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

Death on Udale Bay, or, the restoration of the Ross or Gow Chapelton headstone

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated

 

This is the story of a ruined headstone, rescued by the Kirkmichael Trust. It is also the story of the Ross or Gow family of Chapelton which contained some intriguing characters.

Donald Ross or Gow had the stone erected to commemorate his brother John and his sister Isabella. The Inverness Courier of 7 December 1871 carried the sad tale of the demise of brother John:

Resolis – Death from Exposure.– On Saturday morning, at low water, a man named John Ross or Gow, residing at Newhall Point, opposite Invergordon, went out in search of fish bait over the sea sand of Udale Bay. As he did not return by nightfall his friends became anxious, and at ebb tide a party set out in search of him. They first found his basket half full of mussels, then his spade, and at length they came upon the lifeless body of the poor man.


Few folk recognise the sheer expanse of Udale Bay, and why it would take a search party to find a body out on the sands; photo by Jim Mackay

We shall return to the family after the story of the Trust’s work in restoring the headstone.

 

Repair and Restoration

The sandstone at the base of the memorial had rotted. That’s the only word for it. The layers of sandstone separated, the rock itself became very fragile, and both the headstone support and the base of the headstone broke into pieces. The memorial fell face forward onto the turf, into which it sank over the years. When the Trust, having finished the restoration of the buildings at Kirkmichael, turned its attention to the ruined stones in the kirkyard, we knew this one was going to be challenging.


photo by Jim Mackay

There were even suggestions that the stone could be recorded and disposed of, but we were determined to see if something could be done to restore the stone itself. It must have required quite some resource from Donald Ross to commemorate his brother and sister and it would have been a shame not to have tried to rescue it.


the boys move the Kirkmichael Gantry into position over the fallen headstone; photo by Jim Mackay


the headstone is winched upwards and the Kirkmichael Cartie slid into position to carry it out of the kirkyard; photo by Jim Mackay

 

It was simply sodden in the turf. The first step then was to lift it carefully and take it away to a barn. We left it for a long, long time to dry out completely, the stone getting lighter all the time! The stone was then brushed to remove the remaining soil.


safely into the barn to dry out; photo by Jim Mackay


sharing the barn with lots of farming kit; photo by Jim Mackay

 

The back of the headstone was badly spalled, worst at the base and at the back. There was no hope of retaining this material. The first layer of sandstone on the back had crumbled away except for a small patch at the head, and several other layers had separated badly towards the base. We cut into the slab above the point where the worst layering was occurring and simply sliced the layers off. The back of the stone although now more sound looked dreadful, and hence we ground it much smoother using diamond sandpaper.


The face of the headstone had been buried deep in the turf and curiously, although it needed a lot of cleaning, it was fairly sound. Parts of the rotten base had, however, broken off. Surprisingly, we found that the headstone at some point had been painted white, and there was still quite a lot of pigment in the crevices of the ornamentation and inscription.


the face was in still relatively good condition; photo by Jim Mackay

And that is where we have got up to at time of writing. The intention is to fill all the cracks in the headstone with conservation resin, a weak solution first to soak well into the stone, and then more concentrated to close up the gaps. The missing chunks from the base: do we cast or simply slice it off? And the original support had crumbled into a hundred pieces – a new support will be required. Watch this space!

 

The Ross or Gow Family

But what of the family whom it commemorates? It was a challenging family to research as it was one of many in the area to have an alias. In this situation several children in the family might be born under the surname Ross and several under the alias Gow. And the family held one free-spirited sister who had children by numerous fathers, and those children called themselves sometimes after their particular father (Macdonald, Clark or Mann) and sometimes after their mother, using either Ross or the alias Gow. It was as challenging to fit the family together as it was to restore their headstone.

