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

The Mackenzies, Masons of Chapelton and Balblair

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos as given below each image

Many thanks to Mrs Jane Hall, descendant of the Mackenzies of Chapelton, for copies of documents in the family.

This is the story of a family of masons who lived locally but who would travel far afield as journeyman masons for particular projects. It is complementary to our story of the origins of Chapelton, as Thomas McKenzie, mason, appears in the very first mention of this planned village in 1798.

The old village of Chapelton, just around the corner from Kirkmichael. The Mackenzie family held the feu within which the white house stands. Photo Jim Mackay


Thomas Mackenzie (c1763–1841+), mason in Chapelton, and Janet Fraser (c1771–1841+)

Our story begins in a different parish, with Thomas Mackenzie marrying Janet Fraser in the Parish of Urquhart and Ferintosh in 1793. Janet was from the neighbouring Parish of Resolis, although the spelling of Resolis is one of the most unusual I have seen – had the Session clerk been drinking?

Urquhart marriages
1793 … Thomas McKenzie in this Parish was contracted with Janet Fraser in the Parish of Ruisolish, & were married Februy. 1st.

The Kirkmichael Gaelic expert chides me for this, pointing out that the spelling Ruisolish is simply the phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of the old Gaelic name for Resolis, Rudha soluis, cape or slope of light, a pleasing sign of spoken Gaelic in everyday use at the time. I think Thomas may have had Resolis connections as well, and it wasn’t long before they moved to Chapelton. First, though they had one child in Urquhart:

1795 … April Baptized … Donald son to Thomas Mackenzie in Urquhart & to his spouse Janet Fraser

Young Donald’s descendants are spread across the globe. They include my correspondent, Mrs Jane Hall, who has kindly provided me with copies of family documents. The remainder of the children were born in Resolis, the family having relocated to Chapelton in Balblair. Thomas is described as mason at Balblair or mason in Chapeltown in all the following baptisms: 23 Nov 1796 – Alexander; 6 May 1800 – Francy; 30 Jul 1802 – Thomas; 19 Jan 1803 – this entry was not completed, 6 Sep 1804 – Janet; 15 Jan 1809 – Nelly; and 8 Aug 1811 – Alexander.

Chapelton then was in its very infancy. The very first record of the name (Chapelton, Chapeltown, Chapel Town) I have found bears a 1798 date, so Thomas and Janet were there from the start.

In 1799, Thomas purchased on feu contract land at Chapelton from the then laird of the Newhall Estate, George Lockhart Esquire. His land was identified in the usual long-winded vague way – oh for an accurate plan:

All and Whole that piece of ground with the houses built thereon by the said Thomas Mackenzie upon the south side of the road leading along the sea shore in the Village of Chapeltown the said piece of ground Consisting of Sixty yards in length south from the said Road and of thirty yards in breadth bounded
by the said road on the North
by Alexander Munro’s feu on the West
by the Newhall property on the South and
by Margarat Fraser’s feu on the East
lying within the parish of Risolis and Sheriffdom of Ross with a right of Commonty in the Mulbuie till the same is divided

You will note that Thomas had already built houses upon the land, so I think he must have moved from Urquhart directly to an arrangement with the Laird regarding the land in Chapelton. The 1799 document merely formalised the arrangement. The sasine to implement the 1799 document was registered in Inverness in 1807. From the wording, the properties on either side of Thomas’s, along the sea-front at Chapelton, were also feued.

Thomas seems to have been, in his prime, financially sound. At any rate, he became liable for tax, as very unusually for a Resolis tradesman he appears in the 1798 Consolidated Tax records for Resolis (E326/15/7). Farmer George Holm was liable for much more (8 shillings and 6 pence) than the feuers (2 shillings and 6 pence) due to the working horses he had on the farm.

