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

The Mackenzie family: tacksmen of Craighouse or Castle Craig,
and the Ardchronie Connection

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated


Cullicudden Burial Ground; photo by Andrew Dowsett

It was a strange inscription to find in Cullicudden Burial Ground. It presented a challenge. The headstone simply said:

Erected in memory of JAMES MACKENZIE late teacher at Houghton Le Spring Durham who died July the 12th 1855 aged 18 years

Well, a teacher, aged 18, in the far away County of Durham? The lad must have been born about 1837, but there was no James Mackenzie born in our parish in that period. There was no James Mackenzie of the right age in the parish in the 1851 Census. But logically he must have had connections with the parish to be buried in Cullicudden.

photo by Jim Mackay

I invested in that often less-than-useful document, an English death certificate. This is how it read:

1855 Deaths in the District of Houghton le Spring in the County of Durham
Died 12 July 1855 at East Herrington, East and Middle Herrington, James McKenzie age 18 Teacher cause of death Tabes Mesenterica Certified. Informant Charles McKenzie, present at the death, residence No. 9 D’Arcy Terrace Bp. Wearmouth

“Tabes Mesenterica” is a variant of that awful disease of tuberculosis or TB or phthisis. The death certificate confirmed that James, despite being aged only 18, was a teacher. But no parent was given. This was proving to be more difficult than I expected.

The informant, Charles Mackenzie, was the clue to follow, and usefully the town he was residing in – “Bp. Wearmouth” – was given. This was an abbreviated Bishopwearmouth, in Sunderland. D’Arcy Street in the photograph below continued onto D’Arcy Terrace, which can be seen just in the distance (courtesy of Sunderland Antiquarian Society). I was hoping that Charles would still be resident in Bishopwearmouth in 1861, at the time of the next Census and … success!

1861 Census Return Bishopwearmouth
Charles McKenzie head mar 37 Teacher of English Classes &c born Scotland
Frances H McKenzie wife mar 28 Teachers Wife born Durham Chester le St.
Frances B do. daur 1 born Durham Sunderland

The deceased James had been a teacher, and this Charles was a teacher, so we can be pretty sure this is the right Charles! The couple had clearly been not long married, so the next step was to find their marriage certificate which would hopefully throw some more light on the origins of Charles, and, I was assuming, his brother James.

Well, the English marriage indices indicated that the marriage had occurred in 1858, and the spouse of Charles was another teacher, one Frances Hannah Gabriel. They had three children, Frances, Charles (who became a coal exporter in Sunderland) and James (the great-grandfather of a correspondent of mine, Jim Mackenzie). With a unique name like Frances Hannah Gabriel it was a simple task to identify the families involved.

These two teachers, Charles and James, were two of the progeny of miller Thomas Mackenzie and Barbara Clark. Thomas was one of the Mackenzie family, long-standing tenants and tacksmen at Castle Craig in Cullicudden, Parish of Resolis.

The cornfields of Craigtown lie to the south of the ancient keep of Castle Craig; photo by Andrew Dowsett

One line of the descendants of the Castle Craig family moved to the farm of Ardchronie, west of Tain, on the Dornoch Firth, and they are well documented through a marvellous biographical book, published privately in 1893, entitled “Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children”. Descendant Jim Mackenzie digitised a copy of the book and forwarded a copy to me some years ago and it was good to review it once again. It isn’t perfect as it is based on the memories of the children who had emigrated to America many years before but is a fantastic read. The “Children” were unaware of the later lives of their two teaching cousins, but somehow their book found its way to the son of Charles the teacher, the teacher who according to the book had died unmarried! As owner of the book, the son signed the flyleaf – “C. Mackenzie Sunderland 1895” – just a couple of years after its publication.


Earliest Records – James Mackenzie, tenant at Craighouse, and Christian Murray

Let’s go back to the mid-1700s. There are three baptism records relating to children of James and Christian, summarised as follows.

guided tour of Castle Craig by the Kirkmichael Trust; photo by Andrew Dowsett

photo by Andrew Dowsett


Parish of Resolis Baptisms
16 November 1749 James McKinzie tenant in Craighouse & Christian Murray – James
30 March 1752 James McKinzie tenant Craighouse & Christn. Murray – Alexr
7 October 1755 James McKinzie tenant Castle Craig & Christn. Murray – Janet

There were at least two earlier children, Helen (whom we identify from the marriage entry below) and Thomas (identified from the estate rentals to which we’ll come).

Parish of Resolis Marriages
12 June 1767 William Holm tennant in Drimcudden & son to Angus Holm taxman in the Inch & Helen Mckenzie daughter to the deceased James Mckenzie tenant in Craighouse (more about William Holm and Helen Mackenzie may be found in two other Stories behind the Stone here and here).

