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

The Grants of Ardoch and Resolis
and Moynes, Dunskaith, Balkeith and Polnicol…

text: Dr Jim Mackay   Photography: as given
All document references beginning E7, RHP or GD are held by the National Records of Scotland and their permission is gratefully acknowledged for reproduction of elements of these documents.

The most striking mausoleum in the kirkyard of Kirkmichael is that erected by William Grant of Ardoch in memory of his first wife, Florence Dunbar. From the wonderful stone with “16 William Grant Floranc Dunbar 80” over your head as you enter, to the memorial beautifully carved with family crests, and the much later genealogical stone by a descendant, the whole surrounded by a striking surround of stone balusters, the impression is one of a family determined to make its mark.


The entrance to the Grant of Ardoch Mausoleum, prior to being repaired in 2016.
Photo: Andrew Dowsett

The family buried their dead in this enclosure at Kirkmichael long after they had left the area, and we have two marvellous funeral invitations in 1810 to Munro of Allan inviting him to join funeral parties crossing the Cromarty Firth to the family burial ground in Kirkmichael.

Who were these Grants? They were in fact close relatives of the chief of Clan Grant. The brother of the first William Grant of Ardoch held Moynes, near Nairn, considered part of Morayshire back in the 1600s. There is a marvellous piece of history concerning Grant of Moynes which demonstrates how wild parts of Scotland still were in the 1600s, and how more sheltered the Black Isle and Easter Ross were from the depredations of the Highlanders.

 

A raiding party to Moynes, 1645

 

 

On 18 October 1645, Cameron of Lochiel wrote the following grovelling letter, often reproduced, to Sir James Grant of Freuchie apologising for a raiding party by his kinsmen that had gone badly wrong:

Right Loving Cousin, / My hearty recommendations being remembered to your honour, I have received your honour’s letter, concerning this misfortunate accident that never fell out betwixt our houses, the like before in no man’s days, but praised be God I am innocent of the same, and my friends, both in respect that they gi’t not within your honour’s bounds but to Murray-land, where all men take their prey: nor knew not that Moynes was a Grant, but thought that he was a Murray-man, and if they knew him they would not stir his lands more than the rest of your honour’s bounds in Strathspey. Sir, I have gotten such a loss of my friends, which I hope your honour will consider, for I have eight dead already, and I have twelve or thirteen under cure, whilk I know not who shall die or who shall live of the same. So, Sir, whosoever has gotten the greatest loss, I am content that the same be repaired to [at] the sight of friends that loveth us both alike…

The mutual friend, the Earl of Seaforth, was appealed to later that month when Locheil astoundingly said, despite the fact that his men were the raiding party and had obviously met a spirited defence from the Grants:

But my poor friends had nothing but the defender’s part, because they were in force to fight or die.

Apparently Seaforth did patch up the relationship between the Grants and the Camerons, but the episode serves to remind us that at this time it was considered quite the done thing for a Highland clan to send out a raiding party to the more social coastal lowlands, presumably to steal cattle, so long as the victim wasn’t connected to an important family.

 

William Grant (–1675), brother of the Laird of Moynes,
obtains Ardoch in 1658 from Sir John Urquhart of Cromarty

In early documents relating to Ardoch, William Grant is designed as “brother of the Laird of Moynes”. Thus we have in Signature SIG1/65/42 (signature William Grant of Ardoch 1691) reference to the first William Grant of Ardoch purchasing, or at least obtaining a wadset over, Ardoch from Sir John Urquhart of Cromarty:

an Contract and Right of Wadset made & past ’twixt the deceast Sir John Urquhart of Cromarty yrin designed John Urquhart of Cromarty on the ane parte and the deceast William Grant sometime of Ardoch (therein designed Brother to the Laird of Moyness) and Agnes Dunbarr his Spouse on the other part Dated the first day of October Jaivi& and fifty eight years Whereby the sd Sir John for the soume of Eight thousand pounds then advanced paiyed & delivered to him be the sd deceast William Grant) sold annailzied and disponed to him and his said Spouse in Conjunct fee and liferent and to his Aires male & Assigneys

So that is the first William Grant coming into Ardoch in 1658. I assume the pounds were Scots, but £8,000 pounds Scots was still a colossal sum for the time. They were a family in the ascendancy.

Agnes is commemorated in the Mausoleum:

Grieve not when friends / and kinfolks die / They gain by death eternitie / Heir lyes AGNAS DVNBAR / who departit the 18 of Ian 1682


The entrance to the Grant of Ardoch Mausoleum, prior to being repaired in 2016.
Photo: Andrew Dowsett

Agnes had, in fact, died two years after the lady in whose honour the mausoleum was built, her son’s first wife, Florence Dunbar, who had died in 1680. We have not yet identified the exact relationship between Agnes and Florence.

The record shows that the first William Grant of Ardoch had died in 1675, as that is when his eldest son was served heir to him (Retours of Services of Heirs):

(5823) Jul. 29. 1675. Joannes Grant de Riesollis, haeres masculus Gulielmi Grant de Ardoch, patris. xxxv. 95.

We know William and Agnes had at least two sons: the first born being John and the second William Grant of Ardoch.

