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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.
- A Birthday Celebrated in Scottish Postcards
A deluge of postcards to celebrate a birthday more than 100 years ago!
- GOLSPIE - www.countysutherland.co.uk
Genealogical Resources in Sutherland including the Burial Grounds of Sutherland, families of Sutherland, and other databases - all researched by Chris Stokes & helpful friends - a great resource
- Golspie Mill, Sutherland
Golspie Mill is one of very few traditional water-powered mills remaining in production in Scotland.
- Golspie Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland
Golspie Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide.
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 PostcardsClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Chapter 29: Europe again! « Leaves from My Logbook
Link to my father's memoirs where he describes his visit to Golspie
- Scotfax: Highland Clearances on Undiscovered Scotland
Scotfax: Highland Clearances on Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide.
- Dunrobin Castle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dunrobin Castle is a stately home in Sutherland, in the Highland area of Scotland, United Kingdom, and the seat of the Countess of Sutherland and Clan Sutherland.
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 DukeClick thumbnail to view full-size
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. .……...”