George Holm Farmer in Chaplefield … 8 6
Thomas Mackenzie Mason Balblair … 2 6
Alexr. Munro Tayler in Balblair … 2 6

And in the Napoleonic scares, Thomas Mackenzie also appears in the 1798 Militia List of adult males aged between 15 and 60 years

Chapeltown / … Thos. McKenzie Mason

He appears to have been a well-respected mason. I see a record of him being asked to provide an unbiased valuation of a Kirkmichael lair in 1809. And he was one of the “judicious workmen” called in to assess what repairs were required for Resolis Manse in 1812. The Presbytery of Chanonry Minutes:

[Manse of Kirkmichael & Cullicudden, 31/3/1812] This Meeting having been appointed for inspecting the Manse &c. of this United Parish, and for determining what is proper to be done thereanent… it being Asked, whether the Heretors & Minister had called any judicious Workmen to this Meeting? Compeared at their Desire, Adam Urquhart Mason at Cromarty, Donald Simpson Mason at Newhall & Thomas Mackenzie Mason at Balblair: Mr John Joyner, House Carpenter at Cromarty, John Murray Wright at Newhall, John Hosack Wright at Burnside, Donald Allan Wright at Poyntzfield & Hector Holm Wright at Balblair; together with John Ferguson Thatcher. And the oath de fideli being administered to all those workmen; they were appointed to inspect carefully & bring in their Reports in writing, concerning the Sufficiency or Insufficiency of this Manse, both its walls & Roof & the other Subjects, as Set forth in the Minister’s petition. Who, having spent some considerable Time, in inspecting & judging thereof, gave in their Report, as follows, viz. “Risolis 31st March 1812 We the subscribers, being mutually chosen to inspect the Manse and Office-Houses for the Manse, we see nothing but a Crack or Split in the West-Gable, which does not hurt the work in the least. And, for the Kiln, the South-West Corner is coming down, and it wants all to be harled. And the Cart-Shed is all to wreck: And there is a good part of the Corn-yard fallen down, & more like to come. And for the Servant-House, it may stand for some years with being harled. (Signed) Adam Urquhart, Thomas McKenzie, Donald Simpson.”

Two years later, and the Manse was still not repaired and the process went through again, this time it being clearly stated that Thomas Mackenzie was representing the lairds. By this time the condition had greatly deteriorated:

[Manse of Resolis, 22/11/1814] The Presbytery then proceeded to the Consideration of Mr Arthur's Petition relative to Repairs upon his Manse and offices. … Enquiry was then made whether any Workmen were ordered to attend this Meeting to inspect the present State of the Manse and offices of Resolis. When, for the Heritors, there compeared John Gordon and Thomas McKenzie Masons, John Murray, Donald Allan, John McLean and David Christie House Carpenters. For the Minister John Joyner Cabinet Maker and House-Carpenter Cromarty. The said Workmen, being called in, and the Oath de fideli being administered to them by Alexander McKenzie Esquire Justice of Peace, they were ordered to inspect the State of the Manse and offices, and to give in their Report, in Writing. The Workmen having returned, the Mason's Report was first received and was ordered to be marked by the Clerk, whereof the Tenour follows: “We the under subscribers have examined the Mason Work of the Manse, and find all sufficient. But the wester Gable is rent from Top to Bottom and will not admit of any Height unless taken down within six Feet of the Foundation (sic subscribitur) John Gordon, Thomas McKenzie …”.

Thomas Mackenzie continued to live on his feu in Chapelton until his death. In 1839, he sold the feu to his son Thomas, but on the understanding that he, Thomas senior, and his wife Janet could continue living in the dwelling where they then resided, on the western half of the site. It is there that they can be seen in the 1841 census, rather elderly by now:

Thomas McKenzie 78 Mason / Jennet Fraser 70

Ages in the 1841 census were meant to be rounded, but often were not, particularly in Resolis, so those two ages probably represented exactly what Thomas and Janet stated were their ages (which can be very different from real ages!) We thus can calculate approximate years of birth for the couple.

When did Thomas senior die? He and Janet were both alive in 1841. We find in the Poor’s Roll within the Resolis Kirk Session records for 1844:

Widow McKenzie Craggan -.5.-

Donald McLennan, Balblair for Coffin for Thomas McKenzie there £-.8.-

I assumed initially that the two entries are not un-related, in that Janet was obtaining support after her husband had been buried but in fact I think the coffin might have been for Thomas junior and Thomas senior had died not long before this. Note the man who made the coffin: Donald McLennan, carpenter, was in fact the brother-in-law of the deceased, so why the Session were paying a relative to prepare a coffin for Thomas I know not. Widow McKenzie Chapelton appears in the next year’s roll (1845) but then disappears – there is no mention of her dying or moving which again is a little unusual and if anyone wishes to go through Volume 1 of the Minutes of the Parochial Board of Resolis held at Inverness Archives to see if I have missed something then please let me know the results!


