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

Hugh Miller’s Dream, and the Stuart family of Ardeville, Cullicudden and The Treasury

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as given below each image


Hugh Miller was employed by Widow Elizabeth Stewart to carve an inscription on a tablestone in Kirkmichael. She was one of the Junors of Blairnaclach, Little Farness and Ardeville who are buried beside the chancel in Kirkmichael. She bought the new plot, beside the original west wall of the nave, back in 1814 on the same day that relative William Stewart bought the adjacent plot from another Junor.

The tablestone at Kirkmichael on which Hugh Miller spent a week, beside the remnants of the west gable, with the marshes by Udale Bay across which the mason’s apprentice was drawn in his dream; photo by Jim Mackay

We don’t know what triggered the purchase of Widow Stewart’s plot. However, it was certainly needed for the family tragedy that occurred a few years later when three of her adult children would all die within one year.

Hugh Miller (1802–1856) was related to the Junors. Indeed, his father had been “farmed out” to them as a boy until he had returned to Cromarty with a bundle of young puppies he had been asked to drown but decided to rescue instead! See our Story on the Junors of Ardeville for details. Widow Stewart, who had been Elizabeth Junor, had been running Ardeville on her husband’s death in company with her son William, before that young man had also died.

Hugh had been present at the funeral of her oldest son, William Stewart, and it was the setting of one of Hugh’s brushes with the supernatural.

When William Stewart’s funeral cortege entered Kirkmichael, Hugh found to his horror that William’s grave had been dug on the very spot indicated in a dream he had had five weeks earlier. During this dream he had been drawn across the marshes of Udale Bay from Poyntzfield, where he had been working as an apprentice mason, to wander Kirkmichael, until a feeling of dread came over him. A giant metal pointer shaped like a gnomon from a sundial was swinging from the west wall of the nave, backwards and forwards. It suddenly came to a halt and the mason’s apprentice fled in terror. “he awoke, and lo! it was a dream. Only five weeks elapsed from this evening, until he followed to the burying-ground the corpse of a relative, and saw that the open grave occupied the identical spot on which the point of the gnomon had rested.

Spooky stuff! An early version of the story had Miller experiencing the event himself; he was advised to change this, and so in the published tale in Miller’s autobiographical My Schools and Schoolmasters the protagonist is (such a deep disguise) the anonymous apprentice of a mason. The relative is not identified in the story, but will be William Stewart who died on the 31st of December 1822.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

Let’s look at the factual side for a moment. It would have been some years after the funeral before the tablestone was erected (the practice was to let the ground stabilise). By now, Hugh had given up for health reasons the heavy manual labour of the mason, and was focusing on the more delicate carving side of the trade. We can assume Widow Stewart appointed Hugh to carve the inscription, which by now had to address the deaths of three of her children.

The period when Hugh was therefore working in Kirkmichael was sometime within the mid- to late-1820s. He says that whilst he laboured he was listening to the bell, which would occasionally toll as the wind passed through the bell-tower atop the then extant west wall of the nave.

The west wall and belltower of Kirkmichael

I was one day listening to this music, when, by one of those freaks which fling the light of recollection upon the dark recesses of the past, much in the manner that I have seen a child throwing the gleam of a mirror from the sunshine into the shade, there were brought before me the circumstances of a dream, deemed prophetic of the death of him whose epitaph I was then inscribing.

Unless you believe in the occult, of course, the dream then remembered by Hugh was in reality created there and then during his reverie whilst he was carving the inscription. He must have been working on the first few lines of the epitaph at the time:

PLACED HERE / by ELIZABETH STEWART, / in Memory of her son / WILLIAM STEWART, / farmer Ardivall, / who died the 31 Decr 1822 / aged 30 years, / of her son / JOHN STEWART, / who died the 8 Jany 1823 / aged 28 years, / and of her daughter / JANNET STEWART, / who died the 21 Novr 1823 / aged 33 years.

The epitaph (which is all carved in one style) as a whole took him a week – “During the course of the week which I spent in the burying-ground”. The family alternated between spellings Stewart and Stuart, with the surviving branch preferring Stuart. Miller went with Stewart.

