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

Lillias Fowler Holm (1820–1906), the Holm family of Wester Ferryton and the Resolis Disruption Riot of 1843

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography by Jim unless otherwise annotated


1880 / Erected / in affectionate remembrance / of the late WILLIAM HOLMES / wife and family, Ferryton of / Resolis by his affectionate / daughter / LILLIAS FOWLER HOLMES / June 1880

Lillias Fowler Holm could not write. When she had to sign a document she did so with her mark and a witness would counter-sign it. And that might explain why the headstone she had erected to commemorate her family has the family name down as “Holmes” rather than “Holm”. The stone carver would have been told what to carve and would have used his best judgment as to how to spell her name. And this in turn would point to the headstone not being carved locally, as any stone carver in Resolis or neighbouring parishes would know how to spell the name. I imagine we are looking at Inverness.

photo by Andrew Dowsett

There were once so many Holm families in Resolis, and records were so poorly kept in the parish, that it is difficult to piece together the different Holm strands. However, thanks to one particular John Holm of Wester Ferryton, married to the daughter of my great-great-grandparents coincidentally, who acted as informant to the registrar on the decease of many of his relatives, the branch containing Lillias Fowler Holm has been satisfactorily disentangled. Two family trees are set out in the appendix for those who are curious. A separate appendix is devoted to Lillias Fowler Holm’s uncle, Andrew Holm of Ferryton, who was closely involved with the Resolis Riot of 1843.

The memorial erected by Lillias to commemorate the family of “William Holmes” and Catharine Mackenzie is rather poignant as none of their children had progeny. Remarkably few of the siblings of her parents went on to establish dynasties of their own. But for the branch represented by her parents there was none at all to carry the name on – the family died out in her generation. The memorial, albeit with the family name spelled wrongly, is all that remains.

The location of the headstone is at the north end of a long line of Holm slabs and tablestones; it lies just within the boundary of the original nave of Kirkmichael, so the gravediggers must have had to dig through much archaeology. Given it was erected in 1880, when the nave west wall and belfry were still in place, it is a wonder it escaped unscathed from the dismantling which appears to have damaged several of the other memorials in its vicinity.

NOTE: I thought I would leave that last sentence in place to show how wrong one can be. An hour or so after writing it, I had popped down to Kirkmichael to dampen some lime plaster put in at the weekend, and stood looking at Lillias Holm’s headstone and wondering why it was so short relative to other similar headstones. A small exploratory dig later and the answer was revealed: the headstone had once been just as tall as other memorials of the type but had been broken across diagonally at some point. It had then been inserted further into the ground (or the soil built up around it) so that the break is concealed; the headstone in reality projects as much as it can before the break appears. So it had not survived the west wall coming down after all.

the reason for the depth to which the headstone is buried becomes clear; photo Jim Mackay

photo Jim Mackay

Lillias was the third child of William Holm and Catharine Mackenzie of Ferryton and Resolis. The full set of children were:

Resolis Baptism Register
18 June 1816 William Holm Ferrytown & Catharine McKenzie – Janet
10 September 1818 William Holm labourer Ferrytown & Catharine McKenzie – John born 6 September
9 September 1820 William Holm labourer Resolis & Catherine Mckinzie – Lillias
26 December 1822William Holm labourer at Resolis & Katharine McKenzie – Mary born 20 December
13 March 1826 William Holm mealer at Resolis & Katharine Mackenzie – Jannet born 26 February

A “mealer” as referred to in that last baptism, or mailer, was a small sub-tenant, so the father of Lillias did have some land to cultivate. Her mother was the daughter of James Mackenzie and Catherine Scott, tenants at Kinbeachie. The first Janet must have died in infancy, given the naming of a later child by the same name. I think John must have died early as well, as he does not appear locally, although, of course, he may have been farmed out and resided outwith the parish thereafter.

Her father seems to have suffered from a disease called “falling sickness”, a term usually used for epilepsy. It is mentioned in both the militia lists in which he appears (1825 and 1826). In each he is excused from the ballot.

