The Urquhart Family of Gordons Mill

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated under each image

The line of houses in the hamlet of Gordons Mill, from the access road; photo by Jim Mackay

This was almost a Story Without a Stone. At least a dozen of the people described within the story are buried in Kirkmichael, but there is no surviving memorial to any of them. Almost. There is just one, on a much-used slab buried beneath another slab, the inscription an almost unnoticed scratching of initials and date at the base, just six inches in length. But it is there, and recognisable, and is the only record in stone of the Urquharts of Gordons Mill.

The slab beneath a slab being uncovered; photo by Andrew Dowsett

and the tiny inscription; photo by Jim Mackay


The House at Gordons Mill Burgled

Reports in the newspapers tell us of a sneaky theft at an old woman’s house in Gordons Mill back in 1883. The local Constable from the village of Jemimaville displayed great energy. He visited the scene of the crime, crossed the ferry to Invergordon in pursuit of the two thieves, recovered the stolen property, and then successfully caught the thieves themselves.

Invergordon Times 21 February 1883
Housebreaking in the Black Isle.– Some time ago there was an old woman who resided in a house at Gordon’s Mills, Resolis, but lately she had been removed to the poor-house, and her own dwelling was locked up. On Saturday last, two persons were observed to go to the place and remove some of the things that were in the house, whereupon word was immediately sent to Constable Roy, at Jamimaville, who went to the house and found it had been broken open and several articles of clothing stolen from it. Having been informed of the direction that the thieves took, he traced them over the Invergordon Ferry. Reaching here he at once applied to Sergeant Gordon for assistance, and both parties went direct to a rag store in town and recovered the stolen materials to the amount of 116 pounds weight, which included two copies of the holy Scriptures, and other old books and papers, bearing the name of the previous owner. The police officers took possession of the stolen property, and went immediately in search of the thieves, and traced them to the village of Saltburn where they were apprehended. Their names are Owen Hanrathy and his wife Elizabeth Stewart or Hanrathy. They were immedately conveyed to Cromarty prison by Constable Roy.

The villainous couple were no strangers to the press, as they frequently came up in court accused of petty theft and violence (usually against themselves or other relatives). Hanratty was a hawker from Armagh in Ireland and Stewart was from Peterhead, but for a long time they resided in Forres or, indeed, Elgin Prison. On several occasions Hanratty was barely out of jail when he was caught in some new outrage. His final residence was in 12 Douglas Row, right beside the River Ness in Inverness. When he died in 1905, Hanratty was worth £1,300, which goes to show that his legitimate business must have been good, as we all know that crime does not pay.

Douglas Row, Inverness, in the early 1900s, when Owen Hanratty resided there

But who was the anonymous old woman whose locked-up house had been ransacked? It turns out she was Margaret Urquhart, the last Gordons Mill representative of a family of Urquharts who had been there for a hundred years.


The Urquharts of Gordons Mill

Gordons Mill was a planned village like nearby Jemimaville and Chapelton, but one which never really took off. It lies one field away from Kirkmichael, and many of its occupants are buried in Kirkmichael..

Kirkmichael from Gordons Mill; photo by Jim Mackay

A small number of feus were sold around the long established mill complex. This had been a snuff mill, when the owner, Alexander Gordon of Ardoch, was the Collector of Customs for the area, and tobacco (which was ground down to make snuff) and brandy were shipped into the area, mysteriously duty-free. Since that time Gordons Mill had accommodated a lint mill, a wool mill, even the conventional grain mill. In 1813, a judicial rental established who paid what at Gordons Mill, and a plan was drawn up. All the coloured areas were owned or occupied by Urquhart families.

Urquhart feus and tenanted land at Gordons Mill

Margaret Urquhart was the daughter of John Urquhart Junior, whose house and garden is coloured red on the plan. The house owned by her grandfather, John Urquhart Senior, is coloured purple and the land he farmed is coloured pink.


Margaret Urquhart (1815–1883)

Margaret was the eldest child of John Urquhart, labourer in Gordons Mill, and Margaret Fraser, born in 1815. Her parents had married the previous year, 1814. While we know something of her younger brother James’s boyhood, we know nothing about Margaret’s early life. She married twice, the first time in 1848 to Braelangwell cattleman and widower Kenneth Mackenzie. Kenneth moved into the Urquhart family property in Gordons Mill, and can be seen there in 1851 along with wife Margaret and his mother in law Margaret Urquhart ms Fraser, now a pauper.

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis Gordons Mill
Margaret Urquhart head widow age 70 pauper born parish of Alness
— — — — — — —
Kenneth McKenzie head married age 60 cattle herd born parish of Contin
Margaret McKenzie wife married age 32 housekeeper born parish of Resolis

You will note that Kenneth was ostensibly almost 30 years older than Margaret, but I think was considerably older than that. By the time he died in early 1861, he had aged very rapidly:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Kenneth McKenzie cow herd (married to Margaret Urquhart) died 26 March 1861 at Gordonsmills age 86 years Father: Unknown Mother: Unknown informant Alexr. Munro neighbour (not present)

And so it was that a few weeks later, in the next census, Margaret was now a widow. Her mother had passed on as well, back in 1858, but she did have a companion, the ten year old daughter of her brother John Urquhart now in Easter Ross and his wife Isabella Johnston. Margaret had no children of her own, but John and Isabella had eleven children and would have been keen to farm out some of them.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis “Hamlet of Gordonsmill”, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Margaret McKenzie head widow age 43 common labr. born Resolis
Isabella Urquhart niece age 10 born Cromarty

Margaret you will note was earning her living as a labourer, presumably working in the fields of one the neighbouring farmers. Such work tended to be seasonal, so it must have been difficult surviving the rest of the year. She re-married a couple of years later. Her new husband was already twice a widower, Hector McLean. He had been born in 1803 at Freslan on the Isle of Coll, close to the larger Isle of Mull. His parents were crofters there, but he had left the islands to become initially a labourer, then a Gaelic teacher and, by the time of his marriage with Margaret, a grocer in Invergordon. It had been three years since Margaret had become a widow, but Hector’s second wife had died the previous year.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
6 September 1864 After Banns, according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
Hector McLean grocer (widower) age 53 residence Invergordon parents Malcolm McLean farmer (d) Christina McLean ms Lamond (d)
Margaret Urquhart agricultural labourer (widow) age 45 address Gordonsmills Resolis parents John Urquhart agricultural labourer (d) Margaret Urquhart ms Fraser (d)
Minister Dond. Sage F.C. Minister Witnesses William Thom George McKenzie

Hector had knocked almost ten years off his age, but I suspect Margaret wasn’t fooled. Why had Hector ended up in Invergordon? Well, he had married Ross-shire girl Margaret Ross as his second wife in 1859 in Edinburgh, where she was in service as a cook. Her father Finlay Ross had been a plasterer in Invergordon (her mother was one Ann Holm), so presumably she had wished a return to her home area. Anyway, on Hector’s third and final marriage to Margaret Urquhart, he moved across the Cromarty Firth to reside in Margaret’s house in Gordons Mill.

This story keeps returning to the Urquhart home in that wee hamlet!

