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

Evan Paterson, crofter in St Martin’s

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated under each image

my thanks to descendant Heather Johnstone


the Glen Urquhart Heritage Group, August 2022, at the location of the Paterson slabs in Kirkmichael; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Evan Paterson complains to the Kirk Session

Evan Paterson, crofter in St Martin’s, is recorded in the Kirk Session record of the Parish of Resolis in a most unusual context. His son, also Evan Paterson, was complaining about how much he had been charged by the grave-digger for excavating the grave for his late father.

At the Church of Resolis the 11th day of Jany 1826 … A complaint was lodged against John Holm the Kirk Officer by Evan Paterson son of Evan Paterson Crofter in St Martins lately deceased, stating that the Kirk Officer had overcharged him the said Evan Paterson for digging his fathers grave in the church yard of Kirk Michael. John Holm being called & interrogated, replied that the charge he had made was 5/ – That is 3/ the usual rate for digging a grave & 2/ additional because the grave was opened in a new piece of ground in which there was no grave before & for the necessary & additional labour. The Session find that above charge is not contrary to the usual practice in such cases in this parish therefore dismiss the complaints of the said Evan Paterson as groundless and they appoint the said burying place opened for said Evan Paterson crofter in St Martins in the churchyard of Kirk Michael, in all time coming to be the property of the said Evan Paterson in St Martins & his descendants & that the said Burying ground is situated on the south side of the door & close by the wall of the churchyard of Kirkmichael. The Session also instruct their Clerk to give an extract of this minute to the said Evan Paterson when demanded.

Gravedigger tools used as symbols of mortality on two slabs at Kirkmichael; on the left, the one-sided spade for cutting the turf and on the right, the shovel for throwing the soil out of the grave; photos by Andrew Dowsett

Son Evan, having spent more than he had anticipated on his father’s burial, did not follow up with a memorial, so we do not know exactly where the family grave was located. Descendant Heather Johnstone, when she was organising a guided tour of Kirkmichael for the Glen Urquhart History Group in 2022, was asking me where it would likely have been situated. There are clues given the Kirk Session record says it was “on the south side of the door & close by the wall of the churchyard”. We know where the door of the old church was (just to the east of the south west corner of the original nave), and the former location of the wall of the churchyard can still be clearly seen above the steep bank as you enter Kirkmichael (and the foundation of the wall is still there below the turf).

Now, it is a curious thing but a year earlier, in October 2021, during our rigorous recording of memorials in the old section of Kirkmichael, we had come across our first Paterson slab. Not Evan’s, but there were so few Patersons in the parish at this time that the couple commemorated are very likely to have been related. And the location of this slab was certainly south of the door and close by the wall of the churchyard.

We had previously missed this slab as it is wholly buried, and tilted over sharply, so that it does not present a flat surface when you are probing. It shows the value of our cutting regular deep trenches across the kirkyard. As it was, we excavated it in front of an enthralled audience as we had included uncovering a previously unrecorded slab within our programme for the Highland Archaeology Festival.

photos by Andrew Dowsett

photo by Andrew Dowsett

The slab reads simply:


The couple concerned feature in the Resolis Baptism records:

2 April 1749 John Paterson servt at Drimcudden & Anne McKay – Donald
23 May 1751 John Paterson servant Culbow & Anne McKay – John
27 September 1754 John Paterson servant Brae & Anne McKay – Catherine
28 January 1760 John Peaterson meler Drimcudden & Ann Mckay – Thomas
30 October 1763 John Peaterson meler Brea & Ann Mckay – Ann


Adjacent to this stone was another slab, unusually shaped as it had a curved foot. It had been half in and half out of the turf, so that it was getting walked over and damaged by mowing equipment. Given its unusual shape, and its clear symbols of crossbones and be-wigged skull, we decided to make it one of our demonstration slabs. We excavated a trench around it, put down a membrane and filled the trench with rounded pebbles.

It reads DP / AA, and we had no clue as to which family it belonged. But with the discovery of an adjacent Paterson slab, it is a safe bet that “DP” would have been a Donald Paterson and the AA, less definitely, perhaps Anne Aird or Anderson. With two Paterson slabs now identified south of the door and close to the wall of the churchyard, it suggests quite strongly that Evan Paterson senior was buried close to this location. At some point, hopefully, more family information will become available and allow us to join up these Paterson families.

