The Memorial Fragment – Hugh Munro, forester, and Mary Mackenzie of Braelangwell and Kiltarlity,
and the Golden Retrievers of Guisachan

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

This is the story behind a fragment of a gravestone, which leads to the tale of the origins of the Golden Retriever on the great estate of Guisachan in Kiltarlity.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

Guisachan_FragmentOf HughMunroStone_wee_18Aug2018.jpg
photo by Jim Mackay

When we re-erected the massive fallen memorial to General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell, we also lowered the level of soil in the family enclosure. Gravediggers at Kirkmichael had been disposing of their surplus soil by tipping it into the enclosure along with odd bits of masonry. We found our much-prized finial thistle buried in the soil here, and we also found a chunk of a gravestone. We couldn’t make much of the small part of the remaining inscription on that fragment and put it aside.

At Doors Open Day at Kirkmichael in September 2022, we included the fragment within our display of small finds, and a conversation developed about it. Could we make more of it?

photo by Andrew Dowsett

photo by Andrew Dowsett

The remaining pieces of inscription give:

Hugh Mu… / in memory … / W… / who d… / …2…

The “Mu” could be Murray or Mustard, both names that come up occasionally in this area, but by far the most common name beginning with “Mu” in Kirkmichael is Munro. Again, going by common occurrences in Kirkmichael, “W” could be the start of “Wife” or “William”. The dot for an “i” is definitely there (within blue ellipse). And, on closer inspection, the two small chisel marks for the tops of a double “l” are also present (within red ellipse). We are on safe grounds then that Hugh Munro was commemorating a William. Father or son? It is most likely to be son, as there wouldn’t seem to be enough space for the phrase “of his father” – “of his son” would seem to be about the right length. “who d…” becomes “who died” as again we can see the dot of the “i” (within green ellipse). And finally, the year. The second numeral is clearly a “2” but the one before it (within pink ellipse) could be the top right part of a “9”, “8” or a “3”.

Guisachan_FragmentOf HughMunroStone_wee_18Aug2018_with_ellipses.jpg
photo by Jim Mackay

It is a good quality stone, well-carved, so we can tell that Hugh Munro was a man of some substance. Do we have any families who fit these clues? Only one.

Hugh Munro, forester for Braelangwell, and his wife, Mary Mackenzie, had a son they named William, born in 1826. The couple initially resided at Auldynie, on the Braelangwell Estate, where Hugh is on one occasion also recorded as tacksman. They had Simon in 1828 and Alexander in 1830. They moved to reside at Jemimaville, where, in 1833, they had another son, whom they also named William. The assumption has to be that the first William had died and they gave that name in remembrance to the next son born after his death. I would conclude from that information that the broken date was originally 1832, and that the inscription once read something like

Erected by Hugh Munro forester in memory of his son William who died … 1832

Other possibilities exist, of course, but this is very likely the case.

The small farm of Auldynie, where first Hugh Munro’s family, and then Hugh’s in-laws, the Mackenzies, resided, was part of the Braelangwell Estate; image from RHP1456 (1844) courtesy of the National Records of Scotland


Where is the Rest of the Memorial?

All we have is one fragment of the overall memorial, from near the top. We know that it had angled shoulders at the top, as part of one of those angles is still evident. Where is the rest of the memorial? Almost certainly there will be more buried under the soil in the Fraser of Braelangwell enclosure. Having written this story, I had a further thought.

Standing beside the Fraser of Braelangwell enclosure is a broken headstone. It used to be much more deeply buried and tilted over, but a few years ago we lifted and straightened it. Could it conceivably be the base of the fragment?

photo by Jim Mackay

photo by Jim Mackay

At first sight it doesn’t look likely, as the fragment is darker and thicker. But of course, the stump in the ground has continued to weather for a hundred years longer than the fragment which has been protected underground. When we put the fragment beside the base of the stump…

photo by Jim Mackay

… they prove to be exactly the same thickness. I do believe that the falling General Fraser memorial shattered the adjacent Munro headstone. At some point we must probe the soil in the enclosure to see if more sections might turn up. Watch this space!


The Munro Family of Kiltarlity and Braelangwell

Hugh Munro was no ordinary forester. Born about 1796 to merchant (i.e. shopkeeper) Hugh Munro and Isabel Grigor or McGregor in Kiltarlity, he was sufficiently distinguished to be called “Mr.” on the baptism of his second child, Hugh. The Kiltarlity Baptism Register in June 1823 gives “Mr. Hugh Munro at Aughnaguntich and Mrs. Mary McKenzie his spouse”.

