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

An advertising manager, a newspaper editor and a Boer War casualty: the John Urquhart and Elizabeth Campbell headstone in Kirkmichael

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as annotated


Standing by the east dyke of Kirkmichael, the tall red granite Urquhart headstone is rarely viewed, being far from the entrance to the kirkyard. And yet its inscription includes several people of note. It states:

Sacred / to / the memory of / ELIZABETH CAMPBELL / beloved wife of JOHN URQUHART, / Craggan House, / and daughter of / MURDO CAMPBELL, / late of Wood of Brae / Poyntzfield, / who died 10. Nov. 1916. / And the said / JOHN URQUHART / who died at Craggan House / 26. May 1927, aged 80 / “He giveth His beloved sleep.
And / of their sons / MURDO CAMPBELL, / who died at / Kroonstad, South Africa / 28.August 1900, / aged 23 years. / DONALD, / Editor of the “Bulletin”. / who died at Glasgow / 1.March 1932. / JOHN ALEXANDER, / who died at Forres, / 13. June 1941. / Also their daughters / MARGARET MACRAE, / who died 18.Nov.1949. / ELIZABETH ANN / FLORENCE, / who died 5.Feb.1954.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

The general family story may be found here. The present narrative focuses on those commemorated on this stone: John Urquhart and Elizabeth Campbell, and their children.

John Urquhart was born in Tain on 6 April 1847, the son of Donald Urquhart, smith in the Tain Iron Foundry, and Hannah Ross. The family relocated several times thereafter, as families of blacksmiths often did, including a sojourn in Canada. They finally settled at the smiddy at Newhall Bridge, just a short distance along the road from Kirkmichael. John therefore grew up in our parish, but left to reside in Glasgow for much of his life. He did retire to Craggan House at Newhall Point, though, again just a short distance from Kirkmichael, but in the opposite direction.

John returned from Glasgow to marry farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Campbell in 1874.

Parish of Resolis Marriages
14 July 1874 Wood of Brae Resolis after Banns according to the Forms of the Free Church of Scotland
John Urquhart (bachelor) age 27 usual residence 189 London Road Glasgow parents Donald Urquhart blacksmith Johanna Urquhart ms Ross
Eliza Campbell (spinster) age 24 usual residence Wood of Brae Resolis parents Murdo Campbell farmer Margaret Campbell ms McRae
James Maclauchlan F.C. Minister Resolis Donald Urquhart witness Mary Campbell witness

John Urquhart’s occupation is given in 1871 as “Clerk Newspaper Office” when he was residing with his brother, another newspaper clerk, Alexander Urquhart, in Glasgow. He came to work for the Glasgow paper the Evening Times, on the advertising staff, although he must have tried his hand over the years at alternative employment as in 1881 he is given as “Stationer and News Agent” and in 1891 as “Mercantile Clerk” although he is back as “Newspaper Clerk” in 1901. He worked for the Evening Times for a long period.

The Evening Times as lately as 2019 rebranded itself as the Glasgow Times. It was launched in 1876, aiming for full family readership. The paper flourished through Glasgow’s golden age as second city of the Empire and Workshop of the World. Clydeside made for the UK one-fifth of its steel, one-half of the horsepower of its ships’ engines, one-third of its railway locomotives and rolling stock, and most of its sewing machines. Not only did John work on the paper, but his journalist son Donald commenced his newspaper career on its advertising staff.

Whilst John is mentioned as clerk on the census returns, on many of the later family certificates he is given as “Advertising Manager” so I think he must have reached the top of his team by the time he retired. And he with his wife, at some point after 1911, retired to the parish in which he grew up, Resolis, occupying Craggan House at Newhall Point. And that is where they both died, Elizabeth in 1916 and John in 1927.

