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The Moray Burial Ground Research Group Newsletter
Issue 22 - Aug 2014 - PUBLISHED BIANNUALLY
(Image - Cullen New Cemetery)
(Image - Helen scoops research award)
(Image - Work Starts at Cullen New Cemetery & Rothiemay
Welcome to another edition of the group newsletter, I’m afraid we’re really
behind with this edition, but that was mainly due to a lot of things happening
this end (including floods and power cuts!) but mainly items that we wanted to
make sure we got it this issue, so I hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
3. An MBGRG Champion
4. AGM Review 2014
5. Work starts at Cullen New
6. Featured Grave
7. MBGRG Publications going digital
8. To Kindle.. or not to Kindle
The debate on electronic publishing
9. Field Coordinator's report
10. What’s in a name
11. Cloud Computing
11. Courageous Soldiers
13. MIs with a difference
15. A Photographer’s rant
The MBGRG NEEDS YOU
We are urgently requiring help with all group activities. If you are able to
come along and help with activities or even just provide a letter or story for
the newsletter, we’d really love to hear from you!
An MBGRG Champion.
As a result of meeting up with Karen McGregor of the Breadalbane Development
Association from Perth and Kinross, Helen was nominated for the above award for
the very considerable contribution she has made to MBGRG research since its
formation in 2003. Both Karen and myself shared in Helen‘s experience, but
although she was not the outright winner, it was impressed on everyone present
at the ceremony, that to be nominated for the award was in itself an
(Image - Helen Mitchell, MBGRG Field Co-ordinator receiving her Highly Commended
Scottish Civic Champion’s Award from Derek Mackay MSP at The Lighthouse in
Glasgow, on Thursday 27th April; 2014)
Lichen (Ruth McIntosh)
MBGRG recently started recording in Cullen New Cemetery. We were surprised to
find how clean the stones were in terms of having very little lichen on them,
which you might expect to see in a place so close to the sea. We have recorded
in places inland where stones were badly affected by lichen. Last year I was in
Orkney and visited a cemetery close to the sea where lichen was so thick on the
walls and on stones near to the wall.
Can anyone out there explain why there is this difference in two places
with similar conditions?
Lichen is not one organism, but two, a fungus and an algae and/or cyanobacteria
that form a symbiotic relationship. The fungus requires carbon to feed upon
which is provided by the photosynthesis of the algae / cyanobacteria and these
seem to benefit from the living conditions provided by the funghi. Of the 2000
species of Lichen, at least a third have been found to be growing in churchyards
where the stones provide an excellent environment.
The Annual General Meeting 2014
This year the AGM took place on 23rd March in Lhanbryde Community Centre. Twenty
four members attended the meeting and our Chairman Keith Mitchell welcomed
everyone and thanked them for coming. During the meeting Keith called upon our
Honorary President Charles J Burnett to make a presentation to group Webmaster
Lindsay Robertson for all the hard work he does for the group throughout the
year. Charles presented Lindsay with a small token from the members.
Once the meeting had finished the doors were opened to allow members of the
public to join us to hear a talk by Dr Fraser Hunter who is Principal Curator of
Iron Age and Roman collections at the National Museum of Scotland, whose talk
entitled “Dead and sometimes buried : dealing with death in prehistoric Moray”
provided a fascinating
look at burial practices in the Moray area. Fraser had travelled from Edinburgh
just to give his talk to us and we had possibly our largest turnout of people to
hear him speak. Judging by the comments at the end none were disappointed.
(Images - Five photos taken at theAGM)
Work begins at Cullen New Cemetery and Rothiemay
(Images - 2 on-site and one location map)
Here we see some of our MBGRG members at work during the first day of recording
at Cullen New Cemetery. As you can see there was some sun shining, which made
this photograph look quite appealing. Sadly although the weather app on my Ipad
stated quite unequivocally there would be sun all morning and most of the
afternoon over Cullen, much of day was spent cleaning, planning and recording in
dismal cloudy conditions.
Rothiemay near Keith provided us with great weather for our first outing and
both sites are now well under way.
Featured Grave. (By Ruth McIntosh, Secretary, MBGRG)
Moray Burial Ground Research Group is presently recording Memorial inscriptions
in Elgin Cemetery, South section. Members come across many and varied references
to people who have fought and died in various conflicts in the service of their
country. While working in Elgin South they found a small cross to the memory of
Private William McKenzie of the 5th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians). The cross has
become separated from its base and now lies abandoned at the base of a tree. At
some time someone, most likely family of William, has placed a memorial to him
commemorating his sacrifice in The First World War. 202168 Private William
McKenzie died at the Somme on 17th December 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves
Commission tells us he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial .The Memorial to
the Missing of the Somme is a major war memorial to 72,195 missing servicemen
who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and
1918 with no known grave. He is remembered also in the Regimental Roll of Honour
of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
It would be wonderful in this time of remembrance of the Great War if some
relative of William’s came forward to let us know a bit more about him and maybe
return his cross to its base as a fitting tribute to a life cut too short.