The first records we have of the family are in fact these from the mid 1700s, when the children of James Mackenzie, tenant at Castle Craig or Craighouse, and his spouse Christian Murray were being born or getting married, and from early Newhall Estate rentals. I think the family would have resided at what is now known as Craigton, just up the hill from the Castle itself.

Newhall Estate Judicial Rental 1744 – NRS file SC24/16/3
Abstract Judicial Rental of the Lands of Cullycudden and Breas &c as Sworn in October 1744 and according to which Rental the Estate was Sold wt.out any deduction but ye. Publicks & hens
Ja: McKenzie
Wm Urquhart

And again, James Mackenzie was one of two tenants in 1755:

Newhall Estate Rental 1755
Thomas Urquhart
James Mackenzie

Castle Craig, once an Urquhart keep, had passed to the Newhall Estate long ago, but was returned to the Urquhart family in the 1950s. The Clan Urquhart Foundation is stabilising the ruin whilst considering options for its future. The Kirkmichael Trust has assisted the Foundation in clearing undergrowth to allow archaeological investigations, and has provided guided tours of the site.

the Trust strimming in the rain, at Castle Craig; photo by Jim Mackay

archaeological dig at Castle Craig supervised by Connie Rodriguez; photo by Jim Mackay


The tenancy at Craighouse was carried on by son Thomas, who married Mary Macdonald.

Parish of Resolis Marriage
1768 The 10th of Novr. Thomas Mackenzie Taxman at Craighouse & Mary MacDonald maidservt. there were Contracted & married Decmr. 22d.

Confirmation that Thomas was indeed the son of James lies within the Judicial Rental of the Newhall Estate of 1762:

Thomas Mackenzie Tennant in Craighouse son of the deceased James Mackenzie late Tennant there
Alexander Taylor Tennant in Craighouse…

James had therefore died before 1762. By the way, the Taylor family of Craighouse, the other tenant mentioned there, was often called Macdonald, one of the many patronymics used in the area. I wonder if Mary Macdonald “maidservt. there” was a relative of Alexander Macdonald alias Taylor?

There is more information on the different tenancies within the Newhall Estate rentals, some held in Edinburgh in the NRS, some held in Inverness in the Highland Archives. The following is from HRA/D32/H1(a) in the Highland Archives:

Copy Scheme in Valuation of Teinds of the Lands belonging to Donald McKenzie Esq. of Newhall in the United parishes of Kirkmichael & Cullicudden 29 June 1808
4. Craighouse p. Thomas McKenzie 12 Bolls Meal, 4 Bolls Barley, £2.4.- money rent
5. Part thereof, p. Alexr MacDonald, alias Taylor 14 Bolls Meal, £2.-.- money rent

Castle Craig has always acted as a magnet for youngsters, such as Gavin here; photo by Jim Mackay

it would be too dangerous to stand there nowadays; photo by Jim Mackay


There are baptism records of five children to Thomas and Mary, summarised as follows:

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
11 June 1770 Thomas Mackenzie taxman in Craighouse & Mary Macdonald – James
25 October 1771 Thomas Mackenzie tennant in Craighouse & Mary McDonald – Katharine
19 May 1773 Thomas Mackenzie tennent in Craighous & Mary MacDonald – Christian
1 May 1775 Thomas Mackenzie tennent in Craighouse & Mary McDonald – William
28 Dec 1778 Thomas Mckenzie tenent in Craighouse & Mary McDonald – Thomas

Four of them established dynasties of their own.


Captain James Mackenzie (1770–1844)

The eldest was James, or Captain James Mackenzie, who started his career as a bad carpenter but gave it up at an early age and joined the militia at a Culbokie market. The “Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children” states that he enlisted into

the Clan Alpin Regiment of Fencibles (Infantry), in which he soon rose to be an ensign. He served in Ireland and fought at the battle of Vinegar Hill in Wexford. In the year 1800 he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the same Regiment. He volunteered to join a Regiment of the Line in the Peninsula… However, he only got as far as Liverpool, bound for the Peninsula, when he received orders to proceed to Ross-shire, to drill the Militia; and on the 24th May, 1813, he was gazetted Captain and Adjutant of the Eastern Regiment of Ross and Cromarty Local Militia.
      In the year 1801, our father was presented with the freedom of the Royal Burgh of Dingwall. He was a Free-Mason, and was chaplain of the St. Duthus Lodge in Tain. Upon his retirement from the active Militia, the Adjutant was the recipient of a massivce silver snuff-box, which was a presentation to him by the non-commissioned officers of the Ross and Cromarty Local Militia. … Our father’s first wife was named [Margaret] Aird. The children of this marriage were Elizabeth Bentley, Thomas, Margaret Hay, Christina, and Elizabeth…

The “Chronicles” was, as the title suggests, based on the memories of the children, and even in this generation there were omissions. James in fact had 10 children by Grace Aird, mostly in Resolis, although the only baptism register entries that have survived are as follows:

Parish of Glasgow Baptisms
September 1796 … James Mackenzie, Serjeant in the Ross-shire Fencibles, & Margaret Aird, a L. daur. Mary, bo: 25th. Witn: Alexander Mackenzie & John Sutherland.
Parish of Resolis Baptisms
April 21st. 1803 Mr. James MacKenzie Drumcudden & Margt. Aird his spouse had a Child born the 21st. April & baptised the 2d. May named Christian.
1809 … Mr. James McKenzie Chapeltown and his spouse Margaret Aird had a child born 25th. and baptised [blank] named Alexander.