Hugh’s inscription is neat and tidy and clearly well planned out. In our complementary Story behind the Stone here we examine his inscription technique on this tablestone and on other memorials in kirkyards in Easter Ross and the Black Isle. Unfortunately, in Kirkmichael, some family descendant through good intentions had two of the Stuart stones chemically cleansed back in 2001 which seriously eroded both inscriptions. Nevertheless, the lettering is still easy to read when the light falls obliquely upon it, particularly when, as photographer Andrew and I found, raking light is applied at night-time. At the same time as chemical was applied to this tablestone, it was applied to the surface of the adjacent headstone erected in memory of Widow Stewart’s grandson, John Stuart farmer at Newmills, and the inscription on this stone was then repainted – but with numerous mistakes. The original carved characters have to be hunted out below the paint. Moral: leave well alone!

Hugh developed a “scalloped” edging effect on some of his tablestones. This scalloped style is not to everybody’s taste, and Widow Stewart obviously was one of those who preferred to keep their memorials plain and simple! Nevertheless, she clearly was happy to pay for one of the supports to be carved with symbols reflecting the farming background of the family.

The west support of the Stewart tablestone; photo by Andrew Dowsett


Widow Stewart’s Children

There were five children baptised to Elizabeth Stewart ms Junor and her husband, John Stewart, in Ardeville: William (1783), Mary (1785), Alexander (1787), Janet (1790) and another William (1792). There was also a John, who does not appear in the baptism register.

I imagine the first William died in infancy. The second William, John and Janet died in December 1822, January 1823 and November 1823 respectively and are commemorated on the tablestone carved by Hugh Miller.

That left only Mary and Alexander.

Looking down over the fields of Ardeville and Farness to the Cromarty Firth; image by G. O’Ogle


Mary Stewart (1785–1867)

Mary did not stray far. She married neighbour William Bain, at the time of marriage a sawyer at nearby Udale, from Kiltarlity in Inverness-shire originally. He became a farmer at Ardeville himself and appears there with Mary in the 1841 Census and 1851 Census. According to the 1851 Return he held 50 acres at Ardeville, substantial for the time. He died before civil registration in 1855, and Mary occurs in the 1861 census at Ardeville as a widow.

There were no children baptised to the couple and no children appear in the census returns so it appears to have been a childless marriage. However, there were children in the household. In the 1861 Census, in her household appear a 27 year old niece Janet and Janet’s illegitimate daughter, Mary Stewart McQueen (later Mary McQueen Stewart). Janet was the daughter of Mary’s brother Alexander who had died by now. Widow Mary moved to Bog of Cullicudden in the Parish of Resolis and died there in 1867 but I have not discovered what became of her daughter.


Alexander Stewart (1787–vc1853) farmer, corn dealer, Ardeville, Chalkhill and Cullicudden

Alexander was the only child of Widow Stewart to leave a family himself. He left quite a trail, marrying twice. He first married Margaret Williamson in 1809:

Marriages, Parish of Cromarty
July 8th 1809 Alexander Stewart at Ardevale and Margt. Williamson at Chalkhill were contracted.

Whilst Alexander was still living at the family farm at Ardeville at the time of his marriage, he had re-located to his wife’s area of Chalkhill (about a mile to the east, just above the farm of Allerton) by the time his first child was born:

Baptisms, Parish of Cromarty
John L.S. to Alexander Stewart and Margaret Williamson at Chalkhill born May 29th and baptized June 1st. 1810

Chalkhill, or Caulkhill as sometimes known, in 1764, just up the hill from Allerton

The Williamsons were a well-established farming family with several tenancies in their name.

There were two more children in the parish of Cromarty, Catharine (1812) and Alexander (1814) and then the family relocated to Cullicudden, in the parish of Resolis. They had taken on the substantial arable farm of Easter Cullicudden. There were several more children born but not recorded in the Resolis baptism register during that dark period for records in Resolis, until the Reverend Donald Sage arrived in 1822. But three children are then recorded as baptised: Margaret (1824), James (1826) and Jennet (1828).

