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

William and Janet McLennan of Teaninich of Poyntzfield, their adopted daughter, and the McLennans of Ardmeanach

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as given below each image


The farm of Teaninich of Poyntzfield no longer exists. Not a stone of the old crofthouse and steading can now be seen on the ground. And yet it had a history going back hundreds of years and was once even the location of a regular market.

One of the last farmers of Teaninich was William McLennan, and there is a sad story associated with William and his wife, Janet McLennan. There are two gravestones at the back of the chancel at Kirkmichael which together tell the tale. One of them is the simple “W McL” headstone for William McLennan, the attractive tablestone beside it, however, is of more significance…

The small but substantial headstone, with its angled top and bearing inscription “W McL”, is actually complementary to the adjacent tablestone! photo by Davine Sutherland



But first, where was Teaninich? Not a single Ordnance Survey map ever showed the farm, and there are no estate plans of the Poyntzfield Estate extant. And yet it featured in the Valuation Rolls right up to the year 1900.

One of our oldest dated slabs at Kirkmichael references Teaninich:



It features a lovely Claymore sword, one of half a dozen such stones we have from the first years of the 17th century. A map drawn by Gordon from that era places “Taeninnich” close to the shore on Udale Bay, between what are nowadays known as the Newhall Burn and the Udale Burn, although closer to the Newhall Burn – not a million miles away from modern-day Gordon’s Mills. I have spotted Teaninich in red, “Arda” or Ardoch, which became Poyntzfield, in blue, and Kirkmichael in green, and underlined each name in the appropriate colour to assist.

There are lots of references to Teaninich in old charters and sasines, of course. I see, for instance, an instrument of sasine in favour of Sir Robert Farquhar in 1644 – he was obtaining lands from the family of Urquhart:

The town and lands of Farness, with the mills, mill lands, multures, sequels, houses, biggings, yards, orchards, parts, pendicles, and pertinents of the same, Bostas of Farness and Bannans, the towns and lands of Davidston, Padistown, Ardoch, Bellashellie [Bellaskellie], Braelangwell, Bellacheerie [Bellacherrie], Riefillis [Resolis], Ferrietown [Ferrytown], Belblair [Balblair], Roskobbrechtie [Rosabrichtie], the Milltown of Roskobbrechtie, with the mills, mill lands, multures, and sequels thereof. The ward of Gehuie [Gelnie], Teminich [Teaninich], Auchmartin, and Corrie, the towns and lands of Meikle and Little Braes…

A hundred years later and we find in 1766 a charter by George Munro of Poyntzfield to Wm. and Charles Poyntz of the lands of Ardoch, Teaninich, Blairnaclach, Calins Croft, Badofin, Kirkmichael, Newhall, Ballacherry, Ballaskilly, Birks, Aldynie, Calmies Croft, Wood of Braelangwell, and Cullicudin, also Gruids with Pitarskie.

And a hundred years later yet, we find Teaninich still part of the Poyntzfield Estate:

Dec.15.1854. Catherine Mackintosh residing at Drakies House near Inverness, gets Bond and Disp. for £4001.6s.7d., by George Gun Munro of Poyntzfield, Oct.31.1854, – over the lands of Ardoch now called Poyntzfield, Teaninich, Blairnaclach, Colinscroft and Particle of land or Spot of ground called Badaffin, and Teinds, par. Kirkmichael. [and much more]

The lands of Poyntzfield, including Teaninich, were regarded as quality cereal-growing land, as can be seen in this advertisement from an Inverness newspaper of 30 October 1807

