Posted by: Rory Brown | April 27, 2008

The start of some family history


Donald_Mackenzie_1861, originally uploaded by Rory Brown. (click on enlarge & view at original size when clicking through to see entry detail).

Last Summer I was up at Greenhill to sort the house out after building work. Coming back one afternoon John McGee – who was struggling to paint a particularly awkward ceiling – said that some relatives had called by to ask if anyone from the family was around. They said they would call back later. I asked John to describe them and then phoned my mother to ask who it might be. “Sounds like it might be Catriona” she said.

She was right. That evening Catriona and her husband Richard called in. Catriona is the daughter of Dr. ‘Christo’ Macrae, who was my grandmother’s brother & was born in Achiltibuie. I have no idea what relation that makes her to me.. They were in Achiltibuie on holiday staying at the Summer Isles hotel & Richard was completing some work he had done on the Macrae family tree. They very kindly invited me to join them for a wonderful dinner at the hotel & Richard then sent me a file of all the work they had done tracing ancestors in the area.

My connection with Achiltibuie comes via my maternal grandmother, Flora Mackenzie Macrae. Flora was born in 1912 & lived in Kiltarlity, near Beauly. She had two uncles (John & Roderick) neither of whom married, who lived at Greenhill in Achiltibuie and were responsible for extending the house from an old crofters dwelling into what it is today. She regularly visited and remembered the time it used to take to get across to Achiltibuie, including changing the horses at Altguish (& you thought the roads were primitive today). As they got older she would often stay for reasonable periods of time to look after them & eventually inherited the house when they died.

* Note of caution here, I am going to pass on some of the stories that have passed down to me. There may be some inaccuracies – as there always tend to be in family history – I’d be happy to hear from anyone who disagrees in the comments section or at *

From what I understand Roderick was the local schoolmaster & Justice of the Peace. He also owned the salmon fishing rights in the area. By all accounts he was the brains of the family. John was a carpenter and also the local undertaker. He apparently worked on the extension of the hotel but is reputed to have drunk his entire fees well before the end of the job..
That was as far back as I have heard from ‘first hand ‘ stories but now, thanks to Richard, I can trace back a little further. I’ll do so in more detail in another post but in the meantime here is a copy of the 1861 census return for Donald Mackenzie – Roderick’s father – who was born in 1825 in Achiltibuie.

Here is another great resource for family history & genealogy in Coigach . According to Richard the Ullapool museum is also a great source of information for anyone looking to research their roots in the region.

When clearing out Greenhill I also found a whole load of family documentation including rent books dating back a couple of hundred years. I’ll try to scan some of this information and post it online. Should probably also take them to the museum next time I’m up.

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