Today was Ruth’s day of checking out a bit of family history.
We had decided on Dyke as a base for a few days to explore the Moray area east of Inverness. One target we had identified was the coastal town of Cullen on the Firth of Moray where Ruth’s mother’s father’s ancestors hailed from.
Ruth was also on a bit of a mission having explored the NZ background of the Fraser that came to New Zealand from Cullen. That lead to a graveyard in Whangarei and via the web, she found and came into contact with a local (NZ) historian who was keen to get details from the old graveyard and other key spots in Cullen, especially up to date photographs.
I had fossicked around and found a few walks in the Cullen area so we decided to make a day of it. The forecast was for rain (what else!) in the morning possibly clearing in the afternoon. Sounded as good as it will get, a soggy morning in a graveyard and town and a slightly less soggy afternoon warming up with some exercise.
We found the Auld Kirk without problem, it was wet and cold but the gate was open and we quickly found the Fraser family memorial. We also happened across the Kirk handyman (Bill) who was very knowledgeable on the history of the kirk, the area and many other things including the Shetland Bus which had a strong link to the nearby town of Buckie.
While not normally open in the morning, Bill took us through the church which dated back to the 13th century and explained the intricacies of the various lofts and preferential seating that could be purchased. The history of the kirk included links to Robert the Bruce whose second wife, Queen Elizabeth de Burgh died at Cullen and her “vital organs” were buried at the church. King Robert made an endowment of “thretty three schillings foure penny’s” to establish a chaplainry to pray daily for the soul of his Queen. The endowment is still paid to the incumbent minister.
Cumberland had also used the Church as a stable on his way to Culloden which is just “down the road” from Dyke.
The church and surrounding area were on the lands of the Earl of Seafield (an ancestor worked for an Earl as his commisioner ). The Kirk was originally a central part of the town but in the early 1800’s the then Earl decided that he wanted to be a little more distant from his town folk and had the town moved out towards the coast. No evidence of the old town remains near the old kirk. The Earl owned all the land in the area, you could be a tennat and in the unlikely event that you did some how become a freeman and own land in your own right, the Earl had first dibs on your land should you ever choose to sell it.
I guess that it was the feudal system that was a factor, especially for rural dwellers, that lead them to leave for countries like New Zealand where class had no bearing on your ability to succeed.
As hoped, the rain eased off and we were able to complete a circular walk along the coast to a nearby village. A crisp breeze continued to blow off the North Sea, the sun stayed put behind the heavy layer of slate grey cloud, the villages were deserted except for the shrieking gulls searching for their lunch or possibly afternoon tea. It all seemed very appropriate for the location.
It was a special day for Ruth with the bonus of a really nice walk along the coast. A good travel memory and worthwhile detour.