The recording of personal memories is a most important part of the work of any local history society. In 2001 Charles Fraser Larimer, himself with Strathnairn ancestors, published the stories of William MacQueen of Ballone, Farr. Sadly, Mr MacQueen died in January 2001, but had seen the book in draft form. He was a great raconteur, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of genealogy. With the permission of Mr Larimer and the late Mr MacQueen’s family we reproduce some of his stories here. The book is entitled ‘Tales from Dunlichity’ and can be bought from Mr Larimer: for details email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
TALES OF DUNLICHITY
Stories of Strathnairn as told to Charles Larimer in 1996 by William MacQueen, late of Balloan Farm, Dunlichity, Strathnairn
The recording of personal memories is a most important part of the work of any local historical society. In 2001 Charles Fraser Larimer, himself with Strathnairn ancestors, published the stories of William MacQueen of Ballone, Farr. Sadly, Mr MacQueen died in January 2001, but had seen the book in draft form. He was a great raconteur, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of genealogy. With the permission of Mr Larimer and the late Mr MacQueen's family we reproduce some of the stories here. The book is entitled 'Tales From Dunlichity' and can be purchased from Mr Larimer. For details email him on: email@example.com
Dunlichity, Duin Leth Cheud - The Grave of the Fifty
Now, I understand that Andrew Smith was showing you around some historical places on his little farm [Dunlichity Farm]. I think he showed you where there was supposed to be the grave of the fifty. That is where the name of "Dunlichity" originates. It means the grave of the fifty. That's Gaelic, you see? If you want to learn Gaelic, you can make a start with that - "Dun Lichit", it's the grave of the fifty. (Dun, duin = mound; leth cheud = half a hundred).
Now, what happened here was that cattle thieves came up from the Lochaber area (that is down the Fort William/ Argyllshire way) which was a common thing in the bad old days when freebooters roamed the country and lived off it. It was almost a yearly event for the people from these hard climes to come through those glens, there were no roads, of course, and, go down into the flat lands of Nairn Shire and just drive away their stock, especially cattle. I don't know if there were many sheep in those days or not. And, there were quite a number of people driving them away.
They reached Andrew's place in Dunlichity there in the evening of that day. And, likely they were tired. I don't know what happened, but there were two left to be on sentry to watch in case they were followed by the owners of the cattle. And, during the night - they must have been all asleep, maybe they were drunk for all I could tell you. But, the men of Nairnshire overtook them - surrounded them and killed 50 of them. And, the only ones that escaped were the two men that were supposed to be the sentries. So the story is told.
Now, Andrew brought you along to a big hollow in one of these fields. It's known as the Covenanter Hollow. I'm sure that if you are acquainted with the history of Scotland, you'd have read and heard of the Covenanters. These were the men and women who were driven around the country and hounded from pillar to post by the ecclesiastics of those days, who were Episcopalians or Roman Catholic. They tried to stamp out the Protestant religion, you see. Of course, in those days there were a lot of people in the district, but there were no churches. There were no buildings. There were no roads. But there was an excellent hollow for speaking in. If you went down into that hollow and started to shout, you could scarcely believe your ears to hear how the sound echoes. And, it was an ideal place. It was a hollow that could keep at least a couple of thousand people with great comfort and they could hear without any hearing aids or any of the present day appliances for such purposes. But, that's my story about that part.
White Hares and Hard Times
Of course, we passed through very hard times in the 1930's. Very few people had money. But, up in those hills where we lived, we could always catch white hares. If you know what white hares are - i.e. mountain hares. They are much bigger than rabbits - two or three times bigger than rabbits. And then, we would always have meat. We would kill our own sheep and then we would always have a barrel of salt herring so that, frugal and all that it was, we were better of than many townspeople, who were almost in dire starvation. Because back in 1930's the most that any body would get from the Social Securities, in those days, would be five shillings a week per household to keep soul and body together. And, there was great starvation in the country. So, we lived through hard times. We lived right through the wars and things got better.
About 1936 there was a time that sheep and cattle improved in prices and things weren't quite so bad as they were previously. But then the war came along and then everything was rationed - foods, clothes. I don't suppose it was like that in America and you won't remember anyway. We had to look after the little we had, if not, you were very bad off.
So, those years passed and here we are now within four years of the millenium. And, I don't know what you're thinking, but I hope that there will be greater days ahead of the nations of the earth in the next millenium than there has been in this one, at least in the last 100 years, anyway, and there will be great prosperity and there shall be peace in all lands. For, we read in the Scriptures…I'm sure you read it yourself, that men shall turn their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah chapter 2, verse 4). And, I think at times that this is what the nations of the earth are doing now and they don't know it. They are fulfilling that which is decreed in the Divine decrees. What do you think yourself? Do you think that this is so or not?
The Roses and the Robinsons
Perhaps you would be interested to hear something about my people, the Roses. They were along at Daviot on the Farm of Braeval, just a croft, for a period of 600 years. In those days there were large families and of course the Roses spread over the district. But, the Roses that I am of were buried in Daviot, not in Dunlichity. But, although there are Roses buried up through the Strath here, they were not the same Roses as I am of where I am related to you.
Now, I had a grand aunt. She left Daviot with cousins Roses and she sailed for America about 1824, before my grandfather was born in 1825. She met a man, Robinson, on the boat that they were on who was also emigrating. She couldn't speak English and he couldn't speak Gaelic. But, somehow or other, they got very friendly.
And, sometime after reaching America, I don't know how long, they kept in touch and they eventually got married.
I don't know what number of family they had. I suppose it would be considerable because everybody had big families in those days. But, I do know that she had two sons. One was a professor and I can't remember his first name. He was Professor Robinson and his brother was Doctor Charles Robinson. They came across here, my mother told me, in the year 1904 to see the old country. They were both very old men at that time. I think they were roundabout the 70 age mark.