Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Maps and rabbit holes

I love maps and I especially love old maps. Right now I am studying some hand-drawn maps from 1770 showing how land was allocated around Ardersier.

These old maps are amazing, not least for firing up the imagination and creating life-stories and adventures from little more than a list of old names. Naturally, I have no idea what their characters were like - that is pure invention on my part - but there is coding on the map that indicates what kind of ground it is (it's on another part of the map that stretches towards Nairn).

Of course, the real way to get the imagination going is to combine looking at maps like this with gravestones!

A while ago, I was up in Ardersier and my hubby and I spent an afternoon looking at old gravestones. It's a little eerie to find the headstones of the people listed on the map. From the dates, you can work out how old they were when this map was drawn and how old their neighbours were. It's only a few more steps to start imaging their lives.

I found one gravestone very interesting. It had clearly been made for the death of a child, but the intention was obviously for the mother and father to be buried in the same grave eventually. The space left for the father's details remain blank. The details for the mother are more extensive than had been planned for and are crammed in. My brain is immediately going, "Why isn't the father buried here? What happened to him? Who had the mother's details added? The husband? Why did they go for so much when the space was so small? Did they have more children and if so, where are they buried?"

This is the stone:


It reads (as far as I can tell):

In memory of

Alexr McDonald

in Canty who


and Isobell

Dunbar his spouse

who departed this life

August [illegible] aged [illegible]

and their children

James McDonald

who died the [illegible]

Feb 1789 aged [illegible]

months                           


The large space at the top was presumably for Alexander McDonald's death date, and the fact it says 'children' rather than 'child' makes me assume they planned to have more. But there are no more listed, even though the wife was ultimately buried there. So many questions rattle through my brain when I find stones like this! And naturally, I've been scouring the 1770 maps to see if I can find either McDonalds and/or Dunbars. 😀



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