The baptism records confirm that Alexander had become a prominent tenant, although there would come a point when it would all come crashing down:

Baptisms, Parish of Resolis
31 March 1824 Alexander Stuart farmer at Cullicudden & Margaret Williamson – Margaret born 15 March
27 January 1826 Alexander Stewart tacksman at Cullicudden & Margaret Williamson – James born 5 January
12 March 1828 Alexander Stewart tacksman at Cullicudden & Margaret Williamson – Jennet born 3 March

Alexander crops up in several of the “alternative sources” for the parish, as for instance the Militia Lists. He is exempt from service in the 1825 Militia List as he had six children, in 1826 because he had seven children. In 1828 and 1831, the exemption criterion was three children under the age of 10 and he was exempt on both occasions.

In 1832 his claim to be enrolled on the voters’ list was approved, and he thereby joined the small band of voters, in his case voting for Seaforth. I take it that the symbol beside his name indicated that he could not write.

County of Cromarty Parish of Resolis Claim of Enrolment No. 10th.
(Name of Claimant) Alexander Stewart
SD 2/6 pd. / 19th Septembr 1832 Admit D McL A.R.S. I.T. / (10) G.M.R.
ROSS AND CROMARTY SHIRES I, Alexander Stewart residing at Cullicudden hereby claim to be enrolled as a Voter in the Counties of Ross and Cromarty, as Tenant of the Lands of Easter Cullicudden situated in the Parish of Resolis and County of Cromarty which Lands above mentioned have been in my actual personal occupancy for twelve months and upwards preceding the date hereof, and for which I pay Fifty Pounds Sterling and upwards of yearly Rent to Colin MacKenzie Esquire of Newhall.
+ Alexander Stuart (Date) Cullicudden 15th. Augt 1832
CERTIFICATE by SCHOOLMASTER, No. 10th. / Lodged with me, George Murray Schoolmaster of the parish of Resolis in the County of Cromarty this 15th. day of August 1832 George Murray

He similarly qualified as a voter in 1837. The family subsequently appeared in the 1841 Census Return:

1841 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Cullicudden
Alexr Stewart 55 Farmer
Alexr Stewart 25 William Stewart 22 / Donald Stewart 20 / Margaret Stewart 17 / James Stewart 15 / Jennet Stewart 12
Margaret Rennie 5 / James Anderson 14 AL / Cursty Munro 20 FS

It will be noted that by now, Alexander had lost his first wife, Margaret Williamson. He was also about to lose his farm. I found in the archives the case in 1845 of John Andrew Shaw Mackenzie v. Alexander Stewart, farmer Cullicudden, through which Alexander was deprived of his tenancy by the laird, Shaw Mackenzie. It includes the full details of the subsequent roup, including who bought what as Alexander’s life fell to pieces. The Newhall Estate had ruthlessly cracked down on several of the tenants who were not keeping up with their payments at this time. A series of advertisements were run in the press seeking new tenants for the Estate, including the farm of poor Alexander who now had nothing with a sizeable family to look after.

Advertisement in the Inverness Courier of 7 May 1845

Fortunately, several the oldest children were away running their own tenancies by now, or settled in their trade. Alexander’s namesake, Alexander, was a labourer but to add to the woes of Alexander Senior, Alexander Junior had managed to get a girl into trouble.

At the Church of Kirkmichael & Cullicudden the Twenty ninth day of April Eighteen hundred & forty five years
The Kirk Session in pursuance of an intimation given from the pulpit, met here this day … Compeared Alexander Stewart, Labourer, Cullicuddin and Margaret Mackenzie an unmarried young woman, residing presently in the Strath of Auchterflow, Parish of Avoch.
The Moderator stated to the Meeting that said Margaret McKenzie was delivered of a female child in the beginning of November last [1844] in Auchterflow, that she had been a maid Servant with Alexander Stewart, farmer at Cullicudden where said Alexr. Stewart lived in his father’s house, that she gave said Alexr. Stewart as the father of her illegitimate child, that he frankly confessed to him (the Moderator) that he was the father of Margaret Mackenzie’s Child, that he (the Moderator) conversed with both parties, seriously admonishing them as to their need of repentance, and the aid of the Spirit of God to lead them to a Salavation and to enable them amend their course of life, that he found them disposed to listen to his admonition and that he now submits this case to the Kirk Session for their decision. Thereafter the Kirk Session deliberated on this case and found that it is now for edification, considering the confessions made & the time since the case has been Submitted to the Moderator, that the parties should be seriously exhorted and absolved from Church Scandal, and they accordingly absolve them;– appoint Mr. Hall to address them and order the Moderator to baptize their child.

