05 April 2024Meeting Tuesday 16th April

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Tuesday 16th April 2024: AGM followed by Papers Relating to the Black Isle in National Archives — Non-local sources for local history

Dr. Nicola Mills

Victoria Hall, Cromarty

Births, deaths and marriages, property records, wills, census, military service — most historians will know where to find these in national archives. But what about the little bits and pieces, the details of a place, the chance encounters? This talk, whilst not comprehensive, aims to tease out a few interesting sources for information on Cromarty in some of our larger archives across Scotland and perhaps beyond.

Nicola Mills graduated with a PhD from St. Andrews University before going on to train as an archivist in London. She worked at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Scottish United Services Museum (now the National War Museum of Scotland) in Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Record Office (now the National Records of Scotland) before becoming freelance. Since then she has specialised in estate archives and military, medical and distillery records, working for Aberdeen City and Shire archives, Aberdeen University, and the Scottish Episcopal Church amongst others. She also teaches the Latin modules on the Dundee University archive course.

Cromarty History Society now meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September‐April and occasionally during the summer

26 March 2024Meeting Thursday 4th April

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Thursday 4th April 2024: A History Student’s View — of the Role of Language and Culture Amongst Highland Emigrants in French‐Speaking Canada

Kate Forbes

Victoria Hall, Cromarty

In the 1800s, thousands of islanders, mostly from the Isle of Lewis, were supported and encouraged to emigrate to the Eastern Townships of Quebec. During the famine years, despite James Matheson (who has links to Cromarty) actively finding work for impoverished and hungry islanders, many chose to emigrate. They arrived in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, which still bear the place names of Lewis. Now it is a francophone area, raising fascinating questions about the retention of language and culture amongst the migrant community.

Kate Forbes has been the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency since 2016. Kate is from Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands, although she spent part of her upbringing in Glasgow and India. Until she was elected as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate was employed as an accountant in the banking industry. Prior to that she studied History at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. In 2018 she was appointed as Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy and was promoted to Cabinet Secretary for Finance in February 2020, a position she held for three years. She ran for the SNP leadership last year, but despite securing 48 per cent of the vote, lost out narrowly to Humza Yousaf. Kate currently sits on the Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Islands and Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committees and is a columnist for The National newspaper. This talk is offered as that of an historian, not a politician.

Cromarty History Society normally meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September‐April and occasionally during the summer. This talk is supplementary to the season’s programme.

05 March 2024Meeting Tuesday 19th March 2024

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Are We Nearly There Yet? — A journey exploring Scotland’s milestones

Bruce Keith

Victoria Hall, Cromarty

This talk covers not just distances markers, but early methods of measurement and mapping and the travellers of the 18th and 19th centuries whose journals laid the foundation of the Scottish tourist industry. It also celebrates the ‘Top 50 Scots’, the sportsmen and women who have gone the extra mile in terms of speed and endurance to set new world records — so there’s something for everyone.

Bruce Keith has become an ambassador for the sustainable use of water resources globally. Last year as President of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), he travelled extensively from New Zealand to Finland via Africa.

This has left little time for golf, which is evidenced by his handicap. Bruce is a retired chartered surveyor and environmentalist. He spent his formative years in Inverness‐shire and his early career on several Perthshire and Aberdeenshire estates. He was with the Department of Agriculture in Edinburgh before migrating south of the border to become Chief Surveyor with English Nature. Bruce retired as Head of Property at SSE (the Hydro Board) nine years ago, since when he has written “Bridgescapes” on Scotland’s bridge building heritage, followed by “Are We Nearly There Yet?” — about Scottish Milestones. Not just distance markers but much else besides, he assures me, and it is on that journey that Bruce takes us this evening.

Cromarty History Society now meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September‐April and occasionally during the summer

04 February 2024Meeting Tuesday 20th February 2024

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All Hail Macbeth, Thain of Cromarty? — Good king, bad king: the making of an historical myth

Liz Broumley

Victoria Hall, Cromarty

Of Macbeth, did one of the weird sisters actually say “Lo, yondyr the thayne of Crwmbarthy”? Was this a king under whose reign “the land did prosper mightily”? Macbeth was king of Alba, one of the areas we now call Scotland, from 1040 to 1057. He took power towards the end of a turbulent time as Scots, Gaels, Norse, Picts and Anglo-Saxons fought for power across northern Britain. The scant contemporary record suggest he was a skilful king with enough control of his realm to become the first ever King of Scotland to make a pilgrimage to Rome. When he was beaten in battle, there was enough respect from his enemies for him to be buried with honour in Iona. So why is Shakespeare’s depiction of him so bleak? What had happened to the story of Macbeth between his death and his reincarnation in the Scottish play? This talk will look at the emergence of Scottish narratives about Macbeth and the reasons that might lie behind the creation of a myth that in Macbeth “Something wicked this way comes.” As for Macbeth being Thain of Cromarty, well I will present the evidence but you, the jury, must decide!

