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

Kenneth Urquhart, Factor for Newhall – a man maligned?

text: Mrs Helma Reynolds

This is the story of Kenneth Urquhart, tacksman and miller in St Martins, in the parish of Resolis, on the Estate of Newhall. In time he became the Factor for the Estate of Newhall, that is to say he was responsible for the running of the Estate, collection of rents from tenants and looking after the property whilst the estate owners, the Gordons, were, as was usually the case, in Edinburgh or London. He was the subject of anonymous letters to the estate–owner, accusing him of malpractice whilst the owner was away, the least of which was sleeping in the laird’s own bed at Newhall House!

Kenneth Urquhart, a tacksman in St Martins, in the Cullicudden part of the united parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden, commonly called parish of Resolis, was born around 1728. Baptism records for Resolis in this period have not survived, but this date seems a reasonable assumption as on his gravestone his age at death in 1791 was given as 63.

The tablestone of Kenneth Urquhart at Kirkmichael

St Martins lies in the estate of Newhall, in the parish of Resolis on the Black Isle. For centuries much of the Black Isle had been owned by Urquharts, but gradually they had lost their lands through debts and other carelessness: St Martins was one estate they had lost.

Kenneth Urquhart’s father, Thomas, had also been tacksman in St Martins; perhaps the family had lived there for some generations. Kenneth is not a traditional Urquhart name and it would suggest a Mackenzie connection, but this may be hard to establish. His mother is probably the Margaret Munro mentioned on the family gravestone in Cullicudden.

Kenneth first enters the records just after the Battle of Culloden, in 1746, when he is recorded, as set out in A List of Persons concerned in the Rebellion (Publications of the Scottish History Society Volume 8 Edinburgh T & A. Constable 1890) as "Kenneth Urquart son to the deceast Thos Urquart" with abode of "Cullicuden Parish of Cullicuden". Kenneth:

was with the Rebels & is now lurking about his mother’s house in that parish

A Jacobite no less! He would have been aged about 18. There are no surviving records to tell if he was the eldest son, or if there were any other offspring. As his father had died by 1746, it is possible that he took over the running of the mill as a very young man. Had there been an elder brother at first to succeed the father? Or did Kenneth leave St Martins until things quietened down? Perhaps he crossed the Firth and lay low for some time.

He had been brave – or foolhardy? – to show himself on the Jacobite side as he lived on an estate most firmly in the hands of supporters of the government, but sooner or later his attachment to the uprising must have been forgiven, as he had the tack, entered into between Mrs Charles Hamilton Gordon and himself on the 22nd October 1754, of the farm and Mill of St Martins for 19 years from Whitsun 1753 (Newhall papers held by Edinburgh agent for the Gordons and lawyer, David Ross: RH15/44/199(iv)).

The Mill of St Martins in 1796

His life then seems to proceed peaceably enough; 1753 turns out to be an important year as he marries: ‘Kenneth Urquhart Son to Thomas Urquhart Tennent in St Martins & Christian Munro Daughter to John Munro tacksman in Kaitwell(= Katewell) in the Parish of Kiltearn were contracted’. They had three children: Thomas in June 1754, Anne in April 1756 and Margaret in March 1758. There is no further mention of Christian and it would seem that she died some time thereafter.

The document with details of the 1754 tack lists four tenants and three or four mailers; of the tenants Kenneth’s signature is the firmest. His early life can only be imagined, but it seems he must have attended school where he had been able to pick up skills in reading and writing that furthered his later career. The estate of St Martins was sold to the Dallas family in 1666; whether or not Kenneth’s forebears were close enough to the earlier Urquhart owners to gain any privileges is a possibility but no more.

Kenneth was by far the most substantial tenant of St Martins, and the only one with a tack from 1753. For the Miln he paid 23 bolls oatmeal, for land rent he paid thirteen bolls & two firlots, with a merk per boll in lieu of Services, one shilling Scots per Boll in lieu of Vicarage teinds, and two and a half Wedders, twenty four hens; the said thirteen and a half bolls land rent includes William Bremner’s Boll Croft and Hector Urquhart’s firlot Croft (RH15/44/199(iv)).

