friends please accept this intimation and invitation.

The “modern” post office in Cullicudden was at Achmonie, but “the Old Post Office” was at what is now known as Torvaig. This is how the late Greta Forbes, Sunnylea, described it as it was a generation later, in the early 1900s:

The Post Office was also a shop, when you entered the counter was L shaped, the part to your left was P.O. with a small bit screened off for the telephone, the only phone in the parish.
The rest was a shop selling knitting wools & needles, men’s socks (they were hand made), material by the yard, again some of it for making men’s working shirts, men’s working boots, writing paper & sweets. What else? The East side of the annex was a bothy room for ploughmen who helped with the work.

Cullicudden Post and Telegraph Office, by Donald Fraser.

Torvaig a few years ago. Photo: Jim Mackay.

The Cullicudden Post Office when it had moved to Achmonie.

When was John Macdonald in charge of the Post Office in Cullicudden? Well, he was out of the parish for the Census of 1861, but at his marriage in 1861 he was described as a grocer and postmaster. He was obviously combining these enterprises with farming, as he is recorded as farming in (I assume) what is now Torvaig in 1871:

1871 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Cullicudden, house with five rooms with one or more windows
John McDonald head married 31 farmer of 38 acres 29 arable employing 3 labourers born Resolis
Margaret McDonald wife married 28 born Kintail
Donald McDonald son 2 born Resolis / Isabella McDonald daur 6 mths born Resolis
Christina Jack serv unmarried 22 domestic serv born Ferintosh
Alexander Ballantine serv 17 ag lab born Inverness

A couple of years later and the Ordnance Survey were in the area surveying and recording descriptions of locations in their Name Books. John Macdonald as Postmaster was referred to as one of the authorities on mode of spelling many of the places in Cullicudden. And this is what the Name Book says about the Post Office itself:

Post Office
[authorities] Mr John McDonald, Postmaster / Mr D. McDonald, F.C. Schoolmaster / Mr Hugh Ross, Wr. Cullicudden
This is a minor office, subject to Invergordon, to which the mail bag is conveyed, by a travelling postman, at 7.30 P.M. and received at 7.15 P.M. The dwelling house is one storey high, thatched and in good repair. J.A. McKenzie Esqr. Newhall pro.

By 1881, the household was overflowing, and no doubt this is when the various extensions still present today were created – out of necessity!

1881 Census Return Parish of Resolis – 2 Upper Cullicudden, house with five rooms with one or more windows
John McDonald head married 42 farmer of 50 acres of which 44 arable employing 1 man 2 girls 1 boy born Resolis speaks G
Margaret McDonald wife married 38 born Kintail speaks G
Donald A. McDonald son 12 scholar born Resolis / Isabella C. McDonald daur 10 scholar born Resolis / Margaret J. McDonald daur 9 scholar born Resolis / Hannah McDonald daur 6 scholar born Resolis / John E. McDonald son 5 scholar born Resolis / Duncan D. McDonald son 3 born Resolis / Joseph McDonald son 3 mo born Resolis
Isabella Golan serv unmarried 20 dairymaid born Lochalsh speaks G / Donald Golan serv unmarried 45 cattleman born Beauly / Donaldina Urquhart serv unmarried 20 general servant (domestic) born Resolis speaks G / Angus McCulloch serv unmarried 24 farm serv born Resolis speaks G

The following 1891 Census return is the last one to feature John Macdonald in Cullicudden, as he moved to Invergordon thereafter, although he was already well established there. Note he still was not termed in the Census returns as a grocer or postmaster, but as a farmer. At this time the family seems to have been operating on two fronts, in Cullicudden and at the Glasgow Warehouse in Invergordon. In “the Glasgow House”, in the 1891 Census Return, wife Margaret is the head of household, Donald A is the merchant and Hannah, Joseph, Murdoch E and Benjamin are also present. At the same time, in Cullicudden, in what is now known as Torvaig, the rest of the family were operating:

1891 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Cullicudden Street, house with five rooms with one or more windows
John McDonald head married 52 farmer born Resolis speaks GE
Duncan McDonald son 13 assistant on farm born Resolis
Margaret McDonald daur single 19 general servant born Resolis speaks GE
Flora Macleod servant single 21 general servant born Assynt speaks GE
Duncan Munro servant 13 farm servant born Resolis

By the next Census, John Mackenzie from Gairloch (known locally as “Jock Sheen”) and wife Christina had taken over as postmaster, merchant and farmer at what is now known as Torvaig.

The children of John Macdonald and Margaret Macrae spread out all over the the country, and abroad, particularly South Africa and America. There were nine, many of their names reflecting the influence of the Macrae family: Donald Alexander (1868–1912), Isabella Christina Mackenzie Macrae (1870–1969), Margaret Jane (1871–1892), Hannah (1874–1929), John Evan (1876–1940), Duncan Donald (1877–1927), Dr Joseph (1880–1919), Murdo Evan (1884–) and Benjamin (1886–1981). It is beyond the scope of this story to set our the life story of each, but a few snippets of those with more local impact follow.

