Whisky Park was once the nearest house to Kirkmichael.
The overgrown site of Whisky Park, with Kirkmichael in the background; photograph by Jim
It possessed one of the quaintest names in the Black Isle. “Whisky Park” suggests that at one time a distillery must have been located here, although there is nothing in the records. There were legal distilleries at Braelangwell and Poyntzfield, an illicit still in Agneshill and doubtless in many other places, but I have found no reference to whisky-distilling at Whisky Park. It may of course have been a reference to the barley grown there being used for whisky, but if that were the case then most of the fields in the Black Isle would have been known as whisky parks!
Whisky Park stood just to the west of the entrance to the modern day Gordon’s Mill access road. There is still an area of trees and rank vegetation in the field to mark its location, and the remains of walls may be glimpsed within. Once there were a croft house, steading and a blacksmith’s. The Urquhart family who had the blacksmith’s are recorded in their own Story behind the Stone and the family of Hector Holm who had the croft before the Camerons are also recorded in their own Story behind the Stone.
This present Story behind the Stone reviews what we know of the history of Whisky Park, and of the family we know to have lived there longest, the Cameron family from Strathpeffer.
I have no picture of Whisky Park as it once was. The earliest photograph shows my uncle Willie Munro’s threshing mill in action in the 1940s in a corner of the fields of Whisky Park, with the overgrown ruins of the homes in the background. I thought initially that there was nothing left at the time of this photograph, but I think there may be the edge of a roof in the undergrowth. Archaeological surveys suggest that the aerial photography of 1946 and 1954 show a single roofed structure present but I have not seen these images myself. This photograph of the mill in action is a remarkable picture.
Threshing at Whisky Park in the 1940s; photograph courtesy of Mrs Sheila Macdonald, Avoch
The photographer I think must have been standing on top of a stack, looking down on the busy scene, with the traction engine billowing steam and smoke.
You can date it from the presence of two Land Girls. During WWII, when so many men were conscripted, it was found, amazing to relate, that women were perfectly capable of “men’s work”. At first the Women’s Land Army asked for volunteers, but this was supplemented by conscription, so that by 1944 it had over 80,000 members. And two of them are working away with the farm workers in this photograph of the mill at Whisky Park. But there’s lots more of interest in this image.
Tantalisingly, the buildings of Kirkmichael are just out of shot – the corner of the graveyard can be seen beyond the bend at Kirkton, which in those days seems to have had a quite enormous warning sign for those approaching. Even now, the occasional driver mis-judges the bend and comes to grief on “Kirkmichael Corner”.
Willie Munro, of Newmills and Balblair, can be seen on the ground, keeping an eye on the steam engine and mill, in his waistcoat and cap. It was a messy job to get the steam engine started, and Willie usually was liberally smeared with soot and grease. Willie came from a long line of millers, associated with many of the Black Isle mills, but alas he was the last: his talented children have done anything but mill!
Willie Munro on his traction engine whilst threshing at Bog of Resolis in the 1940s; photograph courtesy of Mrs Sheila Macdonald, Avoch
Youngsters familiar with massive combines rolling up the cornfields will be unfamiliar with the mill. Willie would turn up with his traction engine pulling the mill and set up beside the stacks of unthreshed corn and every adult, child and dog in the area would be involved in the threshing. It was one of the big events in the farming calendar. The threshed grain represented much of the profit of the farm. As the cut sheaves were thrown into the mill, the stack would get lower and lower, and the rats in the stack would all move lower as well. At some point the rats would en masse abandon ship and scoot out in all directions, and there would be chaos as children with sticks and excited dogs would try to send them to rat heaven, but more often cause GBH to each other!
I had a closer look at the site in June 2019, and there are still the foundations of buildings to be seen under the rank vegetation, but otherwise there is nothing left of Whisky Park.
photograph by Jim
photograph by Jim
The first record of the name I have seen is surprisingly late, in 1820. The Newhall Estate rentals of 1820 and 1821 list Hector Holm in the modest croft of Whisky park with an annual rent of £6 sterling. To put that into context, Donald McLean of the adjacent and much larger Kirktown paid an annual rent of £260 in 1820 and £270 in 1821. Even so, by 1829 Hector Holm at Whisky Park was £30 in arrears. However, being a carpenter as well as a crofter no doubt enabled his survival.
I note that in 1836 when Hector applied to become a communicant with the Church he was described as being of “Nether Kirkton” (sometimes spelled “Neither Kirkton”) which provides a clue as to why Whisky Park does not occur in the records as often as it might. It was seen as part of the Kirkton area.
