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Faochag

NB9717 : Faochag by Ron MacKenzie
Ruin of a crofter's home at Faochag
  Photo courtesy of Faochag descendant Ron MacKenzie

Though Faochag was one of the smaller Coigach communities, with only two Households in the 19th century censuses, and depopulated early in the 20th century, the familys that lived there had many children and other relatives elsewhere in Coigach. So rather than go into details in every file, this file will act as a "catch-all" for any information sent to me regarding Faochag.

Place names were spelled many different ways in records up till the twentieth century, Faochag was spelled sometimes as "Feuchag". The name translates as "periwinkle", a type of shellfish, most likely they were gathered in early times at the bay of Faochag.

William Roy's Military Survey of Scotland, done in 1747, refers to the community as "Nuchag" (possibly he contracted "an Faochag"?). Roy says there was then a group of six buildings, and some arable land.

Never heavily populated, 19th century census and registration records often included the two households at Faochag with the twenty familys at Reiff, two and a half kilometers south.

Jilly Wilson (CONTACT INFO), has been doing research on her roots, and has included on her webpage some parts of a family history written by her gt-grandfather Chief Constable Neil McKenzie McLennan in 1939. Neil was a grandson of one of the Faochag McKenzies (Isabella). Jilly's excerpts from Neil's notes include the following;

The McKenzies of Reif were originally from Feuchag where they are reputed to have run a mill on the Totaig burn. They came, before that and probably about 1428, from Gairloch and were directly connected with the present proprietors of Gairloch & Kerriesdale. They left Gairloch on account of the Gairloch estates being confiscated and later returned to a subordinate branch in possession represented by Sir Hector McKenzie of Gairloch. It is significant that the last McKenzie in Feuchag who died there in 1884 was a Hector, and another McKenzie at Laid at the same time was also a Hector.

Further research since Neil wrote that in 1939 has shown the last Faochag McKenzie's forename was "Hugh" not "Hector", though early 19th century records do show Hectors at Faochag, and it is probable the names were synonymous. Neil as a young man helped his father with the 1881 census enumeration of the area.

The 1881 Ordnance Survey recorded only two roofed buildings, which corresponds to the 1881 census showing just a MacLeod and a MacKenzie family there (the wifes in both households were Kerr sisters from Reiff.)

The 1891 census enumerates only 70 year old Jessie MacKenzie, Widow of Hugh, with a daughter and two young grandchildren living at Faochag 91-14. The tombstone for this family confirms Neil's note that Hugh died in 1884, and further mentions that Jessie died in 1916 aged 95. There were no farm servants listed in the 1891 census. An elderly MacLeod couple who were also there in 1881 likely still lived at Faochag, though in 1891 they were visitors at home of their daughter Mary in nearby Camuscoille 91-11. It appears these two familys were the last residents. Today this most northern and western community on the Coigach peninsula is uninhabited.

The Ordnance Survey returned to the ruins of Faochag 25 May 1962, and reported;

The remains indicate a compact farming settlement with 4 houses, 2 smaller buildings of indeterminate use, sheep-folds, considerable enclosure walling, field clearance and cultivation strips. The building remains in drystone walling up to 1m. thick, range from 1m. high foundations to complete standing gables.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) carries out a programme of field surveys and recording of the built heritage of Scotland, making this information available to the public through the Collections of the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS).

The NMRS has put onto the internet the RCAHMS reports, the URL to register for access to the database is CANMORE - Registration Screen. Once registered the database can be searched at CANMORE.

The RCAHMS (PJD) visited Faochag 26 April 1994 as part of their survey, and reported more fully on the ruins and the physical geography. Their report shows seven buildings, a pen, several lengths of head-dyke (stone field walls), patches of lazy-bedding, and some other remains of cultivation.

The buildings are described as rectangular, with squared corners. Their size is described as 7.1m to 14.5m in length by between 2.8m and 3.5m in breadth within rubble-faced walls, 0.6m to 0.7m thick, except for one which is up to 1m thick, standing between 1.5m and 1.85m high. (For those of you not yet metric, a meter is about 39 inches long).