Militia List 1825 … Ferrieton

William Holm labourer >30 Falling sickness 2 ch[ildren under 14] E[xempt]
Militia List 1826 … Ferrietown

William Holm labourer >30 falling sickness 3 ch[ildren under 14] Ex[empt]

In the 1828 militia list he does not appear – I think he may just have exceeded the age limit. That falling sickness, or an underlying condition, must have worsened as he had to go on to the poor’s roll in the 1840s and died in 1851.

Lillias presumably never went to school, and from an early age would have been in service. In the 1841 census, only her two younger sisters were at home with the parents.

1841 Census Record, Parish of Resolis
William Holm 57 AL / Katharine McKenzie 52 / Mary Holm 18 / Jennet Holm 15

The enumerator was meant to round adult ages in the 1841 Census but in Resolis often did not, fortunately, so we can get an approximate date of birth of William as 1784 and of Katharine of 1789. You won’t find the baptism of either. The baptism records of Resolis were very patchy in this period due to the lack of care from the Reverend Robert Arthur, who was more interested in the doings of the gentry than his parochial duties.

In the 1841 Census, the household of William Holm lay in between the entries for the manse to the west of Fanny’s Brae and the household of Hector Robertson, so the Holm home at this time should be capable of being placed – somewhere around the location of Resolis Cottage or Wester Ferryton. Lillias at this time was working as a female servant in the inn at Jemimaville, then under the management of Walter Ross. Her entry is simply given as “Lilly Holm 20 FS’. The residents at the time were a quarrier, a wright and a sea captain.

Jemimaville, looking east towards the square with the inn and shop

the former Poyntzfield Arms, the inn in Jemimaville, where Lillias Fowler Holm was working as a servant; photo Jim Mackay

By 1851, the household of William Holm was recorded as located in Ferryton, and it was to be the last in which William would feature as he would die a short time later.

1851 Census Record, Parish of Resolis – Ferrytown
William Holm head 70 crofter of 2 acres born Resolis
Catherine Holm wife 65 crofter’s wife born Resolis
Janet Holm daur unmarried 24 crofter’s daur born Resolis

We have already seen that William suffered from a disease called “falling sickness”. He applied successfully in 1847 to be entered on the poor’s roll, was unsuccessful in 1850 in having an uplift to the level of support and died in 1851 (we know this last indirectly, as Catherine is then entered on the roll as his widow).

Parochial Relief Board – Meeting 8 February 1847
The following parties admitted to the Roll–

William Holm, Ferryton, Resolis
Parochial Relief Board – Meeting 4 March 1850

William Holm Ferryton [increase refused]
Parochial Relief Board – Meeting 22 August 1851
[Admitted to Roll:]

Widow Wm. Holm

I have not traced Lillias in 1851. In 1861 she was a laundress in Tulloch Castle in Dingwall: “Lily Holm unmarried 33 laundress born Ressolies”.

postcard courtesy of Angus Bethune

postcard courtesy of Angus Bethune

By this period there were many ingenious devices being utilised to take some of the drudgery out of washing, drying and ironing clothes, particularly in bigger establishments. I see from an advertisement for the displenishment of the goods of the departing tenant in 1860 that one such device, Baker’s patent mangle, had in fact been in use in Tulloch Castle. It may well be, then, that Lillias’s role as laundry-maid may have dealt more with machinery than one would assume given the era.


advertisement from the Inverness Courier of 26 April 1860

Baker’s Patent Mangle; source: Wikipedia

modern crank-handled washing machine

It must have been some contrast for Lillias between observing the life of the gentry in the Castle and her own family experience on a croft in Resolis. But she would return to Resolis for the remainder of her life. In 1871 she can be seen to be resident in the family home in Ferryton with her now-elderly mother and sisters Jessie and Mary. Lillias was recorded as a laundry maid, which was continuing her occupation from her time in Tulloch Castle. Her mother died later that year. She had been on the poor’s roll for many years, and she appears on the Parochial Board thus:

Resolis Parochial Board Records
Holm Widow William resides Ferryton 83 minute [meeting at which admitted to roll] 22 August 1851 [notes] resides with daughter pays no rent born Resolis widow children 1 Lilly 42 2 Mary 40 3 Janet 37 1871 December 12 Removed by Death