It is hard to believe, but having had 10 children with his first wife, James went on to have another 14 children with his second wife, whom he married in Tain:

Parish of Tain Marriages
Tain 16th Octr. 1812 That day Agutant James McKenzie of the Easter Ross Local Militia entered into the Honourable Bond of Marriage with Grace Innes lawfull [daughter] of Mr [Alexander] Innes Schoolmaster of Loggie [Easter]

The “Chronicles” continues:

Secondly, our father married our mother, Grace Innes, of Logie Easter. … The children of this marriage numbered fourteen, namely– Alexander and Mary (twins); Catherine, Grace Innes; James; Pryse Alexander; Martha; John Innes; William; Alexander Innes; Jane; Margaret; Mary; and Campbell Munro Ross. The twins, Catharine and Grace were born in Tain; the others were all born at Ardcronie. Alexander and Mary, the twins, died when a little over one year old.

Ardchronie in the Parish of Kincardine; first edition Ordnance Survey in the 1870s

The “Chronicles” provides the life story of the Adjutant’s many children so I shall say no more. In 1816 the Adjutant took on the farm of Ardchronie, out to the west of Tain, almost as far as the church at Kincardine, and just above the Dornoch Firth. It was a small farm of steep braes and woods, with some fields interspersed, and it is difficult to see how he could have kept himself and all his children on its produce, but I presume he was also drawing a military pension. Having said that, there were clearly some very fertile areas too. This is from the Inverness Courier of 28 August 1844:

A correspondent writes us from Bonar that the appearance of the crops along the side of the Sutherland Kyle is very gratifying. On the Ross-shire side of the Frith – especially over the fertile and beautiful flats towards Ardgay, and towards the Bridge of Carron – the oat fields are weighty, but threaten to be late and have a good deal of smut. The potatoes are a very promising crop… A small rich field of barley, belonging to Captain Mackenzie, Ardcronie Cottage, was cut down early last week, and fully ripe.

Ardchronie is on the Balnagown Estate and features on one of the massive set of 1808 Balnagown Estate Plans held by the National Records of Scotland. The plan is now digitally available when you visit the NRS (RHP13299/40).

I note from the Inverness Journal of 2 July 1813 that Balnagown Estate were seeking to let much land in the Parish of Kincardine, and were also offering the Inn at Kincardine to be let as well. They offered to include Ardchronie with the Inn as an attractive package, but I presume it was not taken up until the Adjutant took it on in 1816.

Part of Balnagown Estate advertisement in the Inverness Journal of 2 July 1813

At a time when many varied artefacts were being donated to the Museum of the Northern Institution, I note from the Inverness Journal of 26 June 1829 that “a beautiful specimen of the Great Northern Diver, killed at Ardcronie, on the Dornoch Firth, has been sent by Captain Mackenzie, Ardcronie.” Hmm.

A great number of farms on the Balnagown Estate were being offered for let in 1832, on suprisingly long tenancies for the time (19 years from Whitsunday 1833), and Ardchronie was one of them. The Inverness Journal lists them all, giving:

8th.– ARDCHRONIE, presently occupied by Adjutant Mackenzie. On this Farm there is a neat Cottage.

Sitting tenants had first rights to the new tenancy so the Adjutant would have simply continued with Ardchronie. He was obviously well regarded by the proprietor and by the tenants as the following year it was he who gave the leading toast on the celebration of Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown coming of age. This is from the Inverness Courier of 30 January 1833:

Ardgay, 19th January.– On the occasion of Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown becoming of age, his tenants and clansmen in the parish of Kincardine gave way to the most unbounded demonstrations of their joy. Magnificent bonfires were lighted up … The more respectable tenants of the district retired to Kincardine Inn, where an excellent dinner had been prepared by Mr Ross, himself a tenant. Capt. Mackenzie, Ardchrony, being called to the chair, proposed the leading toast of the evening in an an appropriate address responded to by every bosom present. They had met, he said, to celebrate the majority of Sir Charles Ross, the scion of a long line of noble and of warlike ancestors. The high-minded and generous enthusiasm which was already to be traced in their young chieftain, and the strong attachment which he evinced for his native land, and particularly for the scenes of his boyish years, afforded ample proof that the blood of his sires had not degenerated in his veins. Since the death of his lamented father, the crest of the Rosses had drooped, and their rallying cry had been faint; but action, energy, and power were in the name which he proposed as the subject of their toast. The health of Sir Charles was then drunk with all the honours. Next in succession came the healths of Lady Mary Ross, Lady Lockhart, Lady Fowlis, the Misses Ross…

There were more healths drunk, and given there would be a dram at every toast, it must have been a very convivial evening.