This article was printed in our local paper The Northern Scot recently, watch
this space in next Newsletter for an update.
(Image - Cross to the memory of Private William McKenzie)
MBGRG MI Publications Are to Go Digital. (Lindsay Robertson – Webmaster)
Many family history groups, and indeed individuals, are considering other
methods of publishing their work, rather than the traditional printed book
format. (See: ‘To
Kindle or not to Kindle’ by Keith Mitchell in this Newsletter). There is no
suggestion that MBGRG will cease publishing in book format altogether, but it is
believed that making our work also available in Portable Document Format (.pdf )
may have some benefits.
Printed copies are an essential as part of the copyright process, and clearly we
would hope that libraries and family history groups would wish to hold at least
single copies of our publications as part of their research library, and thus an
initial traditional print run would be done as usual. This would be the only way
those who prefer to ‘avoid computers at all costs’, would be able to access our
work, and it is important such researchers are not excluded access to our
Recently, the logistics of holding stocks of unsold books, has been exacerbated
by the general decrease in sales, as noted by several family history groups.
Stock takes up a lot of space, and if storage conditions are not ideal, can
become spoiled and hence not fit for sale, with considerable financial loss to
the group. MBGRG has in the past supplied MI Publications, to customers in
various parts of the world, but it is my general impression that these sales are
falling off – possible the very high postage rates are a factor, often doubling
the purchase price of the order. Also postal delivery delays can be lengthy.
Proposed plans described here do raise an important issue. If you are a ‘book
lover’ and have been considering adding our Publications to your library, do it
soon! As they say in the advertising industry – buy now – ‘once it’s gone it’s
gone’. Our printed books may be in very short supply in the near future!
The preparation of the relevant pdf files will however take some time. As I
understand it, previous publication methods involved material being sent to the
Printer/Publisher in various formats - some text material in digital form, plans
and stone drawings as hard copy, individual colour or greyscale images, with all
these various parts being combined by our printer, to produce the final
publication. This means that those publications which we have had printed
previously, are not immediately available as a complete digital file, and will
have to be generated by combining all the various elements into a complete
digital version before being converted to pdf format, a not insignificant task.
As an initial exercise, Keith and Helen have produced a complete digital version
of the Boharm MIs Publication, and it has been agreed that a pdf version of this
will be made available on the website in the near future. We are using this
‘free sample’ as an example of what site visitors can expect to receive in the
future if they decide to order in pdf format. It has also been agreed that pdf
versions will be available at half the price of the printed book price.
It is my intention, to create a simple Report on the website, detailing some of
the above points together with a link to the Boharm MIs pdf file for free
download. I suggest this and all future .pdf files are restriction free,
allowing the user/purchaser to print off all,
or parts of the files for their own personal use, should they wish to do so. I
see no harm in this, as currently anyone ordering a hardcopy book can read it,
and then pass to other family members, rather than ordering further copies!
It is my intention that the main source of progress on this issue should
be reflected on our ‘Publications’ webpage, which currently lists all our
publications, with full title, format, number of pages, images, price etc. I
would then just add ‘Also available in pdf format’, with price, as and when we
can make them available. No live link to the pdf files would be placed on
the website. Site visitors would then contact us, as they do now, with their
particular requirements, and on receipt of payment, the pdf file would be
emailed to them.
If you have any feedback on the above I, would be pleased to hear your comments.
To Kindle or Not To Kindle - That is the question (Keith Mitchell - Chairman)
(or as Helen succinctly commented :
Will the fire Burn?)
As most of us will be aware the age of electronic publishing is well and truly
here. Indeed, talking with member Nick Hide of London, it seems that many from
the world of publishing and those connected with this medium believe the war
between “book” and “Kindle” along with its associated kindred, is well and truly
won – in favour of E-Publishing.
As a lover of books, I must confess that in many ways this relatively recent
development is in many ways sad, and in keeping with most bibliophiles, I can
only hope that the balance does not eventually lead to the complete demise of
the printed page - something physical you can turn over page by page and flip
through in any way you want! I suspect, on balance, that books will never be
killed off completely. However, it is clear that Kindle, Kobos and their ilk are
now in use all over the globe, and in many ways perhaps this is a good
development for the printed word and many a budding author. So how does this
affect MBGRG publications? For various reasons, and in common with many other
family history societies, book sales have decreased substantially of late. This
process needs to be dramatically reversed, for if we are not successful in doing
so, then to my mind it calls into serious question some of the reasoning behind
why we exist as a group.
