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

The early Barkly families of Ballicherry, the Birks, Kirkton and Kirkmichael

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos as given below each image

In our Story Behind the Stone entitled “The Remarkable Barkly Family” Nick Hide looked at some of the great and sometimes disreputable members of the Barkly family who had connections with Kirkmichael and Cromarty. This story looks more closely at their Kirkmichael origins. There are some extraordinary genealogies of the family out there on various websites, and I felt the story would benefit by returning to sasines, deeds, estate records and other primary documents to put some solid foundations to the family.

The Barkly lands in Kirkmichael – in the foreground are the fields of Kirkton and Kirkmichael, while further up the hill hard on the left lie the lands of Ballicherry and the Birks; almost all the fields seen here were at times farmed by the Barkly family; photo: Andrew Dowsett

Gilbert Barkly in Ballicherry (active 1683–1703)

The first Barkly that crops up in our records, Gilbert Barkly in Ballicherry, was a tenant but not a minor tenant. He occurs as a witness (and hence could write) on several documents in the 1680s, owned a gun and sword in a 1692 list of fencible men, and was important enough to be invited with his son to the funeral of Hugh Munro of Teaninich in 1703.

Let’s look at some of those records in more detail. A sasine (RS38/5 f 211), recorded at Fortrose on 27 April 1683, whereby William Grant of Ardoch granted some land to his second wife, Katherine Mackenzie, has as witnesses:

William Urquhart of Braelangwell, Hugh Dallas the Commissary Clerk of Ross, “Gilbert Barkley in Bellacherrie John Hossack in Ardoch and William Watsone in Bellaskellie”.

The farmhouse at Ballicherry Farm in more recent times.

Several of the same witnesses crop up in a sasine recorded at Fortrose on 20 December 1687, the sasine given in usual form by delivery of earth and stone for the lands, and a handful of grain for the teinds, by John Urquhart in Milntoun of Newhall, as bailie, with witnesses:

George M’Culloch, lawful son of the deceased George M’Culloch, merchant in Fortrose, George M’Culloch in Bellacherrie, Gilbert Barklay there, Colin M’Cra, glover in Fortrose, and William Watson, one of the officers of the commissariot of Ross…

By another sasine, recorded at Fortrose on 17 November 1694, Colonel William Urquhart provided for the minister’s stipend as follows:

William Urquhart of Brealangwell binds himself to infeft Mr. James Houston, minister of Kirkmichaell, and Jean Fouler, his spouse, and their heirs-male, in that oxgate of Brealangwell commonly called the oxgate of the Lorgan, including therewith the peck of Crostenhallack … Witnesses to bond, John Urquhart in Riesolis, James Elphingstone and William Watson in Bellaskellie. Sasine given by John Hosack in Brealangwell, as bailie for the granter, to Mr. David Houston, lawful son to Mr. James Houston, as attorney for the latter. Witnesses, Mr. John Urquhart, brother-german of William, Gilbert Barclay in Bellacherrie, George Sutherland in Fortross, and Thomas M'Allan, servitor to the notary&hellip

Again you can see several of the same witnesses. Respectable tenants who could write were few and far between.

I was delighted to find in the Cromarty Sheriff Court records a most interesting list (SC24/21/6/9) of men of the parish who, in 1692, were available to fight, and what arms they could muster.

Parochin of Kirkmichaell
The Laird of Newhall elder & yr ther fencible men on ther land are
Wm Grant of Ardoch woodsetter [wadsetter] of a pairt of Newhalls Land with horses & arms
Gilbert Barklay in Bellacherrie wt gun and Sword
Thomas Kaith (i) gun
John Holm (i) gun
John Innes, Murdo McCulloch, Andro Colin Kemp, Angus Young (ix) stops
Ian McCulloch Bunniman (i) cutter

In this case, Gilbert is listed as the first tenant on Newhall’s land.

And finally, in Rossiana by Major Harmon Pumpelly Read, (New York, 1908), a 1703 list of funeral invitees is given:

List of Guests Invited to the Funeral of Hugh Munro of Teaninich dated 17 September 1703
Kirkmichell Paroch
The Laird off Newhall elder / David Fraser of Main / Wm. Urquhart of Braelangwell / Gilbert Barclay in Ballcherry, and his son / George Macculloch, Ferytoune / Thomas Urquhart, the Laird of Kinbeachie / Mr David Kingtoune in St Martins

Of the eight guests from, despite the name, both Kirkmichael and Cullicudden parishes, two were the Barklys.

Now, note that Gilbert was being invited with his son, although annoyingly the name of the son is not given. I believe the son would have been either Alexander, who became tacksman of Ballicherry in due course, or James, who became the inn-keeper at the adjacent Birks, but moved into Cromarty as innkeeper and merchant.

The conclusion from these records is that the family was a solid one. I suspect it would have been a younger daughter who married a Cromarty shoemaker (Cromarty marriage register):

1714 John McFarquhar shoemaker in Cromarty & Kathrin Barclay daughter to Gilbert Barclay in [blank] in the parish of Kirkmichal wer booked

Note that the connection between this early Gilbert Barkly and the next generation’s James Barkly and Alexander Barkly at the moment has not been definitely confirmed: from the circumstantial evidence all we can say is that it is likely. We have Gilbert Barkly in Ballicherry in one generation, and Alexander Barkly in Ballicherry in the next generation. It looks strong, but is not definitive. From now on, however, we are on solid territory.

James Barkly of the Birks and Cromarty

In our first records of James Barkly, he is living in Cromarty, having already moved from the Birks, which lay above Balliskelly, close to Ballicherry. Birks Burn flows down from the Mulbuy to join Ballicherry Burn just above Ballicherry House.

