Reading the book of French man, B Faujas Saint-Ford, [Travels in England, Scotland and the Hebrides printed 1799] who was a guest of McLean of Torloisk gave me a giggle when he described the people –

“The women, in general, are small, ugly and ill made; the natural consequence of toil, bad food, the want of suitable clothing and the inclemency of the climate. Their skin would be very white were it not discoloured by the peat-smoke which continually fills their huts”.

He further says “I could never perceive that the custom of going bare-headed was injurious to the teeth. Both men and women have very fine sets, and are in general, especially the men, very healthy. [referring to the women]… their long flowing hair, generally black, forms the only ornament of their heads”.  Both men and women went barefoot.

I can imagine the eyes rolling as I greet my husband with this new found knowledge as he walks through the door, “gosh darling – do you realise that your 4x great-grandmothers were small ugly women probably with feet tougher than leather, but they had a good set of teeth”.

Saint-Ford is spot on regarding the size of the women.  Mary and Elizabeth McTavish (descendants of Martin McFadyen and Colin McTavish of Laggan) were tiny little ladies.

The McTavish and McFadyen families originated on the Isle of Mull.

Torosay’s Parish records for 1794 tell a story.

Martin McFadyen and Marrion McKinnon’s first child, daughter Catherine McPhaiden was baptised on the 2nd August and three months later, in November there is an entry in the Register (OPR 550/0010 0007)

“On the 14th November – Martin McPhaiden in Cameron, a child begotten in fornication – Donald”.

Martin was not the only philanderer in the Parish as another four “begotten in fornication” entries during the period (Nov 1794-Feb 1795) were noted, the only difference being that both parents were named.

If only I could get my hands on the Kirk Session Minutes, perhaps they might identify the other party and what penance was dished out to Martin.

Donald would not have been baptised until Martin had shown much repentance and is probably much closer in age to half-sister Catherine.

A few questions that will never be answered; whether Donald’s name followed the naming conventions used in Scotland (ie. named after Martin’s father) and was he bought up with the family.

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