Saturday, 28 February 2015

Snippets from Durness

1801 population: 1,208 - people lived in scattered tiny clachans in huts of turn or dry stone plastered on the inside with clay. They raised black cattle and goats, grew potatoes and inferior oats, used their wooden plough to break the earth, brewed rough beer and distilled raw whisky.
1811 population: 1,155

1815 – thirty to forty families emigrated to America

1821 population: 1,004

In the 1820s and 1830s -- - - the houses were made of stone with thatched roofs tied down with rope weighted with stones. The inside was dark and dreary although quite warm. The walls were often bare stone - - - the windows were often small holes in the wall on the inside, let in very little light, and only very occasionally glazed. The door was a plan of wood sometimes with sacks pulled bac. The floor was hard packed earth, at times covered with sand, cobbles or flagstones.

1831 population: 1,153

1833 the nearest post office was at Bonar Bridge, Creich, about 113 kilometres away until Tongue post office opened. Mail left Durness by runner on a Monday and Thursday where it met the mail coming from Golspie. It arrived back in Durness on a Tuesday and Friday. A runner was someone who walked with the mailbag. Once a month a carrier, probably a horse and cart, went to Tain. At the start of the 19th century roads had started to be made in Durness, prior to this mail came by boat.

The only help the crofter would have was a cotter who in return for labour would receive a very small portion of rough land. He would have to clear and cultivate and erect some living shelter that would be smaller and less elaborate than the crofters.

1834 – Rev. William Findlater: “The principal amusements in Durness are playing at the ball and shinty on the fine sands of Balnakeil - - - - - The natives are generally lively in their dispositions, social in their habits, although it cannot be said they are remarkable for their cleanliness, cattle and people using the same shelters - - - - “

1834 population: 1,180 (206 families)

1841 population: 1,109

1871 population: 1,049

1881 population: 987

1891 population: 960

1901 population: 903

The first permanent medical practitioner - - - the visiting doctor would arrive by boat to Rispond and leave after the necessary treatments. Durness was having difficulty in persuading a doctor to reside permanently. On one such visiting occasion the doctor was deliberately detained from meeting the boat to leave by the application of too many drams. By the time the next boat arrived he had been made so welcome and applied with copious amounts of whisky he would not leave!

1906 Mains water arrived piped only as far as Durine to begin with and cost five shillings for an outside tap and ten shillings for an inside tap.

1912 - Hew Morrison edited a Parish Register of Durness.
The register commenced in 1764, the year in which the settlement of the Rev. John Thomson as parish minister took place, to 1814. Hew Morrison notes that evidently Mr Thomson was not a proficient Gaelic scholar - - - - "he could not master the spelling of popular local surnames but he has preserved in the register a careful and minute phonetic rendering both of names of persons and places".

1914 – it was around this time that the last whisky to be distilled in Durness was made. A local man in his eighties was sent to prison for illegal distillation and tax evasion. The spring at the bottom of a croft in the Durine was used to cool the still.

1921 population: 610

1935 the first automatic telephone exchange was erected at Rockville opposite the school.

1955 there were four telephone kiosks in the parish.

1977 – the last inhabited croft house was fitted with an indoor toilet and bathroom 
1982 – mains electricity finally reached the township of Laid

1986 Television arrived in Durness. The erection of a relay mast at the highest point overlooking Sangomore headland gave a signal to most of the village.

1989 the last button telephone on the British mainland was replaced by an upgraded system. This remote roadside kiosk half way between Tongue and Durness

1997 population: 350 people in 150 households, live in the main in a group of townships strung along the A838

1998 provision was made for mobile phone reception in the area

The policing of Durness is from Rhiconich where the one-man station has the biggest beat in Britain covering crime from Laid to Kylesku.
Sourced from various books on Durness
Photograph above, Achnahanet, Durness, by Gordon Hatton and used here under his common creative licence

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Emigrant Tales

McCallum Family

Photo shows Elizabeth at Kearvaig, Durness

A brief account of my McCallum family - Elizabeth Redmond (nee Sands, nee McCallum)

My mother's maiden name was Heather McCallum. She was born into an extensive family on a property named "Balnakeil", near Donald in the Wimmera area of Victoria. The name Balnakeil and  the  names of her  grandfather and great-grandfather were all of the information I had when I began my research. That was about ten years ago. I now have found an enormous family spread all over the world, have meet some very distant relations, had five trips to Scotland, including The Gathering in Edinburgh this year, visited the homes where my ancestors were born and worked, and have in a small way, made a contribution to a musical/ oration called “The Flight of the Arctic Tern” which was performed around Scotland this year as part of The Homecoming activities. 

My direct McCallum ancestor was John McCallum. He was one of nine children born to Iver/Evander/Edward McCallum and his wife Margaret. I think she was also a McCallum. The census records have them at a place called Daill/Dall on the Kyle of Durness near Durness in far northern Scotland. Evander (the name I've used for John's father) was a shepherd and from what we have found in our research in the Library in Edinburgh, the family members were employed by the lease holder of land in this area rented from the Sutherland family. 

The family moved between two shepherds dwellings over a period of about 50 years....Daill and Kearvaig /Kerwick. Both of these buildings are standing today. Daill is used as a holiday home and Kearvaig as a bothy by walkers on their way around Cape Wrath. 
The original dwelling at Kearvaig has been dismantled and rebuilt as sheep yards. A “new” home was built in 1870. Both are in magical spots.....on the beach, fresh water and of course hills beyond! Kearvaig is the closest dwelling to The Cape Wrath Lighthouse (designed by Robert Louie Stevenson’s grandfather). 

With six sons in the family, finding employment and a place to live was always going to be a struggle. Three of the boys came to Australia; John, Duncan and Joseph.

John and Duncan and their wives Mary and Marion sailed for Australia on “The Hornet” in 1854. They docked in Geelong and obtained work as shepherds on large sheep properties in the area. John was later employed by two Scots by the name of Learmonth as a boundary rider on their large sheep holding, “Ercildourne” near Ballarat in central Victoria. In the late 1870”s John and Mary selected land at Corack near Donald, naming it Balnakeil, after the bay near their homes back in Scotland. Mary was a Mackay, related to the Mackays of the Kempsey area of New South Wales, and at the time of her marriage to John, her family operated the ferry across the Kyle of Durness. A ferry (a very small boat really) is still the mode of transport I have to use when I visit the “ancestral” home! No-one lives in this area (Known as The Parph ) now.

John and Mary had one child, Edward/Evander. Edward and his wife Alice had eleven children, nine surviving. My grandfather Samuel was their third child. My mother was the second child of Samuel and his wife Alice. The property has been in the McCallum family until a couple of years ago, but the name Balnakeil continues..... my brother’s  property near Shepparton is named after the bay.  My home has the name Kearvaig.

If anyone is interested or knows any more of my family history I would be very pleased to hear from them.
Phil Redmond, Australia 

Photograph above shows the Maccallum home at Kearvaig, Durness

updated 28/2/2016