 

John Grant of Resolis becomes John Grant of Dunskaith

The eldest son of the first William Grant of Ardoch became John Grant of Resolis. This was before the parish name of Resolis originated. John Grant, from the number of sasines in which he occurs (30 in the local register alone!), was a bit of a wheeler-dealer in land, but the first sasine in which he occurs in the area is of particular interest as it describes Resolis at the time. Resolis included modern Newmills, the former Church of Scotland, Resolis Cottage and Bog of Resolis. A sasine of 1665 (RS38/2 f277 verso) sets out the boundary of the land referring mostly to obscure local names of features. The writing is challenging, but fortunately is complemented by a later sasine of 1676 in a different hand referring to the same land (RS38/4 f420 recto), and together the land was bounded viz.

as the great Burne that Runes to Milntoune goes at the south

Ane hieway leading from the said burn Begining at ane merch staine set near the edg of the burne at the eist syde of ye saids Lands of Riesollis northward to ane other merch staine set upon the east of ane hill and from that staine Lineallie douneward to ane broad hieway benorth ane great Loch called the Loch of the Insch

at ye eist as the samen way benorth the Loch leads wastward to ane Strype [small burn] called Phealachie at the north

and as the samen Strype of Phealachie leads southward and fallis into the said burne of Milntoune at the west

Including that croft presently possest be John McKeddie there but prejudire to me and my aires of the new miln watter draught houses and Dam [this refers to the mill lade and the then big dam supplying Newmills with its water] thereof with ane Litle croft adjacent thereto

I have often wondered where exactly Milntoune was – it is shown vaguely on early maps on the north side of what is nowadays known as Newhall Burn but in the past was called the Ward of Gelnie. There used to be an old mill just inside the present gates of Newhall House, so that is one possibility, but I think from descriptions in various old documents Milntoune was located more or less at modern-day Gordon's Mill, indicating that whilst the Gordons may have erected new mills here in their time, there had been a settlement associated with the mills for hundreds of years before then.


Relative locations of the settlements of Resolis and Milton, and of the kirk of Kirkmichael and the burns of the area, before Resolis the parish or the name of Newhall had been created; the orientation of the land around Udale Bay is faulty; for “Arda” and “Idol” read “Ardoch” and “Udale”; source: Blaeu’s atlas of Scotland, published 1654

Having obtained the lands of Resolis, John Grant purchased the land of Rosabrichty and Wester Balblair (sasine of 1668, RS38/3 folio 343 recto) but they were soon sold to Alexander Urquhart as part of the parcel of lands he erected into his brand-new “Baronie of Newhall”. John Grant was himself on the move: he was soon to purchase the land of Dunskaith and Culbin (in 1674, from Alexander Clunes), on the other side of the Cromarty Firth, in Nigg Parish. John Grant of Resolis in the records then becomes John Grant of Dunskaith.

I don’t know when he married his first wife, Mary Urquhart, but I note the first sasine reference to her occurs in December 1675. He purchased property for her in Cromarty, and I do wonder if she was the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, as he crops up in Grant’s documents of the period; having said that, so does Thomas Urquhart of Kinbeachie, Alexander Urquhart baillie of Cromarty and several other Urquharts. Sasines can be a tease.

It must have seemed like he was back in Moynes when he was obliged to protest to the Sheriff Court over a foray by a gang of marauders who terrified the tenants of the “toune & lands of Dibadill”. The complaint was lodged by “Jon Grant of Dunskaith & Jon McLeod Chamberland to the Lord Tarbet” and the miscreants were men from Inverbreakie and Rosskeen and, surprisingly, as the first mentioned: “Jon Dunbar yor of Bennedgfeild” i.e. a relative! The sasines of this period show him to have been purchasing much land across Easter Ross and I wonder if there was a land dispute behind it. There is a sasine of 1677 (RS38/4 folio 488 verso) whereby Grant obtained “Dibadall” in the Easter Ross parish of Kincardine, and both McLeod and Grant feature in sasines invoving these lands of “Diebadaill” in 1677 and 1678. McLeod and Grant in their complaint to the Sheriff Court of Ross in June 1677 (SC34/1/1, ff.172v–173r), emphasised the violence of the altercation, the raiders having come “in ane hostill maner armed wt several gunes pistols durks & oyr weapons”. However, I would draw attention to the fact that they were seeking justice not through raising a reprisal party but through the courts – this was not the Highlands, after all:

The fornamed persons having Sheakin of the fear of God & all regaurd to his ma[jes]ties Lawes & acts of parlia[men]t Did most violently & warfully eject the tenents of the s[ai]ds Toune yr fyres put out [the]r plenishing beat abuse & threaten [the]m in [the]r persons & did hund doges & mastives to [the]r catell & did dryve & away take from the sd Compl[ainer]s the number of threescore six cows young & old wt nyn calfes from of the ground & pasturage of yr sds Lands and Did seperat the cowes from yr calfes qrby Diverse of the sd calfs have starved & severall of the sd cowes have died by violent driving & beating of ym.

It was in fact the very next year that family disaster occurred. John’s first wife, Mary Urquhart, died. He erected one of the most stunning memorials in the Highlands, in the shape of a sarcophagus bedecked with a great panoply of symbols of mortality, flowers, belts and buckles.


Photo: Andrew Dowsett

It can be seen on the west side of Nigg Old Kirkyard. Text, which is still easily readable, runs around the perimeter of the stone:

HEIR LIES MARIE VRQHART SPOVSE TO JOHN GRANT OF DVNBEATH WHO DEPEATED THE 18 OF SEPTEMBER 1679 SOLIDE GLORIA

There is also text within the rectangular plaques on the side panels of the sarcophagus, the reading of which must await a day when the sun’s rays are just right.

The east end panel contains the beautifully entwined initials of IG and MV.