Donald Mackenzie (1795–1846), son to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser, mason Balblair,
and Elizabeth Mackenzie (c1798–1868)

Donald was the eldest child. He married in 1817 Elizabeth, the daughter of agricultural labourer William McKenzie and his wife Janet Fraser. You will note that this is another Janet Fraser, the same name as Donald’s own mother, but I do not know if there was any connection. Elizabeth was working at the nearby estate of Udale at the time of her marriage:

Cromarty Marriages 1817
28 February 1817 / Donald Mackenzie in the Parish of Risolis and Elizabeth Mackenzie at Udoll were married.

Mrs Jane Hall behind the tablestone to her forebears, Donald Mackenzie and Elizabeth Mackenzie of Chapelton. Photo Jim Mackay

Nine children followed, with Donald described as mason Chapelton or mason Balblair in all. They were William (1818), Janet (1820), Thomas (1823), Donald (1824), David (1826), a second Thomas (1829), Alexander (1831), Elizabeth (1833) and Helen (1836).

We have a jotted copy of some of Donald’s accounts whilst carrying out some repairs on Braelangwell, some time between 1835 and 1846. At this time Donald Mackenzie was renting some of the land in the Ardoch grass-parks from the Poyntzfield Estate, and got caught up in a dispute between the Trustees of Duncan Davidson of Tulloch and Major Gun Munro of Poyntzfield and his tenants. A generation earlier, and the Gun Munro of the time counted Duncan Davidson as his closest friend, so it is rather sad to see how litigation can drive a wedge between friendly parties. Amongst the papers which Jane Hall inherited was a summons for Donald to appear with many other tenants before the Lords of Council and Session in Edinburgh in 1835.

You can tell how seriously Donald Mackenzie treated this summons – he used the back of it to jot down his Braelangwell accounts!

Bralangwel November xxx
To 8 Days working at the Beg house
To 3 Days working at the Beg house
Bralangwel December 24th
To pointing the new of the Big house with masticke 5 Days at 2S 2D½ p Day
January 27 To 4 Days pointing the windows of Beg hous
February 2th To 3 Days on the windows
Bralangwe December 1th
To 4 Days repearng the sleat [slates] of the servants house and repairing the kitchen

The accounts demonstrate that his mason’s work extended to just about all the repair work required to a house.

Part of Donald Mackenzie’s bill for work at Braelangwell, jotted down on the back of his summons to the Court of Session!

Like so many of the masons of the time, Donald died relatively young, in 1846. At the north dyke of Kirkmichael stands the handsome tablestone dedicated to Donald Mackenzie and his wife Elizabeth Mackenzie.

Sacred / to the memory of / DONALD McKENZIE / mason Balblair / who departed this life on the / first day of October 1846 / aged 53 years. / And of / his beloved wife / ELIZABETH McKENZIE / who died / at Newhall Point / on the 26th day of Octobr 1868 / aged 70 years.

Donald died before the start of civil registration, but not so his spouse:

Elizabeth McKenzie (widow of Donald McKenzie mason) died 26 October 1868 Newhall Point aged 71 parents William McKenzie agricultural labourer (deceased) Janet McKenzie m.s. Fraser (deceased) / informant William Aird nephew (not present)

The family of Donald’ wife is of interest, but it would risk confusion to introduce a separate Mackenzie line into this story. Suffice to say there are two stones in Kirkmichael, one commemorating her brother Peter, and one commemorating her parents, the latter being erected by another brother, Alexander, the Grieve at Poyntzfield, about whose free spirited wife there are the most marvelous stories. Expect another Story behind the Stone on this branch of the Mackenzies!