They moved to Resolis shortly afterwards, to manage the forestry planted by Urquhart of Braelangwell a generation earlier. I see an advertisement in the papers the following year:

Inverness Courier 9 September 1824
Farms and Mills to be Let, and Fir Wood for Sale, on the Estate of Braelangwell, in the County of Cromarty.

There will be Sold by Public Roup, on Friday the 17th day of September next, if not previously disposed of by private bargain, the whole of the Older Fir Plantation of Braelangwell, containing about 260 Scots Acres. This Wood is about 40 years old, is generally of excellent quality, and is situated within a very short distance of the sea, to which there is easy access by good roads. It will be divided into Lots of different sizes for the accommodation of purchasers.
Sufficient time will be allowed for cutting down and removing the timber, which can be shipped at a very trifling expense; and the following terms of Credit will be given on approved Bills, viz. to the Purchasers of Lots not exceeding 15 Acres, nine months; and to the Purchasers of Lots exceeding that quantity, 18 months.
Offers for the lands and Mills will be received by the Honourable James Sinclair, Braelangwell House, by Fortrose; or by Alexander Shepperd, Solicitor in Inverness, till the 17th proximo, when the proposed set will take place. And any further information desired by intending offerers, either for these or the Woods, will be furnished either by the Proprietor or Mr Shepperd.
Hugh Munro, Forester, will shew the Lands and Woods. / 17th August, 1824.

We see here then Hugh in a position of authority on the Braelangwell Estate.

nowadays forestry dominates the higher ground in the Black Isle, but Braelangwell was early in the process of planting the moors; drone photo by Andrew Dowsett

Whilst researching Hugh’s family I had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Several of the people involved seemed to be familiar. And sure enough, it turned out that the family of Hugh Munro’s wife, Mary Mackenzie, had also moved from Kiltarlity to Auldynie on the Estate of Braelangwell, and had married locally. They may be seen in the story of James Urquhart, the Flesher of Jemimaville, who married Mary’s sister, Isabella, here.

The gravestone from which the chunk was broken we reckon must have been close to the Braelangwell enclosure. Immediately to the north of the enclosure is the tablestone erected by Braelangwell farm manager John Cowe to commemorate his wife and young son. And beyond that are the headstones commemorating the family of Braelangwell tacksman, Samuel Gordon.

It is unsurprising that in this period families coming into the area to work for a laird should be buried close to the laird’s own burial area. We see this with the nave at Kirkmichael, truncated to form the mausoleum for the Gun Munros of Poyntzfield, with memorials for their grieve, John Johnston, and nanny, Elizabeth McBean, just outside.

How did the Hugh Munro memorial come to be broken? It might be thought that with the family moving away from Resolis (initially to Kilravock near Cawdor and then back to Guisachan in Kiltarlity) a later family simply broke up the memorial to accommodate another burial. But it is quite possible that the Munro memorial was one of several casualties of the massive granite memorial to General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell.

Why did the family move away? Well, Braelangwell was going through many changes in this period after centuries in the hands of the Urquhart family. And there are indications that Hugh Munro was in financial difficulties. I see in the Cromarty Sheriff Court small debt records for 1828 “Hugh Munro Aldynie Braelangwell” but foolishly I did not record if Hugh was owing or being owed money! However, I do see two later cases, when Hugh was residing in Jemimaville:

SC24/4A/52 – 1829 – Debt : John Grigor & Co., Merchants, Cromarty v. Hugh Munro, Jemimaville : £14.6.9d
SC24/10/101 – 1832 – Debt : Alex McKenzie, Solicitors, Inverness : John Urquhart, Alex McLea, William Bain & Hugh Munro, all Jemima Village.

These cases would definitely be worth further investigation in the NRS, but we can conclude that Hugh was being pressed for payments prior to his departure from the Parish of Resolis. It was certainly a responsible position to which he moved, as can be seen from his description when daughter Isabella was baptised.

Parish of Croy and Dalcross Baptisms
Isabella, lawful daughter to Mr. Hugh Munro Clerk in the Kilravock Wood, and Mary Mackenzie his Spouse, born 28th April was baptized 25th May 1835. Mr. Macdougal, Clephanton, and John Fraser, Carpenter there, were Witnesses.

Hugh was now responsible for the forestry on the prestigious Kilravock Estate.

But the family almost immediately returned to Kiltarlity, where several of the children became long-term trusted servants of the Guisachan (pronounced goosy-chun) Estate. Hugh himself was termed “Wood-Manager” in the advertisement in the Inverness Courier of 23 March 1836


At this time Hugh and his family were residing in old Guisachan House, adjacent to modern Guisachan House, which in turn is now derelict. His children seem to have been held responsible for the loss of the ancient building.