The decades rolled by, and times must have become harder as in the 1881 Census Hector is recorded as a pauper. During this period he can be found on the Valuation Rolls as the proprietor of their house in Gordons Mill, but I’m not sure if the ownership had in reality passed from his wife to him.

I don’t see Hector mentioned in the Resolis parochial records as a pauper, so I wonder if he was claiming parochial relief from another parish. As was so often the case, dependency on parochial relief was soon followed by death, and Hector passed away the following year.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Hector McLean pauper (formerly Gaelic teacher) (Married 1st to Flora Munro (d) 2nd to Margaret Ross (d) and 3rd to Margaret Urquhart) died 16 December 1882 at Gordonsmills age 83 parents Samuel [sic – should have been Malcolm] McLean farmer (d) Christina McLean ms [blank – but should be Lamont] (d) informant Margaret McLean her x mark widow (present)

Poor Margaret. By now, her brother John and family had emigrated to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. Her next brother, James, who had suffered from mental health issues and had spent time in both prison and the Inverness District Lunatic Asylum, had died. Her youngest brother George, a tailor, had moved far away to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. It must have been a very challenging time for her, and she ended up in the Inverness District Asylum herself.

It was at this time that that thieving couple, Owen Hanratty and his wife Elizabeth Stewart, broke into and ransacked the family home in Gordons Mill. Now, you have to branch off the main road to the Balblair ferry to drop down into the hamlet of Gordons Mill so their presence would have been conspicuous. Presumably they had some story ready if they were challenged, but how did they know that the Urquhart home was unoccupied and contained material worth stealing? At this time the pair were residing in Morayshire so I cannot see how they could have become aware of this opportunity. Was there an unscrupulous contact in the mental asylum that was leaking information to interested criminals? Or in the pretence of selling wares, did they case every unoccupied property in each village they came to?

As it was, poor Margaret never returned from the asylum and died there in 1883.

Inverness Deaths
Margaret Urquhart or McKenzie or McLean died 30 Oct 1883 Inverness District Asylum (usual residence Resolis) age 70 [parents blank] cause of death Melancholia 8 Months 12 days Senile Decay as cert. by Thos. Aitken M.D. informant Thos. Aitken Medical Superintendant Inverness District Asylum present [registered] November 9th at Inverness

And so the last occupant of the Urquhart home at Gordons Mill passed away. The house is recorded for a couple of years after this in the Valuation Rolls as in the ownership of “Hector Maclean’s Reps.” before, in 1885, being described fatefully as “Ruinous”. It then disappears from the Rolls altogether. Nowadays only remnants of the buildings shown beyond the mill on the old map remain.

Buildings before you arrive at the old mill; photo by Jim Mackay

The mill of Gordons Mill, now a residential conversion; photo by Jim Mackay

There remain only remnants of the buildings beyond the old mill; photo by Jim Mackay


The Siblings of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill,
children of John Urquhart Junior and Margaret Fraser

There are three siblings of Margaret Urquhart whose stories are in the records: John (1817–1898), James (1821–1873) and George (1824–1889) and we’ll briefly look at where they ended up, as they had most contrasting lives. There was also William (1819–) but I have been unable to trace him.

1. John Urquhart (1817–1898), who married, in 1840, Isabella Johnston (c1820–1879)

While there were no children from the two marriages of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill, there were no less than eleven from the marriage of her brother John Urquhart and his spouse Isabella Johnston. Alas, while almost all of the children survived to adulthood, most of them then died early following their emigration to Australia, the commenest cause being that scourge of the past, tuberculosis.

John was born in 1817, the second child born at Gordons Mill to labourer John Urquhart “Junior” and Margaret Fraser. John is variously given as labourer, farm labourer or sawyer. He was still at Gordons Mill when he married, in 1840, Isabella Johnston:

Parish of Resolis Marriages
John Urquhart labourer at Gordonsmill in this Parish and Isabella Johnston at Cromarty were contracted and married in due time the 7th of February 1840

Later census returns mostly show Isabella as having been born in the Parish of Cromarty, and this, coupled with her age and the naming pattern of her children (Scottish naming pattern is first girl takes the mother’s mother’s name, second son takes the mother’s father’s name), suggests she was the daughter of Cromarty blacksmith Robert Johnston and Christian Thomson, who had an Isabella baptised in 1820.

Poor Isabella. As if she hadn’t had enough to contend with with the imminent birth of her first child, the forwardness of her pregnancy had been brought to the attention of the censorious Elders of the parish.

Parish of Resolis Kirk Session Records
At the Church of Resolis, the 20th day of April 1840 years … John Urquhart residing at Jemima Ville was delated for antenuptial Fornication with Isabella Johnstone his wife. The Session instructed their officer duly to cite the said John Urquhart to compear before their next meeting.

Sure enough, their first child, Christian, was born on the 6th of May, 1840, which was in fact the very day that John Urquhart had to appear before the Kirk Session.

At the Church of Resolis the 6th of May 1840
John Urquhart residing at Jemima Ville delated for antenuptial fornication was duly cited to this meeting. Being called he compeared & being duly admonished & interrogated Confirmed that he was guilty of the sin laid to his charge with Isabella Johnson his wife. Being further interrogated he declared his willingness to submit to the discipline of the Church & to pay the price but said that his poverty at present was such that he could not pay the fine immediately but promised to do so when able. The Session appointed that he should appear before the congregation on Sabbath ensuing the 10th proximo to be rebuked & absolved from the Scandal. Closed with prayer. Dond Sage Modr.

Christian was baptised several months later, on 26th July 1840, probably I suspect when John had been able to raise enough money to pay the fine. I note from the minutes of the Kirk Session for 21 December of that year when they were going through the accounts that the usual fine of 7 shillings and 6 pence had been paid by that time by “John Urquhart Gordons Mills”.

The money from such fines went to support the destitute in the parish, which is a good thing, although I’m sure that John and Isabella would not have seen it that way!

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis Jemimaville
John Urquhart age 25 AL [agricultural labourer]
Isabel Johnston age 27
Katharine [sic; this should have been entered as Christian] Urquhart age 1

Their next child was born in January 1843, whilst John was still a labourer at Jemimaville, but they named him, for reasons I cannot explain, “Jeremiah”. Following naming pattern, it should have been “John” and I cannot help wondering if John had fallen out with his father and refused to name his child after him. Alternatively, Jeremiah from the Old Testament was known as “the weeping Prophet” and it may have been simply that as a baby before being baptised he did more than his fair share of crying!

There have been very few people named Jeremiah Urquhart, and you would think it would be easy to track Jeremiah through his life. But in fact, in later life he called himself Jeremiah William Urquhart, or, I believe, simply Wm. Urquhart, and the only times I have seen his signature he signed it as “J.W. Urquhart”. He seems to have been somewhat ambivalent about Jeremiah!

The family moved east the short distance to Cromarty, where Isabella had previously resided, and where John continued to be recorded as “labourer”. There they had Robert (1845), Margaret (1848) and Isabella (1849). And then they moved the short watery step across the Cromarty Firth to nearby Bayfield in the parish of Nigg. In the 1851 Census, in household with John (recorded as an agricultural labourer) and Isabella were the five young children.

