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Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times and Other Papers
Chapter VI. The "Kings" of Kingussie - The Clarks of Dalnavert - The Material Ancestors of Sir. John A. MacDonald

32. Headstone.

“Sacred to the memory of John King, late of this place, merchant, who died 23rd June 1863, aged 86 years ; also Elizabeth King, his wife, who died 24th August 1856, aged 68 years.”

WILLIAM KING, the father of this John King, was distinguished by the old natives as An Righ (the King), and the son John as Am Prionnsa (the Prince), their respective wives being called Bean an Righ (the King’s wife), and Bean a’ Phrionnsa (the Prince’s wife). Like the son, the father also attained an advanced age, and was noted for his pawky humour and mother-wit. Paul Campbell, merchant, Kingussie, a much respected and intelligent native, well versed in the old folk-lore of the district, tells some very amusing stories of the Kings. On one occasion King went to the shop of his son and said to his daughter-in-law that if she gave him some tobacco to fill his spleuchan he would tell her a secret that would please her very much. The desired favour being granted, and her curiosity to learn the secret being greatly excited, he whispered in her ear, “’Nur chriochas a’ bhean agamsa bithidh tusa do bhanrigh” (“When my wife dies you’ll be queen”). Meeting one day some of the boys of Kingussie, who had caught a badger, which they were kicking about like a football, he exclaimed, “A bheothaichean bochd, ’s furasd aithneachdainn nach ami a Chlann a Mhuirich thu, oir cha’n fhaigheadh tu cho liuthad breab an Cinn-cC-ghiuthsaich” (“Poor beastie! it’s easily known you don’t belong to the Macphersons, or you would not get so many kicks in Kingussie”)* For some time King served with the Gordon Fencibles at Aberdeen. As a matter of convenience in the way of catering for the men they were formed into squads of five. Each man of the five was obliged to take his turn in attending to the cooking of the necessary supplies of food, for which the money was regularly paid every morning to the cook for the day of each squad. On one occasion, when it fell to King’s lot to act as cook, he and his companions, in place of purchasing the usual supply of beef, surreptitiously spent the money in regaling themselves with a supply of mountain-dew. When the dinner-hour was drawing near, King found himself minus the stipulated quantity of beef to serve his squad, and was in a regular quandary as to the means of escape from the usual punishment. The mess-officer would soon be round, and unless the prescribed supply of beef was found in the pot the delinquents were relegated to a prolonged period of fasting in the guardhouse. But King’s native wit did not desert him. He remembered that a pair of chamois breeches, belonging to a major of their company, were hanging within easy reach. These King immediately procured, filled his pot with water, rammed in the breeches, and had them beautifully boiling and simmering all over before the officer appeared on his round of inspection. On the officer’s arrival he found King standing in front of the fire, and beaming with as many smiles as if he had the best round of beef in Aberdeen in his pot. “ Good pot to-day, King ? ” says the officer. “Yes, sir! splendid pot, sir! ” responded King, at the same time turning round and raising the lid of the pot a little under the pretence of satisfying the officer as to the excellent dinner the squad had in prospect. Taking it for granted that the pot contained the genuine article, the officer, to King’s relief, turned away without further inquiry or inspection, congratulating King on the good dinner he had provided. After he returned to Kingussie King frequently related the story with great glee, always remarking at the end, with a merry twinkle, “Agus cha robh ni ’sat’ phoit ach briogais a’ mhaidsear” (“And there was nothing in the pot but the major’s breeches”).