After careful consideration, the Committee agreed that we should “dip our feet
in the water” and at least get our publication extremities wet by having a go at
putting some of our older books onto Kindle. It had been suggested that making
our books available as PDF files on our website might be a way to go, as this
would give us complete control over the whole process. However, it was decided
that this would only be successful if our website had a much larger ‘hit’ count.
Thanks to the advice and practical help we have received from Marion Gordon of
Elgin Writers, work is in hand to trial our “Boharm” MI book on Kindle to see
what happens. This book, in common with several others in our portfolio of
publications is now almost out of print. So Kindle seems a reasonable option to
extend their lifespan at least in the foreseeable future. As we progress along
the electronic highway, we’ll keep you up to speed on progress, as there is a
very great deal to learn and many problems to be aware of. But remember to let
us know your views about this new method of publishing MIs, as your thoughts are
essential to the way forward.
Field Coordinator’s Report. (Helen Mitchell, Field Coordinator)
This season seemed to be off to a slow start, however, with the few members
turning up, the outdoor recording work is being churned out. This is partly due
to the tombstones being relatively modern. We have finished recording MIs and
buried tombstones at Mortlach. There are a few loose ends like photography and
checks to do, but Keith and I will do that on a bright sunny warm day if that is
A successful day was accomplished at Deskford Kirkyard. The weather was sunny,
which helped the moral of the recorders and ‘photographer’. About 90% of the
recording was completed.
Cullen Cemetery “on the clifftop” was our next port of call and recording has
recently got under way there. It will not be completed in one day as at Deskford
due to the amount of tombstones. Ruth and I spent three hours trying to sort out
the plans and find the appropriate stones to match the Local Heritage Centre
recordings. We still have half of it to complete and there are quite a number of
new stones to be added.
By the time you receive this newsletter we should have another publication in
our hands. Elgin East, which joins Aberlour for this year. It was certainly a
treat to prepare for publication compared to Aberlour.
Photography has taken a turn for the better of late, or so it may sound until
Keith inserts the disk into the computer and tells me he has taken 300 photos
that day. When we are inElgin South by 8.30am to photograph because the sun is
in the right direction with no clouds, then on to Deskford, next to Cullen, and
back to Deskford for the late afternoon sun, all in one day, then you can
imagine the time it takes to number the photos. Days like this can happen at any
time and with over 2,500 stones in Elgin South alone, this takes time, in
particular if some have to be floured and cleaned off after. The recording of
the South section is now about 1/3rd of the way completed
Members: - A date for your diary Saturday 25th October – end of season
meal. Details to follow later.
What’s in a name? (By Lindsay Robertson, Webmaster)
The MBGRG on-line ‘Ancestor Indexes’ contain some 60,000 named individuals, and
it occurred to me that it might be of interest to look at the most common
surnames we have recorded in our standard MI Publications to date. The
graph below shows those, listing only surnames which occur more than 500 times.
Those occurring less than that are too numerous to show here, but can be
supplied if you are interested in a particular surname.
(Image - Graph)
The total number of distinct surnames and surname variants is also interesting,
and currently exceeds 3000. Again the list is too long to publish here, but a
random selection of some of the more unusual surnames which occur only once, are
Aisladie, Badgery, Choat, Diamond, Eby, Flaws, Gaderer, Holyoke, Isaac, Jansch,
Kiteley, Laverick, Northover, Ouseley, Plock, Roebuck, Sheepwash, Tipple, Vlasto,
Buried stones are also included in some of our standard MI Publications of
course, but the second chart, refers to surnames from a much smaller sample,
taken from the Forgotten Tombstones of Moray Series booklets. Here, the most
common surname, Sutherland occurs only 27 times. Again a random selection of
less common surnames from this group include Alshouner, Bege, Cramend,
Dick, Farcher, Grigor, Hirrywood, Junkin, Marquis, Nawtie, Paul, Robe, Sumson,
(Image - Graph)
The Cloud – Computer Storage Problems (by Keith Mitchell, Chairman)
In common with many computer users who have large amounts of data stored on
their computers, there is always the fear of systems being corrupted,
seriously damaged or at worst, lost altogether. This is something that happens
far too often, sometimes with alarming and gut wrenching results. At the last
AGM in March, Nick Hide recommended putting all our group data onto one of the
modern forms of computer data storage facilities – the Cloud. Perhaps I should
say more accurately “a Cloud,” as indeed there are a fast breeding collection of
“Clouds” out there in Punterland.