Whilst residing in the Parish of Nigg, they had baptised in the Nigg Associate Church (independent long before the national Free Church broke away from the Established Church) Georgina (1852) and John (1854). The life of an agricultural labourer was usually one of repetitive shifts. Each year the agricultural labourers would attend demeaning annual employment markets, akin to a stock sale, and who knew where they might end up. And so the family were soon on the move again, this time to the farm of Pitogarty, near Tain.

In this final parish of Tain, they had their last children: Jane (1856), James (1860), David (1862) and Jessie (1864). But even by the time of the 1861 Census, their oldest children had already begun to spread their wings. Jeremiah by now was a young coachman for a well-to-do family in Tain and Robert was a young agricultural labourer on another farm near Tain. Isabella was residing with her aunt back in Gordons Mill. And Christina I believe was a housemaid in a big house in Inverness. Thus it was that in house with John and Isabella were only the youngest children.

A first batch of children were to emigrate to Victoria, Australia, in the next few years. I have not discovered which ship they went out on. But Christina, then a housemaid in the home of A.J. Skene Esq., Victoria Terrace, St Kilda, Melbourne, married Hugh Ross in her employer’s house there in 1866, with brother Robert as one of the witnesses. Her husband Hugh Ross had been born in Tain but whether or not Christina had known him before emigrating I know not. But the marriage certificate places both Christina and Robert Urquhart in Melbourne on the 20th of August 1866.

In 1871, then, residing with father John Urquhart, still an agricultural labourer, and Isabella Johnston in a house in Balnagall, near Tain, there were only youngsters James, David and Jessie. And the word returning from Australia must have been favourable, as just two years later most of the remaining family also emigrated.

The ship they sailed on was the S.S. Great Britain, embarking from Liverpool and bound for Melbourne. She was a famous ship, built by none other than Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and had been the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. She was getting on a bit by the time the Urquharts boarded her. She had been built of iron and equipped with a screw propeller to shorten the transatlantic service between Bristol and New York City, but in her later days carried thousands of emigrants to Australia. Nowadays she is a popular visitor attraction and museum ship in Bristol Harbour.

S.S. Great Britain in Bristol Harbour; photo by mattbuck, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons licence

The Herald (Melbourne) Monday 26 May 1873
Another Magnificent Passage.
Fifty-six Days from Pilot to Pilot.
The old trader Great Britain passed through the Heads at twenty minutes past 8 this morning, and anchored in the Bay shortly before noon. …

On board, according to the ship’s register, were:

Urquhart John age 53 Farm Servt.
Isabel 50
Jessie 7
David 9

Urquhart John 18 Farm Servt.
James 12 do.

These were the parents along with four of their five youngest children, coming to join the rest of the family in Melbourne.

There are few records to say how the family did in Victoria. Mother Isabella died there only six years after emigrating, in 1879. She and several of the children are buried in St Kilda Cemetery, in two adjacent plots, neither of which carry any sort of memorial. The St Kilda Cemetery records are very thorough, and Reid Matheson, a volunteer for very kindly photographed for me the vegetated plots.

“As you will see,” Reid tells me, “the eight graves in that area lack headstones, as do the six to the right of the Urquhart. Possibly at one time a wooden cross stood but over a century would long have rotted away. The information from the cemetery plot records is therefore the most up to date.”

St Kilda Cemetery in Melbourne; photo courtesy of

Urquhart grave site; photo by Reid Matheson, courtesy of

vegetated Urquhart grave plots at St Kilda Cemetery, Melbourne; photo by Reid Matheson, courtesy of

Buried in those plots in St Kilda Cemetery there are, from the cemetery records, at least mother Isabella Johnston and children Margaret, John, Isabella, James, David and Jessie. But conspicuous by his absence is father John Urquhart. And here is one of the strangest parts of this story. Daughter Georgina had married one James Hallt, about whom more later, but she is the Mrs Hallt referred to in this surprising piece in the press.

The Herald (Melbourne) Thursday 29 August 1895
Missing for over a Year.
A Strange Case.
Mrs Hallt, of 103 Peel street, Windsor, has reported to the police there that her father, John Urquhart, has been missing from his home at the corner of Rotherwood street and Rowena Parade, Richmond, for the last 12 months. The reason the matter has not been mentioned until now by Mrs Hallt is that Mr Urquhart was living with her sister, who did not refer to the circumstance until to-day. The missing man is described as a Scotchman, about 80 years of age, tall, rather stooped, of slight build, with very white hair, whiskers and moustache.

I think by process of elimination, the sister with whom their father was residing had to be the widowed Christina. But why would she not have raised the alarm when her father vanished?

I can find nothing in the press subsequent to this as to locating the missing John Urquhart. But I am pretty certain that John ended up in the charitable Immigrants Home in Melbourne, and died there three years after he was posted missing. The John Urquhart who died was from Ross-shire and was the correct age, and any other John Urquharts who died in this period are well identified. It is a strange and sad story.

1898 Deaths in the District of Brunswick in the Colony of Victoria
Died September 3 1898 at Immigrants Home, Royal Park, County Bourke
John Urquhart farmer age 82 years
[cause of death and duration] senile decay / Exhaustion / 6 months [medical attendant and when patient was last seen] Louis Henry M.D. last saw deceased August 23 1898
[parents] not known by informant [informant] J.H.W. Owen Messenger Immigrants Home, Royal Park Authorised Informant
[when and where buried, and certifying undertaker] September 6 1898 Melbourne Cemetery Undertaker Ernest Booth [minister and witnesses of burial] Rev John S. Green (Wesleyan) G.A.G. Clowes James A. Archibald
[where born] Rothshire Scotland [how long in colonies] not known by informant [marital status and children] not known by informant

At this time several of his sons and two daughters were still alive, but what the story behind their father going missing was I know not. And so John Urquhart is buried in Melbourne General Cemetery whilst his wife Isabella Johnston and most of his family are buried in St Kilda Cemetery.


A brief note on each of the children of John Urquhart and Isabella Johnston of Melbourne:

1. Christian (later Christina) Urquhart (1840–1911), who married, in 1866, Hugh Ross (1837–1888)

Christina emigrated before 1866, the year when she married Hugh Ross (1837–1888). She had been a housemaid in Scotland and became a housemaid in Melbourne, in the home of A.J. Skene Esq., Victoria Terrace, St Kilda, Melbourne. She married Hugh Ross in her employer’s house there in 1866, with brother Robert Urquhart as one of the witnesses.

The signature of Christina Urquhart and Hugh Ross on their marriage certificate

Born in Tain in 1837 to mason Robert Ross and spouse Isabell Ross, Hugh had become a clerk or book-keeper at Ballarat (to the west of Melbourne). He continued in that role for many years until, in 1885, he was appointed Grand Secretary of the important Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The family (Hugh, Christina and their three children) moved back to Melbourne. There they came to reside close to where most of the Urquhart family lived. His address was 3 Buxton Terrace, Rowena Parade, Richmond. He died still a relatively young man.