Birks Burn in autumn
photo: Jim Mackay

The burn passing through the fertile fields of Ballycherry
photo: Jim Mackay

In various documents James Barkly is given as innkeeper or merchant in Cromarty, and I wonder if when he was the tenant in the Birks he held the inn there. We know of the inn from advertisements, such as this one from a century later in the Inverness papers (3 November 1826):

To Let, On Leases of 19 Years, The Following Farms, on Estate of POYNTZFIELD:–
BALLICHERRY, containing 100 Acres Arable, and a few Pasture. Rent, L150. Entry at Martinmas 1826.
BIRKS, with INN attached to it, 31 Acres Arable, and about 22 Pasture. Entry at Whitsunday 1827. Rent, L40.
SHEEP-RANGE, to be divided into 4 or 6 Farms. Entry at Whitsunday 1827. It contains above 200 Acres, and of which 80 have been in Tillage. It will be Let in Lots from 10 to 50 Acres, with suitable proportions of Pasture, part excellent soil, and Building Materials on the Ground.
A very eligible situation for a good SHOEMAKER at Jamemaville.
ARDOCH HOUSE, with or without 20 Acres of Arable Land; it is slated, and contains 6 Rooms and Wings. Entry at Martinmas first, or Whitsunday after. Rent, House alone, L12; with Land, L22: this only for five years.
For further particulars, apply to Major Munro, by Cromarty; (if by letter, post paid.) / November 1, 1826.

While James Barkly resided in the Birks initially, by the time he and his wife were developing a family, they were living in Cromarty (Cromarty parish register):

1718 / Octob: 9th Charles Barclay lawful son to James Barclay Innkeeper in Cromertie and Jean Morison his spouse was baptised upon the ninth day of October Jaivii& and eighteen years witnesses Alexr Davidson Sherrif Clerk & John Morison Mason in Cromertie

1725 / Agust 1st Alexander L.S. to James Barklay & Jean Moreson in Cromarty

The John Morison, mason, who was the witness to the birth of Charles, was, of course, Jean Morison’s father. There are several sasines which mention both James Barkly and John Morison. Charles was to become a ship’s captain, and in turn his son, Charles William Barkley, became an adventurer and explorer whose career is summarised in our complementary Story Behind the Stone on the later Barklys and Barkleys.

For reference to the children of James the innkeeper, see that complementary Story. I shall mention here just one child, one Anne Barkley, who married a shoekeeper in Cromarty named Robert Forbes. I initially thought this must be the Anne who was assaulted as a child, the daughter of Alexander Barkly, but in fact it was her cousin, Anne, born to James Barkley the innkeeper. David Alston has indicated this is the case from letters published in Beth Hill’s book on Frances Barkley. Anne seems to have been the last of James’s children to occupy a property in Cromarty, paying house/window tax in 1764. I have a record of three children to this couple:

1754 … Jan: 30 William L. Son to Rob: Forbes Shoemaker & Anne Barkly Born
1756 … Jan: 11th James L.S. to Robert Forbes Shoemaker in Town; & Anne Barkley Bapt
1760 … Bap: Ap: 24 Joseph L.S. to Robert Forbes Shoemaker in town & An Barkley

I’m pleased to say that Ann lived to a relatively good age, albeit not three score years and ten. There is a substantial stone to her memory in the East Church of Cromarty [get photo!!!], which also carries the story of the deaths of her two sons. The stone also contains the nearest thing to a short story you are likely to meet on a memorial:

Placed here by Robert Forbes Shoemaker in Cromarty in Memory of ANN BARKLY his spouse who departed this life the 26th of July 1779 in the 58 year of her age [therefore born c. 1721] and of JOSEPH FORBES his son who died the 8th of September 1778 in the 19 year of his age Sacred to the memory of James Forbes Esq late Calcutta in the East Indies where he resided 36 years he had lately arrived & on the day of his return to his Native town he fell ill & died On the 26th day of August 1810 Aged 55 years

Let us look at a couple of the sasines mentioned. Here is one from 1720 (RS38/8 f 20 verso):

At Fortrose [23 Aug 1720] the sasine underwritten pertaining to John Morison afterdesigned was presented be Patrick Hay burges of Fortrose & registrat as follows / … compeared personally John Clunes of Neilstoun as bailly in that part … also compeared John Morison mason in Cromarty in whose favors the heretable bond aftermentd. is made and granted in manner after exprest Having and holding in his hands ane heretable bond of the date underwritten containg yrin ye precept of Sasine afterinsert made and granted be James Barclay merct in Cromerty (therin designed in Birks) to the said John Morison wherby he granted to have borrowed and received from the sd John Morison the sum of Three hundred merks Scots money … In witness qrof I have subt this present (written be William Davidson writer in Cromerty) at Cromerty ye ninteent day of December Jaivii& and seventeen yrs Befor thir witnesses Mr John Haldane tyd survyer in Cromerty Hugh Munro of Ardulzie Dr Roderick Hossack at Cromerty Alexr Davidson Sherriff clerk there Alexr Barclay of Bellacherry and ye sd Wm Davidson

And here is the second, this time registered on 2 December 1724:

the sasine underwritten pertaining to James Barkly and spouse afterdesigned was presented be Patrick Hay Burges of Fortrose… compeared James Barkly merchant in Cromart (designed in the contract matrimoniall after mentioned in Birks) for himself and actourney for and in name and behalf of Jean Morison now his Spouse in whose favours the Right and Disposition afterrehearsed is made and granted in manner after exprest. Having and holding in his hands ane Contract matrimonial of the date the nineteenth day of December Jaivii& and seventeen years containing yrin the precept of Sasine after insert, made and past twixt ye sd James Barkley on ye one pairt and the sd Jean Morrison lawfull daughter to John Morrison mason in Cromarty with consent of her sd father on the other pairt whereby and for ye causes yrin specified the sd John Morrison with consent of Anne Urquhart his spouse sold annailzied and disponed to and in favours of the sd James Barkly and ye sd Jean Morrison his Spouse and longest liver of them two in liferent and to the heirs whatsomever to be procreat of the sd marriage which failing to the sd James Barkley his other nearest and lawfull Aires and assigneys whatsomever heritably & irredeemably without reversion But with and under the provisions and Conditions mentioned in ye sd Contract All and heal that part of his tenement of Land in the wester End of the town of Cromarty and South west part yrof with the houses beggings Kiln and other Edifices built yron, Extending in length from the East to ye west to fourty Elns and in bredth from the South to ye north to fifteen Elns, bounded in manner yrin and after following…

James Barkly was thus “in Birks” when mentioned in his matrimonial contract of 19 December 1717, but we know he was Innkeeper in Cromarty when his son Charles was baptised on 9 October 1718; he thus made the transition to Cromarty upon his marriage.