Liz Broumley trained in the social sciences, working in industry and academia before being seduced by computing, which led to a major career shift into AI and computer science. She spent the rest of her career in research and tutoring, finally running a small research unit on e-learning within UHI, cleverly combining her background skills with her love of the Scottish mountains. Liz plans to be one of the oldest women ever to complete the Munros. When not huffing and puffing her way up hillsides, she can be heard tormenting a perfectly innocent fiddle or engrossed in the plays of a glover’s son from Stratford; that is when commitment to Cromarty Courthouse Museum allows.

Cromarty History Society now meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September‐April and occasionally during the summer

18 January 2024Friday, 5th July 2024 Conference — Society of Highland & Island Historical Research

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The Sixteenth Century in the Highlands


Friday, 5th July 2024. University of the Highlands and Islands Main Campus, Inverness. IV2 5NA


Society of Highland & Island Historical Research


Provisional programme

For information on the campus info.ic@uhi.ac.uk switchboard: 01463 273 000

  • 9.00‐9.30 registration, coffees and refreshments.
  • 9.30‐9.45 ‘Housekeeping’, Chairman’s introductions and opening remarks: Professor Ewen Cameron, University of Edinburgh.

Followed by 11 papers, each of 25 minutes. These are grouped into 4 sessions. At the end of each session, there is a 15 minute period for questions and answers. Coffees/teas etc will be provided in the morning and afternoon breaks and luncheon catering provided during the hour and a quarter mid-day break.


Session 1. 9.45‐11.15

  • David Caldwell. Independent Scholar. — James V and Islay — the archaeological dimension. (9.45‐10.10)
  • Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart, University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI). — Witchcraft troubles and trials and Clan Munro at the end of C16th. (10.10‐10.35)
  • Alan Macquarrie, Hon. Research Fellow, University of Strathclyde. — The reforms of Roderick Maclean in the diocese of the Isles in the 1540s. (10.35‐11.00)
  • 11.00‐11.15 Questions/discussions
  • 11.15‐11.35 Break

Session 2. 11.35‐1.05.

  • Alison Cathcart. Professor, Stirling University. — ‘The scattered isles in the polar ocean’? Scotland and the isles in the early modern period. (11.35‐12.00)
  • Allan MacInnes, Emeritus Prof. of History, Strathclyde University — The Rise of the Slate industry: 1490‐1625. (12.00‐12.25)
  • David Worthington, Professor + Head of the Centre for History, University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI), — ‘The ane in the west, and the vther in the northe’. Spanish interventions in the Highlands and Islands 1588‐1633. (12.25‐12.50)
  • 12.50‐1.05 Questions/discussions

1.05‐2.20 Lunch

Session 3. 2.20‐3.50

  • Elizabeth Ewen (Canada), University of Guelph and UHI — Inverness burgh court records in the 16th Century. (2.20‐2.45)
  • Ronnie Black — The Dewar MSS as a source for Sixteenth-Century Highland History. (2.45‐3.10)
  • Katharina Pruente, University of Stirling — The Earls of Argyll in the 16th Century: using network analysis to study early modern clan structures. (3.10‐3.35)
  • 3.35‐3.50 Questions/discussions
  • 3.50‐4.10 Break

Session 4. 4.10‐5.15

  • Aonghas MacCoinnich. University of Glasgow. ‘Thus do the tryb of Clankenzie become great in these parts’. The rise of the Clan Mackenzie, c. 1540‐1604. (4.10‐4.35)
  • James Petre, ICE, University of Cambridge — ‘The chiefest persons of the west isles’? The MacDonalds of Glengarry and Clan Donald North in the 16th Century, c. 1539‐1602. (4.35‐5.00)
  • 5.00‐5.15 Questions/discussions and Chairman’s concluding remarks
  • 5.15 Disperse

All catering (teas/coffees etc at the morning and afternoon breaks) and lunch, will be provided in the University. This is included in the delegates’ fee of £30. In order to book a place, please make contact with James Petre

While delegates needing overnight accommodation may wish to make their own arrangements, it will be possible to book student accommodation in the University

If you would like this, please make contact with James Petre

17 January 2024>Apologies for postponement of January 16th meeting

Postponement of meeting until May 2024

Apologies to all who attended to hear Sheila’s talk on Black Isle place names. Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, we made the decision to abandon the meeting. We do want to give everyone the opportunity to hear Sheila speak on this subject, so will will extend the talks season this year by a month. The date for this talk is now Tuesday 21 May, 7.30, Victoria Hall, Cromarty.

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