The Evan Paterson serial story

There is an extraordinary repetition of Evan Patersons to be found within the Resolis records and beyond. The rare (for Resolis) Christian name of “Evan” first came into the Patersons when Alexander Paterson married Catherine, daughter of Evan Mclean, a well-established tenant in Culbo. The naming of the Paterson children presumably followed the usual Scottish naming patter: first boy named after father’s father, second boy named after mother’s father, first girl named after mother’s mother, second girl named after father’s mother. Thus “Evan” became associated with the Patersons on the baptism of the second boy, Evan, in 1762, and continued for another two centuries.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
6 Apr 1751 Alexr Peaterson servant in Culbow & Cathraine McLane daughter to Evan McLane tenent in Culbow

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
1 September 1754 Alexander Paterson mealer Bog of Cullicn. & Cathne. McLean – Jean
6 April 1760 Alexander Peaterson servant Kirktown & Kathraine McLean – Alexander
3 December 1762 Alexander Peaterson servt. in Kirktown & Kathrine McLean – Evan
6 July 1766 Alexander Paterson servant in Kirktown & Katharine McLean – [blank]

You will note that between 1754 and 1760 Alexander and Catherine moved from Bog of Cullicudden to Kirkton, a distance of about four miles. Alexander had been a mealer, or small tenant, but had given up his tenancy to become a farm labourer. We can nail that down a little closer as in the Newhall Rental for 1755 we can see the new tenant replacing Alexander:

Newhall Rental 1755 – SC24/16/3
Peter Simpson per Alexr Parterson

Evan Paterson (1762–1826) and Catherine Holm

Second son Evan would become a crofter at St Martin’s, but that was to be relatively late in life. He is recorded several times as a weaver when younger. There is no mention of his occupation at the baptisms of his three recorded children:

Parish of Resolis Baptism Register
12 April 1788 Ewin Paterson in the Bog of Newmiln & Cathrine Holm – Alexander
24 July 1789 Ewen Paterson in the Bog & Cathrine Holm – John
11 February 1793 Ewen Paterson in the Bog & Cathrine Holm – Ewen

In 1798, however, the militia list records him as a weaver in Springfield. As Springfield and Bog of Newmiln do run into each other, he may have actually been in the same location.

Parish of Resolis 1798 Militia List
Springfield Ewen Paterson Weaver 2 - - - 1 -

Weaver he may have been, but clearly he had some land as well, for those numbers mean that he possessed two “Large Horses” and one “Small Cart”.

The militia lists of this period are an indication of the threat of war, and that same year of 1798 every person who could donate to National Defence was exhorted to do so. The press reported in 1799 subscriptions from Resolis, and almost all families contributed. Evan put in two shillings, a good sum for the time.

Caledonian Mercury 21 November 1799
National Defence. / Subscriptions in the Parishes of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden … Ewen Paterson, weaver, Bog of Cullicudden; John Holm, ditto, ditto; J. McKenzie, ditto, ditto; David McLeod, ditto, ditto; Ro. Munro, ditto, ditto; John Urquhart, mealer, Drumcudden – 2s each 2.14.0

A more anomalous entry appears in the 1798/99 Consolidated Tax returns (E326/15/7), where he is listed as a “Tayler” in Bog of Cullicudden, but I wonder if in fact the collector was drawn into writing that occupation as the previous few entries were all for taylors, and were all down for two shillings and sixpence tax.

Consolidated Tax – Parish Kirkmichael & Cullicudden

David Mackenzie Tayler Bog of Cullicudden 2 6
John Mackenzie Tayler Bog of Cullicudden 2 6
Ewin MacLean Tayler Bog of Cullicudden 2 6
Ewin Paterson Tayler Bog of Cullicudden 2 6

Braelangwell House in the very early 1900s

In a few years, though, he was well and truly a crofter, and we can tell where the croft was, what his rental amounted to and even his acreage of arable land and pasture. He was on the Braelangwell Estate, and I see in 1811, in the rather cryptic Braelangwell Accounts, that he sold three sheep to the laird’s family for one pound and three shillings:

Mar 8 Paid Bill & int due by Mr U to John Simpson 25.9.8
Paid Whisky for the funeral & family use 9.18.6
Paid Ewen Paterson for 3 sheep family use 1.3.-

You will note a funeral being mentioned. David Urquhart of Braelangwell died in 1811 and the Estate had to be sold to satisfy his creditors. A plan of the Estate of Braelangwell was drawn up in 1812 to facilitate its sale, with boundaries of tenancies drawn in red.

