36. Revisiting the McQueen Estate of Pollochaig

The ancestry of Dugal McQueen is extensively traced and referenced in The Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

Recently I came across two antique photographs of Pollochaig (Polochaig) [1], the home of our McQueen ancestors. That was the location in co. Inverness, Scotland, where Dugal McQueen (ca 1670?-1746) was raised before his capture at the Battle of Preston (1715) and his overseas exile to Maryland [2].

Polochaig.buildings.1910
Aerial view of Pollochaig, northward, in 1910

Both photos were taken in 1910, looking northward from elevations that reveal quite a bit of the land associated with the property. The buildings were then in a good state of preservation, unlike in 2016 when my wife and I visited the tumbled-down ruins.

A close inspection of the photographed buildings suggests that most of the interpretation I previously published was basically correct (see “26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig”). I wrote of the lower building, the one shown in the first aerial view:

There appeared to be one large chamber with an attached byre…. There was no evidence of a hearth at any of the walls…. Perhaps the structure was simply a barn…

Polochaig.barn.1910.blowup

The intact structure in 1910, shown immediately above though with some blurring due to enlargement, did in fact have a large opening into a byre (animal barn) that comprised at least part of it. It is possible that the opening originally had doors to provide better protection against the elements. The entire structure, in the form of a backward “L”, was clearly unheated, as there were no chimneys. The rightward short leg of the “L” appeared to have an upper door to a hay loft.

Polochaig.house.1910
Aerial view of Pollochaig fields, northward, in 1910

The second elevated picture is of particular interest in showing the house. After viewing its ruins in 2016, I wrote:

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.

Polochaig.house.1910.blowup

That interpretation appears to be correct, although the house also had a hearth at the south end as evidenced by a second chimney. I hadn’t been able to discern its remains in 2016, that end lying in almost complete ruin. The single entrance must have been on the east side, as there are only windows on the west side. It is clear that the house was quite modest, not much more than a cottage.

That in turn raises the question of whether there might have been a grander structure on the site at one time. As it happens, the remains of a much larger structure are in fact evident. They lie directly opposite, across the Findhorn River. They are visible in a blowup from the first picture, shown below.

Polochaig.Shenachie.field.blowup

They also appeared in one of my photographs, as a gray line across the river.

IMG_7272
Shenachie, viewed from Pollochaig

Recently an anonymous visitor interpreted the remains on both sides, having located an informant:

A former local resident, born in 1922 in the glen, reports that although current maps mark Shenachie on the west bank of the river, the ruin was known as Polochaig and it is the grass covered ruins directly opposite over the river that are Shenachie. He says that Shenachie was once occupied by MacQueen, credited with killing the last wolf in the area. [3]

The “MacQueen” so mentioned was Dougal McQueen, our Dugal’s nephew, reputed to have killed Scotland’s last wolf about the year 1743 after it had devoured two children. If the legend is correct, Shenachie only passed into the hands of the McQueens at that time.  For the chief of Mackintosh [4], delighted that Dugal had killed the wolf in a dirk-to-fang struggle aided by a greyhound, is credited with saying:

“My noble Pollochock!” cried the chief in ecstacy; “the deed was worthy of thee! In memorial of thy hardihood, I here bestow upon thee Seannachan, to yield meal for thy good greyhound in all time coming.” [5]

The legend goes on to say that Sennachan was “directly opposite to Pollochock” and that its name means “the old field”.

In modern times, however, “Sennachan” has been transformed to “Shenachie”. In light of the story of the McQueen wolf, and another story about a McQueen witch (see “18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night”), one has to wonder whether Scottish humor was at work in the transformation, for “Shenachie” can be translated as “teller of tales” [6].

Of course Mackintosh’s gift was literally of a field, and so it might be objected that the ruins at Shenachie could have been of a manor house held by the McQueens. This speculation, though, is dashed by the testimony of the traveller who recorded the wolf legend in 1830. He insisted that “the ruins of the interesting little mansion-house of Pollochock” were on the opposite side [5]. Thus it appears that McQueen descendants including me will have to be content with the manor, if it rises to that status, across the river at Pollochaig.