Inverness Courier 5 April 1837
FIRE.– On Wednesday last the old House of Guisachan, Strathglass, was accidentally burned to the ground. It was occupied by Hugh Munro, manager of the woods on the estate, and the fire is supposed to have been occasioned by some children burning sticks in a garret apartment. The house is situated contiguous to the present mansion-house of Guisachan, occupied by the proprietor, William Fraser, Esq. of Culbockie.

It must have been a terrifying experience. The Frasers of Culbokie, who held the estate of Guisachan at this time, drew their name from the period when Hucheon Fraser owned lands around what is now the village of Culbokie in the Black Isle, just a few miles from Kirkmichael, in fact.

Hugh Munro originally described his calling as “Forester” but now that he was more involved with management of the forestry resource on estates he seems to have preferred the term “Clerk” as that is how he was described at Kilravock in the Baptism Register and in the 1841 Census at Guisachan. In the latter, we can see his by now complete family:

1841 Census Return – Guisachan, Kiltarlity
Hugh Munro 45 Clk
Mary Munro 40
Hugh Munro 15 / Simon Munro 13 / Alexander Munro 11 / William Munro 8 / Bell Munro 6 / James Munro 4 / Donald Munro 2 / Mary Munro 0 / Sally McDond 25

In coming years several of the children would also be employed by the estate and had their own homes, but quite a few were still in household in 1851, with father Hugh and son Simon now recorded as sawyers, working for the estate to exploit the vast forest resources on Guisachan:

1851 Census Return – Guiseachan, Kiltarlity
Hugh Munro head 54 sawyer born Teachmuick Kilmorack
Mary Munro wife 48 born Uchnagrantich Kiltarlity
Simon Munro son 23 sawyer born Braelangwell, Cromarty[shire]
Isabella Munro daughter 15 born Kilravock, Nairn[shire]
James F Munro son 14 scholar born Kiltarlity
Donald Munro son 12 scholar born Kiltarlity
Mary K Munro daughter 10 born Kiltarlity

However, the role of Hugh Munro himself was not to be the simple one of long-serving servant of the estate.

Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, Esq., M.P., the future Lord Tweedmouth, purchased Guisachan in 1854, and perhaps Hugh did not wish to continue in his role as woods manager, even although several of his children would be employed on the estate. For whatever reason, he became a shopkeeper in nearby Tomich, the Guisachan Estate village.

Lord Tweedmouth Memorial Fountain, Tomich; attribution: Tom Richardson Lord Tweedmouth Memorial well CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tomich Hotel, Post Office and former stables; attribution: Tom Richardson The Tomich Hotel CC BY-SA 2.0

And who should be in their Tomich shop household in 1861, but a couple of their Urquhart relatives from Jemimaville, Resolis.

1861 Census Return – Tomich, Kiltarlity
Hugh Munro head 65 shop keeper (grocer) born Kiltarlity
Mary McKenzie wife 61 born Kiltarlity
Donald Munro son unmarried 23 baker born Kiltarlity
William Urquhart servant unmarried 25 carrier born Resolis
Ann Urquhart servant unmarried 20 domestic servant born Resolis

The problem with Census returns, of course, is that they provide only a snapshot. Hugh might have been a grocer for 20 days, or 20 years, you cannot tell from these returns. In fact, Hugh at this time was again in dire financial straits, and in fact was about to be imprisoned as a bankrupt. This was during the iniquitous period when bankrupts were jailed, thereby making it even more challenging for them to resolve their debts.

Greenock Advertiser 15 August 1861
Notices of Cessio Bonorum. … Hugh Munro, merchant, Tomich, Guisachan, by Beauly presently prisoner in the prison of Inverness.

It had been a disastrous commercial undertaking, and no doubt the bankruptcy proceedings would provide more detail on the problems Hugh experienced. By the time of the next Census, he was again in a different role: he was termed a road maker:

1871 Census Return – Tomich, Kiltarlity
Hugh Munro head 75 road maker born Kiltarlity
Mary Munro wife 70 road maker’s wife born Kiltarlity
Mary Kate Munro daughter unmarried 30 dress maker born Kiltarlity
James Fraser Munro [son] lodger married male 35 born 1836 plumber born Kiltarlity

It is possible that the roads that Hugh was working on were Guisachan Estate roads, but I suspect it more likely he was picking up whatever public roadwork was required in the area. He was now 75. He had gone from being a successful land manager to being a bankrupt in his old age. He died just a few years later, and the informant (a nephew) somehow reported that he was the widower of Ann Chisholm, when his wife, Mary Mackenzie was still alive and living in the area:

Parish of Kiltarlity Deaths
Hugh Munro labourer widower of Ann Chisholm [sic] died 22 April 1876 at Guisachan Kiltarlity 79 parents Hugh Munro crofter (d) Isabella Munro ms McGregor (d) Dropsy informant William Fraser nephew Lonbuie Lodge

It is definitely the correct Hugh Munro, but where has this name of Ann Chisholm appeared from?