A most important document, as it provides the definitive link between James Barkly and Alexander Barkly, can be found in a case (unsurprisingly, revealing some sharp practice) whereby the intromissions with the estate of the deceased Hugh Ross of Achnacloich were being investigated (CS229/R/1/90):

[28 Oct 1740] William Ross messenger [serves notice on] … John Baine late ferryer at Ferrytown of Kittle now at Kittle John Simson late ferryer at Ferrytown now at Balblair David Ross alias MacComie present ferryer at Ferrytoun Bessie Ray spouse to William MacIntire shoemaker in Tayne … Alexander Barkly tacksman of Newhall all to compear before Alexr Ross of Pitcalnie Roderick MacLeod of Cadboll [i.e. they are being summoned, to prove intromissions with the rents, and, upon the death of Hugh Ross of Achnacloich, disappearing beds and meal]

[another deposition in the case, this one dated 1742] evidence of Margaret Sutherland spouse to John Fraser gardener at Castledownie aged fourty years and upwards … depones … served in the family of the deceast Hugh Ross of Auchnacloich for nine years before his death That she was in his service the time of his death and continued therin for a twelve month thereafter depones that there were three standing beds in the house of Knockbreack where Auchnacloich dyed, one mounted with a green coloured stuff, which came from London… Depones that at Auchnacloich’s death there were a girnell or meal chest in the killn at Knockbreak in which was oatmeal, that she does not know the quantity, But that the same was sold by the relict to Alexander Barkley and that mess[enge]rs were imployed with diligence agt Barkley therafter for recovering the Pryce of the said meal; and upon recollecting her memory she depones that the said meal was sold to James Barkley brother to the said Alexander then living att Cromerty Depones that at Auchnacloichs death there was a seperat girnell of meal kept … [also information on the clothes he had, silverware, timber in the yard etc.]

Whether or not Alexander Barkly had known he should not have been purchasing the meal chest from the widow of Hugh Ross, the fact that he sold it on to his brother is rather suggestive. However, the important matter for us is that the link between Alexander Barkly, the tacksman of Newhall, and James Barkly, then in Cromarty, is made. Why the children of James Barkly gave their surname as Barkley, while the children of Alexander continued to use Barkly, has yet to be discovered – it has been suggested that there was a dispute between the two branches of the family (not apparent at this time) and perhaps this resulted in James’ branch wishing to distinguish itself.

Alexander Barkly (i) (–1765)

Our first record of Alexander Barkly is – not an auspicious start – his being chased for a debt by Dr Alexander Mackenzie of Sandilands. He had obtained credit for eighty pound Scots on 20 June 1717.

Protest Dr Alexander Mackenzie agt Alexr Barclay 25 July 1717 / In p[rese]nce &c Comp[eare]d Mr Mathew McKell &c Bellblair June 20th 1717 Sir upon the first law[fu]ll day of July pay to me Doctor Alexander Mackenzie or order w[ith]in my Shop in Fortross the soum of eighty pound Scots for value inyour hands for a Chalder of Bear from your most humble serv[an]t sic sub[cribi]tur Al McKenzie Direct thus for Alexr Barclay of Ballacherrie The said Alexander by acceptation is obleiged to spend a Crown in wine accepts Sic sub[scribe]tur Alexr Barclay / At Fortross the fifteenth day of July Jaivii& and seventeen years … That day In p[resen]ce of me Nottar publ. … Dr Alexander Mckenzie of Sandylands Having in his hands the prin[cipa]ll Bill a just duplicat [the action proceeds as usual in these cases]

This is the first of many such protested bills that we will see associated with the family. Otherwise, the first records of Alexander Barkly are of him engaged in his mercantile activities. In The letter-book of Bailie John Steuart of Inverness, 1715-1752 (edited by William Mackay, 1915) there is the copy letter from the Bailie to an Edinburgh merchant:

Inverness, 25th August 1721. / Mr. James Cuming, Mercht. in Edr. / SIR.,– My last to you was 11th instant since which I have your favours of 10 and 17th Do. Let this inform you that since my last I bargoned with Alexr. Berkley and Alxr. Elphinston at Cromarty to make for you acct. fourtie Lasts herins at two pounds 3sh. sterling pr. last, I furnished sufficient cask and salt conform, with this proviso that if the herins did not sweem, in that case they are obliged to pay me thirtie shillings sterling pr. last cask, and half a Crown pr. bushel salt proportionable to sd. fourtie last cask again Martinmass nixt, which is I think no bad bargone.

As to Alxr. Berkley and Elphinston, they have only made for you about two lasts, but about 18 lasts for themselves. However, as they used some of your salt, I hope to make them say better. They have offered their herins at Half a Crown pr. last under the current price, which, as I judge, will be under the value of your salt and cask, or near about it. … If incline send ane adventure to the Sound must freight a bark in the south firth of about 30 lasts, and in that case must keep Berkly’s herins, for there is no ships to be had for the 4th of our herins, there being 8 or 900 lasts caught, as I judge.

Alexander Barkly was working with Alexander Elphingston, the Chamberlain of Sir William Gordon of Invergordon, as described in his own Story Behind the Stone, and from these records it can be seen that one of their major commodities was salted herring. There was a great market home and and abroad for salted herring, and Cromarty was a fishing port. But what emerges from the Letter-Book is that traders were always looking for trading opportunities on every part of the journey, so that the ship never travelled empty.

