Speculation on our family history by my father

My father, Duncan Hartley, has been researching the family history for some years now. This has been a painstaking and at times difficult task. It has also been a labour of love. There is only one link remaining in a long chain that may extend back to the year 896! Below is his latest research that takes the form of a short story. I hope you find it of interest?

You will find more of his research at the following sites: http://www.clan-cameron.org.uk/

The imagination takes fire at the thought of one’s ancestors being caught up in a dramatic period of history. This story is partly of the imagination. Some of the characters you will recognize, for they are included in the present research, and their lives are described as the evidence suggests. The history of others of our family, particularly the earlier ones, cannot be justified on the basis of known facts. They are included to make up a cohesive and complete story – a short novel, if you like – just for the fun of it. But the historical background is true.

THE STORY OF A HIGHLAND FAMILY In the year 896 the death occurred of Sitric Halfdansson. His life, at this distance of some 1100 years, is something of a mystery, but there does seem to be a hint of Scandinavia in his name. He was succeded by his son Ranald who was styled ‘King of Waterford and Dublin’. Thereafter the names begin to change from the Nordic sound to the Gaelic, and include, around 1100, Somhairle Mor Macgillebride, King of Argyll, 1st Lord of the Isles, who married Ragnhilda, Princess of the Isles. In 1272 we hear the name MacDonald for the first time, Angus Og MacDonald, son of Angus Mhor MacDonell. Around 1390 the name Shomhairle Ruaidh (Somerled) appears. Four generations later we have Donald McAlister MacSorley-Cameron, styled ‘1st of Glen Nevis’. (Sorlie or Sorley being a translation of the Gaelic Shomhairle or Somerled.) The MacSorlies are thus descended from the same stock as the MacDonalds. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the most important tribes in Lochaber were the Clan Donald, the Clan Chattan, and the Mael-anfhaidh. The latter consisted of three main tribes; the MacMartins of Letterfinlay; the MacGillonies (Mac ghille-anfhaidh); and the MacSorlies of Glennevis (Sliochd Shoirle Riaidh). The Camerons descended from what looks decidedly like Norman stock, de Cambrun. The 14th Century appears to have been a good one for the Camerons, who were numerous in Lochaber at that time. A number of other tribes adopted the name of Cameron, either voluntarily or under duress, and although the MacSorlies were of MacDonald descent they were ‘encouraged’ to call themselves Camerons. The MacSorlie-Camerons of Glen Nevis were involved heavily with members of the Erracht faction of the Cameron Clan during the murderous stuggle in 1613, when many of the leading members of both were killed by the Lochiel Camerons. It is speculated that around this time a woman of Erracht married a MacSolie-Cameron. When Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed on Scotland’s shores on 25th July 1745, the then Chief of Clan Cameron, Donald Cameron of Lochiel, hastened to confer with the Prince to dissuade him from continuing with the Rising. Donald’s nature and upbringing would not allow him to let down one to whom he had sworn loyalty, and when the Prince insisted that he would continue even though few joined him, Lochiel reluctantly agreed to join the Rising. With the prestigious Camerons on board, other clans soon agreed to join them, and the die was cast. John Cameron, living in Glen Nevis, answered the call from his Chief, and at the age of 45 went away to war. On 20th September he was in the victorious Highland army at the Battle of Prestonpans, and he and 650 Camerons marched into England on 1st November. By 26th December the Prince’s army was in Glasgow, following its retreat from Derby. Two victories followed, on 8th January at Stirling and 17th January at Falkirk. The retreat to Inverness began at the end of January, and the Highland Army was finally destroyed at Culloden on 16th April 1746. John was among the Cameron clansmen killed, but his son Donald, who had joined the Prince’s forces at the age of 16, escaped. Donald made his way down the eastern side of the Great Glen, and arrived home in Glen Nevis wounded and exhausted to find his mother Isobel distraught with worry. Stories were told of the ferocity of the Hanoverian troops as they rooted out suspected Jacobites from their homes and shot them out of hand. They agreed that they must leave everything but necessities, and make their way over Rannoch Moor, where many of the