The Ballarat Star (Victoria) Monday 9 January 1888
The many friends of Mr Hugh Ross, grand secretary of the I.O.O.F., will regret to hear that he died at Melbourne early yesterday morning. Mr Ross, who was about 50 years of age, was a brother of Mr Robert Ross, broker, of this city, and only left Ballarat about 14 months ago to fulfil the duties of grand secretary. He was formerly bookkeeper at Mr Brown’s mill, and was an old resident of Ballarat, where he was highly respected. He was also, when he removed to Melbourne, secretary of the Ballarat Bowling Club. The funeral will take place at Melbourne at 3 o’clock this afternoon, and a number of his friends have signified their intention of proceeding to the metropolis by the first train this morning in order to attend.

He was buried in St Kilda Cemetery.

The Melbourne branch of the Independent Order of Oddfellows was established in 1846. It was originally a mutual benefit society that provided aid to members in times of sickness and unemployment; these benefits were obtained through joining fees and ongoing subscriptions. The I.O.O.F. and similar organisations such as the The Independent Order of Rechabites, about whom more later, were an important social support mechanism of the era.

Symbols of the Independent Order of Oddfellows on a stained glass window

The day before he died, Hugh signed (in an understandably shaky hand) a simple will. He left everything to his wife, with Christina and his brother, share broker Robert Ross, nominated executrix and executor. One of the witnesses was brother Jeremiah Urquhart!

Christina continued to live in Richmond, Melbourne, and it would appear from the curious story already related, that her father resided with her until he disappeared. One has to assume that there was tension within the household and Christina was not unhappy when her father left.

She died in 1911 and is buried in the same plot as her husband, Hugh Ross, in St Kilda Cemetery. There are descendants.


A brief note on each of the children of John Urquhart and Isabella Johnston of Melbourne:

2. Jeremiah (later Jeremiah William or William Jeremiah) Urquhart (1843–1912)

In 1861 Jeremiah was a young coachman in a household in Tain. At some point he joined up as I see that he is recorded on his death as an “Imperial Pensioner” having served with the “2nd Brigade of the Highland Light Infantry”. His death certificate also states that he had been in Australia, in Victoria, for 26 years, meaning he arrived about 1886, so long after most of the family had come out. I can find no trace of him then until he re-surfaces as a witness to the will of his brother-in-law Hugh Ross in 1888, where he is described as “Jeremiah William Urquhart of 12 Derby Street, Richmond, Storeman”.

The signature of Jeremiah Urquhart on the will of his brother-in-law

But thereafter again I see nothing until he died, in 1912. His death was registered under the name “William Jeremiah Urquhart” and he died in Windsor, Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne. Surprisingly he is recorded as having married in Surrey Hills (another suburb of Melbourne) at age 46 (i.e. in about 1889) to an unknown lady, without issue, but I have not followed this up.

According to his death certificate, he is buried in what has been said to be the most beautiful cemetery in Australia, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, again in a suburb of Melbourne. And the Cemetery records show that he was buried in a plot later to be occupied by his nephew, Hugh Urquhart Ross (1870-1941), daughter of his sister Christina and Hugh Ross.

Springvale War Cemetery within the beautiful Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Melbourne; photo courtesy of

Memorial commemorating Hugh Urquhart Ross, on the lair in which his uncle Jeremiah Urquhart is also buried; photo courtesy of

A brief note on each of the children of John Urquhart and Isabella Johnston of Melbourne

3. Robert Urquhart (1845–1913)

Robert was an agricultural labourer in his younger days and had emigrated to Australia sometime in the early 1860s, for he signed as a witness at the marriage of his sister Christina to Hugh Ross in Melbourne on 20 August 1866.

The signature of Robert Urquhart as a witness to the marriage of his sister Christina to Hugh Ross in 1866

Thereafter, I note only that he died in Richmond, Melbourne, in 1913, and is buried in Springvale Botanical Cemetery.


4. Margaret Urquhart (1848–1873)

I have little information on Margaret other than her death in 1873 in Melbourne and the unwelcome honour of being the first buried in the family plots in St Kilda Cemetery. Her parents had arrived in Melbourne that year so it was a sad way to start their residence in Australia.


5. Isabella Urquhart (1849–1890), who married, in 1889, William Middleton

Isabella married relatively late in life in 1889 and sadly died at the end of the year following her marriage. Her husband was William (Wm.) Middleton about whom I know very little, save he lived in the same area of Melbourne as most of the Urquhart family. Isabella (like her sister Georgina) was buried in Boroondara Cemetery in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne.

The Age (Melbourne) Tuesday 23 December 1890
The Friends of Mr. William Middleton are respectfully invited to follow the remains of his late beloved wife, Isabella, to the place of interment, the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew. The funeral to move from his residence, No. 4 Buxton-terrace, Rowena-parade, Richmon, This Day (Tuesday), the 23rd inst., at 3 o’clock p.m.
Herbert King, Undertaker, Lennox-street, Richmond…

What the announcement doesn’t say, but which can be gleaned from the civil registration indices and from the burial records for Boroondara Cemetery, is that two boys, William and John, were born that year, but John died in April, William died in May and their mother died in December, as announced in the press. It is all very sad.


6. Georgina Urquhart (1852–1920), who married, in 1880, James Hallt (1822–1911)

The story of Georgina is a happier one. She married James Hallt in 1880. James was much older than Georgina, and I believe she was proud of his record as a Crimean veteran. I see him advertising for work as a gardener in 1883:

The Argus (Melbourne) Friday 16 November 1883
Gardener, married, competent, wants situation, St. Kilda preferrred. Address James Hallt, Argyle-street, St. Kilda.

They had four boys who survived them, and a daughter, Georgina, who died in 1898 and is buried in St Kilda Cemetery.

It was Mrs Hallt, i.e. Georgina Urquhart, you may remember, who alerted the police when she found her father had gone missing from her sister’s home in Richmond a year after his disappearance. Given that the Hallts resided at Windsor, a suburb of Melbourne, and her sister resided at Richmond, another suburb of Melbourne, it is a bit surprising that she had not visited her father or sister for a year; clearly family relationships were not at the time straightforward.

We learn about James Hallt’s military past from his death notice, presumably inserted by Georgina:

Leader (Melbourne) Saturday 22 April 1911
HALLT.– On the 13th April, at the Alfred Hospital, James Hallt, beloved husband of Georgina, and father of James, John R., Harry G. and Donald, a Crimean veteran, served in H.M.S. Highflyer, 21-gun corvette, in the Black Sea, and Sea of Azoff, in his 90th year. Home papers please copy.

HMS Highflyer, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons licence

Georgina herself died in 1920:

Herald (Melbourne) Wednesday 3 March 1920
HALLT.– On the 3rd March, at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Georgina, widow of the late James Hallt, loving mother of Jim, Jack, Henry (late A.I.F.) and Don. Aged 71 years.

Boroondara Cemetery, Melbourne; photo by Melburnian, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons licence

Both James and Georgina are buried in Boroondara General Cemetery, in plot PRES C 0116. Volunteer Mary Prestoff kindly photographed the plot for me via; in keeping with so many in this family of Urquharts, there is no memorial to James Hallt or Georgina Hallt ms Urquhart.

photo by Mary Petroff, courtesy of

photo by Mary Petroff, courtesy of


7. John Urquhart (1854–1878)

When John Urquhart emigrated to Australia in 1873 with his parents and younger siblings, he was listed as an 18 year old “Farm Servt.” but I do not know what trade he adopted when he got there. But in any case, it could not have been for very long as poor John died within just a few years, in 1878. He is buried in the family lair in St Kilda Cemetery, Melbourne.