1881 / Erected / by / DONALD ROSS Newhall Point / in memory of his brother / JOHN ROSS / late ferryman Invergordon Ferry / who died 2nd December 1872 / aged 61 years / Also his sister / ISABELLA ROSS / who died 23rd March 1881 / aged 58 years


the hamlet of Chapelton at Newhall or Chapelton Point; photo by Jim Mackay

 

John Ross or Gow, ferryman at Balblair (c1781–1847) and his spouse, Ann Gair

The key to the family was John Gow or Ross, the ferryman at Balblair, father of Donald, John, Isabella (the three mentioned on the fallen headstone), the free-spirited Janet and four other children. John first appears in Resolis records as late as 1808. He is documented as a ferryman at Balblair, but I think it likely that he would have held some land as well. His wife, Ann Gair, was inaccurately recorded as Anne Ker in this first baptism so anyone looking for the birth of John Ross would have a hard time:

2 November 1808 John Gowe ferryman Balblair & Anne Ker – John born 31 October


the ferry boat approaching Balblair ferry pier from Invergordon; postcard with datestamp 1905

John in due course became a ferrier at Balblair as well, but was a fisherman on the side. He was to die away out on Udale Bay whilst digging for fishbait.

The patronymic of “Gow” was to follow the family well into the 20th century. The next child was Janet, who was to have a line of children all by different fathers, to which we shall return.

6 July 1810 John Gowe ferrier Balblair & Anne Gair – Jannet born 5 July

The third child was Donald, who became a feuer at Chapelton. He clearly did better for himself than the rest of his family managed. It was he who erected the substantial sandstone headstone at Kirkmichael commemorating his brother John and his sister Isabella. The sandstone failed, however, resulting in the collapse of the headstone.


the failed headstone lies beside the Lady Ardoch memorial on the north side of the kirkyard; photo by Jim Mackay

15 May 1812 John Cowe ferrier Balblair &: Nanny Gair – Donald born 9 May

The fourth child was Isobell or Isabella, who never married and never left the area. Note the spelling of her mother’s name at her baptism, designed just to cause maximum confusion to family historians.

14 May 1817John Gow salmon fisher Balblair & Anne Gear – Isobell

You will see from that last entry that John had given up the ferrying business and was now a salmon fisher. The Newhall Estate had a major salmon fishing enterprise centred on Chapelton Point, with three stake nets, one at Toberchurn, one at Ferryton Point and one at Chapelton Point.


The stake-net at Chapelton Point or Newhall Point in 1837…


and in 1851…

 

A Boil-House was located at Chapelton, and an ice-house built into the hillside behind. The business was rented out by the Estate, and the lessee of the salmon fishings employed many hands to catch and process the fish. You can read more about the business in this Story here


the line of the stake net at Chapelton Point still remains; photo by Andrew Dowsett

John was named Ross rather than Gow in subsequent baptism register entries. The next child was Ann, named after her mother.

29 November 1819 John Ross fisher Balblair & Ann Gair – Ann born 22 November

Ann married fisherman James McLeod and they lived in the parish of Nigg, at the north side of the Cromarty to Nigg ferry. Again the ferry connection! Upon the death of James (on his death certificate his widow is given as Annie Gow so the patronymic was surviving well), Ann moved back to live in the family home at Chapelton.

But to return to the timeline of baptisms to John Ross and Ann Gair. Sometime between 1819 and 1824 John Ross gave up the fishing to become a “mealer” or mailer, a small sub-tenant. It may of course be that he was a mailer and a fisher at the same time, but this is how he was recorded on the baptisms of two more children:

23 March 1824 John Ross mealer at Balblair & Ann Gair – Helen born 4 March

25 December 1826 John Ross mealer at Balblair & Ann Gair – Andrew born 10 December

I do not know what happened to either Helen or Andrew. However, the final child, Margaret, remained in the family home and like John, Donald, Isabella and Janet never married!

28 May 1829 John Ross mealer at Balblair & Ann Gair – Margaret born 9 April

If you are keeping count, the father was given as Gow, Gowe, Cowe and Ross and the mother was given as Ker, Gair and Gear, and Ann, Anne and Nanny. Not an easy family to track!

Searching Census returns for a family name as popular as Ross in the Black Isle is always challenging, but I think this is John (optimistically called “Farmer”) and three of his daughters at Balblair in 1841:

1841 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Balblair
John Ross 60 Farmer
Jennet Ross 27
Isabel Ross 24
Margaret Ross 14

Adult ages were meant to be rounded in the 1841 census but often were not in the Parish of Resolis, and the ages of Janet, Isabel and Margaret were recorded relatively accurately. The age of John Ross, their father, I think probably was rounded, but it still gives an approximate year of birth of about 1781.