In 1762 (RH15/44/199 i–vii) we find little change:

22 October 1762 / St Martins Compeared Kenneth Urquhart Tennant in St Martins, who being Solemnly Sworn and Interrogate Depones that he pays yearly Twenty three Bolls Oat–Meal as the Rent of the miln of St Martins, That he Also pays Thirteen Bolls & two firlots Land rent, with a merk per Boll in lieu of Services, one Shilling Scots per Boll in lieu of Vicarage Teinds, and two and a half Wedders, twenty four hens, Depones that the said Thirteen Bolls and a half land Rent Includes William Bremner’s Boll Croft, and Hector Urquhart’s firlot Croft – And which respective Rents are ascertained by a Tack now produced by the Deponent Entered into betwixt the said Mr. Charles Hamilton Gordon & him dated the 22d. Octor. 1754, for the Space of Nineteen years from and after the term of Whitsunday 1753, Depones that he has no mailler nor Subtenant paying Rent to him, And all is truth as he shall answer to God. / Ken. Urquhart / Jo: Gorry / Willm. MacLeay Clk

The signatures of the main parties

Kenneth did not remarry until 1764: 6 January 1764 ‘Kenneth Urquhart Tacksman in Saint Martins & Isobel Matheson, Daughter to William Matheson Tacksman in Miltown of Findon in the parish of Urquhart & Ferintosh were contracted’. Their first child was a girl, in November 1765, baptised Christian, presumably in memory of the first wife. Then followed John, August 1767, William, March 1769, David, December 1770, Alexander, January 1774 and Mary in March 1776.

In 1772 a new tack still brought little change; this suggests that Newhall estate was not pressing for improvements in land use, although on 20 Sept 1773 Wm Gordon, the owner, writes (RH15/44/53) ‘I am beginning to do something in the improving way. I have enclosed a considerable Piece of Ground . . .’’. There was a change for Kenneth, however, as he had a reduction ‘allow’d for trouble in Mr Gordon’s affairs’ (RH15/44/199(vii)). He was now taking over as factor for the estate of Newhall, following John Gorry.

Estates were responsible not only for their own land, but also for the provision of the parish church, school, paying the salaries of the minister and schoolmaster, and maintenance of roads and ferries. In 1772 the estates of Newhall and Poyntzfield combined to work on roads of both. A receipt dated 29 July 1772 (SC24/21/7) lists the number of days Alexander Barkly, a tenant of Newhall, Alex McComie from Poyntzfield and Kenneth Urquhart spent overseeing work on local roads. It is interesting to see the tasks undertaken and shared:

Alexr Barkly 4 days on Mr Gordon’s Roads and one day linning the Road 3 days on Mr Munro Road at 2/6 pr day £1
Alexr McComie 4 days on Mr Gordons Roads Mr Munro’s and on day lining £1
Kenneth Urqhart on Mr Gordons Road 4 days and one day lining, on day measuring the two Roads 3 days on Mr Munro’s Roads £1.2.6

Thomas’ duties in William Gordon’s employ were also personal, and later correspondence shows how much he admired his master. He doubtless took particular pleasure in being able to serve Mr Gordon in more intimate ways. An example of his duties is found in Mr Gordon’s letter to his agent David Ross (at the Post Office in Edinburgh) and received 5 August 1775 (RH15/44/54):

Dear David, / I inclose you a very paltry remittance five notes I could have made it something more if Silver was as easily conveyed from one Place to another as Paper. When I last wrote you I thought to have sent you by this time the –––– of my ––– nor is it my fault to have not. I wrote eight days since to the Heritors to send the Receipt(s?) for the –––– delivered which he has not done. Kenneth Urquhart carries a letter to him to–morrow, & that I shall send any Carts(?) with it to (? the peck?). I am to receive his bill payable the 1st Septr for the whole which I shall discompt at the Bank office at Inverness & remit the money the end of this Week. I find it necessary to let down the Price of my meall a sixpence per Boll & make it fifteen & sixpence & hope to make by this Assurance or (??) Clear Storehouse soon. I am determined in future always to take the Price I can get in Edin. before the month of March. Lady Gordon’s situation is such as has confined me very much at Invergordon & then she was (busy??) confined to bed for two months past, there is no saying how long she may continue in existence, I am astonished how she has held out so long. There is a –––– I have by the –––– pronounced by MacQueen against Pultney, in consequence of the Valuation of Glenurquhart being taken from me, look into it, & let me know what Vouchers will be necessary to instruct it (?), receipts of less (?) proportion of Expence of –––– from the undertakers Accts. Payments of Schoolmaster’s salary will I suppose be wanted. I have not heard from you since I wrote you about MacLeay’s assignation Re Redcastle’s debts. / Dr David / Yours Willm Gordon

