Saturday, 31 March 2012

Visit to Inveravon, Glencorrie and Mortlach church

When I was up north a couple of weeks ago I travelled past Inveravon church, and through Glenlivet and Tomintoul to Aberdeen. Two days later I was accompanied by cousin Kathleen and Dad’s cousin Helen on a trip through the Cabrach to Glencorrie and Dufftown.

At Inveravon churchyard I wanted to see the gravestone that HDM referred to – that of William McWillie (who died in 1685) and his wife Katherine Gordon. The one that goes " Heir lyes ane honest man called William McWillie, who livid in the Cories, who departed the 10 of June, 1685 ; and Ketren Gordene, his  spouse." I was disappointed that I couldn’t find it, but very interested to meet a lady called Tricia Lawson who has lived close by the church for some 40 years. She knows a lot about the history of the church and the area, and told me that she also had heard of this very stone (from a former minister there) but did not know where it is - or was. She also had heard that the stone had been carried there by the McWilliams. She pointed out that the present church building dates from about 1806 and that it is positioned directly over part of the original graveyard. Tricia has said she will get in touch if she ever finds out any more about the story of this stone. 
Here is a photo of the church as it is today. 

By the way Tricia pointed out the location of Delgarvan to me (where it seems that our Lewis McWilliam originated) – on a bend in the Spey about a mile or so north of the church, but she was able to tell me that there is nothing much left there now after the remains of the buildings were flattened for road-building in the 1960s.

From the church I drove up through Glenlivet to Tomnavoulin (near the Corries farm once inhabited by McWillie alias McWilliam families) before heading on to Aberdeen for Laura’s birthday meal. I didn’t have time to linger long, but stopped to take these photos of the old packhorse bridge at Bridgend and of this fine bull guarding the road up to Easter Corrie.

We had a fine day for our journey through the Cabrach to Dufftown on the Sunday – myself + Helen and Kathleen, and Kathleen’s husband Eddie. Helen was a Dufftown quine and knew Glencorrie in her youth – the home of her mother and various uncles, aunts and cousins. We drove up to the farm and took a short wander round the house, the two cottages and various outbuildings. It is still very much a working farm, but the present occupants seem also to run a business contracting out farm equipment – such as two big combine harvesters.
We didn’t meet the occupants, but we took a couple of pictures – the farmhouse, and the two cottages – one of which would have been the boyhood home of my father.

Helen remembered that they used to have music and dancing in the loft of one of the barns. I can picture the scene in my mind, but the building is stripped to a functional minimum these days.

After a light lunch in a Dufftown cafe, we had a wander round the graveyard at Mortlach church - a fine old and historic place.

There are at least three generations of our ancestors there (in fact four generations in my case), and I attach here photos of the gravestones.

Finally there is another stone here which took our interest. It isn’t in memory of a McWilliam, but a Moir. I was really quite surprised to see wording which was very similar to that on the stone that HDM described at Inveravon – and of course it is of a very similar age. Here is a photo and a transcription.

“Heir lyes ane honest man called John Moir Husband to Elspet Reid who was killed in the defence of his own property at Walk Miln of Bolvenie the 13 day of October 1660.  Memento Mori”

I conclude from this, and a few other such inscriptions I have come across in recent weeks that this form of wording seems to have been quite common in the  17th century.

And as a footnote, here is me with the statue of an Aberdeen Angus bull – on the outskirts of Alford on the return journey to Aberdeen.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

McWilliam and McPherson

The Braes of Glenlivet

Some years ago I came across an interesting document in the archives of Aberdeen University library. It is titled “Notes respecting the Family of McPherson or McWilliam of Corries of Glenlivet in the County of Banff”, and was written by H. (Hugh) Duff MacWilliam of Hawthorn, Buckingham Road, Harrow View, Middlesex. I referred to some of his other work in a previous post, and I will refer to him again as HDM. The document is dated 1903. I don’t know much about HDM’s life, but he was born in Archiestown in 1859 – the son of Alexander McWilliam (of the Corries, Glenlivet family) and Jessie Ann McQueen, and he was a cousin of John Alexander MacWilliam (physiology professor also referred to in previous post).

This is a seven page hand-written document, presenting information extracts from a number of sources regarding people of the name McWilliam (or variations such as McKullie, McCullie, McVillie, Macwillie) and McPherson who lived in the Corries in Glenlivet. Glenlivet is in Inveravon parish, and HDM’s sources include parish registers from there, Banff Sasine Register, Elgin Commissary records, tombstone(s) at Inveravon Parish Church, the Inventory of Charters at Gordon Castle. The Sasine Register is an old form of register of feudal property title. The references are all from the years 1637 to 1750.

I am including reference to this here because I believe there is a link between the Inveravon McWilliam folks and my own well-established line at Glencorrie in Mortlach – and some onward links to branches of the family in Cabrach parish. I discussed my evidence for this in my last post.

The HDM document is mainly in tabular format, which is difficult to transcribe here. I attach a scanned copy (below) of the whole thing. Here, though, is a transcription of the long note at the end of the document, in which HDM makes some interesting observations.

“As illustrating that the name was formerly McPherson, there is a tradition that a certain John McWilliam (said to be a brother of Alexander and William first, of the family in Delgarvan) quitted Glenlivet and settled in Bracklach in the Parish of Cabrach some years prior to 1745 and that at the ’45 he paid a substitute to take part in the rising and dressed him in the MacPherson tartan.
The late Mr William McWilliam of Culmill, Beauly and formerly of Delgarvan stated in reply to an enquiry in the year 1884 that he had always heard that his family belonged to the Clan McPherson. It is also said that when George Macpherson Esq. Of Invereshie succeeded to the Ballindalloch Estate in 1806 he was desirous that all the McWilliams, McWillies or McCullies should if possible adopt the name Macpherson.  The Abbe (Paul) Macpherson (1756 – 1846), a native of Glenlivet states in his M.S. Memoirs that his ancestor was a certain John of the family of Macpherson of Phoness in Badenoch who removed to Glenlivet in the 16th Century. Mr James Macpherson of Edinburgh, a scientist in Macpherson genealogy, expressed the view that probably from this John all the Macphersons in Glenlivet were descended.”

Some of HDM’s comments here suggest links between McPherson and McWilliam (or variations of the spellings, McVillie, McKullie etc), e.g. because of the fairly common occurrence of aliases (McPherson alias McVillie). I am particularly intrigued by the John McWilliam in the Cabrach who is reputed to have paid a substitute to take his part in the 1745 rising (and presumably fairly likely death), dressed in the MacPherson tartan!  

MacPherson is a historic Scottish clan, with an active clan association. I have checked with one of their vice-presidents (Alan G. MacP) and he tells me that he is aware of some of these uses of “aliases” and that this was all fairly common practice. Variations in Highland surnames were generally a means of distinguishing individuals by use of a patronymic that with usage transforms into a true surname.
The bottom line for me is that I am not sure yet what to make of these MacPherson links. McWilliam is not a clan (or at least hasn’t been since the 13th century or so), and maybe there were some attempts to encompass them within the MacPherson clan, or perhaps the Clan Chattan, which was/is an association of clans – including MacPherson, MacIntosh, Davidson and others, but not McWilliam. If you want a tartan we probably have more right to Gordon than any of these.