Saturday, 29 October 2016

Livingston Ancestors

From Malcolm Newing:

I'd been promising my brother for ages a trip to Scotland to trace our family roots and to see the places our ancestors lived. In July my wife and a friend packed off to Mallorca so my brother and I set forth for the Highlands and Fort William. My wife had booked our accommodation taking me far too literally when I said not to make it expensive. Our first night was spent in a glamping pod (don't ask) in Lochlevenside but we did get our first taste of Highland scenery as we drove through Glencoe and saw a magnificent stag standing majestically on a rise above the road. 

Our visit was to cover two strands of the family: the Camerons of Tomacharich, just north of Fort William, and then we would drive to Kilchoan where our Livingston ancestors had lived. At the hotel in Fort William I remarked how beautiful the Highlands were and then not for the last time on the trip received the response, 'Aye as long as it's not raining!' The first afternoon was spent in the Lochaber Archives (which cover Ardnamurchan) in Fort William. I'd promised my brother we would only spend one afternoon peering through ancient records. I needn't have worried, he had the task of reading through the Kirk session minutes which it appeared largely dealt with inappropriate sex and fornication that kept him busy for hours!

The next day we travelled down the east side of Loch Linnhe to the Corran ferry and were able to see across to the actual croft at Trislaig where my great-great-grandfather had worked from 1850 to 1880. His name was Duncan Livingstone and had been born in Glenmore in the early 1800s, Glenmore being one of the crofting settlements in the Kilchoan area. Turning right off the ferry to visit Trislaig, we experienced the standard highway in place across Ardnamurchan which is a single track with frequent passing areas cut into the verge. In addition to the hazards of oncoming traffic we discovered the likelihood of sheep straddling the road was also quite high!

We returned from the croft, passed the ferry at Ardgour, and carried on down the west side of Loch Linnhe, through Inversanda where my GGGF was married, and then we headed into Strontian and alongside the beautiful sea loch Sunnart. The scenery remained spectacular and we stopped at the loch side in the faint hope we might see dolphins which had been reported in the loch a day earlier. For the passenger the views were magnificent; however, for a driver unfamiliar with the roads it was more difficult. I quickly learned that the locals drive a bit quicker than the tourists and it was etiquette therefore to pull in and let them pass if they were behind you.

We stopped in Acharacle at a lovely little coffee shop, more like someone's front room, where they did a lovely range of cakes and other forms of sustenance. I didn't realise en route I had passed a place called Ruig a phollain where members of my family had resided. The challenges of researching Gaelic Scotland can be seen when you learn that on many maps and documents this place is shown as Refollin as the English would pronounce it. The sweep from Acharacle to Kilchoan is breathtaking particularly as you round Ben Hiant, the dominant peak, and, as we learned from Jon the next day, passed through historic crofting areas such as Skinned (above) where my GGGF had been a shepherd. 

Jon had offered in advance to be our guide and this enriched our experience. He showed us the modern day crofting township of Ormsaigbeg (above) where two Livingston brothers, Donald and John, had been born, lived, worked and died. He showed us the ancient croft of Ormsaigmore where my great-grandfather Allan had been born before leaving to work in the Trossachs. He also explained the history of the Clearances in this part of the world. For me it was fascinating and added much substance to my family history. It appears that Duncan's father, John, was a crofter in Glenmore and probably lost his livelihood because the landowner, Sir James Riddell, moved many crofters forcibly off their crofts, either to much poorer land, such as Ormsaigbeg and Portuairk, or in many cases to the countries of New Zealand and Canada. The land was given over to huge sheep farms, so it looks like Duncan was fortunate enough to be employed as a shepherd before finding his croft at Trislaig in the 1850s. Jon was even able to point out the shepherds' houses in which he probably lived.

Jon gave us an informative tour of the old churchyard of St Comghan's which has many generations of Kilchoan residents within it. My brother and I also visited the Ardnamurchan lighthouse which provides spectacular views of the Atlantic coast, and we then experienced this close up at the beautiful beach at Sanna which matched anything I have seen in Spain. Amazingly, throughout all our time the sun shone and it turned out I experienced better weather than my wife in Mallorca! 

The visit to Scotland was over with all too quickly and I was left with a number of abiding memories. Firstly the scenery is spectacular and surpassed my expectations, the cuisine everywhere including the Kilchoan Hotel was excellent, and everyone we met matched the welcome and hospitality we experienced from Jon.

I will definitely be back as I still haven't proved the holy grail for all Livingstones that David is one of my ancestors! At least so I presume!

Many thanks to Malcolm for this account of his visit.
Visitors researching their family connections in West Ardnamurchan are very welcome to a tour conducted by the Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association.

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