It was Lillias’ cousin, John Holm, who often acted as informant at the Registrar’s, who provided the detailsof his aunt’ death:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Catherine Holm (widow of William Holm crofter Ferrytown) died 10 December 1871 at Ferrytown Resolis age 87 parents James McKenzie farmer (d) Janet McKenzie ms Scott (d) informant John Holm nephew

The three sisters continued to live together in the cottage at Ferryton, but the household suffered a further diminution when sister Mary died in 1879. Lillias herself acted as informant on this occasion:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Mary Holm Outdoor Labourer (Single) died 28 August 1879 at Resolis age 56 parents William Holm Crofter (d) Catherine Holm ms McKenzie (d) informant Lilly Holm Her X Mark Sister (Present) Don. McDonald Registrar, witness

It must have been at this point that Lillias began thinking about a family memorial. It was only herself and her sister Jessie left of the family now, and she must have feared that when she died, there was little chance of a memorial being erected. She must have had some money saved as the costs of stone, lettering and erection would have been considerable. Did anyone ever tell her the family name on the headstone was mis-spelled? Her cousin, John Holm of Ferryton, would have been well aware of the error. But perhaps he thought it as well not to mention it.

The Census Return the following year shows Lillias and her sister Janet still in residence in Ferryton.

1881 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Upper Ferrytown, three rooms with one or more windows
Lillias Holm head unmarried 58 retired domestic servant born Ferrytown speaks Gaelic
Jannet Holm sister unmarried 54 agricultural labourer born Ferrytown speaks Gaelic

The land at Wester Ferryton tenanted by John William Holm at the time of the Newhall Estate sale in 1918 (green on plan), opposite Fanny’s Brae on the other side of the main road; I imagine the various family relatives such as Lillias would have been settled in the various cottages somewhere on this land

The sisters moved to a much smaller home, surprisingly some distance away at Springfield, where they can be seen in their tiny new home at the next Census entry:

1891 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Springfield, one room with one or more windows
Jessie Holm head single 65 formerly laundress born Resolis speaks Gaelic and English
Lillie Holm sister single 70 annuitant born Resolis speaks Gaelic and English

I do wonder if the enumerator confused the entries here, as it was Lillias who had been formerly a laundress. The sisters were still not settled, as they moved to Newmills. Sister Jessie was the next to pass away. In a process by now familiar to us, she was entered onto the poor’s roll when she could no longer cope:

Resolis Parochial Board Records
Jessie Holm 56 [meeting when entered on roll] 17 March 1884 born Resolis [claim for being on roll] birth & residence single labouring 1896 May 12 died

Again, it was cousin John Holm who acted as informant at the Registrar’s:

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Jessie Holm pauper (formerly a farm servant) (single) died 12 May 1896 at Newmills Resolis age 70 parents William Holm crofter (d) Catherine Holm ms McKenzie (d) informant John Holm cousin Wester Ferryton Resolis

Lillias was to live through one final Census. Although the record shows her by now solitary existence, you will note that she was back in a small house in Ferryton where at least relatives like her cousin John and his family were near at hand. She herself by now was in receipt of parochial relief:

1901 Census Return, Parish of Resolis – Ferryton, one room with one or more windows
Lillie Holm head single 78 pauper born Resolis speaks Gaelic and English

And then it was the turn of Lillias to meet her maker. She died in 1906, and who else but her cousin John Holm informed the Registrar. John made sure that his cousin’s full name, including the Fowler, was recorded in the register. She was the only one of the sisters to have a middle name, and there is no Fowler in the immediate family, so why she should have been given this name is a mystery yet to be solved. She was born in 1820, and there must have been some reason back then as to why Fowler meant so much to the family as to include it in her name.