John (the son of William King), one of the original feuars of Kingussie, and for a long period the leading merchant in the place, inherited no small share of the father’s humour and love of fun. On one occasion King and John Grant, a well-known dyer in the place, both inveterate snuff-takers, happened to be in the Kingussie Moss together casting peats. To his dismay Grant found that his supply of snuff had run short, and he continued to cast longing eyes on the well-filled mull of his neighbour. As if to excite Grant’s feelings all the more, King regaled himself with a pinch more frequently than was his wont. “Well,” at last exclaimed King, in response to Grant’s entreaties, “if you solemnly promise to do my first bidding I shall give you half of what is in my mull.” In joyful anticipation of being supplied with sufficient to meet his longings for the time, Grant cheerfully gave the desired promise. King then poured out a quantity of snuff into Grant’s mull. “Have you got the half now?” said King. “Yes, yes!” thankfully responded Grant. “Well, now,” said King, before Grant had time to take a single pinch, “remember your solemn promise to do my first bidding; just pour the snuff back to my mull again.” Poor Grant felt constrained to comply, and much to his own chagrin and the enjoyment of his waggish neighbour, whose love for such pleasantries, with all his warm-heartedness, was incorrigible, had to chew the cud of keen disappointment until he returned to Kingussie the same evening. Driving up to the peat-moss one day with his horse and cart, King gave “a lift” up to Glengynag to Donald Campbell (the eldest son of the well-known bard of Kingussie), then quite a young lad, now, like his brother Paul, an esteemed and prosperous merchant in Kingussie. After the usual friendly greeting, King took his snuff-mull out of his pocket, and after helping himself to a pinch, exclaimed in the native vernacular, “An gabh thu snaoisean, mo ghiullan?” (“Will you take a snuff, my lad?”) “‘Gabhaidh, ma ’s e ur toil e,’ arsa an giidlan” (“‘Yes, if you please,’ says the lad”) “I Glan do, shroin mata,’ arsa am prionnsa” (“‘Clean your nose then,’ says the Prince”). Campbell, with the simplicity of youth, regarding the old man as quite serious, at once did as he was bidden. “‘Am beil thu cinnt gu’m beil do shron glan a nis?’ arsa am Prionnsa” (“‘Are you sure your nose is clean now?’ says the Prince”). “‘Tha, cho glan ri ni,' arsa an giullan” (“‘Yes, as clean as anything,’ says the lad”). “‘A nis,’ arsa am Prionnsa, ‘bu mhor am beud do shron bhoidheach ghlan a shalachadh le snaoisean grannda. Cha toir mi dhuit idir e’” (“‘Now,’ says the Prince, ‘it would be a great pity to dirty your bonny clean nose with nasty snuff. I’ll not give it to you at all’”).'

Donald King, one of John King’s sons, and an enthusiastic Highlander, has been for many years one of the chief officials in the old and well-known banking-house of Messrs Twining & Company, London. A daughter is married to an equally patriotic Highlander, Mr H. F. Cum-ming of Chatham, Ontario. A grandson (John King Macdonald) is the cashier in Glasgow of that gigantic and enterprising concern the Singer Manufacturing Company, of which a very prosperous native of Badenoch, and generous benefactor of the Free Church in Kingussie (George R. Mackenzie of New Jersey), now one of the “men of mark” in America, is one of the principal partners, and was for many years the esteemed president of the Company.1


33. Flatstone.

“Margt- McBain, died March 4th, 1826, aged 14 years.”

This young girl was a daughter of Donald M'Bain (known as Domh-null Uilleam), sometime a shepherd in Glengoynack, and a niece of the May M‘Bain mentioned in the next inscription.

34. Headstone.

“To the memory of John Fraser, Carpenter, who died at Lynchat on 2nd
January i860, aged 80 years; and his Spouse, May McBain, who died 16th
February 1868, aged 88 years.

“This stone is erected by their son-in-law, Duncan Robertson.”

Born at Aird, near Beauly, on the Lovat estate, Fraser learned his trade at Inverness. Coming to Belleville early in the present century to erect a threshing-mill, he got happily married, and settled down in the place, and was for fully half a century a faithful and valued servant on the Belleville estate. Of the worthy old man it might truly be said that he was “one of Nature’s gentlemen.” A more guileless, gentle, and kind-hearted old couple than he and his wife I have never known.

35. Flatstone.

“Here lies the remains of Lachlen Mackenzie, who died at Drimgallovie,
27th Octr. 1825, aged 67 years.”

