The Boleskine Burial Ground
Boleskine broadly covers an area from Loch Ness to Loch Killin but is more often associated locally with a small strip of land about which exists stories of death, witchcraft and religion.
The Boleskine burial ground is undoubtedly one of the better known land marks around South Loch Ness. It is situated on the B852 between Inverfarigaig and Foyers between the road and the loch and sits below Boleskine House owned in past times by Aleister Crowley and later by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame. There once stood a medieval church here, now long since disappeared, the only building remaining being a small mort-house. A mort-house was a mortuary where the coffined body would lay under guard until such time as it was of no use to body snatchers!
No comprehensive record exists of the stones in this ancient graveyard. Therefore a small contingent from the South Loch Ness Heritage Group with help from some local people has undertaken the task of mapping the graveyard and recording all the known graves, slabs and memorials for a booklet to be published by the Highland Family History Society. Each known stone will be identified by position (a map will be included), description (shape, colour and motifs etc.) and the inscription recorded exactly as written (misspellings and errors included). A digital photograph will be taken of each stone and an index of names will be produced. It is hoped that enough data can be recorded to produce some charts of e.g. life expectancy comparisons for recent periods. It is expected that this survey will be of use and interest not only to the local population as part of its heritage but also to historians and genealogists tracing their family history. The information will be uploaded to the website for NAOMI – The National Archive of Memorial Subscriptions – who can be accessed at www.memorialinscriptions.org.uk. On this site you can search for a grave by surname, age of deceased, date of death or church and, for a small fee, download the inscription, a photo, site plan of the church and historical text.
Two particular gravestones are perhaps worthy of mention
The tombstone of Donald Fraser of Erchit dated 1730 clearly shows three holes made by musket balls. Legend has it that, just after the Battle of Culloden, a military wagon carrying supplies to Fort Augustus and guarded by soldiers, passed along the road above the burial ground as a funeral was taking place. One of the mourners is said to have grabbed a loaf of bread from the wagon and thrown it to some dogs. The soldiers fired their muskets to frighten the mourners before arresting the culprit and taking him to Fort Augustus. Those musket holes are still visible today. The story has a happy ending in that the minister of the time, one Thomas Fraser, followed on to the fort and persuaded the Duke of Cumberland to release his prisoner. In the attached photo, the musket holes can be seen in a line downwards toward the right-hand side of the stone.Another grave, that of The Honorable Jane Fraser, mentions her husband, The Honorable Archibald Campbell Fraser, 38th Chief of the Chief of the Frasers, son of Simon 12th Lord Fraser of Lovat beheaded at Tower Hill in 1747.
So, if you should pass by the burial ground this winter or spring and see one or more individuals armed with gardening gloves (to protect against nettles and to keep hands clean whilst rolling back turf), secateurs, water sprays (for highlighting letters and numbers that have eroded), a torch, mirrors, old toothbrushes (used in conjunction with the water spray), fish slices (useful for removing deposits of moss without damaging the stones), wooden prodders (for locating slabs beneath the turf), a hand brush and a spade (!), do not dismiss them as Crowley or Page cult fanatics but instead, stop for a chat and have a wander around. You may find the visit quite interesting.
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