Ann Gair, their mother, I think is likely to have died by this time, sometime between 1829, when the last child was born, and 1841, the year of this Census. You could even estimate very roughly (1780?) when their mother was born, given the eight children were born over the period 1808 to 1829.

I think that John Ross died in 1847, from clues to which we will come in due course.

John Ross or Gow was a tenant on the Newhall Estate, and hence appears within the estate rentals. I take it that he and his father (who otherwise does not feature in this story) are the “John Gow Senior £3.-.- John Gow Junior £1.10.-” who appear in the Newhall rentals of 1816, 1818, 1820, 1821 and 1830, always adjacent to each other in the general area of “Balblair”.

Like many others of Newhall’s tenants John Gow does not seem to have enjoyed financial security. I can see the estate pursuing him (and, to be fair, lots of others) in 1831, 1833 and 1837. In that year of 1837, Newhall Estate initiated a process to remove many of their tenants who were behind in their rents.

Summons of Removing Colin Mackenzie Esqr. of Newhall Against John Gow Senior and others. 1837
And true it is and of verity that the Pursuer has frequently desired and required
1 John Gow Senior Pretended Tenant occupier and Possessor of lands houses gardens and pertinents thereto attached in Balblair,
2 Item John Gow Junior pretended Tenant occupier and Possessor of lands houses gardens and pertinents thereto there
3 Item Francis MacKenzie …

These proceedings were often displays of brinkmanship with tenants and Estate compromising late in the day and the process of removal not followed through. I don’t think John Gow or Ross was in fact removed as he still held a house at Chapelton in 1847.

And so we’ll take leave of John Ross or Gow and his wife Ann Gair and take a closer look at their progeny as set out above.

 

The eight children of John Ross or Gow (c1780–1847), ferryman at Balblair, and Ann Gair

 

1.   John Ross or Gow (1808–1871) ferryman, salmon-fisher and labourer

The oldest child, John, never married, and resided at Chapelton in the company of his various relatives. He is variously described as ferryman (1851), salmon fisher (1861) and agricultural labourer (1871). It was late in 1871 that he died of exposure on the vast expanse of sand and mudflats of Udale Bay.


photo by Andrew Dowsett

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
John Ross salmon-fisher & labourer bachelor [when died] 2 December 1871 about 10am [where died] sea-shore near Newhall Point his usual residence age 61 [parents] John Ross salmon-fisher (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) [cause of death] found dead [informant] D. Anderson neighbour Newhall Point Resolis

It will be noted from the death certificate that the inscription on the headstone at Kirkmichael is incorrect. It gives the year as 1872 instead of 1871. We can assume it was erected in 1881, the date at the top of the memorial, so memories were obviously a little clouded by this time.

1881 / Erected / by / DONALD ROSS Newhall Point / in memory of his brother / JOHN ROSS / late ferryman Invergordon Ferry / who died 2nd December 1872 / aged 61 years / Also his sister / ISABELLA ROSS / who died 23rd March 1881 / aged 58 years

In fact, I imagine it was the death of Isabella in 1881 that triggered the thought in Donald Ross that he should be commemorating his siblings. Unfortunately it was he himself who died next, in 1890, so that no more brothers or sisters were memorialised on the headstone.

 

2.   The wonderful Janet Ross or Gow (1810–1889)

We know more about Janet than any of her siblings. We even have her testimony in the case of the stolen timber.

Declaration of Janet Ross, at Cromarty, 10 Mar 1847
residing at Chapeltown of Newhall in the parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty an unmarried woman aged Twenty five years or thereby [a serious white lie!] … I took a prop of this wood away about two months ago but I cannot fix on the particular day. I carried the wood to my father’s house and it was burnt there as firewood. It was at night I took away the wood and Nelly Holm Residing at Chapeltown was with me at the time. On recollection I have to state that Nelly Holm was not present when I took away the wood but she and Mary Fraser at Chapeltown were with me on another occasion when I went to the beach for some of the wood, but we were detected by Donald McKenzie who takes the Charge of Mr Ure’s wood and neither they nor I took any of the wood in Consequence of being so discovered. I recollect of McRae a Sheriff Officer belonging to Cromarty and a party making a search in my Fathers house where I live for the missing wood, but he did not find any. I only took away wood from the beach on the one occasion I have already mentioned consisting of one prop tree as above stated …


the hamlet of Chapelton, within which the stolen timber was being hidden; photo by Jim Mackay

At the time of her declaration (10 March 1847) then, Janet was living in her father’s house. She says nothing about her father dying. However, the declaration of Nelly Holm on the same date contains this information:

Janet Ross daughter of John Ross now deceased and Mary Fraser daughter of Thomas Fraser Salmon fisher at Chapeltown were with me on the night in question.

