|The Crislich Mystery
On 15 December 1813 at Golspie Inn Donald
Matheson offered £56 and Sergeant Melville £52
for the yearly rent of the tenancies of Sutherland Estate
property at Crislich, Foick and Coppernusgach. Those tenancies
were situated in the parish of Clyne,
Above Lands on the Estate of Sutherland set at Golspy Inn 15 December 1813
Below 1815 Tenants and Rent
There were many Melvilles in the parish of Clyne and some in the parish of Golspie throughout the latter part of the 18th century and the 19th century. Those Melvilles were all inter-related and possibly descended from a single ancestor or family resident in the area in the late sixteen hundreds or early seventeen hundreds. Alexander of Crislich was from the lines of Melvilles in which I have a principal interest though there may still be a little doubt as to his exact position within this family.
It is clear for the various records that Sergeant Melville and Alexander Melville were one and the same person mentioned in the 1813 and 1815 tenancies. He was quite possibly the son of John Melville of Doll and his spouse Helen MacDonald though Alexander Melville and Sarah Mackay are also an outside possibility. A further indication that the period of tenancy was more than just a few years is the fact that Alexander Melville of Crislich was married to a Margaret Graham and of their five children born between 1806 and 1816 their third and fifth children were noted as born at Crislich. The Old Parish entry for the fourth child was less specific just indicating Clyne.
family disappeared from the area around 1820 and despite much
searching only one clue to their possible whereabouts came to
response to an article I had published in the Highland Family
History Society Journal entitled ‘The Melvilles of the Doll’,
correspondence was received from Dr Bangor-Jones, an authority
on the Clearances in Sutherland, that the Melville family had
the OPR entries for the five children of Alexander
Melville and Margaret Graham:
Below a section
from the OPR for the birth of first born, John Melvin. The
spelling is variable in the OPRs but throughout this work I
the text, used the
modern spelling used by the family from the middle of the 19th Century, ie
The Children of Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham of Crislich born between 1806 and 1816.
John Born 15 August 1806 in Dole of Brora
Katherine Born 18 January 1808 in Clyne
Margaret Born 25 January 1810 at Crislich
Jean Born 16 February 1814 in Clyne
William Born 29
December 1816 Crislich
trail having run cold research in other areas of the family
history was called for. Much
material has been received from correspondents in
It seemed reasonable to speculate that this Adam Graham Melville might be connected to the missing Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham. The reason for this speculation centred on the fact that Adam had married two sisters, his cousins, named Melville and that his own name indicated he was a Melville with a link to a Graham family. Either clue, taken by itself, might have been coincidental but the two taken together suggested further research was necessary. Where to start searching for proof was the big question.
Isabella was born in Loth in Sutherland her family were from
Clyne parish and died in 1870 in
As can be seen above, Adam and Isabella were married at Viewfirth Free Church,
described by Ann Mitchell’s book covers much more than that of
interest in this research with many other streets around
Calton Hill described in great detail. The
Melvilles, it would appear, resided in the steep street
actually known as Calton Hill situated on the western edge of
the geographic feature. Today
all that remains are the houses on this west side, a dozen or
so, and 14 Calton Hill to the
In the early
days a number of trades, including a wright, a mason, a cooper
and a bricklayer, were represented by the residents of Calton
Hill and some notable early residents included accountants, a
solicitor and a writer. By the
end of the 17th century
and until her death in 1841 the celebrated friend of the poet
Robert Burns, Agnes Maclehose, better known as Clarinda, lived
at number 14 Calton Hill.
Ann Mitchell’s book makes much use of post office directory information and information collected at the ten yearly census. She mentions that in 1833 there were thirty-six separate households recorded and in 1841 over sixty. The latter figure was boosted not just by an increase in population but also by the inclusion of lodgers in the census return and not just householders. The street was a busy place with 324 residents and was described once as a ‘steep, narrow, stinking, spiral street’. There were, as noted by Ann Mitchell, many and varied occupations and Adam’s father, John Melville, brass founder and plumber, was just one of the many tradesmen making a living in the area.
Above the upper
entry to Calton Hill on the
left and the steps to the Hill on the right.
Below is the memorial
to Clarinda in the
The birth record in the OPRs for Adam Graham Melville indicated that his father was a John Melville and his mother Agnes Lawson. This information had been available from
entry in the OPR for 1829 for the marriage of John Melville
and Agnes Lawson is as follows;
John Melville, Plumber, residing
in No. 3A
this OPR, like many, was not as full as hoped for with John
Melville’s parents not given.
Death Certificate was much more helpful. This indicated John’s
parentage - John Melville, Plumber, aged 52 years son of
Alexander Melville, Merchant, and Margaret Graham, both
evidence that while Alexander Melville and Margaret Graham
could not be found after their removal from Crislich one of
their children could be identified.