In the summer of 2004 a party of eight Canadian and American descendants of James and Mary Craigie visited Rousay to explore the island and see the remains of the houses where their great grandparents lived, Mount Pleasant in Frotoft and Greysteen in Wasbister.
Their guide and informant was the late Robert Craigie Marwick, who prepared the attached pamphlet, handing them each a copy as they arrived at the Stromness ferry terminal.
One of the party, Liz Harmer, tells us of her thoughts and memories of that visit.
In July of 2004, a group of Rousay Craigie descendants visited Orkney to discover the homeland of their great grandparents James and Mary Craigie. The group included 3 sets of siblings: Peter and Elizabeth White, Diane and Linda Haldeman, Jim, John and Mary Ann Craigie and Marilyn Penny their cousin, along with spouses and a friend. We were not disappointed in what we found.
James and Mary (Craigie) Craigie (no relation) had both been born and raised on Rousay. In 1867, James sailed on the ship ‘Iowa’ to New York with his friends, Robert and James Clark, who were from St Andrews, Mainland, Orkney. In his diary of the trip he laments leaving his darling Mary behind. The men settled in Goderich, Ontario, a port on the east side of Lake Huron. We’re not sure why Goderich was their destination but it proved to be a good choice as the men prospered. In the fall of 1870, James returned to Rousay to marry his Mary and to take her back with him to Goderich. The marriage took place on December 22nd 1870 at Mount Pleasant in Frotoft and in April of 1871, they sailed to New York on the ‘Europa’, accompanied by Mary’s younger brother John Ritchie Craigie. Mary’s elder sister Betty Craigie had previously emigrated to Goderich with her husband Alexander Craigie (no relation) in 1869.
James and Mary Craigie, photographed with the younger members of their family
in Canada in the early 1890s
[Picture courtesy of Liz Harmer - whose grandmother Alexina is seated front right]
James established himself in the fish and ice business and by 1874 was able to purchase a frame house with a barn for the ice. He and Mary had 10 children, 6 of whom lived to be adults. These were Mary, James, John, Jane, Alexina and Fred. The cousins who visited Orkney were descendants of 3 of them, Mary (Marilyn), James (Diane, Linda, Jim, Maryanne, John) and Alexina (Peter, Elizabeth). The family was close and maintained connections even when James and Jane moved to the USA and Mary to Toronto. The gathering place was usually Goderich at John Craigie’s cottage on the bank of Lake Huron overlooking the harbour. The cousins all had happy memories of gatherings there to watch the sunset, play bridge and have fun.
In 2004, at the time of the visit, our cousin John Craigie was living in Glasgow with his wife Sheena. He had been in touch with Robert Marwick, the author of Rousay Roots, and had come up with the idea of visiting Orkney. John organized the trip with Robert’s assistance and arranged for Robert to be our guide while there. We were so fortunate to have Robert with us to share his incredible knowledge about Orkney and in particular Rousay’s history and families.
Robert greets the party of visitors on their arrival at Stromness ferry terminal
The cousins met in Glasgow and then made their way to Kirkwall where Robert and his wife, Betty, joined us. The first evening we met for a meal in the hotel and were joined by Tom King and his wife Hazel, and Neil Craigie and his wife Ella. Both Tom and Neil were cousins still living in Kirkwall: Tom, a descendent of Mary’s elder sister Margaret, and Neil a descendent of James’s younger sister Janet. Tom was able to join us for many of our subsequent activities.
The next day, we loaded into Jimmy’s van (our transport for the duration) and took the car ferry to visit Rousay. After a brief stop at the archaeological remains, we went to the home of the archivist [Sheena Marwick, Braehead] to see the original parish record of the marriage of James and Mary and to meet some islanders. We were entertained by a young fiddler [Laura Lockyer, now Harrington] and spent an all too short an hour visiting. We felt very welcomed! We next went to visit Mary’s home, Mount Pleasant, in Frotoft, and then on to James’s home Greystane, in Wasbister. Both houses were in ruins but it only made the visits more poignant. The view from Mount Pleasant was wonderful: sea, rolling hills, distant islands and clouds skirting the sky. The visit to Greystane included a stop at Deithe where Max Fletcher, (who had kindly offered to take pictures of our visit), had updated the original cottage and created a very comfortable home. And all too soon we had to leave with some of us thinking about ways to return! On the boat trip back, we talked about what a hard life it must have been and how fit one would have been when walking was the only way to get around! The contrast to James’ and Mary’s later life in the town of Goderich could not have been more pronounced.
The cousins pose for the camera at Mount Pleasant
Robert tells the visitors all about Greystane, they pose for another picture
.....and then take pictures of their own!
We spent the next 2 days seeing highlights of the archaeology and other sites of interest on the Mainland with Robert and sometimes, Betty, as our guides. We were overwhelmed with what we saw. The visit to Skara Brae was a highlight as was the Ring o’ Brodgar and Maeshowe. The recreation of a typical farmhouse at the Corrigal Farm Museum helped us envision what life was like for our great grandparents. We enjoyed fabulous meals and wonderful times together. When it was time to get the ferry to continue our trip down the west coast of Scotland, we all agreed that we had shared a wonderful experience.
Robert with the visitors at Midhowe - on the gantry above the chambered cairn [above] and in and around the Iron-Age broch [below]
A visit to Deithe - and a tune from Laura at Braehead
Celebrating Canada Day in Inverness
Robert and his wife Betty
Robert provided an informative Craigie Homecoming pamphlet for his guests, the contents of which can be seen below