Hector Holm and his wife Katharine Cameron were still at Whisky Park in the 1841 Census, albeit Whisky Park isn’t mentioned – they are listed with several others under Kirkton itself. But they soon departed – the Kirk Session records of 6 September 1841 note that since the last roll of communicants, “Hector Holm tenant at Nether Kirktown emigrated to America”. In the same minute we see: “And that the following persons were admitted at the last administration of the Sacrament Kenneth Cameron Farm Servant at Kirktown by certificate from Revd Mr Noble of Fodderty&hellip” This was the new occupant of Whisky Park, Kenneth Cameron from Strathpeffer, in the Parish of Fodderty.
The crofthouse at Whisky Park was therefore not long empty! In the 1842 estate rental, Kenneth Cameron is listed under Whisky Park, at a rent of £7. Kenneth never married, but Whisky Park was always filled with relatives. The gratitude felt for his hospitality comes across in the inscription on his headstone which includes “Erected in grateful remembrance by his affectionate nephew D.M. Cameron, Strathroy Ont[a]rio.”
That nephew was merchant and politician Donald Mackenzie Cameron, born in Dingwall on, according to his Canadian death certificate, 11th November 1843. I have been unable to locate his baptismal record; perhaps it lies in the Free Church register.
In St Clement’s kirkyard in Dingwall stands a sandstone memorial to the parents of Kenneth Cameron, and grandparents of Donald Mackenzie Cameron, both of whom died on Christmas Days.
photograph by Jim
To / the memory of / DONALD CAMERON / Dochcairn who depar / ted this life on the 25th / Decr. 1839 aged 57 years / Also / his beloved spouse / MARY MAcKENZIE / who died at Resolis on / the 25th Decr. 1848 / Aged 70 years. / This stone is erected / in memory of them by / their surviving family.
I assume from the “Resolis” that Mary MacKenzie spent her final years residing with her son Kenneth in Whisky Park, where so many of the family turn up.
Donald and Mary had married in Applecross in 1804, and their marriage was recorded in the register twice, first in execrable handwriting, in a mix of baptisms and marriages, and then in neat handwriting as one of the set of extracted marriages.
1804 March 27th married Dond Cameron from the parish of Dingwall & servt to the Rev. Mr. Mcrae to Mary McKenzie daughter of Alexr Mckenzie at Camusterly
1804 … March … 27 married Donald Cameron from the Parish of Dingwall to Mary MacKenzie daughter of Alexr. MacKenzie Cambusteil.
I confess the writing of the minister’s name is so poor I could not be entirely sure of it and am relying to some extent on the fact that the Reverend Roderick Macrae was the ordained missionary minister at Applecross, Kinlochewe and Torridon at the time, and was a Dingwall man.
The following year their first child was born, in Applecross, and her baptism was recorded in the same abominable handwriting so again I am not confident of the minister’s name:
Jany 8t Baptised a child to Dond Cammeron svt to Rev. Mr. Mcrae by his wife Mary McKenzie by the name of Issabel
The entry before this one is “Jany 9th 1805” so the year is likely to be 1805, but caution should be exercised in case the Scottish Old New Year system was being used. Thankfully, the couple returned to the east, to the parish of Fodderty, where their subsequent children were born, and their baptisms recorded in decent handwriting. Unfortunately, the Session Clerk in Fodderty did not think to record the name of the mother when children were being baptised. How sexist is that! and irritating for family historians. The Cameron family appeared to move croft into the bargain, so making tracking of the family at this time more challenging. I think all the children baptised to Donald Cameron at Dochcarty, Davochpollo and Dochcairn were of the same family, but I can’t be sure. However, the children who have been definitely confirmed are as follows.
Isabella or Bell (1805–1879), born in Applecross; lived at Whisky Park with brother Kenneth, working on the croft, although moving to Jemimaville on his death; commemorated on a headstone in Kirkmichael
Alexander (1807–before 1869); carter and innkeeper; married in 1830 Jane McGillivray; his son Alexander resided at Whisky Park until his early death in 1869.
Kenneth (1809–1875), crofter; born in Fodderty he moved in 1841 to Whisky Park where he lived and worked until his death.