There is actually a hint in the historical record that the visible Shenachie ruins may have been of something other than a building. The following section of an Ordnance Survey map, surveyed in 1869-70, shows the Pollochaig buildings as filled-in polygons, but two larger polygons across the river as unfilled [7]. That probably indicates that they were not buildings at all but rather small, enclosed, rock-walled fields used for penning livestock. There does appear to have been a building represented by a filled-in rectangle between the two enclosures, but it was little, apparently between the sizes of the barn and house at Pollochaig. Possibly it was a sheep shed, with the enclosed fields having been of use during shearing.

Polochaig Ordnance Survey map.date.1869-70.cropped
Portion of an Ordnance Survey map, 1869-70

The same area was shown in a 1900 revision, below. Inexplicably, the Polochaig name had been changed to Shenachie.

Pollochaig.Shenachie.1900.Ordnance Survey
Portion of an Ordnance Survey map, 1900 revision

Also notable on both of the Ordnance Survey maps is a ford, located just south of all the buildings. That ford still existed in 1910, and a blowup of the first aerial view faintly shows a rope strung across the location.

Polochaig.rope.1910.blowup

Showing that some things never change, in 2016 there was a modern rope and pulley system at the same place so that one could, in theory, cross with dry feet while seated. Unfortunately as a visitor has advised:

The rope and pulley system used to cross the river there is kept locked, and the option to wade across at a ford is only possible if the river is low. [3]

My wife and I would certainly not have wanted to ford the river when we visited, for it was on one of the wildest, wettest, coldest days we’ve experienced in a Scottish summer. But now that I know more about the role of Shenachie in McQueen history, namely as a reward won for killing a homicidal wolf, I think I’d like to dip my feet on some upcoming, warm summer day.

I end this article with one last picture, a view of the Findhorn River looking south from Pollochaig. It truly does justify the description in 1897 as ” Pollochaig … a pretty Highland place” [8].

IMG_7287
Southward view from Pollochaig

Notes:

[1] Information retrieved from http://geoscenic.bgs.ac.uk & linked pages (2017).

[2] Boles, D.B. (2017). The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines. Available for download through Lulu.

[3] Information retrieved from http://www.heritagepaths.co.uk/description.php?path=%20326 (2017).

[4] In 1743 the chief was Angus Mackintosh (d. 1770), a great-grandson of Sir Lachlan Mackintosh (information retrieved from http://www.thepeerage.com/p45051.htm#i450509 & linked pages, 2017), who was also the great-great-grandfather of Dougal McQueen of wolf fame (Boles, 2017, op.cit., & Lulu). The two descendants were therefore 2nd cousins once removed.

[5] The Westminster Review, vol. 13-14, Oct 1830, p. 364.

[6] Information retrieved from http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/shenachie (2017).

[7] Satellite imagery available on Google Maps shows the same outlines that appear on the Ordnance Survey maps. The gray line on my modern photo appears to correspond to the upper of the two enclosed polygons.

[8] Fraser-Mackintosh, C. (1897). Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical, and Social (Second Series): Inverness-shire Parish by Parish. Inverness: A. & W. Mackenzie.


Picture credits:

Aerial view of Pollochaig, northward, in 1910, and blowups: British Geological Survey, image P000376, copyright by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), used with permission.

Aerial view of Pollochaig fields, northward, in 1910, and blowup: British Geological Survey, image P000375, copyright by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), used with permission.

Shenachie, taken from Pollochaig: Personal photo.

Portion of an Ordnance Survey map, 1869-70: Modication (sectional blowup) of a map retrieved from http://maps.nls.uk/view/74427045 (2017). Used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Portion of an Ordnance Survey map, 1900 revision: Modication (sectional blowup) of a map retrieved from http://maps.nls.uk/view/75832309 (2017). Used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Southward view from Pollochaig: Personal photo.

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