Balnagown memorial in Kincardine Old graveyard; photo by Jim Mackay

“Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children” makes fascinating reading, weaving in childhood escapades, family life, local history, and references to great people of the time. A marvellous source of information on life back in the 1800s in the Scottish Highlands.

I note by the way that the book refers to “The Apostle of the North” whom the children could hear at Ardchronie when he was outside preaching at the communion at Creich on the other side of the Firth! This was the famous Dr John Macdonald of Ferintosh (1779–1849) who baptised all the children of Thomas Mackenzie and Barbara Clark. For more on “The Apostle of the North” see our Memorials to Ministers Story here.


Catherine Mackenzie (1771–1854)

Catherine or Katherine Mackenzie married crofter and shop-keeper in Mulchaich, Parish of Urquhart, Alexander Cameron, sometime in the 1790s. I presume the marriage was in Resolis, in that unfortunate period when our marriage register was not maintained.

They had children John (1800), Mary (1801), William (1803), Alexander (1805), Thomas (1807), another John (1808) and James (1810). The “Chronicles” contains a wonderful story about Alexander and Katherine:

“The only relatives of his that I knew, were his brother Thomas, a miller at Conon-side, a very superior man and an elder; and their sister Mrs [Katherine] Cameron of Mulchaich, whose husband [Alexander Cameron] was also an elder of Ferrintosh, and who was known as the Ceannaiche (‘merchant’) for he kept a small shop. I went there once with Charley Mackenzie [son of Thomas the miller], our cousin, and being bent on fishing, we went for Uncle Cameron’s colt’s tail to make lines. He was hoeing turnips and came after us and said – Fag carball an t’each (‘leave the horse’s tail,’) and drove us off. Aunt Cameron, however, made up for it, by giving us any quantity of milk, and bread and butter.”

A headstone smothered in ivy in Old Urquhart Burial Ground commemorates the irascible Alexander Cameron. It was erected by three sons, and bears an effusive eulogy to the merchant and elder – but outrageously does not mention their mother, the friendly Katherine Mackenzie, who died in 1854.

headstone commemorating Alexander Cameron in Old Urquhart burial ground; photo by Jim Mackay

Oh, you want the eulogy to the elder?

1846. Sacred to the memory of Alexander Cameron, merchant at Mulchaich, Urquhart, who departed this life on the 7th day of March 1845, in the 84th year of his age. His natural talents were of a high order, and directed by the influence of religeon [sic] from his earliest years, his character both public and private was marked by the strictest consistency, integrity and decision. He officiated long and faithfully as an elder in the church,and his sorrowing family have in him sustained the loss of their best earthly friend & counsellor. This monument is erected as a tribute of respect by his sons, William Cameron, Minister of the parish of Lochbroom, John Cameron, grocer, Tain, and James Cameron, surgeon, Tain.

There was an even more effusive eulogy in the Inverness Courier 19 March 1845:

At Mulchaich, in the parish of Ferrintosh, on the 7th inst., Alexander Cameron, Merchant, aged 85, sincerely regretted by his family, his brethren in the eldership, the congregation with which he was so long and so beneficially connected, and all who had the advantage of being acquainted with him. In every relation of life this venerable patriarch was an ornament to the office which he held in the Church; and his departure has left a void which will long be deplored. In the discharge of every party of his duty he was active and conspicuous, walking humbly with God and uprightly with men. Humility, candour, charitableness, and benevolence, were prominent features of his character. While he held fast what he believed to tbe the truth, “his moderation was known unto all” who knew him, and he exemplarily “followed after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” At the awful hour of death his demeanour was that of a confirmed and cheerful Christian, and he “came to his grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in its season.” The unusual concourse of manifest mourners at his funeral evinced the estimation in which he was held by all classes.

I imagine this portrait was written by his son William, the minister. In contrast, the poor mother gets two lines:

Inverness Courier 11 May 1854
At Mulchaich of Ferrintosh, Urquhart, on the 1st instant, Katharine Mackenzie, aged 82 years, relict of the late Mr Alexander Cameron, Merchant, Ferrintosh.


Christian Mackenzie (1773–)

I have been unable to trace Christian, and I suspect she died young.


William Mackenzie (1775–1844)

William continued as tenant at Castle Craig for some time, before moving, within the same estate of Newhall, to become the tenant at Springfield, a mile away. The “Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children” mentions him:

Our brother James says– “Father had a brother William, the youngest [actually the second youngest]. I have seen him at Ardchronie; he resembled father and Uncle Tom, but he was not then grey-haired. He was a tenant-farmer in the Black Isle.”

