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

The Origins of the Village of Chapelton or Newhall Point

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photos as given below each image

The attractive corner of the Black Isle known as Chapelton, or sometimes Newhall Point, or even just the Craggan, is a delight to those who come across it. The Point is the natural northern termination to RSPB reserve Udale Bay, and the car park at the Point is an excellent viewing location of the sweep of the Bay and the busy commercial life on the Cromarty Firth itself. Chapelton presents a curious and pleasing mix of quaint old buildings, modern residences and ruins. This Story explores some of the history of the Point and the families who have lived there.

Chapelton in 1932; image courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies

Chapelton lies just under a mile from Kirkmichael, along the shoreline. However, they were not connected directly by road until, as the settlement developed in the mid 1800s, a new road out to the public highway was built, shaving the northern boundary of Kirkmichael.

Chapelton from the air

The new road from Kirkmichael to Chapelton being planned

Development at the Point

There have been three phases of development at the Point, the first a thousand years ago. An early Christian chapel and burial ground came into use at the Point (remains have been dated to the 11th and 12th centuries), but were abandoned, perhaps when Kirkmichael was developed a short distance away in the early 1400s. The second phase of development was an initiative by the Newhall Estate in the late 1700s to create the “Village of Chapeltown”. Feu contracts were offered, with artisans like masons and tailors being encouraged to settle. This complemented the fishing, which would have been active from earliest times but which was developed in the late 1700s and early 1800s as an important enterprise for the Newhall Estate. It continued right up to the mid 1800s, but declined thereafter. A line of detached or semi-detached cottages was built along the north edge of the Point and just around the corner, towards Kirkmichael. Like most old houses on the north side of the Black Isle, the buildings faced away from the north winds so that the sunshine and shelter were on the far side from the road, and exposure to the north was limited to small windows. Several of the buildings were occupied by those associated with the fishing enterprise at the Point. As that dwindled in importance in the later 1800s, the settlement declined. As the 1900s progressed, many of the original buildings fell into ruins. It was towards the end of the 1900s that a third phase of residential development occurred and there is now a range of modern buildings both associated with the old feus and built on new ground. And yet in several locations the remains of walls of the feued buildings are a reminder of the original “Village of Chapeltown”.

The wall bases of the ruin at the east corner of Chapelton in 2006. Photo by Jim Mackay

Wall bases of the ruin at the west end of Chapelton, in 2006. Photo by Jim Mackay

As the name suggests, Chapelton back in the early days of Christianity held a chapel, and it was associated with a graveyard containing several hundred graves. The location of the chapel is shown on early Ordnance Survey plans, and a putative cross base was found in an adjacent garden (modern name “Moonrakers”). The cross base is now in the Groam House Museum store.

Chapelton as surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1872

Cross base found at Chapelton; photo by Jim Mackay

The Ordnance Survey Namebook of the 1870s states: “Site of Chapel. … This is the site of a Roman Catholic chapel, of which no dedicatory name could be obtained. It is situated at the east end of Newhallpoint, in a small piece of cultivated ground, and must have been surrounded by a grave yard, as, when the ground was being trenched, large unchiseled stones were dug up.” and “Chapel Well … This name is given to a spring well which is situated near the site of the Roman Catholic chapel at Newhallpoint, and which supplies the inhabitants of the place with water for domestic purposes.” Interestingly, Chapel Well obviously was not that reliable as nearby there was “Tea Well … This is a public spring well situated about a quarter of a mile south of Newhallpoint, and, being the only spring in the neighbourhood which does not get dry in the summer months, supplies Newhallpoint and Balblair with water for cooking.”

These entries should be read with caution as the Name Books are not that reliable. The people the surveyors asked for advice were often not representative of the area. For Chapelton they were James Smith, the coal merchant, from Aberdeenshire originally, Alexander Ferguson, the ground officer for the Newhall Estate, from Dingwall originally, and an R Urquhart, tenant, Chapelton, who must have been transient, as I have not located him in the census returns. Perhaps the surveyors could not converse with the locals given they would have been largely speaking Gaelic.