Currently our huge archive of MI information, which contains our very large
collection of tombstone photographs, is stored on several computer hard drives,
both here in Elgin and for safety’s sake in Aberdeen. However, knowing the
propensity for ‘Lady Luck’ to frequently deal a bum hand at the most inopportune
times, it has been decided that we will also find a suitable ‘Cloud’ to land our
files on. At the moment it is merely a question of finding which one would be
Postscript: It seems my extremely low broadband speed here in Elgin will not
permit MBGRG files to be uploaded!
Courageous Soldiers (by Ruth McItosh, Secretary)
By the time you read this MBGRG will have launched their most recent
publication, namely Elgin East.
(Image - Stone 205)
Buried in Elgin East are two soldiers, veterans of the Crimea war and the Indian
mutiny both having been at the relief of Lucknow. Although their rank and
background, and life after leaving the army were very different they fought in
the same places and displayed great courage.
The first soldier is Duncan McDonald (Old Balaklava) who served with the 93rd
Highlanders at Crimea and received a medal and clasps for having been at the
battles of Alma, Balaklava and Sebastopol therefore being able to say he was one
of The Thin Red Line. He was then sent to the Indian Mutiny and was present at
the Relief of Lucknow gaining a clasp for his presence there. He served in the
army for 21 years gaining two good conduct medals. His pension on demobilisation
was 10d per day (less than 5p today). He lived in Forres for some time
returning to Elgin where he ran a sweet stall in the New Market.
Near the end of his life he was receiving assistance from the Soldiers’ and
Sailors’ Relief fund. He was in his 76th year when he died and received a
Military funeral on his passing in April 1905.
The second soldier was Lieutenant Colonel William Rennie VC who was born in
Bishopmill in 1822. His parents moved to Golspie when he was still quite young,
his father working for the Duke of Sutherland. On leaving school he was
apprenticed to the saddlery business. This however was not for William and he
soon enlisted in the 73rd Regiment stationed at Aldershot. Private Rennie proved
himself a very able soldier and was soon promoted to Corporal, Sergeant, and
Sergeant Major. It was as a Sergeant he was sent to fight in the Crimean War
after which he bought himself out of the Army. Due to the persistence of his
former army colleagues he again joined the army buying himself a Commission as a
Lieutenant in his old regiment. He was soon sent to South Africa in 1846
to fight in the Kaffir war. It was for this campaign he was awarded a medal for
gallant conduct in the field and promoted to Captain. On his promotion he joined
the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry. It was with this regiment he was sent to
India and was present at the relief of Lucknow where he was seriously wounded,
but went on to be awarded a medal and clasp for his bravery. This was not the
end of his medal tally. From events which occurred in September 1857 at Lucknow
it is recorded “he charged the enemies guns single handed” and “he charged in
advance of the 90th columns, in the face of heavy fire, and forced the enemy to
abandon their guns” he was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry
and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He was reputedly the first man in Moray to
win the VC.
(Image - Lieutenant Colonel William Rennie VC)
His obituary appeared in the Northern Scot of August 1896 where it states that
the officers of the 90th sent a wreath of rare flowers, very large and beautiful
to his funeral. His Victoria Cross was sold at Sotheby’s for £1,700 in 1969.
The above are only two of a great many service personnel who are buried or
remembered on family stones in Elgin East.
The publication is available through MBGRG website, Yeadons Booksellers in Elgin
or by contacting Keith or Helen Mitchell on 01343 546620
MIs With a Difference – Brief Holiday Encounters (by Keith Mitchell, Chairman)
MBGRG held its first European holiday a few weeks ago – well at least six
members took part, when we went on a bus tour of the Austrian Lakes, as well as
visiting one or two places in Germany. The scenery, the food and the history
were a cornucopia of peaceful enjoyment, for the most part, and of course like
all good tourists we visited quite a few cathedrals and other religious
buildings where historic tombstone memorials abounded. Ulm Cathedral in Germany
is mouth watering in its varied and jaw-dropping memorials, while 16th century
examples in Salzburg Castle are indeed quite stunning. Of course our visits to
these sites were fairly perfunctory, and one would need many days to study them
in any significant depth.
At the same time when the bus stopped off at various points for coffee breaks, a
few of us would make our way into some of the local burial grounds, to while
away a few minutes of spare time.
