The story of our rebel, John Ross, begins with a silver
"quaich" purchased in 1720 in Inverness to replace an earlier one whose small,
wooden staves had fallen into disrepair. The silversmith stamped his initials
"RI" on the base with the Hall-mark for Inverness "NS" and an exact
date letter "A" for 1720. On one of the handles, the initials of the owner
"AR" are etched slightly off centre. This cup has been passed down through the
generations from eldest son to eldest (surviving) son until the present day.
The oral (and written) tradition is that this
shallow ceremonial cup was presented to Alexander Ross, an eldest son, whose wife was
surnamed "Mann". Their eldest son was the John Ross of this tale, who was born a
year or so after the transfer of the Balnagown estate on April 17, 1711, when the
impoverished "Chief of the Ross Clan", having frittered away most of the
clan’s wealth, died without issue.
There is some evidence that a few members of the
family of Alexander Ross remained in "Calruichy" or Wester Calrichie in Kilmuir
Easter on today’s map. John Ross, however, trained as a mason and resettled on the
Black Isle at Chapletown in the Parish of Killearnan and married Margaret Ross.
Their single-roomed cottage of sod and heather was
built over a pit surrounded with a fieldstone base, and there was a small stone enclosure
for a peat-fire in the middle. The stark remains of a similar hut, occupied by John’s
grandson at Spital Shore, may be revisited even at the date of this writing . A couple of
stunted Rowan trees may yet be growing nearby the ruins, not far from the tidal flat of
black moss mud where the clear water of the Beauly River meets the brackish tide of the
John’s sister Mary Ross married Colin
McFarquhar, a servant at Burntown and Linnie on the Kilcoy Estate before serving at
Redcastle, which was barely one mile from Chapletown. Today the castle stands roofless, a
measure taken after World War II to avoid the higher rates (taxes).
Among the first baptisms less than a year after
Killearnan Church was built (in the shape of a cross), was "Chirstin - daughter of
John Ross mason in Chapletown and spouse Margaret Ross in presence of Colin McKenzie and
Kenneth McLennan both in Chapletown" on February 2, 1745. Chirstin, or Christine, was
their only child to be baptized in the church by reason of the events about to unfold.
Colin McKenzie, tacksman of Chapletown, would have
(as one of his duties) the task of rallying the male tenants to serve in battles for the
clan chief. In the mid-1700’s, he probably collected rents from the tenants. Colin
may have been a cousin or nephew of the McKenzie who owned both the Killearnan and Kilcoy
estates. Although Kilcoy remained a stronghold of the McKenzies, the ownership of the
Killearnan/Redcastle estate was transferred in 1825.
Fewer than 6 months after the baptism of Christine,
Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed on the sandy shore of Arisaig near Inverness and began
his wild attempt to regain his father’s title to the throne of Scotland. In the
County of Ross, the nominal 18th Chief of Clan Ross was Alexander Ross of
Pitcalnie. Like other members of the fragmented clan, he was a staunch Protestant, but
somewhat more tolerant of Jacobites than his father and definitely pro-Royalist or
Hanoverian in his public sentiments (unlike many plain clansfolk whose loyalties favoured
a Scottish King over a German one). In addition, Alexander’s uncle, Duncan Forbes of
Culloden, was Lord President of the Court of Session for King George II’s government
in London. With great difficulty, Duncan Forbes and the Pitcalnie chief raised a Ross
Independent Company to garrison the castle at Inverness.
The source of their difficulty was no lesser person
than Malcolm Ross, the eldest son of Alexander in the Pitcalnie line. This son was a
student at Aberdeen University, and he was soon caught up in the rebel ferment which arose
in that area. In tribal times, such high-spiritedness in a chief’s son earned clan
respect and support when he, in turn, became the chief. In these times, according to
Donald MacKinnon’s The Clan Ross, Malcolm’s actions would eventually
lead to disinheritance, the chieftainship falling to a half-brother. In view of
Malcolm’s concentrated efforts in the Dornoch countryside around Tain to force men
into following him as their rebel colonel, it is my belief that many in his
"army" lacked whole-hearted support.
The McFarquhars of Redcastle brought a strong
contingent from the Black Isle to join the forces of Lord Cromarty. Prior to the Battle of
Culloden on April 16th, 1746, several forays were undertaken and on the day
before the battle, about 200 of the force were ambushed between Skelbo and Dunrobin
Castles in Caithness. Only one-tenth at the most escaped to equally perilous Sutherland.