The west contains the common hourglass, skull and crossbones and the gravediggers’ tools – the one-sided turf-cutting spade and the shovel. However, very unusually, the gravediggers’ tools are crossed with the sceptre. David Alston drew my attention to a slab in St Regulus Graveyard, Cromarty, with a similar device, and with the wording occasionally found on stones of this period:

In death no difference is made
tuixt the scepter and the spaide

The fainter, earlier dates on this slab are of the era of the Nigg Old sarcophagus, so perhaps they were by the same stone carver. I suspect that John Grant of Dunskaith, being clearly proud of his family’s distinction, would not have been amused if such a statement had been so overtly made on his wife’s memorial!


The Nigg Old crossed sceptres and gravediggers’ tools; photo: Andrew Dowsett


The St Regulus crossed sceptres and gravediggers’ tools; photo: Jim Mackay

It is a most striking memorial, and I do wonder if his brother, when commemorating his own first wife’s death the following year, had it in mind when he erected the mausoleum at Kirkmichael.

John was to sell Dunskaith to another rising family, the Dallas dynasty. There was a time when most of Resolis and extensive lands in both the Black Isle and Easter Ross were owned by the Dallases! The disposition by John Grant of Dunskaith to George Dallas of St. Martins, of the lands of Dunskaith and others, is dated 17 October 1683.

John Grant married a second time, to Janet Graham, and moved back to the Moray coast, to Logie in the parish of Ardclach, Nairnshire. We know he was there in 1688 from the following document. John Grant of Moynes had purchased Logie and become John Grant of Logie. When he died, his daughter Jean became executrix dative and the testament dative and inventory CC16/4/1 (Moray Commissary Court) states:

John Grant of Moynes / The Testa[men]t Dative and Inventar of ye sumes of mo[ney] underwri[tte]n qch was resting unpayd to the deceast John Grant Sometime of Moynes yrafter of Logie Within ye parochin of Ardclach ye time of his deceass who deceast in ye moneth of S 1684 made and given up be Jean Grant his only lawfull Dau[ghte]r on life & now spouse to James Cuthboard [Cuthbert] of Drakies … / Confirmation / David Stewart of Newtown Comr. of Murray be ye tenor hereof ratifies … testat Dative and Inventar @wri[tte]n … and gives ye intromission with ye sumes of money @wri[tte]n to ye sd Jean Grant Exrix dative forsd with power to her to medle and Intromit yrwith and if need bees to Call and pursue yrfore as accords Because John Grant lately of Dunskeith now of Logie became bound and obliged as Cau[tione]r & surety for her yr ye sumes of money @wri[tte]n shall be furthcomeing to all persons having interest yrto… Given at Elgin ye Sixth of March 1688

I have not pursued John beyond his return to the Moray coast.

 

William Grant of Ardoch, the younger (c.1638–1728) – first wife: Florence Dunbar

According to the genealogical stone in Kirkmichael, William Grant died in 1728 aged 90, so he must have been born c.1638. Despite being the second son, it was he who was provided with the lands of Ardoch, as recorded in a series of sasines in 1671 (RS38/4) from which the following extracts of interest are drawn:

At Fortrose the tuentie nynt day of Merch jaivi& threescore elevine yeirs the seasine underwritten pertaining to William Grant was producit be Alexander Mcrea writer in Fortrose and registrat in maner after written qrof the tenor followes … compeirit Coline Dunbar of Birkes as bailzie in that part speciallie constitute be the precept of seasine after written and also compeired William Grant second lawful sone to William Grant of Ardoch in whose favours the obligatione underwritten … grantit … the eister quarter lands of Ardoch haveing and holding in his hand … obligatione of the dait efter written containing the said precept of seasine after rehearst made and grantit be the said William Grant of Ardoch and John Grant his sone for the causes yrin specifit Band and oblidged ym and yr aires yrin mentionat (not onlie) … to the said William Grant younger and the aires … be umqll Thomas Hossack elder & John Elphinstoun tennents yr … witnesses William Ross provest of Nairne sic subscribitur W Grant & Jo Grant … In presence of Donald Thomsone in Ardoch Wm Thomsone his sone James Holme yr John Innes yr & David McCulloch my servitor witness … Alexander Davidsone clericus Rossen diocesos notario publicio…

The Birks is not a name now used in Resolis, except in Birks Burn, but it was a well-defined area with its own inn right through to the 1800s, to the west of Poyntzfield (Ardoch), and I note that Colin Dunbar of Birks must have been a relative of Florence Dunbar. He was the brother of Alexander Dunbar of Bennetsfield, who is mentioned in several Grant of Ardoch sasines. The John Elphinstoun must surely be a relative of the later William Elphingston, the subject of his own Story Behind the Stone. And I note the witness James Holme in Ardoch at that time; representatives of the family of Holm are still present in the parish.