Donald’s son William, as the eldest son of the eldest son of Thomas senior, claimed the property of Donald’s brother Thomas junior who had died without any offspring. And if you think that line is confusing, try the sasine by which William came into the Chapelton property. It required much genealogical head-scratching:

Sasine in favour of William Mackenzie
At Inverness [11 July 1853] betwixt the hours of ten and eleven o'clock forenoon Sasine Titled as above presented by James Davidson solicitor in Inverness and the same is recorded as follows viz / At Dingwall there was by or on behalf of William Mackenzie Mason residing at Balblair of Newhall presented to me Notary Public subscribing a Disposition granted by Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Chapletown to Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Inverness and bearing date [i.e. 1 August 1839] as in the Precept of Sasine and Testing Clause hereinafter inserted and also an extract of the Retour of the General Service of the said William Mackenzie as nearest lawful heir in General of the said Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Inverness therein designed Mason in Chapeltown of Balblair being the lawful and only [actually not the only, but the eldest] son of Donald Mackenzie Mason in Balblair brother German of the said Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Chapeltown of Balblair who died without lawful issue of his own body dated [18 June 1852] before the Sheriff of Ross-shire and duly retoured to Chancery. By which Disposition the said Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Chapeltown sold alienated and disponed to and in favour of the said Thomas Mackenzie Mason in Chapeltown of Balblair (therein designed Mason in Inverness) and to his heirs and assignees and all and whole that piece of ground upon the south side of the road…

The complex wording of that sasine has caused much confusion. However, when you remember that we have a letter from Thomas Mackenzie junior saying he has purchased the Chapelton property from Thomas Mackenzie senior then it sorts itself out easily enough.

Mother Elizabeth continued to reside with William. With William inheriting, there was nothing to keep the other boys in the area. Two of them (Thomas and Donald) emigrated to Australia, ending up in Sydney. Their two death notices bear a striking similarity:

The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales) 15 September 1879
McKenzie. – September 4, 1879, at his residence, No. 1, Burnett-street, Redfern, Mr. Thomas McKenzie, stonemason, native of Balblair, Ross-shire Scotland, in the 46th year of his age, leaving an affectionate wife and seven children to mourn their loss; respected by all who knew him. His end was peace.

The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales) 28 January 1888
McKenzie. – January 21, 1888, at his residence, 79, Davis-street, Mr. Donald McKenzie, stonemason, native of Balblair, Ross-shire, Scotland, leaving an affectionate wife and five children to mourn their loss. Respected by all who knew him. His end was peace.

The Chapelton property continued down through William’s descendants, the first being son Donald who lived in Rose Cottage Avoch and let out Chapelton to a series of tenants.

Following the 1910 Internal Revenue Act, the condition of properties across the country was assessed over the next few years and the Chapelton property was described thus:

IR No.: 43 Property: Chapelton Point. / house Owner: Mackenzie, Donald / Tenant/occupier: Paul, James
House materials: stone, lime / Roof material: slate / House description: kitchen, room, closet, 2 bedroom / House condition: good

The associated map shows the property as lying [complete when plan inspected]

Mrs Jane Hall, who has visited Kirkmichael on several occasions with her husband, is descended from Donald and Elizabeth by way of son David and Janet Junor and in turn their child Donald, all as seen on the images below.

William (1818–1890), son of Donald and Elizabeth, who inherited the property at Chapelton and died there. Image courtesy of Mrs Jane Hall

David (1826–1888), son of Donald and Elizabeth, his wife Janet Junor and (centre) child Donald. That child became the great-great-grandfather of Jane Hall. Image courtesy of Mrs Jane Hall

One of the other sons of Donald and Elizabeth, but it is not known which one. Image courtesy of Mrs Jane Hall


Alexander Mackenzie (1800–), son to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser

I think this Alexander probably died young, as I cannot see him in the records.


Francis (Frank, Francy, Frances) Mackenzie (1802-1852), son to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser,
mason in Inverness and Chapelton, and Jean Mclean (1798–1845)

The name of Francis just visible through the moss on his memorial to Jean McLean in Chapel Yard, Inverness. Photo Jim Mackay


There is quite a story about Jean McLean, who married Francis Mackenzie. Whilst she was living in her parents’ home in Brae, who should be lodging there but one of the Resolis lairds, John Urquhart of Kinbeachie. John had always been erratic and wild, and had sold Kinbeachie to his half nephew some years earlier. He was residing in the nearby home of Braelangwell tenants, John McLean and Janet Williamson. Young Jean took on the job of nursing the sick former laird, and Urquhart fell for her. He left her everything and made her his executrix. Writing at Brae on 26 August 1828, he testified:

That I John Urquhart Esquire late of Kinbeachy at present residing at Brae, in the Parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty, for the love favor and affection which I have and bear to Jean Maclean daughter of John McLean Tenant in Brae, and on account of the great care and attention she has paid to me since I came to reside in her Fathers house, do hereby Leave and bequeath all the moveable property of whatever description, that may belong to me at the time of my death, to the said Jean McLean, whom I hereby nominate and appoint to be my sole Executor and universal Legatory; But under the burden always of the payment of the just and lawful debts, that shall be due by me at the time of my death, and of my funeral charges.

