The weather cooperated for today’s, (August 4th), tour of the MacKenzie Cemetery at Earltown. We had about 17 people in attendance for the one hour presentation.
Although there are only 25 stones still in existence, there are many stories connected with those people documented on the stones. The majority pertain to people who were born in the eastern parishes of Sutherlandshire with the remainder being first generation natives of the surrounding hills.
The site for this cemetery was chosen around 1822. Donated by William Baillie, “Croshucan”, it is located on the ridge beside a lane running to the old MacKenzie farm. This was once the main route between East Earltown and Earltown Village. The route was favoured by the early road surveyors as there was no need for bridges as any stream encountered was of an insignificant size. It was intended that this would become the site of an eventual Kirk together with an adjoining cemetery, much like one finds in a typical Highland parish. As it turned out, the main route shifted to valley floor to adjoin more farmsteads. Consequently the first church was constructed on the new road near the former Knox Church.
However some families had already started to use the upper site as early as 1825, sadly for the internment of infants and young children. It was favoured by a grouping of families from the townships immediately west of Loch Brora in Clyne, namely some Baillie and Sutherland families. As time went on, later generations of these same families either went to the Church Cemetery in Earltown or to Murray’s Cemetery at The Falls. The last documented burials were in 1901 after which the graveyard became derelict. In the early 1960’s, some descendants raised money through an annual piper’s picnic to restore the site. The project was completed and cemetery remains in excellent condition today. Unfortunately time and nature has not been kind to the stones and some have become almost illegible. However there are several transcriptions on file in public and private archives.