8. Jane Urquhart (1856–)

Jane was with the family as a child at Pitogarty, Tain, in the 1861 Census but I have been unable to trace her thereafter.


9. James Urquhart (1860–1884)

James travelled out to Australia as a child with most of his family in 1873. He was yet another of the children to survive to adulthood but to die as a young man.

The Age (Melbourne) Wednesday 16 January 1884
URQUHART.– On the 15th January, after a long and painful illness, of consumption, at his residence, Derby-street, off Rowena-parade, Richmond, James Urquhart, beloved son of John Urquhart, aged 24 years.

He was clearly a popular member of one of the societies which both promoted teetotalism and supported members who fell on hard times. When he died in 1884, the society had their own funeral announcement. This differed from the family announcement to be seen a few notices lower in the paper, in being an hour too early. Hopefully prospective attendees read both announcements.

The Age (Melbourne) Thursday 17 January 1884
Independent Order of Rechabites, Alliance Tent, No. 57.– Members of the above Tent and Order are respectfully invited to follow the remains of our late Bro., JAS. URQUHART, to the St. Kilda Cemetery. Funeral to leave his late residence, Derby-street, off Rowena-parade, Richmond, THIS DAY, at 3 o’clock.
J.F. Lewis, Secretary.
The Friends of the late Mr. JAMES URQUHART are respectively invited to follow his remains to their last resting place, the St. Kilda Cemetery. The funeral processersion to move from his late residence, No. 12 Derby-street, Richmond, THIS DAY (Thursday), the 17th inst., at 4 o’clock p.m.
Herbert King (late Thos Bell), Undertaker, 18 Lennox-street, Richmond.

Wikipedia states:

The Independent Order of Rechabites (IOR), also known as the Sons and Daughters of Rechab, is a fraternal organisation and friendly society founded in England in 1835 as part of the wider temperance movement to promote total abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Always well connected in upper society and involved in financial matters, it gradually transformed into a financial institution which still exists, and still promotes abstinence. The Order has been active in Australia from 1843, promoting temperance and as a benefit society.

Postcard celebrating the work of the Independent Order of Rechabites; photo from Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence


10. David Urquhart (1862–1887)

And sadly yet another of the Urquhart family to go out to Australia as a child and to die as a young man. I have been unable to find out much about David’s time in Melbourne and indeed the only notices I see about him are his civil death registration, his St Kilda Cemetery record and a notice in the paper whereby his Savings were being claimed by his father following his death! His poor father must have despaired as child after child was taken from him.

The Argus (Melbourne) Friday 16 December 1887
Savings Bank, Melbourne.– Notice.– It is the intention of the trustees to PAY, in due course, the following ACCOUNTS of Deceased Depositors to the CLAIMANTS, as under, unless good reason is shown to the contrary:–
Deceased Depositors.– David Urquhart …
Claimants.– John Urquhart …
By order, John Alsop, Actuary. December 15, 1887.


11. Jessie Urquhart (1864–1888)

And finally, and sad to say, one more child who died not long after reaching adulthood.

The Age (Melbourne) Monday 25 June 1888
The Friends of Mr. JOHN URQUHART are respectfully invited to follow the remains of his late beloved youngest daughter, Jessie, to their last resting place, the St. Kilda General Cemetery. The funeral to move from his residence, No. 12 Derby-street, Richmond, THIS DAY (Monday), the 25th inst., at 3 o’clock p.m.
Herbert King, Undertaker, 18 Lennox-street, 157 Swan-street, Richmond; and Burwood-road, Hawthorn. Telephone 912.


Postscript – tuberculosis in Australia

Tuberculosis (TB), also known as consumption or phthisis, was one of the most serious diseases worldwide. The climate of Australia was thought to be beneficial to sufferers, inducing many to migrate, and I wonder if this was the case with the family of John Urquhart and Isabella Johnston.

Tuberculosis prevention advertisement from Victoria, Australia

Tuberculosis cases rose in Victoria in the final decades of the 19th century, thought to have been made worse by repeated epidemics of measles, which weakened the immune system. Tuberculosis was much-feared: it could strike any family, suffering might last for years and there was no cure. Some people survived, but the reasons were not understood. Many ineffectual treatments were advertised in the press. But advice for the prevention of tuberculosis was more helpful, including not spitting and not sharing dishes. In 1882 German microbiologist Robert Koch identified the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which paved the way for research into effective treatments and vaccination, but at the start of the 20th century tuberculosis remained the leading cause of death for women in Australia, and the second largest cause of death for men.


The Siblings of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill:

2. James Urquhart ((1821–1873), married in 1848 Christian (Chirsty or Christy) Ross (1829–1878)

James Urquhart had serious mental health issues which pursued him most of his life. Residing at Gordons Mill, he worked as a labourer at the adjacent farm of Kirkton, operated at this time by Alexander Macrae.. In 1839, he got into trouble when he broke into the dairy at Kirkton and stole two cheeses. He was meant to come up on trial at the Circuit Court of Justiciary, held in Inverness in September 1840. He did not appear and was “fugitated”. I don’t know if he actually disappeared for a while or not, but he was two years later found to be residing at his home in Gordons Mill whilst working as a farm servant at Raddery, a few miles away, and arrested.

Inverness Journal 9 December 1842
James Urquhart, a lad belonging to the parish of Resolis, who was fugitated at the Circuit Court of Justiciary, held in Inverness in September 1840, (having been indicted on a charge of theft by housebreaking), was on the 18th November apprehended and lodged in the jail of Cromarty as an outlaw.

The Cromarty Sheriff Court records (SC24/13A/19) contain details of the case:

Procurator Fiscal vs James Urquhart, lately labourer in service of Alexander Fraser Macrae, tacksman, Kirkton, Resolis, Cromarty. Now farm servant with Donald Bisset, farmer, Raddery. Resides at Gordon Mills, Resolis, Cromarty.: Theft by housebreaking Dates 1840 1843. Theft of two cheeses from Alexander Fraser Macrae. Served 9 days awaiting trial. Further 7 days.

Several newspapers picked up on the case:

Inverness Courier 1 February 1843
Cromarty.– James Urquhart, who was outlawed at the autumn Circuit Court of Justiciary at Inverness, in September 1840, was, by instructions of the Crown Counsel, tried before the Sheriff-Substitute of Cromarty, on the 13th ult., on a complaint at the instance of Mr Grigor, Procurator-Fiscal of Cromartyshire, charging the prisoner with the crime of simple theft. The original charge against Urquhart was theft by means of housebreaking, he having, in the month of July, 1839, broken into the milkhouse on the farm of Kirkton, then occupied by Mr A.F. M’Rae, and abstracted some cheese therefrom. Urquhart pled guilty to the charge brought against him, and was sentenced to a week’s imprisonment in the jail of Cromarty.

