Of smuggling and press-gangs

“A considerable degree of acuteness and shrewdness is observed among the population”, wrote the Rev Peter Jolly in 1840, describing his flock in the parish of Canisbay, Caithness. Walter Ross, my x 3 grandfather, had lately been one of them. Walter – in outline He was born on 17 August 1786, the son of Hugh  |  more…

A winter’s tale

Grandma, as I remember her, was a quiet, elderly woman. I guess life had worn her out though some of the stories of her youth describe a woman of spirit and drive – qualities that are reflected in photographs. Jessie Sclater (1887-1970), my grandma, was the third child and oldest daughter of James S Sclater  |  more…

There’s more to tinned fruit than meets the eye

“He was a charming man”, said Agnes Ross to her grand-daughter. Who was she taking about? None other than Al Capone! So how did Agnes (1891-1983 née MacKenzie), an island girl from Stornoway, Lewis, come to meet the famous gangster? The link is her husband, Andrew Ross, first cousin of my grandfather, John. Andrew Ross  |  more…

Colour blind

Hugh Ross. I only needed to mention that name and my father would say something along the lines of: “He was colour blind so he never passed out higher than bosun.” Hugh (1849-1927) was his great uncle, an older brother of his grandfather, John, both children of Upper Seatter, North Walls, Orkney. Documentary evidence With  |  more…

“By thy long grey beard…”

All the surviving photos show John Ross as an older man with a white beard. Perhaps it was grey earlier, like the Ancient Mariner. Fishing and farming John, my great grandfather, spent his whole life in Orkney, crofting and fishing in the parish of Walls. Beyond the bare biographical details, I sadly know very little  |  more…