Jane Ann Clark was born around 1842 at Strone, Newtownmore in Kingussie and Insch Parish, Inverness-shire. In 2010 my wife and I visited this area with her family. En route to the Wildlife Park we stopped off at Strone and took a few photos. There was no difficulty finding Strone Cottage, a modernised house still bearing 19th century (or earlier elements) but we do not know for sure if this is where the Clarks lived: there were other deserted houses close by and a track leading off into the hill behind presumably led to more houses.
From the OPR I have learned that her parents, Elizabeth Gordon (known as Betty) and John Clark of Banocher married in April 1827. He was a farmer. There were at least six children, born between 1831 and 1841. A Jane was born on 17th March 1836 but there is a consistent six year discrepancy from her marriage through all the census records up to her death certificate if this is the Jane Ann Clark who married Charles Douglas in 1866. It is possible that this Jane died young and our Jane Ann was indeed born around 1842, given her name but the registration of her birth has been lost or was simply not recorded. On the other hand the OPR is detailed in that we have the date of birth AND of baptism recorded for the children of the family. The gap between the two events varied between 2 weeks and almost 10 months. So if a child is not recorded on the OPR it seems odd. Their children were born at a place called Craigduaig or Croft Duaick or Croftuaich: it is hard to read the writing.
On the 1841 census we see farmer John Clark, aged 50, (placing his birth around 1791) his wife Betty who is 35 (born around 1806) and children Isabel (12), Ann (9), Christy (5), Jane aged 3 or 5 (thus born around 1836 or 1838/9) and one year old Betty (Census 102/00 003/000).
The 1851 census has John (60), Betty (45) and children Isabella (22), Christian (13) and Betty (11) living at Strone. This is certainly the same family even if the ages are a little inconsistent. There is also a 7 year old son named John Clark now- though I have located the birth of John in 1841 so he should be 9 or 10. Missing are Ann and Jane.
However an Ann Clark aged 26 was an unmarried servant at Dell Farm Bothy, Kingussie and Insch. This age is a few years out to be the Ann born in Sept 1831 if accurate. This Ann lived with a 22 year old ploughman named Ewen McPherson and several other servants. One was a 17 year old coachman named William McPherson born in Kingussie.
Looking for Jane, a 15 year old Jane Clark, born at Kingussie, was a cattle herd at Lynachlaggan in Insh. Now if this is our Jane Ann Clark it points to her being some six years older than the age given on all late censuses, her marriage and death certificate. If it is the first born Jane then clearly she did not die as a young child with her name being re-used.
In 1861 no 6 Strone is described as a house of 2 rooms with windows. Farmer John Clark (74) had 3 acres. Living with him was wife Elizabeth (55), still unmarried daughter Isabella (30) and son John Duncan (a ploughman). His age of 17 is consistent with the 1851 census. Once again we have to ask if there were two Johns, one born in 1841 and another in 1844. There was also a two year old grand daughter named Christian Cameron.
I found 3 Jane Clarks of the right age roughly in Inverness-shire but none born in Kingussie and Insch. There were four in Perth city but I have not paid to view these yet.
Jane’s father died in January 1863 and his stated age suggests birth around 1797, although the census records suggest around 1791. John’s parents were Duncan Clark and Isabella Cameron according to the death certificate. I was able to find his death on the online index years ago and sent away for it. When it arrived it had been recorded with an ink pen so blotchy that I opened it, thought it said “Demoan Clark” and thought it was a waste of £15. Later I realised the correct name.
The just released Valuation Rolls for 1865 show Widow Isabella Clark or MacDonald (sic) occupied a house at north side, village of Newtonmore (VR 103/11/103). Apparently she was the proprietor. The value was under £4.
In 1871 a Christina Clark, granddaughter of Elizabeth Clark, is recorded. Her birth would be around 1860. I have a record of John D Clark, aged 35, born at Kingussie, living at Pitmain Cottage, Kingussie and Insch in 1881. He was unmarried. His age and name tie in roughly with the John D Clark who we noted above.
Jane’s sister Isabella died in 1874 at Alvie (SR 090/0B 0008). She was 46.
Jane Ann Clark’s Family:
Abandoned croft at Strone, Newtonmore
Jane Ann Clark’s mother Elizabeth Gordon lived until October 1879. She had been born at Newton Moor in June 1805 (OPR 102/0020 0106). There is a little confusion as to Elizabeth’s mother- one source says Isabella McPherson (Elizabeth’s death certificate-SR 102/00) but another says Anne McPherson. The eldest child of John and Elizabeth was named Isabella but that could be after father’s mother. She died of gastro-enteritis. It could be that son John made a mistake and gave his paternal grandmother’s Christian name when reporting the death of Elizabeth Gordon.