Ann (1811–1879), also worked on the croft; lived at Whisky Park with brother Kenneth although moving to Jemimaville on his death, and is commemorated with her sister Isabella on a headstone in Kirkmichael
William (1814–1883), a journeyman shoemaker who moved initially to Edinburgh and then to Canada; his son Donald Mackenzie Cameron was a businessman and politician, but resided as a child for some time in Whisky Park; it was he who had the headstone erected in Kirkmichael to his uncle Kenneth
Donald (1823–1899) who moved initially to Edinburgh, married Elizabeth Dewar there in 1854, and then set himself up in London. It was he who informed the registrar of the death of brother Kenneth at Whisky Park.
Whisky Park clearly acted as a solid foundation for the family, and the following notes are on those members who were associated in some way with the croft.
The most famous of these Camerons had very humble origins. He was resident in Whisky Park in 1851, and clearly regarded his uncle Kenneth Cameron so highly that despite being in distant Canada he paid for the handsome memorial erected in Kirkmichael.
His Wiki entry:
Donald Mackenzie Cameron (November 11, 1843 – May 12, 1936) was a Scottish-born merchant, journalist and political figure in Ontario, Canada. He represented Middlesex West in the House of Commons of Canada from 1883 to 1887 as a Liberal member. / Cameron was born in Dingwall and was educated in Edinburgh and London, Ontario, having come to Canada in 1859 [I think this may in reality have been 1858]. In 1879, he married widow Victoria Wilson, born Gooderham. He worked with the London Prototype and the Toronto Globe. Cameron served as deputy reeve in 1879 and reeve from 1881 to 1883 for Strathroy and was warden for Middlesex County in 1883. He was also a member of the local school board. Cameron was elected in an 1883 by-election held after the election of George William Ross was declared invalid. He was defeated by William Frederick Roome when he ran for reelection in 1887.
Donald’s father, William Cameron, was a journeyman shoemaker and was in consequence rather mobile. I note from the 1851 census returns that he had spent some time in Stonehaven, although resident at the time of the census in Edinburgh with wife Catherine and their children. In this census return, his parish of birth is given as Strathpeffer, and Catherine’s parish of birth is given as Dingwall. The family is minus Donald Mackenzie Cameron, of course, who was residing in Whisky Park at the time with his uncle. At the end of the 1850s, the whole family emigrated to Canada, where they can be seen in the 1861 census in Ontario, William pursuing his occupation as shoemaker and the future M.P. at the time a seventeen-year-old. The parents and their many daughters can be tracked in the 1871 and 1881 census returns at Strathroy. And the parents and several of the daughters are commemorated on a substantial headstone in the cemetery in Strathroy. As usual, I see on the net much incorrect information about William and Catherine, the latter of whom is given all sorts of origins. Her name was Catherine Mackenzie and she was born just across the water from Dingwall in Alcaig. Why on the net is there so little reference to primary material? Donald’s death certificate definitely says his mother was “Catherine MacKenzie” and William and Catherine’s headstone gives further corroborative information.
photograph courtesy of FindAGrave.com
I was delighted following our Facebook post on this story when Jean Mackenzie contacted me as the family story here crossed over with one she has been researching for many years. For details, see the Highland Family History Society Journal for August and November 2011. It is a remarkable story. Colin Mackenzie, also known as Don Paulino Mackenzie, died in Santiago de Chile in 1858, leaving the considerable residue of his estate to be divided between his relations in Scotland and the poor in Scotland. As a result, Edinburgh lawyers researched and checked in detail the family history of this branch of the Mackenzies! Jean has had the will translated from the Spanish and has been researching this story for quite some time. The result is that we know that the Catherine Mackenzie who married William Cameron, i.e. the mother of Canadian M.P. Donald Mackenzie Cameron, was one of this line of Mackenzies. Her parents were Thomas Mackenzie and Annabella Cameron, and she was baptised on 14th August 1819 in Alcaig, just across the water from Dingwall. Thomas in those early years was a farm servant in locations such as Alcaig, Mountgerald and Pitglassie, later becoming a sawyer and agricultural worker. He died in Edinburgh as recently as 1862, and I see that there is a picture of him on Jean’s Wikitree page https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Mackenzie-420 along with masses of the Mackenzie relationships. It is a wonderful story of how a deathbed will in Santiago de Chile led to a legally researched family tree in Scotland!
