As part of our genealogy resources we intend to list as many families that have connections with the church as possible.
CLACHAN and the MACKENZIES of BALLONE
This is the beautiful memorial stone at Clachan of Alexander Mackenzie, laird of Ballone [now known as Inverbroom]. Next to it is a similar stone for his half brother Kenneth Mackenzie of Dundonnell.
Admiring the design and craftsmanship led me to asking about the family who were lairds here until 1773 and I was richly rewarded for it. Although not very well known, their story has drama and characters enough to match any fictional account of the times – of the ’45 in particular.
When the Ballone family’s kinsman and chief, the Earl of Cromartie, declared for Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 many from Lochbroom went to follow the cause, despite the strong opposition of the Parish Minister James Robertson who did all he could to dissuade his parishioners from a course he said was both wrong and hopeless.
COLIN MACKENZIE was the 19 year old younger brother of the Ballone laird of that date. A Captain in the Earl of Cromartie’s regiment, he led the Ballone and Dundonnell men. Taken prisoner at the Castle of Dunrobin in April 1746 he was sent to London for trial but eventually released after the Lochbroom Minister [who had travelled to London] testified for him. The London Evening Post reported that “Mr James Robertson, Minister, gave them [Colin and his cousin] the Character of persons well affected to His Majesty”. Colin was able to return home where he subsequently married the young Mary Mackenzie of Achilty. It is said that she was previously engaged to be married to the Minister, which if so makes Colin appear a little ungrateful to the man who saved his life.
RODERICK MACKENZIE was a cousin of the Ballone family, and the younger son of Mackenzie of Keppoch and Kildonan. He served as an Ensign with Cromartie and was “saved” by James Robertson’s testimony in the same way as Colin. The neighbouring estates here had all Mackenzie lairds at this time – by intermarriage they were kin to each other, Ballone, Dundonnell, Keppoch and Kildonan, Gruinard, Gairloch, Inverlael, Langwell etc.
ALEXANDER MACKENZIE was another younger son of James Mackenzie of Keppoch and Kildonan [and thus another cousin of Ballone]. He was with the others but managed to evade capture at Dunrobin. He returned to the Lochbroom district and continued to keep out of the reach of the British army which was here as elsewhere in the Highlands searching for rebels. He assisted efforts by French ships to rescue Charles Edward.
JOHN MACKENZIE of Achnahaird was yet another cousin of Ballone who served as a Captain in the Earl of Cromartie’s regiment. He too evaded capture after the end of the campaign and managed to reach the west coast where he remained free but hunted for a period until eventually taken by the redcoats. John was tried, convicted and sentenced to transportation. However on the way to Antigua the ship in which John was sailing was itself taken by a French privateer vessel, and he was released on the French Caribbean island of Martinique.
KATHERINE MACKENZIE of Ballone was sister of the Ballone laird and of Colin. She was married to Roderick Mackenzie [another cousin] and they resided at Achiltibuie. Roderick was in the Jacobite forces and after the defeat he was tried and convicted of treason. He was – after a tense delay – saved by Minister James Robertson who succeeded in persuading the authorities that Roderick had served under duress, having been threatened by others.
While her husband was imprisoned Katherine was involved with others on the coast of Coigach in preparing to help Prince Charles escape should the opportunity arise. There was French naval activity in the Minch with the same purpose, and a French officer reported encountering “a young lady of quality whose brother and husband had fought for Prince Charles Edward” and this was certainly Katherine. On his release Roderick and Katherine lived as before at Achiltibuie.
JAMES ROBERTSON, Lochbroom Parish Minister resident at the Manse at Clachan. He is remembered as an enormously strong man both physically and spiritually and was a powerful influence in the district. There is a memorial to him in the church at Clachan. A staunch supporter of the government he opposed the 1745 Rising and urged the young men here not to be drawn into trouble by family and clan loyalties. Nevertheless, Robertson travelled to London to speak for the Lochbroom men, where his politics helped him to be heard. He succeeded in obtaining the release of some and the avoiding of the harshest sentence for others. Several were however transported to the colonies as indentured labour, only a few returning in later years.
The story is well known of Robertson in London being ready to journey back to Scotland when a friend warned him that the word of the Duke of Newcastle [who had given assurances as to some prisoners] was not to be relied upon. The Minister sought another meeting at which having offered to shake the Duke’s hand he squeezed it so hard that the latter cried out “Yes, yes, Mr Robertson, Mackenzie shall be spared”.
ALEXANDER MACKENZIE of Ballone. The laird of the time was already in some financial difficulty before the rising of 1745 but the consequences of that event were serious and lasting. There was huge expense involved in supporting the cause and more in seeking to rescue his brother, cousins and tenants from the harshest treatment. The trip to London by Robertson was at the expense of Ballone and Dundonnell, and there were substantial sums involved in douceurs and “fines” substituted for other sentences. With the district suffering from the occupation and associated punitive measures by the army, Ballone became less prosperous. In fact the burden of debt was too much, and Alexander’s son John eventually sold the land in 1773 to Henry Davidson of Tulloch. This brought to an end in the strath here the way of the laird being resident and kin to many of the people. It was perhaps a natural development in many ways but it was government policy too, the destruction of the old clan system .
There are many other characters in the period of the family at Ballone/Inverbroom. MARGARET MACKENZIE of Ballone who married George Mackenzie of Gruinard and had 23 children by him. After her death George remarried and had 10 more children with his new wife. BARBARA MACKENZIE of Dundonnell who married her cousin Alexander III of Ballone – the Scots Magazine recorded her death in 1768 and her burial at Clachan attended by most of her 60 surviving children and grandchildren. MARY MACKENZIE of Ballone who was famed for her beauty and to/about whom verses and songs were composed.
It does seem that fiction is no more extraordinary than real life.
The other reflection I had was –“It’s all gone, vanished now”. But then I realised that the family is not gone. Not only are there branches in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Ohio, New South Wales, New Zealand and practically everywhere else… there are direct descendants here in Lochbroom. I know one on the Lochside. In Coigach and Ullapool there are some expert genealogists who I am sure could identify more of the current Lochbroom- resident Mackenzies of Ballone.