I wonder which cell he was incarcerated in as nowadays one of the cells within Cromarty Courthouse Museum hosts a mannequin tableau of a Resolis prisoner and a Cromarty jailer, with the dialogue for the prisoner spoken by none other than yours truly!

Two tough prisoners in the cells in Cromarty Courthouse…

… and one of them making good his escape!

A few years later the Resolis Kirk Session had a look at the position regarding parishioners with mental issues. They reported:

Parish of Resolis Kirk Session Records
Meeting 3 Apr 1846
the following names of fatuous Persons, all resident with Relation, vizt. … James Urquhart residing at Gordonsmills

Nevertheless, James married shortly after this, a girl living in the Parish of Rosskeen, on the north side of the Balblair Ferry:

Parish of Resolis Marriages
30 January 1848 James Urquhart labourer residing at Gordonsmills in this p. & Chirsty Ross residing at Reiskmore in the parish of Rosskeen banns published 16, 23, 30 January 1848

There were to be no children from the union. Now married, he moved across the Firth himself, and worked as a labourer at Newmore. He and Chirsty can be seen there in the 1851 Census Return:

1851 Census Return Parish of Rosskeen Newmore
James Urquhart Head Married age 25 Lab born Resolis
Chirsty Urquhart Wife Married age Female age 21 Labs wife born Rosskeen

However, James’s condition clearly must have deteriorated as he was back into Cromarty Prison, and considered to be dangerous:

Resolis Parochial Board Minutes
Meeting 18 August 1854 … The Inspector reports, that the Sheriff on the 26th. day of October last found James Urquhart, lately residing at Gordons Mills, but now confined in Cromarty Prison for safe custody, in a state of unsound mind, and directed his removal to a Lunatic Asylum

Inverness Advertiser Tuesday 3 October 1854
In the Petition at the instance of James Grigor, Procurator-Fiscal of Court, against James Urquhart, Labourer at Gordonsmill, in the Parish of Resolis, and County of Cromarty, described as an Insane Person and Dangerous Lunatic, the Sheriff-Substitute of Ross and Cromarty shires, on the 29th day of September current, granted Warrant for committing the said James Urquhart to the Prison of Cromarty, for safe custody, and fixed on Thursday, the 26th day of the Month of October next, within the Sheriff-clerk’s Office in Cromarty, at 11 o’clock forenoon, for inquiring into his condition, of which commitment and appointment intimation is hereby given accordingly, as directed by the Acts 4 and 5 Vic., Cap. 60, Sec. 3, and 8 and 9 Vic, Cap 83, by James Grigor, Procurator Fiscal.
Procurator-Fiscal’s Office, Cromarty, 30th September 1854.

Subsequently, at a later meeting of the Parochial Board, it is confirmed that he was admitted to Montrose Lunatic Asylum.

Fortunately his condition must have improved, and he was released. He became a railway labourer, and we find the couple lodging far away from Ross-shire, in Tullibole, in what nowadays is Perthshire but was then Kinross-shire:

1861 Census Return Parish of Braefoot, Fossoway & Tulliebole, Kinross-shire Tullibole
James Urquhart Lodger Married age 30 Railway labourer born Ressoles
Christian Urquhart Wife Married age 28 born Roskeen

Sadly, he was back into an institute by the time of the next census. By this time, the Highlands had a brand new District Asylum at Craig Dunain, just outside Inverness, and in 1869 he became a patient there. Thus it was that while James may be found as an inmate in Craig Dunain in 1871, his wife is back with her mother, Margaret Ross ms Munro, in Easter Ross:

1871 Census Return Parish of Kilmuir Easter Miln Town
Margaret Ross Head Widow age 98 Pauper born Kilmuir Easter
Christina Urquhart Daughter Widow [sic] age 36 Pauper’s lunatic’s wife born Rosskeen
Bella Fraser Grand daughter age 7 Scholar born Rosskeen

Early photograph of Craig Dunain

Craig Dunain Hospital, now re-developed, opened as the Inverness District Asylum in 1864. The imposing main building is mostly of three storeys, its great length broken up by gabled bays and, at the centre, bold twin square towers. From its inception, the hospital encouraged amusements such as weekly dances, concerts, lectures, and recitals and sports such as bowling, curling, cricket and shinty. Whatever treatment James received in Craig Dunain must have been sufficient for him to be allowed out of the District Asylum on probation with his wife in 1873. But alas, he was to die whilst out on probation, from typhoid.

The records of the Resolis Parochial Board summarise his unfortunate history

Urquhart James
Residence Poyntzfield. 39. Minute when first placed on roll: 6 Nov 1854. Wife. Born Gordons Mills. Married. Labourer. Insane. 1869 Mar 24 – Pauper lodged in the Inverness District Lunatic Asylum. [much more information on his history, including being released on probation with wife] 1873 Aug 29 Died

I note that his death certificate, the details for which were provided accurately by his wife, Christy Ross, state that his father John Urquhart was a thatcher, which throws an interesting light on John Urquhart junior.


The Siblings of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill:

3. George Urquhart (1824–1889), married in 1861 Jane Reid (1825–1916)

George was the youngest child and became a tailor. His progress was steady from apprentice tailor, to journeyman tailor, to master tailor. George settled in Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

In 1841, he was an apprentice in the tailor shop of John McIntosh in Jemimaville:

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis Jemimaville
John McIntosh age 30 Tailor
Margaret Cameron age 50
Cursty Cameron age 52 FS
Cursty Cameron age 30 FS
George Urquhart age 18 Tailor Ap

In 1851, he was still based in Jemimaville, working for master tailor Colin Davidson, but by now he was a journeyman tailor, travelling across Scotland to where his services were required.

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis Jemimaville
Colin Davidson head married age 40 master tailor employing 1 man born Urquhart
Mary Davidson wife married age 40 housekeeper born Urquhart
Willm Davidson son age 10 scholar born Resolis
George Urquhart servant unmarried age 25 journeyman tailor born Resolis

In 1861, George was a tailor, lodging with a the family of a widow named Jean Connon on Queen Street, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. He married the widow later that year, although the marriage licence doesn’t mention this!

Parish of Peterhead Marriages
22 August 1861 at Peterhead Manse after Banns according to the forms of the Church of Scotland
George Urquhart tailor (bachelor) age 32 usual residence Marischal Street parents John Urquhart wright (d) Margaret Urquhart ms Fraser (d)
Jane Reid (spinster) age 33 usual residence Queen Street parents John Reid farmer (d) May Reid ms Thomson (d)
(signed) James Mitchell Minister of Peterhead (signed) Alexr. Batchan witness James Finnie witness

That licence should really read “Jane Connon ms Reid” but perhaps they wished to avoid a complicated certificate!

George never left Peterhead thereafter.

I see at least one child, Christina, born in 1863, and she was to go on to marry in Aberdeen in 1897 a nightwatchman, later an estate labourer, called William Adam Eddie, but sadly she was to die, still a young woman, in October 1901. There were two children, but I have not followed them up.