survivors were headed. They would be safer in Rannoch than anywhere else. It was remote, the terrain difficult to cross, and the hills would afford fugitives a good view of the Moor, and anyone approaching. The months following were a nightmare of fear and hunger. They reached Loch Rannoch, and joined a number of other refugees. A detachment of the Duke of Cumberland’s troops appeared, and created a barracks at the Braes of Rannoch, so Donald and the other men took to the hills where the troops would not venture. They sustained themselves by ranging far and wide to steal cattle, and by so doing helped to create the reputation of Rannoch as being a place of thieves and murderers. But they survived, and gradually a number of enlightened English officers began to establish civilised society, building houses and schools, and encouraging teachers and tradesmen to come into the area from around 1752. One of the first of the schools was established at the tiny hamlet of Finart at the south-western end of the Loch in 1753. This was also the hamlet where Donald and his mother had their home. Donald worked hard to make the land fit to produce crops. After his mother Isobel died in 1749 he found the love of his life, a young woman of his own age living at Ardlarich, north of the Loch, where the McGrigors had their stronghold. She was Katrin McGrigor. They married in 1752, and during the next nine years produced four children: Janet (born 1753), Duncan (born 1756), Hugh (born 1758) and John (born 1760). The last two died in infancy, and it was essential that as soon as Duncan was old enough he worked the land with his father. Such was the success of their labours that Duncan was able to join the little school in Finart in 1771 at the age of fifteen. In the next two years he learned to read the bible, write legibly, and acquire some skill in arithmetic. Katrin and Donald both died in 1780 at the age of around fifty, and Janet married shortly after that. Duncan thought about going back to Glen Nevis. However word had come to Rannoch that the clan chiefs had realised that their ways had to change in order to provide a better life for themselves. Many of their houses had been burned down after the ’45, and their estates had been forfeit to the Crown, but had since been restored to them subject to heavy fines. They gave in to economic necessity and brought in the sheep. With the sheep came also shepherds, maybe four shepherds where before the land had supported, albeit in a very poor way, a hundred clansmen. Duncan loved Rannoch, and he decided to stay in Finart and cultivate the soil with honest labour. He would never make a fortune, but he could be happy there. The year was now 1788, and he was thirty-two years old. There were a number of Kennedy families living in the village, and he had been friends with a number of Kennedy boys of his own age before he left in 1774. Grisell Kennedy was eighteen, and had an older sister and a younger brother and sister. Duncan was smitten with Grisell. The attraction was mutual, and they were blissfully happy in each other’s company. They married in 1792 in Finart when he was 36 and she 22, and decided to look for a home away from Rannoch. They travelled south to the Callander region of Perthshire and made their home at the village of Port of Menteith, a few miles from Callander, on the shore of a small stretch of water called Lake of Menteith (the only ‘Lake’ in Scotland). In the lake is a small island on which stands Inchmahome Priory, visited three times by Robert Bruce between 1306 and 1310, and provided a refuge for the four-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots in September 1547 after the disastrous Battle of Pinkie. The first child of Duncan and Grisell, Angus, was born early in 1793. They found a little place by Loch Drunkie, a few miles to the north-west, over the Menteith Hills. There John was born in 1795 and Janet in 1796. Moving to Balquiddher, about fifteen miles north, Donald was born towards the end of 1797, and after a further move to Strathblane in Stirlingshire a daughter Florio— came along in 1810 when Grisell was 40 years old. They had a plot of land, and Duncan, with his experience of farming, set out to keep his family well fed and housed. He was successful working the land in this much more fertile area, and as Angus and John grew up they took over some of the hard work from their father. But farming was not John’s idea of a lifetime occupation. He was ambitious to learn a skill that would give him security to have a wife and children of his own, and determined to seek his fortune in a big city where there was excitement that was lacking in his life