Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge
As my heart thrilled to the story of the notorious “Wolf of Badenoch” – those “wyld, wykked Heland-men” burning the famed and majestic Elgin Cathedral I had no idea that later research would show the burial site of John Ogilvie, my Great Great Grand-father, to be in this very same Cathedral Churchyard. John Ogilvie is my dad’s Great Grandfather and the Grandfather of my Grandmother Marie. So it is that Elgin represents the letter Ee in my latest “Family History Through the Alphabet” post.
Elgin, as the administrative and commercial capital of Moray,Scotland,has a long and fascinating history. Situated on a low ridge, between the loops of the River Lossie, Elgin was made a Royal Burgh in the 12th Century, by King David I, and in 1107 was chosen as the seat of the Bishop of Moray with its Cathedral located at Spynie, 3kms to the north. The new Elgin Cathedral was not built until 1224 and on area of ground granted by Alexander II close to the River Lossie and outside of the Burgh of Elgin. It was a thriving town with its castle on top of Lady Hill in the west and the great Cathedral in the east. Originally the Cathedral was built as a simple cruciform but, after being damaged by fire in 1270, was expanded with the choir doubled in length, aisles added on each side and an octagonal Chapter House built opening off the north aisle.
This magnificent Elgin Cathedral was sometimes known as “The Lantern of the North” but, 120 years after being built, it came under attack and is now a historic ruin. In 1390 Alexander Stewart (Alasdair Mór mac an Rígh), Earl of Buchan and the third surviving son of King Robert II of Scotand, quarrelled seriously with Bishop Alexander Burr, of Moray, who responded by ex-communicating the Earl. An infuriated Stewart, in May 1390 and accompanied by his brigands, descended from his castle in Lochindorb and burned and ransacked the town of Forres. Not satisfied, the following month he burned much of Elgin, incuding two monasteries, St Giles Church, the Hospital of Maison Dieu and the Cathedral, destroying many of its records – legal and monastic. These were irreplaceable and a terrible loss. Terrifying the people of Elgin, and forcing them to flee into the countryside, Alexander Stewart became known “The Wolf of Badenoch” and is forever remembered for his burning of the Royal Burgh of Elgin and the destruction of its Cathedral.
“His nickname ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’ was earned due to his notorious cruelty and rapacity but there is no proof that it was used during his lifetime.”
Alexander Stewart lived from 1343 to 20 Jun 1405 and held the positions of Lord Badenoch, Earl of Buchanan and later was his brother’s Royal Deputy in Scotland. Under his father’s watchful eye, nobles and many church dignitaries, Alexander Stewart did penance for his wanton destruction, was pardoned and accepted back into the church.
“Unfortunately his repentance was superficial.”
In 1402 the Cathedral precent again suffered an incendiary attack. This time by the followers of the Lord of the Isles and took over 100 years to rebuild. Not completed until 1538 much of the re-construction has since crumbled away, due to the inferior quality of the stone made available to the 15th and 16th century masons, whilst the 13th century construction remains.
Elgin Cathedral continued in use until the reformation of 1560 then, in 1567 , the lead of the Cathedral roof was stripped, by order of the Privy Council and Regent Moray, and the process of decay began. In 1637 the choir roof collapsed, the rood-screen with its painting of the crucifixion was removed and destroyed in 1640 and on Easter Sunday, 1711, the great central tower fell destroying the north transept and the main arcades of the nave. By the end of the eighteenth century the once magnificent Cathedral was being used as a quarry for building stone, however, in 1824 the Exchequer assumed responsibility for the preservation of the structure. John Shanks was appointed keeper and began clearing the accumulated rubbish. It is said that John cleared;
“…3,000 barrowfuls and laying bare the foundations of the pillars of the nave, the elevations of the altar and the stairs at the western gate.”
