To recap, I’ve been searching my database for people who were born, married or died on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day in North Walls and Brims, my one-place study. Since I wrote part 1 I’ve discovered another birth on 1 January, not for the wedding couple this time, hence the change of title. You can jump straight to the birth here.

Wedding 2

“Donald Sutherland residing in Brims & Margaret Maxwel in Saltness are hereby matrimonially contracted and after proclamation were lawfully married by the Revd Walter Weir on 1st January 1844”

(Walls Old Parish Registers, 032/ 40 202, ScotlandsPeople)

First a reminder that though a couple might be “matrimonially contracted” there is no guarantee that they ever married subsequently, though in this case they did. However their marriage was very short for on 19 August 1848 Donald “drowned on the coast of Wick aged 35 years”.1Deaths & Burials Old Parish Registers, Walls, Orkney, 032/ 40 239, ScotlandsPeople. The parish register stated that he left a widow and five children though so far I have only found four baptisms: John and Christina, born 24 March 1844; Donald born 22 September 1845 and Margaret Forbes born 15 January 1848. 2Births & Baptisms, Old Parish Registers, Walls, Orkney, 032/ 40 99, 105 and 132. The 1851 Census also lists four children only.

John O Groat Journal 25 August 1848 p 2 (from British Newspaper Archive)

Donald Sutherland was one of five Walls men to lose their lives that August day in 1848 in the “Black Saturday tragedy”. More on YouTube.

In summer 2023 a memorial was unveiled in Wick to them and other fishermen, 37 in total, who died the same day. (Photos thanks to BBC Radio Orkney)

What became of Margaret, Donald’s widow?

As a widow with five young children life must have been very very tough. Her own mother, Christina Barnetson, died in January 1849 and it is likely that Donald’s parents were also dead but more of that later. The 1851 Census described her as “dependant”, reliant on poor relief from the Kirk in other words; with a young family there can have been no other option.

Margaret remained in Saltness and on 4 May 1852 she had a son, Albert Edward, to William Banks, factor to the Heddles of Melsetter, her landlords.3Births & Baptisms, Walls, Orkney, 032 40 157. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she had been taken advantage of though Banks did acknowledge that the child was his. Albert did well, perhaps with some assistance from his father, and gained his Master’s ticket on 19 November 1879, but died at sea less than two years later on 13 July 1881 from lung disease.4Board of Trade, Master’s certificate, no C99613. Collection: UK & Ireland, Masters and Mates Certificates 1850-1927,; Registry of Shipping & Seamen, Registers of death at sea of British Nationals, Scotland, FindmyPast.

Margaret died on 1 March 1888 at her home in Saltness, Walls, aged 78.5Civil registration deaths, Walls, Orkney, 032/1 3. ScotlandsPeople. Albert was not the only child who pre-deceased her: Christina her daughter wife of Thomas Tickner, a gunner at Leith Fort, died on 22 May 1866, aged 22, in Leith, from typhoid fever, leaving her husband and a two-month-old son, Thomas.6Civil registration deaths, Leith, Midlothian, 692/2 252; Civil registration births, St Giles, Edinburgh, 16 March 1866, 685/4 353, ScotlandsPeople. Both her son Donald and daughter Margaret (Mrs Armstrong) died in Walls, Donald having spent his entire life there. It’s hard to tell if they always lived at the same place but “Maggie Armstrong” as she was known died at Winchester, Saltness in 1925.7Civil registration deaths, Walls, Orkney, 30 January 1925, 032/1 1, ScotlandsPeople. From information so far to hand this seems to have been between Skatehorn (Burnside now) and The Point in Saltness.

Is the house ringed in red Winchester? Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Link for the full map (Ordnance Survey, 2nd ed 6″ /mile, 1903) or this one instead – change the transparency level bottom left to see a current aerial view.

Donald Sutherland

He died in 1848, we have no parents’ names and Sutherland was a very common name in Walls. A hopeless case for finding out more? Not quite for the marriage record above stated that he lived in Brims and he was said to be 35 when he died. The 1841 Census had a potentially interesting group in Brims: Donald Sutherland, 25, Fisherman, John Sutherland, 80, and Margaret Sutherland, 60, all born in Scotland rather than in Orkney.8Census 1841, Walls, Orkney 032/ 3/ 11, ScotlandsPeople. We know Donald’s first son was John and he also had a daughter Margaret, so promising; also ages in 1841 were rounded down so Donald could have been anywhere between just 25 and nearly 30 which would fit with being 35 when he died in 1848. Unfortunately I’ve not yet found John or Margaret, the potential parents in the Walls OPR deaths or the 1851 Census; probably both dead.

Working through Sutherland deaths in Walls (the value of a one-place study), I came across the death of William Sutherland, a single farm servant, aged 61, in Saltness on 30 May 1878, registered by his nephew Donald Sutherland “present”, so living in the house where William died.9Civil registration deaths, Walls, Orkney, 032/1 7, ScotlandsPeople. As far as I can see Donald, son Margaret Maxwell or Sutherland was the only person who could have been the informant. That means his father Donald was a brother of William and the son of John Sutherland and Margaret Forbes, the parents on the death registration, who match with the 1841 Brims census information. This is all the more likely as Donald S and Margaret Maxwell’s second daughter was Margaret Forbes Sutherland.

If you are still following, William Sutherland who died in 1878 is almost certainly the farm servant at Haybrake, Walls in the 1861 and 1871 censuses (very likely 1851 too but no farm name given in that census), born Latheron, Caithness (1851 and 1861), Caithness only (1871). This means Donald Sutherland was most probably from Latheron too but research on that and the reasons for him being in Orkney must wait till another day.

Birth 2

The Sutherlands’ story is generally a sad one but there’s a more cheerful note to end on. The second 1 January birth in Walls was that of William Charles Smith born 1 January 1893, Hurliness, Walls (thanks to his grand-daughter for pointing this out). “Willick” as we called him was a first cousin of my granny and visited from time to time. He came from a line of blacksmiths but seems to have done his apprenticeship in Finstown in the Orkney mainland rather than with his father Benjamin. After serving as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers in World War One he returned to Orkney where by the 1921 Census he was working for a blacksmith in Deerness, Orkney. Unlike his eight siblings who all left, several for Australia, Willick came back to Walls and lived the rest of his life there, raising a large family with his Shetland wife, Margaret Goodlad. He died on 26 January 1983. He was a great story teller in the tradition of Baron Munchausen, contrary and stubborn at times by all accounts, a powerful peedie man, and a kindly man to us as bairns.

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