Mary, sadly, was suffering in her old age, and in the 1881 Census is unkindly recorded as being an imbecile.

1881 Census Return – Guisachan Gate Cottage, Kiltarlity
Mrs Munro head widow 80 annuitant handicap imbecile born Kiltarlity
James F Munro son married 44 plumber born Kiltarlity
Mary Kate Munro daughter unmarried 40 dress maker born Kiltarlity

She held on for another five years, and it was son James who acted as a more accurate informant upon her demise.

Parish of Kiltarlity Deaths
Mary Munro widow of Hugh Munro Forester died 18 June 1886 at Guisachan Kiltarlity age 86 parents William Mackenzie merchant (d) Mary Mackenzie ms Macmillan (d) informant James Munro son 1 North Church Place Inverness


Guisachan Estate and the Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever owners and breeders now hold commemorative gatherings on the grounds of the ruined Guisachan House. The breed and Guisachan are inextricably linked as Lord Tweedmouth, Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, developed the breed as a working dog for the Estate and it is now one of the most popular companion dogs in the world.

on the hill…

and at home; photo by Lisa Branford

A video of the 2018 “150th Anniversary” Gathering may be seen here.

I see from the “Friends of Guisachan” Facebook page that there is to be a 2023 Guisachan Gathering, the event hosted by the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland here.

This truly remarkable image courtesy of the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland shows what an extraordinary event the Guisachan gathering is.

image courtesy of the Golden Retriever Club

Anne Weeks, a dedicated canine researcher, has written a fascinating article on Guisachan, to be found on the “Our Dogs” website on the origins of the Golden Retriever and the role of the Munro family at Guisachan , which may be read here. She writes:

Lord Tweedmouth must have had great faith in his Staff, especially the said Munro family. Hugh Munro and his wife, Mary, had nine children, several of whom were in Lord Tweedmouth’s employ. His favourite may have been Simon [born in Resolis in 1828], who had been employed at Guisachan since 1856 but sadly passed away at the early age of 44, on 1st November 1872 [actually 1873]. In his canine stud book, Lord Tweedmouth stated of Simon, “A Keeper and Dog Breaker, an attached and faithful servant, kind-hearted and warm. I will miss him very much”.

Anne succeeded in finding several pictures of family and staff at Guisachan in Lord Tweedmouth’s Canine Stud Book.

There is one particular photograph of Simon Munro with Nous, the first Golden Retriever on Guisachan, on the steps of Guisachan House, which can be seen in the short section devoted to Simon below. I think it likely that it was taken on the same day as the famous image of all the keepers with the dogs, which has been dated to 1868/1870, so this will also be the period when Simon was photographed. Simon was thus very closely associated with the first Golden Retriever on the estate, working with Nous on hill and moor.

That more famous image of all the keepers includes not only Simon Munro, but also brothers Alex, James and William. Given that several of them were usually otherwise employed (Alex as baker in Lochalsh, James as plumber in Inverness and William as butler) I do wonder if either the Munro family came back together for the shooting season as a favour for Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, or there was a special event on this occasion.

photograph from Lord Tweedmouth’s Stud Book, dated 1868/1870 taken at Guisachan. From left to right – James MacCallum, Simon Munro (green spotted, with Nous also green-spotted), Alex MacGillivary, Alex Munro (pink-spotted), Duncan MacLennan Snr, James Munro (blue-spotted), butler William Munro (red-spotted), James Cowan.


Guisachan Estate and the Munro Family

We have already mentioned that Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, Esq., M.P., the future Lord Tweedmouth, purchased Guisachan in 1854. Guisachan was famous for its stalking before this, but it now entered a new era of fame and prosperity. It was not to last, of course, and in the 1900s the House was abandoned, but it was world-famous for a long period.