The implication then is that John Ross was recently deceased. We also have confirmation that by 1847, and probably much earlier, he had a house in Chapelton as opposed to Balblair. The difficulty is that Balblair was sometimes used to cover the whole area from the hamlet of Balblair right down to Chapelton Point, so we can never be certain when the term Balblair is used as to whether the general area or the hamlet is meant.

He had a house in Chapelton in 1847 as this is mentioned in the declarations on the wood theft.

Janet passed away in 1889, the informant being her sister Margaret.

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
Janet Ross housekeeper (single) 26 Dec 1889 Chapelton 74 John Ross salmon fisher (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant Margaret Ross her x mark sister (present)

 

The children of Janet Ross or Gow (1810–1889)

2.1   Ann McDonald (1840–1918), who married David Johnstone (c1833–1879)

The appearance of Ann (in the form of a pregnant Janet Ross Gow) was noted by Resolis Kirk Session:

At the Church of Resolis the 5th day of October 1840
Janet Ross an unmarried woman residing at Balblair delated for Fornication was duly cited to attend at this meeting. Being called she compeared and being duly admonished to tell the truth and Interrogated, confessed that She is with child in Fornication. Being further interrogated Declared that the father of her pregnancy is Duncan McDonald who for some time resided in this parish as a Labourer in the wood of Braelangwell, believes that he is a native of Inverness & that he is at present resident as a labourer in the wood of Balnagown parish of Kilmuir Easter Ross. Being further interrogated, Declares that they were guilty with each other, in her fathers house, and only once, on the Wednesday after New years day, old style that is on the fifteenth day of January last– and most solemnly declares further that she was not guilty with any other man.
The Session having duly considered the above confession of Janet Ross resolved to apply to the Session of the parish in which the said Duncan Macdonald now resides that he may be duly cited to appear before the Session of this parish to answer to the charge preferred against him. They therefore instruct their Clerk to send an Extract Minute of their proceedings in this case to the Moderator of the Kirk Session of Kilmuir, requesting of the said Session to cause cite by their Officer said Duncan McDonald to compear here on Monday the 26th day of this current month

There were two unsuccessful attempts to have Duncan McDonald compear at the Resolis Kirk Session, including one where the Kirk Session minutes refer to “the case of Duncan McDonald and Janet Ross Gow”, confirming the patronymic was alive and well, and then:

At the Church of Resolis the 22d day of March 1841 years.
Thereafter the Session took up the case of Duncan McDonald at present residing at Balnacloich parish of Logie Easter. The Moderator stated that he had received a communication from the Minister of Logie to say, “that he had sent his officer twice to Duncan McDonald, and that he refused to compear before the Session here unless paid for his trouble.” The Session resolved that the Session of Logie should again be requested to cite said Duncan McDonald pro tertio to appear here on the 29th with certification that if he fail to appear the Session will proceed to lay him under the lesser sentence of excommunication for contumacy, which sentence shall be publicly read from the pulpit here and a certified extract of it sent to the Session of Logie for the same purpose.


the pulpit in the former Church of Scotland in Resolis, from which sentences were publicly read; photo by Jim Mackay

Duncan McDonald was unimpressed.

At the Church of Resolis the 12th day of April 1841 years.
Thereafter the Session took up the case of Duncan McDonald. The Moderator stated that he had received a communication from the Revd Hugh McLeod Minister of Logie to the effect that Duncan McDonald had left the parish of Logie & is now resident in the parish of Edderton. The Session resolved to proceed against him for contumacy.

The Kirk Session followed through:

At the Church of Resolis the 26 day of April 1841 years.
Thereafter the Session took up the case of Duncan McDonald & resolved that he be placed also under the sentence of the lesser excommunication for contumacy that the same be publicly intimated to the congregation on the above mentioned day & that an extract of this sentence be transmitted to the Kirk Session of Edderton where said Duncan McDonald now resides to be there also intimated accordingly.

