I have always had a fascination for maps. My interest in them started quite early on and the more I study them, the more I love them. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Past Map where it is possible to look at both old and recent maps, and compare them. So I decided to have a look for Isabella’s childhood home of Ruthven. I knew from her descendants that it’s not far from Dores, where she married Malcolm back in 1785 and where her children are buried. I found it pretty quickly, then discovered how close her first marital home, Dunchea, is (it’s one of the neighbouring farms to Ruthven) and how Bochruben, Achnabat and Erchit(e) are all relatively close by.
After my first visit to the National Records of Scotland and the surprising discovery how much the annual rent was for Ruthven, I decided I had to check see if any other Ruthvens were on Fraser of Lovat land. First of all, I googled for a Fraser of Lovat map and this one on Pinterest came up:
map of Fraser of Lovat clan lands, with Loch Ruthven circled in black
I had wondered if the village of Ruthven (near to Ruthven Barracks) was on Fraser of Lovat land, but it clearly was not. I had a look through the rest of the land, as defined on the map above, on Past Map and nothing else showed up.
What did show up was pretty interesting, though.
Map from Pastmap.org.uk showing the location of three farms
The romantic in me likes to think that Malcolm and Isabella grew up as childhood sweethearts, but that we will never know. They must have known each other for all their lives though.
Ruthven, where Isabella was born, is a neighbouring farm to Dunchea, her first marital home. Malcolm, her husband, was born at Bochruben, less than a mile away.
I had to go and see the place for myself, so we went on Sunday (after the Culloden commemoration weekend). The weather was beautiful.
Blackface sheep everywhere! Lovely to see them just roaming around, as they have done for hundreds of years
Loch Ruthven from the north side. Today Loch Ruthven is an RSPB nature reserve.
Loch Ruthven is described on Scotland’s Places as “a large loch which lies between Strath Errick, and Strath Nairn, the water of which runs into river Farigaig. It is about two miles in length and about 1/2 mile broad at its western end, but very narrow at the opposite one. It is celebrated for its fish which are numerous and large.”
Unfortunately Bochruben, (OS reference OS1/17/23/24) Malcolm’s birthplace and Home, is out of shot in these photos. It is described on Scotland’s Places as “a large farmhouse, two stories high,having numerous offices attached; the whole of which are slated and in excellent repair Captain John Fraser Balnain by Inverness Proprietor”
You can just make out Ruthven (OS1/17/23/19), Isabella’s birthplace and most likely the place where her dress was made, on the left of this picture. Ruthven is described as “a large and recently built farmhouse, two stories high, with extensive offices attached, all being slated in thorough repair, Lord Lovat proprietor Beaufort Castle, Beauly, Inverness-shire” on Scotland’s Places
You can also see what is referred to on the map as Tom Buidhe (OS1/17/23/16) at the water’s edge. According to Scotland’s Places, it refers to a “yellow hillock and is applied to a small rocky eminence situated on the north side of Loch Ruthven and about 1/4 mile north of the Farm steading of Ruthven”. It then states that it was the property of Captain J Fraser of Balnain by Inverness (more on him at a later date – he’s come up in my research at the National Records of Scotland), and that the source of the information was Mr D Whyte and Mr J MacTavish.
The map also details the remains of a crannog. It is hardly surprising that the people have lived there for thousands of years; the land is fertile and the loch is not only home to rare birds but is possibly full of fish as well.
A note on the information on the Scotland’s Places website; this comes from the Inverness-shire name books of 1876-1878.
We also went to Dores to go and have a look at the church (where they were married on 12th January 1785). The current church was built in the 19th century, I presume on the foundations of a previous church building as the graveyard dates from the 18th century and there was definitely a church there in 1784. Isabella and Malcolm’s children are buried there. Link to page on Canmore
Image of Dores in 1784 from http://www.doresonlochness.co.uk/story-of-dores.html
The church and graveyard today
The beach at Dores, on Loch Ness. An absolutely beautiful spot which I highly recommend visiting if you can – especially as it is next to the Dores Inn. If you want to find out more about the area, there is an excellent local research group online
It was wonderful to go and explore, albeit briefly, where Isabella lived and to see it with my own eyes (& not on Google maps).
The next post will be on a box of documents at the National Records of Scotland, which have provided written proof of Malcolm farming these lands at the turn of the 19th century.
I will get on to the dress itself towards the end of May, after I have visited it again.