He married Janet Robertson, and they are commemorated on a tablestone in Cullicudden. They had children Thomas (1812), Donald (1814), William (c1818), James (1819), Mary (1822), John (1825) and Margaret (1827).

The tablestone in Cullicudden commemorating Wiliam Mackenzie, Janet Robertson and family; photo by Jim Mackay

The baptism register has William and Janet at Craighouse in 1814 and at Springfield in 1819, but we can narrow down the move more closely thanks to an 1818 marginal note (in italics below) on the Newhall Estate Rental of 1816

HRA/D32/J1a Rental of The Estate of Newhall as at Martinmas 1816 as entailed
Farms         Tenants Names
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

It is likely from this that William had moved from Craighouse, where the family had been tenants since at least the mid 1700s, in 1818.

1. Son James became the miller at Newmills. When the mill went up in flames in 1873, he stood trial as being involved in a plot to burn it down but was freed following a “not proven” verdict. He continued as miller in the reconstructed mill for many years. See the Story here for more details.

The replacement mill at Newmills, operated by James Mackenzie; photo by Jim Mackay

James married when a mature fellow. The age gap must have made him uncomfortable so he took five years off his age for the record!

Parish of Resolis Marriages
17 June 1864 at Alness Ferry after Banns, according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
James McKenzie miller (bachelor) age 40 Newmills parents William McKenzie farmer (deceased) Janet McKenzie m.s. Robertson (deceased)
Catherine Munro farmer’s daughter (spinster) age 30 Alness Ferry parents James Munro farmer Christina Munro m.s. McKenzie
Dond. Sage F.C. Minister Hugh Munro witness William K. Stewart witness

James survived through to as recent a date as 1910, dying at the age of 91 still at Newmills.

2. Son William continued to farm at Springfield, first with his father and then by himself after his father died. As a young man he had an entertaining stand-off in 1841 with the Kirk Session in Resolis over the terms of being subjected to discipline for responsibility for an illegitimate child. I include the details in an appendix as it was an unusual case – he accepted he could be the father but would not agree how many times he and the mother were together, and would not accept discipline until the child was born! On the verge of excommunication, he was eventually persuaded to apologise, and with an abrupt turn-around said he would be privileged to accept discipline. He married in 1852 one Christina McDonald but died still a young man in 1858 and is buried in Cullicudden.

3. Daughter Mary married Duncan Macpherson in 1848, but she was to die, still a young woman, in 1857. She is buried in Cullicudden. Their handsome red granite headstone stands to the west of the Mackenzie stones and bears much information on the Macphersons:

guided tour of Castle Craig by the Kirkmichael Trust; photo by Jim Mackay

photo by Jim Mackay


Erected by Evan and William McPherson, in memory of their father and mother Duncan McPherson, crofter, Springfield, died 24th April 1894 aged 80 years.
His wife Mary McKenzie died 2nd February 1857, aged 35 years.
Also their brother, William, who died in infancy.
And their sister Jessie, who died at Edinburgh, 3rd February 1904, aged 52 years.
Also the said William McPherson beloved husband of Henrietta Ross who died at Springfield, 7th November 1933 aged 78 years.
Also the said Henrietta Ross, died 19th May 1947, aged 87 years, and their daughter Mary, died 30th January 1942, aged 46 years.
And William’s son Donnie R. McPherson, who died 14th January 1903, aged 4 years.

It was son James, miller in Newmills, who commissioned the tablestone as a memorial to his parents, and it was later used to commemorate himself and his spouse, Catherine Munro:

Erected by James McKenzie in memory of his father William McKenzie late farmer in Springfields who died Feb 27 1844 aged 69 years.
And also of his mother Janet Robertson who died 25 Sepr 1836 aged 50 years
The said James McKenzie miller in Newmills who died 13th June 1910
His wife Catherine Munro who died 25 Nov 1908


Thomas (1778–died in period 1851 to 1854)

The youngest child was Thomas, who became the miller on Conanside, close to Conan Mains, at an early age. He married firstly a Janet Robertson about whom nothing seems to be known and secondly, on 23 December 1819, in the Parish of Urquhart, Barbara Clark from Bog of Findon.

Parish of Urquhart Marriages
1819 … Decr. 23rd. Thomas Mackenzie, miller, Conanside, and Barbara Clark Bog of Findon: married by do. [Mr J. McDond. (the Apostle of the North)]

The initials of Thomas Mackenzie and Barbara Clark emerge as the sun moves round on their tablestone at Cullicudden Burial Ground – the headstone of their son James is adjacent; photo by Jim Mackay

They had Mary (1821), Charles (1822), Thomas (1824), John (1827), Ann (1829), Catharine (1832), Barbara Mary (1834) and James (1837). Those children included the two teachers, Charles and James, the latter of whom is commemorated by a memorial in Cullicudden.