On 4 September 1672, we have a marvellous sasine recorded giving matrimonial rights to land at Ardoch to one Florence Dunbar, she to whom the mausoleum at Kirkmichael was erected:

At Fortrose the fourt day of September jaivi& three score twelff yeirs the seasine underwritten pertaining to Florence Dunbar was producit be Thomas Baine notar public in Fortrose… compeired John Mcangus in Adoch as bailzie in that pairt speciallie constitute be the precept of seasine after rehearst and also compeared James Dallas of Balblair as actorney law[fu]llie constitut be Florence Dunbar law[fu]ll daughter to the deceist Ninian Dunbar of Granghill whose letter of actornay to the effect efter specifit was sufficiently knowne to me notar public … holding in his hands ane contract of marriage made tuixt William Grant second lawfull son to William Grant of Ardoch and the sd Florence Dunbar on the ane & oyr pairts of the dait the fourteint & nynteint dayes of the sd moneth of August & yeare of god above written [1672] whereby and in contemplation of marriage then contracted … tuixt the sd pairties the sd William Grant younger with the severall advice & consent of his sd father Jhon Grant his brother and Agnes Dunbar his mother gave granted & disponed to the sd Florence Dunbar in liferent dureing all her days of lyffetyme all and haill the three pairts of that quarter land of the toune & east davach lands of Ardoch disponed to him be the sd William Grant his father with consent of the oyr persons immediately abovenamed & disponed with houses biggings yairds pairts pendicles and universall pertinents of ye samen

The parish of Dyke in Moray is one of the very few parishes in Scotland which has marriage registers stretching back to this period, and amazingly this marriage is recorded:

Augt 4, 1672 … William Grant was matrimoniallie contracted with Florence Dunbar Grangehills Sister and in due tyme were married.

The sasine goes on to refer to many of this distinguished Dunbar family and their relatives:

In witness qurof written be Thomas Gaire wryter in Fortrose both the sd pairties have [signed] day moneth and yeare of God abovewritten & consents at Nairn the sd nynteint day of August & yeare of god above sp[ecif]it before thir witnesses respectively the fourteint day of August Sir Robert Dunbar of Granghill Master Coline Falconer Minister at Forres & Walter Dunbar broyr german to the sd Sir Robert … of the sd consenters at Nairne the sd nynteint day of August yeare forsd Mr Hugh Rose Minister at Nairne James Dunbar second la[wf]ull sone to Alexander Dunbar of Bennetfeild & James Rose in Nairn wryter of the last witnesses sic sub[scribe]tur W Grant Florens Dunbar W Grant consents Agnes Dunbar John Grant consents R Dunbar Witnes A Falconer witness Alexr Dunbar witness Ja: Dunbar witness M[agist]er Rose witness

Grangehill is in the parish of Dyke, in Morayshire, and once had a castle (as did Moynes). I note from The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (edited by K.M. Brown et al; St Andrews, 2007–2016), for 16 March 1647 that Florence’s father obtained compensation from Parliament for losses sustained during the religious conflicts of that period, and Parliament was encouraging him to be an informant:

The estates of parliament, taking into their consideration the supplication of Ninian Dunbar of Grangehill showing the losses and sufferings occasioned to him for his constant adherence to the cause and country by the cruel and barbarous enemies thereof, they modify and allow the sum of 10,000 merks Scots to be given to the supplicant for his present subsistence and towards the reparation of his losses, and do hereby recommend to the committee of estates to take some effectual course and way for his payment and satisfaction of the same sum of 10,000 merks, and, for his better furtherance anent the said payment, to receive in from him such overtures and propositions as he shall condescend upon with the names of such malignants as have not as yet been fined nor censured and whose fines are not otherwise assigned nor formerly disposed upon…

It can thus be seen that William Grant of Ardoch in marrying Florence Dunbar was gaining some powerful and distinguished in-laws. However, it was not to last. Poor Florence died just eight years after her marriage.

 


The Grant of Ardoch Mausoleum, many years before being repaired in 2016. Photo: Jim Mackay

William erected an outstanding memorial to the memory of Florence.

He may have been inspired by the remarkable sarcophagus commissioned by his brother John for his first wife, Mary Urquhart, who had died the year before. The date of erection of the various memorials needs some analysis.

 


Photo: Jim Mackay

 

The stone above the doorway with skull and crossbones and inscription “16 / WILLIAM GRANT / FLORANC DVNBAR / 80” was presumably erected shortly after the decease of Florence. However, symmetrically placed in the middle of the main wall of the enclosure is a stone which could not have been created at the time of Florence’s death. It is one sandstone panel, with, top left, the three crowns of the Grants, on the right the three lozenges of the Dunbars, and at the base the stag’s head of the Mackenzies. The initials which follow match the family symbols: W G / F D / K MK

Thus we have William Grant, first wife Florence Dunbar and second wife Katherine Mackenzie all represented on the top part of the panel. But the inscription does not refer to Katherine at all, and yet is on the same panel:

Heir lyes FLORANC DVN / BAR who departit the / 12 of Febr 1680 / and hir children / All flesh was born to die


Photo: Jim Mackay

This panel therefore could have been created only several years following Florence’s death, after William’s second marriage. Note the “and hir children” which reads rather as if, by the time this was written, there were children from his second marriage.

 

William Grant of Ardoch, the younger – second wife: Katherine Mackenzie

William Grant did not hang around waiting for a second wife. Florence died in February 1680, and there is a suggestion that the contract of marriage to Katherine Mackenzie dates to later that same year. I have not seen this contract, but I know he was definitely married again by 27 April 1683 from a sasine recording his second wife’s interest in his land:

At Fortrose the tuentie sevint day of Apryll jaivi& four score three years … compeired personally Donald Grant burgess of Fortrose as bailzie in that pairt specially constitute be the precept of seasin efter … & also compeared Thomas Thomsone in Ardavell as actorney laufullie constitute be Katherine Mackenzie spouse to William Grant of Ardoch … containing therein the precept of seasine … made & granted be the said William Grant to … Katherine Mackenzie his spouse wherby … William Grant gave granted & disponed to the said Katherine Mackenzie for lyfrent dureing all the dayes of her lyftyme all and haill the easter quarter of the half davach lands of Ardoch formerlie and of old possest be umqull Thomas Hossack elder and John Elphinstoune tennents there … before thir witnesses William Urqrt of Brealanguell Hugh Dallas Commissary Clerk of Ross … witness Gilbert Barkley in Bellacherrie John Hossack in Ardoch and William Watsone in Bellaskellie

We see in this sasine Gilbert Barkly of the family of merchants and farmers for whom Barkly Street in Cromarty is named. This family of Barkly will be the subject of a forthcoming Story Behind the Stone.