Three of the buildings at the time of that survey still stood to the top of their gables. None of them had fireplaces.

The two dwellings were byre-houses; the living quarter separated from the animals in the byre by a partition, and having a drain at the gable on the byre half. In such houses livestock would spend the winter in the slightly lower half of the dwelling, their heat adding to the warmth. Though the byre would be slopped out through the drain in the gable, enough urine would soak into the ground so that as it rotted ammonia would be naturally produced, fighting germs! The smoke from the fire pit would drift up through the thatch, or through the one door. Though it sounds a very uncomfortable existance, pestilance and disease increased in the Highlands when such "black houses" were modernised.

The roofs of at least two of the buildings were supported on crucks, an ancient framing method where curved timbers would be set into the stone walls opposite each other, meeting at the peak of the roof. Smaller horizontal timbers would be lashed to the crucks, and supported the thatch. As the stone walls were built around the timbers, ruins of cruck built houses show distinctive slots once the wood rots away.

Though the census records beginning 1841 list the occupation of the MacKenzies at Faochag as "Crofter", some of their descendants, (CONTACT INFO), have sent me death registrations that list "Miller" as occupation (Scottish Civil Registration began 1855). Also Neil McKenzie McLennan's notes above mention them having a mill at Faochag "on the Totaig burn".

An indication of the timing for construction of the mill comes from Malcolm Bangor-Jones (email: Malcolm.Bangor-Jones@scotland.gsi.gov.uk). Malcolm is a historian in Scotland, who contributed a chapter to the book Peoples & Settlement in North-West Ross (SOURCE), and has done much research on the area. In an email on the Ross and Cromarty listserve on Rootsweb he remarks;

In 1771 Daniel Mackenzie represented the difficulties posed to the people without any mills in Coigach. In the spring the people had lived "upon knockd Barly after being fatigued by their Country Querns and obliged to go eight miles distance to grind their Corn in the Milns of the Neighbouring Country" - presumably Assynt. A mill was subsequently built at Ullapool in 1772.

So,... presumably the Faochag mill also began 1772, or later, and ceased operation sometime before the 1841 census.

NB9717 : Faochag by Ron MacKenzie
Ruin of the mill, with millstone in foreground
  Photo courtesy of Ron MacKenzie

The RCAHMS visit to Faochag in 1994 did not show a mill. However, searching their data base shows ruins of a mill 800 meters to the south-west at Allt nan Clar-Lochan, with no dwellings shown at the site. The allt (small stream or burn) drains one the largest Lochs of the Rubha Mor end of the Coigach peninsula, Loch na Totaig, and doubtless is the Totaig burn that Neil referred to. Also drained by the allt are three smaller Lochs; Lochan Airigh Chalaim, Clar Loch Mor and Clar Loch Beag. It is a good stream for a mill; though there was only a twenty meter drop from Loch na Totaig to the ocean there would be a steady supply of water.

The survey describes ruins of a horizontal mill about 15 meters above the high water mark. The mill most people are familiar with was "vertical", and had water falling over a wheel. In a horizontal mill a channel or "lade" would take the water through the mill below the floor, with the axel of the water wheel coming up through the floor, directly turning the grinding wheel.

The survey describes the ruins of the mill;

This mill is situated to the S of the Allt nan Clar-lochan about 15m from the high water mark. The mill-building measures 7.3m from NNW to SSE by 3.7m over faced-rubble walls, 0.9m thick, which stand to as much as 0.6m high. A mill-stone, of Torridonian Sandstone and measuring 1.1m across, lies within the building. The lade, 0.9m wide, runs through the building from E to W, and immediately outside there are the remains of an overflow channel.

Though Faochag today lies abandoned, family of the MacKenzie millers are still to be found; at last count over 1,200 descendants through nine generations have been traced by various family historians!

For genealogy of the familys at Faochag, see the notes files at Reiff.


This file, and others dealing with history and genealogy of Coigach, links from my homepage at:

http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~coigach

Any suggestions for additions or edits please feel free to email me,

Donald MacDonald-Ross, at:

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