The ESTATE OF POYNTZFIELD, Situated in the Shires of Cromarty, and Sutherland. / Notice is hereby given to Farmers, and Graziers, that all the Low Country and Highland Farms upon that property are now open, and will be Let on Leases, of from 7, to 21 years, as may be agreed upon.– Entry at Whitsunday, 1808.
The following CORN FARMS at POYNTZFIELD, viz. EASTER and WESTER BIRKS, BALLISKELLY, EASTER and WESTER BALLICHERRY, TEANINICH, and LITTLE ARDOCH, are of moderate sizes, from about 60, to 120 acres each, beautifully situated upon a gentle declivity, on the south side of the Cromarty Frith, within one mile of the sea, and five of the sea-port town of Cromarty; having a Northern exposure. The soil is good, and capable of great improvement, having several patches of rich Woodlands, which might be cultivated to advantage. These Farms have also the conveniency of abundance of wood and water, and a Flour and Corn Mill in the vicinity…

Teaninich like many other crofts such as Whisky Park and Blairnaclach declined and disappeared. Small crofts were not viable and the estate owners offered leases whereby several crofts were combined. I see that in the Inland Revenue survey of the early 19teens, Teaninich is described thus:

IR No.: 63 Property: Tighninnich. / croft 22 acres Owner: Munro, GMG, Lt Col (late), trustees for creditors
Tenant/occupier: Thoms, Catherine, Miss
Agricultural buildings: stone, slate: steading poor (later noted as derelict)

I suspect the stone and slate were re-used for other buildings in the vicinity.


William McLennan and Janet McLennan

William was born in the parish of Avoch and Janet was born in the parish of Urray, but they were both working in the parish of Cromarty when they married in 1833:

Cromarty Marriage Register
29th. November 1833. William McLennan and Janet McLennan both servants at Farness were married.

Alas, there were to be no children. I see no children to them in the baptism registers of Ross and Cromarty, I see no children in house with them in 1841, 1851 or 1861 census returns. At a time of big families and high infant mortality, William and Janet were childless.

When they first appear in the Resolis records, they are at Auldynie, a croft on higher ground above Braelangwell House. This was the highest cultivated land at the east end of the Braelangwell Estate at this time. A short distance from Farness in the parish of Cromarty, of course, but they may well have been labouring elsewhere since their marriage at Farness. We’ll come back to it, but close by was William’s father, who had also moved into the parish to become a sizeable tenant of Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell. I think William was there before his father, though.

Auldynie in 1812

and Auldynie in 1844 – I imagine the house shown is where William and Janet were residing


1841 Census record for Aultdynie, parish of Resolis
William McLennan 35 AL
Jennet McLennan 30

At this time William was an agricultural labourer (“AL”), but by 1851 he had taken up the tenancy of the nearby farm of Teaninich, on the neighbouring Poyntzfield Estate. The records reveal that he was farming 24 acres of land and employing five labourers, three of whom I note were in house with the family.

1851 Census record for Teaninich, parish of Resolis
William McLennan head married 46 farmer of 24 acres empploying 5 labourers Ross-shire Avoch
Janet McLennan wife married 40 employed at the farm Ross-shire Urray
Margt Cameron adopted daur unmarried 10 scholar Ross-shire Knockbain
Willm Do. farm servant unmarried 17 farm servant Morayshire Elgin
Dond McDonald herd unmarried 14 cattle herd Ross-shire Contin
Murdoch McLean lodger unmarried 20 common labourer Ross-shire Gairloch

You will note the absence of any of their own children, but there is now an adopted daughter, Margaret Cameron, 10 years old, and from the parish of Knockbain. She would be attending the Free Church school a short distance away at Jemimaville.

Life at Teaninich was proving profitable for the McLennan family, and there was clearly surplus cash. I note that William made a small donation to the Patriotic Fund in 1855 and he was shortly to purchase property in nearby Jemimaville.

But tragedy was just around the corner. Young Margaret suffered from the dreaded phsisis, tuberculosis, and passed away in 1857. It must have been with a heavy heart that William walked to the Registrar’s to record her death:

Margaret Cameron (single) died 6 August 1857 at Teaninich aged 17 years father Alexander Cameron Farmer mother [blank] deceased buried Churchyard of Kirkmichael as certified by William Holm sexton informant William McLennan occupier (present)

I’m afraid I have been unable to learn the full story behind Margaret and how she came to be adopted by William and Janet. Let me know if you are aware of her back story!

