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Rosemarkie

The following brief history of Rosemarkie has been written by Elizabeth Sutherland, an eminent local author and historian. Please do not copy or use any or all of this text without written permission of the author.

There are links within the text to other sites containing more information on those specific subjects and these are shown in bold blue underlined text.

Welcome to Rosemarkie whose quiet and peaceful presence hides an old distinguished past.

Sheltered from the north by the boulder-clay wooded cliffs of the Kaes Craig (called after noisy resident jackdaws), its sheltered bay glows with pink sand strewn with red rocks gilded with lichen and hollowed with rock pools safe for the smallest visitor to explore.

Its name translates as The Point of the Horse Burn and its origins go back to the dawn of prehistory .Here Stone Age man once lived and left behind his middens found under the present High Street and outside Caird's Cave a mile along the shore. Bronze Age man left behind a stone burial cist unearthed near the Old Manse and dropped a precious axe (now in Invemess Museum). The Picts lived here in the Dark Ages and were evangelised by saints and raided by Vikings who allegedly fought a great battle at nearby Blackstand.

During the 8th c. AD Rosemarkie became a important centre of Pictish culture and the early Pictish Church. Although St Curadan better known perhaps by his Latin name Boniface (do-gooder) is considered to be the major evangelist of Rosemarkie, St Moluag is also associated with the site, as is St Monan. A piece of land on the hillside between Rosemarkie and Fortrose and shaped roughly like a bishop's staff is still known as Minnies Creek (Monan's Crook).

History associated Curadan with the request of the Pictish King Nechtan mac Derile to a Northumbrian abbot to send monks and masons north to help establish the official Pictish church. In return Nechtan promised to build a stone church dedicated to St Peter. In fact he built three, one of which was in Rosemarkie.

Boniface/Curadan also founded a monastery here and Bishop Leslie in his 16th c. History of Scotland records that Rosemarkie was decorated with the sepulchres of Boniface and his family of monks. He is remembered in the place-name of Kincurdie, in St Boniface Fair held in Fortrose in August and various wells including the Cloutie Well in Munlochy while the Catholic Church in Fortrose is also dedicated to St Peter and St Boniface.

These Pictish monuments form the basis of the award-winning Groam House Museum in the High Street. The finest of these is the magnificent nine foot tall, highly decorated, red sandstone Cross-slab, known locally as the Soul of Rosemarkie. Gathered together and handsomely displayed are many other fragments of carved stone including box shrines and grave markers most of which were found within the vicinity of the parish church.

Groam House itself has changed hands many times over the years. It has been a dwelling house, a drapery, a tea-shop and a grocery and was gifted in 1974 to the town by a local businessman, Mr Mario Pagliari. It got its name from a merchant called Maclean who came from Groam (boggy place) on the far side of the Beauly Firth near Kirkhill.

In 1124 King David 1 of Scotland created the Diocese of Ross, and the little stone church of Rosemarkie became the cathedral of the new See, a place of such importance that Rosemarkie is thought to have been created a Royal Burgh as early as 1216. You can still clearly see the contiguous strips of land behind the houses in the High Street which marked out the old burgh roods owned by the burgesses who paid an annual rent of five silver pennies to the crown for the privilege of living and trading on the King's Highway.

The first bishop of Ross is thought to have been a man called Macbeth who was probably the last Abbot of Rosemarkie Monastery .He may have lived in a motte-and- bailey defensive castle on the site of Court Hill. We also know that the Knights Templar had a croft in the town known as the Temple Croft (the site is now lost).

But Rosemarkie was soon to lose its unique status when about 1250 it was decided to build a great new cathedral in neighbouring Fortrose. In 1455, due to increasing decay, it became part of the Royal Burgh of Fortrose and Rosemarkie. The church however remained the parish church as it still is today.

There have been at least three churches built on the site of the present one. The foundation stone of the most recent was laid in June 1819 in the presence of the minister the Revd Alexander Wood. He had succeeded his father and his grandfather in the parish. The combined ministries of the three Woods lasted from 1734 to 1874, a record period of 140 years. Further extensive alterations took place in 1894 when the old box pews were removed, and again in 1983.

Among the church's possessions, pride of place must go to the two large silver communion cups presented by Isabella, Countess of Seaforth in 1689. The church also owns a plain worn soldier's Bible. This was carried throughout the second World War by General Sir Richard O'Connor, who lived at Kincurdie and was a former session member of the church.