This Lachlen Mackenzie, who resided for some time at Aultlarie, near Ballachroan, acted for many years as postrunner in the district, and was familiarly known as Am Post Ban (The fair-haired Post). A remarkably keen sportsman, he was frequently one of Captain Macpherson of Bal-lachroan’s attendants in the chase. It is related that Mackenzie, when one of the captain’s hunting-party at Gaick, some time previous to the sad catastrophe of the Christmas of 1800, received a mysterious warning to the effect that if he desired his life prolonged he would do well not to return to Gaick again. Being asked by the captain to accompany him on the ill-fated hunting expedition to the same place, when the captain and his four attendants perished, Mackenzie, so the story runs, took to his bed, pretending that he was sorely afflicted with colic, and thus escaped, by what some supposed to have been a supernatural interposition, the terrible disaster which overwhelmed his friends.

‘The last Christmas of the century, Late, late may it come again;
There came no pleasure in its train, But anguish and sorrow.

Awake before your locks are grey, Quicken your footsteps on the moor, See that your shelter is secure Ere dawneth to-morrow.”

36. Headstone.

“In remembrance of Donald MacEdward, Feuar and Merchant, Kingussie, who died 15th Septr. 1843; and his Relict, Margaret Macintosh, who died 17th March 1854; also Margaret MacEdward, daughter of Donald MacEdward, who died 22d April 1822.”

Mr and Mrs MacEdward were for many years well known in the district, and were both noted for their force of character. Their daughter, Mrs Jessie Cameron, who happily still survives, and possesses a still more marked individuality, has long been regarded as one of the “old landmarks” of Kingussie, and esteemed as the constant and warm-hearted friend of natives of Badenoch all over the world. In 1866, when Kingussie was formed into a burgh, her worthy husband, Mr Duncan Cameron, who died in February 1877, and is interred in the New Churchyard there, was appointed its first chief magistrate, and he continued to discharge the duties of that office with much acceptance down to the date of his death.

37. Flatstone.

“Here lies the remains of Angus Kennedy, who died at Gordonhall, Septr.,

13th day, 1825, aged 66 years.”

Of this Angus Kennedy it is said that after he entered the married state “olive-branches” appeared in such close succession as to occasion no small discomfort and hardship to his wife and himself. So much in consequence were they pitied by the maiden lady, whose father (Mr Mitchell) possessed the farm of Gordonhall at the time, that she actually took steps to have the couple effectually separated for a whole year. Not more, however, than nine months had gone by after the period of probation had expired, than, to the utter consternation of the worthy lady, twins appeared on the scene, and her well-meant attempt to check the too rapid rise of young Kennedys was given up in despair. After old Kennedy’s death the family left the district and went abroad.

38. Flatstone.

“Donald Forbes, 1773.”

39. Headstone (at the head of No. 38).

“Margaret Robertson, aged 60 years, Spouse to James Forbes, 1804.”

On this stone there is the figure of a carpenter’s plane, and on the reverse side of the stone there are the lines :—

“This young woman Death did take away,
Her body here doth lie in clay,
But shall be rais’d at the last day.”

The Donald Forbes and James Forbes mentioned in this inscription were respectively the grandfather and father of Duncan Forbes, flesher, Newtonmore, who is a direct descendant in the female line of that distinguished soldier, Brigadier William Mackintosh of Borlum, who figured so prominently in the Rising of 1715.


40. Flatstone.

“J M K„ 1774.”

These initials represent, it is believed, one of a family of Mackays for a long time resident at Invertromie.

41. Headstone.

“Erected by Angus and Donald McPherson to the memory of their father, James McPherson, late Farmer, Culfern, Parish of Edinkillie, formerly of Strone in this Parish, who departed this life the 20th day of May 1833, aged 67 years; also their mother, Elspeth McPherson, who departed this life at

Kerrow in the year of her age, 18—, and is interred here; likewise three brothers—Andrew, who died in Perth, July 1808, aged 20 years; John, who died at Strone, Feby. 1822, aged 19 years; and Samuel, who died in Yaira, Upper Canada, in Octr. 1839, aged 25 years.”