Elizabeth Gordon’s father was a wool weaver called John Gordon.
Generation VII: Family of John Clark and Elizabeth Gordon
1. Isabel Clark, c 1829 – 1874
2. Ann Clark, born 1831
3. Duncan Clark, born 1834
4. Jane Clark, born 1836
5. Christian Clark, born 1838
6. Elizabeth Clark, 1839- 1856
7. John Clark, born 1841
8. Jane Ann Clark, born c1842
As of July 2015 I’m not much further forward with these children. I have found that Betty Clark died of inflammation of the brain in June 1856 and was buried at the Middle Burial Ground at Kingussie. Father John was able to sign the registration of her death.
Gaelic or English?
We know that Jane Ann Clark spoke Gaelic and English. As her family came from the Highlands it is likely that her parents and siblings also spoke Gaelic. What I cannot be clear in is whether this was the first language of the people of Newtonmore or whether by the 1840s it was a residual language, taking second place to English. Someday I hope to visit the Highland Folk Museum there to find out more.
Jane Ann Clark’s illegitimate daughter Georgina MacBean was brought up by her natural father, William MacBean. She spoke Gaelic and English according to a census answer.
A Famous McPherson
My notes from a brief incursion into the OPR for Kingussie and Insch in May 2006 also recorded that there were three McPherson families at Strone. I did not have time for in-depth research at that point. There is a possible link to a well-known soldier.
In 2014 Sir Tommy McPherson died. He was a highly decorated British soldier from WW2, with three Military Crosses, three Croix de guerre and a Legion d’honneur. According to his autobiography Sir Tommy was from Strone. He relates that of his family of seven, some were born in India (where his father was a judge), he in Edinburgh and others at Strone. Sir Tommy’s grandfather was the minister who christened him. Sir Tommy’s siblings had been born before WW1 and the implication is that he was born around 1919 or 1920. He relates how his other grandfather, the McPherson one, was born at Strone and inherited a croft there. He married an Anne Stewart. From Scotlands People I know this was in 1875. As well as the judge there were two other brothers- the youngest served with the Queen’s On Cameron Highlanders in WW1 and the other was a government minister (p12-13). This latter would be Mr James Ian McPherson, under-secretary for War in 1917. He became 1st Baron Strathcarron. He was Chief Secretary for Ireland from January 1919 until April 1920, at a very challenging time with the rise of extremist violence in a deeply divided country.
Behind Enemy Lines, Sir Tommy McPherson with Richard Bath, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh and Lothian, 2010
Strone Cottage, Newtonmore
Looking at the 1841 census at Strone there was a 55 year old tailor called Alexander McPherson and his 50 year old wife Ann. Living with them were (I presume) a 20 year old daughter, Janet, and what may be Janet’s one year old son John McPherson. Also present was Ann Shaw aged 10.
At another house in Strone lived 10 year old John McPherson as an agricultural labourer, with the Cattanach family.
Another house was led by 70 year old John McPherson (ag lab) and his 50 year old wife Ann with a 10 year old Ann and unreadable or just “not known” VK or NK aged 2.
Also at Strone was 60 year old Margaret McPherson, 35 year old Janet, 20 year old Ewan (ag lab), a William… aged 5 and what looks like Nily McPherson aged 10. Once again we also have NK aged 2.
Another house at Strone led by John Kennedy included a ten year old ag lab named Alexander McPherson, two year old John McPherson and a Margaret Gordon aged 35.
All this is enough to tell us that this was a close-knit community and establishing exactly who was related to whom and how will not be straightforward.
In 1851 the Strone community included a farmer of 3 acres named Alexander Gordon who was born in Kingussie, his Laggan-born wife Janet and daughters Grace (8) and Katherine (6) and May (1) as well as a servant.
Isabella Clark or MacDonald id shown on the Valuation Rolls for 1861, 1865, 1873 and 1874. The 1885 record does not show her.
There is also a reference to poor relief of 3 shillings to Widow Clark or MacDonald.
The Kirk Sessions refer to the widow of a former minister, Mrs Anderson, leaving a generous bequest to the parish upon her death. This was discussed in 1847 at the January Kirk Session. The commentary makes clear that the community was suffering badly due to the harshness of the last winter and the potato famine causing crop failure.