Parish of Resolis Deaths 1916
Elizabeth Campbell Urquhart married to John Urquhart retired clerk died 10 November 1916 at Craggan House Balblair age 66 parents Murdo Campbell farmer (d) Margaret Campbell ms MacRae (d) informant John Urquhart widower (present)

Parish of Resolis Deaths 1927
John Urquhart clerk (retired) widower of Elizabeth Campbell died 26 May 1927 at Craggan House Balblair age80 parents Donald Urquhart blacksmith (master) (d) Hannah Urquhart ms Ross (d) informant Donald Urquhart son 26 Derby Crescent Glasgow


A Boer War casualty – Murdo Campbell Urquhart (1877–1900)

But long before this, the family had suffered a terrible blow when young Murdo Campbell Urquhart, a volunteer medical orderly in the Boer War, died of typhoid (enteric fever). He passed away in the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital in Kroonstad, South Africa, an unusual and short-lived charity hospital admitting primarily wounded and ill Scots.

the list of casualties always included those who died from disease; Manchester Courier 1 September 1900

In the first days of 1900, at a time when patriotic fervor was at a height, the idea was conceived of a Scottish Hospital, originally intended to be near Cape Town but later decided to be located wherever was most appropriate at the time. Rather like modern Crowdfunding (is there anything new under the sun?) communities and groups were urged to raise £50 each to fund a bed which would be named in their honour.

There was an initiative for a Cromarty Bed, and I presume that the necessary funds were raised, although I cannot confirm this.

The Boer War had several contrasting phases. When full-scale war broke out in 1899, the initial fighting was carried out on the battle-front, where the British experience and force in such warfare prevailed. A period of false security was to follow when the nation felt that the job was largely done. But the Boers adopted a guerilla-type warfare which their opponents found difficult to cope with. The situation grew serious, and in 1901 the British threw in more resources, adopted a scorched-earth policy, built great concentration camps for the families of Boer soldiers and continued this form of warfare until the Boers returned to the diplomatic table in 1902.

The idea of a Scottish National Red Cross Hospital was therefore being promoted when the news from South Africa was of success on the battleground, albeit at the cost of many men’s lives. The advertisements started in February 1900, and generally read “It is proposed by the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association to set up a base hospital near Cape Town, to be known as the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital, available primarily for Scottish Soldiers and Volunteers, but open also to men of other regiments”.

The idea for a Cromarty Bed was promoted by Muriel St Quintin of Cromarty House.

North Star and Farmers’ Chronicle, 1 March 1900

In the event, it was short-lived as a volunteer hospital and administration was picked up by the military after just a few months.

There is very little about the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital in the records. An excellent Boer War website provides information about it here and contains several fascinating articles and images of medals associated with service in the Hospital.

Scottish National Red Cross Hospital medal, courtesy of

Several months of a diary written by a nurse, Emily Jane Wood, who actually worked at the Scottish Red Cross Hospital are on line here. She trained at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and joined Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) in May 1900 as part of the Scottish Red Cross Hospital forming up to go to South Africa. She was a keen photographer, but whether or not any of her pictures have survived I know not. It is quite humbling to read her matter of fact record of the difficult time in a bell-tent hospital (the wonderful corrugated iron hospital that was meant to be sent out did not leave Cape Town as it had low priority in transportation compared to soldiers and munitions).

June 24th: S.N.R.C. Hospital12 Kroonstad.
Today is Sunday. Have just been to a Service in the camp and have ¼ of an hr. to spare before duty. There is not much to write about. Some of us have been on duty all the time of which yours truly is one. We have some very heavy cases of enteric etc. and Dr. Cowan whose wards 2 of us have charge of is a man most conscientious in his work, interested in his cases and gives any amount of treatment. So his wards are very warm for nurses. He is a thorough gentleman and most polite. We have had one death I am sorry to say. P.M.13 showed a sloughing ulcer which would have proved fatal even without the new perforation due to enteric.

And there is humour, too, although somewhat grim:

July 11th … Two days ago the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were set to watch a train. They discovered it contained whisky, so broke it open. 2 were found dead. Alcoholic poisoning, and one died yesterday “from exposure” nothing in his stomach but whisky.

You will note from the first entry that enteric fever patients featured largely in her diary. Enteric fever killed more soldiers than all the battles of the Boer War put together. The tragedy is that simply boiling their water would have solved the problem. One such patient, Murdo Campbell Urquhart, either was very shortly to enter the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital or was already a patient. He died there on either 23 or 28 August 1900 (the transcribed entry in the War Office records gives it as 23, but the newspapers and the Urquhart headstone have it as 28).