The names of several tenants were handwritten in pencil over some of the tenancies, including that of “Ewan Paterson” and neighbours such as “Rob. Simpson”, “John Fowler”, and the miller “Jas. Munro”. I think these names may have been handwritten later to assist in an 1822 boundary dispute between Donald Mackenzie of Newhall (who by now had purchased part of St Martin’s) and Alexander Shepperd Esquire, a lawyer in Inverness. The dispute was over where exactly lay the boundary between Easter and Wester St Martin’s, and Ross and Cromarty, and the two ownerships.

It was argued for Newhall that the boundary was the burn Aultvickinroy (the west boundary of Evan Paterson’s croft) and for Shepperd that the boundary was the burn Aultnameil, a little further to the west. The decreet arbitral decided for Newhall. The evidence of witnesses, by the way, makes reference to the remains of the old Mansion House of St Martin’s, allegedly once lived in by a Bishop, and to other historical locations of interest.

1812 Braelangwell Estate Plan showing tenancy boundaries; photo by Jim Mackay

I have delineated the boundary of Evan’s croft with blue dots. Evan’s western boundary (at the base of this image) is hatched and a handwritten note at the bottom of the plan says the hatching is to show the boundary of Easter and Wester St Martin’s. The tenants’ names (admittedly rather faint!) I have enclosed within ellipses. I have very approximately indicated North with an arrow.

Evan Paterson’s croft on drone shot of St Martin’s by Andrew Dowsett

I have drawn on a drone shot from Andrew Dowsett the approximate location of Evan Paterson’s croft. You can see that nowadays it is all rich arable land producing fine crops of barley, whereas in Evan Paterson’s day it was a patchwork of arable and pasture set in moorland. For those who know the area, the wooded area on the left contains the remains of St Martin’s Mill and the wooded area starting on the right is the lovely Nutwood, and the footpath joining them goes right through the middle of what was Evan Paterson’s croft.

St Martin’s mill from postcard about 1906

Nowadays the remains of the Mill of St Martin’s are smothered in ivy, but fortunately a very faded postcard image has survived to give an indication of how it once looked. And below, a real heritage gem, courtesy of Alasdair Cameron – the axle for the waterwheel at St Martin’s being turned by James Reid senior at Bridgend in Dingwall. Alasdair tells me that “technically James is in the process of turning the axle for the waterwheel on an external extension to the wood-turning lathe that would be powered by one of the two waterwheels. The second person is Mr Cockburn, father of the founder of Cockburn Butchers.”

the axle for the St Martin’s water wheel being turned; photo courtesy of Alasdair Cameron

The proximity of the crofts in this area to the Mill must have been very convenient for the crofters who were obliged to use it. The mill was of great importance to the local community.

Evan Paterson’s croft; photo from just under Nutwood by Jim Mackay

I have marked the boundaries of the Paterson croft in red, and the location of the Mill with a yellow spot. The Kinbeachie Burn (which becomes further downstream the Newhall Burn) forms the northern, more distant, boundary of Evan Paterson’s croft. The blue spot marks the approximate location of the crofthouse and steading. And I have marked the path from the Mill up to Nutwood in green.

The Estate of Braelangwell, before it was sold in 1812, included the area of land that was known at the time as “Easter Drumcudden and Wester St Martin’s”. Newhall owned “Easter St Martin’s”. Land sales rarely defined exact boundaries. It was a recipe for litigation, and Newhall was often embroiled in disputes.

The Newhall Rentals set out Evan Paterson’s annual rent for a few years until Easter St Martin’s, including the Paterson croft, was sold to Thomas McKenzie Paterson, Esq., the owner of the Drumcudden Estate, which is adjacent. Indeed, parts of St Martin’s were actually called Drumcudden at times.