The Kirk Session were pursuing Duncan McDonald partly so that some maintenance funds could be obtained from him, but it appears he would sooner be excommunicated than take his responsibility as the father of Ann. Excommunication would have meant exclusion from parish relief, a serious matter when you grew old.

Ann appears in the 1851 census in Chapelton, aged 10, but thereafter disappears. I assume she was away working as a domestic servant and met her future husband in that context. She reappeared at Newhall Point to get married in 1877 and then returned south.

Parish of Resolis Marriage Certificate27 September 1877 Newhall Point Resolis After Banns According to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
David Johnstone railway guard (widower) age 34 usual address Portobello parents John Johnstone carter Ann Johnstone ms Dick
Anne Macdonald her x mark (Hugh Campbell witness James Smith witness) (spinster) age 30 usual address Kirkliston parents Duncan McDonald wood-merchant (d) Jessie Ross
James Maclauchlan Minister James Smith witness Robert Campbell witness

Alas, poor Ann’s marriage was to be a short-lived one, as her husband tragically fell off a train and got run over by several wagons at Portobello Station in 1879.


report of the accident in the Edinburgh Evening News of 11 April 1879

I do hope she was paid a pension by the railway company to keep the family together. There were two children, Donald and Davidina or Dina. Despite the circumstances of his father’s death, Donald went into the same industry, becoming a railway goods guard. I see his mother continued to live at Kirkliston (West Lothian) until her death in 1918, reported by her nephew-in-law, who was obviously unsure of the names of her parents:

Parish of Kirkliston Death Certificate
Ann Johnston (widow of David Johnston Railway Guard) died 25 March 1918 at Brankin Kirkliston (Linlithgow) age 75 parents Donald [error for Duncan] McDonald crofter (d) Ann [error for Janet] McDonald ms Ross (d) informant Michael Thomson nephew-in-law Holm Kirkliston

2.2   John Clark or Ross (c1849–1919)

I had difficulty tracking John Clark following his appearance in the 1861 Census return:

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis, house with one room with one or more windows
Janet Ross head unmarried 42 farm servant born Resolis
John Clark son 12 scholar born Resolis
David Mann son 8 born Resolis

I finally realised that John Clark had renamed himself John Ross, after his mother rather than his absent father. When Janet’s sister Margaret died in 1903, the informant was a nephew John Ross, and I twigged that this was the John who was originally named John Clark.

Thus, when we look at the house at Chapelton in the 1911 Census we see:

1911 Census Return Parish of Resolis do., four rooms with one or more windows
David Mann head single 52 labourer on farm born Resolis speaks ge
John Ross boarder single 64 ploughman born Resolis speaks ge

It doesn’t say but David and John here were half-brothers. And as confirmation of their being related, we have his death certificate from 1919:

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
John Ross farm labourer (single) died 6 April 1919 at Craggan Balblair age 70 [father blank] Janet Ross (d) informant David Mann his x mark cousin (present)

I think rather than “cousin” this was half-brother John Clark or Ross.

2.3   David Mann or Ross or Gow (c1853–1933)

David is the only member of the family of whom there is a photograph. There was great difficulty tracking him given the different surnames by which he was known. It was well recorded that the curious figure sitting at the front of the wedding party in the photograph of a wedding (of Alexander Mackay and Marion Whiteford Holm) outside Chapelton Cottage in 1915 was David Gow. I simply could not place him, until the variants of his surname were worked out. He appears to have been a sickly child.


He lived in one of the adjacent cottages at Chapelton, sometimes with his half-brother John Clark or Ross. In the wedding photograph he seems to be dressed in perhaps a naval cap, but whether or not he was entitled to it I know not. It is clear that the wedding party wished to have one with him in it, and one without, as two virtually identical images exist, the only difference being the grinning figure of David Gow sitting at the front!


