Vintage postcards of Golspie, Sutherland

The McGregors and Golspie

'Golspie is a neat little town, with its churches, school, hotels, banks, law offices, and several comfortable dwellings . . . Wood and flowing stream, hollow glen and rugged mountain combine to give good effect to the scene. A walk up the burn side or Glen of Dunrobin, is most enjoyable. Several rustic bridges cross the narrow gorge through which the burn flows, by means of which the tourist reaches an exquisite little cascade at the head of the glen. Ben Bhraggie on the left is over 1200 feet high and has on its summit, a colossal stature of the late Duke of Sutherland' . (Tourists' guide, 1883, Hew Morrison) - from the website http://www.countysutherland.co.uk/12.html

From my earliest years I recall hearing about my great-great-grandfather, always referred to in the family as "Alexander McGregor, merchant of Golspie."

His son, Andrew, born in 1829, studied divinity, was ordained in the Church of Scotland and emigrated to South Africa in 1860 where he became a "dominee" (minister) in the Dutch Reformed Church, married Elizabeth Augusta (known in the family as "Lily"), the daughter of another Scottish emigrant, the Rev Dr William Robertson.

Andrew and Lily had six children, of whom the last daughter Henrietta Maria, known as "Hettie", never married (she was too sickly, it was said, though she lived past her 100th birthday!) and was the self-appointed "family historian" who kept masses of materials about the McGregor family, most especially, of course, of the South African part of it.

From this material come the 11 postcards that illustrate this article. Of the 11 cards, seven were published by Valentine's, two by A. Mennie of Golspie, one by Davidson's and the last without any publisher indicated.

Valentine's was a photographic and postcard publishing firm started by Edinburgh photographer James Valentine which started producing Christmas cards from 1880 and postcards from 1896.

The logo of the Golspie Mill
The logo of the Golspie Mill

The Valentine's Cards and Dunrobin Castle

The first of the Valentine's postcards is of Main Street, Golspie, though the card itself is labelled "High Street". This is the A9 road. The plans for the village of Golspie were initially laid out in 1805.

The second card is of Old Bank Road, and the third of Duke Street, which is off the A9.

The next card is to me something of a mystery. It is labelled "U.F. Church, Golspie" which I assume to mean the United Free Church in Golspie, but when I Googled this name I could not find a building looking anything like the one on the postcard.

Looming over Golspie is Ben Bhraggie (or Beinn a' Bhragaidh to give the hill its proper Gaelic name), which gives the next postcard its perspective: Golspie from Ben Bhraggie."

The next postcard in the Valentine's Golspie series is of Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Duke of Sutherland, not a particularly popular man in Golspie because of his role in the notorious "Highland Clearances" of the 18th and 19th Centuries. These clearances seem to one born and brought up in South Africa suspiciously like the "forced removals" of whole populations by the former apartheid regime, and so I can fully understand the way some of the people apparently still feel about them.

The castle itself is one of the biggest "stately homes: in the United Kingdom, having some 189 rooms. A castle was originally built on the site in the 1300s, with the Earldom of Sutherland being created in about 1230.

Two more cards in the collection are of this castle, but they were published by A. Mennie of Golspie, of whom also I can find no reference other than these two cards themselves.

The Castle also has a more modern claim to fame, having been the site of the filming of the movie Barry Lyndon.

The last Valentine's card in this series is of the "Old Mill" in Golspie.

The Mill was built in 1863 and ceased operations in 1953 until it was reopened by the current owners after considerable restoration in 1992 and is now again a fully-functioning water-driven mill using traditional methods to produce flours and meals. It is driven by Dunrobin Burn..

