Family History by Ann McKay (nee Farina)
Smith - Aikman - Mackie - Watson
I was born and lived for 19 years in my mother's parents house, 202 Wingrove Road, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, which was newly built for them the year before my parent's marriage in 1925.
My grandmother's name was Jessie Ann Arabella Smith before she married Captain Alexander Coats Aikman in 1896. She was the youngest daughter of Captain Alexander Reid Smith and Margaret Mackie Smith of Banff, and was born in Banff on May 8, 1867. She died on February 27, 1939 at Newcastle upon Tyne and is buried in Hexham Cemetery with my grandfather who died on 9 September, 1932.
Her family were:
Alexander Reid Smith, b. 13.9.1835 in Banff d. Cardiff 7.9.1914
Margaret Mackie Smith b. Balintraid, E. Ross in 13.2.1831 d. Cardiff 27.8.1909
they married in Aberdeen 2.6.1857
Williamina Mary Smith b. 5.9.1858 d. 4.7.1895 Inverness
Margaretta Cecilia Smith b. 20.7.1860 d. 19.4.1940 Cardiff
Alex Reid Smith b. 6.12.1862 d. 15.3.1930 Cardiff
Mary Kirk McAllum Smith b. 23.4.1865 d. 28.1.1950 Cardiff
Jessie Ann Arabella Smith b. 8.5.1867 d. 27.2.1939 Newcastle
The Smith's had been established in Banff for a long time, and my great grandfather was one of a large family of 4 sons and 6 daughters:
Jane Abercombie b. 9.10.1820 d. 15.10.1821 Banff
Wm. James b. 24.4.1822 d. 22.1.1898 (Glasgow?)
Mary Ann b. 24.2.1824 d. 21.2.1876 Tooting, London
Isabel Leslie b. 21.3.1826 d. 1849
James b. 29.1.1828 d. 22.11.1871 at sea
Dorothea b. 20.1.1831 d. Sept 1850
Robert b. 16.7.1833 d. 1896? Liverpool?
Alex Reid b. 13.9.1835 d. 7.9.1914 Cardiff
Jane b. 29.5.1838 d. 9.2.1866 Edinburgh
Elizabeth b. 3.10.1840 d 1925?
When visiting Banff in October 1998 I photographed the memorial to the Smith family in the old Kirkyard in Carmelite Street. I had been sent a photocopy from the records in 1992.
"Sacred to the memory of James Smith, blacksmith, who died 20th January 1859, aged 75 years also of his spouse Mary Paterson, who died 1st November 1873, aged 76 years also of their children, Jane Abercrombie died 1821, in infancy. Isabella Leslie died 1849, aged 23 years. Dorothea, wife of Joseph Brown, who died September 1850, aged 19 years. Jane, wife of George Badenoch, who died in Edinburgh 9th February 1866, aged 28 years. James died at sea while in command of the ship "Tiverton" of Liverpool, on a voyage from Blimlipitan??? to London, 22nd November 1871, aged 43 years. Mary Ann, wife of Joseph Anderson, who died in London 21st January 1876, aged 52 years. Erected as a tribute of affection by William and Alexander Smith."
James Smith, blacksmith had been born in Banff in 1786, was married there on December 18th 1819, and died there in 1859. He married Mary Paterson of Banff, born in 1797: she was the daughter of William Paterson, shipmaster, and Dorothea Ross.
My aunt Wilma remembered relatives who lived in Liverpool and Glasgow. But of this large family I only have knowledge of the eldest and youngest sons. The youngest was my mother's grandfather.
William James Smith, the eldest, married a cousin, Jessie Mackie, at Inverness on 16.7.1851 she was born 1852. He was manager of the Rose Street foundry in Inverness. Their son, also William James, started the Inverness Foundry Company. William James (junior) built the suspension bridge in Inverness, which bears a plaque to that effect. He was a member of the Town Council and had a piece of land named after him. His firm built the Market Hall, he was elected to the Bench, and when young was a well known athlete. He married his cousin, Williamina Mary Smith, his father's brother Alexander's daughter, in 18?? And they lived at Rose Cottage, Rose Street, Inverness. They had two daughters, Maggie and Agnes, and several babies who died in infancy. Mina herself died on July 4th 1895 after the birth of Wilma: she was transfused with her husband's blood, which tragically was incompatible. She is buried in Banff new cemetery.