Newhall estate was large and the workings varied, as is seen in the tasks Kenneth undertook. He witnessed accounts between William Gordon and his agent David Ross, Accomptant to the General Post Office at Edinburgh dated 17th Oct 1774 , including 25 May, ‘To paid for 16 lib: of Baron van Haak’s manure sent you – £–.16.– To packing box for ditto, Carriage to Leith & shore dues – £–.1.6’. Somehow we do not think of manure being sent in packing boxes, but at this time estate owners and farmers were discovering the uses and importance of fertilisers. He also witnessed a bond between William Gordon and Simon Fraser on 29 June 1776 (All RH15/44/258)

Kenneth Urquhart witnesses a document for his laird, William Gordon of Newhall

In July 1777 Mr Gordon of Newhall wanted to know if his uncle, Sir John Gordon of Invergordon, had any sheet lead as he meant to apply for some of it to the flanks of his Office Houses. In 1777 an account ‘Mar 10 By 2 lb Gun Powder to Kenneth Urquhart for Mr Gordon at 1/6 lb = –.2.–. Besides 62 feet of Sheet Lead 13 inches broad given Kenth Urquhart for Mr Gordon, which he promised to repay in kind –?– Receipt dated 2d August 1777. On debtor side ‘The 62 feet Sheet Lead returned (sgd) John Gordon’

Until now Kenneth’s position seems to have been comfortable and pleasant with his varied responsibilities, but he was greatly affected by the sudden death of William Gordon, who seems to have suffered poor health. The letter he wrote to Mr David Ross in January 1778 (RH15/18/44/87) shows his position and expresses sincere regret as well as some insecurity from the uncertainty of his own position.

Mr David Ross / My Dear Sir, / You may well judge my unhappy Situation after loosing so valuable Affectionate Master as I had, God help me I have not words to tell my sorrow for this Melancholly Change, I thought to have some word from you in Answer to the Letter Sir John Caused Mr Wattson write you in my Nam but had no word yet from you only Sir John told me that he had a Letter from Mr Lockart wherin he mentioned things to go on at Newhall as formerly till I was further Advised, what I would Beg of you to speak to Mr Lockart to let me know if the Grieve & Labouring Servants was to continue after the term of Whitesun=day or not as now is the time to Engage them also what will be done with the Servants in the House & Further if the Meinders be Stopt or Continued, there is only four that works in the Meind & they have been Engaged for a Twelve Month for Meat & wages whe=ther they work or not. There is also so many salmon Casks & Salt in the Storehouse that was waiting the Muslucy (?) Fishing that ought to be dispers’d of as the Salt will be liable to Expen=ces & loss as Mr Ingles told me yesterday that the Salt would be Serveyed & Weigh’d over by the Custome House Officers of Inverness the 24th April next. I would be Oblidg’d to give a new Bond for the Salt & to pay some money to the Officers that was to survey the Salt. Further I wold wish to know how this present Crop would be laid down in the Mains of Newhall, as the Plan my Dear Mr Gordon & I had properly will not be thought proper to follow in Laying down the Crop. There is also four large Oxen Feeding on Turnip at Newhall who will soon be ready for Sale.

There is also few small cattle that was bought from the Tennants running in the Parks that was to be sold. Their was a cow & an ox of them he intended to be kill’d for the Family Use but the Cow is with Calf, we did not Count with the Tennants for Crop 1776 H Counting the very day he fell sick

Sir John told me by Mr Lockarts that he & Geanies was to be at New=hall next week to Inspect Mr Gordon’s Papers. As I was always Oblidged to you for your Goodness to me & more Especially for what you had done when last in the Country in Settling my Accots with Mr Gordon, I still hope you’l be so good as to do for me in what you’l Judge & Honest, when you’l write you’l be so good how Mrs Gordon & Mrs Lockart are God piety they greatly do I Sumpathize with themfor their great Loss, I hope you’l Excuse my Confus’d Letter as my mind is confused also I thought to write you the Minnar he took his Sickness & the Manner he Continued into his last who gave up the Ghost as a Child was falling a Sleep but this I cannot say no more of but I concluded with my / Best wishes to you / & I am Dear Sir your most Obedient & / Humble Serv’t / Kenneth Urquhart / St Martins 31st January / 1778

The sad loss of the estate owner (whose handsome slate memorial may be found in the chancel at Kirkmichael) was to be followed later in the year by an incident of great unpleasantness for Kenneth: an anonymous letter (RH15/44/79) was sent to a Mr Inglish; this was most probably Mr Hugh Inglish of Kingsmills, captain of the Pledger.