The Valentine's Postcards

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Main Street, Golsp;ieOld Bank RoadDuke StreetU.F. ChurchGolspie from Ben BhraggieDunrobin CastleThe Old Mill
Main Street, Golsp;ie
Main Street, Golsp;ie
Old Bank Road
Old Bank Road
Duke Street
Duke Street
U.F. Church
U.F. Church
Golspie from Ben Bhraggie
Golspie from Ben Bhraggie
Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle
The Old Mill
The Old Mill

Dunrobin and the Duke

The next card is of Dunrobin Glen in winter and was produced by Davidson's. and probably dates from around 1910, as do most of these cards, I think.

The final card is of the statue of the infamous First Duke of Sutherland, of whom my father wrote: "He had been one of the first of the noblemen who had thousands of tenants on his property and who, when sheep farming was introduced, got rid of them as quickly as possible, not having a care as to what would happen to them afterwards."

The Undiscovered Scotland website describes the clearances thusly: "The Highland Clearances form one of the most deeply emotive topics in Scottish history, and one of the most controversial. The term usually describes the process in which, between about 1750 and about 1880, large numbers of Scottish Highlanders and Islanders were displaced from the traditional lands their families had occupied for generations, ending up in marginally viable coastal settlements, as fodder for central Scotland's rapidly growing industries, or as emigrants."

A plaque on the plinth of the 100-foot monument reads, in part, that the monument was erected by "a mourning and grateful tenantry" to "a judicious, kind and liberal landlord". As the website Undiscovered Scotland says in its entry on Golspie: "So there's a certain irony in the wording on the plinth. Perhaps those who remained felt grateful they had not been burned out of their houses and forced into a boat bound for distant lands."

And under the glowering stare of the Duke the postcard series in my collection comes to an end.

Dunrobin and the Duke

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dunrobin CastleDunrobin CastleDunrobin Glen in winterThe monument to the First Duke of Sutherland
Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Glen in winter
Dunrobin Glen in winter
The monument to the First Duke of Sutherland
The monument to the First Duke of Sutherland
The UF Church, Golspie, as it looks now. It is now the Fountain Road Church Hall. Thanks to Shirl Sutherland for the photo
The UF Church, Golspie, as it looks now. It is now the Fountain Road Church Hall. Thanks to Shirl Sutherland for the photo

The UF Church postcard - an update from Golspie!

Since writing the above Hub I have had contact with Ms Shirley Sutherland of the Golspie Heritage Society and she supplied the following information about the building identified as the UF Church in the postcard above. It is now the Fountain Road Church Hall and in 2006 it celebrated its centenary.

The following comes from The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, The County of Sutherland, Scottish Academic Press 1988 and gives an idea of the story behind the church building.

“In 1900 a third congregation was formed in Golspie due to a split in ranks of the Free Church. One-third of the Free Church congregation then elected to adhere to the Free Church, these being mostly the Gaelic-speaking element. The other two-thirds formed the Golspie United Free Church. At the division of property in 1904, the Free Church congregation were awarded the church and the U.F. Church congregation, the manse. In 1906 a United Free Church was built in Fountain Road (at a cost of £2,360), and in 1920 instrumental music was introduced into the praise.

In 1929 a re-union took place between the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church. In Golspie the union of the respective congregations did not come about until 1936. Now, although the two congregations have become one, the arrangement is that the two churches, St. Andrew’s and Fountain Road, are still being used on alternate Sundays. The Church of Scotland has about 135 communicants and an average attendance of 120-140. For the Free Church the corresponding figures are about 25 and from 40-50. .……...”

show route and directions
A markerDunrobin Castle, Golspie -
Dunrobin, Golspie, Highland KW10, UK
[get directions]

B markerFountain Road, Golspie -
Fountain Rd, Golspie, Highland KW10 6, UK
[get directions]

C markerOld Bank Road, Golspie -
Old Bank Rd, Golspie, Highland KW10 6, UK
[get directions]

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Comments 19 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I love the stone houses -- so distinctly Scots.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

I love them also - and can you believe I've never been to Scotland? In fact the Scottish mission I grew up on, Blythswood, in the former Transkei, had some buildings in the so-called "Scottish Baronial style" - so I do feel as though I know the Scottish architecture. But the furthest north I've been in the UK is Liverpool! Love and peace Tony


ESAHS 7 years ago

"Sounds like a place that could really calm your nerves!"