William Smith (junior) took the baby to Cardiff, where William Smith (senior) brother's family lived - Wilma's grandparents and aunts. They had moved from Banff in 1888 when Cardiff was the largest port in the world. William Smith (junior) and his two daughters and housekeeper (whom he married) left Inverness in 1897 and arrived in Vancouver in 1898. He took part in the Klondyke gold rush and another at Atlin. At that time he was the oldest pioneer from Inverness to Vancouver and was 94 when he died. I remember meeting Aunt Agnes when she visited us in Purley about 1949.
Wilma lived with her unmarried aunts, Margaretta and Mary at 25 Pitman Street, Cardiff, after her grandmother, Margaret Mackie, died in 1909 and her grandfather, Alexander Reid Smith, in 1914. The former was a very hard woman, according to my mother, who was 9 when she died. However, she spoiled Wilma, who became spiteful and fanciful. Wilma's parents and both of her grandparents were first cousins. We stayed in Cardiff with her and Auntie Mary in 1940. Before the Second World War, when I was a child, the aunts and my granny (Jessie Ann) went to Scotland for holidays together. They did this also when my mother and her brother were children, travelling all the way from Cardiff to Whitehills near Banff, and staying on a farm for a month. But my great grandmother, Margaret Mackie, never returned to Scotland.
Alexander Reid Smith, my mother's grandfather, and his brother, Wm. James senior, attended Fordyce Academy near Banff. In the 18th Century Smith's were associated with Fordyce, and the Academy was founded under the provisions of the Will of George Smith, who made a fortune in India and became a benefactor to his native parish of Fordyce. I have a series of newspaper cuttings, which Wilma got from the Banffshire journal in 1957. I do not know whether this George Smith was an antecedent of the Smith's of Banff. The facts are as follows:
George Smith lived from 1737-1790. He settled in Bombay in 1768 but died aged 52, on board the East Indiaman "Winterton". He left his considerable estate to his 5 sisters or their descendants: only 3 laid claim, the remainder founded the academy with a yearly revenue of £308.18.8d, administered by the Magistrates of Banff from 1801-1890. A sister of George Smith, Jean, was housekeeper to George Carnegie, a merchant in Gothenburg after escaping from Culloden in 1746. Jean Smith married a Swedish farmer, Peter Erngstrom, and died in 1821, aged 87. Four generations of her descendants had free education at Fordyce Academy under the provision of George Smith's Will.
The last of the Swedish beneficiaries was Major Felix Otto George Hjort, who died in Stockholm in December 1962 aged 96. Four Lindberg grandchildren of Jean Smith came to Fordyce from 1801 onwards, seven great grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren, the youngest of whom was Major Hjort.
I have Margaretta Smith's birthday book, which contains many signatures in copperplate writing by relatives and friends, including someone called S. J. Hjalmer Nissen b. May 23rd 1864. I wonder whether this was one of the Swedes?
My mother's grandfather, Alexander Reid Smith, went to sea and became a Master Mariner. The proclamation of his marriage to Margaret Mackie was made at Edinburgh on 31.5.1857. His address was given as 2 Church Street, Banff, her address was 7 Drummond Place, Edinburgh, where she was governess to the children of a doctor. She was the third daughter of James Mackie and his wife Isabella Watson, and was born at Balintraid, Kilmuir Parish, Easter Ross, on February 13th 1831. James Mackie was grieve (farm manager) at Balintraid, but was dead when Margaret and Alexander were married on June 2nd 1857 at 87 Chapel Street, Aberdeen - this was a Free Church Chapel. They both gave their address as 17 Shiprow, Aberdeen, and I think Alexander must have sailed out of that port.