Nevertheless, support for the presence of chapel and burial ground emerged in the 1980s after permission had been granted for new housing and the digging equipment began to unearth skeletons. Subsequent investigations in the 1980s and 1990s of the burial area revealed ancient graves, about half of them featuring “head-sets”, where the head was enclosed by a block of stone on either side. Carbon dating gave dates of around the 11th and 12th centuries. A parallelogram of land 70 m by 70 m was subsequently scheduled (Newhall Point, chapel and burial ground, Balblair SM5950).

Local residents inspecting the archaeological dig at Chapelton

The head-sets to either side of the head in place in several of the graves

The remains are re-interred with a service

For more details on the ancient history of Chapelton, take a look at “Resolis ‘Slope of Light’ Guide to a Black Isle parish” available on the sales page of our website. But first…

Newhall Point, Chapelton Point or Craggan Point?

All these terms have been used over the years. Which came first?

Newhall did not exist before the late 1600s so Newhall Point as a name has to be of relatively recent origin. I see a reference to Newhall Point in 1820.

Chapelton (although referring to the pre-Reformation chapel that must have stood here once) seems to originate in the 1790s (I see a first reference in 1798) and I see Chapelton Point used in a document in 1813.

It may be that Craggan (Gaelic for small, rocky hill) outdates them all, but alas there is no early documentation to support this! I do know that when I was young, people would say they were going to “the Craggan” rather than any of the other terms in use. However, the first occurrence I see of Craggan Point in a document occurs in 1854. Let me know if you come across others! [And thank you to Eric Simpson, who has subsequently moved it back a bit by reference to the birth of John Innes, his Great Grandfather on 17th December 1850, his parents “Donald, Labourer, Craggan, and Harriett Ferguson his wife”.] And a further note, as I see in the 1825 Militia Roll for Resolis two lines: “John Holm Chapelton labourer >30 1 ch[ild] / John Holm Craggan labourer >30”. In 1825, then, the enumerator wished to distinguish between the two John Holms by describing one as of Chapelton and the other as of Craggan, so at the time there was that fine distinction.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.

The village was commonly called Chapelton in documents by the time the Ordance Survey published their maps re-christening it Newhall Point. There is no doubt that the alternative name was sometimes used, but Chapelton seems to have been the more common.

So when the Ordnance Survey recorded the local names in their often eccentric Namebooks in 1873, they described the village as “Newhallpoint”: “This name is given to a few dwelling houses, which are situated on the South side of the Cromarty Firth, opposite Invergordon, and at the north end of Udale Bay; they are all one story high, thatched and in fair condition.” They then go on to record “Chapelton” only in association with the farm: “This is a small farm house which lies a short distance south of Newhallpoint, and about a quarter of a mile east of Balblair Inn; it is thatched, has offices attached, and is but one story high.” Despite this, the Namebook itself gives the address of some residents as Chapelton! I think on balance that the Ordnance Survey got it wrong.

Auchinchapel, Chaplefield or Chapelton Farm?

Adam Hosack was the tenant at “Auchinchappel” according to Newhall Rentals starting with 1771, 1772 and 1776. By the 1790s he had been replaced by George Holm, with his location being given variously as “Auchinchappel” (field of the chapel), “Chaplefield” or even “Balblair”. But as we move into the 1800s, George is still farming there but the name of his location is now given as “Chapelton”. Chapelton Farm was thus once Auchinchapel or Chapelfield.

Birth of a village

The Newhall Estate began to develop the village of Chapelton through feu contracts. As a name it is mentioned in the 1798 Consolidated Tax records and in 1799 in the Resolis parish registers. However, I presume that the project commenced a few years before the name came into usage. Clearly the ancient burial ground and the chapel there indicated a previous settlement, which gave rise to the “Chapel” in Chapelton but it looks as if there was a deliberate attempt by the Newhall Estate at this time to create a new feued settlement. An extract of the sasine abridgements shows one set of these feu contracts in 1799 being recorded in the particular register of sasines. The occupations indicate the type of settlement that was being developed: farmer, boatbuilder, mason and tailor.