He appears in the following Census returns in the parish, his name alternating between Mann and Ross.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis, house with one room with one or more windows
Janet Ross head unmarried 42 farm servant born Resolis
John Clark son 12 scholar born Resolis
David Mann son 8 born Resolis

1871 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Balblair, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Janet Ross head unmarried 48 ag lab born Resolis
David Ross son 17 scholar born Resolis

1881 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Balblair, house with one room with one or more windows
David Ross head unmarried 26 general labourer born Resolis
Janet Ross mother unmarried 60 do. mother born Resolis

He fell on hard times in the 1880s, applied for poor relief and even spent a short time in the Poorhouse. The Resolis Parochial Board record reads:

David Mann Craggan 30 [date of minute of Parochial Board admitting:] 8 Feby. 1888 born Resolis single labouring partially disabled … 1910 May 17 Removed to P.H. [the Combination Poorhouse in Rosemarkie] / July 1 1910 left do. and went back to Craggan / 1 Sept 10 Blanket granted / 1911 Feb 25 Shirt & Flannel granted / Sept 9 Increased to 3/- per Week / Transferred to New Register No. 2

He was therefore back at Chapelton in time for the next census:

1891 Census Return Parish of Resolis – house with three rooms with one or more windows
Margaret Ross head single 55 fuer [feuer] born Resolis speaks GE
Ann McLeod Ross sister widow 67 invalid born Resolis speaks GE
David Ross brother single 35 invalid born Resolis GE

1901 Census Return Parish of Resolis – house with two rooms with one or more windows
Margaret Ross head single 67 farm servant born Resolis speaks G&E
David Mann lodger single 46 farm servant pauper born Resolis speaks G&E

1911 Census Return Parish of Resolis – house with four rooms with one or more windows
David Mann head single 52 labourer on farm born Resolis speaks geJohn Ross boarder single 64 ploughman born Resolis speaks ge


The Ross or Gow family resided on the plot with the driveway shown here; and the wedding photograph was taken in front of Chapelton Cottage, which I have marked with a red spot. Davy Gow was therefore a close neighbour. Image courtesy of G. O’Ogle

It was just a few years after this Census when David was photographed, sitting smiling in front of the wedding party at Chapelton Cottage. David passed away as recently as 1933, still residing at Chapelton:

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
David Mann labourer (single) died 21 November 1933 at Craggan Balblair age 80 parents [father blank] Janet Ross (d) informant John Young neighbour (present)

And those were the three children of Janet Ross or Gow: Ann Macdonald, John Clark or Ross and David Mann or Ross or Gow.

2.4   But was there a fourth – Isabella?

Look at these two census returns (note that Craggan, Newhall Point and even Chapelton Point refer to the same area):

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Craggan, house with three rooms with one or more windows
John Ross head unmarried 50 salmon fisher born Resolis [he who died on Udale Bay]
Isabela Ross sister unmarried 40 farm serv born Resolis
Ann McDonald niece unmarried 20 domestic serv born Resolis
Isabela McDonald niece unmarried 7 born Resolis

1871 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newhall Point, house with three rooms with one or more windows
John Ross head unmarried 58 ag lab born Resolis (he who died on Udale Bay)
Isabella Ross sister unmarried 42 general serv born Resolis
Isabella McDonald niece unmarried 16 serv domestic born Resolis

Well, explain the Isabella McDonald who appears here! Whoever she was, I do think she also changed her name and became the 27 year old salmon fisher’s niece called Isabella Ross in residence at Newhall Point in 1881 with her widowed aunt, Ann McLeod ms Ross.

1881 Census Parish of Resolis – Newhall Point, house with 3 rooms with one or more windows
Isabella Ross head unmarried 27 salmon fisher’s niece born Resolis
Ann McLeod aunt widow 50 annuitant born Resolis speaks G

But thereafter I have been unable to track Isabella, who must I think have been a fourth illegitimate child of Janet Ross. She may, of course, have been the daughter of one of the other unmarried sisters, and until she can be traced further there must be an element of doubt.

Janet herself died in 1889:

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
Janet Ross housekeeper (single) died 26 December 1889 Chapelton age 74 parents John Ross salmon fisher (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant Margaret Ross her x mark sister (present)

 

3.   Donald Ross (1812–1890) and the feu at Chapelton

The third child was Donald, a salmon-fisher who became a feuer at Chapelton. He must have been a responsible fellow. He had a substantial headstone erected in 1881, admittedly in a less favoured section of the kirkyard, to commemorate both his brother John who had died ten years earlier (presumably why he got the year wrong) and his sister who had just recently died. Sadly nobody erected one for Donald himself! He had been born in 1812:

15 May 1812 John Cowe ferrier Balblair & Nanny Gair – Donald 9 May

It was a big step to become a feuer, but somehow Donald made enough money to purchase a feu at Chapelton. When this occurred I know not. By the time of the 1855 Valuation Roll, he definitely held a feu.