Katherine or Kate Mckenzie, according to the genealogical panel in the Grant Mausoleum, was the eldest daughter of Colin Mckenzie and Agnes Bayne of Kincraig. The first son of Kincraig was usually named Colin. According to The Genealogy of the Families of Douglas of Mulderg and Robertson of Kindeace, with Their Descendants (Gustavus Aird, 1895) Colin Mackenzie II. of Kincraig married Agnes, daughter of Duncan Bayne of Delny. The stag’s head of the Mackenzies, with a star (the heraldic mullet) above it, appears on the Ardoch memorial.


Photo: Jim Mackay

I know from sasine records of several children of William Grant. There was one Colin Grant, who was in Ballincuith (Balkeith, just to the south east of Tain), in 1702; there was William Grant, a merchant in Inverness, in 1698. And, as noted in the rather selective genealogical panel in the Grant Mausoleum, there was Grigor Grant, born in 1687, who became tacksman of Polnicol. I shall return to Grigor.

William Grant of Ardoch, the younger, moved to Cromarty and sold Ardoch to the big new family in town: the Gordons. Hungry for land, the Gordons purchased much of the remaining land of the Urquharts and mopped up Ardoch into the bargain.

In two sasines both dated 11 November 1698 first Katherine and then William gave up their rights in the lands of Ardoch to Sir Adam Gordon of Dalpholly, father of Sir William Gordon of Dalpholly who renamed Inberbreakie and became Sir William Gordon of Invergordon.

The Grants were based in Cromarty for some period before purchasing Bellacuith, just outside Tain, in Easter Ross. I have not pursued William exhaustively thereafter. According to the genealogical stone in Kirkmichael, he died in 1728 aged 90.

When their son Grigor became the tacksman of Polnicol I know not, but the Grants were to be associated with Polnicol for a very long time.

 

Grigor Grant and Polnicol

Despite being named on the genealogical stone at Kirkmichael as Gregor, Grigor Grant signed his name as Grigor, and that is probably the best spelling to follow. According to the genealogical stone, Grigor was born in 1687 to William Grant of Ardoch and his second wife, Kate Mackenzie, a daughter of Kincraig. I presume he would have been with his father in Bellacuith, but about his early life we know very little.


Photo: Jim Mackay

 

The stone above the doorway with skull and crossbones and inscription “16 / WILLIAM GRANT / FLORANC DVNBAR / 80” was presumably erected shortly after the decease of Florence. However, symmetrically placed in the middle of the main wall of the enclosure is a stone which could not have been created at the time of Florence’s death. It is one sandstone panel, with, top left, the three crowns of the Grants, on the right the three lozenges of the Dunbars, and at the base the stag’s head of the Mackenzies. The initials which follow match the family symbols: W G / F D / K MK

Thus we have William Grant, first wife Florence Dunbar and second wife Katherine Mackenzie all represented on the top part of the panel. But the inscription does not refer to Katherine at all, and yet is on the same panel:

Heir lyes FLORANC DVN / BAR who departit the / 12 of Febr 1680 / and hir children / All flesh was born to die


Photo: Jim Mackay

This panel therefore could have been created only several years following Florence’s death, after William’s second marriage. Note the “and hir children” which reads rather as if, by the time this was written, there were children from his second marriage.

 

William Grant of Ardoch, the younger – second wife: Katherine Mackenzie

William Grant did not hang around waiting for a second wife. Florence died in February 1680, and there is a suggestion that the contract of marriage to Katherine Mackenzie dates to later that same year. I have not seen this contract, but I know he was definitely married again by 27 April 1683 from a sasine recording his second wife’s interest in his land:

At Fortrose the tuentie sevint day of Apryll jaivi& four score three years … compeired personally Donald Grant burgess of Fortrose as bailzie in that pairt specially constitute be the precept of seasin efter … & also compeared Thomas Thomsone in Ardavell as actorney laufullie constitute be Katherine Mackenzie spouse to William Grant of Ardoch … containing therein the precept of seasine … made & granted be the said William Grant to … Katherine Mackenzie his spouse wherby … William Grant gave granted & disponed to the said Katherine Mackenzie for lyfrent dureing all the dayes of her lyftyme all and haill the easter quarter of the half davach lands of Ardoch formerlie and of old possest be umqull Thomas Hossack elder and John Elphinstoune tennents there … before thir witnesses William Urqrt of Brealanguell Hugh Dallas Commissary Clerk of Ross … witness Gilbert Barkley in Bellacherrie John Hossack in Ardoch and Wiman of Polnicol, there was a John Grant wright at Polnicol active, and the two often worked together on the same projects, leading to much confusion. You can tell by the handwriting that it was John Grant the tacksman who wrote many of the documents emanating from John Grant the wright. There must have been a family connection.