Their first home was at 4 George Street, Banff, a pleasant double-fronted house that I photographed in 1992. They were living at Boyndie Street when their third daughter Mary was born in 1865. My granny was born at Gardener's Brae. They later lived at 2 Old Castle Gate, which is a handsome old house with a garden overlooking the harbour. When I saw it in 1992 (not for the first time) it was for sale. When I saw it again in 1998 it was in a sadly dilapidated state and I fear may now have been demolished.
My great grandmother, Margaret Mackie, loved parrots and they were kept on perches in the entrance hall; she also had a large collection of curios from Alexander's voyages and left them to the Museum when the family moved to Cardiff in 1888. They went by sea and found there was already a large nucleus of seamen's families there from Scotland. It was through the Church (Cathedral Road) that they met the Aikman's and my granny and granpa were married in 1896: she was 30 and he was 25.
Before Mina died in 1895 she was missing her sisters, often urging them to go and stay with her, though her mother never did so. The latter was at first buried in Cardiff, but when Alexander died in 1914, they were buried together in Banff. James and Margaret's house in Cardiff was at 22 Plasturton Gardens, a large double-breasted terraced house with public gardens across the road. After my great grandmother's death in 1909, the family moved to 25 Pitman Street nearby, which was where my grandparents lived. My mother was born there on March 9th 1900, and her brother Stanley on 27th January 1897. Wilma lived on in that house, which we visited in 1940 and 1953, until her death on October 8th 1979.
Wilma had been invited to join her father in Vancouver after World War 1, but they found her too difficult and returned her home to the aunts. She was a sore trial to my poor mother who felt that their own move to Southampton about 1908 had a lot to do with Wilma's spitefulness. However, my grandfather, Alexander Coats Aikman, couldn't settle in a shore job, so when he returned to sea as a Captain with P & O Shipping Line, they went to live at Whitchurch, near her grandfather James Aikman. He lived at Whitchurch with his second wife Frances Phalp and his bull terrier Charlie, of which my mother was terrified.
During World War 1 my mother and granny lived at 8 Argyll Road, Ilford, London. Stanley was in the Essex Regiment, having enlisted at 16, like his father who had run away to sea when he was 16 and living in North Shields.
James Aikman's wife, Mary Ann, died in 1895 aged 59: she was buried in Hexham Cemetery and her sister, Lydia Coats is in the same grave: she died in 1924. Even though this was 4 years before I was born, "Aunt Coats" was frequently mentioned in our home. I wear a favourite turquoise and diamond ring, which belonged to her, and furniture in my house came from Allendale House, Hexham. Her sister Margaret Cooke, born in Hexham in 1824, married William Reed, Master Mariner and they owned Allendale House, Hexham where her sister Lydia came to live with them and survived their deaths, Margaret's in 1897 and his in 1908. My son has a small sea chest from SS Coronet, which belonged to Margaret Reed.
These sisters were daughters of Lawrence Richardson Cooke and his wife Lucy Banks Earle. I found their graves in Hexham Cemetery: there were brothers and two other sisters also. Lawrence Cooke was a leather dresser and they lived in Cockshaw and Gilligate (Gilesgate now), the heart of the tanneries. Quoting from Whellan's 1855 Northumberland Directory, he says
"Hexham, long famous for its manufactories of leather, particularly gloves, of which about 24,000 dozens of pairs are made and exported annually, giving employment to about 1000 women and girls and 120 men and boys. Not less than 80,000 raw skins are used here yearly, besides about 18,000 skins of dressed leather imported from various places. There are 4 tanneries in the town, in which upwards of 20,000 calf and sheep skins and hides are dressed every year."
Lawrence and Lucy were married on 19th July 1823, at St John's, Newcastle upon Tyne. On the marriage bond he said he was a mariner.