Mr Inglish / Ardevell Sept 29th 1778 / I do not correspond with you for Ordinar But as I wish you and your Interest well I am now provoked to write to you Concerning the Curst proud Imperious Fellow who has got so much into your Favours for some years past were you to know but part of his tricks you would be ashamed to own him tho you met him on the road Its true he Imposed on worthy Mr Gordon Greatly but theres none easyer wronged than an Honest man he has for some time past gone on with a high hand he takes for most a Great part for himself of whatever he has a handling of he Brews whisky for most part and (–––) at the Firwood for most part for that purpose he Dares) the Gagers for coming near him for fear of Mr Lokhart he advised his master to keep a wright in the toun for to get his own Beging made up he has a east and a west room better than a many Tenant in the country but Remembers when himself and his houses was very Indiferent the truth of this Mrs Inglish can Inform you of he has taken in a Dirty woman into the house that makes a hen house of the kitchen. I can asure you from Good authority that one Day with another he has a Serjeants pay under his Belt of Goud caul whisky (?) It makes good the proverb that says set a beggar on horse back and he will ride to the Divil the man I mean is Keneth Urquhart by name. / I am a Friend to truth / WD (?) / To Mr Hugh Inglish / Merchant / At / Inverness / [on verso] PS He thinks to make a whale of Brelangwell next & he began already

It seems that a similar letter, yet to be traced, was circulated to one or two other estates. Happily, Kenneth had supporters, and letters in his favour have survived. George Galdie wrote (RH15/44/84)

Dear Sir, / Your much esteem’d letters of 16th Septr and 9th Inst covering the two anonymous letters adress’d for your name came to my hand the 15th being the very afternoon I arrived here. Yesterday morning early I sett of for Newhall and got there some little time before Mr Urquhart appeard. I made the best use of my time and am happy that after making the minutest enquirey on that man’s conduct and the Matters alleged against him, I can honestly give you the following Accts. At which will carry of the Water that Falls from the House. I then went in to the House where I found the Woman that has the Charge of is, sitting very Clear Spinning in the Room next the Kitchen before a Small Fire of sticks which I found very comfortable the morning being excessively cold, I then went to the Kitchen which was very from being in the manner represented. I also went throw several of the Rooms fully as clear as I ever saw them.
Kenneth absolutely denys carry’ of Hay for his own purpose and will prove to the contrary. You have a very large Hay Stack neatly built.
4th Acknowledges that he sold some Straw, for which he has the chd himself, also that he pays the shearers by the Sheave which he says is much to Your advantage.
5 Assured me with Tears in his Eyes that he is this very Day Poorer then when he enterd Mr Gordons Service and is farr from being in the way of buying a Farm for himself as represented.
6 Owns that he sold one of the Strays Sheep and which Sheep he says You made him a present of.
7 With respect to the Farm of Woodhead will (Considerable?) Soon
8 [gap] Says he has [gap] represented w[gap] I have a better Oppr. To defraud my employer than to give no Credit for the (out?cut?) Corn upon the Meall last Year which was upward of Eight bolls
9 Denys that he keeps a Distillary or that he ever used Your Name to any one of the Officers of Excise, also that he was never seen the worse of Drink. I can attest his Eyes is perfectly well.
10th He does not deny his sleeping in Your Bed the Night you left Cromy the reason is that he was afraid of Fire there being so many papers burnt in the House that day.
11th He had on the Suit of Cloaths bout from Mr Shaw, dark blue with a white metal button.
12th Affirms that your Carpinter does not Work for him. The Joyner of Sleat Work of the Offices is done to my admiration and which You’ll approve Of please God You see them The Carpinter is now [gap] out the Rooff of the Stables which I very much approve of. I observe Your Servs are employd Midd day in cleaning the Sunk Fence from which they will procure a good deall of Manure.

