The Michies of Badenyon


George Watt


 from Scalan News No 26, May 2003 @Alasdair Roberts where the original can still be found

extracted and placed on by Mark 01_05_2005


I was born 73 years ago in Glenlivet. My maternal grandparents George Mitchell and Betsy Stuart had the farm of Tom-breckachie. On the day my father went to register the birth at the Registry Office beside the Pole Inn, the story goes that my middle name Mitchell was left on the bar counter. Since then I have been plain George Watt! I also have a cousin Marjory in the Braes whose husband Gordon McGillivray farms Achnascraw. This article is about my paternal forebears in Glenbuchat (see back cover map) the Michies of Badenyon, and their connection with Scalan.

An article in the June 1995 issue, 'Tombae and Scalan: Status Animarum ', presented an 1814 'state of souls' census by the priest at Tombae. James Michie was discussed in it. Born at Badenyon in January 1778, he was almost certainly one of the last Scalan students (the register is missing) and he went on to become a schoolmaster at Achnascraw. When the college closed, James took up residence there with his sister Henrietta as housekeeper, farming and making whisky for the southern market. When an 1823 Act (introduced to Parliament by their landlord the Duke of Gordon) made small stills illegal, James found himself regarded, like his neighbours, as a 'smuggler'. He left the choir and disappeared from Church records.

James Michie's Book

A book which seems to have belonged to James as a Scalan student came into the possession of John S. Gallacher, a retired teacher who regularly comes back from Motherwell to Millbank, beside Achnascraw. John's forebears lived at the Scalan, and he has carefully preserved this little volume (12 cm. by 5 cm.) entitled Serious Considerations of a Soul that Sincerely seeks the Way of Truth in the Sight of God . The words 'James Michie's Book' are inscribed on it several times in a schoolboy hand, but inside the back cover the handwriting is mature: 'August 4 th 1809. My sister Sophia departed this life at half past seven o'clock afternoon.' Then, 'December 7 th 1809. My Mother departed this life nearly about nine o'clock afternoon.' Finally, 'November 30 th 1810. My father departed this life half past one o'clock afternoon.'

To me this was like finding the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I had already learned of my great-great-grandmother's 1828 marriage to David Taggart, in Glenbuchat Old Parish Records (OPR). This Henrietta Michie died at Badenyon in 1892 aged 86. The death certificate gives her parents as John Michie and Henrietta Moir. The censuses show that their daughter Henrietta was born about 1806, but her baptism is not recorded in the OPR. The couple had other children who were not entered at Glenbuchat. There is census evidence once again for James, born about 1800, and Thomas c.1808. No doubt they were baptised by the Glenlivet priest. As schoolmaster at Achnascraw James Michie went to mass at Tombae and there met members of his family who came over, weather permitting, from Badenyon by the Ladder Path.

Kirk and chapel records vary, and there is one mistake on the Catholic side. The James Michie who was born about 1800 married a McHardy from Demickmore. Their first child Elspet was registered in Glenbuchat on March 14 1829 as 'lawful daughter' (they were married) to James Michie and his spouse Elizabeth McHardy alias Bain. I believe Elspet (a form of Elizabeth) was baptised at the new church of Chapeltown, with the mother's name given - in error - as Helen McHardy. The priest at that time was not familiar with local names.

In addition to various local records, I obtained valuable information from The Michie Families of Aberdeenshire by Charles Michie of Calcutta, written about 1905. Most of the Badenyon Michies are listed but Henrietta Michie, born 1780, is wrongly said to have married David Taggart in 1828 and died at Scalan in 1844. This was the first indication I had of a Scalan connection.

Stuart Mitchell

At this point I requested assistance from the late Stuart Mitchell of Turriff, who is well known to readers of this magazine. Our information did not quite agree, partly because John Michie 'Widower' was missing as a son of Hary Michie and Janet Moir. In April 2000 my wife Margaret and I were going to a family reunion in Dufftown and we arranged to meet Stuart at my brother's home at Convalleys in Glenrinnes. However a very heavy snow storm made it impossible for Stuart to drive up from Turriff with his wife Jorja. I phoned and made the remark that we hoped for better luck next time. 'George,' he said, 'I doubt very much if there will be a next time.' Realising how ill he must be, we delayed our departure and met a day or two later. While discussing Michie family history Stuart said, 'We have been singing to the wrong sheet of music and I'm not sure who produced the first edition.' Sadly, time was not in Stuart's favour and he passed away in 2001.