Margaret’s burial space is just beside the north east corner of the chancel at Kirkmichael, wonderfully sunny early in the morning, but in the shadow for much of the day. A beautiful tablestone was erected on the spot, testifying to the affection which the couple had felt for their adopted daughter.

This stone is placed here / by / WILLIAM McLENNAN Farmer / Teninich of PoyntzField / and his spouse JANET McLENNAN / in memory of / MARGARET CAMERON / who died on the 8th August 1857 / aged 16 years.

photo by Jim Mackay

photo by Jim Mackay

I think the tablestone may have been erected a few years later, as you will note a couple of errors in the inscription compared to the details on the death certificate, provided when the memory was fresh.

There was to be a further death in the farmhouse at Teaninich, the following year.

1858 Deaths, Resolis
James Murray (widower) (pauper) formerly a farmer died 26 January 1858 at Teaninich aged 65 father Robert Murray farmer (deceased) mother Jane Murray m.s. Murray (deceased) buried Church Yard of Cullicuden As certified by William Holm Sexton informant William McLennan his x mark Occupier of the house in which the death occurred.

At some point in this period, whilst still in Teaninich, William McLennan bought a house and garden in Jemimaville from the Poyntzfield Estate. He was now one of the propertied few. In the 1857 Valuation Roll he is simply listed as the tenant and occupier of Teaninich, but in the 1862 Valuation Roll he is additionally listed as owner of a house and garden in Jemimaville:

1862 Valuation Roll, Jemimaville; the first column is the property (the “do.” refers to house and garden in Jemimaville), the second the owner (William McLennan Teaninich), the third the tenants and the fourth the occupiers

He had two tenants occupying his house in Jemimaville, which must have been a welcome additional source of income.

He was still on the farm at the time of the 1861 Census as he, Janet and three workers were occupying the farmhouse. It is recorded as having three rooms with one or more windows.

1861 Census return for “Croft of Teaninich Crofter’s House”, parish of Resolis
William McLennan head married 55 crofter of 1 pair horses, & 30 acres Ross shire Avoch
Janet McLennan wife married 50 crofter’s wife Ross shire Urray
Helen Holm servant unmarried 20 crofter’s servant Cromarty
Alexander Urquhart servant unmarried 15 ploughboy Cromarty-shire Resolis
Thomas Holm servant unmarried 14 herd Cromarty-shire Cromarty

In a way, William and Janet had been adopting again. Janet’s sister Elizabeth, who had been working at Farness (like William) had in 1837 married Donald Holm, an agricultural labourer at Udale and then Colony, both just to the east of Resolis in the parish of Cromarty. Donald Holm had died still a young man, and William and Janet had clearly welcomed two of the children, Helen and Thomas, into their own home.

By 1865, William McLennan had either split his property in Jemimaville into two properties or had purchased an adjacent house and garden, for he is now recorded as owner of one house and garden, and owner occupier of the adjacent house and garden. He had therefore moved out of Teaninich into Jemimaville in this period. Indeed, we know he was living in Jemimaville as early as January 1864 as will shortly emerge.

Nephew Thomas Holm became a farm servant at Nairn, married a Margaret Fraser there in 1877, but seems to have never had any children. I don’t know what happened to the niece, Helen. I see her across in Auldearn, Nairnshire, in 1871 as a domestic servant in a big house, but have not tracked her thereafter. Their mother, Elizabeth, had died in Cromarty back in 1864, and William as usual had had the unwelcome duty of attending the registrar’s:

Elizabeth Holm pauper widow of Donald Holm labourer died 14 January 1864 Cromarty aged 55 parents William McLennan farmer Catherine McLennnan ms Chisholm cause of death Insanity duration Months as certified by John Mackay Physician & Surgeon informant William McLennan brother-in-law Jemimaville

It was a sad life for William, always reporting the deaths of his relatives. He himself died not long afterwards in 1866 and, astonishingly, who should report his death but his own father!

