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

The Junor Stone: solution to a mystery involving Cromarty geologist and writer, Hugh Miller

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

This story is based around a fragmenting tablestone close to the chancel in Kirkmichael. Like many of the tablestones here, it is associated with a solid tenant farmer family from the landward side of the parish of Cromarty. The country kirkyard, beside the whitewashed walls of Kirkmichael which can be seen so well from the Cromarty farms, was obviously more attractive than a graveyard in town. In this case it was the family of Junor, sometimes spelled Joyner or Juner and all combinations between, of Davidston, Little Farness and Ardeville in the parish of Cromarty, and in Blairnaclach in the parish of Resolis. Three generations of Junors are recorded on the one stone, albeit two of them by initials alone.

The Junor tablestone (red-spotted) is at the south east corner of the chancel, the white-washed wall of which can be seen most of the way from Cromarty; photo by Andrew Dowsett


The Little Doggies

And now, to jump temporarily from the Junor family to the Miller family, before bringing the two together. Stonemason, geologist and best-selling writer, Hugh Miller, Cromarty’s most famous son, opens his autobiographical My Schools and Schoolmasters (1854) with a story about his father who, when a boy, could not bring himself to drown some puppies. It always seemed a strange way to commence a book but who would challenge such a master of story-telling? The puzzle for us is: at the time of the incident, his father had been living on a farm with a maternal aunt. But which farm and which aunt? We can at last reveal the solution. But bear with me first, as I set out Miller’s opening lines. It is a fine piece of story-telling which engages your human emotions right from the start – hmm, perhaps not such a daft beginning to a biography after all!

RATHER more than eighty years ago, a stout little boy, in his sixth or seventh year, was despatched from an old-fashioned farm-house in the upper part of the parish of Cromarty, to drown a litter of puppies in an adjacent pond. The commission seemed to be not in the least congenial. He sat down beside the pool, and began to cry over his charge; and finally, after wasting much time in a paroxysm of indecision and sorrow, instead of committing the puppies to the water, he tucked them up in his little kilt, and set out by a blind pathway which went winding through the stunted heath of the dreary Maolbuoy Common, in a direction opposite to that of the farm-house – his home for the two previous twelvemonths. After some doubtful wandering on the waste, he succeeded in reaching, before nightfall, the neighbouring seaport town, and presented himself, laden with his charge, at his mother’s door. The poor woman – a sailor’s widow, in very humble circumstances – raised her hands in astonishment: “Oh, my unlucky boy,” she exclaimed, “what’s this?– what brings you here?” “The little doggies, mither,” said the boy; “I couldna drown the little doggies; and I took them to you.” What afterwards befell the “little doggies,” I know not; but trivial as the incident may seem, it exercised a marked influence on the circumstances and destiny of at least two generations of creatures higher in the scale than themselves. The boy, as he stubbornly refused to return to the farm-house, had to be sent on shipboard, agreeably to his wish, as a cabin- boy; and the writer of these chapters was born, in consequence, a sailor’s son, and was rendered, as early as his fifth year, mainly dependent for his support on the sedulously plied but indifferently remunerated labours of his only surviving parent, at the time a sailor’s widow. … his mother had committed the boy to the charge of a sister, married to a farmer of the parish, and now the mistress of the farm-house of Ardavell; but the family death was not to be so avoided ; and the arrangement terminated, as has been seen, in the transaction beside the pond.

The stout little boy with a warm heart was Hugh Miller’s father, and that boy’s mother and her farming sister both feature on this section of a well-circulated family tree drawn up by a descendant of Hugh Miller, Marian McKenzie Johnston. I have underlined the mother and farming sister in red.

Extract of Hugh Miller family tree by Marian McKenzie Johnston

According to this, Hugh Miller’s grandmother Elspeth Feddes had a sister “who married a farmer of Ardavell24”, the source allegedly being the above passage from My Schools and Schoolmasters. I suggest a slight refinement. It is likely she became mistress of Ardeville. But at the time Miller’s father had been sent to reside with the sister, the sister’s family was occupying Blairnaclach. The family was the Junor family commemorated on the tablestone in Kirkmichael.