Study of the first families in the area reveals much about the development of Chapelton.

Thomas Mackenzie (c1763–1841+), Mason in Chapelton

One such family is detailed in our complementary Story, “The Mackenzie masons of Chapelton”

In 1799, Thomas Mackenzie from the neighbouring parish of Urquhart and Ferintosh purchased on feu contract land at Chapelton from the then laird of the Newhall Estate, George Lockhart Esquire. The property is currently known as “Rahira”. From the context of the feu contract, I think Lockhart had been developing Chapelton by attracting skilled artisans with the carrot of permanent occupancy. Permanent provided the payment of feu duties was kept up, of course! This is how planned villages like Jemimaville and Barbaraville were to be developed twenty years later. It had the advantages to the laird of a cash income regularly coming in through the feu duties and being able to remove the occupier if the feu duty was not paid. Lockhart was ahead of the game.

I say Lockhart, but probably the initiating force would have been his enterprising mother, Henrietta Gordon, before her demise that year. She had similarly founded Gordon’s Mill a few years earlier.

From the wording of the feu contract, Thomas had already built houses upon the land, so I think he must have moved from Urquhart in 1797 or 1798 directly to an arrangement with the Laird regarding the land in Chapelton. The 1799 document merely formalised the arrangement. The sasine to implement the 1799 document was registered in Inverness in 1807. From the wording, the properties on either side of Thomas’s, along the sea-front at Chapelton, were also feued.

All and Whole that piece of ground with the houses built thereon by the said Thomas Mackenzie upon the south side of the road leading along the sea shore in the Village of Chapeltown the said piece of ground Consisting of Sixty yards in length south from the said Road and of thirty yards in breadth bounded
by the said road on the North
by Alexander Munro’s feu on the West
by the Newhall property on the South and
by Margarat Fraser’s feu on the East
lying within the parish of Risolis and Sheriffdom of Ross with a right of Commonty in the Mulbuie till the same is divided

The modernised building for long associated with the Mackenzies, masons in Chapelton; photo by Jim Mackay

The 1799 feu was witnessed by two distinguished gentlemen:

In witness whereof these presents are written upon this and the two preceeding pages of Stampt paper by Robert Mackid writer in Fortrose and Subscribed by the said parties at Newhall [16 Aug 1799] before these witnesses David Urquhart Esquire of Braelangwell and Lieutenant Charles Lockhart of Newhall brother to the said George Lockhart Esquire (signed) Geo Lockhart Thomas Mackenzie Da: Urquhart witness Chas Lockhart witness

The Lockhart brothers were the children of Henrietta Gordon and her first husband, Commissioner Thomas Lockhart. Following the Commissioner’s death, Henrietta married David Urquhart of Braelangwell so all the witnesses were connected.

The feued property passed down through the Mackenzie family for the next 150 years.

George Holm (active 1785–1808) of Auchinchapel or Chapelfield

George Holm was already farming in the area when Chapelton became established. The 1798 Consolidated Tax records for Resolis (E326/15/7) sets out the tax duties as at November 1798 on several of the Chapelton inhabitants:

George Holm Farmer in Chaplefield 8 6
Thomas Mackenzie Mason Balblair 2 6
Alexr. Munro Tayler in Balblair 2 6

They show that George Holm had a much larger assessment than neighbouring feuers, tailor Alexander Munro and mason Thomas Mackenzie, due mainly to the taxable horses on the farm. But more than that, it contains one of the very few references to the farm of Chaplefield, or Auchinchappel (Auchinchapel and other variant spellings) in the part Gaelic version. There are a handful of references to the farmer of Chapelfield before the name Chapelton is found in the records, mostly in relation to George’s predecessor, Adam Hosack of Auchinchappel in the 1770s. The farm of course was not feued, so families came and went with their tenancies.