There then followed the requested baptism:

Baptisms, Parish of Resolis
29 April 1845 Alexander Stewart labourer Cullicudden & Margaret McKenzie in the Parish of Avoch had an illegitimate child born in the beginning of Novr. 1844 baptised named Margaret

Alexander Senior rather surprisingly married again, in 1849.

Marriages, Parish of Resolis
4 March 1849 Alexander Stewart residing at Cullicudden in this parish & Barbara Munro residing at Invergordon parish of Rosskeen banns published 18, 25 February and 4 March 1849

Barbara had been born in Ballintraid, Parish of Kilmuir Easter, very close to Invergordon. Both settlements were noted for their piers from which grain was exported from the region. Perhaps therefore Alexander had met Barbara when visiting Ballintraid or Invergordon in his new role as “corn dealer”, as revealed in his 1851 Census entry:

1851 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Cullicudden
Alexander Stewart head married 65 corn dealer born Ardivel
Barbara Stewart wife married 45 born Balintrad
Janet Stewart daughter unmarried 20 born Cullicudden

I have been unable to discover when Alexander passed away. His death does not appear in the civil register, commencing in 1855, but I see Barbara recorded as his widow in 1861. He therefore died between 1851 and 1855. Following his death, his wodow is found at Balblair in the 1861 returns:

1861 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Balblair, house with two rooms with one or more windows
Barbara Stewart head widow 60 farmer’s widow born Kilmuir

Barbara returned to Easter Ross, and she died in the appropriately named Hugh Miller Street there many years later:

Deaths, Parish of Rosskeen
Barbara Stewart widow of Alexander Stewart farmer died 14 February 1881 at Hugh Miller Street Invergordon age 78 parents Donald Munro master builder (d) Helen Munro ms Dingwall (d) informant Alexandrina B. Munro niece (present)

I find it curious that Alexander Stuart, a prosperous farmer in his day, and his wives are not represented by a memorial locally. You would have thought that son John, for instance, who is himself commemorated by a sizeable memorial in Kirkmichael, would have erected a gravestone to his parents.


The children of Alexander Stuart and Margaret Williamson

I won’t follow the many children of Alexander Stuart and his first wife Margaret Williamson. We have already seen son Alexander in trouble whilst residing with his father in Cullicudden. But I will, however, focus on one son, John Stuart, who became a respected farmer at Newmills in the Parish of Resolis and whose handsome memorial in Kirkmichael was so badly treated by a memorial “restorer” twenty years ago.


John Stuart (1810–1889) of Newmills and Catharine MacIntosh (1808–1889)

John was still living in Cullicudden when he married “Katharine McIntosh at Resolis” in 1831. When their first child Emelia, named after Catharine’s mother, Emelia Wanless, was born in 1832 he was “sawyer at Resolis”. However, he soon obtained the tenancy of a croft at Newmills where the family would reside thereafter. All the other children were born at the Newmills croft (Margaret in 1835, Alexander in 1837, Janet in 1839, Catherine in 1840, Elizabeth in 1843, John in 1847 (when his father was described as “sawyer Newmills” so he clearly had a side-line to the crofting) and William (1849).

The John Stuart headstone is immediately adjacent to the Widow Stewart tablestone carved by Hugh Miller; incredible night-time photo by Andrew Dowsett

We find him in 1841 in Newmills, already married to Catharine Macintosh, with several of his children. His next door neighbours were a Macintosh family, so it is quite likely that Catharine was a member of this family, all the more so as their first born girl was living in this household.

1841 Census Return Parish of Resolis
John McIntosh 66 Farmer [no wife present, so presumably widower]
Alexr McIntosh 32 / Margaret McIntosh 28 / Emily Stewart 10 / Alexr Simpson 20 AL / Roderick Graham 16 AL / Alexr McKay 15 AL / Jennet Gair 27 FS
John Stewart 30 Farmer / Katharine McIntosh 30
Margaret Stewart 8 / Alexr Stewart 6 / Jennet Stewart 6 months / Barbara Holm 12

The farmhouse at Newmills; photo by Jim Mackay

By the 1851 Census, the eldest girl, Emily, was in service in a teacher’s family in Invergordon, and Margaret was away as well. But the rest were still at home:

1851 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newmills
John Stewart head married 41 crofter of 5 acres born Cromarty
Catharine Stewart wife married 40 housekeeper born Perthshire Alyth
Alexr Stewart son 14 scholar born Resolis / Elizebeth Stewart daughter 7 scholar born Resolis / John Stewart son 4 scholar Resolis / William Stewart son 1 born Resolis

In 1854, as we shall see, son Alexander, who was earmarked for an academic career, hastily left to join the army. Margaret, who had been in service in Dundee, in 1855 married Dundee boat-builder David Livie. William had died in infancy, so the household at Newmills was greatly depleted.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newmills, house with three rooms with 1 or more windows
John Stewart head married 51 farmer of 16 acres born Cromarty
Catherine Stewart wife 50 farmer’s wife born Perthshire, Alyth
Eliza Stewart daughter unmarried 17 farmer’s daughter born Resolis / John Stewart son 14 scholar born Resolis

However, by 1871 the household had swollen again as they had gained Mary, daughter of John’s sister Janet, and William Livie, son of their daughter Margaret in Dundee who by this time had a large family herself. John has suddenly been given the spurious parish of origin of Rosemarkie, indicating how unsafe it is to rely upon a single piece of evidence.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newmills Croft, house with three rooms with 1 or more windows
John Stewart head 60 crofter of 18 acres 15 arable born Rosemarkie
Catherine Stewart wife 60 born Perth Alyth
Elizabeth Stewart daughter unmarried 27 domestic servant born Resolis / John Stewart son unmarried 24 student in arts born Resolis / Mary (McQueen) Stewart niece 10 scholar born Cromarty / William Livie grandson 6 scholar born Forfar (Dundee)

Son John must have been home from his studies at University. His full name was John MacIntosh Stuart and although he started out as a teacher he would become a successful grocer in Fortrose, remaining Provost for numerous years. Later that year, the family would lose Elizabeth.

Inverness Courier 9 November 1871
At Newmills, Resolis, on the 1st inst., Elizabeth Stewart, youngest daughter of John Stewart, Farmer, aged 27 years – deeply regretted.

You will note that Elizabeth is commemorated on the Stuart headstone in Kirkmichael, albeit the headstone “conservators” made a mess of that part of the memorial:

Her death certificate confirms she died on the first of October, so the error on the stone is an original one. She was 27 when she died but between mason and painter it is anyone’s guess at what was intended as her age on the memorial.

By 1881, though the household had grown once again as Catherine’s unmarried sister Margaret had arrived, as well as another of their daughter Margaret’s children, yet another Margaret.

1861 Census Return Parish of Resolis – Newmills, house with three rooms with 1 or more windows
John Stewart head married 71 farmer of 10 acres arable born Cromarty speaks Gaelic
Catherine Stewart wife 72 do. wife born Perthshire Alyth speaks Gaelic
Margaret McIntosh sister in law unmarried 68 annuitant born Perthshire Alyth / William Levie grandson 14 scholar born Forfarshire Dundee / Margaret Levie granddaur 9 scholar born Forfarshire Dundee

Both Catherine and her sister Margaret were to die before the next census. First Margaret departed:

Deaths Parish of ResolisMargaret McIntosh pauper (formerly out-door labourer) (single) died 28 August 1883 at Newmills age 70 parents John McIntosh farmer (d) Amelia McIntosh ms Wanless (d) informant John Stewart brother-in-law (present)

And then it was Catherine’s turn, the informant on this occasion being John MacIntosh Stuart, now well established in Fortrose.

Deaths Parish of Resolis
Catherine Stewart (married to John Stewart crofter) died 22 June 1889 at Newmills age 79 parents John McIntosh farmer (d) Emilia McIntosh ms Wanless (d) informant J.M. Stewart son draper Fortrose

Although Catherine died in 1889, aged 79, the headstone commissioned by John Macintosh Stuart, as can be seen below, states she died in 1898 aged 80! The widowed John moved to Dundee, presumably to reside with the Livie family, who lived in Exchange Street. And it was there that he died, in 1889. The informant once more was John MacIntosh Stuart:

Deaths Dundee
John Stuart Farmer Widower of Catherine McIntosh died 18 September 1889 at 31 Exchange Street Dundee age 79 years parents Alexander Stuart farmer (d) Margaret Stuart ms Williamson (d) informant J.M. Stuart son 43 High Street Fortrose