The James M'Pherson mentioned in this inscription was a son of William Macpherson, said to have been the last tenant of Glengynack as a separate holding. William subsequently removed to Shanval in Strone, then the property of Alexander, the fourth Duke of Gordon, and he was tenant of that holding for more than half a century. On payment of his fiftieth rent to the Duke, that ever-generous landlord granted him a full discharge for the rest of his life. Donald and Angus, sons of James, who became extensive farmers in the shires of Moray and Nairn, were in their day among the most noted agriculturists and land-reclaimers in the Highlands. His grandson, the late James Macpherson, Clunas, near Nairn, was held in high esteem as a practical farmer and land-valuator all over the north, and his death a few years ago, at a comparatively early age, was deeply regretted by all who knew him.

42. Burial-place of the Clarks of Dalnavert.

Within the railed enclosure there are two flatstones with the following inscriptions:—

1. “This stone is placed over the mortal remains of Capt. A. Clark, formerly of Invernahaven, Nephew of the late James Macpherson, Esqr. of Belleville, the celebrated Translator of Ossian’s poems, and author of other literary works.

He lived highly respected, and died justly regretted at Dalnavert, on the 14th day of February 1819, aged 65 years. This last tribute of filial affection is paid to his revered memory by his dutiful sons, Jas., Jno., and Wm. Clark.”

2. “To the memory of Margaret Shaw, daughter of the late Wm. Shaw of Dalnavert, and Relict of the late Capt. A. Clark, who departed this life on the 10th October 1820, aged 52 years; also James Clark, son of the above, and late of the 42nd Highlanders, who died 12th December 1837; also Jane, Relict of the above James Clark, who died 10th Jany. 1845.”

“The Shaws of Dalnavert, in the parish of Alvie,” says Mr Mackintosh Shaw, “sprang from James, third son of Alasdair Ciar. One of them, William, was out with Montrose, and being summoned by the Provincial Synod of Moray in 1648 to answer for his malignancy, neither appeared nor sent an excuse. His son Donald accompanied Mackintosh against the Macdonalds of Keppoch. John, Donald’s successor, married Jean, daughter of John Macpherson Ettrish, by a daughter of Ewen Macpherson, younger of Cluny in Montrose’s time. William, grandson of John, was twice married, but had only female issue. His eldest daughter, Margaret, married Captain Alexander Clark; and a daughter Ellen, by the second marriage, married Hugh Macdonald, and by him was mother of the Right Hon. Sir John Macdonald, K.C.B., Prime Minister of Canada.”

The William Shaw mentioned in the second inscription is said to have been a cornet in Lord Elcho’s Horse on the fatal field of Culloden, fighting for Prince Charlie. After the settlement of affairs, he, like many of his countrymen, took service in the British army, when he rose to the rank of captain, and upon retiring from the army he occupied till his death the farm of Dalnavert. “ Here, on the banks of the romantic river Spey, and under the shade of the highest and most rugged part of the Grampians, with their primeval and extensive forests, Sir John Macdonald’s mother was born and brought up until she married Sir John’s father (Hugh Macdonald), who had business relations in Glasgow, where they resided till 1820, when they emigrated to Canada and settled in Kingston. The future eminent statesman was then in his fifth year, having been born in George Street, Glasgow, on the nth January 1815, and called John Alexander.” Captain Shaw’s third daughter (Margaret) married Captain Alexander Clark, a son of James Clark, Invernahaven, by Margaret, the youngest sister of James Macpherson of Belleville, the translator of Ossian.

Captain Clark succeeded his father-in-law as tenant of the farm of Dalnavert, which he occupied down to the date of his death in February 1819. He left a large family of six daughters and three sons, viz.:—

1. Margaret—married a Mr Green in America, but left no issue.

2. Jessie—died young in America.

3. Maria—who has attained a ripe old age, and resides in Kingston, married her cousin, a son of Colonel Macpherson, Kingston, a relative of the Cluny family; issue, one son, Colonel James Pennington Macpherson, Ottawa, and two daughters.