(Image - From a 17th century memorial in Berchtesgaden Churchyard (photo KLM)
(Image - Berchtesgaden Churchyard (photo KLM)
It is amazing what some tourists get up to on their travels! One such place
several of us visited was in the town of Berchtesgaden, after making the
bus trip up to the “Eagle’s Nest, which Hitler received as a 50th birthday
present. Nick our bus driver then gave us some spare time in the town, and on
the way back, we popped into the local churchyard. Many of the tombstones by
design looked quite old, but it turned out that most of them dated to the 1900s,
and there seemed to be only a few older ones dotted about on one of the
perimeter walls. In keeping with local styles of memorial, these frequently
contained the most exquisite and complicated carving, quite different to what we
normally see in Scotland. Maybe MBGRG needs to expand into Europe!
Another place we visited in Austria was the ancient village of Hallstatt in the
Austrian region of Salzkammergut, which as the name
suggests, is well known for its production of salt. The beautiful village is set
beside the lake of the same name, and in sunny weather is indeed an extremely
idyllic spot. On this occasion, however, it was raining and a long walk
through the village, dodging Japanese tourists with cameras continually poised,
ended up with a visit to the ubiquitous coffee shop. However, there was one
place three of us wanted to see, and that was the local charnel house, beside
the historic local Roman Catholic Parish Church. After a lot of stair climbing,
we finally found the place and spent a few minutes taking in the curiosity of
the place. On three sides of the small building were set rows and rows of
skulls, some 1200 in number, lying over stacks of arms and leg bones. Unusually
some 610 of these the skulls had the name of the person intricately painted
across each forehead, which made for a sight which is hard to describe. It is
recorded that this tradition began in 1720. However, all the ones we could see
seemed to date to the 19th and 20th centuries.
(Image - Painted skulls in the Charnel House (Beinhaus) in Hallstatt, Austria
Diamonds are forever .....
After scouring around for information on different burial practices around the
world, this has to be one of the strangest new fads I’ve come across. It’s now
possible to be cremated and then get your ashes made into a diamond! Now, this
service obviously doesn’t come cheap, from budget small stones at around £1300
up to 2 carat examples in red for around £12,000 ! So maybe we’ll be doing
future research on family history in jewelry and antique stores!
(Image - cartoon)
A photographer’s Rant (By Keith Mitchell, MBGRG Photographer)
Having been largely responsible for creating the Group’s archive of tombstone
photographs over the years, it is perhaps worth noting that we hold well in
excess of 60,000 images relating to burial grounds all over Moray. Now the
majority of these photos would appear to suggest that this part of Scotland is
deluged with sunshine for most of the time. However, anyone who does not know
the area and thinks this, is somewhat delusional. Indeed it must be said that
cloud hopping when out in the field, is a major pastime for yours truly. Now why
The “Good Book” says that one of the first things ‘God’ did when he began his
wonderful works at the beginning of everything was to create ‘Light.’ Whatever
the truth of that may be, it is certain that sunlight makes a tremendous
difference to seeing things at their best – well on most occasions, and
certainly as far as photographing the majority of tombstones is concerned.
Members who have seen me photographing in various burial grounds will certainly
admit that I frequently get impatient when the sun fails to deliver, and the
clouds keep shadowing its movements. But sometimes this can get to the
ridiculous stage, and today was one of those times. As we all know weather
forecasting is a dangerous profession to be in, as frequently those involved in
its media presentation appear to frequently get their results a little ‘tad’
inaccurate. Not only that, trying to get the same result for the same area, e.g.
Moray, from T.V., radio, newspapers, Ipads and smart phones, appears to be nigh
on impossible on frequent occasions.
So, the sun was shining in front and back garden, white clouds appeared here and
there, and it looked like an afternoon to go ‘shooting.’ So Helen and I arrive
at New Elgin, South Section ready for action. The sun is still shining. We start
cleaning and tidying, with camera at the ready. We get a few done and then a
cloud blocks the sun out completely. Looking up in the sky we see huge areas of
blue sky all over the place, but also large areas of cloud that drift in from
the horizon and from then on almost entirely block out the sun for almost two
hours. Every 10 to 15 minutes we perhaps get a minute or two of sunshine and
then more and more cloud. Eventually after photographing about 50 tombstones, we
give up and go home.
On the way, we drive about 500 yards from the cemetery gates and the sun comes
out, and stays out even when we get home! The Latin ‘nil desperandum,’ and other
similar expressive comments, spring to mind!
(Image - smiling sun logo)
(Image - tombstone)
For all submissions and queries, please contact the Editor: Derek C Page
Rivendell, Carsehill, Alves, Elgin, Moray IV30 8XF