Parish of Resolis Deaths
Lily Fowler Holm pauper formerly domestic servant single died 24 January 1906 at Ferrytown Resolis age 85 parents William Holm crofter (d) Catherine Holm ms McKenzie (d) informant John Holm cousin (present)

Lillias will have been buried in the family grave at Kirkmichael in front of the headstone she herself had purchased, the last of the family.

photo by Andrew Dowsett


Appendix 1: two Holm family trees

Apart from the headstone commissioned by Lillias Fowler Holm, there is a dearth of memorials to commemorate the family. However, there is a busy modern headstone in Kirkmichael to commemorate the children of John Fraser and Christian Holm as identified in the first tree. And there is a memorial in an as-yet unidentified Aberdeen kirkyard to commemorate Mary Holm, commissioned by her sisters in Ferryton.

photo by Jim Mackay

photo by Jim Mackay

photograph courtesy of James Holm, Easter Ferryton

photograph courtesy of James Holm, Easter Ferryton


Appendix 2: Andrew Holm, uncle of Lillias Fowler Holm

Whilst there are very few stones with inscriptions relating to the branch of the Holm family which forms the subject of this Story, there was one member who had no shortage of headstones. In fact, he had four of them! This is one of the few such records we have, recorded in the Resolis registers:

Andrew Holm at Ferrietown bought from Andrew Holm Fish dealer in Aberdeen and John Holm Weaver his brother there Four Grave Stones for the Sum of Two pounds Sterling the 29th day of December 1833. Donald Paterson Porter to Mr Edwards in Aberdeen was present as witness to the contract finally and fairly executed.
Andrew Holm / Andrew Holm / John Holm

I researched the likely connections between Andrew Holm at Ferryton and the brothers Holm in Aberdeen and concluded it was most probable that the brothers were the children of a couple called John Holm and Christian Ferguson, as in the following records:

Resolis Marriage Register
19 January 1759 John Holm son to Andrew Holm taylor sometime at the ferie of Alnas & Christian Ferguson daughter to John Ferguson in Udol deceased

Resolis Baptism Register
9 January 1761 John Holm meler Newmiln & Christian Ferguson – Andrew
16 May 1765 John Holm meller in Newmiln & Christian Ferguson – John

1841 Census Return, Aberdeen, Gallowgate John Holme Male 75 [Occupation] Linen H L W

Aberdeen burials (the only ones recorded for an Andrew or John Holm):
Aberdeen burials 1836
October … 12 Andrew Holm poor Old age 72
Aberdeen burials 1846
Janry … 20 John Holms residence 119 Gallowgate weaver age 41 [sic] Consumptn. Lair 58/C Poor

Those familiar with Aberdeen records could pursue these further. The John Holm in the census record seems to be the right fellow, although the burial record is either of some other John Holm or, more likely, the age in the burial record is completely wrong. The Andrew Holm seems probable. I presume that these Holms were relatives, owned lairs in Kirkmichael and, seeing they were unlikely to utilise them themselves, passed them on at a price to Andrew. What Andrew did with them thereafter I know not, but I imagine some of the slabs with various initials and dates on them within Kirkmichael were those involved in the purchase!

“Andrew Holm, labourer and fisherman, Address: Ferrytown, Resolis, Cromarty” was also one of those parishioners named in the legal records as rioters at Resolis in the Disruption Riot of 1843. “John Holm, brother of Andrew Holm, Age: 60+, crofter, Address: Ferrytown, Resolis, Cromarty” was also named, but I do not think the case against him proceeded very far. Two statements made by Andrew to the authorities are set out below.

Andrew came to an unfortunate end, as reported in several newspapers of the time. This is from the Inverness Advertiser of 10 April 1855:

MELANCHOLY DEATH.‐ On Friday last a man named Holme, aged 60 years, and residing in Resolis, was sitting on the tram of his cart, when returning from a field to which he was driving some manure. One of the wheels coming unfortunately in contact with a dyke, the cart was overturned, inflicting on the man fatal internal injuries. Dr Macdonald of Resolis Mains was promptly in attendance, but nothing could be done to allay his sufferings. He died in three hours after.

His death certificate confirms it was the correct Andrew Holm, with the informant inevitably his nephew, John Holm of Wester Ferryton:

Andrew Holm, farm labourer, 67, born Ferrytown Resolis, parents John Holm farmer (d) & Mary Holm m.s. Fraser (d). Died 6 April 1855 Resolis, buried Churchyard of Kirkmichael, informant John Holm nephew.

The following are my transcripts of his statements made after the Resolis Disruption Riot in 1843. I have underlined some of the key sections, but the whole is of interest – some of the questions were loaded, and his answers judicious – not least that he had not heard the Riot Act being read.