The Junor Tablestone

photo by Jim Mackay

It is a very old tablestone, put in place before the later subtleties of tablestone design caught up with the Highlands.The inscription on the stone has spalled in places and that combined with ligatures, scarring and erosion makes it difficult to pick out some characters. We have tried to resolve those with some night-time oblique lighting with the Kirkmichael Lampie, with partial success. Two images of a section are provided below containing a word which has defied us. The inscription reads:

Here lyes the body / of DONALD IOUNOR sometime …A… / in Litel Farnes / who died 2[?]6 of Agust 1708 and / his spouse / ELS/PET GRANT wh/o died [no date given.]
[Box at base:]
[Additional descendants in centre:]

photo by Jim Mackay

Can you suggest the missing word? – I think the first letters may be DUAL, so it could simply be a variant of DWELLER, with the last letters squeezed in and eroded. Little Farness is now known simply as Farness (and Meikle Farness became part of Davidston). The marriage of Donald and Elspet does not appear in the Cromarty Registers, and the baptisms of their children do not appear there, either, except for one child:

1702 … Aug. 30 Margt. Junor L.D. to Donald Junor & Elspet Grant in Da[vid]stoun

Clearly the family by the time the inscription was carved on the Kirkmichael tablestone had moved from Davidston to become the tenants at Little Farness.

The initials of three generations of male Junors and their spouses; photo by Jim Mackay

The next generation commemorated on the tablestone bore the initials WI and EF and the owners of those initials were still resident at Little Farness:

1730 Febry 5th William Juner tenent in Little Farness and Elspet Feddas in Cro[mar]ty were Contracted in order to marriage
1745 … March … 30th Wm L son to William Jener & Elspet Feddas Little Farness
1749 … May 21st. William Junor tent in Blairnachlaich & Elizabeth Feddas his spoues had a child bapd named – Alexander
1752 … Junor William tenant Blernachlach Elspat Feddas Jany 5th William
1754 … Junor William tenant Blernaclach Elspat Feddes Jan 6 Elizabeth

William was still in Blairnaclach in December 1762 as he is referenced in the Resolis marriage register:

3 December 1762 William Holm son to William Holm weaver in Culballachie & Ann Junnor daughter to William Junnor tenent in Blernaclach

The final generation represented on the tablestone bears the initials A I and K MK, or Alexander Junor and Katherine Mackenzie, in Ardeville. Their marriage was recorded in the perfunctory manner of this period in the Cromarty marriage register:

1779 … June … 18th Alexander Joyner & Katharine McKenzie

The baptisms of six children are subsequently recorded. The first is in 1780, and the last is in 1796, and both give the location as Ardeville, with Alexander in the final one being recorded as “Farmer in Ardevell”. Alexander died in 1829 while Katharine survived right through to 1840. We know these dates of death as Cromarty holds a rarity for this period, a surviving parish burial register.

1829 … May 1 Alexr. Joyner an old man in Ardival
1840 … 30 May Catharine MacKenzie, or Junor Ardivalle burried at Kirkmichael

The generations of Junors commemorated on the Kirkmichael tablestone, and their relationship with Hugh Miller’s antecedents, can be very simply expressed in the following schematic, where I have underlined the same two sisters as in the earlier Hugh Miller tree extract in red:

Regarding the next generation, I have identified two of the children of Alexander Junor and Katharine Mackenzie who lived through to the period of modern civil registration and census returns.

One daughter (Christian) married William Macdonald, farmer in Cullicudden, whose family gave rise to Cullicudden schoolmaster Donald Macdonald, subject of a Story here, and of Canadian “national poet” William Pugsley McDonald, subject of a Story here.

One son (Alexander) continued as farmer at Ardeville, marrying Ann Munro there, and having numerous children. He lost both wife and Ardeville in the 1840s and changed tack in life altogether. Having been bankrupted as a farmer in 1841, he became a journeyman mason and moved to Resolis, where he married Janet Paterson. However, we shall return to Alexander later in this Story.


Where was Hugh Miller’s father farmed out to?

But to return to Hugh Miller’s father and the mystery of to which maternal aunt, and where, he was farmed out. Hugh Miller says that his father, also Hugh Miller, was told to drown the puppies when he was in his sixth or seventh year (a hard thing to ask a child of that age, of any age, to do). Hugh the father was born in 1754, and “in his sixth or seventh year” would make the year 1759 or 1760. The reason why Hugh had been farmed out to the Junors was presumably because his widowed mother, Elizabeth Miller ms Feddes, was struggling to support the rest of the family. Her sister, Elspet Junor ms Feddes, was married to a substantial tenant farmer, so it is clear why young Hugh had to move home, albeit for a couple of years only – until his unexpected return to Cromarty.

Given the incident occurred in 1759 or 1760, and we know that the Junors were still in Blairnaclach in December 1762, the young Hugh Miller had to walk a few miles from Resolis back to Cromarty. I have to say this is more understandable as a story, as the walk from Resolis would be more challenging for a young boy, especially for a young boy carrying a litter of puppies!

By the way, you may have noted from the earlier image of a section of Hugh Miller’s family tree, as drawn up by a descendant, that it sets out his grandfather Alexander Miller marrying Elspeth Feddes. This is not the case. While the marriage entry is not to be found in the registers, four baptisms can be found there, and in each case the mother is given as Elizabeth (or Elizabath) Feddes.