4. Ann—who also still survives, and resides at Waitui, Geraldine, New Zealand — married Captain Eneas Mackintosh Macpherson — a gallant officer—wounded in the Peninsular war, long so well known in the district as tenant of the farm of Nuide, which he occupied until he left for New Zealand, where he died some years ago; issue, two sons and four daughters. “Captain Eneas,” as he was popularly called in Badenoch, was a deputy-lieutenant and magistrate for the county, and acted for some time as factor for Mr Baillie of Kingussie.

1 The Mackintoshes and Clan Chattan, 1880, 560, 561.

2 Mrs Macpherson died on 26th December 1892, in the 85th year of her age.

5. Isabella—who died a few years ago, was the first wife of her cousin, the late Sir John A. Macdonald (the Prime Minister of Canada), and the mother of Hugh John Macdonald, M.P. for Winnipeg—the only issue of the marriage. Mr Macdonald (the late Premier’s son) is thus a great-grandnephew of “Ossian” Macpherson.

6. Jane—died young, unmarried.

7. James—the eldest son, whose name appears on the tombstone, and who succeeded his father as tenant of the farm of Dalnavert, married Jane, eldest daughter of Donald Stewart—a descendant of the Stewarts of Garth and Drumcharry, and for many years tenant of the Mains of Belleville, where he died on 4th September 1846.

James Clark left a family of one son and two daughters—viz.: (1) A lister Mackintosh Clark—who resides at Arowhenna, Temuka, New Zealand, married Mary Ann Low; issue, one son and three daughters. (2) Elizabeth — married John Grant, sometime of the British Linen Company Bank, Kingussie; issue, five sons and two daughters. (3) Jemima—married, first, the Rev. Gregor Stuart, for some years minister of Kingussie ; issue, two daughters : and second, the Rev. T. A. Cameron, minister of Farnell, near Brechin; issue, one son and one daughter.

8. John Clark—had a distinguished military career, and died a major-general in the army and colonel of the 59th Regiment. He served in the campaign of 1815, including the battle of Waterloo and storming of Cambrai. He also served in the campaigns of 1824 and 1825 in Ava, including the taking of Rangoon, Kinnedine, Kamaroot, and Mahatee. He led the attack upon the fortified heights of Aracan, where he was severely wounded. He married a daughter of Sir John Dalrymple of North Berwick; issue, four sons and two daughters.

9. Captain Win. Clark — sometime of the Royal Navy, and latterly of the East India Company’s service, married a Miss Blair; issue, four daughters and two sons.


43. Flatstone.

“Heir Lyes Alx- McDon., son to Jo. McDon. in Rvthen, who died 23 Ap. 1719;
also Alx- and Alx- McDonald’s, his father and uncle, sometime representing
the ancient family of Ardnamourach.”

“With regard,” says Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, “to that most interesting stone to the memory of the Macdonalds of Ardnamurchan, I have not the slightest doubt but it relates to that old and distinguished family, because ‘ Ardnamourach ’ is exactly the way the name is pronounced in Gaelic. Like their kindred house of Glencoe, these Macdonalds had the patronymic of ‘Maclan.’”

The following are particulars regarding the family down to 1629 :—

“The family descend from John, younger son of Angus Mor of Isla. Angus, son of John, lived temp. David II.
“1478. Alexander Makane of Ardnamurchan is witness to a charter by the Lord of the Isles.
“1494, 1495, ISS- John Maclan of Ardnamurchan is witness to various charters.
“1506. Charter to John Maclan of Ardnamurchan, 19th Nov. 1506, as ‘here-dis quondam Johannis Alexandri Johannis de Ardnamurchan ejus avi.’ In 1495 there is a charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to ‘Hugh Alexander de Insulis and Fynvolam Alexandri Johannis de Ardnamurchan,’ his spouse.
“1515, 1519. John Maclan of Arnamurchan. In last year he and his sons, Angus and John Sunoirtiel, were killed at Craiganairgid by the men of Lochalsh and their confederates.
“1530. Mariot, daughter and heiress of John Maclan of Ardnamurchan, married Robert Robertson of Strowan. At same time is Alex. Macdonald Viclan the heir-male, and the name appears in 1545.
“1588. John Maclan of Ardnamurchan.
“1596. John oig Maclan of Ardnamurchan was assassinated by his uncle.
“1602-1611. John MacAllister Maclan. He had a son Allister, during whose minority the clan was led by Donald Maclan, his tutor. This Donald apparently succeeded, for in
“1615 there is John Macdonald Maclan.
“1622, 1629. Alex. Maclan. On 22d April 1629 there is a bond by Alex. Maclan, son of late John of Ardnamurchan, to Robert Innes, burgess of Chanonry, for the sum of ^40,000 Scots.”