Bailie Steuart and other merchants were to be disappointed in both Alexander Barkly and his sons, as demonstrated by several protested bills. The first relates to credit obtained from Bailie Steuart in 1822, but being drawn in by Steuart many years later when his own finances were getting very strained:

Inverness, 2d July 1743 / I wrot of this dait to Alexr. Rose, and sent him inclosed a sumonds execut against the persons under written to be purshued and decreeted befor the Lords of Session, and desired that Rodrick McLeod may be imployed in the affair, or Comisar Stuart, or John Fraser. / The Claim is Against / Alexr. Berkly, mercht. in Cromarty, by his accepted bill payable in Novr. 1722 £3 : 13 : 4 [and three others]

and he still hadn’t received his money five years later:

Inverness, 14 8ber. 1748. / I wrot of this dait a letter to John Fraser, writer in Eder. … beging he would, without loss of time, extract the Decreet he obtained in my name in anno 1743 against John Clerk, Cuper, deceast, his Widow, Alexr. Berkly, Charles McCullach, smith, and James Ross, fisher in Pettie, for £13 : 18 : 4d., principall sum. …

Bailie Steuart was seeking to obtain recompense for the loan in 1722. Morayshire merchants at that time were also pursuing Barkly:

[RD7/2/6] 6 Apr 1724 pro: John Frigg agt Alexr Barclay p Alexr Gordon>
Findhorn 22d November 1723 upon the first day of February next to come pay to me or my order in the dwelling house of Andrew Frig merchant in Findhourn Nine pound Ten shillings Sterling for value delivered you instantly by your most humble Servant Signed thus John Frigg Directed thus to Alexr Barklay merchant in Cromarty Att Findhorn the [27 Mar 1724] The said day in presence of me nottar publick subscribing compd the said John Frigg drawer of the princll Bill aboveexpressed and required paymt of the Contents of the principall Bill… caution David Angus [glover in Inverness] …

and another Morayshire merchant in 1725, where again both Barkly and Elphinston were involved:

[RD7/2/6] 3d Aprile 1725. / Protest Rae agt. Elphinston & oyrs. / Compeared Mr. Alexr Bruce Forres September 5th 1724 Gentlemen upon the first of Februarie next to Come pay to me James Rae Mercht in Foress or My order wtin my own Shope in Foress the sum of two Hundred fiftie and eight pounds Scots m[on]ey value if Gentlemen Your humble servt. Sic Substr James Rae directed & accepted thus to Messrs. Alexr Elphinston Chamberlain to Sir William Gordon of Invergordon and Alexr Barclay in Belachrie contle & Sealie Accepts Alexr Barclay accepts Alexr Elphinstone .…

and yet again

[RD7/3/8] Eod: 5th May 1725 Protest Evan Baillie agt Alexander Barclay / … Tarbatness 13 January 1724 two months after date pay to me … within the Coffeehouse of Inverness the soume of five pounds sterling for value received from signd Don: Stewart to Mr Alexr Barclay Chamberlain to my Lord Tarbat accepts signd Alexr Barkly … Evan Baillie wrytr in Inverness … in presence of John Walker glover in Inverness James Anderson servant to Thomas Alves mercht there

This one is most unusual. Barkly was closely associated with Alexander Elphinston, the chamberlain to Sir William Gordon of Invergordon, but the chamberlains to Lord Tarbat had been for generations the Mackenzies of Meddat. Had Barkly been acting for Meddat, or somehow was he for some time himself chamberlain to Lord Tarbat? Or had he been misrepresenting himself? Whichever, this is the only mention I have seen of him in this capacity.

Despite the difficulty in recovering debts from Alexander Barkly, he nevertheless seems to have been regarded as a sound citizen. At the Presbytery of Chanonry meeting of 12 December 1727 at Rosemarkie, he and a couple of the solid MacCulloch family were entrusted with apportioning the money to repair the church at Cullicudden (CH2/66/3):

Mr. Thomas Inglis represented to the pby that notwithstanding of their Act at Killicudden the Fourth Day of October [1726] appointing the heritors to meet, Stent & tax themselves in their Respective Shares of the Sum of Ninety pounds Scots money found necessary in their Act of Visitation of Date forsaid to Refund the sd Mr Inglis of the Charges laid out by him for Reparations in the Church, also Appointing the said heritors to pay in the said sum to the sd Mr Inglis by the first Day of December Immediately yrafter, yet that the sd heritors have neither met nor stented themselves to that Effect, tho the Day prefix’d by the pby be of a Considerable tyme Elapsed – Therefor the said Mr Thomas Inglis Craved the Resd pby would appoint Stentmasters for that Effect. / The pby having heard and Considered the said Representation and petition did judge The Same Reasonable Therefor did & hereby they do Appoint Alexr Barclay tacksman in Balcherry James McCulloch tacksman in Balblair, and Gilbert McCulloch Tacksman in Miltown Stentmasters that they betwixt and the next pby procure ane Attested Double of the Respective valuations of the said Heritors & that they make a just and exact Stent of their Respective Shares of the Said Sum according to their respective valuations. Also Appt. the said Mr Inglis to bring in a double of the Same Subscribed by ye said Stentmasters to the next pby.

The Stentmasters did their work, and reported back to the Presbytery:

The Sum of all being Nynty three pounds of Scots Money: These written at Bellacherry the Second day of Janry Jaivi& & twenty Eight years By me Alexr Barclay Indweller there, and signed by Alexr Falconar Clk.

The Presbytery records also yield a rather unsavoury story which nonetheless is useful genealogically. At Rosemarkie on 2 August 1731 (CH2/66/3), there is a long reference given in from the Kirk Session of Cromarty anent Alexander Robson in Cromerty, a married man, who, upon Friday fourth of July, having met Anne Barclay Daughter to Alexander Barclay in Bellicharry upon the road under Pedytown, assaulted her altho but a Child of about Eleven, until her cries brought rescue. The statements of the many witnesses called give much detail of life in the parish of Cromarty at the time. Given the seriousness of the affair, and previous incidents, the affair was referred to the Synod, who in due course passed sentence of excommunication. From our perspective, though, it demonstrates that Anne had been born around 1720.

In 1733, Barkly moved from being the tacksman in Ballicherry to tacksman of Newhall.

The high fields of Ballicherry, looking down to Newhall House (the building on the left), Kirkmichael and Udale Bay; photo: Andrew Dowsett

We know when he changed from tacksman in Ballicherry to tacksman of Newhall from the wording used, in, unfortunately, yet another legal process to get payment out of him:

[SC34/21/1] Letters of Horning … At Taine the third day of Jully [1733] In presence of Simon Ross of Aldie Commissary Deput. of Ross … 7th February 1733. Ten days after date pay to me or my order within my Chamber here twenty merks Scots money… Direct thus To Mr Alexr Barclay in Balicherry accepts … protested against the said Alexr Barclay now Tacksman of Newhall

Alexander Barkly must have had some reputation by now!