George Urquhart and Jane Reid seem to have adopted a child as well, one Margaret Masson. She doesn’t appear in the census returns with the Urquhart family but does on George’s death certificate, as informant: “Margaret Masson step daughter (Present)”. Thomas Masson had married one of the Cannons, the family into which Jane Reid had initally married, so undoubtedly that was the connection.

George died in 1889, of softening of the brain (encephalitis), and Jane died in 1916. I have not located their burial place.

And those are the siblings of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill.


The Forebears of Margaret Urquhart of Gordons Mill

The first record I have of an Urquhart at Gordons Mill is as recent as 1799, when John Urquhart in Gordons Mill subscribed a guinea towards the National Defence.

Caledonian Mercury 21 November 1799
National Defence.
Subscriptions in the Parishes of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden … John Urquhart, Gordon’s Mill 1.1.0

That was a significant amount of money for a small tenant to donate. And he was a small tenant. You can see from the plan of Gordons Mill just how limited an area of land he held, and he must have been dependent upon his labouring outwith his tenancy. On the settling of the Estate of Braelangwell following David Urquhart’s death in 1811, the position regarding tenants and feuers at Gordons Mill was examined, and the occupation is as set out below and repeated for 1816 and also 1818:

Thomas Stewart; John Urquhart Senr; James Robertson Dyer; Gilbert McCullach; John Urquhart Junr; James Urquhart; Margt Macgregor; Ann Urquhart [Widow William Ross]; Margt Taylor; Widow Johnston

We cannot tell when John Urquhart Senior died. He was still alive in 1818 as he features in the Newhall Estate accounts for that year but there are no subsequent accounts, following the sale of Gordons Mill to John McLeod Esquire. John Urquhart’s land at Gordons Mill was leased until at least 1822, for there is a note on two documents stored in the Highland Regional Archives (HRA/D32/H1(b) and HRA/D32/G1) relating to the affairs of Braelangwell and sale of Gordons Mill which states “The only leases are to Mr Stewart John Urquhart & James Urquhart for 7 years from Whits 1815”. I have coloured this leased land pink for John Urquhart and dark green for James Urquhart on the plan of Gordons Mill which I set out again below.

Urquhart feus and tenanted land at Gordons Mill

Following the winding up of Braelangwell affairs, Gordons Mill was offered for sale at £1500, but this was greatly reduced by the time it was purchased by John McLeod. There is a note in HRA/D32/G1 which charts the progress:

The first upset price was £1500 which was reduced to £1200 & then to £1040 at which price the subjects were sold to John McLeod– who is to have right to the Rents falling due at & after Whits 1820

We can see from the Braelangwell trust account book (CS96/4511) that John Urquhart Senior paid annually £1.17.6 for his land rental, and 10s for the feu duty for his house and garden, total £2.7.6, so his donation of one guinea to the National Defence back in 1799 can be put into context! The records in that account book show that both John Senior and John Junior had no arrears for years 1810, 1811, 1812 and 1813. They were managing quite well, then, so it is not surprising that in 1814 John Urquhart Junior married.

Parish of Rosskeen Marriages
John Urquhart from Resolis & Margaret Fraser daughter to John Fraser at Blackmoor [Blackmuir] were married on the 18th November 1814

You won’t find Blackmuir on Ordnance Survey maps, but it was the area of land, north of the modern day A9, between the Achnagarron Crossroads (where the impressive Free Church is located) and Milnafua on the western edge of Alness. In fact the house and farm steading of Wester Blackmuire I understand was where the Milnafua football pitch is currently located. Although much of the village of Alness fell within the Parish of Alness, that part of it to the east of the Alness River fell within the Parish of Rosskeen. So when Margaret Urquhart ms Fraser was recorded in the 1851 Census…

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis Gordons Mill
Margaret Urquhart head widow age 70 pauper born Ross-shire Alness

… she gave her parish as Alness, but in fact her birthplace, if Blackmuir, was just inside Rosskeen.

Margaret’s age on her 1858 death certificate (70) and on the 1841 (60) and 1851 (70) Census Returns do conflict, but nevertheless give a range for her likely birth year, the period 1781–1788, although I suspect the older date is more likely.

As we have seen, there were four children baptised to John Urquhart Junior and Margaret Fraser of Gordons Mills.

We can obtain John Urquhart Junior’s approximate age from the September 1814 Resolis Militia List, as this contained all the adult males between 17 and 45 in the parish (SC24/21/6/1). The entries for Gordons Miln include “John Urquhart labourer >30”. In other words, he was between 30 and 45 in 1814, and therefore born in the period 1769 and 1784. Not very precise, I know, but in fact those militia lists were examined very closely so it will at least be correct! Given that John Urquhart Junior married Margaret Fraser in 1814, the likelihood is that he was born towards the upper end of that range.

We can also tell roughly when John Urquhart Junior died as his widow (Margaret Fraser) was entered on the poor’s roll in December 1834:

Resolis Kirk Session Records
At the School House of Resolis the 9th day of December 1834 years … They also resolved in consideration of their poverty to add the following persons for the first time to the poors roll viz … Widow John Urquhart in Gordons Mills

Almost certainly, then, John Urquhart died earlier in 1834. Now, there is a stone in Kirkimichael which bears the cryptic inscription “J. U. 1834” and I think it likely that this scratched inscription is all that commemorates John Urquhart of Gordons Mill.

It is rather remarkable that the inscription was picked up at all. Most of the central area of Kirkmichael Burial Ground, in front of the buildings, is a solid mass of buried slabs, interrupted only where slabs were removed to accommodate more modern tablestones and then headstones. We have two examples of whole slabs being deposited upon another to make space for headstones, we have examples of slabs being broken in pieces to form the base slab of headstones. To the east of the central yews we had found and recorded a half slab. But when checking the site over again, we found to our surprise that the half slab was sitting on top of another, deeper, whole slab. It was a very smart affair, dedicated to a couple, but with the dates not completed – the stone had been prepared by the owner himself, obviously, but his descendants did not follow through by completing his specially chosen slab. That was in the late 1600s or early 1700s, we think.

trying to read the tiny inscription within the red-highlighted area of this often used slab; photo by Andrew Dowsett

time to bring out the Kirkmichael Lampie for extreme oblique photography; photo by Andrew Dowsett

There then followed a series of initials and dates added as the slab was used by later families. We recorded all of them and were close to re-covering the slab, when it was suggested that there was one more set of initials and date faintly scratched near the bottom of the slab. It was difficult to pick out in the daylight, so I returned with the Kirkmichael Lampie that night to take oblique photographs from many different angles. The inscription is small and not deeply incised, but definitely reads “J. U. 1834”. There is no guarantee that this is the correct John Urquhart, of course, but the year is right and given there were only a handful of John Urquharts in the area it is very likely that this is the lasting memorial to John Urquhart junior of Gordons Mill.

The “J.U. 1834” becomes clear; photo by Jim Mackay

Widow Urquhart of Gordons Mills continued on the poor’s roll for a long time after the death of her husband in 1834, right up to the time of her own death in 1858.

Rather than being just an ordinary labourer, I believe that John Urquhart Junior was at times involved in thatching. Upon the death certificate of his son James, the informant, his sister-in-law, says that father John Urquhart was a thatcher. And there is a note within the Newhall Estate records (HRA/D32/G1)

1822 … Repairs on the Manse and Offices of the Parish … John Urquhart to account of thatching

Now, I have no proof that this is John Urquhart of Gordons Mill, but the description of John Urquhart on his death certificate certainly supports it.