John died in 1831 and Jean, who meanwhile had married Chapelton mason Francis Mackenzie, acted as executrix. The remaining money amounted to £92.12s.1d. The substantial tablestone in the Urquhart of Kinbeachie enclosure at Cullicudden bears the inscription:

In memory / of / JOHN URQUHART Esqr. / proprietor of Kinbeachie who departed / this life / May 17th 1831.

The beautiful Urquhart of Kinbeachie enclosure at Cullicudden. Photo by Jim Mackay

Matching tablestones in the Urquhart of Kinbeachie enclosure. The one on the left commemorates John Urquhart of Kinbeachie. Photo by Jim Mackay

I wonder if Francis carved either the stone or the inscription. It is one of a matching pair, the other commemorating Jean Urquhart, daughter of Thomas Urquhart of Kinbeachie, who married Lachlan McKinnon, tacksman of Kinbeachie.

Francis and Jean Maclean had married on 24 April 1829 (“Frances McKenzie mason at Balblair & Jane McLean Brea both in this parish”), but I have no record of any children. The couple, like so many of these Mackenzie masons, moved to Inverness, where Francis according to one record became a “mason overseer” . Brother Thomas was working as a mason in Inverness as well. Francis was therefore to hand to act as a witness on the 1839 document whereby his brother Thomas allowed their parents to reside on the westernmost half of the Chapelton property which Thomas had just bought from his father.

I have not found either Francis or Thomas junior in the 1841 census returns for definite, although I see in a lodging-house in Hamilton, Lanarkshire : “Francis McKenzie 36 mason J. / Thomas McKenzie 34 do. J.” and neither born in the county, and I suspect these were the two journeymen masons away at work. I see some other McKenzie journeymen masons (David and George) lodging a few houses away, and suspect these may well be relatives as well! However, Francis is such a distinctive name I am fairly sure he and Thomas are definite sightings.

Sadly Jean died at an early age, just a couple of years later. She is commemorated by an eye-catching sarcophagus in Chapel Yard:

The sarcophagus in Chapel Yard, Inverness. Photo Jim Mackay


Erected by Francis Mackenzie, mason in Inverness, in memory of his beloved wife Jean Maclean, daughter of the late John Maclean, farmer in Wester Brea, Parish of Resolis, who departed this life on the 16th day of February, 1843, aged 43 years.

Again, I wonder if Francis had carved this particular memorial.

Francis returned to Chapelton, perhaps because his health was failing. So many of these masons suffered badly from lung disorders due to the stone dust to which they were repeatedly exposed. He appears in the 1851 census at “Craggan” although this term at times described the Chapelton area generally:

Francis McKenzie head widower 51 journeyman mason Resolis
Alexr McKenzie relative unmarried 15 scholar Resolis

I think the “relative” would be the son of his sister Elizabeth Mackenzie and brother-in-law mason George Mackenzie. They had a son Alexander baptised in 1836 who does not appear in their census return. Francis expired so unexpectedly the following year that the event was reported in several papers of the time.

John o’ Groat Journal 20 February 1852
Sudden Death.– Another proof of the uncertainty of life, says the Inverness Courier, occurred at Newhall Point, on Thursday last. A man named Francis Mackenzie, after taking a walk, sat down on a bed in his own house to rest for a few minutes, and a short time afterwards he was found by some of the neighbours quite dead. The deceased was a mason to trade, and had been in delicate health for some time.

With no wife or children surviving, his sisters Janet and Helen proceeded with the probate:

Testament Dative and Inventory of the Goods Gear and Debts of Umquhil Francis MacKenzie Mason residing at Chapeltown of Newhall, at the time of his death which took place at Chapelton of Balblair on the fifth day of February Eighteen hundred and fifty two years. Faithfully made and given up by Janet MacKenzie wife of Donald Maclennan Carpenter at Balblair, and Helen MacKenzie wife of George MacKenzie Mason at Chapeltown of Balblair aforesaid, and the said Donald Maclennan and George MacKenzie for their interests Executors Dative qua nearest in kin…

The inventory amounted to £57.8.6, a substantial sum for the time.

