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

The Three Gravestones of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos by Jim unless otherwise indicated

The family of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart flourished, with many descendants home and abroad. Two of their sons became coachmen, one (William) the coachman at Raddery House in the Parish of Rosemarkie and the other (Alexander) the coachman at Poyntzfield House in the Parish of Resolis, both in the Black Isle. The coachmen appear in our complementary Story behind the Stone devoted to Jane Urquhart (c1804–1831) “Oh see how soon the flower of life decays”.


AU 1805 ♥ HS XX

There are three adjacent stones in Kirkmichael associated with Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart. Each bears upon it initials, date and a heart symbol: AU 1805 ♥ HS and, at the base, XX. It is possible that rather than XX the symbol intended was one composed from two intersecting Vs – you can judge for yourself from the photographs within this Story.

The northmost of the three stones, just to the north of the narrow path

The middle of the three stones, now under the narrow path

The southmost of the three stones and a medieval ornate cross originally, just to the south of the narrow path

These were bought at least twice by members of the Urquhart family, once in 1805, and again in 1829. But all three clearly had been in use long before the 1800s. One of them, in fact, bears underneath these initials a medieval ornate cross!

The XX was clearly added to the three stones to show others that this set belonged to one person, but by the Urquharts or the Hendersons or some other family?

Medieval ornate cross with many later users

The “xx” topmost north of the small path at Kirkmichael, the middle under the path itself, the bottom just to the south of the path

Several of the initials showing previous usage have been deliberately defaced. There are many other examples in Kirkmichael of earlier initials being partly chipped out, or indeed sometimes wholly excised as blocks. What is fascinating though is that all three slabs carry WH / MM / 1726 so these three stones had been owned by one family a hundred years earlier! I do have some evidence as to who WH and MM were, but until I have corroboration will spare you the details.

You will have noted that on two out of the three adjacent stones the “S” of the “HS” for Henny Stuart is in fact reversed. The mason was not that conversant with the written language!

The preservation of these stones gave us a quandary. The kirkyard had been left in rather a state following the restoration of the buildings, and we needed to carry out much protective work. The northernmost stone was half exposed. Lying beside the small path, it was at risk of further erosion from our visitors’ feet. We made the decision to guard the edge beside the path with a protective plank and cover the stone in a good depth of sieved soil and turf. The middle stone was a lot deeper than its northern neighbour and actually lies partially under it. The decision had been made previously to cover it in protective clay membrane before laying the small path over it. The southernmost stone of the three, the medieval ornate cross, was covered by a shallow depth of turf and was again at risk of damage from people using the adjacent path. We therefore covered it in a greater depth of sieved soil and re-turfed it. It is a shame that none of these three stones is now visible, and we need to think how stones like these can be exposed whilst still being given a good level of protection.

The location of the three stones following the restoration of the buildings; photo by Lynne and Lachlan Mckeggie

Top: the quandary we were in when the path was installed, and, bottom, the “temporary” solution to protect the edge – the top is now protected by soil and turf


The children of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart

The children of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart were born during the period when the Reverend Robert Arthur neglected the parish records. The following minister, the Reverend Donald Sage, copied what he could out of the mildewed records. We have the following incomplete six entries in the baptism record which act as a “tracker” for the family over two decades:

1777Alexr. Urquhart tennant in Birks & Henny Stewart – Donald
1781Alexr. Urquhart tennant in Birks & Henny Stewart – [unreadable] [m]
14 Mar 1786 Alexander Urquhart tenant in the Birks & Hendrate Stewart – John
7 Sep 1788 Alexr. Urqt. servt. in Pointzfield & Henny Stuart – Justina
27 Feb 1794 Alexander Urquhart servant at Brealangwell & Henny Stuart – Mary
26 Mar 1797 Alexander Urquhart servt. at Brealangwell & Henny Stuart – George

From this we can see that Alexander moved from being a tenant in the Birks of Poyntzfield to becoming a servant at Poyntzfield (and naming a daughter Justina in honour of the laird’s wife was always a smart move), and then becoming a servant at Braelangwell. At times the use of the term servant suggests a house servant, but I think from the number of times it was being used in the Resolis records in this period it simply meant farm servant. As a tenant, you paid your rent to the laird or his factor; as a farm servant, you were paid for your work by the laird or his factor. On at least two of his relatives’ death certificates he is described as a ploughman.

The 1798 Militia List of adult males aged between 15 and 60 years has, for the Mains of Braelangwell, 11 servants listed, the second being “Alexr. Urquhart”.