William McLennan farmer (married to Janet McLennan) died 7 May 1866 at Jamimaville aged 61 parents John McLennan farmer Ann McLennan m.s. McIntosh (d) informant John McLennan his x mark father (present)

I imagine it was William’s widow and William’s father who organised the small, angular and very thick headstone that stands adjacent to, and parallel with the head of, his adopted daughter’s tablestone. It simply states:


Janet McLennan

When William died Janet was left with only the rent from the property in Jemimaville on which to live. In an earlier generation she would not have been given parochial support if she continued to hold property, a rule instituted by the Reverend Robert Arthur. However, in the new poor relief arrangements she qualified and appears in the parochial relief records. This was in 1890 so clearly she had reluctantly applied for poor relief only at the very end of her life when she could not cope:

Widow William McLennan
[Residence] Jemimaville [Age] 80 years [Date of minute authorizing Relief] 25 Aug 1890 [Amount of Relief authorized] 1/6 per week [Nature of Settlement] Residence [born] Urray widow Husband William MacLennan died 24 years ago Housewife [Disabled] Partially [Description of Disablement] Age & debility [Wholly or Partially Destitute] Partially [Earnings, Means, and Resources besides Parochial Relief] Has about £4 a Year from Rents of house [Nature of Settlement] Residence [Children living in family] None [Name of children living in family] None
1891 Feb 12 Died

It would be interesting to go through the sasines to see what happened to her two properties at Jemimaville – and also to identify which ones she owned. Having applied for poor relief at the very end of her life, she passed away just a few months later:

Janet McLennan (widow of William McLennan feuar) died 13 February 1891 at Jamimaville aged 88 parents William McLennan crofter (deceased) Catherine McLennan m.s. unknown (deceased) informant Thomas Holmes his x mark nephew No. 3 Barber’s Close Nairn

You will note that the less than helpful nephew from Nairn, the informant, could not remember the surname of his aunt’s mother. However, when Janet’s sister Elizabeth Holm ms McLennan had died many years earlier in 1864, William had provided the information to the registrar and this had included the mother’s surname: “parents William McLennan farmer Catherine McLennnan ms Chisholm”.

From the Census returns, we know that both sisters gave their parish of birth as Urray. Whilst there are quite a number of children in the baptism record to William McLennan and Catherine Chisholm at Arcan in Urray over the period 1801 to 1820 inclusive, I don’t see an Elizabeth. There is a “Jane” baptised in 1808 which might be our Janet, although the two names are usually considered separate. However, at least the family is identified.

And so both William and Janet, the former crofting family in Teaninich of Poyntzfield were now gone, and the only memorial is the “W McL” on the small angular headstone in Kirkmichael. Much larger and more impressive is the adjacent tablestone to their beloved adopted daughter Margaret Cameron.

The two McLennan stones at Kirkmichael lie within the red ellipse; photo by Andrew Dowsett

An image of the two stones from an unhappier period in the story of Kirkmichael; photo by Jim Mackay


Appendix: John McLennan, the father of William McLennan, and McLennans of Ardmeanach on the Braelangwell Estate

So what do we know of the elderly father who is present in Jemimaville when his son William dies, and then informs the registrar of his death? There is no record of any birth to a John McLennan and Ann McIntosh in the church registers, but lo and behold, in 1841 we do find the family – at Braelangwell in the parish of Resolis! At this time they were living very close to William and Janet, who were in Auldiny in Braelangwell.