Kenneth Cameron arrived in Resolis just after the 1841 Census, but here is the first census return to feature him in the parish (1851), at the un-named Whisky Park, with two nephews present:
Kenneth Cameron head unmarried 38 crofter of 9 acres Ross-shire Fodderty
Isabella Cameron sister unmarried 40 housekeeper R Applecross
Alexander Cameron relative 8 scholar Inverness-shire Campbelton
Donald Cameron relative 7 scholar Ross-shire Dingwall
And the 1861, where Whisky Park, Crofter’s House, is specifically mentioned:
Kenneth Cameron head unmarried 47 crofter of 24 acres, employing 1boy Ross shire Fodderty
Isabella Cameron sister unmarried 50 Ross shire Fodderty
Alexander Cameron nephew unmarried 17 ploughman Inverness shire Campbeltown
and finally, the 1871, where his house at Whisky Park is noted as having three windowed rooms:
Kenneth Cameron head unmarried 57 farmer (of 24 acres 1 Lad) Ross-shire Strathpeffer
Isabella Cameron sister unmarried 59 Ross-shire Strathpeffer
Ann Cameron sister unmarried 53 Ross-shire Strathpeffer
John Lawson servant unmarried 20 ag lab Elginshire Langbride
You can see that over the years Kenneth Cameron had added to the size of his croft and had accommodated a range of relatives. Next door during this period was blacksmith Gilbert Urquhart, handy for any farrier or repair work. I think Gilbert must have replaced an Alexander Grant as I see in the Inverness Courier of 22nd February 1855:
Patriotic Fund – Ross-shire.
Alexander Grant, Whisky Park, 1s; Ken Cameron, do., 1s 6d
The Whisky Park residents were doing their bit for the country!
When he arrived in late 1841, Kenneth came with a communicant’s certificate from Fodderty. His father had been the servant of the minister in Applecross for several years, so I think the family must have been a devout one. The Fodderty Kirk Session records presumably have records of Kenneth as a communicant and therefore his location in Fodderty prior to his flitting to Whisky Park could be extracted. Volunteers please!
Kenneth initially held just the obscure Whisky Park, but from 1859 he also rented the equally obscure Capernich. Newhall Estate plans show Capernich to have been the fields on the north east of Newhall Bridge, and so immediately adjacent to the fields of Whisky Park. They would be the logical choice for expansion.
In 1858, according to the Valuation Rolls, Kenneth was the tenant and occupier of the Farm of Whisky Park but in 1859 the entry changes to “the Farm of Whisky Park and Cappernich”, and this is the form used subsequently. As merely one example of many:
1868/9 Valuation Roll, dated 25th September 1868
Whisky Park and Cappernich [Capernich] Kenneth Cameron 24.0.0
Family history treats unmarried and childless people cruelly. If there aren’t children to continue the line they are dismissed with a casual “no issue” and their lives are not examined, as if they were of no consequence. And yet they all have much to offer. Kenneth was obviously a good and well loved man. His red granite headstone at Kirkmichael is an imposing one, erected by his nephew who clearly greatly respected him:
Sacred / to the memory / of / KENNETH CAMERON, / who died at Whisky Park / 16th Febry 1875 / "He was a good man / Volumes could not say more" / Also / ALEXANDER CAMERON, / who died at Whisky Park / 4th Octr. 1869. / Erected in grateful remembrance / by his affectionate nephew / D.M. CAMERON, / Strathroy Ontrio.
Alexander Cameron can be seen residing at Whisky Park in the 1851 and 1861 census returns, helping his uncle farm the land. Tragically he died quite young, before his uncle, to whom this must have been a terrible blow. Given how long he had been living there, he must have regarded him more like a son than a nephew. The informant at the registrar’s was Kenneth himself, who, it is revealed, could not write.
Alexander was the son of Kenneth’s brother, Alexander Cameron, and Jane McGillivray. Alexander senior had been a carter at the time of his marriage, but became an innkeeper thereafter. His parents had married in Fodderty in 1830, and I see they had children Mary Ann in 1841 and Alexander in 1843 whilst living in Ardersier. Alexander senior must have died young for Alexander junior to have been effectively adopted by his uncle Kenneth. And Alexander junior himself died young:
Alexander Cameron ploughman single died 4 October 1869 Whisky Park aged 26 parents Alexander Cameron innkeeper (d) Jane Cameron ms McGillivray Typhus fever informant Kenneth Cameron his x mark uncle (present)
He is commemorated on the same headstone at Kirkmichael as his uncle Kenneth.
When Kenneth died, a relatively young man, the informant was his brother from London. I presume from the late date when Kenneth’s death was registered that Donald had journeyed up to the Black Isle when he heard that Kenneth had died.