I have no evidence yet on who Alexander’s parents were. As for Henny, it may be that she was the daughter “Henderat” born in 1752 to William Stewart shoemaker Newmills & Mary Fraser but that is only a supposition based on that child being the only Henrietta Stewart or Stuart born in this period.

And so far, that is all I have on the lives of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart! However, whilst we have little on the parents, there is much known about their children. Now, if you go on to a genealogy website such as Ancestry, you will find the most wonderful family trees involving these children which are mostly wrong. I’m not sure why some of them are so far off the mark. I have included below only information which I have personally checked, and ensured that relationships are backed up by documentary evidence.


William Urquhart (c1781–1860), Coachman at Raddery, and Catherine Matheson (c1775–1852)

We have William Urquhart Coachman at Raddery buying four lairs in Kirkmichael in 1831. In 1829 Alexander Urquhart Coachman at Poyntzfield House bought three different lairs in Kirkmichael. These lie immediately south of the south-west corner of the truncated nave. I always found it hard to believe that these two coachmen buying multiple lairs in Kirkmichael were not connected, and so it proved when their death certificates were located and their parents’ identified. William and Alexander were both sons of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stewart. I deal with William and his spouse Catherine in a separate story focusing on their daughter, Jane, whose tableston occupies a prominent position at Kirkmichael.


Alexander Urquhart (c1796–1870), The Coachman at Poyntzfield House, and Catherine Munro (c1796–1860)

William’s brother Alexander was also a coachman, but in his case at Poyntzfield. I see from the baptism records of his children that he moved from Dalmore to Poyntzfield somewhere between 1821 and 1823. He appears on several militia lists, the first being in 1825, which states: “Poyntzfield … Alexander Urquhart coachman >30 4 ch E” which translates as Alexander Urquhart, coachman at Poyntzfield, over 30 years of age, was excused from being balloted as he had four children under the age of 10. Four children are again mentioned in the list dated August 1828. However, the list dated January 1831 refers to three children under the age of 10, when the baptism records make it clear there should have been four. This suggests one child had died, and I wonder if it was that which triggered his purchase of some burial plots in Kirkmichael.

Poyntzfield House and farm steading from the 1700s; extract of painting courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies, photographed by Andrew Dowsett

The three burying places Alexander bought had previously been bought by the family, and indeed bear the initials of Alexander’s parents, Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart.

To return to the beginning, Alexander does not appear in the baptism record, but his death certificate proves he was one of the children of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart. From his age on various documents he must have been born sometime about 1796. He worked initially as a servant at Dalmore, in the parish of Rosskeen, and while there married Catherine Munro in 1819:<.p>

Alexander Urquhart Servant at Dalmore and Catherine Munro were married on the 9th day of January 1819

Their first child was born later that year, and their second in 1821:

1819 … Alexander, son to Alex Urquhart Servant Dalmore, and Catherine Munro, his wife, born 7 and baptized same day Augt.
1821 … John, Son to Alexander Urquhart Farm Servant at Dalmore and Catherine Munro his wife was born on the 21 and baptized on the 22d. day of May

Between 1821 and 1823 the family moved to Poyntzfield in the parish of Resolis.

born 7 Aug and baptised 8 Aug 1823 Alexander Urquhart servant Poyntzfield & Katharine Munro – William

By 1825, and probably earlier, Alexander had become coachman at Poyntzfield:

born 16 Nov and baptised 17 Nov 1825 Alexander Urquhart coachman at Poyntzfield & Katharine Munro – Mary

They commemorated Henny Stewart, Alexander’s mother, with the name of their next child:

born 6 Sep and baptised 7 Sep 1829 Alexander Urquhart servant at Poyntzfield & Katharine Munro Henrietta

And the name of their final child commemorated a relative (Nancy Graham) of the laird’s wife (Justina Charlotte Graham):

born 2 Jun and baptised 13 Jun 1831 Alexander Urquhart coachman at Poyntzfield & Katharine Munro Nancy Graham

The clerk clearly thought Nancy was a pet name for Anne, for that is the name he put down, only to strike it out later and insert the correct name of Nancy. However, in later census returns she is recorded as Anne!

In 1829 Alexander purchased three grave places in Kirkmichael, as reported in the Kirk Session minutes. I think the purchase of graves may have been initiated because he and Catherine had lost a child in that period. However, it appears poor Catherine may have lost a baby as well, as in 1832 she was paid to wet nurse an abandoned baby. This was the child who had been left at the door of the Tacksman of Kirkton on 22nd June 1832. The Kirk Session minutes of 27th June 1832:

… in order to procure from them the funds necessary for the support of the child. Major Munro being present assented to this proposal & suggested that the Nurse appointed should be the wife of Alexander Urquhart his Coachman which was agreed to. Thereafter the Session resolved that James Barnets wife at Kirktown should be remunerated out of the poors funds for the time in which she nursed the foundling.