Grant was a substantial tenant and a responsible citizen, and he could write, and he was therefore called upon to act as witness to countless receipts and depositions. Here is one typical example where the Ground Officer of the estate, who, as usual at this time, could write only his initials, needed a receipt witnessed:


Photo: Jim Mackay

I William McConie Ground Officer of Newtarbat Grant me to have received from Colin McKenzie factor upon the Annexed Estate of Cromarty two Bolls farm Bear, in full of my Sallary as Ground Officer from Marts. Seventy seven to Marts. Seventy Eight and the same is accordingly discharged by me at Kilmuir the Eighteenth day of December Seventeen hundred & Seventy Eight years before these witnesses John Grant tacksman of Polnicol and Alexr. Fraser kirk Officer Kilmuir W: MC. / John Grant Wittness / Alexr. Fraser Wittness

And there was plenty of project work going on around him on the forfeited estate of New Tarbat, where the Commissioners for the Annexed Estates were looking for schemes to develop the area. There is in E746/194 a marvellous, itemised receipt from 1781 by John Grant the wright (but in John Grant the tacksman’s hand) for converting the “councilhouse” (the court-house used as the Baron Court by the Earls of Cromartie) in Milton, New Tarbat, into a pub. And in the one that follows, he is actually responsible himself for a whole range of works himself, repairing mill lades and repairing grain storage facilities:

Similarly we see him responsible for re-harling the Storehouse at Portlich in 1779, and a host of other activities.

It was about this time that he entered rather an unusual position: Trustee of the Milns of Milntoun. For many years one David Ross had been the tacksman of the mills, which were the centre of a never-ending dispute between the Commissioners of the Annexed Estates and neighbouring proprietors. In theory there was an extensive area of land thirled to the mills, but the nearby estates had been flouting this requirement and legal activity went on for several decades. Rather than being given a tack, John Grant was given responsibility for the mills in the 1770s as a “Trustee” receiving an annual salary for his management.


Milntoun, the main settlement in New Tarbat, as drawn for the Commissioners by Peter May in 1755 and copied by John Scott in 1758; John Grant would begin to manage the mills himself 20 years later

There is a wonderful letter in 1784 by John Grant, though I have to say some of his unique spelling defies my interpretation, upon the death of the then factor of the annexed estates, lawyer Colin Mackenzie of Dingwall. Mackenzie had died bankrupt with the affairs of the annexed estate in disruption, and John Grant was out of pocket. He had been asked by the factor and by the returning representative of the Earl of Cromartie’s family, Lord Macleod, to repair the house of New Tarbat (an impossible task, and Lord Macleod was to build a brand new house, which itself now stands as a burnt-out shell beside the shore). He had also carried out work on the church and kirkyard dyke at Kilmuir Easter which should have been paid by the factor, as well as much work related to the mills. Compensation was needed!

Polnicul the 4 Octr. 1784

Sir / The death of Mr. Colin McKenzie our let Factor, hase mead a change in this place, And I have gote my Shear of it. / I know not yt you have heard that upon the 24th day of March last, A Prespeter wase held in the Church of Killmure Estar when the Heritors, or there Factors attended, In order to order a repear to be made upon the Roof of Said Church, it not being water tight and to bewld [build] a Church yard deak [dyke], A Decreet wase past to this purpose, And I wase appointed Under taker, Soon afterward got out a Horning And Served Mr Colin McKenzie and others with a Charge, He was [to] pay me how soon he wase in Cash, which did not hapen till the day of his death. This and other Circomstances puts me under the Necessity of troubling you now with my Leter, As there is no Factor (so farr as I know) Apointed, And that the above worke is carring on, That you were so good as to let me know how I am to get this money, The Estate of Cromartys Proportion of the @ Estimat is £24:15:7 10/12 / Some time in Somar 83 Mr Colin McKenzie Applied me for Killin drying and Milling 133 boll 3 firlots and one peck Inglish Oats that lay in Portleich Store house unsold in grain, Oing to the Seed Season being almost over or the Vessel araived, The above quantity of Oats I did Manufactor and sent it down to Dingwall, For which I Setled with Mr McKenzie in the Month of December last, And got his discharge for all my intermitions in the fornan[?] victual, Potitas, As well as that of the Multers of the Millins of Millintowne, In the mean time I gave him in ane accompt of my trouble in Mannafactoring the Inglish Oats which came at 1/ the boll to £6:13:91/2 Mr McKenzie told me that he not wase at freedom to pay me then until he hade advoise from the Board and that he would forward my accompt in course of Post – But I never hade any accompts of it Since– / At the Same time I Setled with Mr McKenzie for ane accompt in my favours for the Masheanerie of the Millins of Millintowne The terms of the Setlement is as follows, The Propryetar hase a Found or Meloration in these Millins of a verie old date, any Multerar, Or Troustie that mead the Masheanerie better in his time then the Propryetars Meleration, What ever time he removed, His Succesar reimboursed him in his outlays and so on it went until the Honorable Board wase pleasd to condemn the Old millins and bewld new ons, When the Factor and I appointed men to comprise or Vallow the Said Masheanerie of which I think you have attested copies, And After dedoucing the original Comprysing, Or Propryetars found, The balance is in my favours For when I Setled with Mr McKenzie, And I think he should get credit for in his Accompts – At the same time I let you know that There wase a Proces call for the Seall of Said Macheanerie But verie little wase Sold, but I will Accompt for it when calt / Upon the 21st of June last; Lord McLoud and Mr Colin McKenzie appointed me as Undertaker for carrying on the Repears of the House of Newtarbat, When I gote £100 in cash to buy a part of the Materials and I got Mr McKenzies Obligation for £200 more payable the 13th of Agust last, For boath Sums I granted my Recept for £300 to be put before the Board– / What ever Factor may be apointed, it will be very obledging if you give him directions as to the import of my Letter, And as I have no comition to Show for the £10 the Board wase pleased to pay me for uplifting the Multers of the Millins of Millintowne for which you have Several Discharges of mine to that purpose, It may be that the next Factor may give me some trouble or he pay it the first Martiness, Oing to his being a Stranger, Therefore I hope youl be so good as give me a token of this being a just cleam, And in so doing will ever oblidge him who is– / Sir / your most oblidged and most / Obedient humble Srt. / John Grant / P:S Please direct to me Tacksman of Pollnical By Parkhill / Ross Shear