The kirkyard, used and re-used down the centuries contains several flat stones bearing the skull and cross-bones, coffin, hourglass and spade. These were popular symbols of death and in common usage by masons up to the 18th century .The oldest stone dated 1691 and set in the west wall commemorates the Millars of Kincurdie

Opposite the east gable of the church you can find the Leslie tomb which became known as the Tommy. Its rear wall formed the back of a shelter erected by the Watchers who in the early 1800s guarded new graves from the body-snatchers or Resurrectionists as they were called. Close to this site is the grave of Dr William Bryden CB, the only man to escape alive from the massacre of the British forces in retreat from Kabul in 1842. Close to him you can see the grave of his brother-in-law, Major-General Donald Macintyre who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the first Lushai expedition in 1872.

By the beginning of the 18th century Rosemarkie was beginning to recover. It had its own market day and the market cross stood opposite the arched pend , once part of Miller's Hotel which stood at the foot of Manse Brae. Sadly it was knocked over by a horse and cart in 1830 and never replaced. The local market which sold home made sweets, shoes, china and linen petered out at about the same time.

Millers Hotel was a coaching inn with four horses, wagonettes and a phaeton. The New Year's Day 'Bools' game used to start here with men from two teams hurling a small iron ball down to the Ness and back for a celebration drink.

By the late 18th century Rosemarkie had 296 inhabitants. Out of these some 20 were linen weavers. Much of the flax was grown locally and steeped in a pond known as The Pows at the foot of the Fairy Glen and also in the loch that stretched between the two towns. Unfortunately this raised such an unwholesome and disagreeable smell especially in the heat of the summer that the minister had it drained. It still reappears most winters after a spell of rain. The linen industry was destroyed by heavy taxes imposed to placate the wool merchants about 1830.

Salmon fishing is one of the oldest industries attached to the village. At the turn of the century the fish cost 3d a pound and farm workers declined to be fed on it more than twice a week. To preserve the fish in winter, ice was collected from ponds in the Fairy Glen and taken to the ice-houses which can still be seen at the foot of Kincurdie drive and on the Ness. At other times of the year the fish was smoked in kilns and exported south by sea and later rail.

A boat-building yard once stood on Marine Terrace. Here the schooner LOUISA built of larch from the Raddery woods above the vilage was launched in 1852. There was also a ropery operating close by at about the same time. Just above the shore there stood a large black boat-house where many fine yachts were built and launched from a mobile wooden jetty .

There were two meal mills in Rosemarkie, the one at at the east end of Marine Terrace known as the Mill House was sold in 1907 to John Robb, the publican at the Plough Inn who turned it into a laundry for the army stationed at Fort George during the First World War. It was said that while the sheets went through the waterwheel the blankets merely got a shake! All were carted in bales by a four-wheeled wagonette to the ferry at Chanonry Point. The other at the far end of Bridge Street was in operation up to the forties. You can still trace out the mill lade and see the old mill wheel.

John Robb rebuilt much of the 17th c Plough Inn, the only surviving tavern out of the many that catered for drovers and travellers on the road to Cromarty. A stone inside bears the initials J.M. and J.A.. This is thought to be the marriage stone of John Millar and Janet Anderson of Kincurdie whose tomb is in the Kirkyard.

Rosemarkie had its own school in the Court Hill Road. It was opened in the 19th century but despite heartfelt protests, was closed in 1932 owing to lack of numbers. Local children first went to Fortrose Academy and now are bussed to Avoch Primary School.

Rosemarkie was one of the first villages to boast of its own village hall. The Gordon Memorial Hall at the foot of Court Hill Road was built in 1904 by two sisters called Miller from Miller's Hotel who married brothers called Gordon. It has long been the pride of Rosemarkie who take excellent care of it. During the two wars it was open day and night for canteen and recreational purposes. Today it houses the local library , a community computer and hosts numerous activities.

The High Street today looks much the same as it alwaysdid, though there used to be many more shops including a dress-maker and a glover, draper and haberdasher, newsagent and general store, a bakery and tea-room, shoe-maker and sweetie shop in addition to the butcher, Spar grocer and post office we still have today. The house with the pillars and classical facade was built by John Steavenson, a general merchant, who was Provost of Fortrose in 1837. It was a large store selling rifles, furniture and watches and became the village Post Office for many years.

Apart from the beach, Rosemarkie's most attractive walk is undoubtedly the Fairy Glen. Hugh Miller, the Cromarty geologist, wrote 'I am acquainted with no other locality in the kingdom where this deposit (boulder-clay) is hollowed into ravines so profound or presents precipices so imposing'. Here the Markie (horse) Burn tumbles down waterfalls, rushes through rapids and glides reflectively under flowering geans and other fine trees. Here celandine and wood anemone, followed by bluebells and primroses herald the spring. Folklore tells of a Fairy Well tended by children of long ago, and of the old witch who made a clay image of her enemy and every day held it under a waterfall until, like her victim, it wasted away. Botanically, ornithologically and geologically it has something for everyone.

We hope you have enjoyed this tour of old Rosemarkie and that perhaps one day you will be able to come and spend time with us.