My Great Great Grandfather, John Ogilvie, was born in Elgin approximately 2 years after John Shanks began his work as a keeper for the Cathedral. At this time, the town had a population of less than 4,000 and was still largely confined to three parallel lines of streets running between the Castle and the precincts of the Cathedral. The 1841 Census shows that, 15 years later, John Ogilvie was living with his parents at “Clarks Close” and his father was working as a Carter whilst the restoration continued. Just 6 years later (1847-8) some of the old houses associated with the cathedral, on it’s west side, were demolished and a series of relative minor changes to the boundary completed. Two years later, on 7 Jun 1850, John Ogilvie married Christina McKenzie at the Elgin Parish Church. John and Christina had four children; Alexander, James (my great grandfather & father of my Marie Ogilvie), and Margaret Ann, followed by Jean.
On 10 Jan 1857 when their youngest child was just 3 months old, the family was living at “Mrs Phillip’s Close” and Christina was forced to apply for, and was granted, “Poor Relief”. John, unable to work for some time, had been admitted to Dr Gray’s Hospital and died 16 months later, at the age of 32, leaving Christina to raise their 4 children alone. My Great Grand-father, James Ogilvie, was just 5 years old with 1 older brother and 2 younger sisters.
John Ogilvie’s Death Certificate shows he died at home, 49 High Street, Elgin on 8 May 1858, his brother James reported the death and a doctor’s certificate was provided. Although no cause of death is given, it’s clearly written that John was buried in the Cathedral Churchyard. On New Years Day 2012 I excitedly emailed the “Moray Burial Ground Research Group” to order photos of John Ogilvie’s gravestone from their on-line Elgin Cathedral Churchyard Index. With the marvels of technology two beautifully clear photos arrived on my computer the very next day. Unfortunately, although the MBGRG Index indicated a very likely match, it is not the gravestone on my John Ogilvie. Their Webmaster, Lindsay, was most hepful and wrote:
“From the death certificate, one can only assume that he was buried there. All the visible stone in that churchyard have been recorded and published and abstracted data is as on-line. This suggests that,
a) there was no headstone
b) a stone may have been placed but damaged, removed, lost over the years (this is not uncommon – some sandstone monuments suffer from frost and often delaminate – the inscribed surface just crumbling away
c) the stone was a flat one, which has become buried over time
Elgin Cathedral is a very important archaelogical/historic site in Elgin, and is managed by Historic Scotland , who to date have not given us permission to investigate the presence of such buried stones. Also, we have cases where buried stones of this type are in fact blank – perhaps the family unable to afford to inscribe the stone.”
As John’s widow had sought “Poor Relief” only 16months earlier, it’s doubtful there was money for a gravestone, let alone an inscription.
It also needs to be considered though that maybe John Ogilvie was not buried in the Cathedral Churchyard, after all, especially as in it’s Dec 2010 Newsletter the “Moray Burial Ground Research Group” reports that as early as March 1848 overcrowding in the Cathedral Churchyard was causing concern. Over the next 10 years the issue was raised several times and eventually, in the early months of 1857, land was purchased to the east of “New Elgin” for the establishment of a new cemetery. On 28 Oct 1858, five months after John died, the “Elgin Courant” reported the first internment. Maybe John Ogilvie was one of the first to be buried in the new cemetery? … This certainly needs to be checked but, in my view, the most likely scenario is that my Great Great Grandfather is indeed buried in the Churchyard of the very Cathedral that those “wyld, wykked Heland-men” tried to destroy. I wonder what John would think about having a whole branch of his ancestories, living here in South Australia, who are delighted to know of their familial link with his birthplace and his final resting place… Elgin, Scotland.
The restoration work continues and the conservation of Elgin Cathedral has been of great concern for successive government departments so that today the ruins remain one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Scotland. Elgin’s population of less that 4,000, when John Ogilvie was a lad, has grown to 20,000 and much has been done, and continues to be done, to invigorate the centre of the town whilst retaining and restoring the old buildings. A relief road has been built to free the High Street of heavy traffic, and through traffic, and has opened up new vistas toward the Cathedral and Lady Hill.
To view magnificent photos of Elgin, as it is today, just click HERE.
If you have 24.55mins to spare, I recommend you settle down and enjoy the following Video of Elgin, it’s historic sites and talented people.
Copyright © 2012. C.A.Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family