Guisachan House in its heyday

Guisachan_Attribution_Craig_Wallace_ Ruins_of_Guisachan_House_CC_BY-SA_2_0.jpg
Attribution: Craig Wallace Ruins of Guisachan House CC BY-SA 2.0

All the distinguished people of the day came to reside and shoot at Guisachan, and the laird, Lord Tweedmouth, famously bred the Golden Retriever to work on the estate. He was also famous for his stock-breeding.

In a quick glimpse of the later guest lists at Guisachan I noted the Grand Duke Michael of Russia, Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Curzon, Lady Jane Seymour, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister – you get the picture. The Munro family rubbed shoulders with these privileged guests, particularly during the stalking season. It was a far cry from their childhood in Resolis!


The Munro Children

Hugh and Mary married in the Parish of Kiltarlity in 1821.

Parish of Kiltarlity Marriages
Hugh Munro at Balligate and Mary McKenzie at Fonellan were married by the Revd. Mr. Donald Fraser Minister of Kirkhill 3rd August 1821

A brief summary of the lives of the ten children of Hugh Munro and Mary Mackenzie follows.


1. Mary (1822–)

Parish of Kiltarlity Baptisms
1822 … Hugh Munro in Ballgate and Mary McKenzie his spouse a Child born 15th June baptized 21st named Mary witnesses Alexander Strachan in Beaufort and Alexr. McPherson at Beaulie

I do not believe that Mary survived to adulthood, as she does not appear in the 1841 Census return of the family. Moreover, with a Mary Catherine being baptised in 1840, there is some suggestion that the first Mary had died by that time.


2. Hugh Munro (1823–1884)

Parish of Kiltarlity Baptisms
1823 … Mr. Hugh Munro at Aughnaguntich and Mrs. Mary McKenzie his spouse a Child born 16th. June baptized do. named Hugh witnesses Hugh Mure at Achnalick and John Gordon at Aughnaguntich

We see young Hugh in the family household in 1841. He moved to Montrose where in 1851 he can be found as a gateman on the Aberdeen railway. He never moved away from Montrose and did not marry. I see him in Montrose as a railway porter in 1861, 1871 and 1881, and he died there suddenly in 1884 of apoplexy. His brother, James Fraser Munro, came across to Montrose and was the informant at the Registrar’s.


3. William Munro (1826–1832)

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
1826 … Hugh Munro Forrister Brealangwell at Aultdinie and his Spouse Mary Mackenzie had a child born the 28th day of January and baptized the 3d. day of February 1826 named William

William died in childhood, and his father erected a memorial to him in Kirkmichael burial ground. The memorial was smashed, but a portion remains.


4. Simon Munro (1828–1873)

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
1828 … Hugh Munro Tacksman at Aultdynie and his Spouse Mary McKenzie had a child born the 12th. And baptized the 29th. February 1828 named Simon

We know nothing of Simon’s early years. In the 1851 Census, he is given, like his father, as a sawyer, presumably on Guisachan Estate. He became a gamekeeper and dog trainer on the Estate and was well regarded by the proprietor. In his canine stud book, Lord Tweedmouth stated of Simon, as reported in the article by Anne Weeks referred to above, “A Keeper and Dog Breaker, an attached and faithful servant, kind-hearted and warm. I will miss him very much”.

As “Dog Breaker” i.e. dog trainer, Simon would have had a key role in training the dogs on the estate, including the new Golden Retrievers. I suspect this is why the photograph was taken of him on the steps to Guisachan House with two dogs beside him, one the famous Nous.

photograph from Lord Tweedmouth’s Stud Book, dated 1868/1870 taken at Guisachan. Simon Munro, with Nous

Simon did not marry.


5. Alexander (Alex) Munro (1830–1872), father of Lady Margaret Macdonald

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
1830 … Hugh Munro Forester at Jamima Ville and Mary McKenzie his Spouse had a child born the 5th. and baptized the 17th. of February 1830 named Alexander

Alex was a baker to trade (he can be seen as an apprentice baker in a baker’s house in Petty Street, Inverness, in 1851), but when he moved to Reraig, Lochalsh, the 1861 Census has him as “Postmaster, Baker & Grocer”. He was obviously an enterprising man. His sister “Mary Kett” was there as well, keeping house for them. In 1863, Alex married Annie Mackenzie, and they had Mary Anne in 1866, Hugh Alexander in 1868, Margaret (the future Lady Macdonald, born at Reraig) in 1870 and Isabella Kett in 1871. Alex is usually described as baker and postmaster at this time.

When did Alex arrive in Lochalsh? Well, I see “AT LOCHALSH – Mr Alex. Munro, Postmaster” nominated as a deputy collector of rates for the Parishes of Applecross, Kintail, Lochalsh, Lochcarron and Glensheil” on 1 September 1857, so he was there by then (Inverness Courier, 3 September 1857).