JC26/1844/368 First Judicial Declaration of Andrew Holm, Labourer & Fisherman at Ferrytown. 6 October 1843
At Invergordon the sixth day of October one thousand eight hundred and forty three years: In Presence of George Cameron Esquire Sheriff Substitute of Ross and Cromarty shires at Tain Compeared Andrew Holm Labourer and Fisherman residing at Ferrytown, in the Parish of Resolis and County of Ross, who being Judicially examined and Interrogated Declares that the Declarant was at the Church of Resolis on thursday the twenty eighth day of September last, when the Minister of the Parish was to be settled. That there were a good many people, particularly strange gentlemen assembled near the Church on that occasion. That the Declarant does not know Colonel Baillie, Lord Lieutenant, or Mr. Jardine, the Sheriff of Rossshire, and he knew very few of the gentlemen who were present. That the gentlemen appeared to Declarant to wish to get to the Church. That there were several women present. That the Declarant had a small stick in his hand, and Mr James Duncan of Cromarty laid hold of it, and as the Declarant would not part with it, he pulled the Declarant down the Brae near the Church. That at this time Mr. Gillanders Provost of Fortrose, called to Mr Duncan to keep his hold, and Mr. Duncan and Mr. Gillanders were struck with stones, but the Declarant does not know by whom. That the Declarant did not strike any person that day with a stick or stone. That Declarant does not know the Minister by sight. That he saw a few men bearing guns or pistols, and the Declarant saw them fire in the direction of the people; but this was some considerable time after the Declarant had the struggle with Mr Duncan. That the Declarant did not see any gentleman read from a Book or Paper to the Crowd; but he saw the gentlemen driven away by the Crowd & prevented from entering the Church. That there were plenty stones flying about and the Declarant thinks the stones were thrown from both sides– that is, by the gentlemen and by the people. That the Declarant went to the ground about midday, and he was there all the time till the gentlemen were driven away. Declares that the Declarant did not strike any of the men who had the guns or pistols, nor see any other person strike them – that is to say altho' he saw them struck with stones he does not know by whom: that he is not acquainted with any of these men. All which he Declares to be truth. – Five words delete before signing.– And Declares that he cannot write.–

JC26/1844/368 Second Judicial Declaration of Andrew Holm Labourer & Fisherman at Ferrytown 12 October 1843
At Dingwall the twelfth day of October One Thousand eight hundred and forty three years:–
In Presence of John Jardine Esquire Sheriff of Ross and Cromarty. Again Compeared Andrew Holm, Labourer and Fisherman, residing at Ferrytown, of Resolis, and present Prisoner in the Parish of Dingwall, and the Declaration emitted by the Declarant, at Invergordon, on the sixth day of October current before George Cameron Esquire Sheriff Substitute at Tain being now again read over to him, Declares and adheres thereto in all points, and the same is now docqueted and subscribed by the Judge Examinator as relative hereto. And being further Interrogated Declares that Declarant did not on the occasion mentioned in his said Declaration, throw a stone at Mr. Gillanders Provost of Fortrose. That Declarant was in a stubble field to the east of the Church of Resolis sometime after one Oclock in the afternoon of the day referred to. That Declarant went there along with the rest of the Crowd to keep back the gentlemen from the Church. That Declarant did not, while in this field, lift a stone, being unable to do so from the effects of his previous struggle with Mr Duncan. And Declares that Declarant has nothing further to add to his said former Declaration. All which is truth, & Declares he cannot write. The foregoing Declaration written upon the two preceding pages by Robert Falconer Assistant Procurator Fiscal of Court, Dingwall, was freely and voluntarily emitted by Declarant who appears to be sober and of sound mind and the same being read over to him he adheres thereto in all points before these witnesses Mr. James Grigor Procurator Fiscal of Cromarty Shire, and the said Robert Falconer writer hereof.

“the Declarant was in a stubble field to the east of the Church of Resolis” – it is also in stubble in this modern shot, which is courtesy of Black Isle Images. The green fields at the top comprise the land of Wester Ferryton. The Holm brothers did not have far to come when joining the Riot.


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