I shall repeat that lovely anecdote from the “Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children” involving Charles and his uncle’s colt:

“The only relatives of his that I knew, were his brother Thomas, a miller at Conon-side, a very superior man and an elder; and their sister Mrs [Katherine] Cameron of Mulchaich, whose husband [Alexander Cameron] was also an elder of Ferrintosh, and who was known as the Ceannaiche (‘merchant’) for he kept a small shop. I went there once with Charley Mackenzie [son of Thomas the miller], our cousin, and being bent on fishing, we went for Uncle Cameron’s colt’s tail to make lines. He was hoeing turnips and came after us and said – Fag carball an t’each (‘leave the horse’s tail,’) and drove us off. Aunt Cameron, however, made up for it, by giving us any quantity of milk, and bread and butter.”

The “Chronicles” further describes Thomas thus:

Uncle Tom came to Ardcronie at the time of our father’s death (1844) and stayed for several days; he was then grey-haired, but still fresh and ruddy-cheeked, and when we abruptly met him around the premises, he startled us by his resemblance to our father.

On a genealogical tour of the Mackenzie family homes Jim Mackenzie visited Conan Mains and was shown around by the proprietor, John Mackenzie. Amazingly, a mill wheel from the now demolished mill-house was still there, propped up against a tree.

I can find little about the mill. I presume it is the one referred to in the advertisement below, culled from the Inverness Courier of 17 June 1829, where the factor of the Conan Estate was looking for estimates for various works in the area around Riverford and Conon Bridge. One of those works was “A Kiln at the Mill of Loggie”. The First Edition Ordnance Survey mapping shows a cluster of buildings at “Oldmill” just to the south of Conan Mains, and I think that must be the site. The Logie Burn runs close by Oldmill on its way to the Conon, and that would have been the source of the water for the mill. I can’t see any evidence of a lade, however, so the mill must have ceased operation well before the Ordnance Survey mapped the area in the 1870s.


The family are at Logie in 1841, but Thomas retired from the Logie Mill and moved to Smithfield by Culbokie and appears there in the 1851 Census. He died sometime after the Census Return of 1851 and before civil registration began in 1855. Barbara continued to reside at Smithfield, with an unmarried daughter for company. Barbara died in 1872, and is commemorated on the Clark family stone in Old Urquhart.

In memory of Charles Clark, who died on 30th November 1825; and of his wife Ann (McIntosh) Clark, who died in May 1833; and of their children – Donald Clark, Charles Clark, who died in Jul 1860; and Barbara (Clark) McKenzie, who died on 28th December 1872; also of Katherine Mackenzie, daughter of the above Barbara Mackenzie, who died at Dingwall 21st September 1926, aged 95 years.

The Clark family tablestone in Old Urquhart burial ground; photo by Jim Mackay

and Barbara’s inscription upon it; photo by Jim Mackay

I don’t think Barbara is buried in Old Urquhart, though, as the Mackenzie burial ground was in Cullicudden, and there is a tablestone there with T McK and BC on one of the supports. I should think both Thomas and Barbara are buried beneath it. The headstone commemorating their son, young James, the teacher in Houghton le Spring, stands beside it.

the Mackenzie tablestone in Cullicudden, with headstone to son James beside it; photo by Jim Mackay

The other teacher in the family, Charles or Charley, is mentioned in the “Chronicles” on several occasions as he often visited his cousins in Ardcronie whilst he was a teacher in Fearn. The “Chronicles” again:

Our father’s brother THOMAS (UNCLE TOM) was, as before said, a miller near Conon-Bridge, on the River Conon… His son CHARLES was much at Ardcronie from 1840 to 1844; he had a college education, became in 1844 the schoolmaster of the parish of Fearn, east of Tain; subsequently became a master in the chief school of Rothesay (Isle of Bute), and was there while our sister Grace (Mrs Arch’d Birnie) resided there. From Rothesay [and this is where it goes wrong] he went to a town in Worcestershire, England, where he died unmarried.

Well, in reality Charles went to Sunderland in the North East of England, where he married Frances Hannah Gabriel and had three children: James, from whom Mackenzie researcher Jim Mackenzie is descended, Charles who wrote his signature on the “Chronicles of the Ardcronie Children” and Frances Barbara, whose middle name presumably came from grandmother Barbara Clarke.

See Jim’s interesting piece on his family on the excellent Ross Cromarty Heritage website here.

Charles and Frances Hannah Mackenzie contined to live at Bishopwearmouth, Charles dying in 1880 and Frances Hannah as recently as 1904.