1841 Census return, Braelangwell
John McLennan 60 Farmer
Ann McIntosh 55
John McLennan 22 / Isabel McLennan 20 / Alexr McLennan 18 / Margaret McLennan 13 / Roderick McLennan 12

All of a sudden, our William McLennan in Teaninich is shown to have a plethora of younger siblings! And yet, not one of these children appears in the baptism registers in Ross and Cromarty. With some difficulty I traced John’s own death record, across in the parish of Urray:

John MacLennan farner (married to Helen Macdonald formerly to Ann MacIntosh) died 13 June 1869 at Broomhill of Ord aged 90 parents William MacLennan farmer (d) Isabella MacLennan ms MacLeay (d) informant Alexr. Tolmie grandson (present)

I am much indebted to correspondent John McLennan, himself a descendant of John McLennan and Ann McIntosh, for drawing to my attention the reason why I could not find early records of Ann MacIntosh: Provost was an alias for McIntosh. Like Cameron and Mackeddie in Resolis, you have to check for both names when researching as a family may use either at different times. With Provost, it appears that the families continued to use the name well into the 1800s and then McIntosh appears fairly uniformly. This then is the correct marriage:

Parish of Suddy & Kilmuir Wester (now Knockbain) marriage register
1804 … July 27 John MacLennan Farmer Gooseburn parish of Avoch & Annie Provost Belnaguy this parish

William, the eldest son, was born whilst John McLennan was still in the parish of Avoch, according to later census returns, although he does not appear in the parish records. The birthplaces of John’s other children indicate his movements thereafter, and putting those together with census returns, shows us that he had been at: Taeblair in Kilmuir Wester (Knockbain), Kiltarlity (Inverness-shire), Strathglass (Inverness-shire), Arpafeelie (Knockbain) and Braelangwell (Resolis). He was resident close to Braelangwell House in 1841:

1841 Census return, Braelangwell, parish of Resolis
John McLennan 60 Farmer
Ann McIntosh 55
John McLennan 22 / Isabel McLennan 20 / Alexr McLennan 18 / Margaret McLennan 13 / Roderick McLennan 12

Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell in the 1840s purchased land adjacent to the south end of his estate at Ardmeanach, just outside Resolis in the parish of Rosemarkie. When the common high ground in the Black Isle, the Mulbuie, was broken up into the ownership of surrounding land interests, the area known as Ardmeanach fell to the Burgh of Fortrose. Sir Hugh bought portions of it at different times as the Burgh released it for sale, and eventually had it all, paying well over the odds to secure it.

A small portion of a useful plan showing when Sir Hugh purchased the various parts of Ardmeanach over the years

Sir Hugh was advertising much of Ardmeanach to let as early as February 1841, as in the advertisement below. John McLennan was still tenanting land on the Resolis side of Braelangwell, but must have been tempted by the prospect of a larger area of land with longer tenure.


Inverness Courier 24 February 1841
Farm to Let. To be Let, for such number of years as may be agreed on, with Entry immediately, or at the term of Whitsunday next, The Farm and Lands of Ardmeanach, in the Parish of Rosemarkie, and County of Ross, containing 100 Imperial Acres, or thereby. These Lands have grown any kind of Crop, and are particularly adapted for Turnips. They are situated within a few miles of Rosemarkie, where Lime and Coals can be landed, and Grain Shipped for the Southern Market.
There is a Square of Offices on the Farm, substantially built with stone and lime, and slated, and a comfortable Dwelling House, fit for the accommodation of the Tenant’s Family.
There is likewise a Garden, upwards of half an Acre in extent, enclosed with high Stone and Lime Walls, and stocked with Wall and Standard Fruit Trees and Bushes.
For further particulars application may be made to the Proprietor at Braelangwell; or to H.I. Cameron, Esq., County Clerk’s Office, Dingwall; and the Manager at Braelangwell will give directions for showing the Farm and its boundaries.
Braelangwell, 22d Feb. 1841.

So John McLennan became the tenant of Sir Hug’s new land in Ardmeanach. Sir Hugh Fraser had been in Redcastle before he purchased Braelangwell, and there is the possibility that he knew of the McLennan family as good farmers and a family to encourage. In reality Ardmeanach is too high up to be ideal for arable farming, but the McLennans made a success of farming there for decades. Whilst it was not ideal for crops, it obviously was good for rearing animals, and turnips grew well enough there as advertisements of the time demonstrate.

Of course, we don’t know exactly when John entered Ardmeanach. He was certainly there by January 1848, as the farm is mentioned in the Rosemarkie death register when, sadly, his wife Annie died.