George Holm’s tablestone curiously enough does not lie in nearby Kirkmichael, but in Cullicudden, and states: 1799 / GH AM / John Holm Ann MacKay / in Chapeltown 1828

The tablestone commemorating the Holm family of Chapelton Farm – in Cullicudden burial ground; photo by Jim Mackay

Now, we know that George Holm of Auchinchapel was married to Anne Murray (so those are the initials), and their son John was baptised in 1785. And we have the following baptism of 10 January 1814 “John Holm farmer Chapeltown & Ann McKay – George” born 9 January and baptised 10 January 1814. I have never understood why they are in Cullicudden instead of Kirkmichael, although of course the Murray family were associated with Cullicudden. We have already described how the farm name of “Auchinchapel” or “Chapelfield” was replaced by “Chapelton” as the adjacent village developed, with George Holm the farmer being replaced in due course by his son John.

Alexander Munro (c1771–1841+)

The feu to the west of Thomas Mackenzie’s was owned by Alexander Munro. There are only ruined walls where the house stood, with the current house (“Spierfield”) being set further back.

The building on the site once owned by Alexander Munro; photo by Jim Mackay

Some of Alexander’s family remained in Chapelton for the rest of their lives. Their first child born there (“24 January 1799 – Alexander Munro taylor Chapel Town & Christian McKenzie – Janet”), was to die there in 1888, and her sisters were to die there as well, Christina Ross ms Munro in 1867 and Alexandrina Munro in 1883.

There is no doubt that those feued properties led to long-term tenure for the families purchasing them. These first families in were still there whilst tenancies had changed hands many times over. Later families too, like the Hogg family, once settled became anchored there.


The Newhall Estate, like many other estates bounding the Cromarty Firth, developed a salmon enterprise using stake-nets and yairs which was very profitable. For the Newhall Estate, this industry centred around Newhall Point, where a substantial net ran out from the Point, as seen in the 1837 and 1851 plans below.

The Old Statistical Account for Resolis, written in 1792, stated “Salmon, trout, skate, herrings, whitings, small cod, flounders of various kinds, cuttle-fish, needle-fish, cuddies, and a variety of smaller fry, are caught in the frith opposite to this parish, by hooks and nets, and also by yares (belonging to Newhall and Poyntzfield), in which cart-loads of herrings and other kinds of fish are sometimes found enclosed, after the tide leaves them” but by the time of the New Statistical Account, written in 1836, we have: “The fish caught in the Frith by stake-nets and yares, are chiefly salmon of excellent quality: They are sent to the London market. Skate and whitings or cuddies, are caught by nets laid during the silence of night.”

The Chapelton stake net in 1837; note no road to Chapelton from Kirkmichael (the kirkyard is indicated by a small square)

The remains of the Newhall Point stake net extend from left edge of picture at the water’s edge, partly submerged

The Chapelton stake net in 1851; note the road to Chapelton from Kirkmichael is now in place

The business was always a controversial one, with the proprietors of the Conon River fisheries lamenting that their stocks were being diminished by the activities in the Firth. Their litigation, based on ancient legislation, eventually put an end to the business. But even when it was profitable, there was strong antipathy between proprietors. The irascible Murdo Mackenzie of Ardross destroyed much of the equipment of James Grubb, who held the Newhall fishing tenancy and others around the Cromarty Firth. Grubb pursued Mackenzie in the courts in 1819. Grubb’s Newhall Fisheries books for 1816 can be seen in the Scottish Records (CS96/3082) and they are a treasure trove of information about the business, albeit in cryptic payments. You can see references to a “Boiling House” which must be the same as the “Boil House” that crops up in the Story involving John Holm, the Chapelton Feuer “H is for Holm”.

