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

Sutherland of Flowerburn and Sutherland of Udale

text: Jim Mackay   modern photography: Andrew Dowsett

This is a story of estates, of Uppat in Sutherland, Braelangwell in the parish of Resolis, Udale in the parish of Cromarty and Flowerburn in the parish of Rosemarkie.

There are representatives of not one but two branches of the Sutherlands of Uppat buried at Kirkmichael, but the only memorial of any kind is the handsome bronze plaque that was attached to the high wall erected to form the northern wall of the Sutherland of Flowerburn enclosure. We will be seeking to reattach the memorial to the wall.


The Sutherland Plaque at Kirkmichael

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The Sutherland Family "wildcat"

It incorporates the symbol and motto of the Sutherland family, a wildcat sitting erect and "Sans peur" or "without fear" (my daughter Kirsty and I think, in the best tradition of mottos, that this is a marvellous pun on the mistaken belief that wildcats cannot purr), and reads:

In memory of
JAMES SUTHERLAND
Flowerburn
28.9.1866 – 24.3.1945
and NORAH K K DAWSON his wife
22.8.1876 – 17.8.1953

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James Sutherland worked for many years within the Public Works Department of the Government of India before returning to the UK. He purchased Flowerburn in the 1920s. His wife, Norah Kathleen Karine Dawson, became very active in the community, acting as President of Rosemarkie and Fortrose WRI in the 1930s.

James Sutherland grew fascinated by the history of his great-great-grandfather and namesake, Lt.-Col. James Sutherland of Uppat, writing a short biography of him in Scottish Notes & Queries in 1935. There is a theory that he may have been the illegitimate son of John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland. He became factor of the vast Sutherland estate for the 17th Earl of Sutherland.

The whole family line is of great interest and can be summarised in the following diagram.
Lt.-Col. James Sutherland of Uppat House (1726–1789)
=1768=Elizabeth Baillie (1748–1831) daughter of William Baillie of Ardmore and Rosehall
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Captain George Sackville Sutherland of Uppat(1770–1812)
Born in Dunrobin Castle
Named after his father’s old commander at the 1759 Battle of Minden, Lord George Sackville
=1792=Jean Mackay (–1858) daughter of George Mackay of Bighouse
President of the Easter Ross Farmers Club
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James Sutherland (1794–1841West Indian Planter
=c.1818=Georgina Mackay Mackenzie daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie and Elizabeth Sutherland Mackay
Lived Island of St Vincent, died Elgin
His brother was Captain George Mackay Sutherland of Udale, introducing another local dimension, with two sons buried in Kirkmichael
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Mackay Forbes Sutherland (c.1840–) Farmer in Wester Arboll, Tarbat, Easter Ross
=1865=Elizabeth Helen Campbell Daughter of William Campbell Captain 46th Regt of Foot and Anne Campbell
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James Sutherland of Flowerburn (1866–1945) buried Kirkmichael
=Norah Kathleen Karine Dawson (1876–1953)

Lt.-Col. James Sutherland

Elizabeth Baillie

Capt. George Sackville Sutherland of Uppat

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A photograph of James Sutherland of Flowerburn mixing with other worthies associated with the Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club can be found in a book commemorating the history of the club.


James Sutherland of Flowerburn in the kilt, with, from the left, the Reverend John Dow,
Sir Hector Munro of Foulis, Mr C.J. Shaw-Mackenzie of Newhall and Mr John Henderson

The family enclosure in Kirkmichael is enclosed by a tall wall on the north side and an unusually designed metal railing on the other three sides

Sadly Flowerburn House is no more due to being due to being destroyed by fire. Estate houses associated with the Sutherlands have had an unfortunate tendency to burn down – Udale House is no more due to fire. And the old family home of Uppat House, near Brora, was also largely destroyed by fire as recently as 2007, although it at least has been rebuilt, albeit on a smaller scale.