But then, perhaps others simply saw him as a careful merchant. The first reference to his son, Alexander, which I have found are in a couple of A2-sized vellum documents within GD274/20 written in 1734. His role is simply as one of several witnesses, but they refer to Alexander Barclay tacksman of Newhall and Alexander Barclay his son, George McCulloch son to James McCulloch in Balblair, and so on.

Thereafter one has to be very careful not to confuse father and son.

A couple of years later, in 1737, his eldest daughter, Margaret, was married (Avoch marriage register):

Robert Forbes Taxman in Miltown of Pitonachty was contracted with Margaret Barkly Lawll Oldest Daughter to Alexr Barkly Taxman in Miltown of Newhall June 11th 1737

Milton of Newhall is not a name that exists nowadays, but from its location on the map of the period published by Blaeu, it has to have been close to the modern location of Gordon’s Mill. Miltown of Pitonachty I know not – there was a Pitonachty near Munlochy. To add to the confusion, Robert Forbes although given here as a tacksman, in later records (the birth or baptism of their daughters Ann and Isabel in the Cromarty parish register) is given as a surgeon (and during this period there was yet another Robert Forbes, who was a surgeon in town and he was married to a Margaret MacFarquhar – I do wonder if the Session Clerk became confused):

1754 … April 13 Ann L.D. to Rob. Forbes Surgeon in town & Margaret Barkley. Born.
1756 … June 14th Isabel L.D. to Robert Forbes Surgeon in Town & Margt. Barkley. Bapt.

So much for the daughters of Alexander Barkly (i) and his spouse, Christian Ross (–1762). We do not know from which Ross family Christian was descended, but I have tentatively made some connection below with the family of David Ross, originally from Invergordon, but becoming the Secretary to the GPO in Edinburgh, whom Alexander Barkly (ii) addresses as “Cusine”.

Alexander Barkly (i) always seemed to live partly in Kirkmichael and partly in Cromarty. At some time (and I have seen him in a document of 1744 described as residenter of Cromarty) he moved permanently to Cromarty, whilst his son, Alexander Barkly (ii), became for a time tenant at Eathie before returning to Kirkmichael to become tacksman of Kirkton.

Barkly and his wife Christian Ross are buried in Kirkmichael; their tablestone is immaculately carved:

Here lys the / body of ALEXR / BARKLY who / dyed March the / 27th 1765 / Also his spouse / CHRISTIAN ROSS / who dyed June the 5th 1762 / Memento mori / A B / C R / A B / C U / 1757

Alexander Barkly (ii)

The second Alexander Barkly seems to have continued his father’s combination of farmer and merchant. He became the tenant of Eathie, just to the south west of Cromarty, but from a reference in the Letter-Book it seems that his right to the tack there was being challenged. The letter was from none other than his brother, the later spy, Gilbert Barkly, looking for business from Bailie Steuart in Inverness.

Cromarty 16th May 1751. Dr Sir … I hade in Vew to weat of you … but have been keepd Busey … I loock for a ship every moment wt 600 bolls of salt. If you’l incline to have any … cann have it Varie Resonablie. There is no Lemmons in Toune but the ship I expect hase some chists. Findrasie’s Brother [Leslie of Findrassie, in Morayshire] was yeisterday at Eathie and protested against ffindrasy and my brother for not giving posesion of that Tack. My Brother gave for answer he was not legualy warned out … Your obligd servt Gilbert Barkly.

Despite this, Alexander Barkly (ii) was still in Eathie in 1753 from evidence within the following sasine. It refers to both himself and his father. It also mentions the famous Cromarty merchant William Forsyth:

[10 Oct 1757] Compeared personally William Forsyth mercht. in Cromarty as procurator for Captain William Mowat late Commander of the Ship the Charming Jeannie of London and John Watson writer to the Signet his Doers … and also Compeared Donald Robson meason in Cromarty as Baillie in that part … The said William Forsyth having and holding in his hands a Disposition and assignation of the Date and Containing therein the said precept of sasine made and granted by James Stewart writer in Edinr. whereby & for the causes therein specified, the said James Stewart disponed heritably but redeemably always and under rversion as therein Exprest to and in favours of the said Captain William Mowat and to the said John Watson his Trustee and to the said Captain William Mowat his heirs and assigneies All and haill that particat of ground with the houses built thereon and pertinents thereof whatsoever upon the Ness in the Wester end of the Town of Cromarty extending in length from the South to the North, to thirty five elns and in Breadth from the East to the West to twenty six elns being bounded as follows Having the houses and tenements lately belong to Mr Alexr Henderson and now to Alexr Barkly Tacksman of Eathie At the East, The arable lands of the Ness as wel at the South as west and the Common way above the links leading from the Town to the Ness at the North, with free Ish and Entry thereto and pertinents thereof, all lying in the wester end of the Town of Cromarty, parish and Sherrifdom thereof, with all right and titles which Alexander Barclay late in Ballacherry and Resideing in Cromarty designed in the said Bond Senior had or Cou’d pretend thereto, and mailes and Duties thereof, during not Redemption In real warrandice and Special Security, to the said James Stewart of the principal Sum of one hundred and ten pounds Sterling payable against the term of Martinmass Seventeen hundred and fifty four with a fifth part of the said principal sum of liquidat expences in Case of failie Together with the Due and ordinary rent of the said principal sum from the Date of ane heretable Bond granted by the said Alexander Barkly Senior and Alexr. Barkly Junior Tacksman of Eathie Conjunctly and severally their heirs and Successors To the said James Stewart by Alexr Barkly Elder now resideing in Cromarty the Judicial ratification upon the Sixteenth day of October one thousand Seven hundred & fifty three …

However, he was definitely in the Newhall Estate (held at this time by the Gordons) in 1755 as a detailed rental (in the NRS as SC24/16/3 and as an annotated copy in the Highland Archives at HRA/D32/J2a) sets out his holdings at this time. He was the tenant of Kirktown, part of Wester Balblair, much of the Barony of Newhall, including the snuff miln, Mickle Park, Knockaney and Founfadd.