After spending the day in making the foregoing enquireys I parted with Kenneth at Newhall, I then appllyd to some people in the Neighbourhood who [page torn] Mrs Blair asured me no man to Your Interest I took particular care to make my enquirys in with a prudent manner that no person could suspect me I will take a Step there oftner. If there is any other thing I can do for You in this Corner You have only to Command, / Sir / Your most Obede & very / Humble Servt, / Cromarty 17th Octr 1778 George Galdie / PS If its possible will endeavour to find the Author of the letters. Kenneth is to be very active in this Affair

Kenneth himself wrote, to Mr Lockhart, it seems (RH15/18/44/87), and his letter references many of the local worthies of the time:

Honoured Sir, / I was favoured with yours of the 9th Currt. / I am much oblidged to you for leting me know of the Black Character you got, and which Character & Charge against me I hope in God’s mercy to get myself Cleared of to your Satisfaction as I am fully Sencible that it is your good wishes that I would be found Innocent of the Charge laid against me. (Tha??) the writer & Author of the Letter cannot be found out as yet I hope both may be found in time yet by examining into my management of the Affairs of the Estate of Newhall Since ever I had the trust of it, I hope I’l be both found honest & faithfull, to the trust(scored out) Interest of my Employers. The first Article I am Charged with is the park of Woodhead that I said I would make three times the Rent of it which I never Said, nor is I likely to make such a thing but as you desired me to keep an exact Acct of what I would make of it I have so done & will to the last, which will shew you the truth when (required?). The next Article is that the next day after you left Newhall that I had your Servants carrying wood for me to make whiskie which can be proven to the Contrary it is true I do not remember was it the next day or not, but their was a horse & Cart Sent was () from Newhall to Carry the Tools from the Lead mine to the Storehouse & Carried some straw with him which which I charge myself with the price of it as well as I did others that I sold Straw too, it will be also easily proven to the Contrary. The great Sume I made yearly of the Storehuse & Farm as I had nothing but what I received & Granted Vouchers for, Also that Imposed on Mr Gordon & wronged his Interest a thing Mr Ross knows to the Contrarary , by what he Saw when Stating betwixt Mr Gordon & me & many others in the Country that Saw what way I was Carrying on his Labouring & every thing else that I had the Charge of. I am very Certaint if I had not been so Strict & Careful about Mr Gordon’s Interest & yours Since his death they would be no Such Letters sent you. The next is that I & Don’d Allan came home Drunk the night you left Cromarty which also can be proven that I did not enter a house after parting with you & Mr Ross before Mr Forsyth’s house but to goe into the Stable for my horse nor did Don’d Allan come out of Cromarty that night which Mr Galdie can Attest, it is true when I came to Newhall Willm Ross & one of the Servants was going to Bed in the Hall & he & I looked through the house to See how the woman Secured every thing that was left to her Charge, & the night being so far Spent & oblidged to be (??) in the morning I lay on your Bed. I can not Say but it was Bad manners in me to do but their was neither Sheets no Blankets on it as the woman laid all the Bed Clothes up in the Bedroom under lock & Key which I was well pleased at her for so doing, my Super Fine Cloth from Angus Shaw will be Seen when I will have the pleasure of seeing you, I will get it also proven that I never took any of your horses Except five times & that on your own Business which I thought I had a Title to do it can also be proven that John Hossack never wrought for me except one day in Spring & another day this Summer & I Had Alexr McComie wright in Burnside Sawing wood for him both days, I had in Mr Gordon’s time orders for all the wood I would need for my houses & got Some Hay & Straw from him at different times, & I can Instruct that I made some returns to him for the Same, But since his death I did not take an Inch of wood nor any Straw but I charged myself with the price of it as I did to others & will be Seen in my Charged Acct with the peoples names that I bought both wood & Straw. I can also Show that I made & do make Better Use of the Straw that was on hand & will Ansr mor(del) to your Advantage then any money I could get for it, I do not mean to Vindicate myself in any thing I say But refairs myself to Exammination for my Conduct, I am fully perswuaded that my enemies Sees me every day, but cannot make any thing of them yet as I have no proof only I am sure they were my enemies since ever I had any Charge in Newhall, however we most not neglect Business. I am resolved to follow on in Carring in every thing in my power to the advantage of your Interest so long as I have the Charge of it, let them write or say what they please, as to what was said of the Crop of Newhall I’l write an Ansr to that in my next. I hope you will pardon me for my long Letter, Mr Galdie came to Newhall friday last when I was going to See him to Cromarty but he was before me at Newhall & shewed me the famous Letters, he looked the house & office houses & the parks his report to you of the Same I know not; Lord Anchorfield Slee/pt Saturday last n the house of Newhall in his way to Edinburgh, I did not see him for his was not come their when I went home, Mr Inglis at Inverness has got another Letter of the Same kind & the very Same hand of write which I inclose to Mr Ross that you may See it also. I make no doubt but their may be more Letters of the Same kind Sent you in the Coarse of this winter when we will have Occasion to Penfold Cattle of every kind which I am resolved to do to the utmost of my power. I would spend all I have in the world in order to find out the Author of the Letters if I was Directed how to come at them.