The numbers in the family tree are taken from near the end of the Rev. James Gordon's 1814 census, which contains no information about relationships between one Badenyon Michie and another. Mr Gordon must have written down the nine names on a visit and copied them into his leather bound volume, but he got one wrong. Henry Michie, No. 1059, cannot be found anywhere else. The name Henry never appears in the Glenbuchat OPR, only Hary. However there were two Henriettas among the Badenyon Michies and only one in the Status Animarum . No. 1057 is Henrietta Michie, the schoolmaster's sister, and I am confident that No. 1059 is his niece Henrietta, not Henry, born about 1806 in Glenbuchat.

James Michie (15) is registered in the 1841 census at Scalan in the house of James and Henrietta Michie. He was born in Glenbuchat the son of William Michie and Margaret Michie (No. 1058). The Tombae register records that in 1852 'Margaret Michie, Badenyon, Glenbucket, died there aged 70.' Her son appears in the former schoolmaster's will as 'James Michie my nephew, son of William Michie in Badenyon, to have liberty to live with them with the family at Scalan, also to have liberty to keep a few sheep on the pasture if he so pleases.' Charles Michie, back from Calcutta, met him later: 'James Michie, Tomintoul, born 6th Aug. 1820 was a son of William Michie Badenyon. He worked in cutting out of the railway from Ballater to Aberdeen; also at the laying of the water from the Head of Cairnwell to Torry, which altogether occupied 30 years of his life. He is a bachelor, almost totally blind, has a very retentive memory, but is in very poor circumstances. He is a staunch Roman Catholic, and when I visited him in September 1905, he told me that, given the opportunity, he could convert me! He says the Michies came from Deeside to Donside. The Michies are said to have been 700 years in Badenyon.' James Michie died in Tomintoul on May 6 1906, aged 86, according to the Inspector for the Poor.

By his uncle's will James received £20 in instalments through his cousins Henrietta and Sophia. Both lived in the Scalan farm town (which supported fifty people then) with Henrietta married to Philip Matheson and Sophia to John McGrigor, Molecatcher (see 'Of Moles and Men', ScN 13). The baptisms of James Clark and Rachel Michie's two daughters Sophia and Henrietta were recorded at Glenbuchat - May 18 1810 and October 8 1812. They were brought up 'most carefully' by their Uncle James and Aunt Henrietta. In The Catholic Highlands of Scotland Dom Odo Blundell wrote that the two girls came to Scalan as orphans. Their mother Rachel certainly died when they were infants, but James Clark, Wood Manufacturer (Cart-wright on his daughter's death certificate), was at Badenyon in 1841.

One more James Michie appears in the Chapeltown register: 'James, Son to Thomas Michie, Banjon [the new priest's version], Glenbucket and Helen McHardy, Corrie Demick, was born 20 th and baptised 22 nd October, 1846. Sponsors Alexander Grant, Corrieanach and Margaret Grant, Demick.' The four-year-old James was at Corry Demick in the 1851 census with his mother Helen and his uncle John McHardy as head of the household. According to our man from Calcutta, 'Thomas Michie of Badenyon had a son James (natural) by Helen McHardy. He was farmer at Corry Glenlivet and from there went to Fochabers. He was a great athlete and challenged Donald Dinnie.' Fochabers would have been convenient for travelling to Games meetings by train. Dinnie, a winner of 150 championships, became the first professional athlete in 1867. James Michie, a powerful member of the family to finish with, probably retired from the heavy events on his marriage to Jessie Rattray in 1875. After that he lifted sheaves at Corrie Demick.

I would like to thank Ronald J. MacGregor and the staff of Elgin Local History Department; also Elspet Esther Kualske in Michigan, a descendant of James Michie (1800).