There is also much reference to salt – and whisky! Here are just a few extracts of interest:

Recd for 3 pecks of Liverpulle salt -.9.-
Decm 23 [1815] pd for a coble taking over the Ferry to the Newhall -.2.6
pd for nets Mirking 1.12.-
January 3rd 1816
pd for alowenes [allowances] for the men for the nets and meteriales taking out of the Newhall -.3.-
pd for neales [nails; a later entry is for neals and rivets] -.1.-
p for a bailer for the men -.9.-
pd for Men engagen for the fishen -.2.-
pd for men Anker Making -.5.-
pd for Whiskie for the nets -.6.-
pd for Alowanes for the Stakes Cuttin -.1.-
pd for Powader for the scales -.1.-
pd for fish shipping -.1.-
pd for stakes draving -.1.-
pd for nets draving to the West March net -.2.-
pd for Whiskie for the West March net -.3.-
pd for neales -.1.-
pd for Stakes draving -.2.-
pd for Whiskie for the Men at the nets -.1.4
pd for Whiskie for the Boiling house -.1.4

The substantial Chapelton Ice-house, built into the face of the raised beach; photo by Andrew Dowsett

The capacious interior of the ice-house; photo by Andrew Dowsett

Kirkmichael Trust guided tour of the ice-house more years ago than I like to think, courtesy of the Dowsett family; photo by Carlann Mackay

The activities of boiling and/or salting and placing in casks were complemented by the alternative of preservation by ice. In a document dated 14th November 1837, Colin Mackenzie of Newhall recorded: “Paid George Gillanders, merchant, Fortrose, tenant of Newhall stake net salmon fishings, proportion agreed to be paid by me, of the expense of building and erecting an ice house at Balblair for the benefit of said fishings – £40.”

The 1830s was late for construction of such an ice-house, and it has been conjectured by historians that the length of journey to Billingsgate, the principal market for salmon, was too great for the ice to last on board a sailing vessel. Only when regular steamship sailings from Invergordon were initiated in the mid-1830s could packing in ice become effective from the Cromarty Firth. Having said that, I note that the advertisement from 1820 below states that “There is besides, a quantity of ICE provided for immediate use” so perhaps this theory is incorrect, and there was an earlier ice storage facility. Anyway, for the modern ice-house constructed in 1837, ice from pools in the adjacent field was shovelled in through the hatch in the roof. The thick walls of the vaulted, single-chamber icehouse and its location sunk into the northern bank of the raised beach insulated the ice for use through until August/September. Like other ice-houses of the period it is thick-walled and built into the hillside, but even so straw was used as insulation to keep the ice as cold as possible. That ice-house became an important selling point when the Estate was seeking new tenants.

The equipment and nets of James Grubb are sold at Newhall Point; Inverness Courier 27 January 1820

The rental of the fishing being advertised in the Press and Journal 25 December 1850 – note the emphasis on the ice-house

The rental of the fishing being advertised in the Inverness Courier of 30 November 1854 – note the use of the term “Craggan Point”.

The trades and fish enterprises dwindled away, and Chapelton became instead a quiet backwater, a pleasant location for folk to retire to. There was the convenience of the Balblair to Invergordon Ferry only half a mile away, the Balblair Ferry Inn, a shop and Post Office at the top of the brae, and a pleasant ambience to the Point. A new pier was promoted in the 1890s for the Balblair Ferry either at Ferryton Point or Chapelton Point, but did not materialise. However, a pier to facilitate shipping of Black Isle timber by wood merchant William Gunnyon Wylie (1878–1945), who resided at Ballicherry in his latter years, was erected. When it was removed I know not, nor what it looked like, but I do know that there is a photograph of it somewhere which I have not yet been able to put my hands on!

