26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig

The ancestry of Dugal McQueen is extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu). Other blog entries on the McQueens include 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; 18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night; BRIEFLY NOTED: A McQueen 300th Anniversary; and 24. Tartan Day and Our Scottish Origins.

On June 15th I was privileged to visit Pollochaig in the Scottish Highlands, the home of my mother’s McQueen ancestors. My wife Joan and I had slated the location for a special visit while on our vacation in Ireland and Scotland.

We parked at a sheep gate at the two-house settlement of Ruthven above the town of Tomatin, Inverness-shire, and hiked in. In retrospect, we could have opened the gate and driven most of the way, but walking certainly set the scene for what would come.

The day was a wild one, with constant rain showers and cold, blustery winds. Though wearing ponchos and jackets, our legs and feet were quickly soaked. We passed along the Findhorn River, its green banks grazed by sheep.

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A couple of miles in, the first view of the ruins took my breath away. The dark remains of buildings against impossibly green pasture, the multitude of bleating sheep, the towering dark hills in the background with cloud-obscured tops, and the small burn in the foreground leading down to the river, made an impression that a sunnier day could not possibly have equalled. Joan would later call it her “Quintessential Scottish experience.”

On inspection it became apparent that the upper, more distant structure had been a house, because a hearth and the lower remains of a chimney were built into the north end.  One entrance, at least, had been through a door on the east side.

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The lower structure was more enigmatic to our amateur eyes. There appeared to be one large chamber with an attached byre, an inside corner of which is barely visible to the right of my picture below. There was no evidence of a hearth at any of the walls. Also the walls did not appear to be thick enough for the structure to be an older home of the blackhouse type [1], which would have had no chimney and a possibly less detectable central hearth. Perhaps the structure was simply a barn, larger than the house up above.

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Records suggest that Pollochaig was “probably in sheep before 1800” [2]. Certainly it has remained so, with dozens if not hundreds of sheep bleating in greeting as we arrived. They all mysteriously went silent as I started capturing a movie, so that bit of geographical magic remains unrecorded!

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A bit up the road after we left, I turned for my last misty view of Pollochaig. Inevitably I thought of my ancestor Dugal McQueen, looking back while taking much the same route in 1715 as he left to join the rebel army [3]. It would be his last glimpse of home. A lump came to my throat, unbidden.


Notes:

[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackhouse (2016).

[2] Information retrieved from http://theses.gla.ac.uk/3914/1/2002EppersonPhD.pdf (2016).

[3] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for download through Lulu.

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7 thoughts on “26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig

  1. What a wonderful experience for you and your wife. I remember in one of your past correspondences that it was your wish to visit Scotland. Thank you for sharing your experience and the breathtaking pictures with the rest of us. I wonder if parish or district records exist for the McQueens in that region?

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    • You’re welcome! Fortunately we don’t need to guess from maps what parish Dugal McQueen resided in, because while he was a prisoner in Lancaster Castle he was described as a resident of Moy, co. Inverness — i.e., the parish of Moy and Dalarossie. The records of that parish are described at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Moy_%26_Dalarossie,_Inverness,_Scotland_Genealogy#cite_note-1. Presbyterian birth records extend back only to 1788, the earlier records reportedly having burned, and there are no marriage or death records. Kirk session records extend back to 1742 and may mention some births, marriages, and deaths, but that was still long after Dugal’s departure in 1715.

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