Forgotten tales

stories of my family

The Ross family of Gledfield, Ross-Shire

Ardgay, between Gledfield and Kincardine, looking south from Bonar Bridge across the Dornoch Firth

Ardgay, between Gledfield and Kincardine, looking south from Bonar Bridge across the Dornoch Firth

Sometime around 1821 or 1822 James Andrew Ross (1794-1866) of Edderton, Ross-Shire, married Catherine Urquhart (1800-1887) of Golspie, Sutherland. They had at least 12 children over the next 25 years, though there may have been more since children so often died in infancy in those days. James was a blacksmith and he set up shop, and established a home in Gledfield, about 9 miles north west of Edderton, near where the Carron River flows into the Kyle of Sutherland, which becomes the Dornoch Firth.

It was a big family. There were 8 boys and 5 girls. Donald was firstborn (1823) and after him came Ann (1824). John followed in 1826 and James in 1827. Six more children were born in the 1830s – Helen, Catherine (Katie), Andrew, George and Alexander (Sandy) and Mary. Malcolm was born in 1840, Hector in 1843 and finally Jane in 1844. There is one anomaly, namely that Mary Ross, born 1839, is listed as Mary Ann Ross McLachlan in the 1851 census. The significance of her extra name is hard to explain. Was she adopted? There are no other McLachlans in the family, but it is possible that she was a relative whose parents died. She does not appear in the 1861 census, but may have been married by that time. I have no other information about her.

Of the boys 6 became blacksmiths, which was understandable given James’ trade. Donald, John, Andrew, George, Malcolm and Hector all followed their father’s trade. James took up carpentry, later becoming a journeyman joiner. Sandy became a teacher. Of the girls, Ann married in her early twenties and had three children, although her husband died in his twenties, soon after the birth of the third. Helen and Jane married in Australia. Kate remained at home and cared for her ageing parents until her tragic death, drowned in the Carron River at age 48.

Four of the Ross family migrated. First Andrew and his sister Helen left in 1857. They sailed on the Alfred from Liverpool. Both Andrew and Helen married in Australia, Andrew to Janet Anderson, another Scot, and Helen to James Redstone, an English immigrant. Both families settled in the Bellinger Valley of northern NSW. Nine years later, in 1866, James Ross, his wife and four children, migrated. They sailed on a ship called the Africana, and his youngest sister, Jane Ross, sailed with them. James and Mary Ross remained in Sydney, where James continued his trade as a carpenter and joiner. They had more children. Jane, however, moved north to her brother Andrew and his young family. Jane ended up marrying the Andrew’s wife’s brother, David Anderson. So of the four Rosses to migrate three died in the Bellingen area, but James Ross died and is buried in Sydney.

Of the nine children who remained in Scotland, two never married – Kate and Hector. Ann married Hugh Aird and they had three children before Hugh died in 1855 at the age of 28. One of their daughters, Hughina, married the schoolmaster at Gledfield, but died at the age of 42 in 1894. What became of Donald and George Ross I have yet to discover. John moved to England where for a time he lived with his brother James, in Birkenhead near Liverpool. However, John died in 1862 when he was only 36 years of age. He is buried in Kincardine. He was survived by his wife Betsy and their children. Sandy became a teacher and ended up the schoolmaster at Ferintosh. He too married and had a family. What became of Mary I have no information about.

Malcolm and Hector took over the family business, the Gledfield smithy, after their father died in 1866, the same year that James and Jane left for Australia. Malcolm was 26 and Hector 23 that year. Neither was married. They lived in Gledfield with their unmarried sister Kate and their ageing mother. Malcolm eventually married Jane Munro, but they never had any children. Both are buried in the Kincardine churchyard. Kate died in 1879. Malcolm died in 1897 at age 57 and his wife Jane lived to the age of 59, dying in 1911 in Edinburgh.

At the dawn of the twentieth century only 57 year old Hector was left in Gledfield. He was unmarried and lived in the house next to the smithy. Only three of his siblings survived into the 1900s – a brother in Scotland and two sisters in Australia. Sandy died in 1902. Helen and Jane lived on the far side of the world, in rural Australia. They died in 1916 and 1905 respectively.

Hector Ross. Downloaded from From Judy Horrigan.

Hector Ross. Downloaded from From Judy Horrigan.

I recently received a copy of a letter that was sent to Don Robinson by someone who knew the family, a certain Harriet Smith, of Ardgay. Don must have met her on his travels. The letter is dated 1978. Here is a slightly edited extract (thanks to Judy Horrigan who sent me a scanned copy):

I can only tell you little bits I know about them told me by my late Mother – born March 1872 died June 1968 – so she was well acquainted with them. She was a very near neighbour of theirs and in her early teens was engaged as their domestic help. The house then consisted of Hector, Malcolm, and their old bedridden mother and Malcolm’s wife, Jeannie (Jane). My mother spoke quite a lot to me of her early service there. There was a big family of sons and as far as I remember it included a Donald, George, Alexander (Sandy) and I know there was a sister Katie who was accidentally drowned in the River Carron quite close by. I was born 1906 and so I do remember Hector and saw him often at his work in the “smiddy.” I never saw Malcolm and Auntie Jeannie died in an Edinburgh hospital in 1910 following an operation.

The old mother was senile and very restless and troubled in her mid due to this. Malcolm was very fond of his mother and never went out from his meals but went to her bedside and spoke a comforting word to her and I always remember my mother telling me that he’d say, “What is it mother? God so loved that he gave his only Beloved Son__” Both brothers were very good Christian men. Uncle Malcolm had a lovely singing voice and used to sit at the fireside singing hymns – a favourite chorus was,
“I am coming Lord, coming now to thee.
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood that flowed at Calvary.”

… Hector never married but lived on in the home with a succession of housekeepers and when he got too old for their care he went to live in the little village of Edderton which is nine miles south of Ardgay with people of the name of Aird. You say who were the Airds? Well I’m sure that I’m not making a mistake when I say that Donald Aird, who kept a little grocers shop there, was a nephew of H & M. Another niece, Donald Aird’s sister, was married to a local schoolmaster here G G McLeod – his family tombstone is very close to Uncle Malcolm’s. G G McLeod had a big family of daughters (9 I think) and one son, another James. I’m sure Donald Aird had a son, “Hector.”

Hector died in 1929 and is buried with his parents and his sister Kate in the churchyard in Kincardine. As far as I know there are no Rosses of this family left in the Gledfield-Ardgay-Kincardine area now, though there are possibly McLeods and Airds.

Family grave of James and Catherine Ross, also Catherine (Katie) their daughter and Hector their son. Headstone erected by Hector.

Family grave of James and Catherine Ross, also Catherine (Katie) their daughter and Hector their son. Headstone erected by Hector.


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