After Lord Macleod had returned, Grant initially continued to manage the milns of Milnton (GD305/1/163):

Accompt of the proceeeds of Multers [multures] from the Millins of Millintown of Newtarbat, Given in to Mr George McKenzie Factor for Lord McLeod upon the Estate of Cromarty, by John Grant Trustie of Said Millins for Cropt and year 1786, And what manner Said Multers were disposed of

However, this arrangement did not continue, and John Grant returned to being simply tacksman of Polnicol. This is how Polnicol was described (Caledonian Mercury 12 November 1808) when several of the farms of the Cromartie Estate were being let:

Farms in Ross-shire to Let. / To be Let, for such a term of years as may be agreed upon, The Following Farms, being part of the Estate of Cromarty, lying in the parishes of Kilmuir and Logie Easter:– I.– The Farms of Blackhill, possessed by John Mackenzie; Ballachraggan, possessed by Donald Urquhart, and others; and Finnach, possessed by John Fraser, Donald Bain, and others, containing about 514 acres, and about 80 acres of excellent Carse ground. II.– The Farm of Polnicol, possessed by John Grant, and containing about 141 acres. These farms may be entered to at Whitsunday 1810. … The Farms in the parish of Kilmuir and Logie Easter are well calculated for the Turnip Husbandry, and capable of producing any crop, and being situated close upon the shore of the Bay of Cromarty, there is every conveniency for shipping the produce, and importing lime; sea-ware may also be occasionally had in abundance. A variety of Sheep Farms upon the same Estate being at present out of lease, and formerly advertised, they will be objectes of importance to south country farmers, who may be accommodated, at the same time, both with arable and extensive sheep farms…

When he died, there were notices in the national papers. This is from the Scots Magazine (volume 72):

1810 … Oct. … 2. … At Polnicol, East Ross, in his 78th year, Mr John Grant, farmer, much esteemed and regretted.

And this is where the story returns to Kirkmichael. In the papers of Charles Munro of Allan (GD71/361) is the following funeral invitation from Grigor, John Grant’s son:

Polnicole 3d. Octr. 1810

Sir, / My much honoured Father Mr. John Grant departed this life here last evening by Eight oclock- / His remains are to be interred in the family burying ground at Kirkmichael on Friday first the 5th. Inst- The favour of your presence here by Eleven o'Clock of that day to accompany the funeral to the place of interment is earnestly requested, and will much oblige / Sir / Your most obt. & very humble Servant / Grigor Grant

His wife, Margaret Grant, whose father was the minister of a different parish called Kirkmichael altogether, in Banff, died many years later, in 1824, and is buried in Nairn. The Edinburgh Annual Register records:

Births, Marriages, and Deaths, within the year 1824. … December. … 11. … At Nairn, Mrs Grant, Polnicol, aged 86.

Several of their children were buried at the family burial ground in Kirkmichael in the Black Isle.

The family clearly regarded the Grant of Ardoch mausoleum at Kirkmichael as somewhere special. I am not sure of the route of the funeral party from Polnicol to Kirkmichael – perhaps some of the fishermen of Portliech would have been hired for the day to row them over to the ferry point at Balblair, or even directly onto the shore at Kirkmichael. A path to the shore is shown on RHP1472:


the path to the shore; the route would be lost within a later extension of the burial ground

Alternatively, and more likely, they could have been landed at the ferry point at Balblair, to come over the hill, a route which would have taken them past Balblair Ferry Inn. Refreshments were always provided at funerals and I imagine the Inn did well out of funerals at Kirkmichael.

 

The children of John Grant of Polnicol

Several more descendants are buried at Kirkmichael. The baptism records in the Kilmuir Easter register are a bit of a mess for the Grants, and even then are not complete, but this is what we have, the status of the witnesses reflecting the status of the family:

Follows the Names & dates of the Births of the Children of Mr. John Grant Tacksman of Polnicoll …

1768 April 7th Mr. John Grant Tacksman of Polnicoll had by his Wife Mrs. Margaret Grant a Son Baptised George

1770 … Gregor … Messrs Patrick Grant and Mr John Montgomery Merchant in Milntown Witnesses to the Baptism of the two above Children

1771 … Anna Witness to the Baptism John Oliphant Schoolmaster of Kilmuir Easter

1773 … Christian Witness … John Montgomery … John Oliphant

Easter Kilmuir 16th. August 1773. Mr John Grant Tacksman of Polnicoll came here this day & requested his Children’s Names & the dates of their Births shou’d be registrated which done as above and attested place & date aforesaid by … Ino. Oliphant Sess Clk.