As children we were told that the Abbey contained family monuments. In the porch there is an 18th Century headstone from the grave of John Cooke, a cordwainer, and his wife Margaret. The inscription is as follows:
"Here lieth the body of John Cooke of Hexham, Cordwainer who departed this life on th 23rd of November 1770 aged 71 and Margaret his wife who departed this life on the 6th of June 1771 aged 76 who were husband and wife Fourty Eight years.
Mourn not dear friends for our Decease for we with Christ have made our peace Life is uncertain death is ... (indecipherable)"
Another notable family monument is the magnificent west window, which I discovered, quite by chance, in 1994.
When we were children Benthema Hall, a relative of the shipping Family Hall Brothers, visited my grandmother. We were never sure of the connection with our family until I read the brass plaque below the west window:-
"These top windows were presented in loving memory of their parents by the children of Benthem Hall and Eleanor Ann his wife AD 1873. Benthem Hall born 7th August 1775 died 8th October 1859. Eleanor Ann daughter of the late John Cooke of this town born 10th October 1792 died 8th February 1868."
Research is underway into the Cooke family of Hexham and Eleanor may have been a sister or cousin of Lawrence Cooke who was born 9.1.1794. Lucy` Banks was 49 when she died 8.8.1855 and was interred in Hexham Abbey churchyard, as the new cemetery was not built until later in the 1850's. I believe so far, that Lawrence was the son of John Cooke and grandson of the cordwainer, I have found a very large family, with many Johns and Thomas' over several generations. Lawrence's father could be one of two John's born in 1733 or one in 1737 - time I hope will tell. Lucy was born in Scotland c. 1811.
My great grandmother Mary Ann was baptised in Hexham Abbey on 6.8.1835 and married there on 25.11.1867 to James Aikman, 27, bachelor mariner, Hexham, father's name John Aikman, contractor. Mary Ann was 32, spinster, father's name Lawrence Cooke, leather dresser. Witnesses were Alexander Coats and John Cooke. The former was married to Lydia, the bride's sister who had been baptised 10.4.1839. My grandfather was named Alexander Coats Aikman when he was born in South Shields in 1872.
James and Mary Ann's first child was James William who died aged 1 in 1869 when they were living with the Coats at 69 East Saville Street, South Shields. Saville Street was demolished in the 1960's and South Shields library is now on the site. They later lived at 68 and 70 Saville Street. James appears on the burgess role from '71 to '74 as seaman.
In 1871 their son William was born. He was known in my childhood as Uncle Willie and lived at Cedar Villa, Elvaston Road, Hexham until his death in 1940. He was a Master Mariner married to Aunt Annie (nee Knight) they had no family, so that he regarded my mother as a daughter. We saw him often, especially after his wife died in 1937. He had a car (we didn't) and regularly visited us taking us to walk along the pier at Tynemouth, also to Hexham and to visit our MacTaggart relations in Hawick.
My grandfather was a year younger, but died when he was only 60 of throat cancer, he was also diabetic as was Uncle Willie.
Their younger brother James was born in 1875 and I believe he also went to sea. He emigrated to Montreal, Canada, and was married to Aunt Jenny. Their sons were Percy and Howard; Percy was 6' 8" in height, played American Football and became an atomic physicist; he married a girl called Jet Black! Howard was a teacher and visited us when he was in the Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Uncle Jim and Aunt Jenny visited us in Newcastle in the 1930's and I remember they brought maple syrup for us! We have had no connection with them since the war.
James and Mary Ann's youngest child was Mary Helen born in 1877, always known as Nellie. She married Robert Lamb MacTaggart from Hawick who co-founded Pringle, the famous knitwear manufacturer. I have a large photograph of their wedding. They had 3 children: James, Ian and Mamie. These cousins of my mother were great friends after she and granny went to live in Newcastle in the early 1920's. They spent holidays together in Hexham and Embleton, where they played golf, and later my parents spent their honeymoon there, in 1925. Poor Aunt Nellie died in 1914, I think from emphysema (which her son Ian inherited) and governesses brought up the family. They were, according to my mother, rather wild.