The memorial commissioned by John MacIntosh Stuart to commemorate the family naturally has father John at the head, but it was the painter this time who onverted the correct 1889 to an incorrect 1898. So both John Stuart and his wife Catherine MacIntosh died in 1889 although the headstone would have you believe otherwise:

The headstone also commemorates son William, born in 1849, but who died in infancy. Another child mentioned on the headstone in Kirkmichael is Alexander, born in 1837, who became a schoolteacher before giving up that occupation and emigrating to Canada. He died there aged 64, according to to the originally carved headstone. This age was a year out but in any case was turned into the unlikely “04 years” by the memorial specialist. The day of the month is also wrong, but I think that was also in error on the original carving.

For Alexander, we can do no better than turn to the pages of the Ross-shire:

Ross-shire Journal 27 February 1903
RESOLIS – DEATH OF A NATIVE IN CANADA.– The people of Ross-shire, and particularly those residing in the parish of Resolis, will hear with regret of the death of Mr Alexander Stuart of Mornington, Millbank, Canada. Mr Stuart has been ill for over a year, and he passed away on 11th January last at his residence in Mornington, at the age of 63. Mr Stuart was born at Newmills, in the parish of Resolis, Ross-shire, Scotland, in 1839 [actually 1837], and was educated at the parish school there. He was the eldest son of the late Mr John Stuart, farmer, Newmills. He commenced life as a school teacher, and after gaining some initial experience in Kingussie, Inverness-shire, and subsequently in Nigg, Ross-shire, he qualified himself still further by attending King’s College, Aberdeen, and then became at a phenomenally early age parish schoolmaster of Alness, Ross-shire. After a brief but promising career in this capacity he became enthused with the then prevailing passion of crossing the Atlantic, and only once has he seen his beloved homeland – in 1893 – when he spent the greatest part of a year with his aged parents and friends from his boyhood. In 1861 Mr Stuart married Miss Jane Davidson, daughter of Mr John Davidson of Millbank, by whom he had nine children, 4 sons and 5 daughters, seven of whom remain to comfort his sorrowing widow. His only surviving brother is Bailie J.M. Stuart, general merchant, Fortrose, Scotland.

I imagine it was the Bailie who wrote this glowing tribute to his brother. However, there was more of a back-story to Alexander than the Bailie made out, and at first I wondered if I should include it. However, the cut-off point which I use for such stories is 100 years, and this one is decidedly older than that. I shall just include the section from the Kirk Session minutes as I found it.

At the Schoolhouse of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden this tenth day of January One thousand eight hundred and fifty-five the Kirksession met and constituted.

Mary Philip, a young unmarried woman residing at Braelangwell of this Parish, who was delivered of an illegitimate child some time ago, being cited to this meeting compeared and being interrogated when her child was born, declares she cannot tell; declares that her child is a girl; declares that Simon McKenzie is the father of her child; declares that he had Crim. Con. with her in this Schoolhouse a fortnight before the New Year O.S.; declares that She had Crim. Con. with him only once; declares that She never had Crim. Con. with any other person. (Signed) Mary Philip
It was stated to the Kirksession by James Barnett, Session Clerk, that a Fama had been abroad regarding Alexander Stewart Son of John Stewart Crofter Newmills, and Mary Philip on account of which he had left the Parish and that his deposition and that of William McKay had been taken regarding it; when the Session ordered the deposition of Mr. Barnett and William McKay to be recorded (which is as follows)