And that is all that is currently known about John Urquhart Senior and John Urquhart Junior!


James Urquhart of Gordons Mill (c1764–between 1841 and 1851)

If we return to the plan of Gordons Mill, there were two more Urquhart residents, the small tenant and feu-holder James Urquhart (who married Catherine Hendry), and Ann Urquhart (who married William Ross). They were brother and sister. The plan, once again set out below, shows James’s house and garden shaded dark blue, his feued land shaded light blue, and his rented land shaded dark green. Ann’s small house and garden is shaded red. As mentioned earlier, I’m quite sure that James and Ann were brother and sister to John Urquhart Junior, their neighbour, and they were all children of John Urquhart Senior, but have not found the necessary evidence for confirmation.

Urquhart feus and tenanted land at Gordons Mill

James Urquhart is easy to trace. He married Catherine Hendry, and they had children Janet (1811), Hellen (1813) and Jn. Hendry (1815–1894). James lived through to the 1841 Census:

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis Gordons Mill
James Urquhart age 77 Wright
Katharine Hendry age 60
Hendry Urquhart age 23 Sawyer

And his wife lived through to the 1851 Census:

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis Gordons Mill
Catharine Urquhart head widow age 68 pauper formerly carpenter’s wife born Nigg
Janet Urquhart daur widow age 38 born Resolis
Henry Urquhart son unmarried age 34 house carpenter born Resolis
Jamima Ross granddaur age 6 scholar born Nigg

James Urquhart of Gordons Mill thus died before the start of civil registration, so little about him can be learned, unfortunately. However, his wife did make it into the modern age and we find:

Catherine Urquhart (widow of James Urquhart carpenter) died 25 January 1861 at Gordonsmills age 81 parents John Henry farmservant (deceased) [blank] Henry m.s. Noble (deceased) informant Henry Urquhart son (present)

Well, it is a pity that Henry had forgotten the given name of his maternal grandmother, but in normal parishes that would not prevent identification of her family. But you will note that Catherine had been born in Nigg, where most people worshipped in the Nigg Associate Church, and the baptism records there generally do not give the mother’s name in an unhelpful, misogynistic twist. I cannot therefore trace with confidence the family of Henry’s mother.

Now, for James’s sister Ann Urquhart. The following list is set out within the Braelangwell papers:

Alexander Mackintosh’s Feu Gordon Miln
Ann Urquharts or Widow Ross’s Feu

and on a separate list:

No. 4 Alexr McIntosh 2.-.-
No. 5 Ann Urquhart 1.-.-
No. 6. Widow Johnston 1.-.-

Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are grouped with the note: “Old servants & promised by Mr Urquhart to reside free during life

Those clues make identification of Ann easy. Ann Urquhart had married Braelangwell servant William Ross, and had children Henrietta Ross (1790–1858), John Ross (1792–), and Gordon Urquhart Ross (1795–). Daughter Henrietta never married and resided in her later years at Gordons Mill, where she died:

Henrietta Ross farm servant (single) died 26 September 1858 at Gordonsmills age 67 parents William Ross farm servant (deceased) Ann Ross m.s. Urquhart buried Churchyard of Kirkmichael As certified by William Holm Sexton informant Henry Urquhart cousin (not present)

The informant, cousin Henry or John Henry Urquhart (1816–1894), was the son of James Urquhart of Gordons Mill and his spouse Catherine Hendry, whose surname became his given name. Henry moved on from being a carpenter or sawyer to hold for a long period the responsible position of ground officer for the Estate of Poyntzfield. He acted as informant at the deaths for several relatives, and thereby his family can be built up. For example:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Jemima Ross (single) died 2 November 1857 at Gordonsmills Resolis age 12 years parents George Ross farm servant (deceased) Janet Ross maiden name Urquhart Churchyard of Kirkmichael as certified by William Holm sexton informant Henry Urquhart Uncle (present).

That one demonstrates that the Janet Urquhart who married George Ross was his sister, and a little further research in the Resolis parish registers shows that on 8 June 1838 George Ross in the parish. of Rosskeen at Milncraig & Jennet Urquhart at Gordon’smills in this parish were contracted and married in due time.

John Henry himself married Ann Munro in Tain in 1859, but alas, she died the following year in – well, the death certificate tells its own tragic story:–

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Ann Urquhart (married) died 19 May 1860 at Gordonsmills age 35 parents George Munro house carpenter (deceased) Catherine Munro m.s. Fraser [cause of death and duration] Child Bed with Flooding and Fever from a Fright. Fourteen Days. As certified by Alexander Ross Surgeon who saw deceased 17th May. Buried Churchyard of Kirkmichael As certified by William Holm Sexton informant Henry Urquhart widower (present)

Henry never married again, and continued to live at Gordons Mill as a widower, albeit various relations were often in his household.

As ground officer to the Poyntzfield Estate, Henry would have acted as the interface between tenants and factor or proprietor, the factor’s man on the ground, as it were. It was a tricky job. I note that in 1883, when the young heir of Poyntzfield, Mr George G. Munro of Poyntzfield came of age, Henry was involved in the celebrations, toasted the Estate Factor and was toasted by one of the Jemimavlle trades people in turn (Jemimaville, of course, was Poyntzfield’s planned village):

Ross-shire Journal 11 May 1883
Coming of Age of the Heir of Poyntzfield Estate.– Mr George G. Munro, of Poyntzfield, attained his majority on Sunday last. On Monday a few of the tenants on the estate met at Poyntzfield Arms Inn, Jamimaville, to drink the health of the young laird. … Wine and cake being placed on the table, the Chairman proposed the health of Mr Munro of Poyntzfield, and wished him long life and happiness. This was most heartily responded to. Mr M. Campbell next proposed the health of Mrs and the Misses Munro, which was also cordially received. … The following toasts were also proposed The Tenants, by Mr Mackenzie, Jamimaville; the Factor, by Mr Urquhart, do.; Mr Henry Urquhart, ground officer, by Mr Ross, baker … Other healths followed. Dancing was then engaged in, and songs given in good style.

He died ten years later, still residing at Gordons Mill:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
John Henry Urquhart ground officer widower of Annie Munro died 1 December 1894 at Gordons Mills age 79 parents James Urquhart joiner (d) Catherine Urquhart ms Henry (d) informant John Munro nephew (present)

And the Ross-shire carried a sympathetic obituary:

Ross-shire Journal 7 Dec 1894
Resolis – Death of Mr J.H. Urquhart. – We are sorry to have to record the death of Mr John Henry Urquhart, which took place at his house at Gordon Mills, on Saturday, after a short illness. Henry, as he was familiarly spoken of, was well known in the parish, being for the long period of forty-seven years ground officer on the estate of Poyntzfield, where he was a faithful, trusted servant, being held in high regard both by proprietor and tenant. He had reached the good old age of 84 years. The funeral took place on Tuesday, and was well attended.

The hamlet of Gordons Mill; photo by Jim Mackay



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