We have thus gone from wondering what was the connection between Cullicudden and the young teacher James Mackenzie who died in Houghton le Spring, to finding a whole network of Mackenzie families, all arising from the tacksman of Craighouse back in the 1700s!

cornfield above Castle Craig from Craigton; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Appendix – the battle between William Mackenzie (c1818–1858) and the Kirk Session of Resolis

William Mackenzie came within a whisker’s breadth of being excommunicated for not submitting to the will of the Kirk Session of Resolis in 1841. It is a curious case, as I have seen dozens of examples in Kirk Session records of men denying they were the father of a child, but not one where they accept that – well, read for yourself.

At the Church of Resolis the 20th day of February 1841 years
The which day the Session met and being constituted by prayer,
Sederunt the Moderator [Reverend Donald Sage] and Messrs Robert Munro, William Cameron, James Holm and John Fraser Elders. A Delation was given against Catherine McLeod formerly maid servant to William McKenzie in Brae, in this parish, but at present residing in Cromarty for fornication. The session resolved to request the Session of the Gaelic Church Cromarty to grant warrant to their officer duly to cite the said Catherine Macleod to compear here on Wednesday the third day of March ensuing at a meeting of Session to be held here on that day.

the former Resolis Church of Scotland within which Catherine Macleod and William Mackenzie would be chastised; photo by Jim Mackay

the Minister at the time, the Reverend Donald Sage


At the Church of Resolis the 3rd day of March 1841
The Moderator stated that a request was transmitted to the Session of the Gaelic Church Cromarty to cause cite Catherine McLeod to compear here this day. Being called, she compeared and being duly admonished to tell the truth and interrogated confessed that she is with child in fornication– that William McKinzie an unmarried man and son of William McKinzie tenant in Springfield is the father of her pregnancy– That they were guilty with each other more than once in the field near his fathers house and to the best of her knowledge in the month of July and about the beginning of that month but does not particularly recollect the dates. And most solemnly declares that she was not guilty with any other man. The Session taking the above confession emitted before them by the said Catherine McLeod into consideration resolved that the said William McKinzie should be duly cited to compear here on Tuesday the 9th day current to answer to the charge thus preferred against him and instruct & warrant their officer accordingly & the Session also cite the said Catherine McLeod apud acta to compear here on the same day.

At the Church of Resolis the 9th of March 1841 years.
The which day the Session met and being duly constituted
The Session met according to appointment. Catherine McLeod cited to appear here this day together with William McKinzie in Springfield given up by her as the Father of her pregnancy also cited to appear here both compeared accordingly. William McKinzie being called, compeared, and being solemnly admonished to tell the truth, the confession of Catherine McLeod was ready in his hearing and explained to him and he being interrogated thereupon, confessed that he was guilty with Catherine McLeod, in the wood near his father's house and that they were guilty with each other about the beginning of the month of July last. Being interrogated further was he guilty with her more than once replied that he would neither confess nor deny that, untill Catherine McLeod was delivered of the child & that untill then he would neither confess whether he was guilty with her more than once or not, nor submit to or satisfy the discipline of the church, that when the child was born if its birth came to his time he would then confess and be subject to the laws of the Church.
Catherine McLeod was then called and compeared. Being interrogated did she adhere to her former confession replied that she did, and being further interrogated in presence of William McKinzie declared that they were guilty with each other first in the wood near his father's house, a second time in his father's barn and a third time in the field near his fathers house. William McKinzie denied that he was guilty with her at either of the two last times she mentioned. Being admonished earnestly and repeatedly to make a full and satisfactory confession, he notwithstanding persisted in his obstinacy and was dismissed. The Session resolved that Catherine McLeod should be received at her own earnest request to serve the discipline of the Church. But being near the time of her delivery she craved for delay which was granted accordingly. In regard to William McKinzie the Session resolved to proceed against him for contumacy.

At the Church of Resolis the 22d day of March 1841 years
Thereafter the Session took up the case of William McKinzie in Springfield, already before them for fornication & guilty, by his own confession at last meeting, with Catherine McLeod in Cromarty.
In respect that the said William Mackinzie refuses to make a free and candid confession of guilt, and that he refuses to submit to the discipline of the Church but upon his own terms, before proceeding to the usual steps for laying him under the lesser sentence of excommunication for contumacy, the Session resolved to send two of their number to reason the matter with him and to deal with his conscience and that in the event of his submission he appear before the session on the 30th as above stated.

At the Church of Resolis the 29th day of March 1841 years.
The Session next took up the case of William McKinzie at Springfield, and the two members of Session sent to him stated that having according to appointment had a conference with him, he agreed to appear here today. Being called he did not compear. The Session resolved to proceed against him for contumacy.

At the Church of Resolis the 26 day of April 1841 years.
The Session took up the case of William Mackinzie Springfield & considering that he has already, in all their former dealings with him to bring him to a proper sense of his sin, exhibited much obstinacy and impenitence, that the Session could not hitherto have received him under the discipline of the church. Resolved that he should be called to their next meeting & dealt with further in order to ascertain whether or not he has come to that sense of his sin on the ground of which only he can be allowed to make a public confession.

