One of the unexpected pleasures of maintaining this blog is being contacted by those who have an interest in Macintosh or who are keen to offer their help and guidance in my research on him (I have written previously about meeting one of Macintosh’s descendants, Deirdre Grieve, and of receiving a copy of the second volume of Travels from an Illinois-based book collector, Jeff Armstrong). Last week I received a kind email from the Cromarty-based researcher David Alston, who runs the website Slaves & Highlanders, and who has written on Scottish slavers in Guyana. On Sunday David was kind enough to head out into the snowy fields north of Invergordon to explore and photograph the area around Loch Achnacloich, Macintosh’s ancestral territory.
According to George Macintosh’s Biographical memoir of the late Charles Macintosh (1847), William Macintosh’s father, Lachlan, was tacksman of a farm at “Auchinluich” (or Achnacloich as it is now rendered), part of the estate of Newmore. Writing in the Second (new) statistical account of Scotland (1834–45), the Reverend David Carment, described Achnacloich as a “small but beautiful and secluded glen” dominated by a loch (now a Special Area of Conservation). It is clear that Carment thought Achnacloich uncommon in its beauty, describing the scene thus
At the lake’s eastern extremity, there is a lovely sylvan amphitheatre, from whence a view can be commanded of almost unrivalled majesty. Standing in this sequestered spot, surrounded on three sides by wood, the spectator has immediately before him the quiet lake, bordered by its beautiful fringe of birch and alder, while, to the west, may be seen a wilderness of hills, stretching to an apparently interminable distance, and heaped together in seemingly chaotic confusion, Ben Wyvis with its “diadem of snow” proudly towering above them all.
David’s photographs of the glen, gripped by the chill of winter, offer a glimpse of the beauty Carment described.
Careful research on David’s part shows that there was once a three-storey tower house on the eastern shore of the loch: Achnacloich Castle. The castle is documented (as “Achanacloich”) in Timothy Pont’s map of Tarbet Ness, Easter Ross (c. 1583–96), below, but no visible trace of the original house remains.
By the time of William Roy’s Military Survey of Scotland, 1747–1755, there is no evidence of a substantial settlement in Achnacloich, but its proximity to the estate at Newmore (or “Newmor” as it is rendered here), where William Macintosh is reported to have been born, is clear.
I am very grateful to David for taking the time and trouble to visit Achnacloich on my behalf and am once again thankful for the enthusiasm and goodwill which Macintosh seems to generate in others.