I later spent holidays in the 1940's in Hawick with Uncle Jim, his wife Jessie and their sons Robin and Jamie. Jim was a shy man, he and both boys died relatively young. My mother was particularly fond of Uncle Ian and Mamie, who was one of her bridesmaids and was very pretty. She had the "famous" violet eyes, like Uncle Willie, though I never saw her as she married and lived in Australia. Uncle Ian worked for the Scottish Wool Marketing Board, was married to Aunt Jennifer and they had two daughters; Fiona b. 4.2.1943 and Ann b. 21.6.1944. We went to Fiona's wedding at Denholm in 1964 and Uncle Ian died soon afterwards. We lost touch soon after, apart from Christmas cards between my mother and Aunt Jennifer. By an amazing coincidence, in 1998, I met Ann's daughter Sarah Anderson and found they had been living in Darras Hall for over 20 years! Ann has been a widow for a number of years, has a daughter Sarah and a son James who is in the Scots Guards. Ann was a physiotherapist and Fiona became a nurse, she lives at Dryburgh, near Melrose - almost next door to Lessuden, where James Aikman's mother, Helen Thomson came from! Fiona and her husband John Lynn have a daughter and two sons.
Uncle Bob MacTaggart remarried, but I don't know when: his wife was called Hermione (Hymie) and they had a son, Crosby, who was killed at El Alamein in 1942. We used to visit them at Ingleside, their house by the Teviot in Hawick, going up for the day with Uncle Willie.
Uncle Bob had been instrumental in finding a job in woollen manufacturing for Uncle Stanley, my mother's brother, when he came out of the army. When on business in Yorkshire, he was offered a job by a Mr Stockwell at Alexandra Mills, Morley. Stanley married his only daughter, Constance in 1922 and she became my mother's great friend: their children were Elizabeth Marcia Stockwell, born 22.6.1923 and John Holliday, born 28.3.1926 who, on 5.3.1953 married my sister Margaret.
To return to the Aikman family: who by 1886 were living at 24, Linskill Terrace in North Shields, which was quite a salubrious address' James by then was a Master Mariner. In the Shields Daily News for 9.5.1883 there is a notice about the launch by Captain Aikman's wife of "SS 'Midas' at T and W Smith, Milburn Place, owners of Hall Bros., Newcastle". So the family connection between Cookes and Halls was a material help to my great grandfather. A far cry from his early days farm labouring near Edinburgh. He became a wealthy man and seems to have been a character during his naval career and something of an entrepreneur. My mother was very fond of him and I wish I knew more about his career at sea. Apparently he was obsessively punctual, sitting down to lunch at 12 am and banging on the table until the maid brought his meal. After his wife Mary Ann died, at 38, Plasturton Gardens, Cardiff, on 23.4.1895, she was taken back to Hexham for burial. James eventually remarried. The second Mrs Aikman (which was what my mother always called her) was a Miss Frances Phalp of Cardiff, and James was exceedingly kind to her family. He virtually adopted her niece, who married an alcoholic, and was very generous to her. When the second Mrs Aikman died, all James' money went to her niece, then on her death, to her husband.
In 1940 when my mother, sister and I visited Cardiff, we met 2 Miss Phelps, sisters of Mrs Aikman. James died in 1914 following a leg amputation.
Also living in Plasturton Gardens, number 22, were the Smiths, which is how my Grandparents Alec and Nan met each other. As with parents on both sides, Jessie Ann was older than Alec.
The men of course were always away at sea. My granny and mother came very much under the domineering influence of my great grandmother Smith and the unmarried aunts, Metta and Mary, who had the care of their dead sister's child, Wilma.
A persistent family "Myth" concerned my mother's grandmother: the story was told by my granny with a sense of secrecy and shame. She said that her mother, Margaret Mackie, was the child of an Earl's daughter who had run away with a servant. The Earl, said to be the Earl of Erne, settled them on a farm near the Black Isle and cut her off from her family. The daughter had an impoverished, unhappy childhood, and this was given as the reason she refused to return to Scotland after moving to Cardiff. She had become a governess to a Doctor's family in Edinburgh.