Rental of Newhall’s New Property as at Martinmas 1816 – Highland Archives D32/J2b
Drimcudden Evan Paterson 9 [hens] 7 [pounds money rent]

Newhall Rental 1818 – Highland Archives D32/G1
Easter St. Martins Ewen Paterson 12 [hens] 8 [pounds money rent]

Newhall Rental 1820 – Highland Archives D32/G1
E. St Martins [12 hens and 8 pounds money rent] Evan Paterson 12 [hens] 8 [pounds money rent]

Alterations of Newhall Rental for Crop 1821
In the following, 106 to 111 are bracketed with comment “included in sale to Mr. Paterson”
106 St. Martins Alexander Fowler 6 Hens £6.-.-
107 John Fowler 12 Hens £6.-.-
108 Alexr Simpson 6 Hens £7.7.-
109 Evan Paterson 12 Hens £8.-.-

In other words, Easter St Martin’s had been sold to Thomas Mackenzie Paterson of Drumcudden, including the land tenanted by Evan Paterson, so that the Newhall Rental was decreased by what Evan Paterson paid. As part of the process of the land being sold, the acreages of the tenancies were also calculated.

Highland Archives D32/H4(b)
Excerpt – Sketch of the Lands of Easter St Martins, agreeably to the boundaries pointed out on the ground to the Surveyor (David Wilson) on the 7th day of May 1821 By John Urquhart of Cullicudden, Thomas Munro and Donald Murray both residing in Drumcudden.
No 14. Alexr Fowler 10 3 30 arable 17 0 2 pasture
No 15. John Fowler 8 1 24 arable 3 2 16 pasture
No 16. Ewan Patterson 8 2 25 arable 18 0 22 pasture

The areas given are in acres, roods and perches (40 perches to the rood and 4 roods to the acre, in the wonderful diversity of units prior to metrication).

I have not found the estate records of Thomas Mackenzie Paterson, so what happened thereafter to Evan Paterson’s croft I cannot tell. I presume it was the sale of this land by Newhall that triggered the 1822 boundary dispute with Alexander Shepperd, who believed that Newhall had no right to sell the land. However, Newhall won the day and Evan Paterson became a tenant of an estate owner bearing his own surname.

Thomas Mackenzie Paterson of Drumcudden was a writer (solicitor) in Inverness with a great interest in family history. He traced his Paterson family back to many influential Patersons in Inverness and the Black Isle over the centuries. It would be interesting to see if any of those descendants were actually related to the Patersons of the croft at St Martin’s!

It was not long before Evan Paterson senior passed away and was buried at Kirkmichael, south of the door and close to the graveyard wall. Evan Paterson junior challenged the cost of digging the grave, but to no avail. We do not know if Catherine Holm, the spouse of Evan senior, died before or after Evan.

There were three named children baptised to Evan Paterson and Catherine Holm, Alexander, born in 1788, whom I have been unable to trace, John, born in 1789, who became a mason, and Evan, born in 1793 and who continued with the croft. Let’s look at John first.


John Paterson (1789–1868) and spouses Annie McLean and Catherine McRae (c1796–1869)

John continued to reside in the parish for a long time before he moved, first to Conon, and then to Inverness. We see him in the Militia Lists: from 1820 “St Martins … John Paterson mason <30” right through to 1831 “Drumcudden … John Paterson mason >30 2 children excused”. He did not reside on the family croft by then and in that 1831 Militia list, brother Evan is shown separately as tenant at “Saintmartins”.

John married his first wife the year before brother Evan married his first wife.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
4 February 1825 John Paterson & Ann McLean both in this parish contracted & married in due time

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
30 June 1826 John Paterson mason at Drumcudden & Ann McLean Elizabeth born 15 June
3 April 1829 John Paterson mason at Drumcudden & Ann McLean Jennet born 26 March
22 May 1832 John Paterson mason at Drumcudden & Ann McLean Evan born 15 May
9 August 1835 John Paterson mason at Drumcudden & Ann McLean Katharine born 19 June

I don’t know who Ann McLean’s antecedents were. John, Ann and their four children moved to the adjacent parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester, where they may be found at Balghoil in 1841:

1841 Census Return, Balghoil, Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester
John Paterson mason 40
Ann Paterson 40
Lezy Paterson 15 / Janet Paterson 10 / Ewan Paterson 5 / Kate Paterson 4

Ann McLean must have died soon afterwards and John remarried a Catherine McRae between 1841 and 1851. From census returns, Catherine had been born in Urquhart about 1796, so she was a mature lady. There were no further children. In 1851, then, John and Catherine are in Conon Village, he still a mason, and young Evan an apprentice mason. Daughter Janet is in household, but the other girls are away, presumably in service.

By 1861, the family had moved to Lower Kessock Street in Inverness, with John still recorded as a mason. He died there in 1868 and the informant at the Registrar’s, his son Evan, gave a rather strange cause of death. Evan was also responsible for one of the most curious errors I have seen on a death certificate. See if you can spot it.

Inverness Deaths
John Paterson mason (married to Catherine McRae) died 6 July 1868 at 6 Lower Kessock Street age 66 [parents] John Paterson mason (d) Ann Paterson ms McLean (d) [cause of death and duration] Effects of cold after profuse perspiration and drinking cold water 6 days No medical attendant informant Ewen Paterson son present

You might think, oh no, John is not whom I think he is as these are not the parents I was expecting. But in fact, clearly when Evan was asked by the Registrar: Parents? what did Evan respond with? He gave his own parents. Evan had been born to John Paterson mason and his first wife, Annie Maclean. I have seen children forget their grandparents’ names but I have never seen a child give his own parents instead of his grandparents. I blame the Registrar.

Fortunately, daughter Janet attended the Registrar’s when their mother died the following year, but even then she had not come fully prepared:

Inverness Deaths
Catherine Paterson widow of John Paterson mason died 3 February 1869 at 6 Lower Kessock Street age 57 [parents] John McRae gardener (d) [blank for mother] informant Jessie Paterson her x mark step daughter (present)

And there, as the family had moved well away from Resolis, we will leave them.


Evan Paterson (1793–1859) and his wives Janet Holm (–1842) and Catherine Paterson (1801–1880)

We have seen John residing at Drumcudden as a mason whilst brother Evan continued with the croft next door at St Martin’s. Evan married his first wife, Janet Holm, a year after his father died, and a year after brother John had married his first wife. The impression is that they were sticking close together as a family.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
24 March 1826 Evan Paterson tenant at Saintmairtins & Jennet Holm there both in this parish contracted & married in due time

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
15 May 1827 Evan Paterson farmer at Saintmartins & Jannet Holm – Evan born 9 May
11 September 1829 Evan Paterson tenant at Saintmartins & Jennet Holm – Andrew born 31 August

There are several candidates for Janet Holm’s parents, but I see no clue as to which ones they might be. You might expect her father to be named Andrew Holm, but there is no Janet born to an Andrew Holm in the likely period. However, the Resolis Registers in this period are not well completed.

In his younger years, Evan is listed intriguingly at “Corry House” in St Martin’s, as a labourer:

1814 Militia List of men between the ages of 17 and 45
St Martins … Corry House
No. 168 Evan Paterson labourer x <30

I have not found any other references to “Corry House”. The 1825 Militia List in St Martin’s has “John Paterson mason >30” adjacent to “Evan Paterson farmer’s son <30”, the brothers obviously residing together at this time. It would be on John’s marriage later that year that he would move to a separate house nearby in Drumcudden. And that year Evan Paterson senior died as well, so that in the next Militia List we see:

1826 Militia List
Cullicudden …
No. 70 Evan Paterson farmer >30

With the death of his father, Evan was now recognised as the farmer of the St Martin’s croft.

We are now moving into more modern times, and Evan and Janet may be seen in the 1841 Census at St Martin’s, albeit there are several mistakes in their entry.

1841 Census Return Saint Martins
Evan Paterson 40 AL [agricultural labourer]
Ann [sic, should be Janet] Holm 40
Evan do. [sic, should be Paterson] 12
Andrew Paterson 9

You will note that Evan by this time was given as an agricultural labourer rather than crofter, so his circumstances were clearly much reduced. This is confirmed the following year when the Kirk Session had to contribute to the burial of Janet Holm:

Parish of Resolis Kirk Session Minutes
At the Church of Resolis the Twenty fifth day of July Eighteen hundred & forty two years … Part payment of a coffin for Evan Paterson’s Wife -.5.-

Despite Evan’s financial straits, he remarried three years later:

Parish of Resolis Marriages
5 December 1845 Evan Paterson & Catherine Paterson both residing in this parish contracted 4 November married 5 December 1845

Given the paucity of Patersons in Resolis, it is likely that Catherine, daughter of a John Paterson and Isabella Hossack, would have been a distant relative. There were to be no children.

In the 1851 Census, Evan and Catherine are recorded at Drumdyre, but given the close proximity of Drumdyre to St Martin’s, we cannot conclude that they had moved house. He is recorded as a general labourer and Catherine as a housekeeper.

Sons Evan and Andrew were away by now, working as agricultural labourers on farms in the area. Young Evan married later in 1851 and soon emigrated to Australia. His father was a few years later to write to him and ask if Andrew should also emigrate, so clearly times were tough back in Scotland.

As further evidence of hard times, Evan was pursued at the Cromarty Sheriff Court for a small debt in 1852:

Cromarty Sheriff Court, Small Debts, 1852
Alexander Ross, Shoemaker, Cromarty pursuing Ewin Paterson, labourer, Brae, Parish of Resolis: £1.3.1d

You will note that Evan was now located up in Brae, a short distance from St Martin’s. He died there 1859, and his death certificate confirms that he had become a pauper. He was buried in Cullicudden, the family seemingly unaware that they actually owned in perpetuity the burial lair in Kirkmichael in which the first Evan Paterson was buried. His wife’s branch of Patersons were buried in Cullicudden in any case, so perhaps that was the reason why Evan was buried there.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Evan Paterson labourer pauper (married) died 1 November 1859 at Brae age 67 parents Evan Paterson farmer (deceased) Catherine Paterson m.s. Holm (deceased) buried Church yard of Cullicudden As certified by William Holm Sexton informant Andrew Paterson his x mark son present

Cullicudden burial ground; photo by Jim Mackay

Widow Catherine continued to reside at Brae, working as a field labourer. She entered the parochial relief records on 12 September 1870, and the notes there include:

Parish of Resolis Parochial Relief Records
Widow Evan Paterson
resides Brae 69 pays no rent born Resolis Children in family None Children not in family None Widow labouring 1880 11 March died

As the records state, Catherine died in 1880. But before her death she moved down to reside with the family of her brother, Andrew Paterson of Bog of Cullicudden, and that is where she died in 1880.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Catherine Paterson pauper (widow of Evan Paterson farm labourer) died 11 March 1880 at Bog of Cullicudden age 80 parents John Paterson weaver (d) Isabella Paterson ms Hossack (d) informant Hugh Paterson nephew (present)

There were only two children of Evan Paterson and his first wife Janet Holm, Evan, born 1827, and Andrew, born 1829.


Evan Paterson (1827–) and Johana McRae (1824 (perhaps)–1854)

Evan became a farm labourer, and whilst working at Braelangwell in 1847 he and several other farm workers became involved in a fracas at the pub in Jemimaville, the Poyntzfield Arms, then run by Walter Ross, who had experienced many such incidents!

the Poyntzfield Arms, Jemimaville, from a postcard in the possession of Angus Bethune

Cromarty Sheriff Court 1847
Riot and malicious mischief
George McIntosh, Alexander Finlayson, Duncan Bethune, Ewan Patterson, farm servants at Braelangwell: Riot in inn at Jemimaville belonging to Walter Ross, merchant. Fined 20s or 15s

A few years later, and hopefully having sobered up, he was working for the tenant of Drumcudden. In the numerous household at Drumcudden in 1851 you will also see a young house servant named Johanna McRae, a widow.

1851 Census Return Drumcudden
James McLean head married 31 farmer of 300 acres employing 7 labourers born Keith, Banffshire
Barbara McLean wife 30 farmer's wife born Kiltearn
Murdoch Urquhart servant unmarried 30 farmer’s servant born Rosskeen
Evan Paterson servant unmarried 23 farmer’s servant born Resolis
[two visitors and five more servants and then]
Johana McRae servant widow 26 farmer’s house servant born Contin

Evan and Johanna clearly hit it off, and they went on to marry later in that year of 1851.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
8 June 1851 Evan Paterson & Johanna MacRae both residing at Drumcudden in this parish, banns published 25 May, 1, 8 June 1851

The couple then simply disappeared from the records, and I suspected they had emigrated. I was delighted when descendant Heather Johnstone was able to confirm that they had in fact gone out to Australia shortly after their marriage.

Heather provided me with the text of a letter which young Evan had written to his father and step-mother from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Heather noted Evan’s apparent difficulty in how to address his step-mother as he left the salutation hanging! This sad letter speaks for itself, but note that he refers to returning from “the diggings”. The Australian Gold Rush started in 1851, following discoveries of gold in Victoria, and this resulted in an unprecedented level of immigration and I think it likely that Evan had followed the Gold Rush.

Ballarat's tent city, Victoria, just a couple of years after the discovery of gold in the district. Oil painting from an original 1853 sketch by Eugene von Guerard, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The envelope is postmarked “Melbourne, September 1854 / Fortrose – December 7th 1854” and bears the address


Mr Evan Paterson
Brae, Resolis
Ross-shire, Scotland

The letter reads:

Parkram, Victoria
September 7th 1854
Dear Father &
We received your welcomed letter dated 31 March and were most happy to hear that you were all in a state of health.
I am sorry that I have to mention that Johanna is very poorly now since four months back with consumption. She did not come out of bed since the first of June and now she is very low. She has a very nasty cough which commenced about eight or nine months ago and the first doctor she went to he thought that he was able to cure her and being attending her for about two months. She had to send for another but he told her that she was at that time past being cured and that it was in vain to try to do anything to her. I was at the diggings at the time and then I was sent for and I came home in the beginning of June and we are watching her every night since. But it is not very likely that she will trouble us long.
I am not able to make a long letter just now as I am sure that I will write in a short time again and as giving any encouragement to Andrew to come out I cannot say anything as I do not know what I may do myself yet.
We were inclined to leave this country before she got so very ill as she was not getting her health very well but we are hindered from that.
My kind love to Each and all of you
I am
dear Father
Your affectionate Son
E. Paterson

The Victoria Death Record Indices confirm that “Johann Paterson” of Victoria State died aged 30 in 1854, parents names Mcrae Duncan and Janet. I do wonder if Evan, the informant, was correct when giving his mother-in-law’s Christian name as Janet, as I think it very likely that Johanna was the child in this Contin baptism:

Parish of Contin Baptisms
23 December 1824 Hannah – Duncan McRae & Isabel McLean Correvuic [Corrievuic]

From the baptism register, the couple also had Flora in 1828, Margaret in 1820 and Catharine in 1830. The family can be seen at Corrievuic in 1841 (along with two other children Alexander and Simon) but they moved east to Drynie in the Parish of Knockbain, by the 1851 Census. Hannah in 1847 married a Duncan McRae:

Parish of Lochcarron Marriages
1847 … March 6 Duncan McRae Kishorn & Hannah McRae Knockbain

No children are recorded to this couple, and I think it likely that Duncan died not long into their marriage. Hannah returned to the Black Isle to work, and that is why she was widow Johanna McRae at Drumcudden in 1851 with fellow servant Evan Paterson. Of course, that “Janet” recorded on Johanna’s death certificate may be correct after all, and I am introducing a red herring, but this would be a useful line for further research.

I do not know what became of Evan Paterson following Johanna’s death.


Andrew Paterson (1829–1866) and his wife Penuel Kennedy (1825–1907)

And, finally, Andrew, the second son of Evan Paterson and Janet Holm of the croft at St Martin’s. Like his brother Evan, Andrew became an agricultural labourer, and can be seen at Mulchaich, Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester, in 1851, as the one farm labourer on a small farm there.

By the 1861 census, he had returned to the Parish of Resolis and was working as a ploughman at the Mains of Newhall. It was here that he met his bride-to-be.

part of the steading at Newhall Mains, prior to conversion; photo by Jim Mackay

The Mains, recently converted to an exclusive event venue, is a beautiful set of buildings a few minutes walk from Newhall House. There was the magnificent main steading, but also more humble accommodation for the workers. In 1861, in a tiny bothy on the Mains, were three men, one of them ploughman Andrew Paterson. And in great Newhall House at that time was a cook named Penuel Kennedy. The disparity in living conditions was quite pronounced.

Newhall House, in the early 1900s

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis, Newhall
Newhall Mains, house with one room with one window or more
Andrew Paterson head unmarried 32 ploughman born Resolis
Donald McKenzie companion unmarried 26 ploughman born Applecross
Duncan Beaton companion unmarried 30 herd born Contin
Newhall House, house with 24 rooms with one window or more
J.A. Shaw Mackenzie head married 63 landed proprietor born Bombay, East Indies, British Subject
Elizabeth Shaw Mackenzie wife married 23 born England
John McLennan servant married 52 butler born Contin
Stephen Manuel Peres servant married 40 second servant born Goa, East Indies, British Subject
Penuel Kennedy servant unmarried 31 cook (domestic servant) born Inverness
Helen Campbell servant unmarried 36 housemaid born Contin

Just like brother Evan and Johanna McRae, both working for the same family, Andrew and Penuel Kennedy must have met through their work and were married a couple of years later in Smithton. A few days before the wedding, the Free Church Session of Resolis provided a testimonial for Andrew which has been retained by the family, and a copy of which was forwarded to me by Heather:

These certify that the bearer hereof, Andrew Paterson, a young unmarried man, is a native of this Parish, and has resided for the most part in this Parish – that he is an adherent of the Free Church – that he has maintained a good moral character – and that he is free of everything meriting Church censure.
Given in name, presence and by appointment of the Kirk Session of the Free Church, Resolis on 23rd March 1863 by
Don’d Farquhar
Robert Ferguson S. Clerk

Andrew probably used that testimonial when seeking employment in the Inverness area.

Inverness Marriages
27 Mar 1863 at Smithtown, after banns according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
Andrew Paterson agricultural labourer (bachelor) age 33 Brae, Resolis parents Evan Paterson agricultural labourer (d) Janet Paterson ms Holm (d)
Penuel Kennedy domestic servant (spinster) age 32 Smithtown, Culloden parents John Kennedy farmer (d) Margaret Kennedy ms Forbes
James Scott U.P. Church Inverness Duncan Forbes witness James Fraser witness

Andrew moved to Smithton, abandoned agriculture and became a railway labourer. That was what he gave as his occupation when his first child, Evan John Paterson, was born in Smithton on 31 May 1864, and when his second child, John Forbes Paterson, was born there on 22 July 1866.

Alas, poor Andrew was not to enjoy family life long. He passed away just a few months after John Forbes was born, due to “Inflammation of the Chest”.

Inverness Deaths
Andrew Paterson railway labourer (married to Penuel Kennedy) died 21 December 1866 at Smithtown of Culloden age 38 parents Ewen Paterson general labourer (d) [mother blank] informant Hugh Cameron Smithtown of Culloden Neighbour

Poor Penuel. With a toddler and a baby and no income, Penuel was admitted to the parochial roll for the Parish of Resolis on 10 April 1867. The records state:

Widow Andrew Paterson, Smithton of Culloden Inverness born Inverness Nature of Settlement Residential this her late husband Widow Children Evan 2 9/12 John 1871 May 9 Chargeability has ceased from marriage

Penuel Kennedy, image shared on Ancestry by Jane Cameron

The marriage which resulted in cessation of her parochial relief was to one Kenneth Gillanders, whom she married, as the parochial records accurately state, on 9 May 1871. There was to be one more child, Margaret Gillanders, born later that year, who died as a young woman in 1890.

As for the two boys, Evan John Paterson (1864–1913) had no children. He died in Montreal, Quebec. I think he must have been the last of the Patersons to bear the name Evan, first given to a Paterson in 1762. His brother John Forbes Paterson (1866–1942) had three children, two of whom went on to have families themselves. My correspondent Heather Johnstone is descended from one of those families.

We are now straying into the modern era, which is not the intention of this Story behind the Stone series, so we shall not intrude any further. But a final thank you to Heather Johnstone and the Glen Urquhart Heritage Group whose visit to Kirkmichael in August 2022 stimulated this story.

photo by Andrew Dowsett



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