Their 1871 household therefore holds Alex as “Baker (Master – employing 1 man)”, wife Anne (presumably pregnant with Isabella Kett at the time) and children Maryanne, Hugh A. and Margaret. The household also holds an 18 year old unmarried sister-in-law, Mary Mackenzie from Ferintosh (Annie’s sister), and a journeyman baker. It all looks quite prosperous.

Despite it seeming as if things were going well, Alex died the following year, 1872. Many of his siblings passed away relatively young and in fact brother Simon would die the next year.

Annie and the four children moved back east to Inverness, where the youngest child succumbed to measles in 1873. The other three survived to adulthood. In 1881 the family may be seen residing at 105 Church Street, Inverness, with Annie making a living as a grocer. She and the two children who did not marry, Mary Ann and Hugh Alexander, were still there on Church Street in 1911, along with Anne’s sister-in-law, Mary Kate Munro.

Daughter Margaret (1870–1956) married at Inverness in 1899 the famous engineer and politician, Murdoch Macdonald, later Sir Murdoch Macdonald (1866–1957). His WikiPedia entry may be found here.

Sir Murdoch Macdonald in 1952

His apprenticeship as an engineer was served with the former Highland Railway Company, and after its completion he spent some years as an assistant engineer on various railway construction projects in Northern Scotland. Among them, there was the building of the Black Isle line between 1890 and 1894. Margaret was residing at 105 Church Street and Murdoch was residing at Cawdor Road when they married.

Murdoch became closely involved in hydro schemes, both in the Highlands, and in Egypt, including heightening the Aswan Dam. He was involved with the Great Ouse Flood Protection Scheme. A Liberal, he served as M.P. for Inverness from 1922 to 1950. There were two sons, both born in Egypt.


6. William Munro (1833–1886)

Parish of Resolis Baptisms
1833 … Hugh Munro Forester at Jemima Ville and his Spouse Mary McKenzie had a chld born the 15th. and baptized the 23d. of May 1833 named William

William became the butler at Guisachan. As a lad he can be seen as a humble cow herd in Wester Lovat in 1851, but he rose to greater heights. In the photograph on the steps of Guisachan House he stands out as he is wearing a bowler instead of a flat cap, and he has a distinguished handlebar moustache.

He can be seen in the big house with surprisingly few others in 1861 and 1871:

1861 Census Return – Guisachan, Kiltarlity
D C Marjoribanks head married 40 Landed proprietor M.P. born England
William Munro servant unmarried 26 house servant born Resolis
Jane Campbell servant unmarried 34 house maid
Mary McDonald servant unmarried 35 born Kiltarlity
1871 Census Return – Mansion House Guisachan, Kiltarlity
William Munro servant unmarried 36 house servant steward born Resolis
Catherine McRae servant unmarried 38 house maid head born Kiltarlity
Margaret Fraser servant unmarried female 20 house maid under born Inverness

But thereafter he disappeared from the area and I had the greatest difficulty tracking him down. In the end it was a logical progression, as instead of looking after a great house, he looked after an hotel. By 1881 he had become the hotel keeper of the Dundonnell Hotel at Lochbroom, near Ullapool, an establishment in which, in my hill-walking days, I have had many’s a celebratory pint. Also present, as a housekeeper, was his cousin, Jane Ann Fraser from Kiltarlity.

And I see from a notice in the Inverness Courier from later that year (29 September) that he had a Brown Retriever Dog, answering to the name of Sandy. Not a Golden Retriever, then! Poor Sandy had strayed from the Dundonnell Hotel, and William was offering to reward handsomely whoever would find him, so he was obviously very attached to him. I hope Sandy turned up, safe and sound.

The Dundonnell Hotel; nowadays it is much altered

William Munro advertised heavily; this is drawn from the Inverness Advertiser and Ross-shire Chronicle, 6 July 1880

Alas, William himself was not to survive many years longer. He died at the Dundonnell Hotel in 1886, his brother James travelling up to act as informant at the Registrar’s once again. I note that William died of cirrhosis of the liver, and that, coupled with his being a hotel keeper, does make me wonder if perhaps permanent access to the bar might have been a contributory factor to his early death.


7. Isabella Munro (1835–1855)

Parish of Croy and Dalcross Baptisms
Isabella, lawful daughter to Mr. Hugh Munro Clerk in the Kilravock Wood, and Mary Mackenzie his Spouse, born 28th April was baptized 25th May 1835. Mr. Macdougal, Clephanton, and John Fraser, Carpenter there, were Witnesses.

