Sunday, 30 March 2014

Well, another catch-up today:

G-G-Grandparents married on this day in Contin, Ross & Cromarty Scotland in 1854. Ronald was the son of agricultural labourer Donald MACKENZIE and his wife Mary MCLENNAN and was 24 years old when he married Jessie, about whom I know very little.
 At the time of their marriage, Ronald was a farm servant at the Coul of Fairburn, one of the farms on the huge Fairburn Estate in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. He had worked there since at least 1851 when he was enumerated along with 4 other farm servants under the stewardship of Thomas CAMERON.
Map of the Fairburn Estate
Almost exactly 9 months to the day their first child, Margaret, was born.
It is clear that Ronald was ambitious and learnt his trade well as on the 1861 Census he was a farm manager at Kinnattes not far from Fairburn. He and Jessie now also had two sons – Donald age 4 and my great grandfather John who was then just a bit over a year old. I am not yet sure where Margaret was on the night of the census but she was not at home with her parents.
By the 1871 census the family had made quite a move away from home and were found about 45 miles north west in Lochbroom. Here Ronald is now the Farm Grieve at Little Strath on the Dundonnell estate, owned since 1835 byMurdo Munro-Mackenzie of Ardross. Ronald and Jessie had lived here for at least 3 years as this is the birthplace given for their youngest child Jessie.  
The 1881 shows that once again the family have moved. This time it is back to Jessie’s birthplace of Dingwall and Ronald has had a change of career. From farm labourer, to farm manager, Ronald is now the Hotel Keeper of the Railway Hotel at 1 Waterloo Place.

This picture from Google Earth shows where Waterloo Place was. The following description is from a local Dingwall resident who kindly researched the likely location of the Railway Hotel for me.

"I checked in person this afternoon, and Waterloo Place is a 5 foot wide alley between the Job Centre and the Newsagents on the High Street in Dingwall. The only address in it is No 5, a flat (apartment) in the building occupied by the newsagents. Neither building gives the impression of having been a hotel, though on the 1904/1906 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map the building located where the Job Centre is now is marked P.H., which very probably means Public House. In other words this was probably a pub with a few lodging rooms, rather than a real "Railway Hotel" in the sense of a hotel run by the Railway. I am not clear from a cursory inspection to what extent the Job Centre building has been rebuilt. The Newsagents' building is pretty old. Both go quite a long way back from the High Street. On the 1904/1906 map Waterloo Place appears pretty much the same as now, except that because of a small building at the rear it had then no outlet at the end away from the High Street, whereas in the present day up until recently (when the Job Centre put a gate up), one could walk or cycle through to Mansefield Road behind." 

Helping in the Hotel are the three MACKENZIE girls, 24 year old Maggie (Margaret), 17 year old Mary Ann (Margaret the younger) and 13 year old Jessie. The following year Maggie marries local excise officer Joseph DAVIES and settles down in the village with him to raise their family. When Ronald died of chronic heart and liver disease in October 1887 he left an estate worth over £155 and the Hotel was left in the hands of his widow Jessie. 
Ronald left very clear instructions in his will. Jessie is to carry on the running of the hotel under the supervision of the trustees. Sons Donald and John do not receive an inheritance; “considering that my two sons are well established in business, and do not require any immediate assistance”. Similarly daughter Margaret receives nothing as she received her portion at the time of her marriage. Of daughters Mary Ann and Jessie, Ronald has quite specific instructions. If they marry before the death of his widow, they shall receive £50 out of the capital funds on their marriage. However, if they choose to claim wages while working in the hotel then these wages are to be paid out of their £50 portion and the amount of the deduction they take shall be divided equally among his other children “share and share alike”. Ronald explains this generous bequest:
“And I declare that I make these provisions to my said daughters Mary Ann and Jessie in respect that they have rendered constant and valuable services to me for many years in connection with my business as Hotel Keeper without any remuneration”
I have not yet been able to find out what happened to the Hotel after Jessie took over its running. I do know that by the 1891 census she was living with her son-in-law Joseph DAVIES. Also in the household was Mary Ann and Jessie as well as the young son of Margaret & Joseph. Although I’ve not confirmed this as yet, I believe that Joseph was widowed and his mother and sisters in law moved in with him after the Hotel was sold.

In August 1895, Jessie MACKENZIE died of a heart attack. A witness on the death certificate was son John MACKENZIE who had travelled all the way from London to be at his mother’s funeral. Tragically he must have left a very ill wife behind as three weeks after his mother’s funeral, he buried his wife, Annie.  


  1. Val - Ivor James MANSELL was my mother's father (Millicent Mansell dob 26/4/1910) - Anita Wellsbury nee Deavin