"The language of the natives is Gaelic, and the
greatest portion of the inhabitants can receive religious instruction through no other
medium. The Gaelic, however, may be considered as on the decline. Nearly the whole of the
young people understand and speak English well. And of late years, and in consequence of
the new system of farming introduced, converting large tracts of land into one farm,
strangers have come amongst us, who do not under-stand Gaelic, and must therefore bring
along with them from other parts servants who can understand them."
The Reverend John Kennedy (Parish of Killearnan, Black
In 1829, a large number of cotters were evicted from
their run-rig farms on the Redcastle estate on the Black Isle. Allegedly this was done in
order to create larger, more efficient ones run by factors. However, an indebtedness
towards Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy is suggested. Apparently the clearances upon this
3795-acre estate were peaceful. In spite of the depopulation of his Redcastle estate in
the Parish of Killearnan, he made an effort to resettle many families on his Kilcoy estate
and some properties in the neighbouring Parish of Knockbain. Indeed, he had most
generously encouraged strangers, who had been expelled from various parts of the
Highlands, to settle on his portion of the late Mill-Bui commonty and on other woodlands
on his property of Tore. He generously offered five pounds Stirling for every Scots acre
improved and a very liberal rent-free grant of such lands during the balance of the leases
covering nineteen to twenty-one years. Cleared lands were rented at up to two pounds per
William Young was born on April 6, 1806, to parents
Roderick Young and Helen Davison. In 1838, William Young could afford a small tract of
land at Drumdmittal, Parish of Killearnan on the Black Isle. He met Isabella Ross (born in
March of 1821) whose family had resettled on an eighteen acre site at the Shore of the
Drynie Estate, Parish of Knockbain on the Black Isle. William Young and Isabella Ross were
married on January 7, 1842.
During the Crimean War (1853 – 1856), the
supply ships continued to arrive from Canada, only to return with their hold packed with
emigrants. Nor was the mail halted, as the schedules of the mail ships to and from the
Port of Quebec were regularly published in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Details of four prior emigrations involving members of the Ross family at
‘Redhas’ on the Shore of Drynie above Kilmuir on the Black Isle were known. The
resettlement in Scott Township of Ontario County and the land sales in Minto Township of
Wellington County were read over and over. Insofar as we are aware, none of these letters
survive to the present day, but we may be assured that 4,000 miles and high postal rates
did not prevent either group from maintaining contact. Highlights of family news, good and
bad, were undoubtedly exchanged, and it would take little imagination to list the topics
of such letters.
As the Crimean War ended, serious thought was being
given to the fifth, and largest Ross family exodus. On May 4th, 1857, William
Young was given a recommendation signed by James Cameron, Factor for Kilcoy, which stated
that William had ‘occupied a possession’ at Drumsmittal for nineteen years under
When the Young family was making plans to go to
Canada, the parents of Isabella Ross, Alexander Ross and Margaret Noble, were going to be
so lonely that they left their second daughter Margaret (born September 4, 1845) with her
grandparents. She and they, with her aunt Catharine Ross, emigrated three years later,
this being the balance of a ten year extension on their original twenty-one year lease
Isabella’s younger brother Roderick arranged a
hasty elopement with his sweetheart, Christy Junor, and they joined the departing family
of William Young and Isabella Ross [with their children: Helen (born January 12, 1843),
Roderick (born January 9, 1848), Isabella (born February 13, 1850), and Elizabeth (born
October 18, 1853)]. This wave of emigrants proceeded to Glasgow by way of the Caledonian
Canal, obtained passport certificates at Murray’s Emigration Office, and booked
passage at the docks.
There is a family tale in the branch of Roderick
Ross and Christy Junor that Roderick was working as an expert with horses on the estate of
a Cameron "laird", and jilted another girl when he eloped with Christy (who was
slightly over two months pregnant at the time). The jilted girl’s parents caught up
with him at the docks in Glasgow and descended like a swarm of angry hornets, taking all
of his worldly goods and possessions. Roderick and Christy were then allowed to board the
On May 19th, 1857, our kinfolk were among
the 500 passengers who sailed aboard the 904-ton ship called "John McKenzie".