Donald Alexander Macdonald (1868–1912)

The eldest, Donald Alexander Macdonald, was very much involved in the dual businesses operating out of Cullicudden and Invergordon. However, he seems before the final full transition to Invergordon to have taken over the Post Office and farm at Cullicudden. Eventually he moved fully to Invergordon, and his friends on this side of the Firth made an event of it:

Ross-shire Journal 24 Mar 1893
Invergordon – Presentation.– Mr D.A. Macdonald, Glasgow Warehouse, Invergordon, was on Thursday of last week presented with a gold hunting lever watch, subscribed for by a large number of well-wishers on the Black Isle side of the Firth, in recognition of the esteem with which he had been held while tenant of the farm and Post-Office at Cullicudden.
Dr Lawson, Jemimaville, made the presentation, and in doing so said they all felt that the removal from their midst of a young man of Mr Macdonald’s ability and talent was a great loss to the district, but they were pleased to think that he was still within their reach, and that as agent for a very important business in Invergordon, he would still continue to have business relations with a large number of his old parishioners. He could assure Mr Macdonald that his kindly, affable, and obliging disposition had won for him a warm place in the hearts of the people of Resolis, and he was sure that these qualities would secure respect and admiration in whatever sphere of life he might be called upon to occupy.
Rev. Mr Macdougall likewise spoke in complimentary terms of Mr Macdonald, who, in reply, said he knew he had many friends in the parish of Resolis, but he was not prepared for such a valuable expression of their kindness and goodwill as that of which he had just been the recipient. He hoped he might still be able to transact business with his old friends and neighbours, although he had ceased to reside amongst them. He would always remember with pleasure the many happy days he had spent in Resolis, and the many friendships he had formed there, which he hoped would long continue.
He thanked them all from the bottom of his heart, for the very valuable watch, and for the kind feelings which prompted the giving of it.

But he did not remain in Invergordon, and you will see from the family memorial that he died in South Africa in 1912, as did his brother, Dr Joseph Macdonald.

Dr Joseph Macdonald (1880–1919)

For Joseph, we again turn to the Ross-shire:

The Ross-shire Journal 22 November 1918
Dr Joseph Macdonald
The late Dr Joseph Macdonald, a notice of whose death from influenza in Marydale, South Africa, appeared in a recent issue of the Journal, was the fourth son of the late Mr John Macdonald, Glasgow Warehouse, Invergordon, and of Mrs Macdonald, Ellandonan Cottage, Saltburn, Invergordon, and brother of Mr John E. Macdonald, of the Glasgow Warehouse.
Twelve years ago Dr Macdonald graduated in Medicine in Aberdeen, and on completing his medical studies there he proceeded to South Africa to fill an important government position as medical officer. Later on he gave up this appointment, and took up a large and lucrative practice in Marydale, Cape Colony.
On the outbreak of war in South Africa he was one of the first to join the forces, and served for three years with the rank of captain. In 1915 he was appointed senior medical officer by General Smuts, but, owing to repeated attacks of malaria fever, he retired from the Army and resumed his private practice in Marydale.
There is reason to fear that the campaign in Western and Eastern Africa weakened his naturally robust constitution, and being overwhelmed with work in the exercise of a very extensive practice, and much too forgetful of himself in his devotion to duty and interests of his patients, he thus became an easy victim to the disease that brought so young, promising, and beneficent a life to a sudden and premature end. Much sympathy is felt with the relatives.
A photo of Dr Macdonald appears today.


John Evan Macdonald and the Glasgow Warehouse, the Glasgow House and J.E. MacDonald’s

And what of the Glasgow House? John Macdonald was the first of the family to be involved with the enterprise, then known as the Glasgow Warehouse, to be followed by his son Donald Alexander. But with Donald Alexander going out to South Africa, young John Evan Macdonald took over, making a great success of the enterprise, re-launching it as his own J.E. MacDonald’s. Whilst his father appears to have been the retiring type, John Evan was the reverse. This is his obituary:

the Scotsman of 16 April 1940

Here are a few adverts and announcements from close to a century of the Glasgow Warehouse, the Glasgow House and J.E. Macdonald’s.

Invergordon Times of (top) 30 May 1888 and (bottom) 5 October 1892

creative advertising; Invergordon Times of 13 June 1888

fashionable advertisement in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of 25 October 1967


John Evan Macdonald and his wife Margaret Ross are commemorated by a grey granite memorial in Rosskeen Burial Ground.

photo by Davine Sutherland

J.E. MacDonald’s continued in Invergordon right up into the 1970s. It aimed for the high quality market. One side was given over to ladies’ clothing and the other to men’s clothing.

J.E. MacDonald’s in the early 1900s; photo courtesy of the Invergordon Archive

The location of the former J.E. MacDonald’s on the High Street, Invergordon, in 2021; photo by Davine Sutherland



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