Chapelton of course was a great vantage point to view the British Fleet when it was in the Firth, and there is an excellent picture from the top of the icehouse looking out over Craggan house to the Fleet. Not unconnected with this, was a strange story of a torpedo discovered at Newhall Point in 1904, as reported in the Ross-shire Journal of 12th February of that year:

Torpedo Found near Cromarty.– About two years ago, when the vessels of the Home Fleet, under Admiral Sir Gerard Noel, were anchored off Cromarty, torpedo practice was engaged in inside the firth. One of the torpedoes was lost, and although diligent search was made at the time, no trace of it could be found. With the exceptionally high tides at present, the sea opposite Newhall Point recedes to a great distance, and while a labourer was, through curiosity, traversing the sands near the water’s edge, he came upon the torpedo embedded in a sandbank. He got assistance, and had it conveyed to the beach, and informed the Coastguard station at Cromarty, under whose charge it now lies.

The beachcomber was to be rewarded for his diligence, as reported in the Ross-shire Journal of 11th March 1904:

Macrae, the crofter at Newhall point, who found the torpedo in the sand, which turned out to have been lost from the fleet, has been awarded by the Admiralty £20 for finding it, and £5 for taking charge of it until it was handed over to H.M.S. Sappho a fortnight ago when lying at anchor off Invergordon.

Chapelton nowadays has a number of comfortable new houses, several in the grounds of the original feus, but still retains many of the original sandstone buildings. A few low walls show where some of the old houses once stood. Here are a few final notes on some of the old houses at Chapelton.

Chapelton Cottage (modern name “Arklow”)

Most of the inhabitants of Chapelton along with other nearby residents and some relatives from further afield in Resolis can be seen in the wedding photograph of Alexander Mackay and Marion Whiteford Holm at Chapelton Cottage from 11th June 1915. Two variant copies of this photograph are extant, one with and one without local “character” Davy “Gow” with naval cap sitting cross-legged at the front. It recently (April 2019) came to light, when Friend of Kirkmichael Mrs Catriona Gillies dug out the originals and turned them over, that these photographs were taken by Cullicudden photographer Donald Fraser, the subject of a Story behind the Stone in his own right.

The wedding outside the eastern section of Chapelton Cottage in 1915; photo by Donald Fraser, Cullicudden, and image courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies

Chapelton Cottage historically held two families, and a second doorway out to the roadside was inserted below the sandstone lintel of the easternmost, lower window. This second door does not appear in the picture of Chapelton Cottage of 1915, and it was removed and the window restored by the 1990s.

The western doorway was protected for much of the 20th century by a wooden porch, but I note that nowadays, the porch having long gone, a wall stone above the doorway which presumably would have borne at least a date has emerged.

A second doorway inserted to the north of Chapelton Cottage, and note the porch protecting the main door

The frontage of Chapelton Cottage with an eroded wall stone above the doorway; photo by Jim Mackay

Craggan Cottage

Mrs Catriona Gillies ms Macdonald of North Kessock is a long-standing Friend of Kirkmichael, and as a child lived in Craggan Cottage. The grand-daughter of ferryman Willie Ross and his wife Isabella Melville, she has provided me over the years with many images of people and places around Resolis and the Black Isle. Craggan Cottage has held many residents, including Catriona’s family, seen here in the early 1900s provided by Catriona. Note the only gutter on the building was to carry water away from the doorway!

The Ross family at Craggan Cottage, on the southern, garden side; image courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies

Craggan Cottage in 2006 – since that time the building has been harled so the sandstone is no longer visible; photo by Jim Mackay

Craggan House

Just around the bend towards Kirkmichael is Craggan House. On the first edition 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1872), the house on the plot where Craggan House now stands was further back on the plot than the modern building.

Craggan House; photo by Jim Mackay

Craggan House was for long the home of H.D. (Hugh Duncan) and Lilian Fraser. Hugh originally resided in Rowan Cottage in Cullicudden, where he started his transport business which was to grow to considerable size over the years, necessitating the erection of the distinctive large shed to the south side of the road, across from Ferryton. The cream and green livery of his lorries, emblazoned with his motto “Any Ware, Anywhere”, could be spotted on the road network all across Britain.

