This account follows a Kennedy family within Boleskine parish and their tragic attempt of emigration. Capturing key events and revealing some interesting local information at the time, mainly between the 1841-1851 census surveys. 

The Boleskine 1851 census was taken on the night of 30th/31st March, and records Kenneth Kennedy (shepherd) & Ann Scott his wife residing at Garagie. Along with Kenneth’s own family, five Kennedy orphan nieces & nephews are also recorded, (Julia age 16, Kenneth age 12, Donald age 9, Alexander age 9 & Jessie age 4.)

The orphan’s parents were Duncan Kennedy & Janet Kennedy and their marriage was registered in the neighbouring parish of kilmonivaig in 1833, (Nov 24 Duncan Kennedy Ardachy to Janet Kennedy parish of Boleskine). The Boleskine 1841 census was taken on the night of 6th June, and records Duncan & Janet Kennedy residing at Melagie.

Duncan & Janet Kennedy had plans of emigration to Australia in 1848; tragic circumstances would prevent the Kennedy family from reaching Australia’s shores. Both parents Duncan aged 38 & Janet aged 33 died from cholera as they were about to board ship at Broomielaw, Glasgow.

Broomielaw, Glasgow.

The outbreak of cholera which was spread through water supplies contaminated by poor sanitation was reported to have started on 9th December 1848 at 22 Shuttle Street in the central portion of the city. The outbreak peaked from the last week in December until the 3rd week in January 1849 claiming approximately 4,000 victims, the victims were buried in mass graves (pits).Some important proceedings took place before Glasgow Magistrates under the new “Nuisance Removal and Disease Prevention Act” in January 1849, charges against Bridgeton Burying Ground & Abercrombie Street or ST. Mary’s Burying Ground – “a accumulation of dead human bodies, in a state of putrefaction not properly or sufficiently interred, the bodies are laid down edge by edge, six coffins on the top of each other, with perhaps an inch of sand between them”.

The Five Kennedy orphans were returned from Glasgow to live with Kenneth Kennedy at Garagie. The orphans had one other known sibling named Margaret born in 1844 and her birth was registered at Fort Augustus, St Peter and St Benedict (April 18 Margaret Kennedy lawful daughter of Duncan Kennedy and Janet Kennedy Melagie, Stratherrick). Margaret either died young or was also a victim from cholera

The decade between the 1841 census & the 1851 census would have been very unsettling for the parishioners of Boleskine like all other Highland Parishes. The Stratherrick clearances were still ongoing and the Highland potato famine had started, hardship was being suffered in the community.

Reported at Inverness, 11 October 1883 by Charles Mackay (Member of the Town Council of Inverness) & The Highland Land Law Reform Association to The Napier Commission “But coming nearer home, let us take the fine stretch of land (Stratherrick) between here and Fort Augustus, comprising several estates; during the last eighty years there has been about 100 well-to-do small farmers, and about an equal number of cottars removed to make room for sheep farms or large holdings. I was born and brought up amongst some of this myself. I was for six or seven years as a boy living in Stratherrick, and I scarcely knew any poor man in that district. I believe there are old men in the hall here that had some of these holdings, and I know that when they were turned out of their holdings, they had a considerable sum of money even in those small places; and I also knew of even cottars upon these holdings who had a little money lent to the large farmers. Forty years ago there were five meal-mills and one carding-mill in Stratherrick; there are now only two meal-mills and no carding mill. The evictions led to an excessive rise in pauperism especially in the neighbouring parishes of Dores and Inverness”.

The Boleskine 1841 census survey records two meal-mills, John Mcgruer miller at Altantiach and Thomas Fraser miller at Croftbeg and one carding mill William Ross at Inverfarigaig. 35 parishioners are listed as poor/pauper. 9 uninhabited dwellings are also recorded.  The Boleskine 1851 census survey records one meal-mill, Alexander Muir miller at Altantiach and one carding mill William Ross at Inverfarigaig. 52 parishioners are listed poor/pauper. 6 uninhabited dwellings are also recoded                                              

During 1846 in the Highlands there was widespread failure of potato crops and this cruel twist of fate accelerated the clearances. In December 1846 William Fraser -Tytler (Sheriff of Inverness) & (Aldourie Estate) alerted the authorities in Edinburgh to the famine developing in the Western Isles as a result of the loss of the potato crop to blight. Prompt and widespread emigration was necessary to the well-being of the population, Parliament authorised loans to assist immigration. Some landlords contributed towards ‘assisted’ emigration (under which over 16,000 Highland tenants were shipped overseas to Canada and Australia). Famine relief, oatmeal rations were not available to those with any disposable capital (which was interpreted to include livestock). Despite the famine affecting the Highlands, potatoes were still being exported in vast quantities from Inverness to London, causing an angry mob to overturn carts at the town’s Thornbush quay, and vandalise the houses of prominent potato & grain merchants. In the end, 70 soldiers were called in to quell further unrest.

The two female orphan’s Julia & Jessie are still residing at Garagie, Boleskine in 1861 census with Kenneth Kennedy.

Kenneth Kennedy (Shepherd), died Garagie 1862 aged 83.  Ann Kennedy (Scott), died Garagie 1861 aged 80.

Kenneth & Ann Kennedy were followers of the Roman Catholic Church and had a large family of their own who had a long association with Boleskine parish. Many descendants of this Kennedy family are interred in graveyards within Boleskine parish. Kennedy was the 5th most commonly used surname in Boleskine parish during the 1840’s after Fraser, McDonald, Cameron & Mctavish.

Julia Kennedy married and was mother to 5 children, died in Glengarry aged 76.  

Kenneth Kennedy (Gamekeeper) married and was father to 9 children, died Roybridge aged 82.

Donald Kennedy (R.C. Clergyman) single, died Fochabers aged 83.

Alexander Kennedy (Gamekeeper) married and was father to 6 children, died Luss aged 96.

Jessie Kennedy single, died Glengarry aged 59.

Melagie ruins

Avise La Fin (consider the end)

Note: Garagie, Melagie &  Ardachy spelling from 1841–1861 census’s.     

Special thanks to Norma Sinclair for researching the Kennedy Family.      

Author D.F.C.  2020 copyright SLNHG.