Thus, it came to be that "John Ross, Mason,
living in Chapletown of Redcastle in the Parish of Killearnan, County of Ross, went with
the Rebels to Sutherland". In those terms, he was named in A List of Persons
concerned in The Rebellion "transmitted to the Commissioners of excise by the
several Supervisors in Scotland in obedience to a General Letter of the 7th of
May 1746". The name of the eldest son of Alexander Ross of Pitcalnie was included in
the Supplementary List with Evidences to Prove the Same as follows: "Malcolm
Ross, Son to Pitcalny, of Ardboll in the Parish of Tarbet, County of Ross"; witnesses
included Andrew Ross (Excise Officer), Abner Gallie (Tenant in Tarbet Parish) and the
Laird of Cadboll..
John Ross evidently felt no need to remain in hiding
for long. The register for baptisms in the Parish of Killearnan contains the following
record: "September 18, 1749 – Margaret – daughter to Colin McFarquhar in
Burntown, servant, & to Mary Ross his spouse in the presence of Colin McKenzie,
tacksman in Chapletown, & John Ross, mason there." The second child, Alexander,
to Colin and Mary, was baptized on December 17, 1751, in the presence of the congregation.
On June 11, 1754, a daughter Florence, to Colin McFarquhar servant to Redcastle and to his
spouse Mary Ross was baptized in the presence of John Ross in Chapletown & Donald
McDonald servant to Redcastle.
Reverend Donald Fraser, minister of Killearnan
Church from April 11, 1744, to June 2, 1757, might have refused to baptize the children of
Colin and Mary if there was any hint that the name of Colin McFarquhar had been on any
supervisor’s list of Culloden rebels. Fortunately, descendants of John Ross left
plenty of clues as witnesses to baptisms (and their proximity to Chapletown), that one may
be certain that some of their names, in addition to Chirstin, were: David, Elspet, John
and Donald. David Ross married Isabel Dingwall and settled at Parkton, about one mile
north of Chapletown. Of particular interest is a baptismal record at Calrichie in the
Parish of Kilmuir Easter; only one son John to John Ross and Margaret McCulloch was
baptized on May 17, 1778, and this was witnessed by David Ross and Elspet Ross. Donald
Ross married Lilias Munro, and only one child, John, was recorded in the register for
Killearnan Parish, that being for a baptism at Parkton on January 28, 1782, witnessed by
The family of John Ross and Margaret Ross thrived.
The "rebel" received the silver quaich, and passed it on to his eldest son
David. A study of eldest sons reveals that another tradition was inherited (at least for
those born in Scotland). The first son and daughter of an eldest son bore the names of the
wife’s parents; the second son and daughter bore the names of the eldest son’s
parents. The same rule apparently did not hold true for sons born after the first, who
most frequently named their first son and daughter after their own parents.
Descendants of the ’45 Rebels may wear a White
Cockade when in Scottish attire. This is only one of many "colours", all of
which signify participation in a rebellion or revolution. A cockade is a rosette or knot
or some similar badge or device worn on the hat. The Orange Cockade was worn by supporters
of William III in 1688 (Wm. Of Orange). The Red Cockade was worn during the French
Revolution (1789 – 1794). The White Cockade was worn by supporters of the House of
Stuart, as Rebels of ’45.
- Earl of Roseberry, manuscript owner. "A List
of Persons Concerned in the Rebellion – Transmitted to the Commissioners of Excise by
the Several Supervisors in Scotland in Obedience to a General Letter of the 7th
May 1746 – And a Supplementary List with Evidences to Prove the Same".
Edinburgh: Universary Press, 1890. Pp. 80 – 81, 332 – 333.
- Killearnan Church Register. Records of
Births and Baptisms from 1744 on. General Register House, Edinburgh.
- Kilmuir Easter Parish Register.
"Extract of an Entry", etc. Births and Baptisms, 1778 and 1783. General Register
- MacKinnon, Donald. The Clan Ross.
Edinburgh: Johnston & Bacon, 1972. Pp. 32.
- Ross, J. Douglas. Published Manuscript: Our
Ross Family Story, 1978. Pp. 246+
- Prebble, John. Lion in the North. London:
Martin Secker & Warburgh Ltd., 1971. Pp. 344.
- Ross, John Alexander. Manuscript "History of
the Silver Cup". Minto Twp. May 28, 1962
- The New Statistical Account of Scotland
Vol. XIV, 1845. "Parish of Killearnan" pp 63-72.
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