The Ferrintosh people was Speaking to me about your Farm Bear & was offering me part Payment but I took none until I would acquant you So you will write me as soon as convenient if I give it them at the Whitsunday price as formerly done or if you name a price yourself they will be no price made in this Country So Soon as this of the year, but I doubt not but Bear will give as good a price again Whitsunday as it did last year. We began to Lead the Oats at Newhall yesterday we will have the whole of it shorn this week except some green Corn & as the weather is so good I will not Count untill it be Ripe I presume to Inclose you a Letter from Mr Arthur concerning my Character & two Certificates from two of he Excise Officers I hope you will not be offended by this / Honoured Sir / I am with great Esteem your / most Obedient & Humble Servt / Kenneth Urquhart / St Martins / 20th Octr 1778

Support came from the Excise, in the form of two signed notes, a good vindication, one would think. The first (RH15/18/44/87, item 2) reads:

I John Gilchrist Supervisor of Excise, hereby Certify that since ever I came to this District, I have been, in Course of duty, frequently surveying the house of Kenneth Urquhart in Saint Martins, but never heard him say That he (dared?) me or any other Officer of the Revenue, from doing our duty on Account of the Hon/ble Commessiener (?) Lockart, but on the Contrary got Access frankly to any place I would incline to See; Given under my hand At Ferrintosh this Seventeenth day of October 1778 / John Gilchrist

The second (RH15/18/44/87, item 3) reads:

I George Grant Officer of Excise hereby Certify that I have often survey’d the/ house of Kenneth Urquhart in Saint Martins Both as Supervisor & Officer but never heard him say that he (dared?) me or any other Officer of the Revenue from doing our duty on Acct of the Hon/ble/ Commissioner Lockart but on the Contrary gave all Access requisite frankly when (we?) demanded Given under my hand at Ferrintosh 17 Octr 1778 / Geo Grant

But surely no greater sign of confidence in him could be shown than by a letter from the Parish Minister, friend of the gentry. The Revd Robert Arthur wrote (RH15/44/85):

To Thomas Lockhart, Esqr. Edinburgh / Sirs / I hope you’ll be so good as to forgive the trouble which I think myself called upon at present to give you on behalf of an honest man, Kenneth Urquhart, your Factor, whose Character I find has been wickedly & clandestinely traduced to you by enemies who stab him in the dark, and tho they have malice enough to invent, have not foolhardiness enough to subscribe such infamous libels as they cannot prove, libels which nothing but the blackest rancour & malice could ever have dictated. – I have now before me two anonymous letters directed to you, & one to Mr Inglis at Inverness charging him with fraud, theft and habitual drunkenness – charges which I could not read without the highest indignation, as I am convinced they are perfectly false, & have been entirely fabricated to gratify private revenge, without the least regard to Truth, or to your interest, as is speciously pretended. – There is indeed one circumstance observable on before I cam home, notwithstanding, I procured two casks of it for you which I’m to send with Capt Oglive when he comes to Cromarty – if it falls – cheeper before the ship comes I’l have it cheeper – you may tell your nephew Mr John Buchan that I’l send him the anker he was wanting – I was looking for a letter from you since I cam home but got non I wish if it was convenient for you to send me the Book that I counted with the tenants last, & the the rental and the accounts – I must count with the tenants soon in order to get money to pay Miss McKenzie Bond. I paid Mrs McPhai .. / Dear Sir, / I am with Great Esteem your / Most Obt & Humble Sevt / Ken: Urquhart / Newhall 7th Decr / 1782

Urquhart also wrote (RH15/18/44/87):