HD on left whilst moving the wee house that still stands in the grounds at Easter Alness Ferry, with David Holm, Easter Alness Ferry, and young Tommy Holm on the right

The shed formerly used for storage of the HD lorry fleet; photo by Justin Focus

HD in 1962 at the parish tercentenary celebration

The house of Fanny Hogg (1861–1940) (site now known as “Moonrakers”)

A well-known Chapelton resident was Fanny Shaw Hogg, the daughter of fisherman Donald Hogg and his wife Margaret Reid who arrived in Chapelton from Cromarty back in 1859 or earlier. Fanny was born, lived and died at Chapelton. After the demise of her parents, Fanny shared the cottage with several of her siblings, including her brother, salmon-fisher James, but outlasted them all by quite a margin. From the Inland Revenue survey of the 19teens, the Hogg house is revealed to be the nearest one to Kirkmichael, and at that time was a thatched cottage comprising kitchen, room and closet, in general condition “poor”.

The home of Fanny Hogg, now charmingly modernised; photo by Jim Mackay

Fanny’s name crops up quite often as she was the informant at the registrar’s on the deaths of several of the Chapelton residents. She never made a mistake, unlike so many others who make the family historian’s life a misery! And I note her honesty in the following advert drawn from the Ross-shire Journal of 18th January 1895:

Sum of Money Found in vicinity of Balblair (Resolis), in December last.– Apply, Fanny Hogg, Newhall Point, Invergordon.

On right, Willie Ross of Craggan Cottage, ferryman at Balblair; photo courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies

Fanny Hogg in 1915; photo by Donald Fraser, Cullicudden, courtesy of Mrs Catriona Gillies

Other early residents of Chapelton – John Holm (1759–1841+), Feuer

We do not know which properties at Chapelton were owned by John Holm who married Isobel Barnet (c1760–1841+), but he must have purchased them early in the life of the village. We know this as the 1812 trial proceedings for the murder of Captain Charles Munro of Chapelton described the family as: “John Holm Feuar in Chapelton in the Parish of Risolis and County of Ross Isobel Barnet or Holm Spouse to the said John Holm and Mary Holm Daughter to the said John Holm”. He described the feu later, in 1833, when successfully making a case for himself as a voter owing to his ownership of these properties:

John Holm Feuar Residing at Chapeltown of Newhall as Proprietor of all and whole that piece of ground in the Village of Chapeltown of Newhall consisting of 60 yards in length and 30 yards in breadth with the dwelling house built thereon and Garden & Ground thereto belonging. And also all and whole that other piece of ground of equal length & breadth adjoining to & lying to the north of the land first above mentioned together with the dwelling home, Boil house, Barn, stable & Byre with the Gardens pertaining to the said subjects.

His will, dated in 1826 (long before his death, as he lived past the 1841 census) sets out how he wished his property disposed of:

Whole Subjects to be Liferented by his present wife Isobel Barnet – and at her Death – the House called the Boil House to belong to my two unmarried Daughters Mary & Helen while they remain so, or to the one remg unmarried – Also at her Death the whole Subjects with the Above Exception to be Divided equally among the whole of my married Daughters in equal shares, except that my Son in Law Wm Hogg shall have equal to 2 Shares – I Expressly require that no part of my Subjects heritable or moveable Shall be given to my Son John Holm on acct of his disregard of my commands at his Marriage [illegible word] and should my oldest son David be in life, on return to this Country that he shall have & Enjoy the full half of the Heritable Subjects the Other Half to be Divided as above stated among my other Living Daughters at the time of my wife’s Death.

The valuation roll of 1855 shows three properties at Chapelton owned by his relatives! One is indeed owned and occupied by “M. & H. Holm” so that is the “Boil House”. Another is owned and occupied by “Margaret Home”, but she was the daughter of a John Holm and Ann McKay, and hence is not relevant in this case. And two are owned, although not occupied, by “David Home” so it would appear he returned to the Country long enough to take up the full half of the Heritable Subjects!

It would be interesting to follow the Valuation Rolls through to more modern times to discover which of the properties at Chapelton had been the curiously-named “Boil House” which Mary and Helen Holm inherited.