Ann Macintosh, 1848. Ann Macintosh, died at Wester Ardmeanoch, the tenth, and was buried in the Church-yard at Redcastle, the thirteenth January, in the Sixty-third year of her age.

While there is a specific location called Redcastle, usually in the records the name actually refers to the parish of Killearnan. The entry therefore means that Ann was buried in Killearnan kirkyard, but I am not aware of a stone bearing her name there. John McLennan continued at Ardmeanach, and I see from the 1851 Census that he was farming 120 acres, 80 arable and 40 pasture.

1851 Census record Mulbuy, parish of Rosemarkie
John McLennan head Widr 70 Farmer of 80 acres arable 40 pasture born Ross Knockbain
Isabella McLennan daur unmarried 25 Employed at home born Inverness – Strathglass
Alexander McLennan son unmarried 23 Employed on farm born Inverness – Strathglass
Margaret McLennan daur unmarried 21 Employed on farm born Inverness – Strathglass
Roderick McRay servt unmarried 20 Shepherd born Ross – Kintail

Obviously a tough cookie, John McLennan. Annie Provost or MacIntosh had died back in 1848, but unexpectedly we see John remarrying on 24 July 1857 at Killearnan Free Church:

John his x mark McLennan Donald Mackay witness aged 75 residence Ardmianoch parish of Rosemarkie farmer (widower) parents William McLennan farmer Isabella Mcleay
Helen her x mark McDonald John Macdonald witness aged 38 residence Muckernich parish of Knockbain servant (spinster) parents Ronald McDonald farmer Isabella Gray

I am not clear as to why they married in Killearnan except for the fact that the McLennan family had a long association with the parish. Helen was living in Knockbain and had been born in Knockbain. In fact, I see from the Knockbain baptism register that Helen was born there in 1807, so she was underplaying her age more than somewhat! John was still at Ardmeanach (“Ardmianoch”) at time of re-marrying, but gave up farming shortly afterwards. By the time of the 1861 Census he was still at Ardmeanach but letting his son Alexander do the work:

1861 Census return “Ardmeanoch”, parish of Rosemarkie, in house with two rooms with one or more windows
Alex. McLennan head unmarried 30 Farmer of 60 acres do. Strathglass
Donald McDonald serv. unmarried 25 ploughman do. Avoch
Mary McKenzie do. unmarried 25 domestic serv. Inverness Inverness
John McLennan father married 80 formerly farmer Ross, Strathglass

I see that either Alexander or the census taker became confused, thinking Strathglass was in Ross, and putting down Strathglass as the parish of birth of John as well as Alexander himself. I can almost see the census taker quizzing the farmers and assuming the Strath Glass referred to by them was the one in Easter Ross. But the most interesting element is – is there a story behind the absence of Helen! Putting conjecture to one side, with John being resident at Ardmeanach in 1861, we can see that his tenure at Ardmeanach was one of the longest in his peripatetic life, moving from tenancy to tenancy.

In 1866, as we have seen, he was present in Jemimaville when his son William, late of Teaninich of Poyntzfield, died, and it was he who notified the registrar of William’s death. At the end he moved to live with his daughter Margaret and family at Broomhill of Ord in the parish of Urray. She had married Alexander Tolmie, a farm labourer who became the farm manager at Broomhill. And there the old farmer passed away.

John MacLennan farmer (married to Helen Macdonald formerly to Ann MacIntosh) died 13 June 1869 at Broomhill of Ord aged 90 parents William MacLennan farmer (d) Isabella MacLennan ms MacLeay (d) informant Alexr. Tolmie grandson (present)

John’s son Alexander continued farming at Ardmeanach until his death in 1872. The land was advertised for let in 1873, referencing “Ardmeanach, Parish of Rosemarkie, as lately possessed by the deceased Mr Alexander Maclennan”.

And thus ended the connection of the McLennan family with the Braelangwell Estate. It had lasted for two generations and a period of more than 30 years.


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