Valuation Roll. For the Year 1855–56. County of Ross. Resolis Parish. Part in County of Cromarty.

Feu to J A Shaw-Mackenzie Esq.
Chapletown House & Garden

[Proprietor] Donald Ross [Tenant] Donald Ross 4.10.- [more than any of the other Chapelton feus]

So he held a feu at least as early as 1855.

In the stolen wood court case in 1847, there is reference to his house at Chapelton (“Donald McKenzie on discovering me brought us into the house of Donald Ross at Chapeltown with the view of ascertaining who we were”), but this does not prove of course that he owned it. Similarly, the Newhall rental in 1842 places him at Chapelton, and the 1841 census has him next door to tailor Alexander Munro who had held a feu at Chapelton since at least 1799. It would be interesting to identify when exactly Donald purchased the feu as the date might help to explain how he managed to amass enough cash to do so.

He seems to have been the only member of the entire family who managed to make money. He certainly would not have saved much as a ferryman, or indeed as a tenant. Working at the salmon fishing would not have paid well, unless of course he had become one of the fishing tenants himself, and that may be a fruitful line to explore.

Having erected a headstone to commemorate his brother and sister, when Donald passed away his own death in 1890 was not recorded on the headstone.

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
Donald Ross salmon-fisher (single) died 23 March 1890 at Newhall Point age 77 parents John Ross salmon-fisher (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant Margaret Ross her x mark sister (present)

 

4.   Isabella (1817–1881)

We know little about Isabella save that she remained at Newhall Point and can be tracked right through the census returns there, until she passed away, somewhat older than the age that Davy Gow reported to the registrar:

Parish of Resolis Death Certificate
Isabella Ross house-keeper (single) 23 Mar 1881 Newhall Point 59 John Ross crofter (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant David Ross nephew (present) Balblair Resolis

Brother Donald had her commemorated on the good quality headstone now repaired by the Trust. The age he gave for her was even further out than that given by Davy Gow:

1881 / Erected / by / DONALD ROSS Newhall Point / in memory of his brother / JOHN ROSS / late ferryman Invergordon Ferry / who died 2nd December 1872 / aged 61 years / Also his sister / ISABELLA ROSS / who died 23rd March 1881 / aged 58 years

 

5.   Ann (1819–1895), who married James McLeod (c1819–1879)

Ann married James McLeod in 1841in the Parish of Nigg:

Parish of Nigg Marriages
James McLeod Balnabrouch and Ann Ross Balnapelling both in this Parish were married on the 26th Novr 1841.

Both Balnabrouch (settlement of slope or bank) and Balnapelling (settlement of the paling or fence) lie close to the Cromarty Ferry in Nigg, and they lived at that location until James passed away. I do not know what Ann Ross was doing in Nigg, but I imagine she was in service. No children were present ten years later at the time of the 1851 Census:

1851 Census Return Parish of Nigg – Cromty. Ferry
James McLeod Head married 34 salmon Fisher born Nigg
Ann Do. Wife married 30 born Resolis

But two children appear in the next Census record!

1861 Census Parish of Nigg – Cromarty ferry, house with three rooms with one or more windows
James McLeod Head married 40 fisherman born Nigg
Ann McLeod Wife married 40 born Resolis
David McLeod Son 9 born Nigg
Ann McLeod Daughter 6 born Nigg

And then the children disappear. I simply do not understand why I cannot trace the children either before or after this Census record. They do not appear in the baptism register, and I cannot find them in any other record after this date. Were they adopted and perhaps moved away? Whatever, there is no sign of them again and in 1871 the couple were by themselves once more:

1871 Census Parish of Nigg – Cromarty Ferry, house with three rooms with one or more windows
James McLeod Head married 52 fisherman born Nigg
Ann Do. Wife married 44 fisherman’s wife born Resolis

James died before the next census, with the informant being his brother, who gave the name of his sister-in-law as Annie Gow, indicating that the family byname was still in common use.