Isabella fell ill when she was just 20, and was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, where sadly she died two weeks later. Her death was reported in several of the newspapers of the time.

Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser for the Northern Counties 9 August 1855
At Edinburgh, on the 27th ult., Isabella, daughter of Mr Hugh Munro, Guisachan, Strathglass, aged 20 years.


8. James Fraser Munro (c1837–1899)

There is no baptism record for James, but from census returns he must have been born about 1837. His life is a strange one, as he maintained a house in Inverness where his wife and two children resided, but he himself during census returns was usually resident in Guisachan, and that is where he died, in 1899.

James was a plumber to trade, although later he was known as a plumber and gasfitter. He married Charlotte McLennan, from Knockbain, in Inverness in 1863. He features in the photograph from 1868/1870 of Guisachan staff, the heavily bearded man at the back. I suspect that Charlotte did not want to move to Guisachan herself.


9. Donald Munro (c1839–1921)

There is no baptism record for Donald either, but from census returns he must have been born about 1839. As a young man, Donald was a baker (like his brother Alex), residing in the Tomich household of his father in 1861. Thereafter, despite much searching, I was unable to track him. Had he emigrated?

And then I came across a small notice in a New Zealand newspaper.

Cromwell Argus 25 August 1874

Now that isn’t hard evidence that this Donald Munro from Guisachan is the correct Donald Munro from Guisachan, of course. But his death certificate from many years later (December 1921) confirms his father was indeed Hugh Munro. It also states that his widow, Ann McDonald, was 67 at this time, indicating that she was born about 1854 or 1855, so a good bit younger than Donald.

From a family tree on the web, Donald arrived in New Zealand on 28 August 1873 on the Jessie Redman, coming out with Ann McDonald, his prospective wife. His death certificate, though, says he had been in New Zealand for 54 years, pointing to his arrival in about 1867. His obituary, set out later, also points to his emigrating in the 1860s. This would explain why he cannot be found in the 1871 Scottish Census. As we have seen from the newspaper announcement, Donald and Ann married in 1874 and they went on to have a numerous family, with three sons and seven daughters alive in 1821. According to his obituary, Donald worked as a shepherd, so the prospect of a life as a baker had obviously palled. Whilst he continued his shepherding, and then sheep farming, his children developed more diverse farming enterprises, which seem to have prospered. Donald himself was a dedicated sheepman. I note a piece on the farms of the Tarras area in the Otago Witness of 16 June 1892 which states “The next farm towards Cromwell is that of Mr D. Munro, who only does a limited amount of cropping, sheep being the principal feature.” We even get an exact acreage of cropping as the author later adds “the party went back to Tarras to Mr Donald Munro’s to lead in his 40 acres of crop, of which the stack building came to my share.” His children though had wider agricultural interests.

Donald Munro and a son, in the orchard; image originally shared by Mark Hanger

The scale and nature of their farms emerge when Donald was attempting (unsuccessfully) to persuade the military tribunal during the first World War that his son Simon was an essential worker and could not be spared:

Otago Daily Times 18 June 1917
Military Service Boards
Sitting at Alexandra

Simon Munro (sheep farmer, Tarras) appealed on the ground of public interest. He had a run of 2000 acres, and he also managed two 500-acre farms for his father, who was beyond doing any work. Owing to the shortage of labour it was impossible for him to make arrangements which would enable him to go away. … The Chairman said the trouble appeared to be that of accommodation. The appellant’s father was over 80 years of age, and he managed the whole place and produced large quantities of wool, grain, and mutton. … My brother, who has 700 acres of grain-growing land close to mine…
Cromwell Argus 17 December 1917
The application of Donald Munro, farmer, Tarras, for a rehearing of the appeal of Simon Munro (in camp) was withdrawn. (It transpires that the soldier had sailed with a recent reinforcement).

Simon survived the war and lived through to 1938. His brother Kenneth, a Justice of the Peace, died as recently as 1973.

There is a charming picture on-line showing the family (well, parents and five daughters) in front of their home at Tarras. From the apparent ages of the children, I think this photograph pre-dates 1912. I mention this as in January of that year, as reported in the press, their uninsured house was completely destroyed by fire, including, indicating a degree of comfort, their piano. It occurred during a ferocious gale, but nobody could understand how the fire could have started. In the photograph, the roof is corrugated and Donald has with him two large dogs, while one of his daughters holds a splendid pet sheep!