At the Church of Resolis the 24th day of May 1841.
Thereafter the Session took up the case of William Mackinzie Springfield still under scandal for fornication with Catherine Macleod on account of his refusal at a former meeting & when called upon to do so to make a candid and ingenuous confession of his sin. James Thomson stated that he had a private dealing with him & that he agreed to appear here to day to make the confession required. Being called he compeared & being duly admonished and interrogated, he made a full and candid confession of his sin expressed his contrition for it, & for his former obstinacy and further stated that he was not only willing to serve the discipline of the Church but also that he considered it his privilege to be allowed to do so. Whereupon he was appointed to appear before the Congregation on the ensuing Lords day to be rebuked for the first time. Closed with prayer     Dond Sage Modr.

James Thomson, the elder (and catechist) who had had a word with the uncompromising William Mackenzie features in his own story appropriately entitled “Sex and the Session” here.

The guilty couple would have been chastised from this very pulpit; photo by Jim Mackay


Appendix – The fourth gravestone in Cullicudden

A grey granite headstone stands beside the tablestone commemorating William Mackenzie and Janet Robertson of Newmills. William, as noted above, had given up the tenancy of Craigtown and taken up the tenancy at Springfield about 1818. The position of the headstone to the tablestone is such that a familial relationship was clearly intended, but thus far I have not been able to make the link. Hopefully somebody can! The headstone inscription reads:

In loving memory of our mother, CHRISTIN McKENZIE. Who died at Bellevue, MuirofOrd. on 30th Dec. 1911. aged 75 Years. Interred here. Also our father, DONALD ELDER. Who died at Cromarty. 15th July 1893, aged 55 years. Interred in Cromarty.

The four memorials in Cullicudden. The red spotted tablestone commemorates Thomas Mackenzie and Barbara Clarke, and the blue spotted tablestone commemorates brother William Mackenzie and Janet Robertson. The red spotted headstone commemorates James, son of Thomas and Barbara. But the blue-spotted headstone commemorates Chrisitan Mackenzie, an unknown connection. Photo by Jim Mackay

Christian Mackenzie, it emerges, was the daughter of James Mackenzie, miller at Kinbeachie, and Isabel Thomson. The adjacent tablestone is to William Mackenzie, but the link between these Mackenzies is unclear. This James Mackenzie started out as a wright (a carpenter), before working up to become the miller at Kinbeachie. Milling was always one of the sounder trades, and more about the Mill at Kinbeachie may be read here:

Parish of Resolis Baptism Register
8 April 1823 James McKinzie wright at Toberchurn & Isobel Thomson – John born 28 March
18 October 1826 James McKenzie wright at Drumcudden & Isabel Thompson – Katharine born 15 September
2 December 1828 James McKenzie miller at Drumcudden & Isabel Thompson – Isabel born 14 November
15 April 1831 James McKenzie wright at Culbo & Isabel Thompson – Thomas born 23 March
21 November 1833 James McKenzie miller at Kinbeachie & Isabel Thompson – Mary born 28 July
1 June 1836 James McKenzie miller at Kinbeachie & Isabel Thompson – Christian born 15 May
8 September 1840 James McKenzie miller at Kinbeachie & Isabel Thomson – Katharine born 29 July

I was hoping that the parentage of the miller would assist in clarifying the relationship to William Mackenzie in Springfield. His death certificate wasn’t particularly helpful:

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
James McKenzie carpenter (married to Isabella Thomson) died 6 February 1861 at Kinbeachie age 73 parents John McKenzie farmer (deceased) Catherine McKenzie m.s. Scott (deceased) informant Christina McKenzie her x mark daughter (present)

This was becoming a chase. Who was this farming John McKenzie? Well, again he proves to have been a substantial tenant, close to Craighouse, but in the neighbouring small estate of Kinbeachie. These are his children, with the eldest being James, born in 1788, so his age on his death certificate is accurate, a suprisingly rare phenomenon!

Parish of Resolis Baptism Register
26 April 1788 John Mckenzie tenant in Toberchurn & Cathrine Scot – James
20 July 1790 John McKenzie tenant in Toberchurn & Cathrine Scot – John
28 April 1793 John Mackenzie tenant in Toberchurn & Cathrine Scot – Janet
18 April 1796 John McKenzie tenant at Toberchurn & Cathrine Scott – Thomas
15 April 1799 John McKenzie tent. Toberchurn & Cathrine Scott – Donald

Could this John have been another son of James Mackenzie, tenant at Craighouse, and Christian Murray? Their children were born in the 1740s and 1750s and we have identified only five so far. Could John have been a sixth? While there were many Mackenzies in the parish there were relatively few who were substantial tenants and hence it is quite possible. But any other suggestions are welcome!

photo by Jim Mackay


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