The narrow road from Kirkmichael to Kirkton up which the unfortunate mother passed to abandon the young Michael Martin at the Elder’s front door; photo by Andrew Dowsett

And on 10th April 1833:

The Meeting according to agreement at their former diet proceeded to the consideration of the case of the Foundling exposed at the door of Mr Dond McLean Tacksman of Kirktown on the 22d of June last. They unanimously resolved, that in conformity with the custom of the country & more especially in reference to the Rate paid for nursing in a similar case in this parish some years ago, Alexr Urquharts Wife in Poyntzfield should receive the Sum of Eight Pounds Sterling for nursing the child– that for the time she may have the child since it was weaned untill it is delivered up to another she shall receive two shillings & ten pence half penny per week.

The boy was thereafter raised by Widow McDermid of Gordons Mills, and was given the name of “Michael Martin” – from the two old churches of Kirkmichael and St Martins in the parish.

A year later and the coachman’s wife was giving evidence before the Kirk Session in the scandal regarding the alleged affair between the laird of Poyntzfield’s relative, Captain Mackenzie, and the Poyntzfield grieve’s wife, Christian Grant. The full background may be found in this Story behind the Stone but this is the evidence provided by Catherine:

15th day of November 1834 years
Compeared Catherine Munro wife of Alexander Urquhart Coachman Poyntzfield. who being duly admonished & interrogated Declares that tho she has scarcely heard anything else among the servants at Poyntzfield during Capt Mckinzie’s visit there but the evil Report about him & the grieves wife She never saw any thing in their conduct towards each other calculated to excite her suspicion.

Her husband’s testimony was much longer but apart from entertaining hearsay evidence came down to the same facts:

Declares. That he was on the evening alluded to by last witness standing at the Kitchen door & heard the conversation between Capt Mackinzie & the grieves wife but tho he knew they were both in the dairy was not near enough to understand what they were saying. Being interrogated Declares– that after Capt Mackinzie left Poyntzfield he went to Udol & that he (witness) was sent there with his luggage. Declares that he met with Capt Mackinzie there who said to him in reference to the report about the Grieves wife “Well what are they all doing now at Poyntzfield, that he replied that the Greives servant maid had told the Major that she was sent by her Mistress with a message to the Capt to tell him that her mistress the grieves wife was going to Cromarty one day, & that the Capt might go in the evening to meet him. That Capt Mckinzie replied “Well I believe she did come & tell me so”, Declares that he also said to Capt Mackinzie that the grieves servt maid told the Major that she had seen the Capt and the Grieves Wife several times in the Cottage of Christy Ardoch & to which Capt Mckinzie replied “I was there with the Grieves Wife and once when there I heard the step of someone coming to the window & I got hold of a small Table in the house & put it between me and the window to hid us from the person on the out side” & that he then added “If I were not taken to Christy Ardoch’s house I never would have thought of going there myself”. Being further interrogated– Declares that tho he has frequently seen Capt Mackinzie and the grieves wife speaking to each other about the house during the day time he saw nothing in their conduct towards each other to excite suspicion.

In the 1841 census return a few years later, son John is absent from the family.

1841 Census return Poyntzfield
Alexr Urquhart 52 Coachman
Katharine Ross 40
Alexr Urquhart 22 / William Urquhart 16 / Mary Urquhart 14 / Henrietta Urquhart 12 / Ann Urquhart 10

This census return contained several errors, such as the age of Alexander himself (or else subsequent census returns were wrong!) and the name of his wife, which should be Catherine Munro, but the ages of the children are accurate enough. The next census appears all correct.

1851 Census return parish of Resolis
Alexr Urquhart head m 55 ground officer Resolis
Catharine Urquhart wife m 53 housekeeper Rosskeen
William Urquhart son u 26 gardener Resolis / Ann Urquhart daur u 19 house servant Resolis / Justina Urquhart visitor u 57 house servant Resolis / Catharine Munro visitor u 9 scholar Rosskeen

I don’t know where son Alexander was, but daughter Henrietta was absent because she had married back in 1848, in Inverness, tailor William Thom and they had settled in Jemimaville. Visitor Justina was Alexander’s sister, but I do not know who the child Catharine Munro was – she was perhaps a niece. Alexander now had a more prestigious role – that of ground officer to the estate. By 1861 all their children had departed:

1861 Census, JamimaVille Private House, two rooms with one or more windows
Alexander Urquhart head m 65 ground officer Resolis
Catherine Urquhart wife m 58 ground officer’s wife Rosskeen
Catherine Thom grand child u 9 scholar Resolis

Their son William by now had married his first wife, Hannah Grant, and does not appear at Jemimaville (he had become the gardener at Poyntzfield, and was to go on to become the gardener at Braelangwell). Catherine Thom was the daughter of Henrietta and William Thom. This would be the last census in which Alexander Urquhart was to appear, as he died the year before the next one:

Resolis death certificate
Alexander Urquhart ground officer (married to Catherine Munro) died 19 Feb 1870 Jamimaville aged 75 parents Alexander Urquhart ploughman (d) Henrietta Urquhart ms Stewart (d) informant William Urquhart son Davidstown (not present)

By the time of his death Alexander had risen from a coachman to ground officer, a more responsible post. Indeed, it was he who had the important task in 1860 of informing the registrar of the laird’s death:

George Gun Munro Landed Proprietor (single) 9 May 1860 Poyntzfield 32 Sir George Gun Munro Landed Proprietor (deceased) Jamima Charlotte Munro m.s. Graham Disease of the Brain. Three weeks. As certified by R. MacKenzie M.D. who saw deceased May 9th Churchyard of Kirkmichael As certified by William Holm Sexton informant Alexr. Urquhart GroundOfficer (present)

And I note in turn another Urquhart became Coachman and was the informant at the registrar’s of the decease of the laird’s widow:

Jamima Charlotte Munro (widow of Sir George Gun Munro of Poyntz-field) 19 April 1867 Poyntz-field House 72 Colin Dundas Graham Lieut. Colonel (deceased) Mary Graham m.s. M. de Genatsch (deceased) informant Donald Urquhart Coachman (present)

It is strange that so many of this Urquhart family became coachmen for various proprietors. But then, as their father was a ploughman, they would certainly have known all the tricks in how to handle horses.

Following Alexander’s death, the two Catherines continued residing at Jemimaville in what was definitely a sizeable house for them for the time.

1871 Census return Front Street, Jemimaville, 1871, 5 rooms with one or more windows Catherine Urquhart head widow 74 coachman’s widow Rosskeen
Catherine Thom grand daur unmarried 20 tailor’s daur Inverness

Note that the parish of birth of the young Catherine varies between the 1861 and 1871 census returns. The 1871 is correct, as she was born in 1849 in Inverness. Never rely on a single source! The widowed Catherine survived to a goodly age, albeit her birth year fluctuates rather a lot with the age given in different documents. She died in 1880:

Death certificate, Parish of Resolis
Catherine Urquhart (widow of Alexander Urquhart ground officer) 9 Aug 1880 Jamimaville aged 86 parents John Munro farmer (d) Catherine Munro ms Munro (d) informant William Urquhart son Braelangwell

I don’t see any children in the records in the correct period to this couple, so William may not have provided all the information correctly to the registrar – I am suspicious of that “Munro ms Munro” in particular.


Justina Urquhart (1788–1861)

I haven’t been able to pick up on Justina’s early life, but she appears to have been a cook, in domestic service. We first see her in the census returns as a visitor in her brother Alexander’s household near Jemimaville in the 1851 census where her entry is: “Justina Urquhart visitor u 57 house servant Resolis”.

I think she must have moved to reside with her brother William in the Parish of Rosemarkie when he retired from Raddery to Muiryden as we find her there in Muiryden in 1861. William had died in 1860, and Justina must have continued in residence, taking in lodgers to support the establishment. Thus, in 1861 she appears as head of household in Muiryden, having miraculously aged only 3 years in the decade:

1861 Census return Muiryden, Parish of Rosemarkie
Justina Urquhart Head Unmarried 60 Domestic Servant Resolis
Janet Young Lodger Unmarried 72 Domestic Servant xxxxxx
Ann Mitchell Head Widow 63No Occupation Rosemarkie
Barbara Mitchell Daughter Unmarried 43 General Workwoman Rosemarkie

She moved back to Jemimaville later that year, and died in the home of her brother Alexander:

Death Certificate, Parish of Resolis
Justina Urquhart cook (single) died 25 Dec 1861 Jamimaville aged 68 parents Alexander Urquhart ploughman (deceased) Henrietta Urquhart ms. Stewart informant Alexr. Urquhart brother (present)

I presume Justina was buried in Kirkmichael along with so many of her relatives.