1740 … Octr [blank] Elizabath L Daughter to Allexr Miller & Elizabath Feddas Croty.
1743 … March 30th John L. Son to Allexr Miller & Elizabath Feddas Cromarty
1745 … Agust 22d Allexr L: son to Allexr Miller & Elizabath Feddas Cromarty
1754 … Oct: 11th [n.b. not 14th as in some accounts] Hugh L.S. to Alexr Miller Boatman & Elizabeth Feddes Bap:

Alexander Miller thus married Elizabeth Feddes at some point before 1740. William Junor married Elspet Feddes in 1730. The earlier baptism records for Cromarty show that Elspet was baptised in 1710 whilst sister Elizabeth was born the following year, 1711. The two names are sometimes used interchangeably, and indeed Elspet Junor on one occasion is recorded as Elizabeth Junor, but it seems clear that Elizabeth Miller ms Feddes was consistently known as Elizabeth. The two key Cromarty baptism records are:

1710 … May 7th Elspet L: D: to John Feddes and Jean Gally in Cromerty
1711 … Novr 27 Elizabeth lawfull daughter to John Feddas and Jean Gally in Cro[mar]ty


Davidston to Little Farness to Blairnaclach to Ardeville

We have seen how the Junor family were first noted in Davidston in 1702, when Donald Junor and Elspet Grant had a child baptised. From the Kirkmichael tablestone, Donald Junor was “late of Litel Farnes” when he died in 1708. Their son William Junor and wife Elspet Feddes were in Little Farness earlier in life but moved to Blairnaclach. And their son Alexander Junor and wife Katherine Mackenzie were well established in Ardeville for more than 60 years. All these farms were within a few miles of each other – indeed, Ardeville is but a short distance up the hill from Farness.

Relationship of Little Farness and Ardeville in 1764 Estate Plan by the young David Aitken

Blairnaclach has not been used as a name now for more than a hundred years, but was at this time part of the land owned by the Gun Munros of Poyntzfield. I see a 1766 charter by George Munro of Poyntzfield to Wm. and Charles Poyntz of the lands of Ardoch, Teaninich, Blairnaclach, Calins Croft, Badofin, Kirkmichael, Newhall, Ballacherry, Ballaskilly, Birks, Aldynie, Calmies Croft, Wood of Braelangwell, and Cullicudin, also Gruids with Pitarskie. Similarly, I see Poyntzfield sasines in 1788 and 1854 referring to “Blairnaclach”. I don’t know exactly where it lay but from the references to nearby known locations it must have been in the area roughly from present day Jemimaville to above Poyntzfield.

The son of William Junor and Elspet Feddes, Alexander Junor, he who married Katharine Mackenzie, became the tenant farmer in Ardeville. The first record we have of him there is in 1780 and I see that Katharine died there in 1840, 60 years later! Hugh Miller refers to his grandmother’s sister (Elspet Feddes) as “now the mistress of the farm-house of Ardavell” so I think it likely that she and her husband had re-located from Blairnaclach to Ardeville at some point. As an alternative, it is also possible that she came to live with son Alexander at Ardeville on the death of her husband. In either case this would explain Miller’s description.


The Latter Days of the Ardeville Junors

Ardeville was part of the Cromarty Estate, and it was the practice of the Estate to advertise the forthcoming tenancies of the estate every few years as the current tenancies were due to expire. The sitting tenants usually took up the tenancies (unless they had fallen behind in their payments) and the families of Junor and Stewart were associated with Ardeville for many decades. These advertisements provide a snapshot of the land concerned and the sitting tenants at tenancy renewal, so let us run through them, starting with The Caledonian Mercury of 28 November 1799 (the sitting tenants were not mentioned at this time):

The tenants are named in later advertisements. This is from the Inverness Courier of 2 October 1823:

The following would have been the last lease taken up by Alexander Junor Senior; after this the farmer would be Alexander Junor Junior (I had to put it in). This is from the Inverness Courier of 26 July 1826 and note the farm is temporarily being called Ardwell instead of Ardeville:

Exactly the same advertisement appeared three years later, in 1829, but in 1832 we have a return to the name of Ardeville, only we now have clarity on where the two families of Junor and Stewart were located (Easter and Wester Ardeville). The advertisements were run nationally; this is from the Perthshire Courier of 31 May 1832:

Just below Ardeville, looking down over the fields of Ardeville and Farness to the Cromarty Firth. Kirkmichael is tucked away on the bay on the left; photo by G.O. Ogle

In 1835, the leases being offered from Whitsunday 1836 were now for seven years rather than three, representing a major step forward in modernising agriculture – with a longer guaranteed period in place farmers had more incentive to improve soil and buildings. This is from the Perthshire Courier of 28 May 1835, which introduced yet more variants of the name:

And finally, I see from the Inverness Courier of 29 June 1842 that Alexander Junor was still mentioned as the tenant in Ardeville but he was very shortly to move to Jemimaville and set himself up as a mason:

Just to step back a year, to look at the scene as viewed in the Census return of 1841 for Ardeville you might be forgiven for thinking the return painted a rosy picture. In reality, everything was about to collapse.