Thomas Mackenzie (1803–), son to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser,
mason in Inverness and Chapelton of Balblair

In 1839, Thomas Mackenzie senior sold his Chapelton property to Thomas Mackenzie junior. Thomas and Janet were living there at the time, and Thomas junior wrote a formal letter in which he agreed that during their lives they could continue to “occupy and enjoy the portion thereof possessed by you being the westmost just and equal half of the ground and house built thereon during your lives”. The full letter, courtesy of Mrs Jane Hall, reads:

Inverness 1st August 1839 / Dear Father, / As you have this day sold and conveyed your property in chapel town to me and as it is my wish that you and my Mother should occupy and enjoy the portion thereof now possessed by you being the westmost just and equal half of the ground and house built thereon during your lives I hereby let the said just and equal half to you and my Mother during your joint lives and to the longest liver during his or her life and that at a yearly rent of Five Shillings Sterling payable at Whitsunday yearly – more over I agree to enter into a regular stamped Lease in terms hereof or to defray the whole expense of stamping these presents should you be disturbed in the possession during your joint lives or the life of the longest liver of you in any manner of way. I remain / your dutiful son / Thomas McKenzie / Francis MacKenzie Witness / Arch Campbell Witness

The letter I think was written by the witness named Campbell, whom I think would have been a solicitor, but the document bears two other signatures, that of Thomas junior himself and that of the other witness, brother Francis.

Like almost all the Mackenzie masons, Thomas died young. When did he die? Well, I have seen a note which states: “1852 – General Service Specification in Favour of William Mackenzie Mason son of Donald Mackenzie Mason brother German of late Thomas Mackenzie died 1 Feb 1844”. I have not seen the General Service Specification myself. However, we do know for sure that he died intestate and without any issue. Inheritance where there is intestacy follows strict rules, and his eldest brother’s eldest boy, William, was next in line. The Chapelton property therefore moved across to William and his descendants.


Janet Mackenzie (1809–1886), daughter to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser

Janet married Balblair carpenter Donald Maclennan. They resided for some years in the parish of Urquhart and Ferintosh, but returned to Balblair in the late 1830s. You can see their movements from the parish of birth of their children, as in the 1851 census (when they were living next door to Janet’s sister Helen and her husband George Mackenzie).

Donald McLennan head m 50 general carpenter Ferintosh
Janet McLennan wife m 44 housekeeper Resolis
Elizebeth McLennan daur u 17 Ferintosh
Thomas McLennan son u 15 scholar Ferintosh
Farquhar McLennan son u 13 scholar Ferintosh
Janet McLennan daur u 11 scholar Resolis
Alexr McLennan son u 8 scholar Resolis
Donald McLennan son u 6 scholar Resolis

As noted earlier, somewhat unusually, Donald was paid 8 shillings from the Poor’ funds by the Kirk Session to construct a coffin for brother-in-law Thomas Mackenzie. The usual rate for a coffin for someone on the Poor’s Roll was 10 shillings, occasionally up to 11 or 12 shillings, so Donald charged a reduced rate.

Following Donald’s death in 1873, Jessie moved in with her daughter Jessie and her blacksmith son-in-law Duncan Munro in Drumcudden, and it is there that she died in 1886:

Jessie McLennan (widow of Donald McLennan Cart-wright) died 21 August 1886 St. Martins aged 81 parents Thomas McKenzie mason (deceased) Jessie McKenzie m.s. Fraser (deceased) informant Duncan Munro son-in-law (present)

No stone commemorates Donald or Janet in Kirkmichael or Cullicudden.


Helen (Ellen, Nelly) Mackenzie (1811–1881), daughter to Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser

Helen married mason George McKenzie, whose stone is in Kirkmichael. George appears to have been unconnected with the other Mackenzie masons in the area, having been born in distant Contin to parents Murdo Mckenzie, a farmer, and Ann Macdonald.

The 1851 census return for the family indicates that this journeyman mason’s family had resided for some time in Rosemarkie.