His holdings were declared again in a Newhall estate judicial rental (RH15/44/199(iii)) “Alexander Barkly Tacksman of Kirkmichael Depones that he pays yearly for what he possesses by Tack of the Lands of Newhall … including the Meikle Park, Round Park, Knockaney and Founafad … Rent of the Snuff Miln, built in the said Meikle Park, And also two pound weight of Snuff yearly from said Miln … Kirktown of Kirkmichael, Wester Balblair area, park of Camulty Burn”.

Note the snuff mill, and the requirement that as part of the rent he had to supply the laird with two pounds weight of snuff. The Gordons were notoriously involved in importation of cargo without paying revenue (despite the fact that Alexander Gordon of Ardoch was for a period the Collector of Customs at Inverness), and it would be very likely that the tobacco coming in by boat to Cromarty, part of which would be ground to snuff at the snuff miln, was free of tax!

It was while he was at Kirkton that he married the daughter of the Laird of Mounteagle, an estate beside Tain in the Parish of Fearn:

[Resolis marriage register] 5 Dec 1760 Mr. Alexr Barkley taxman in Kirktown & Miss Christian Urquhart in the parish of Fearn in Ross Shire

The Urquharts of Mounteagle were the same branch of the Urquharts who had sold Newhall to the Gordons. The estate was to come to the Barklys in due course, and was held by them for many decades.

There is a most amusing defence entered by Alexander Barkly in the Sheriff Court in 1784 regarding an alleged unpaid use of the Cromarty mort cloth:

9th. July [1784] / Unto the Honble. Donald MacLeod of Geanies Esqr. Sheriff Depute of Ross and Cromarty / The Petition of Alexander Barclay Farmer at Newhall / Humbly Sheweth / That your Petitioner was cited at the Instance of the Corporation of Cromarty to appear before your Lordship upon the second day of this month for the fragment of a debt alledged to be due by him about twenty three years past for the use of their mortcloath / That your Petitioner being necessarly called from home upon that day, your Lordship was pleased to hold him as confest and Decern Against him for the payment of said Sum and Expences– Against which Interloquitor the Petitioner begs leave to offer the following particulars– That your Petitioner never was indebted to the Corporation in a single sixpence for the use of the MortCloath or any other article alledged by them, if ever he received the use of it he paid for it when returned.– Besides the present alledged debt were it really due is by Act of Parliament prescribed many years ago / May it therefore please your Lordship to Alter the Interloquitor pronounced by you to assoilzie your Petitioner from this groundless proces & find the Pursuers liable in his Expences according to Justice &c. / Alexr. Barkly

I imagine the debt probably was genuine, but Alexander (or more likely his lawyer) was thorough: he hadn’t used it, but if he had used it he had paid for it, and if he hadn’t paid for it the debt was prescribed by being too old!

“About twenty three years past” 1784 would have been approximately 1761, so the mort cloth would probably have been used at the funeral of his mother, Christian Ross, and, being fair to him, perhaps there was some confusion over whether he used the Cromarty mort cloth or Kirkmichael and Cullicudden mort cloth, as she died in Cromarty but was buried in Kirkmichael.

There were exciting times in the Black Isle in 1765, as two rich and powerful men came into in conflict over the forthcoming election in Cromarty-shire, with proprietors and their representatives drawn up on either side. The incomer was Lord Pulteney, William Johnstone, the wealthiest man in Britain, supported by the likes of Poyntzfield and Braelangwell. The local man was Sir John Gordon of Invergordon, supported by relatives and friends he had placed in appropriate position. Becoming a Commissioner of Supply for the County of Cromarty was a crucial strategic move, and whom should we see amongst the Commissioners but “Alexander Barclay in Kirkmichaell”. He played an important role in the ensuing battles, voting, protesting, and generally doing exactly what Sir John wanted him to do. It was ultimately in vain, as Pulteney”s influence carried the day, but it must have helped Barkly to gain the backing of the Gordons in his own enterprises.

On 18 June 1770 (RH15/44/34) Alexander Barkly wrote to the Edinburgh writer and accountant, and protégé, of Sir John Gordon, David Ross, for some assistance with a “pour frinde of mine”. He addressed David in his letter as “Dear Cusine” which does make me wonder how they were related. David’s father was Sir John Gordon’s gardener at Invergordon, John Ross; could Alexander Barkly’s mother, Christian Ross, have been of the same family?

The letter itself is execrably written:

Dear Cusine – / I have not had the pleasour of hering from you Since you leafte this place. I hoop you have or now gote the Beater of your Complints the Confirmation of which would give me pleasour– / I preasoume to truble you with the folowing deateall of a pour frinde of mine one Donald Fraser from this place that hase the misforton of Being taken into Custotie in the Tolbuthe of Dundee he is a Sailor to his Caling and was Suspected in Being in a Squable Sume time agoe one the Fife Side Caring of Sume goods from Capt. Reidis men of which he is quite Inosent he was taken up one ane Ould warrand aganest him Since Octr. last for ane affaire of the Same kind and now they presoume to Impose one him he being frindless in that place tho he hase Sailed from it for Sume years past– / there was in Octr. laste Lawer Implaced to which he hase aplyed ther names is Mr. John McLacom and Mr. David Rea advocats and the Agint Mr. Robert Jamison it would be most obliging that you would tacke the Trouble to apply thos Gentilmen to geate the poure lade Seate at liberty and any troble you may be at I will See you thankfuly payd your Beaste offices in this will be moste obliging and wee are with our jointe Compts. / Dear Cusine / Yours most Afficonally / Alexr. Barkly / Newhall 18th June / 1770 / P:S: I Expet youl write me as Soune as posable what is done in this affaire; youl excous the incorekness of this letter it being wrote in a hurie–

David Ross was extraordinarily good to his relatives, and I have no doubt that he would have exerted himself to get Alexander’s “pour frinde’ (presumably one of his smuggling cronies) released.

Ross had previously come to the financial assistance (as he did for so many in the Black Isle and Easter Ross) to Alexander Barkly back in 1766, when he picked up the debt due by Barkly to an Aberdeen merchant; the bill (RH15/44/239) signed by both Barkly and Ross is below.

The bold signature of Alexander Barkly and the careful signature of his cousin, David Ross; photo: Jim Mackay

Barkly wrote again to David on 18 July 1772, but it was a much more formal, if equally badly written letter. He seems to have been responding to a charge from a Provost Mackenzie (perhaps from Dingwall?) resulting from a debt to a certain deceased John Fraser. Ross seems to have been assisting the Provost, which might explain the tone of this particular letter.