To David Ross Esqr Secretary / to the Post Office, Edinr (stamped Fortrose) / Dear Sir, / I was favoured with yours of 21st Curant, Informing me that you was to send the Accots by the next post, which came safe to me Tuesday last, I am always obliged to you for your kind favour. I shall observe the direction you sent for signing the Accots, No dout you would hear of Sir John&resquo;s Death before now. I’m very sorie for his Death he was always /my/ good friend. His Jaunt to Inverness was very much against him he turned bad at Tore on his way home this day eight days and died Sunday night he had a severe bloody Flucks and throwing up blood at his mouth – Please offer my kind Compliments to Mr Buchan / Dear Sir / I am with Esteem your most Obt / & Humble Sevt – Ken: Urquhart / Newhall 29th May / 1783

And yet again (RH15/18/44/87):

Newhall 13th June 178x / Dear Sir, / I send you by the Bearer your state of Acct betwixt Mrs Lockhart and me for Crops 1780 and preceedings Signed, also a stat of Crops 1781 which I hope you will be so good as examine and correct if requisite. I have other two years accn to make up, but cannot immediately as my Brother in /Law/ cannot attend to assist me and I have some other Assts to put into proper order before I can make out a particular Charge – It will be obliging if your order /north/ the two casks that went up with the Spirits to you last, and if you want any more you should bespeak it in time as it is fallen lower just now in price, and must turn high if the Distillery is stopt – this goes by Mrs Lockhart’s Serv. who is sent with the horses to bring her north. With kind Comps to my friend Mr Buchan and you I am with the greatest Esteem, / Dear Sir, / Your much Oblgd hum’ Serv / Ken. Urquhart / ENCLOSURE: / I forgot to mention that it would be necessary to send me a Factory as soon as possible, as I will be under a necessity of removing one now and then and there is a Circumstance just now that requires it, as he the man I wan so him out Thinks I have not sufficient authority to act in that way – it will be proper to Date it before Christmas last. / Ken. Urquhart / To David Ross Esq., / Secretary to the General Post Office, Edinburgh

Before the advent of local authorities, estates combined to maintain roads; the work being shared, such as is recorded in 1787 in the Sheriff Court records (SC24/21/7/3). The William Holm referred to so much in these records may well be (the signature could be checked) the Kirk Session officer and gravedigger, the subject of another "Story behind the Stone".

Overseers of Resolis – £5.2/– / 3rd May 1787
To The Honble The Commissioners of Supply for The County of Cromarty The Adress of the Overseers on the Roads Repairing in the United Parishes Of Kirkmichal & Culycuden Kenth Urquhart Supperintendant
Wm Holm 10/6 for his Attendance 10.6 £1 10’ 6
In the Year 1781 Alexr M’Comie 8 days £16.—
George Thomson 8 days 16.—
Year 1783 Alexr M’Comie 8 days 16 –––
Robt Morrison 8 days 16 –––
Wm Holm for his Attendance 10.6 £1.18’6
In the year 1784 Wm Holm for his Attendance wt Mr Urquhart 1784 10 6
In the year 1785 Robt Morrison 4 days 8 ––
Hugh Holm 4 days 8 –
Wm Holm for his Attendance 40 10. 6``
Wm Holm for each year of the Above Years coming to Cromarty to see the Tools repaird & coming for them Different times 5 –
Wm Holm for taking a List of the Parish people to Attend Sd Roads & Intimating Same at the Kirk door 3 –
take off 1
The above is atersted by me Ken: Urquhart 5 .2 –
Ordered from funds 1786
D M’L [this will be Donald Macleod of Geanies]
Cromarty 3 May 1787
Recd payment from the Collection
Willam Home

There was also an obligation to support the church, and teinds were collected (RH15/44/291):

£10.2.9 Sterl Newhall 28th Aug. 1780
At the term of Martinmass next pay to the Revnd Mr Robert Arthur Minister of Resolis, the sum of Ten pounds Two Shills and nine pence Sterl, being money stipend for 1779. / Thos Lockhart / To Mr Kenneth Urquhart / Tacksman of St Martins