George McKenzie head m 44 journeyman mason Contin
Helen McKenzie wife m 39 mason’s wife Resolis
Murdoch McKenzie son u 13 mason’s son Rosemarkie
Francis McKenzie son u 9 mason’s son Rosemarkie
Helen McKenzie daur u 6 mason’s daur Resolis
Janet McKenzie daur – 4 mason’s daur Resolis
Ann McKenzie daur – 2 mason’s daur Resolis
William Jack lodger u 30 merchant grocer Ferintosh

George never made it to the next census. He died young, of course, as so many masons seem to have done in this story, at Chapelton (here called Newhall Point):

George McKenzie mason (married) died 14 May 1857 Newhall Point aged 49 years parents Murdo McKenzie farmer (deceased) Ann McKenzie maiden name Macdonald buried Church yard of Kirkmichael as certified by William Holm sexton informant Alexander McKenzie, son (present)

Poor Helen was left with a family to look after, and became for a time a pauper, receiving money from the Poor’s Roll. The 1861 Census sets out the family as follows, in a house with two rooms with windows:

Helen McKenzie head w 52 pauper (mason’s widow) Resolis
Helen McKenzie daur u 16 dressmaker Resolis
Jessie McKenzie daur u 14 scholar Resolis
Ann McKenzie daur u 12 scholar Resolis

Helen and several of her children moved to Inverness where their fortunes improved. In the 1881 Census three of the children (Murdo G., Jessie and Anne) are living in 5 Southside Place, the son being recorded as a Teacher of the Blind. Helen had died in Southside Place earlier in 1881.

Murdo would have been teaching at the school run by the Northern Counties Institute of the Blind. Now converted into attractive apartments, the building at 38-39 Ardconnel Street, now Ardconnel Court, was originally a school and was taken over by the Northern Counties Institute for the Blind in the 1870s. A residential school was established where people could come from all over the Highlands and Islands to learn how to read Braille. Setting up a business to provide jobs (creating beds, mattresses and bedroom furniture) for people with visual impairments was a natural progression and that is the origin of BlindCraft.

Ardconnel Court nowadays; image courtesy of the Ardconnel Court website,

I note that in the 1911 Post Office Directory for Inverness, at 5 Southside Place there is Murdo G., now the superintendant of the Institute for the Blind, but next door is Miss Mackenzie in “Craggan cottage” so the family clearly were proud of their Chapelton connections. In that directory, on Leys Drive, given as part of Southside Place, are the “Misses Mackenzie, apartments, Rosemary” – I imagine these are more of the Mackenzie sisters as their mother had died in “Rosemary Cottage Southside Place”.

As mentioned, Helen had died in Rosemary Cottage, back in 1881, and I note her son had her registered as Ellen – she had also been called Nelly in her time, so she was well used to variants!

Ellen Mackenzie Widow of George Mackenzie Mason (Foreman) died 25 January 1881 Rosemary Cottage Southside Place Inverness aged 72 parents Thomas Mackenzie Mason (Journeyman) (deceased) Jessie Mackenzie m.s. Fraser (deceased) informant M.G. MacKenzie son present

A substantial sandstone headstone in Kirkmichael commemorates the pair, and is a really good reminder that a year on a stone often marks the date of erection rather than a date of death.

1884 / To the memory of / GEORGE MACKENZIE mason / who died at Newhall Point 14th / day of May 1857. / His son FRANCIS / who died at Balblair 21st March 1860 / aged 19 years / Also / wife of the above / HELEN MACKENZIE / died at Inverness 25th January 1881 / aged 72 years / Buried in Tomnahurich Cemitery [sic]

The 1884 headstone commemorating George Mackenzie and Helen Mackenzie, with Mrs Jane Hall. Photo Jim Mackay



Alexander Mackenzie (1811–)

I have been unable to track.this second Alexander in the family, so I fear he also died as a youngster.


The Mackenzies and Chapelton

Thomas Mackenzie and Janet Fraser were there at the start of the planned village of Chapelton. For more on Chapelton, see our complementary Story behind the Stone “The Origins of Chapelton”, and for the other family of Mackenzies at Chapelton and Balblair into which this family married, see our complementary Story behind the Stone “ [no title yet] ”. A mason’s work was demanding and unhealthy, but Thomas and Janet succeeded in raising a successful group of children.

The tablestone commemorating Donald Mackenzie and Elizabeth Mackenzie was beautifully carved. The flower represents re-birth. Photo Jim Mackay


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