Cromarty 18th. July 1772 / Sir / I received your Letter of 6th. currt. relative to Provost Mckinzie’s charge against me on the deceast John Fraser’s Account. It is impossible for me to furnish you with an Accot. Current betwixt John Fraser and I, as I never remember of giting a full copy of my Account from him, notwithstanding [I] before his death, often insisted for a finall settlement with him, yet to no purpose, however I think you and Mr. McKinzie, can be at no loss to make up a credit side to my charge, which is the Debit side of his account against me considering that John Fraser's books are in Mr. McKinzies hands; let this be as it will, youl always find a considerable balance to arise in my favour, & this last is the only reaon I can figure to myself why John Fraser would not settle Accots. annually with me as the custom of merchant generally is, and ought to be– Inclosed I sind you my Brothers Letter of 21st. Novr. 1758 from Louisburg address’d to John Fraser & me, consigning to us the sundry goods, from which the balance charged against John Fraser upon a Joint assignment arises; and I also inclose you a particular Accot. Currt. of this transaction or consignment which exactly shews the balance in my favor to be £293.1.8 Str. after giving John Fraser credit as youl perceive, for what of that goods I received myself, & for every other charge he, or any body for him, could possibly make, which the force of the Accot. upon perusall will plainly make appear– I presume you’l think it unecessary to show Mr. McKinzie any more of my Brothers Letter further than concerns the consignment & afterwards please return it by post…

By 1758, then, Gilbert was in America with the brothers still jointly involved in trade. The account-books of David Ross show that Ross subsequently worked, free of charge, to get Alexander Barkly acquitted of Provost Mackenzie’s charge (CS96/4171/1).

In a few years, Alexander had quite Kirkton and Kirkmichael for Cromarty, allegedly because of a family dispute. I note, though, from the Newhall Estate rent assessments that the arrangements for paying his rent to the Gordons, the owners of the Estate, were getting rather complex, and this may have had something to do with his departure.

A small section of Alexander’s rent statement, showing 1775 and 1776.

However, for later aspects of the life of Alexander (ii), see our complementary Story Behind the Stone.

Other Barkly burials at Kirkmichael

Alexander Barkly’s wife, Christian Urquhart, I think died in 1811. Certainly all the journals carried the death of a Mrs Barkly at this time. This is from the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1811:

April 8. … At Cromarty, aged 74, Mrs. Barkly.

This would make her born about 1737, and I imagine it is very likely to be Christian Urquhart.

I do not know if she is buried in Kirkmichael, though her initials certainly appear on a couple of stones along with her husband’s. Her son, John, who lived in Cromarty, certainly did as we can tell from a combination of sources:

[London Evening Standard, 18 December 1834] Dec. 13, at Cromarty, John Barkly, Esq., in the 63d year of his age.
[Cromarty Burial Register] Decr 13 John Barkly buried Kirkmichael

The age is correct for John, son of Mr. Alexander Barkly tacksman of Kirkmichael & Mrs. Christian Urquhart, who was baptised on 20 March 1772 in Resolis.

I note from the Cromarty Burial Records other Barkly descendants buried at Kirkmichael, presumably in the enclosure. Indeed, the small headstone in the enclosure with “I + B / C + B” might even relate to the first two of these:

1834 … 13 Dec John Barkly buried Kirkmichael
1848 … 26 May Christian Barkly Burried in Kirkmichael 7/–
1851 … 4 Jul Mary Barkly Burried at Kirkmichael [newspaper accounts say “Miss Mary Barkly” died 30 June]

The iron railings of the Barkly enclosure are coated in winter frost. Photo: Andrew Dowsett.

Gilbert Barkly (c1730–1799) – the early years

Nick Hide deals with the adventurous later life of Gilbert Barkly as a merchant and spy, but it is interesting to note that he was associated with dubious deals from the outset of his career. There are some wonderful letters by and about him in the Letter-Book.

What becomes apparent from study of these letters is that Gilbert Barkly was some traveller – he clearly thought nothing of travelling with a ship up the coast to Caithness, across the North Sea to Norway, pursuing business.

He was thus from an early age a seasoned traveller, wheeling and dealing wherever he went. A few of these extracts will illustrate this well.

In January 1748, still a very young man, he is part of a secret deal to nip over to Norway to buy up some seized cargo of rum and other valuable goods very cheaply. Andrew Monro writes to get a third party to join in the deal with him and Gilbert:

Inverness, 14th Jary. Dear Sir, Wee … believe that Donald Edies Ship and Cargoe will be condemned and made prize of, on account of the late Placarts published in Holland against the French…. a declaration of War … Cargoe is verie valuable circa £6000 Stg. … will be sold in Noroway verie cheap. Therfor wee have resolved that Gilbert Barkly shall step over to Noroway to buy … such part … as will suit this mercat, and … wee invite you to be one-third concerned, and to execute this project it’s proper to freight John Baillie’s brigg and to load her with bear … wee will allow £55 freight and 2/3 port charges. We understand Mr Gorrie has some two-year-old-bear that looks weel to the eye which may come cheap As the Norwegians are not the nicest people with respect to the quality of grain if we cannot hit it with Mr Gorrie wee can load the ship with our own; to which you may add 1/3 of yours. If this project should misgive, the vesl can goe to Bergen and load salt … which may sell well here as there is a scarcity of … things here which cannot be supplyed from Holland as commerce twixt Holland and France is now shut up … It will be necessary to have a credit lodg’d in Amsterdam for Barkly which Andrew Monro undertakes to do … Wee recommend to you to let non know of what wee have now mentioned.

This was accompanied by a letter from young Gilbert himself, again urging secrecy:

Inverness 14th Jany. … If the ship and cargoe be not condemned till such time as I Reatch that place there most be extrodinary grate Bargans had … particularly Rum of which there is a large quantity aboard that ship and sundry other goods much in demand at this place. Notes to insist for £60 Freight and 2/3 port charges for the ship, it will be proper you pitch on a place where wee three should meet in order to concert maters befor the ship sails, as also that the intended expedition should be keep’d a dead secret in case others should step in and raise the Prices … Gilbt Barkly.