Other early residents of Chapelton – Captain Charles Munro (–1812) and Robert Ferguson (1771–1812)

It seems unfortunate to group these two together, given that the former was murdered by the latter, but we know they lived close to each other at Chapelton. That was the problem. Captain Charles, who was married to Braelangwell’s natural daughter Sophia, was a fiery headstrong fellow, and there had been bad feeling between him and Ferguson for 18 months. The latest incident arose from a dispute between the Captain and Robert Ferguson’s wife over the privilege of her grazing her cow on pasture near the ferry. Robert complained to the laird about the Captain who did not take this well. They met up at the smiddy close to Kirkmichael, and an altercation began which, on 2nd June 1812, resulted in the death of the Captain and the absconding of Robert. The full story can be found in “Resolis ‘Slope of Light’ Guide to a Black Isle Parish”, found on our sales page.

The only witness adduced in Ferguson’s Exculpation was John Holm, Feuer in Chapletown, by whom “it was expected to prove a hot and intemperate disposition in the deceased”. He deponed that Capt. Munro “was a warm-hearted man, although rather rash when any thing vexed him.”

We know that the Captain and his family lived in one of the Chapelton properties owned by John Holm, as a year later in 1813 John Holm set in motion eviction proceedings (SC24/4/1) against Sophia, the Captain’s widow.

Whereas it is humbly meant and shewn to me by John Holme Chappeltoun Point That where the Complainer is proprietor of a House and Garden lying at Chappeltoun Point Parish of Risolis – and County of Cromarty … And true it is that Sophia Urquhart Widow of the late Charles Munro Captain in the 42 Regiment of foot is Tenant and Possessor of a House and Garden lying at Chappeltown Point Parish and County aforesaid whose lease expires at the term of Whitsunday next Therefore the said Sophia Urquhart ought and should be decerned and ordained to flit and remove herself, family servants cottars and dependants goods & gear forth and from the said House and Garden

But which one Robert Ferguson, boatbuilder, lived in I know not. He is described as “a Prisoner in the Tolbooth, lately residing at Chapeltown” and apart from his house being within 60 yards of the Captain’s we learn nothing further.

The Postal Round in the 1930s and 1940s

The postal round of James Michael, postman in the 1930s and 1940s, was captured (thank goodness!) by his son Alan J. Michael. The family lived in the easternmost cottage of the three Balblair Ferry Cottages and this is how he described the journey, with my notes in italics.

East to the Craggan.
The first house [this will be the property now known as “Rahira” as I think all the houses west of it would be ruinous at this time] was occupied by Johnny Young, a carpenter, his wife, a schoolteacher, and their two daughters, Lella and Allison.
Next door was a Mrs Anderson [this will be the west half of Chapelton Cottage], widow of the late Dr Anderson.
In the other half of the house [this will be the east half of Chapelton Cottage] was Jamie Barnetson and his wife, with their son Donnie who later set up a shop on the main road at Auchmartin.
Next house [Craggan Cottage] was occupied by Willie Ross, his wife, and two daughters, Carrie and Teena. Willie worked a small croft and was later to become the ferryman.
Round the corner was a big house [Craggan House] occupied by a Lizzie Urquhart, a relative of the Craigens of Kirkton Farm – she seemed to be of independent means.
Next door in the wee cottage [this must be Fanny Hogg’s old house] lived Wills Young, a shepherd, and his wife.
Round the bay past Kirkmichael Churchyard we come to Gordons Mills…


The Kirkmichael Trust has a close association with Chapelton, not just through geographical proximity, but also through the unwavering support and assistance of the Dowsett family, who reside at Scoulag at Chapelton, with the famous ice house in their back garden. Through volunteering at Kirkmichael, “manning” the Kirkmichael stand at countless public events and expertly photographing features or works at Kirkmichael, Lilah and son Andrew have been active on the project since its very inception. Thank you Lilah and Andrew!


Click here to return to the Story behind the Stone gallery