"Very calmly written hub for the person seeking a place on inter piece!"

"Two thumbs up!"

CEO E.S.A.H.S. Association


shamelabboush profile image

shamelabboush 7 years ago

Charming town, I like the photos.


The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

Tony, your photo of "U F Church, Golspie" is undoubtedly of Helmsdale Free Church, although it has since lost its bell tower, and possibly the separate entrance arch. http://www.helmsdale.org/church_of_scotland.html

http://www.helmsdale.org/free_church_of_scotland.h...

Cheers, TOF


The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

Well, I tried!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks TOF - I did go to the links you provided but frankly can't see that my postcard is the same. But I am still trying to get someone in Golspie to verify for me which building that is!

I appreciate your effort - thanks.

Love and peace

Tony


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

Hi Tony - you've visited my hubs before and by a strange twist of fate Golspie was where we used to have our family holidays in the 1960s.We actually went back a few years ago and stayed in the same hotel, the Golf Links Hotel. it's not really changed - although quite picturesque, you would lose the will to live after a week or so! I climbed the Ben when I was a kid but found it harder going this time!

All the best, Jon Green


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Jon I appreciate your comments. And I have enjoyed your Hubs also.

Love and peace

Tony


viryabo profile image

viryabo 7 years ago

I have a deep passion for anything of the past era, anything vintage. Wonderful hub and i absolutely love the pictures. Pics like that make me feel i might have been around sometime in the past.

Lovely town.


mktgpostcard profile image

mktgpostcard 7 years ago

Nice tips, here is another one that I liked to share with Marketing with postcards - Printing Postcards that Get Noticed http://hubpages.com/business/Printing-Postcards-th...


Kevin Macnicol (Golspie Gala Week) 7 years ago

I have lived in golspie for the last 25 years, I can confirm the pictures you have of the church is Fountain Road Church hall in Golspie, it has changed over the years but the exterior is still the same. Really liked the pics, if you are after more you can check out the website link here http://www.spanglefish.com/golspieheritagesociety/


IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

Nice hub:)

Never been to Golspie - looks a handsome place!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks to all for the comments and for stopping by to read,.

Love and peace

Tony


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario

Nice hub Tony. Apparently in 1994 there was talk of demolishing the statue of the Duke of Sutherland on Ben Bhraggie but they decided against it.

This web site ends with this, "The duke should be left standing high on his tiered pedestal in the biting wind. Many think he deserves such a fate. If, in centuries to come, the monument could simply be allowed to crumble under the forces of nature, its decaying condition would be an even more dramatic reminder."

http://www.highlandclearances.info/clearances/post...


Shelly Bryant profile image

Shelly Bryant 6 years ago from Singapore and/or Shanghai

Those are some amazing postcards!

I had a great-aunt very like Hettie, and when she passed away several years ago, it was amazing going through her old collection of family memories. We really enjoyed teasing my grandpa about some letters he'd written home to his sister about my grandma.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Make Money and Shelly - your visits and comments are much appreciated.

Great Aunt Hettie left us a wonderful legacy and I am always grateful to have known her. She was a wonderfully eccentric old lady when I did! I was privileged to have been at her 100th birthday.

Love and peace

Tony


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Too sickly to get married but living past the age of 100. I get a kick out of that! Love seeing all of these old postcards via your hubs. Golspie appears to be a beautiful place...the land and buildings. Probably not quite so beautiful for the tenants back then according to what you wrote. Reminds me of that old saying about not judging the contents of a book by its cover.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed the bit about Hettie. She was a character all right! I would love to visit Golspie - but only in summer!

Thanks again dear friend.

Love and peace

Tony

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