Kenneth Cameron farmer (single) [died] 24 February 1875 Whisky-Park 64 [parents] Donald Cameron farm-servant (d) Mary Cameron ms McKenzie (d) [informant] Donald Cameron brother 544 New Oxford Street London W.C. [registered] 1875, March 2nd Cullicudden
What was his brother Donald doing in London? He can be seen with his Perthshire wife Elizabeth Dewar and family at 544 Oxford Street in 1871, 1881 and 1891. He had moved first to Edinburgh, where he resided for a long time, being recorded as a shop porter in 1861. At this time his sister Ann was living with the family in Edinburgh, although she was to move to Whisky Park. Thereafter Donald moved south to London where he became associated with a tea and coffee warehouse, progressing from being a tea-packer to foreman and grocer, before ending as caretaker of the tea and coffee warehouse. He died in 1899, and his children appropriately kept a coffee-house thereafter.
I know not where Isabella was in her younger days, but she appears at Whisky Park in 1851, 1861 and 1871. In the 1851 census, her parish of birth is given correctly as Applecross, and incorrectly as Fodderty or Strathpeffer thereafter.
Ann in 1861 was living with her brother Donald in Edinburgh. The census return gives her as “(Formerly) Cook D S”, which I take to mean Cook, Domestic Service. She returned from Edinburgh to the north, to live at Whisky Park with brother Kenneth.
The two sisters moved the short distance to Jemimaville at some point after Kenneth’s death in 1875. They did not long survive Kenneth, both dying in 1879.
Isabella Cameron Housekeeper (Single) [died] 31 January 1879 Jamimaville 70 [parents] Donald Cameron Farm labourer (d) Mary Cameron ms McKenzie (d) [informant] Robert Ross Landlord (Present) Jamimaville
Ann Cameron formerly domestic servant (single) [died] 20 September 1879 Jamimaville 64 [parents] Donald Cameron farm servant (d) Mary Cameron ms McKenzie (d) [informant] Hellen Macdonald nurse (present)
Both are commemorated in a good quality granite headstone right beside their brother’s in Kirkmichael.
To / the memory / of / BELL CAMERON / who died on 31st January 1879 / And also her sister / ANN CAMERON / who died on 20th of Septr. 1879 / Both died at Jamima Ville.
Both headstones had collapsed, two out of the many lying flat in Kirkmichael before the Kirkmichael Trust turned its attention from having the buildings repaired at Kirkmichael to remedying the neglect of the kirkyard itself. The Trust had them both professionally re-erected in 2017 by Hood’s of Dingwall.
photograph by Jim
photograph by Andrew Dowsett
In the 1870s, not long before Kenneth Cameron died, the Ordnance Survey recorded Whisky Park:
Whiskypark [variant spelling: “Whisky Park”]
Authorities for spelling: Mr Cameron, Tenant / Rent Receipt / Mr Ferguson, Land Stewart / County Valuation Roll / Valuation Roll for 1868 & 69.
This is a small farm house one story high, having barn byre & stabling attached, the whole being thatched, and in good condition. J A S Mackenzie Esqr Newhall House proprietor.
Whisky Park as surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1872
The Ordnance Survey really seem to have been slipshod in recording this area. They make no mention of the smithy at Whisky Park, although the buildings are more numerous than the farmhouse, barn, byre and stabling mentioned. They refer to Kenneth Cameron as an authority for the spelling of “Whiskypark” when Kenneth could not write. Note the proximity to Kirkmichael, albeit recorded for no historically sound reason by the Ordnance Survey as St Michael’s Chapel!
Although in good condition at the time of the survey, Whisky Park diminished in importance following the demise of Kenneth Cameron. As a name it never occurs again in the census returns.
I see from the Ross-shire Journal of 30th June 1893:
Resolis – Let of Farm. – The Rev. James W. Macculloch, Hope Street Free (Gaelic) Church, Glasgow, has taken a lease of the small farm of Whiskeypark, Resolis, adjoining his property of Gordons Mills. This was a holding which was much sought after by small farmers and others of late.
With the land being rented by someone else, the buildings soon deteriorated.
When you look at the 1911 census returns, you find no mention of Whisky Park but there is reference to two uninhabited houses at Capernich. I do wonder if by now the name Capernich encompassed Whisky Park, and this is why the name Whisky Park died out. In 1905 the Valuation Roll lists the Reverend Macculloch as holding Capernich, and there is no mention of Whisky Park, whilst we know for a fact that he had by this time rented “Whisky Park”. In official records, then, Whisky Park had ceased to exist while it clearly persisted for some time in common usage.
photograph by Jim