MUINNTIR DHÀIBHIDH – David’s Immediate Family

Latha math dhuibh, a chàrdan.

Time now to have a look at David MacLeod’s own family; his parents and siblings. The family inhabited Bàrd an Tuath (perhaps meaning “enclosure of the farm” – Eng. Bardintua) croft before taking on the local shop at Latheron crossroads, the croft being just behind it. It is not currently known whether they lived in the same building as the shop or continued to inhabit the croft.

FULL TEXT WITH COMMENTARY (in brackets and italics)

Kenneth Macleod was born July 1829 (Cainneach MacLeòid is the spelling I have chosen to use for this name as the Caithness pronunciation of what is oi in standard Gaelic tends to be rendered very similarly to the vowel sound from the English name, Cainneach being pronounced /KEN-yach/ [‘ch’ as loch]. Kenneth was born at Forse into an entirely Gaelic-speaking family, his mother’s people being partly from East Sutherland doing this situation no harm. When speaking to my grandmother, her father John MacLeod had described his own father Kenneth as “an irascible man”, impatient and quick to lose his temper. Although Kenneth suffered from intermittent poor health, he ran the Latheron shop for many years until 1890, moving to Edinburgh to live with my great-grandfather. Kenneth is the last fluent, native Caithness Gaelic speaker in my direct line on this side of the Latheron family, ÀM)

Janet Sutherland was born 12th May 1830 (Seónaid Shùrlan was David MacLeod’s mother. She was born and brought up at the Sutherland family croft in Leodibest and lived a fairly short, stressful life, bringing up 11 children and losing three before her own untimely end at the hands of breast cancer aged only 59. I imagine that her husband Kenneth was most likely a difficult man to live with, although I have little testament of my g-g-grandmother’s character passed on from the recollection of my own gran other than a faint memory of her saying that Janet was well-loved. Laura also reported the very typical attitude of parents at the time, her father John telling her that he was most aggrieved not to be able to communicate fluently in Gaelic because “my parents only spoke it when they didn’t want us to understand what they were saying”. A confusing situation indeed, given that John’s older siblings are returned as speakers in the 1881 census! ÀM)

Was married in Latheron Free Church by the Rev. Mr George Davidson (Caithness Archives had the following to say about the Rev. Davidson: “In those days many Latheron folk had the Gaelic. The parish’s close proximity to the highland county of Sutherland ensured that a goodly proportion of its inhabitants spoke the old tongue, many of them as a first, or only, language. Every Sabbath the minister preached – in each of 4 parish churches – the same sermon twice; in English and in Gaelic, a language unknown to George Davidson. Accordingly, Lady Colquhoun arranged a Gaelic course for George – in Argyleshire. George returned to Latheron in 1822, a fully fledged Gaelic speaking minister, who soon settled into Caithness parish life”)

Their family:

David Macleod was born 1st November 1853.  [Died 2nd December 1892, JM] (Dàibhidh MacLeòid (R), the diary author, passed away from exposure on Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh after falling asleep reading the paper on a Sunday afternoon in December)

Rose Macleod was born 8th August 1855.  [Died 1st August 1936, JM] (Ròs NicLeòid – Perhaps named for her g-grandmother Rose MacPherson, I as yet know little of her life or what became of her, ÀM)

Barbra Macleod was born 1st July 1857.  Died 1st June 1870 (Barab NicLeòid, possibly named for her paternal aunt)

Adam Macleod was born 1st July 1859 (Likely named for his maternal grandfather and my own namesake, Àdhamh MacLeòid was said to have been an alcoholic and apparently died young, ÀM)

Lucy Macleod was born September 1861.  Died December 1866 (Poor lass, Liusaidh NicLeòid was barely five years old when she died. I have yet to research the cause, ÀM)

James Macleod was born 2nd August 1863.  [Died 16th January 1938, JM] (Named for his paternal grandfather, I know nothing of the life of Seumas MacLeòid other than that he married a lassie by the name of Muir. I know of no children from this marriage, ÀM)

Margaret Macleod was born June 1865.  Died April 1867 (Maighread NicLeòid died at the tender age of two. Perhaps named for an aunt, ÀM)

Lucy Macleod was born 1867.  [Died 27th April 1917, JM] (Liusaidh NicLeòid (L) appears to have been named for her late sister. When speaking to my MacLeod cousin Michael Henderson, he informed me that from what he had heard, Lucy had not been the most easy person to live with. From what I can gather, Lucy appears to have been quite snobbish and marked herself lifelong as non-Gaelic-speaking in censii, except – interestingly enough – when resident with older Gaelic-speaking aunts and uncles in Leodibest in 1881. She had clearly come under their influence! Brother John MacLeod gave my gran Laura the middle name Lucy, suggesting affection between them, ÀM)

John Macleod was born 11th April 1869.  [Died 1949, LM] (Eathan MacLeòid was my g-grandfather and the custodian of the diaries until they were passed to his daughter Laura [named for her English mother]. He seems to have been quite an enlightened man, keeping the Gaelic language in his affections until the day he died. According to my grandmother, he was decidedly put out that his parents had not maintained Gaelic as the family tongue and passed the irritation at not being able to speak it properly onto her. My gran told me many times that the only words he had were madainn mhath, slàinte mhath and aidhche mhath [oidhche pron /eyche/] but I assume he had much more in his early years before going to school, ÀM)

George Macleod was born 13th March 1870.  [Died? JM] (I know nothing as yet of the life of Seóras MacLeòid (L) – whether he lived past childhood, married, moved away, etc, ÀM)

Kenneth Macleod was born 6th May 1873 (Likewise, I know almost as little of the life of Cainneach beag MacLeòid (little Kenneth MacLeod, R), other than that he was rumoured to have emmigrated to Massachusetts, USA. ÀM)

That’s all for this blog, a chàrdan. In the next chapter, I will look at the man after whom David MacLeod was named, his uncle Dàibhidh Sùrlan [David Sutherland], whose life was cut tragically short on the verge of entering the ministry, after a soujourn to the university in Aberdeen where my eldest daughter Eilidh NicLeòid is currently studying Gaelic, Chinese and Linguistics.

Gach beannachd air an àm,

Àdhamh (ÀM)

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