Parish of Nigg Deaths 1879
James Macleod fisherman (married to Annie Gow) died 21 September 1879 at Cromarty Ferry Parish of Nigg age 60 parents Andrew Macleod fisherman (d) Bell Macleod ms Skinner (d) informant John Macleod his x mark brother (present)


the Sands of Nigg; photo by Davine Sutherland

Following the death of her husband, Annie returned to Chapelton to reside with her unmarried niece Isabella, and they can be seen at Newhall Point in the 1881 Census return:

1881 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newhall Point, house with 3 rooms with one or more windows
Isabella Ross head unmarried 27 salmon fisher’s niece born ResolisAnn McLeod aunt widow 50 annuitant born Resolis speaks G

As mentioned earlier, I think the Isabella Ross here was called Isabella Macdonald in the 1861 and 1871 returns, and was most likely another illegitimate child of Janet Ross.

By the 1891 Census, Ann McLeod had moved in with more of her relatives at Chapelton (or perhaps they had moved in with her):

1891 Census Return Parish of Resolis – house with 3 rooms with one or more windows
Margaret Ross head single 55 fuer [feuer] born Resolis speaks GE
Ann McLeod Ross sister widow 67 invalid born Resolis speaks GE
David Ross brother single 35 invalid born Resolis speaks GE

Note that although David Ross is given here as brother to Margaret Ross in reality he was her nephew.

And finally, in 1898, poor Ann died.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Ann McLeod pauper (widow of James McLeod fisherman) died 17 February 1895 Newhall Point Resolis usual residence Nigg (Ross) age 73 parents John Ross salmon fisher (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant Margaret Ross her x mark sister (present)

As she was a pauper, then she will appear within the parochial relief records, presumably of Nigg given her long residence there as wife of a native of Nigg. It would be useful to examine these to see if there is any reference to those two transient children seen away back in 1861!

 

6.   Helen (1824–) and 7.   Andrew (1826–)

I have been unable to track these two children. Did they die young or were they farmed out to relatives?

 

8.   Margaret (1829–1903)


Plots 47 and 48 on this Inland Revenue plan are associated with Margaret Ross

Margaret seems to have always resided at Chapelton and became the inheritor of the property there. On her death it was held by the representatives of Margaret Ross. The plot of land as drawn by the Inland Revenue in their survey of the early 19teens does not show which part was their No. 47 and which part was their No. 48. However, this is how it was recorded:

No.: 47
Property: Chapelton Point. / house and garden Owner: JA Shaw Mackenzie of Newhall
Tenant/occupier: Ross, Margaret, reps of
House materials: assume stone
Roof material: thatch
House description: kitchen, room, closet, 1 attic
House condition: poor
Notes: lease missing
 
No.: 48
Property: Chapelton Point. / house Owner: Ross, Margaret, reps of
Tenant/occupier: Mackay, John
House materials: not given
Notes: see No. 47

By this time, I think those representatives of Margaret Ross would have been John Ross or Clark and his half-brother David Mann or Ross or Gow.

She died as recently as 1903, and I wonder if there are any photographs of her? The house shown on Plots 47 and 48 on the Inland Revenue plan shown above no longer exists, and the present-day house on the plot, Myrrhbank, is set much further back.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Margaret Ross farm labourer (single) died 11 December 1903 at Newhall Point age 73 parents John Ross fisherman (d) Ann Ross ms Gair (d) informant John Ross his x mark nephew (present)

 

Conclusion

It can thus be seen that whilst John Gow or Ross and Ann Gair had eight children, there are very few descendants apparent from the records.

Children Helen and Andrew I have been unable to trace.

John, David, Donald, Isabella and Margaret did not marry and had no children.

Ann married in Nigg, and two children are present in one Census return – but no record of them before or after can be found.

Janet did not marry, but did have at least three children, one of whom married and did have two children in Edinburgh, and on whom all hopes for descendants ride.

And the only remnant of this once populous family was the sandstone headstone lying face-down in the soil behind the chancel at Kirkmichael. The Trust is in the process of repairing and restoring this solitary memorial to the family.


 

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