Latha math dhuibh, a chàrdan.

Before David’s first diary begins, we look at the account he gives of his ancestry. Despite this being written in English, there is a regard for tradition evident in David’s intentional listing of his forefathers. Although he doesn’t go back the full seven, we can extrapolate from the following excerpt – by adding another couple of generations to the end – that his patronymic would be something along the lines of:

Dàibhidh mac Choinnich ‘ic Sheumais ‘ic Uilleim ‘ic Sheumais [‘ic Uilleim? ‘ic Sheumais?]

You can see the darker ink of David’s brother John [JM] in between the text. His daughter and my grandmother Laura MacLeod’s handwriting is in blue biro.

FULL TEXT WITH COMMENTARY (in brackets and italics)

My forefathers by my father’s side:

My great-great-grandfather James Macleod (My own grandmother Laura was of the opinion that our MacLeods hailed originally from Asaint [Assynt]. Family tradition states that they belonged in the intervening years to Srath Nabhair [Strathnaver] in the MacKay Country. We are not sure whether this was in James’ era or before, ÀM)

My great-grandfather William Macleod was a farmer at Achverga near Spittal, Parish of Watten.  Died there.  His wife was Barbra Sutherland of Tormsdale, Halkirk Parish.  Married 8th June 1790 at Halkirk by Rev. W. Cameron. (The fascinating thing here is that this is direct evidence of Gaels in the Parish of Watten as recently as the turn of the 19th century. I have heard that the parishoners of the district were on the verge of rioting when their Gaelic-speaking minister was withdrawn in 1695. This serves to throw up in the air the commonly-held belief that “Gaelic was never spoken” there. West Watten appears to have a recent Gaelic history, ÀM)

My grandfather was James Macleod, born 1790 at Achverga.  Learned the cooper trade at Wick.  Went to work at Helmsdale at his trade.  Got acquaint there with Lucy Mackenzie, second daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie, farmer, West [unclear], Forse, Latheron.  Contracted in the Road Side Public House, Forse.  Married at Helmsdale.  Lived there some time.  Came to Burrigle, Forse.  Died there on the 7th March 1866.  His wife was born in 1798.  Died August 1863. (The rumour was that Lucy’s Bun Ilidh [Helmsdale] mother Ròs Nic a’ Phearsain [Rose MacPherson] was the daughter of a British General and that her marriage to the young fisherman from Forse was preceeded by what my grandmother termed “a runaway match”! How true this is I have been unable to find out. The MacPhersons of today’s Helmsdale will be relations of one kind and another, ÀM)

Their family:

Barbra, born 1823, died 1852, 29 years old (Poor Barab [Barbara] died very young, but not before she had embroidered a beautiful sampler which I still have in its original wood and glass frame on my living room wall, ÀM)

Rose, born 1824, died 1845, 21 years old

Margaret, born 1825, died 1882 (Maighread NicLeòid married David’s uncle on his mother’s side Seórdan Sùrlan [George Sutherland]. Two MacLeod siblings married two Sutherland siblings – see also “Kenneth” below)

William, born 1827, married Margaret Tranter who died at Peterhead.  (Their daughter Sinclair [Mrs Black] died at Broughton Place aged 72 on the 30th of February 1930.  Piershill Cemetery.  Lucy died 1887 in [unclear].  Easter Road Cemetery [JM]). (Margaret’s brother Alasdair Tranndair [Alexander Tranter] married in Uibhist a Deas [South Uist] to Màiri Nic an t-Saoir [Mary MacIntyre] and the family ended up in Morayshire. I imagine they would have been quite amused at the difference between their Gaelic dialects when they first met in the 1860s. Mary is also highly likely to have been monolingual! ÀM)

Kenneth, born 1829, died 1902 (Coinneach MacLeòid is my g-g-grandfather and David’s father. He married Seónaid Shùrlan [Janet Sutherland] about which more in future blogs, ÀM)

In the next blog, we look at David’s ancestry on his maternal line.

Beannachd leibh!


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