In 1991, just after my mother's death on 6.6.1991, I started researching Margaret Mackie, who has always seemed an interesting character. I knew that she came from Balintraid, Easter Ross from some notes Wilma wrote.
I first obtained a transcription of her marriage certificate, as previously noted this took place on 2.6.1857 at Aberdeen. She gave her age as 23, but she was born 13.2.1831, her father was James Mackie, grieve, deceased, and Isabella Watson.
In the summer of 1992 I stayed at Inverness and made a leap forward in my research with the help of the genealogist at Inverness Library. I found that James Mackie was born at Auldearn 5.10.1790, baptised at Hillend on 8.10.1790. Isabella Watson was born at Inshoch, Auldearn 16.1.1796. She and James contracted in marriage on 3.8.1818 and married on 20.8.1818. She was then living at Cothill, near Auldearn and he was at Kilmuir Easter, Easter Ross. According to the genealogist, James would have worked his way up through various farm hand jobs ubtil he became grieve (farm manager) at Balintraid, a large farm on the shore of the Cromarty Firth, which he managed for its owner, who at that time was Alexander Ogilvie.
James' and Isabella's family were:
John baptised 12.7.1819 in Rosskeen parish
Mary baptised 15.9.1821 in Fearn
Janet born 24.9.1823 in Kilmuir
James baptised 25.7.1825 in Kilmuir Easter
Margaret born 13.2.1831 in Balintraid
Daniel baptised 22.2.1831 (probably born previous year)
Alexander born 28.3.1833 at Balintraid
Donald born 15.12.1835 at Balintraid
On the 1841 census James Mackie was innkeeper at Balintraid, where there was an inn at the ferry landing - a busy place in those days. I don't know if he was still in employment at the farm. He was still alive at the time of the 1851 census but had died before 1857 when Margaret was married: I can find no record of his death or burial.
James Mackie - (Information from the genealogist Alastir Maclean, Inverness)
..."In the parish of Auldearn there seems to have been a presence of Mackies at least 100 - 150 years. During the 18th Century, also a sizeable MacKay presence. I see circumstances, which tend me to believe that Mackie and Mackay are one and the same in this parish, as they have the same derivation, the variation having been produced by the interpretation of a localised name. "
..."I found a James baptised in 1790, the entry for which appeared as follows:
OPR Auldearn Parish Baptisms 1790
McKay (Mackie/MacKay): Jas son to Thos. (Thomas) McKiey and Janet Clarke in Hillend was born 5th October and bap (baptised) 8th of sd (said) month. The witnesses were Jas Clarke, Brightmoney and Jas Christy in Urchany and Janet Clarke."
Thomas McKay and Janet Clark had a son Thomas baptised 28.1.1788, in Auldearn Parish, his birth date was 26.10.1788 at Hillend. There were a number of Mackies/Mackays living at Hillend, which must have been a large farm. I discovered that it was situated below Brightmoney, where I stayed on the road out of Auldean to Moyness. There is only a scrubby wood there now. Those farms with several members of the same family were known as "farm towns". There appears to have been two Janet Clarks married to Mackies in Hillend, as a James Mackie married Janet Clark on 4.3.1785 and had the following children:
John baptised 12.6.1785 at Auldearn
Alexander baptised 20.11.1786 at Auldearn
Janet baptised 26.2.1794 at Auldearn
"The entry relating to John's baptism in 1785 stated that he was the son of James Mackie and Janet Clarke in Hillend
... The witnesses to his baptism included a John Mackie in Penick (a neighbouring farm), a Mr Mackintosh (son of John Mackintosh in Penick), John Mackie in Hillend, Anne Clarke in Garblies and Janet Clarke in Brightmoney. The entry in the OPR for daughter Janet said that she was the daughter of James Mackie and Janet Clark in Hillend and that she was born 4.2.1794 and baptised 26.2.1794. The witnesses to this baptism were Alexander McLellan and Janet McKie."