At the Schoolhouse of Resolis this fifth day of December One thousand eight hundred and fifty four years– Compeared before me Mr. James Barnett Schoolmaster of the Parish of Resolis– and being solemnly sworn and interrogated, deponed as follows.
That he knows Alexander Stewart, son of John Stewart, Crofter, near Newmills. That said Alexander Stewart sought information from him regarding admission on the gratis list to the Normal School– belonging to the Established Church– and that he furnished said Alexander Stewart with an Extract of his age from the Session Records– that he heard Alexander Stewart and his father express their gratitude for the favour done them by the Revd. Mr. McKenzie in recommending said Alexander Stewart for admission to the Normal School in Edinburgh– That he has every reason to believe, that Alexander Stewart was resolved to go to Edinburgh, at the time appointed, in harvest last, to this competition of those recommended for admission on the gratis list to the Normal School. That he remembers that Alexander Stewart left this Parish on a Monday, in the latter part of August last. That he heard it generally reported that he fled from the Parish in consequence of Mary Philip having been dismissed from Service in a family in Cromarty as being with Child– and that said Alexander Stewart was the father of her pregnancy. That he had conversation with a young man Robert Murray, son of Robert Murray Miller Newmills, who had been in company with Said Alexander Stewart and Slept with him on Sabbath night before he left this Parish, and accompanied him a part of his way going Southward on Monday morning leaving the Parish and that the young man Robert Murray told him that the cause of Alexander Stewart’s leaving the Parish was his criminal connection with the girl Philip– that he did not regret his own loss in not getting into Normal School, but the injury he had done Mary Philip, and that he had it not in his power to make any compensation to her– which Murray Said Stewart declared to him– Which being read to Mr. James Barnett he Subscribed as truth. (Signed) James Barnett / James Gibson. J.P.
Compeared William McKay Farm Servant, Resolis and acting as Beadle in the Church of Resolis, who being solemnly sworn and interrogated deponed as follows–
That he is acquainted with Alexander Stewart son of John Stewart, Crofter near Newmills– that Said Alexander Stewart left this Parish on a Monday, in the beginning of harvest last– That he heard it reported that the cause of his leaving the Parish was, that he was considered to be the father of Mary Philip’s pregnancy– That he was conversing with Robert Murray Son of Mr. Robert Murray, Miller at Newmills, with whom he heard it Said that Said Alexander Stewart Slept the night before he left this Parish, and that Said Robert Murray declared to him that Said Alexander Stewart said that he would have given any thing that he could have Seen the girl Mary Philip before he left the Parish– that he might persuade her to father her pregnancy on William Bain Servant to Mr. McIntosh Resolis Mains, and that said Alexander Stewart also declared to him Robert Murray that he blamed his own father and mother for allowing them to be So intimate.
Further depones that he conversed with Said Robert Murray, Junior, in presence of his father and that his father affirmed that he heard the Son Speak before in the Same terms– Which being read to William McKay he Subscribed as truth. (Signed) William McKay / James Gibson J.P.

Thereafter the Moderator requested that the following letter from Mary Philip’s father be recorded as Showing the date of the birth of Mary Philip’s child.

Braelangwell 23d Sept 1854 / Sir / It is with the greatest of grief that I now address you, and I am very Sorry for what has happened to me. My daughter Mary has had a female child last night, and the father it appears is Simon your Son. We have delayed Saying anything about it to any one until it was told to you; And I must Say it has given us a great deal of trouble and thought how it could be done. But I now tell you, and if you have any wish to express I hope you will do it. I would think it Should be kept as quiet as possible. / We are Sorry to have this to do, but it is with a very troubled mind I am doing it; And waiting your advice I remain / Your Most Obt. Servt. / (Signed) Alexr Philip

Thereafter Mr. McKenzie [Rev. Mackenzie] Shewed the Kirksession a letter from Colonel Lockhart Stating that Said Alexander Stewart enlisted in the 92nd Regiment on the 21st of August last, which was ordered to be Kept in Retentis. The Kirksession, after deliberating on Mary Philip’s declaration together with the above documents, Find that her declaration is invalidated, the time of guilt and that of the birth of the child not corresponding; Find also Cause to regard Alexander Stewart as the party involved in this Case as the father of Mary Philip’s child, from the confession made by him to Robert Murray and the fact that he had relinquished the prospects he had and enlisted as a Soldier in the Army whenever the Fama arose– Closed with prayer (Signed) John McKenzie Modr.

What to make of this saga? Alexander would have been 17 when this came out and 16 at the time of conception. Mary was a year or two older than Alexander. It seemed churlish of both of them to think of putting the blame on a different man, either the Simon Mackenzie declared by Mary or the William Bain suggested by Alexander. I note from the 1861 census, by which time the Philip family had moved to Cromarty, that unmarried daughter Mary was calling her child Mary Mackenzie, so perhaps there is more to this story yet to discover.