I wonder if the other two parties ever got one third of the profits! In 1748, he contracted to carry a party of sailors from Inverness to Holland and promised he had adequate provisions on board. This proved to be a great exaggeration, and the sailors were in dire straits ere the voyage was over.

Cromarty 21st May [1748]. Dear Sir, I have a letter just now from Lieut. Sutherland … that they will have above 90 Recrouts and about Tenn officers which I’m affrayed is a greater number then the ship can carry … I have Laid in plenty of Provisions &c. for them; the ship most goe to Inverness to take them aboard … noe recrouts dar be shipped at any port in Scotland Except three, Leith, Aberdeen and Inverness … it is the diferent officers that recrouts there men that pays for there passage. I therefore wish we was shoure of pointed payment of there passage or they leve this Cuntry, will you advise me to goe to Inverness and get there Bills on the paymaster. Fealling of this … we may be long enough out of our money … Gilbert Barkly.

A letter from the outraged officers in charge of the recruits recounts the journey:

… embarked on 26th May O.S., 66 Recruits who received none of the Ship’s provisions till the 27th, and on … the 28th 17 with 11 officers and 6 cadets, and .. set sail. But before leaving Inverness … assured the officers … full 20 days provisions for the whole passengers … advised … to purchase from Mrs Grant, Inverness, 13 barrells English biskett … agreed to but afterwards declined tho’ he remained in Toune full two days … On the 30th … gale … contrary wind … returned to Cromarty, and the wind seeming to come fair, the master … set sail … without … least mention of the want of provisions … nor had they the least intimation of scarcity till the 5th of June … told by the master … necessity of … short allowance, which … continued till their landing at Schevelin ( ) 15th of June, and had it not been ( ) that an English vessel came who sold the master ( ) of bread … consequences might have proven fatal … This brought the officers under necessity of hiring a fish boat … a league off the shoar, at … 30 guilders … for carrying them all ashore. The Allowance … till 5th June was to each a biskett and dram in the morning, at noon a biskett with some cheese or butter, and the same at night. When on short allowance the biskett and dram were discontinued and first meal was a half mutchkin pottage with 3/4 lb. of butter among 8 men … supper a biskett with butter, cheese or small beer … officers provisions came equally short …

So we see here, promises which came to nothing. He must have been very persuasive. From the same source, a letter to the Bailie from Lady Forse in August 1749 offering to sell the Bailie her grain and to get Gilbert Barkly to transport it south from Forss:

… offer for the Bear and … no other Bargain …. send you this express … about our victual, and I hope you will be able to finish with Mr Berkley. I am loath to sell, as it is extremely good, under £4 10s as severalls in this country have got that price, and none … so low as 7 sh. except Freswick … 3 year-old bear. I cannot think either of Candlemess as a term of payt. … we lose 3 months … The quantity is 440 bolls. If Mr Berkley would send any of the large Cromerty boats for it I could deliver 300 bolls in 2 or 3 days, and the boat could lye off Forse and Clyness … and we could load from both places very well; if he sends a ship to Staxigoe we must get 8 or 10 weather work lay days. … I must be acquainted … that I may prepare … and have it dressed. As to … Commissions which Mr Berkley wants … as I provide my Mother in Liquers … if he has any good sherry … send half a hogshead by the ship that come … let me know the price of his deals and trees … I hope on tryall Mr Berkley will like our bear … may come to be fond to take of it again. If he does we certainly will think ourselves bound to take … for our family … and we lye here very near Cromerty and could get … from thence … cause the ship lye of Clyness …

But it was a very different nature of a letter that was sent to the Bailie by Captain Sutherland of Forse in October:

Mr Barclay at last sent one of his ships … at Staxigoe on Thursday late … but … he has already 500 bolls and it is all weighed and … on board the boats that carry it to Staxigoe … I never had so much trouble … his baggs were execrably bad, so much was carried to Staxigoe in boats, and I was obliged to cause my people carry it from the boats to the girnell and turn it out of sacks … and pack it in casks as he had not baggs sufficient … I had so extraordinary trouble that I think myself well entitled to 40 pennies more on the boll …

Another dissatisfied customer!

It was just a few years after this that Gilbert went bankrupt, leaving a host of unhappy folk who were out of pocket. One particular case (found in E746/27) which I don’t believe has been published is that of John Baillie, the first factor post-annexation of the Earl of Cromartie’s estate. The situation in his petition must have been commonly experienced by customers of the over-extended Gilbert Barkly:

12th. June 1753 To the Rt. Hoble. the Lord Chief Baron and the other Barons of His Majestie’s Court of Excheqr. in Scotland / The Petition of John Baillie Writer to the Signet late factor upon the Estate of George late Earl of Cromerty / Humbly Sheweth / That your Petitioner as factor upon the said Estate having Sold the Victual Rent Cropt 1750 to Mr. Gilbert Barklay Merchant in Cromerty, a man then reckoned opulent in his Circumstances, of an Extensive Trade and full Credite– The quantity of Victual sold to him being 611.13.2 fir. Bear & Meal at £5 Scots p boll the Current price of the Country, amounting at this rate to £254.15.10 Ster. for which sum upon delivery of the Victual your Petitioner got Mr. Barkley’s accepted bill. / That about the time this Bill became due or soon thereafter, Mr. Barklay failed in his circumstances, and having taken Sanctuary in the Abbay, compounded his debts with his Cre[dito]rs at three fourths of the principal sums then due to them, and with your Petitioner amongst the rest…

John Baillie died before the Barons relented, but his son George obtained (E746/30) compensation for his father having been out of pocket on behalf of the State due to Gilbert’s crash. Many others were not so fortunate, so it was not surprising that Gilbert left the UK for America for a period, although still involved in business.

For Gilbert’s later career, and for more information on descendants of both the Barkly and Barkley families see our complementary Story Behind the Stone – the Remarkable Barkly Family. Should further information on the early Barklys of Kirkmichael be forthcoming, the details will be provided here – we would really like to prove the connection between the first recorded Barkly in Ballicherry in the 1680s with the later Barkly in Ballicherry!

Simplified family tree of the early Barklys in Kirkmichael


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