Mary Urquhart (1794–1867)

Several websites relate that Mary married Donald McRae in the parish of Urquhart in 1830, and they went on to run the inn and croft at Drumcudden (next door to me, as it so happens). Nowadays known as Ellan Vannin, Drumcudden Inn was where one set of my grandparents married. Because it was a pub, there were the usual incidents involving boisterous customers and the innkeeper, including one resulting in injury to Donald McRae where there was a dispute as to whether or not the case should be heard in Cromarty Sheriff Court given that Drumcudden falls within the County of Ross. The family later emigrated to live in Bentinck, Ontario, where Donald McRae died in 1861 and Mary Urquhart died in 1880. However, I have not seen hard evidence demonstrating that the Mary Urquhart who married Donald McRae was Mary, the daughter of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart. The period is the right one, but there were many Mary Urquharts in the region! I think this may be one of those cases, unfortunately very common nowadays, where somebody of the right name in the right period has been uncritically “absorbed” into the family story. The death register entry for Mary and her gravestone in Latona Cemetery, Dornoch, Grey County, Ontario unfortunately do not name her parents which would have clarified the issue.

As an alternative, I believe Mary married one Donald Forbes in Rosskeen in 1821. Her census returns show that this Mary Urquhart was born in the parish of Resolis at approximately the correct time, although on her death certificate her parents are given as William (not Alexander) Urquhart and Henrietta Stewart. Given that discrepancy over her father’s Christian name there remains a doubt, but certainly there were no other Urquhart/Henrietta Stewart combinations in Resolis or indeed anywhere else. It is very likely this is the correct story, and I think the “William” rather than “Alexander” was just one of those mistakes you find so often in the records.

Her brother Alexander was a servant at Dalmore in the parish of Rosskeen at the time so it would not be surprising to find her in the same parish.

Marriages Parish of Rosskeen, 1821
Donald Forbes farm servant at Milncraig and Mary Urquhart were married on the 8th day of December

Their marriage was a fruitful one, although all the children I see in the census returns are girls! However, I know that they also had an Alexander (Rosskeen, 1827) and John (Rosskeen, 1828), who presumably were away labouring by the time of the first census return of 1841. They also had Dinah (Rosskeen 1825) which I suspect was the way the session clerk spelled Tina, who appears in the 1851 census return.

1841 Census return for Garty, Kilmuir, Ross and Cromarty
Donald Forbes Male 40 y / Mary Forbes Female 40 y
Jane Forbes Female 15 y / Jess Forbes Female 15 y / Catharin Forbes Female 12 y / Herriet Forbes Female 9 y / Mary Forbes Female 7 y / Margaret Forbes Female 3 y

I have re-ordered by age the children in the 1851 census, as the parishes of their birth indicate the movement of the family as Donald worked around Easter Ross on differet farms. There was no tenure in this tough environment.

1851 Census return for Easter Teaninich Square, Alness, Ross and Cromarty
Donald Forbes Head Married 50 Farm Serv Tain
Mary Forbes Wife Married 50 Resolis
Tina Forbes Daughter Unmarried 24 Ag Lab Rosskeen
Cath. Forbes Daughter Unmarried 20 Ag Lab Rosskeen
Harriot Forbes Daughter Unmarried 18 Ag Lab Nigg
Mary Forbes Daughter Unmarried 15 Employed At Home Nigg
Margaret Forbes Daughter Unmarried 12 Scholar Fearn

By 1861, all the children had left home and there was only a grand-child left in family, who were still resident in Alness, albeit on a different farm:

1861 Census return for Coulhill, Alness, Ross and Cromarty
Donald Forbes Head Married 60 Labourer Tain
Mary Forbes Wife Married 59 Resolis
John McLeanan Grand Son Unmarried 5 Alness

Mary died in 1867, and her husband, who could not write, was the informant at the registrar’s. As I say, I think he gave the wrong Christian name for Mary’s father. I am fairly certain this is the correct Mary Urquhart, as the census returns consistently say she was born in Resolis and there was only ever one couple named Urquhart/Henrietta Stewart.

Death certificates Alness, 1867
Mary Forbes married to Donald Forbes (farm servant) died 5 April 1867 at Culcraigie aged 71 parents William Urquhart agr. labourer (d) and Henrietta Urquhart ms Stewart (d) informant Donald Forbes his x mark husband present

Donald and his grandson continued to reside at Coul Hill:

1871 Census return Coul Hill, Alness
Donald Forbes Head Widower 76 Agr Labourer Tain
John MacLenan Grand Son 14 Alness

There were several more children of Alexander Urquhart and Henny Stuart whom I have been unable to track. It would be most satisfactory if this section could be developed further and if anyone has evidence to trace more of their children then please let me know!


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