in this backwater of Stirlingshire. Angus had already left to find his fortune. With the blessing of his parents, John set out for Glasgow in 1814 at the age of 19. His father was 58 years old , and his mother 44, but he was satisfied that they would manage to live off the land, which he had left in a good state, with the help of Donald, who was now seventeen. In Glasgow he soon found his feet, and got a job in a mill to give him some income to live on. Meanwhile he looked around for a good-paying trade, and finally settled on weaving. Weavers were the elite of the working class, and the centre of the weaving trade was Paisley. His attitude to learning the craft was impressive, and he soon became apprenticed to a weaver in Paisley. By the age of 25 he had learned a great deal of the skills required to become a cottage weaver, and departed to find work in the small weaving town of Kilbarchan, a few miles south-west of Paisley. He was an enterprising young man, and soon joined a co-operative where looms were jointly owned, and the participants shared the jobs of preparing the spindles of thread, setting up the looms, and producing the cloth. He was also a personable young man, and soon found his soul-mate in a young girl living in the town with her parents. Her name was Janet Mitchell, and her father was a weaver. John, seeing both a wife and a business start-up, fell in love. His feelings were reciprocated, and in no time at all they were ‘going out’. Everything had to be very ‘proper’ in this deeply religious town, and the proprieties were observed. Janet’s father James Mitchell gave John good advice on both weaving and the art of being a good husband, and Martha Mitchell made him the recipient of many of her pies and pasties. John and Janet were married on 7th December 1821 at the kirk in Kilbarchan, a town which John was to make his home for the rest of his life. They obtained a weaver’s cottage at 12 Shuttle Street, and settled down to put to good use John’s skills as a weaver, aided by his adoring Janet. Janet proved to be a wonderful wife, mother, and, in the intervals between babies, apprentice weaver. She presented John over the next twenty years with seven children, all healthy specimens, and all eventually married except one. The exception was Janet’s last baby, Duncan, born in 1842. He turned out to be every bit as ambitious as his father, and went away to study to be an engineer. He was successful, but before he could put his skills at the disposal of a wife, he died at the age of 26. The cause was phthisis, which he had suffered for two years, a disease of wasting of the lung, possibly due to pollution in the atmosphere from industrial waste. The next generation were to suffer badly from the same disease. [ See a discussion of this disease in the notes to John Cameron (b.1829) on the web site]. As soon as each child was old enough he or she became apprenticed to their father. The youngest child, Duncan, mentioned above, was born in February 1841, and they all lived in a small weaver’s cottage in the (appropriately named) Shuttle Street. In June of that year there were nine of them. The working area, where John worked and where the children prepared the spindles and the loom, was in a lower room, and the living quarters consisted of two rooms on the ground floor of the cottage. They were not lucky enough to have one of the larger cottages, with a further two rooms on an upper floor. The beds were recessed into the walls and, of course, they had to ‘double up’. There were sash-type windows in the two living rooms. The third child of John and Janet, born in 1828, was John, named after his father. He was to be the one to carry on the line to ourselves. In 1845 John’s father Duncan, now on his own after losing Grisell the previous year, made the painful journey from Port of Menteith to Kilbarchan. He was 89 years old, and John took time off to escort him to his final home. He died seven years later. Between 1849 and 1858 the five daughters, Grace, Martha, Jean, Janet and Mary, all married. John (son) remained at home, by the age of twenty a skilled weaver himself. He met young Elizabeth Murphy, an Irish girl of his own age, in the town and they fell in love. She was in service with the family of a well-to-do merchant. They married in April 1852 and found a cottage in Church Street. Now John and Janet were on their own for the first time in over thirty years. John was 57 and Janet 54. Their solitude was not to last, however. Their daughter Mary lost her much older husband Hugh McKeith in 1857, and Janet lost her husband John Robertson in 1860. Both Mary and Janet returned to the family home, and they all