It would be interesting to know who the father was of Thos. Mackie, father of James born in 1790, but difficult to disentangle.
I told the Inverness genealogist about the family "myth" and surprisingly he said it shouldn't be completely rejected, but may have applied to an earlier generation, as it was not uncommon. I'm rather glad that my mother never knew that the reality I found must be nearer the truth than the supposed scandal! She used to cite her grandmother's refined ways and high standards as evidence of blue blood! See Appendix 2.
It was a wonderful experience to drive up to Balintraid and to find the handsome house and estate, with its many outbuildings and view North to Ben Wyvis. I also went to the attractive small Kirk at Kilmuir Easter, near which was the old schoolhouse. It is extraordinary to think what a fine education was given in such humble Scottish Schools. I borrowed, through the British Library, as fascinating small book entitled "Kilmuir Easter, the History of a Highland Parish" by Helen Myers Meldrum (Robert Curruthers and Sons, Inverness 1935). The author was the daughter of a Minister of the Kirle there, and it gives an excellent picture of a small out of the way parish.
Margaret Mackie was married in the Free Church in Aberdeen, as the family would have left Kilmuir Kirk at the time of the 1843 disruption. The "Wee Frees" were, and still are, particularly strict in Sabbath observance. My granny would do no sewing or knitting or newspaper reading on Sundays, but only read books with a religious theme. She taught us the Catechism, which she had been brought up to observe (I still have it). She, of course, attended the Presbyterian Church in Wingrove Road near our house. I also chose to go there instead of Church of England, St James' and St Basil's where I was married.
The Mackie family spoke Gaelic, as both it and English were taught at school and was generally spoken until the end of the 19th Century. In Banff they used to speak it to the maids.
Life on the land and social conditions were extremely hard (See Appendix 1). When I visited Balintraid in 1992 the house was rather bizarrely occupied by hippies, who were partly living in two double-decker buses parked on the drive! The front of the house is Victorian but it is much older at the back; however I have found out that the original house is now a ruin covered by the surrounding wood. The farm buildings looked deserted, but a long row of farm workers cottages seem to have been gentrified and are now all occupied.
It was a strange sensation to stand on the lawn of the house and look across the Cromarty Firth to the beautiful Black Isle; the same view as the Mackies had when living out their hard lives there. One big change, in 1992, were the oil rigs up and down the Firth. Balintraid is a quiet place now, off the main road, which, with the mainline railway to Wick, is above. Not the busy estate and pier of former times.
Driving along from Kilmuir to Balintraid there is a small signpost on a side road, which says "Arabella". I was intrigued by this, as my granny's middle name was Arabella. I asked people coming out of the kirk about the place and was told it is an estate, named after an owner's wife: Arabella Ross. Her husband Hugh Ross reclaimed a farm called The Bog in the first half of the 19th Century and named it after his wife Arabella Phipps. He was very much in love with her but she died soon after their marriage and was long remembered for her charity. Margaret Mackie must have liked the name and the romantic story, perhaps she or her sisters were in service there. She must have seen her job in Edinburgh as a relief after the hard life at home. She was no longer at Balintraid for the 1851 census.
Married to Captain Smith and living in Banff she had certainly moved up in the world. Great grandfather Smith, according to my mother, was a quiet, gentle man, much dominated by his forceful wife. His Master Mariner Certificate was dated September 1863, the American Ship Masters Association Certificate of the Board of Trade was dated 28.8.1888. I think he sailed in ships connected with the tea trade with China. My mother told us how, on sailing homeward from China, he had picked up a young boy from the Yangtse River, where he would certainly have drowned. He was the son of a wealthy merchant and was a drug addict. As the ship was bound for home, and there was no contact with land, Captain Smith took the young boy back to England where he was cured of his addiction. Some two years later his rescuer returned him to his father, who was so overjoyed that he rewarded my great grandfather with Chinese vases and porcelain, some of which my sister and I still posses. In these days of international and instant communications this story is a vivid reminder of very different times.
I know very little of Uncle Alec who was my granny's only brother: he also went to sea and appears in a family group photograph of the Smiths, taken in Banff before they went to Cardiff in 1888. He married Bella Durkey, another Scot, in Cardiff, and they had a daughter, Irene. She married Russell King, an airline pilot, and they had a daughter, Rosemary, whose daughter Elizabeth Hake was born in 1949. I have tried to contact her in Winchester. My mother used to write to Irene but there has been no contact recently. Alec died of a stroke in 1930 and as aunt Bella was badly disabled by rheumatoid arthritis, his sister Mary Kirk McAllum Smith nursed him. It was through lifting him that she lost her sight and was totally blind for the rest of her life. She was a brilliant woman, utterly wasted. When I saw her in 1940 she could memorise the Stock Market prices after they were read to her from the newspaper. She had wanted to have a career, but after the death of her fiancé was made to stay at home by her mother, as was aunt Metta, who was much more flighty. It's a wonder my granny was ever allowed to marry; even so, her mother was not present at the wedding. She continued to exact her influence on Jessie Ann. Aunt Mary looked a formidable figure to me as a child: she was very erect, with the gaunt high cheek-boned face of her mother, and wore long black clothes. She was kind and always interested in us: she sent me £130.00 for my 21st birthday with which I bought some of the antique furniture which I still have. I remember the letters she somehow managed to write to my granny and mother. She died in January 1950 and my mother accompanied her coffin on a terrible winter journey for burial in Banff, in a train with no heating or food. All of the Smiths are buried there: my sister and brother in law - Margaret and John Aikman took Wilma's ashes up there after her death 8.10.1979
Banff is a handsome Royal Burgh town, with many fine 17th and 18th Century buildings. The Smith's big double-fronted house in Castle Gate has a fine situation with the garden high up over the harbour: a fine home for a Master Mariner. Granny used to use some of the old words from her childhood to us - talking of "quinies and loons" for girls and boys. (Lewis Grassic Gibbon in his N.E. Scotland saga "Sunset Song" uses the same words). She sang to us songs like "Miller of Dee - nickety-nackerty-noo-noo-noo" I wish I could remember more, she was such a sweet gentle person. She knitted for us and did the cooking: we had a maid for the housework. We had all the good plain food, which she must have learned to cook from her mother. I remember her oatmeal porage, salty and served with a separate bowl of milk, bread and milk, boiled mutton with caper sauce, sheep's head with brains and turnips, boiled cod and parsley sauce, beef olives, all sorts of milk puddings, suet puddings, baked apples, wonderful Christmas pudding and cake; special treats were roast chicken, banana and cream. We had chicken and rice pudding when Uncle Stanley came to see us, as it was his favourite meal. It was good food, well cooked. We had a gas stove in the stone-floored cold scullery in Wingrove Road, a range in the kitchen with a hob for the kettle, a step in larder and meat safe, a copper wash boiler and a large hand operated mangle in the scullery. How amazed granny would be to see today's magnificent kitchens and overflowing supermarkets!
Coffins were still brought in to homes until the funeral when both my grandparents died. She died of bowel cancer in a nursing home (her mother also died of it) on 27.2.1939. I remember visiting her after school one afternoon. She looked frail propped up in bed: I felt quite unable to talk to her and just stared out of the window in Jesmond: a vivid memory even now. My sister and I didn't go to the funeral, but I remember my mother sitting in the Dining room afterwards, looking so stricken. She and granny had never been apart and how she must have grieved for her. When the war broke out in September 1939, seven months later, my sister and I were evacuated with our school to Keswick. Our mother must have been so unhappy and she came to join us after we had been there only a week or so. I think the 3½ years we lived there must have been among the happiest in our lives, certainly for our mother.
I wonder what she would have thought about my research - she might have chosen not to believe it!
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