“The family,” adds Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, “had been dispossessed more than once prior to the time of Montrose, but undoubtedly made some show under that Macdonald commonly called ‘Collkiotach’ (Col-kitto), but after this period they entirely sunk. As Montrose, with his commanders and men, were a good deal in Badenoch, it is quite possible that one or two of the chief Maclans, having no home, got some protection from the Marquis of Huntly, and lived in Badenoch in obscurity.

That same honourable feeling, even yet so prevalent, would make them, however humble, cling to the notion of their ancient greatness, hence the memorial stone. That you have been able to bring this memorial to light must ever be a cause of satisfaction, not only to those of the great name of MacDonald, but also to all Highlanders.”

44. Headstone.

“In memory of Donald MacRae, Carpenter, Glenbanchor, and his wife, Catherine Macpherson ; also their daughter, Ann MacRae, who died at Kingussie, 22d June 1885, aged 72 years.”

The ancestors of this Donald MacRae, like those of his wife, were for generations tenants in Glenbanchor. His daughter, Ann MacRae, was for many years, down to her death, a faithful servant of the “ Old Banker’s ” at Kingussie.

At the side of the west wall of the churchyard there are two stones with the following inscriptions :—

45. Headstone.

“Erected by Angus, James, and Duncan McPherson in memory of their father, Ronald McPherson, Plasterer, who died 28th April 1855, aged 60 years; and of their mother, Isabella Gordon, who died 19th July 1859, aged 54 years.”

46. Headstone.

“Erected by James Macpherson, Tailor, Newtonmore, in memory of his wife, Ann Gray, who died 3rd Octr. 1888, aged 51 years; his daughter Jessie, died 12th Nov. 1883, aged 15 years; and a son and daughter who died in infancy.”

Ronald M'Pherson, who was familiarly known as Rad’ll o’ Phleastarar, was for many years an esteemed plasterer in Newtonmore. Two of his sons (Angus and John) and a grandson follow the same occupation. His son James is the James mentioned in the inscription No. 45. Another son, Duncan, is now a respected merchant in Inverness.

Now that all the inscriptions in the hallowed resting-place of so many generations of Macphersons (Claim Mhuirich Bhaideanaich) and their kinsfolk have been exhausted, these papers may be fitly closed with the following lines, which, although composed on the Old Churchyard of Biallid, immediately beneath Craig Dhn, are almost equally applicable to the venerable churchyard of St Columba :—

“Beneath Craig Dhu, which to the clouds doth rise,
Beside the Spey, a grassy graveyard lies.
The great grey hill its silent watch doth keep
O’er those lying in their last long sleep.
The noble river as it flows along
Low sings a never-ending requiem song.
Some there now lying in unwaking sleep
May oft have scaled thy sides, O mountain steep;
And on thy banks, O noisy, restless Spey,
Have lingered many a happy summer day.
Perhaps in this still spot, where they now lie,
They’ve walked or rested ’neath the sunset sky;
Upon each moss-grown stone they’ve read the name
Of those, though dear to them, unknown to fame ;
Or mayhap to this place, with falling tear,
They’ve slowly followed some much-loved one’s bier,
And heard the earth upon the coffin fall
Which held their dearest, best-loved friend of all.
Thou fair Craig Dhu, and thou, O restless Spey,
Unmoved have seen these people pass away.
Calmly thy watch, O mountain, thou wilt keep
O’er those lying ’neath thy face so steep.
Still wilt thou sing thy requiem song, O Spey,
On through the ages till the final day,
When those who slumber in this graveyard sweet
Will wake and rise their Judge and Lord to meet.”

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