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George Mackay Sutherland of Udale

The brother of the West Indian Planter, James Sutherland (1794–1841), also had very strong local connections. He was Captain George Mackay Sutherland of Udale (1798–1847). When he moved into the area, he at first lived in Braelangwell House in the parish of Resolis, perhaps because nearby Udale House in the parish of Cromarty was being done up, and they worshipped for several years in the Church of Scotland in Resolis.


Kirkmichael Trust tour of Braelangwell House

George Mackay Sutherland and wife, Elizabeth Walker, are recorded as communicants in the Resolis Communicants’ Rolls of 1830 to 1832, but on the Kirk Session record for 24 July 1833 there is reference to several people coming off the Communicants’ Roll including: "Capt Sutherland formerly residing at Braelangwell but now at Udol in the parish of Cromarty and Mrs Sutherland his Wife".


Udale House. Sadly, like Flowerburn House, Udale House was also destroyed in relatively recent times by fire

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One of his children was baptised in Resolis: "George McKay Sutherland Esquire of Udol residing at Brealangwell and his Spouse Mrs. Elizabeth Walker had a child born at Brealangwell on the 21st day of October 1832 named Elizabeth". Subsequently, two of his children were buried in Kirkmichael. The fourth child, named after the grandfather, George Sackville Sutherland, was born 1831, died 1843, and is buried in Kirkmichael, and his fourth child, John Walker Sutherland, was born 1834, died 1836, and is also buried in Resolis, presumably Kirkmichael. The Cromarty burial register reads: "1843 Febry 1 George Sackville Sutherland Captn. Sutherland of Udale's Son, Burried at Kirkmichael". "1836 Mar 26 J. W. Sutherland (a Child) buried in Resolis".

Mackay Sutherland of Udale was a keen sportsman, and maintained a pack of harriers at Udale. He took his harriers north with him when visiting Caithness in 1839, with the John O’Groat Journal reporting that "Saturday was the first grand field day of our Caithness sportsmen, with Captain Sutherland of Udale’s fine pack of harriers. The day proved a tolerably good one, and some excellent sport was obtained, though there was no lives lost. ‘Puss’ got off scaithless. There was a considerable field of horsemen, but though there were several hares started, the dogs did not lie so well to the scent as on the Tuesday, which proved a still better field day. The master of horsemen too on that day was more numerous than on Saturday; not less than twenty being in the field, as also a great many amateurs and spectators on foot. The dogs behaved particularly well, and there was one particularly fine run of from eight to nine miles."

I note that, reciprocally, Sutherland obtained in 1836 a game licence for the young Kenneth Macleay of Newmore and Keiss, who ordinarily lived in Caithness, to shoot on the lands of Udale.

Not just a sportsman, Mackay Sutherland took his local responsibilities seriously. He was the Convener of the Cromarty County Commissioners for many years, until he sold Udale in 1845. Indeed, he had been making some tentative moves to stand against the famous James Loch for the Northern Burghs (Wick, Dingwall, Dornoch, Kirkwall and Tain), but this was abandoned upon the sale of Udale. In his day Udale, though a small estate, was famous for being well-cultivated. The Second Statistical Account for the parish of Cromarty states: "George Mackay Sutherland of Udale ... The highly cultivated property of the latter gentleman, one of the most beautiful in this part of the country, contains about 500 [acres]."


Captain George Mackay Sutherland (1798–1847)


Elizabeth Walker (1801–1844)

George Mackay Sutherland of Udale and his family were to move away from the area to live in Yorkshire although purchasing the Inverness estate of Aberarder. He died as a relatively young man in Halifax, Yorkshire. However, the family relationship with this area clearly remained, with James Sutherland of Flowerburn in due course being buried in Kirkmichael.

We do not know where the graves of Sutherland of Udale’s children are located within Kirkmichael, but it is intriguing to wonder if the big Flowerburn enclosure on the north wall in which James Sutherland of Flowerburn is buried, with its simple bronze plaque commemorating him and his wife, may be the final resting place of the young Sutherlands from two generations earlier.

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