Murdo Campbell Urquhart himself was a volunteer hospital orderly, so must have been an incredibly brave man. For the medical staff were always near the conflict themselves, exposed not only to shooting and shelling but also to the diseases rampant within the forces. He belonged to the Civil Surgeons and Volunteer Ambulances Regiment of the South Africa Field Force, if that is quite the right terminology (there is very little information on this aspect of the Boer War).

a bell-tent hospital during the Boer War, this a well-established one at Pretoria


John Alexander Urquhart (1879–1941) – and a story of the First World War

The history of John Alexander contrasts markedly with that of his Boer War brother. John Alexander was a brewery clerk in Glasgow in 1901, the year following his brother’s death. He married, relatively late, in 1915, a book keeper from Forres, Catherine Grant, and at that time he was a commercial clerk, still living in Glasgow. But he went on immediately to become a baker in Forres. There was another war going on at the time of course, the First World War, but at the beginning of the war, married men could not be called up, so from his marriage in 1915 John Alexander would have been exempt. This rule was changed in 1916, when John Alexander would have become eligible again. But you could make a case to the Military Service Tribunal that you were in a restricted occupation or there would be hardship for the family if you were called up. I first see him protesting at the local Tribunal in Forres in July 1916 and he was still appealing to the appeals Tribunal in Elgin in January 1918, which must be approaching some kind of a record.

Here are some of the entries from the Forres News and Advertiser of the period, upper left from 8 July 1916, lower left from 9 June 1917, upper middle from 3 November 1917, lower middle from 17 November 1917, and right from 5 January 1918.

I believe he was successful in avoiding call-up as I see him later in 1918 carrying out business in Forres. He continued as a baker in the town until he went bankrupt in 1926. There were several bakers in Forres, and they usually acted in concert with pricing to ensure nobody undercut the others, so I do not know what went wrong. We see the advertisements in the papers as his business was sold at roup to recover money for his creditors.

Forres News and Advertiser, 26 February 1927

John Alexander died in Forres in 1941, in the middle of yet another war.

Forres Deaths 1941
John Alexander Urquhart baker (master) (retired) (widower of Catherine Grant) died 13 June 1941 usual address 135 C. High Street Forres age 62 parents John Urquhart advertising manager (d) Elizabeth Urquhart ms Campbell (d) informant Ian G. Urquhart son Elmwood Pilmuir Forres

You would think that as well as the brief mention on the Kirkmichael family headstone he and his wife (who had died in 1936) would be commemorated by a stone in Forres, but I have not located one yet.


Donald Urquhart (1875–1932), Editor of the Bulletin

Donald joined the staff of the Evening Times straight from school in 1890 as a sub-editor and spent the rest of his life in the newspaper business. He married Margaret Rogers Stevenson (1887–1954) in Glasgow in 1909. Regarding his career, I can do no better than to quote the obituary in the Glasgow Herald.

Glasgow Herald, 2 March 1932
Death of Glasgow Editor
Mr Donald Urquhart, of “The Bulletin”
We regret to announce the death of Mr Donald Urquhart, editor of “The Bulletin,” which occurred yesterday at his residence, 11 Kirklee Quadrant, Glasgow. The end came after a brief illness. Mr Urquhart, whose interest in all kinds of sport, and especially in Rugby football, had extended over many years, attended the international match at Murrayfield on Saturday, and was then apparently in his normal good health. Early on Sunday morning he had a heart seizure. From the first his condition gave cause for anxiety, and he passed away yesterday morning.
Mr Urquhart spent the whole of his working life in the service of Messrs George Outram and Company”s newspapers. His father, the late Mr John Urquhart, a native of the Black Isle, was a member of the advertising staff of “The Evening Times” for many years, and it was as a boy from school in 1890 that Donald Urquhart began his career in the sub-editors’ room at that paper. Before long it was apparent that he had chosen his true vocation, for of few men could it be said with greater truth that he was a born journalist. He rapidly acquired knowledge of the technique of sub-editing, and when still a youth showed that he had a fine appreciation of news values.
With a keen zest for work, Mr Urquhart was given ample opportunity by his seniors for developing his powers of initiative, and he fully justified their confidence. In the selection of news for publication he brought to his task the indispensable qualities of mental alertness and wise discrimination. And in the important matter of displaying news he had a shrewd eye for attracting the attention of the reader. It was typical of his energy and foresight that on the outbreak of the Great War he suggested the publication of a Sunday edition of “The Evening Times” in order to meet the eager demand for news from the front. The special Sunday issue was continued throughout the war years with every sign that it met a public need.The wide experience Mr Urquhart had gained in handling all classes of news admirably fitted him for the new duties which he was called upon to discharge when in 1919 he was transferred to “The Bulletin” as chief sub-editor. In that capacity he found still greater scope for the exercise of his journalistic abilities. He inspired all his associates with the high standard of efficiency which distinguished his own work, and they found it a pleasure to co-operate with him in increasing the attractiveness of the paper. When Mr James Davidson, the first editor of “The Bulletin,” retired from his editorial duties and joined the board of directors of Messrs George Outram and Co., Mr Urquhart was appointed his successor. Less than two years have passed since Mr Urquhart assumed the full responsibilities of editorship, but in that comparatively brief period he fully maintained the prestige of the paper so well established by his predecessor. His untimely death has ended what promised to be a long and successful occupancy of the editorial chair.
To those associated with him in all departments of the Outram newspapers the passing of Mr Urquhart is felt as a deep personal loss. No newspaper ever had a more zealous servant, no journalist a more loyal comrade. Mr Urquhart was endowed with a happy disposition, and he bore all through life the buoyant spirit of youth. Outside journalistic circles also he had many friends, who will share the feeling of regret at his death and join in extending to his wife their deep sympathy in her bereavement.