It would appear that Alexander, despite the fama, having served his time in the army, returned to finish his education and became a highly-regarded schoolmaster. And then he emigrated to Canada to begin a new life there.


John MacIntosh Stuart (1847–1921)

And finally, Provost John MacIntosh Stuart, J.P., he who erected the headstone in Kirkmichael to commemorate his parents and siblings.

John M. Stuart was closely associated with Fortrose for a very long time. I think the association first started when he married his first wife Anne Williamson Watson in 1877. Her father was a stationer on the High Street in Fortrose. John at the time was a teacher in Partick. But he gave up the teaching and set himself up as a draper on the High Street in Fortrose, I presume under the encouragement of his father-in-law. He developed his business to become a general merchant (draper and licensed grocer) and became a very respected member of the community.

Poor Anne died in 1882, so it was not a long marriage, and I don’t see any children to the couple. John re-married in 1889 Eleanor Grey Dick and they were to have many children.

The house in which they resided on the High Street, Fortrose, was known as “The Treasury”. It is not called that nowadays, and I was aided by Verity Walker Eley and Elizabeth Waters in identifying the building. It is situated immediately adjacent to the Fortrose Café, and while it does not look large from the outside, in fact the Census Returns state that it had ten rooms with one or more windows. It is thought it acquired its name from its location on the site of the Treasurer’s House in pre-Reformation times when the Treasurer was an important role within the Cathedral hierarchy.

The location of the Treasurer’s property, as drawn within The Chanonry of Ross – An Account of Fortrose and Rosemarkie and the Cathedral Kirk of Ross by C.G. Macdowall

The Stuarts’ house on the High Street known as The Treasury; photo by Verity Walker Eley

Several of the Provost’s sons were to serve in the First World War, and one, Arthur Wanless Stuart, was killed in action in 1914 in Flanders and is commemorated on the war memorial in Rosemarkie.

John M. himself died in 1921, suddenly. I’ll let the death certificate provide the details:

Deaths Parish of Rosemarkie
John MacIntosh Stuart general merchant married to 1st Annie Williamson Watson 2nd Eleanor Grey Dick died 9 June 1921 Vestibule of U.F. Church usual residence The Treasury Fortrose age 73 parents John Stuart farmer (d) Catherine Stuart ms MacIntosh (d) informant John O. Stuart son

The P&J provided an obituary, providing for this story one last error – they substituted Montrose for Fortrose!

Aberdeen Press and Journal 14 June 1921
The death is announced of Mr John Macintosh Stuart, J.P., ex-Provost of Montrose. He had a long tenure of office in the Town Council, and held in succession the offices of Treasurer, Baillie, and Provost, holding the latter office for nine years. He was also a member of the Parish Council, the burgh representative of the County Council, and a member of the School Board.

The Stuart family continued to run the business in Fortrose for many years after John MacIntosh Stuart passed away.

The family are commemorated by a granite tower headstone in Rosemarkie churchyard and an adjacent marker.

Rosemarkie Church and the Stuart headstone; photo by Jim Mackay

Another face of the Stuart headstone at Rosemarkie kirkyard; photo by Jim Mackay

In loving remembrance / of / JOHN MACINTOSH / STUART / merchant, Fortrose / for twelve years / Provost of the Burgh / who died on 9th June 1921 / aged 72 / “A man of great kindness.” / And of his beloved wife / ELEANOR GREY DICK / who died on 6th July 1944 / aged 87 / And of their sons / ARTHUR WANLESS / Private, London Scottish / who fell at Messines / 31st Oct. 1914 aged 18 / WILLIAM ALFRED / who died in infancy.
In loving memory / of / MARY CATHERINE NOBLE / died at Fortrose / 1st January 1961 aged 67 / wife of JOHN ORMOND STUART / the eldest son/who died at Fortrose /24 December 1967 / in his 77th year.
In loving memory / of / ALEXANDER CLAUD / STUART / third son of said / JOHN MACINTOSH / STUART / and / ELEANOR GREY DICK / who died at Fortrose / on 29th February 1948 / aged 54. [some text excised from stone] JAMES MACINTOSH / STUART / second son / Manager of the Chartered Bank / Sourabaya, Java, / died 1st October 1960, / aged 67.
Also / in loving memory / of their dear daughter / ELEANOR CATHERINE / interred Fortrose Old Cemetery


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