While there are other mentions of Kenneth Urquhart, the letters and documents quoted here give a fair picture of his life. He seems to have survived the scurrilous anonymous attack made on him, and continued to be considered honourable and trustworthy. There are no details of his death, but according to the gravestone in Kirkmichael graveyard he died on 30 October 1791 aged 63. This stone is of some interest itself: it is a tablestone, which is definitely an eighteenth century style. The supports are of a somewhat architectural design, different from others in the graveyard, and it is just possible that the stone was prepared by William, his third son by his second wife, Isabella Matheson, who was a stone mason working in Avoch. The inscription was added very much later, as it begins, much to the embarrassment of the writer, whose minister uncle liked to quote it in mock lugubrious tones, with a line from a poem written by a woman who was not born until 1808, Caroline Norton. The inscription reads



To the memory of
Kenneth Urquhart Factor
for Newhall who died the 30th
Octr 1791 aged 63 years Also his
spouse Isabella Matheson
who died the 16th Jan 1819 (ag)
ed 72 years and of their daug
hter Mary Urquhart who
died the 18th Jany 1853 aged
78 years. Also her husband
John McBain sometime
farmer in Flowerburn who
died 8th June 1843 age
82 years and their children
Elizabeth aged 3 years
Mary 15 years

The Kirkmichael tablestone

There is also a stone in Cullicudden, which may well reveal several earlier generations, before ending with the initials, we think, of Kenneth and his first wife. The first part at least of the inscription is earlier, with ligatures connecting letters:

This is the burial
place of Kenneth Urq=
uhart tacksman of
St Martins

And here lys the bo=
dy of Margaret Mu
nro (spouse) to Tho=
mas Urquhart tack
sman of St Martins
who died (2?)9th Decem
ber 1754 ag’d 59 year
Also the body of
Tho’s Urqt son to Ken

KU    CM

Kenneth Urquhart, the subject of this Story behind the Stone, was of course first married to Christian Munro, so we would assume these initials refer to her. It would be expected that she would have been buried in the family lair, while Kenneth was still based in St Martins.

The ‘Not lost… …’ Kirkmichael gravestone is squeezed in beside an older Urquhart stone: was there a connection? There is much more work to be done – in following the lives of at least some of the other children, and in tracing more of Kenneth’s background. His correspondence gives a glimpse of his character, and allows us to determine whether or not the abusive letter is credible.


Appendix: recording the Kenneth Urquhart memorial in Old Cullicudden

In January 2023, on request, the Kirkmichael Trust carried out a work party in Old Cullicudden to photograph and record the broken Kenneth Urquhart memorial there. It is located adjacent to a pair of much earlier slabs commemorating Alexander Urquhart of St Martins and his spouse, and there is an immediate question as to the possible relationship between Alexander Urquhart, proprietor of St Martins in the early 1600s, and Kenneth Urquhart, tacksman of St Martins in the 1700s.

the Kenneth Urquhart memorial lies just to the east of the Aisle of Ardullie, seen here, in Old Cullicudden; photo by Andrew Dowsett


The broken slab is unsightly and presents a trip hazard to any visitors. We excavate around it as a first step in making it safer and less derelict-looking… The weather deteriorates, and the memorial is excavated in a cold drizzle.

the broken memorial juts out of the ground; photo by Andrew Dowsett

we start to uncover the Kenneth Urquhart memorial; photo by Andrew Dowsett

And to our surprise the broken slab turns out to be a broken tablestone. That’s a fully functional tablestone leg in there! We can assume that at some point this Urquhart tablestone destabilised and fell east on top of its legs, breaking the top slab in the process. The slabs on which the legs stood lie adjacent to the old tablestone, and one of them is also broken. That perhaps is what destabilised the tablestone in the first instance.

photo by Davine Sutherland

photo by Andrew Dowsett

We shift the broken pieces of the tablestone top back into position, and place soil and stones under the two broken pieces to raise them up and straighten them so that they are no longer a trip hazard and look reasonably attractive once more. It begins to look more like a tablestone rather than a slab.

photo by Davine Sutherland

photo by Andrew Dowsett

And then we photograph the inscription. Kenneth Urquhart, who erected this memorial, erected a complementary tablestone in Kirkmichael, following his relocation from St Martin’s in the west of the parish to Newhall in the east of the parish. It would be useful at some point to compare the design of the two tablestones in detail. It would be tempting to fix the tablestone, as the break in the top slab is a clean one and the two pieces could easily be joined with stainless stell pins and resin, and then the slab could be remounted on its legs. However, that is a consideration for another time. Some of us, especially Andrew, have to get home to get cleaned up!

photo by Davine Sutherland


Click here to return to the Story behind the Stone gallery