1841 Census return Ardevale
Alexander Junor 30
Ann Junor 25
Alexander Junor 6 / John Junor 3 / Ann Junor 2 / [no Christian name yet] Junor Male 0
William Fraser 20 / Alexander McLennan 13

We see in the Cromarty Sheriff Court records for 1841 that Robert Ross, agent for the Commercial Bank, was seeking power to uplift the property of various indebted people near Cromarty, and sadly “Alexander Junner, farmer, Ardeville” was one of them. The newspapers of the time carried the listings of those who had applied to court for Cessio bonorum (a voluntary surrender of goods by a debtor to his creditors which protected the debtor from personal arrest), and under “Applications for cessio bonorum” could be found “Alexander Junner, farmer at Ardival, in the County of Cromarty – to be examined in the Sheriff’s office, Cromarty, 2d April, twelve o’clock.”

And so the Junors were finished with Ardeville. Worse was to follow, for Ann Munro died, sometime between 1848 when their last child was born and the 1851 census. We pick up on Alexander Junor, now a mason in Jemimaville, in the Resolis Church of Scotland baptism register:

1 January 1846 Alexander Junor mason Jamimaville & Ann Munro – William born 17 December
7 December 1848 Alexander Juner mason Jamimaville & Ann Munro – Donald born 6 October

And the family in 1851 in Jemimaville:

1851 Census return Jamimaville
Alexr Junor head widower 40 journeyman mason born Cromarty
Ann Junor daur u 13 housekeeper Cromarty
Cathne Junor daur 10 housekeeper born Cromarty
Jessie Junor daur 8 born Resolis
William Junor son 5 born Resolis
Donald Junor son 2 born Resolis
Janet Paterson servant u 29 house servant Urquhart

The widowed Alexander was to marry in 1860 Janet Paterson, seen as a house servant in his home in 1851. There was to be a daughter, Elizabeth, born the following year. There were no more children, and Alexander was to die in Jemimaville in 1868.


Appendix: The Hugh Miller supernatural tale

You will have noted from the lease advertisements the close association at Ardeville of the Junor family and the Stewart family. One early connection from the end of the 18th century arose when tenant farmer at Ardeville, John Stewart, married Elizabeth Juner. They had children in the 1780s and 1790s (William in 1783, Mary in 1785, Alexander in 1787, Janet in 1790 and another William in 1792). Several of this family are also buried in Kirkmichael, below the west gable with its belfry “designed in a barbarous style of architecture”. The inscription on one of the tablestones reads:

Placed here / by ELIZABETH STEWART / in memory of her son / WILLIAM STEWART / farmer Ardivall / who died the 31 Decr 1822 / aged 30 years / of her son / JOHN STEWART / who died the 8th Jany 1823 / aged 28 years / and of her daughter / JANNET STEWART / who died the 21 Nov 1823 / aged 33 years

If that description of the belfry sounds familiar, it is because Hugh Miller describes it intimately. He wrought for a week carving the inscription on a relative’s gravestone below that belfry in Kirkmichael. I have concluded from the dates in a supernatural tale he relates (involving one of the Stewart sons mentioned on this stone) that it was this particular inscription on which he was working. I have never established what the relationship between the Millers and the Stewarts was, but clearly here is one common name of Junor. Unfortunately the Resolis marriage register was not maintained during this period under the slipshod Reverend Robert Arthur, but a good working hypothesis is that the Elizabeth Junor whom John Stewart of Ardival married was the daughter baptised in 1754 to William Junor tenant Blernaclach & Elspat Feddes. Expect another story on Hugh Miller’s connection with Kirkmichael when the Stewart relationship has been confirmed!

… and on the western gable there was fixed a huge gnomon of bronze, fantastically carved like that of an antique dial, and green with the rust of ages. Suddenly a low breeze began to moan through the shrubs and bushes, the heavens became overcast, and the dreamer, turning towards the building, beheld with a sensation of fear the gnomon revolving slowly as on an axis, until the point rested significantly on the sward. He fled the place in deep horror… Only five week elapsed from this evening, until he followed to the burying-ground the corpse of a relative, and saw that the open grave occupied the identical spot on which the gnomon had rested.


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