1775 Mr. John Grant Tacksman of Polnicoll had by his wife Mrs. Margaret Grant a Child Baptised on Wednesday 7th. June named Jean – witnesses Mr. Patk. Grant Minr. of Loggie Er. & Mr. John Montgomery Mercht. Millnton.

1777 Mr. John Grant Tacksman of Polnicol had by his wife Mrs Margaret Grant a Child born on Friday the 15th & baptized the 20th August by the name of Christian Witnesses Mr John Matheson Minr of Kilmuire Er. & Mr Patrick Grant Minr. of Nigg

1779… Jean … Witnesses David Ross Esqr. of Priesthill & Alexr. Mackie Schoolmr.

1783 … Margaret, Witnesses Mr. John Montgomery in Milntown & Mr. John Matheson Minr. of Kilmuir

We also know of a boy named John, and there may well be others. Sadly, daughter Jean died before her father, and he wrote the funeral invitation himself:

Polnicole 2d. April 1810

Sir / My Daughter Jean Grant died here on Sunday Evening, the 1st. Current. The favour of your presence to accompany her Remains from this Place to the Church yard of Kirk Michael at 11 oClock of the 4th. Instant is earnestly requested by, / Sir / Your most Hle. Servt. / John Grant

The black seal with which the invitation was sealed shows the three crowns of the Grants, just as in the stone on the Grant of Ardoch mausoleum.


The Grant crest; photo: Jim Mackay


the Grant seal; photo: Jim Mackay

John moved to London where his and his wife’s deaths were recorded within the Scots Magazine for September 1821 (volume 88):

Deaths … May 1. At London, Mr John Grant, eldest son of the late Mr John Grant, of Polnicol, Ross-shire ; – and, on the 28th ultimo, at London, Mrs Grant , his spouse.

Grigor became a respected minister – his entry in the Fasti reads:

GRIGOR GRANT, born Kilmuir Easter, 1770, son of John G., farmer, Polnicol, and Margaret, daugh. of George Grant, min. of Kirkmichael; educated at King’s College, Aberdeen; M.A. (28th March 1789); licen. by Presb. of Elgin 3rd Dec. 1794; assistant in this parish; pres. by Sir James Grant of Grant, and ord. 7th Nov. 1798; died 13th Sept. 1829. He marr. 8th Nov. 1798, Jean Duff (died at Forres, 10th Jan. 1838, aged 72), daugh. of Lewis Grant, min. of this parish, and had issue Lewis, died at Portsmouth, 5th Jan. 1838; John, died 1808; Margaret (marr. Robert Grant Watson, writer, Forres), died 28th Aug. 1855; Robina Jane. [Tombst.]

Ann married Gustavus Aird (1752–1835), tacksman of Heathfield, Kilmuir Easter. Their younger son became the famous Free Church minister of Croick and Free Church Moderator, the Reverend Gustavus Aird (1813–1898), noted for his fiery denunciation of the Highland Clearances. His magnificent memorial stands in the grounds of Creich Free Church, Bonar Bridge.

The genealogical stone in Kirkmichael has one little more burst of information on the family:

Also of their / daughters who died unmarried viz / JANE died 1st April 1810 aged 30 & / MARGARET died 15th August 1816 / aged 32 Also of their / granddaughter FRANCES daughter / of their eldest son GEORGE GRANT / London she died in July 1823 aged 20 / & is buried here.

It must have been following the burial of Frances at Kirkmichael in 1823 that her family commissioned the substantial sandstone slab to stand in the family mausoleum, carved with as much of the family history as could be squeezed onto it. The slab was erected to one side of the original memorials in the mausoleum, unbalancing the symmetry of the original structure. It did cause much confusion as the first generation of Ardoch Grants was accidentally omitted, so that the inscription jumps straight from John Grant of Moynes to his, according to the stone, son William Grant of Ardoch, husband of Florence Dunbar. This was compounded down the years by several other works using the stone as a reliable source, so that this impossible family history became disseminated widely.

It took much inspection of sasines and legal documentation trying to piece the family together before the error was confirmed. Despite this omission, it remains a remarkable stone – one of the most detailed genealogies to be squeezed onto a simple sandstone slab.

In memory of / WILLIAM GRANT of Ardoch son of / JOHN GRANT of Moyness parish of / Auldearn who died in 1728 aged 90 & / of his first wife FLORENCE DUNBAR / daughter of DUNBAR of Boath who / died 1680 & of his second wife KATE / McKENZIE eldest daughter of COLIN / McKENZIE & AGNES BAYNE of Kincraig / Also of / GREGOR GRANT tacksman of Polnicol / son of the above WM GRANT & KATE / McKENZIE born in 1687 & died in 1764 & / of his first wife CHRISTIAN MILLER / daughter of JOHN MILLER Baillie of / Fortrose & of his second wife JANE / URQUHART daughter of URQUHART of Kinbeachie Also of / JOHN GRANT tacksman of Polnicol / son of the above GREGOR GRANT & CHRISTIAN MILLER who died 2d Octr / 1810 aged 77 & of his wife MARGARET / GRANT daughter of the Revd GEORGE / GRANT Minister of Kirkmichael / Banfshire She was born August 1739 & died 24th Decr 1824 & is buried / in Nairn Also of their / daughters who died unmarried viz / JANE died 1st April 1810 aged 30 & / MARGARET died 15th August 1816 / aged 32 Also of their / granddaughter FRANCES daughter / of their eldest son GEORGE GRANT / London she died in July 1823 aged 20 / & is buried here.


Photo: Jim Mackay

 

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