This sailing vessel had been built in Nova Scotia in the year 1846 for Stewart and Company
of the Port of Greenock, where the ship was registered. Prior to this voyage, the
ship’s captain, Master Blennerhasset, sailed into Clyde (the Port of Glasgow) from
New Orleans on April 11th, 1857. The "John McKenzie", after a five-week voyage,
finally arrived at the Port of Quebec on June 25th, and all passengers disembarked at the
Customs Sheds. The ship sailed for Clyde once again on August 3rd, 1857.
After making their way through the immigration sheds
at Quebec, most passengers were subsequently transferred to two smaller craft for the
remaining trip to the Port of Montreal, where they could make connections with
lake-steamers if their destination was Ontario (Canada West/Upper Canada) or beyond.
Our kin, however did not take this customary route
because Isabella Ross was expecting her sixth child and a train trip on the recently
constructed Grand Trunk Railway was naturally more appealing than the prospects of further
transportation by water. Evidently, Roderick Ross (aware of his own wife’s pregnancy)
came up with some well-hidden cash and said, "If the Youngs can afford to take the
train, so can we."
Before Montreal was reached, our families had good
reason to consider their fortunate choice of transportation. They learned that one of the
small craft was destroyed by fire on the St. Lawrence River. Of all passengers, only one
twelve-year-old boy was saved from burning or drowning. Surnamed "Douglas", his
daughter would later marry Dr. John A. Bell who was the family doctor of the Youngs when
they resettled in Sarnia, Ontario, many years later. Meanwhile, the train proceeded
without incident to the GTR station at Whitby, Ontario, and the families headed north by
dirt trails to the first Ross family homesteads in Scott Township..
Colin Davison Young, the sixth child of Isabella
Ross and William Young, was born in the log cabin of Alexander Ross and Janet
"Jessie" Fraser on July 21st, 1857, almost one month after their arrival in
Margaret Ann Ross, daughter of Roderick Ross and
Christy Junor, was born on December 4th, 1857, in the log cabin of Donald Ross
and Mary Ann Madill. (Donald had just purchased the western half of older brother
Alexander Ross’s 200-acre plot during the previous year.) Margaret Ann Ross was
baptized on February 1st, 1858, by Reverend William Cleland of the Quaker Hill
Helen Young, while celebrating her ninetieth
birthday, delighted in telling about her family’s trek to Minto Township of
Wellington County, Ontario. "My father and I walked from Scott Township, east of
Toronto, to Minto Township in Wellington County, near Guelph. The trip required about five
days tramping through the bush by way of Newmarket, Orangeville and Fergus. There were no
roads and the journey was more tedious because my father took along a cow." (A silent
Gaelic "H" explains the Canadian records in which her name was entered as
When the daughter (Margaret Young), who had been
left with her grandparents, arrived three years later, she complained "that she
couldn’t run and play with other children on the ship because they had sewn gold
coins in the seams of her skirts which weighed her down".
- Dinon, T. M., Librarian, Lloyd’s of London.
Reply and documents sent on March 2, 1978.
- KILLEARNAN CHURCH REGISTER- KILLEARNAN CHURCH REGISTER. Records of
Births and Baptisms from 1744 on. General Register House, Edinburgh.
- Kennedy, Mr. & Mrs. Melvin. "Records from
the Quaker Hill Presbyterian Church", Uxbridge, Ontario. Letters received August 3rd
and October 3rd, 1977, in response to requests for data.
- Prebble, John. LION IN THE NORTH. London:
Martin Secker & Warburgh Ltd., 1971. Pp. 344
- Ross, J. Douglas. Published Manuscript: OUR
ROSS FAMILY STORY, 1978. Pp. 246+
- Ross, Warren. Traditional oral family tale, August
2, 1976. Corroborated and extended by John Donald Ross and Alexander William Ross, all of
Minto Township, August 1, 1977.
- SARNIA OBSERVER- SARNIA OBSERVER, Sarnia, Ontario, c.
January 13, 1933. An article, "Pioneer Sarnia Woman Celebrates Ninetieth Birthday in
Good Health", sent by Isobel M. Cruikshank on February 1, 1978.
- THE NEW STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF SCOTLAND
- THE NEW STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF SCOTLAND
Vol. XIV, 1845. "Parish of Killearnan" pp 63-72.
- Young, Isabel Mae (Cruickshank). Xeroxed copies of
the "Family Register" from the Bible of Roderick Young and Isabella Ann Fraser,
received during her visit on January 4th, 1978.
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