Donald Munro and family; image originally shared by Mark Hanger

The attractive lair and headstone commemorating Donald and Ann in Cromwell Graveyard were presumably erected by the children a long time after their parents died, as the inscription contains two serious errors. Memorials commemorating several Munro children stand nearby. The source of these images is: “New Zealand, Central Otago, Cemetery Gravestones, 1861-2009,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), Donald Munro, 1921; citing, Cromwell New Cemetery, Central Otago District, New Zealand; private collection of Bert and Pauline Miller, Alexandra.



In Memory of / DONALD MUNRO / DIED 26TH. DEC. 1922 / AGED 84 YEARS. / AND OF HIS WIFE / ANN / DIED 23RD. OCT. 1923 / AGED 68 YEARS.

Both those dates are actually a year out, and the newspapers of the time give a more accurate picture.

Otago Witness 3 January 1922
Mr Donald Munro, a very old resident of the Tarras district, died on Monday, 26th ult., after a short illness (wires our Cromwell correspondent). Deceased, who was 85 years of age, followed farming pursuits for many years.
Otago Witness 17 January 1922
Mr Richard Norman reports the death of Mr Donald Munro, of Tarras, at the age of 85 years. A native of Inverness, the deceased came to Wanaka station nearly 60 years ago, and was engaged in shepherding. He afterwards went to Morven Hills and married a young woman from the Home Country. As the family grew up they took up a farm at Tarras, while the father still continued shepherding at Morven Hills station. The family, being all good workers, prospered and added to their property as opportunity offered. They were all well liked and noted for their hospitality. Mr Munro always enjoyed good health, and almost up to his death thought nothing of taking an eight-mile walk to visit one of the family properties. The funeral, which took place at Cromwell, was largely attended, the Rev. John Ryley, of Pembroke, officiating.
Cromwell Argus Monday 30 October 1922
The death occurred at Alexandra on Monday last [23 October] of Mrs Munro senr., formerly of Tarras. Until quite recently deceased lady was a resident of Tarras, where with her husband, who predeceased her some ten months ago, they were engaged in the farming industry. Following the death of her husband, Mrs Munro disposed of the farm property and about a month ago removed to Alexandra [where her son Hugh resided], but did not survive long to enjoy a well-earned retirement in the eve of life. Among her many friends at Tarras deceased was held in high esteem, a token of which was conveyed on her departure from the district and news of her death was received with deep regret. Deceased is survived by a grown-up family, to whom the sympathy of the district goes out in their bereavement. The funeral took place at Cromwell on Thursday, in the presence of a large gathering of friends, Rev. Rankin conducting the burial service.

image originally shared by Mark Hanger

image originally shared by Mark Hanger


10. Mary Catherine (Mary Kate or Mary Kett) (1840–1931)

Parish of Kiltarlity Baptisms
1840 … Hugh Munro residing at [blank] and his wife Mary Mackenzie had a child born 5th and baptized 19th October named Mary Catharine.

Mary Kate kept house for brother Alexander when he moved to Lochalsh and became Postmaster, Baker and Grocer there. I imagine it was on her brother’s marriage that she returned to Guisachan Gate Cottage in Kiltarlity, where we see her in 1871, a dressmaker, in company with her mother and brother James.

Guisachan Gate Cottage, and the gateway to Guisachan House; image courtesy of G. o’Ogle, 2021

Mary Kate progressed, though, becoming a teacher, a sewing mistress. In 1891 she can be seen residing by herself, ostensibly a dressmaker, but in School House Cottage in Kiltarlity. Her mother by now had passed away, and James was working as a plumber in Inverness. Mary Kate is still in School House Cottage in 1901, and expressly called “Sewing mistress at p s”. She was 67 years of age by now, but astonishingly I see her (Inverness Courier, 9 September 1902) in the top five of a very large group of certificated and assistant teachers being trained in how to deliver P.T. She clearly took her duties seriously!

By 1911, she was a “retired dressmaker” residing in 107 Church Street, Inverness, with her sister-in-law, widow Ann Munro, and her family.

She lived right through to 1931, outliving all her siblings by quite an extent. She died in Tomich, so she had returned to her childhood home. She is recorded in the death register as “Mary Kett Munro” and the informant was her niece from 107 Church Street, Inverness. I imagine many of the local ladies would have remembered her as “Mary Kett” the sewing mistress from their schooldays.

Out of the ten children, then, only Alex, James and Donald married and had children, quite remarkable for the time. Alex was one of the four children born in Resolis, where the only physical reminder of their family’s time in the parish is a broken fragment of a gravestone at Kirkmichael.



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