The Bulletin was a morning paper, and its emphasis was very much on photographic imagery. It survived through to 1960.

front page of the Glasgow Bulletin, Tuesday 4 February 1919

Hillhead, Glasgow, Deaths 1941
Donald Urquhart journalist (married to Margaret Rogers Stevenson) died 1 March 1932 Kirklee Quadrant Glasgow age 56 parents John Urquhart advertising manager (d) Eliza Urquhart ms Campbell (d) informant Margaret Urquhart widow (present)

Margaret re-married in 1941 one Alfred Gilchrist. She died in Glasgow in 1954.


Other children mentioned on the headstone

The red granite headstone mentions:

Also their daughters / MARGARET MACRAE, / who died 18.Nov.1949. / ELIZABETH ANN / FLORENCE, / who died 5.Feb.1954

Margaret Macrae was born in Glasgow and in 1901 and 1911 I see her in Glasgow a “newspaper office clerkess”, no doubt an occupation associated with her father’s occupation. She never married, and seems to have accompanied her parents back to Resolis on their retirement.

Elizabeth Ann Florence was born in Glasgow in 1887, but I see by 1891 she had been “farmed out” to her maternal grandparents, Murdoch and Margaret Campbell in Wood of Brae, in our parish of Resolis. She was back in Glasgow with her parents by 1901. She never married, and she also seems to have accompanied her parents back to Resolis on their retirement.


Not mentioned on the headstone – and a tragedy of the Second World War

Hannah Ross Urquhart became a teacher in Glasgow, and her employer in 1911 is not surprisingly given as “Glasgow School Board”. I don’t know how Kirkton farmer James Mackie Craigen and she did their courting given the distance involved, but they married in Glasgow at the Grand Hotel in 1915, with witnesses Thomas Holm (the Ferryton farmer who crops up in several of these stories) and Hannah’s sister Margaret Macrae Urquhart. There was clearly much interaction between the Black Isle and Glasgow, facilitated by the Inverness to Glasgow rail route, of course!

I presume that Hannah was not mentioned on the Urquhart headstone on the assumption that she would be memorialised on a Craigen family stone. And this proved to be correct, as, to the left of the path as you come in by the gate at Kirkmichael, there is a grey granite headstone, commemorating not only Hannah and her husband but also, tragically, their two sons who both fell in the Second World War (and who are commemorated on the Resolis War Memorial).

In loving memory / of / HANNAH ROSS URQUHART, / who died 22nd April 1946, / aged 59 years. / Beloved wife of / JAMES MACKIE CRAIGEN, / Kirkton, Balblair. / Who died at Invergordon / 2nd May 1955, aged 76 years. / Also their sons / JOHN URQUHART, / L/Cpl. Seaforth Highlanders, / who died near Abbeville, / 4th June 1940, aged 20 years. / ALEXANDER MACKIE, / Capt. Frontier Force Regiment, / who died at Lahore, India, / 6th August 1943, aged 25 years.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

the Craigen brothers are two out of the thirteen Resolis men named on the World War II face of the Resolis war memorial; photo by Jim Mackay

I see other children to John Urquhart and Margaret Campbell crop up on on-line family trees, but I think these are the usual errors that appear when researchers don’t check primary sources. If anyone is aware of any genuine omissions let me know!


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