On Sunday August 2nd, forty five people gathered in this hidden graveyard under clear skies. Many were descendants of the first settlers of this Northwest corner of the Earltown district. Others were just fascinated with cemeteries.
The earliest inscribed death bears the year 1830. Hugh MacLeod was a native of Urachyle on the banks of the River Brora in the Parish of Clyne. Hugh, his wife Marion, and four near adult children were among the last to be evicted by the Sutherland Estate in the year 1821. They arrived in Pictou later that year and were pointed to the wilderness of West Earltown to begin a new life. Nine hard years later, Hugh was laid to rest in a small clearing sandwiched between the flanks of Spiddle Hill and the Waugh River.
There were earlier deaths in this infant community. However the remains were interred in what is now called MacKenzie Cemetery. It had been consecrated in 1822 as part of a proposed church yard near the geographic centre of the growing community. It would have been an arduous journey over rough paths and trails for a distance of six miles. By the late 1820’s, it was likely decided that West Earltown, and the area later known as The Falls, needed a more accessible site.
Accessible is not the first thing that comes to mind when one travels along a one lane track between a steep forested slope on the left and a river bank on the right, eventually ending up at a “dead end” in more ways than one. However in 1830 this was the main road between The Falls and Earltown, with the road continuing along the base of the hill to the present day community of West Earltown. A few years later, another wider road was cut through to Earltown on the opposite side of the river. The cemetery was known as Riverside throughout the late 1800’s but Murray’s became the name of choice in the 1900’s. Access was always through the neighbouring Murray farm.
Over fifty of those interred therein were present during the large scale evictions of Strath Brora during 1820 and 1821. The balance of the cemetery is largely made up with the following two generations of these families.
Not only is this site a memorial to a substantial body of emigrants to a new settlement, it is a memorial to a dark chapter in the history of Sutherlandshire.