moved to Cartside, near to the river Cart, which flows to the east of the town, in 1865. Janet died in November 1872 at the age of 74, and John followed her four and a half years later, in 1877 aged 85. Meanwhile John and Elizabeth were blessed with their first child in 1853, a little girl Janet, named after the mothers of both of the happy parents. Young John arrived in 1855, followed by Ann in 1856, Robert in 1858, Peter in 1860 and Duncan in 1862. Then came years of tragedy. Towards the end of February 1863 Peter aged 2 contracted gastric fever and died in March. The following month John, the second-born, who had suffered from mesenterica disease since he was about five years old, died before his ninth birthday. The month after that, little Duncan, only five months old, died of bronchitis and pneumonia after an illness of 16 days. Another daughter, Grace, was born in 1864, but tragedy was to strike two years later when the first-born, Janet, died at the age of 13, two months before another son was born. They called this new baby John in memory of the first John who had died three years before, but at 10 months the little chap was convulsed for four weeks with whooping cough, and died in March 1867. The following January (1868) Thomas was added to the now greatly-diminished family, and Duncan in February 1870. (Duncan was to be the progenitor of the Hartleys and the Camerons in England.). Fate, however, had not finished with this family. A new daughter,Elizabeth, was born in 1872 but died of phthisis after a fifteen month illness at the age of four. Shortly after her death, another Elizabeth was born, in November 1876. She was to be the last child of John and Elizabeth. There were two further twists of the knife in the hearts of the parents. Thomas had reached 12 when he died of abdominal phthisis after an eight-month illness. There was a long interval before the final blow when, in 1894 Elizabeth, now 17, died of phthisis in Paisley. Of the twelve children born to John and Elizabeth, only four reached maturity: Ann, Robert, Grace and Duncan. Grace never married, and died aged 74 in 1939 at Paisley Infirmary. Robert married Ann Inglis and left Kilbarchan. Duncan met Margaret McCrone Ferguson, who lived in nearby Johnstone. She became pregnant, and they married at Johnstone on 25th December 1897. Their daughter was born 2nd March 1889 in the same town. She, like her mother, was given a second Christian name to perpetuate the surname of her maternal grandmother – Janet McQuilton Cameron. A son was born on 22nd April 1900, John Cameron. Some time after that the family moved to Leeds in England, and Duncan took a job as a travelling salesman for a paper manufacturer, which he retained until he retired. He was well-respected, and a loyal member of the bowling club at Headingley. He died aged 63 after a series of leg amputations, due to gangrene picked up, it was thought, on the beach at Bridlington. Margaret died five years later, aged 68. Both are buried in Lawnswood Cemetary, Leeds. Duncan and Margaret had taken a small terrace house, 16 Newport View, near Headingley cricket and rugby ground. Next door to them lived a family with four sons, the Hartleys. The second and third sons were in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the First World War, and both were wounded at the Battle of Loos in 1916. The third son, David Lincoln Hartley, never really recovered from his wound and died about 1928 after having married and fathering a posthumous son, also David Lincoln, who died early in infancy. Janet had her eye on the second son, Maurice, and they eventually married in 1922. After a still-born son in 1924, in 1926 they had a son, John Duncan, named after both his grandfathers. Janet’s brother John married Constance Alice Taylor (Connie), born in Kenilworth in 1899, and in 1941 they produced a son Ian Kenneth Duncan. Janet and Maurice had only the one surviving child, John Duncan (usually just called Duncan), who joined the Royal Navy at 17 when the Second World War was in its fourth year. Before joining the Navy he had met Margaret Leak, and several years after demobilisation they married. Margaret had been born in Canada of British parents, but had been in the England since she was five. They had three sons, Richard (1955), Michael (1959) and David (1961). Maurice suffered from painful arthritis for almost twenty years until his death in 1967. Janet carried on as a widow for the next seventeen years, but died of cancer in 1980 after a short illness. Her daughter-in-law Margaret died at the end of 1997, losing a brave seven-year fight against cancer.
Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada