The story of our rebel, John Ross, begins with a silver "quaich" purchased in 1720 in Inverness to replace an earlier one whose small, wooden staves had fallen into disrepair. The silversmith stamped his initials "RI" on the base with the Hall-mark for Inverness "NS" and an exact date letter "A" for 1720. On one of the handles, the initials of the owner "AR" are etched slightly off centre. This cup has been passed down through the generations from eldest son to eldest (surviving) son until the present day.

The oral (and written) tradition is that this shallow ceremonial cup was presented to Alexander Ross, an eldest son, whose wife was surnamed "Mann". Their eldest son was the John Ross of this tale, who was born a year or so after the transfer of the Balnagown estate on April 17, 1711, when the impoverished "Chief of the Ross Clan", having frittered away most of the clan's wealth, died without issue.

There is some evidence that a few members of the family of Alexander Ross remained in "Calruichy" or Wester Calrichie in Kilmuir Easter on today's map. John Ross, however, trained as a mason and resettled on the Black Isle at Chapletown in the Parish of Killearnan and married Margaret Ross.

Their single-roomed cottage of sod and heather was built over a pit surrounded with a fieldstone base, and there was a small stone enclosure for a peat-fire in the middle. The stark remains of a similar hut, occupied by John's grandson at Spital Shore, may be revisited even at the date of this writing. A couple of stunted Rowan trees may yet be growing nearby the ruins, not far from the tidal flat of black moss mud where the clear water of the Beauly River meets the brackish tide of the North Sea.

John's sister Mary Ross married Colin McFarquhar, a servant at Burntown and Linnie on the Kilcoy Estate before serving at Redcastle, which was barely one mile from Chapletown. Today the castle stands roofless, a measure taken after World War II to avoid the higher rates (taxes).

Among the first baptisms less than a year after Killearnan Church was built (in the shape of a cross), was "Chirstin - daughter of John Ross mason in Chapletown and spouse Margaret Ross in presence of Colin McKenzie and Kenneth McLennan both in Chapletown" on February 2, 1745. Chirstin, or Christine, was their only child to be baptized in the church by reason of the events about to unfold.

Colin McKenzie, tacksman of Chapletown, would have (as one of his duties) the task of rallying the male tenants to serve in battles for the clan chief. In the mid-1700's, he probably collected rents from the tenants. Colin may have been a cousin or nephew of the McKenzie who owned both the Killearnan and Kilcoy estates. Although Kilcoy remained a stronghold of the McKenzies, the ownership of the Killearnan/Redcastle estate was transferred in 1825.

Fewer than 6 months after the baptism of Christine, Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed on the sandy shore of Arisaig near Inverness and began his wild attempt to regain his father's title to the throne of Scotland. In the County of Ross, the nominal 18th Chief of Clan Ross was Alexander Ross of Pitcalnie. Like other members of the fragmented clan, he was a staunch Protestant, but somewhat more tolerant of Jacobites than his father and definitely pro-Royalist or Hanoverian in his public sentiments (unlike many plain clansfolk whose loyalties favoured a Scottish King over a German one). In addition, Alexander's uncle, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, was Lord President of the Court of Session for King George II's government in London. With great difficulty, Duncan Forbes and the Pitcalnie chief raised a Ross Independent Company to garrison the castle at Inverness.

The source of their difficulty was no lesser person than Malcolm Ross, the eldest son of Alexander in the Pitcalnie line. This son was a student at Aberdeen University, and he was soon caught up in the rebel ferment which arose in that area. In tribal times, such high-spiritedness in a chief's son earned clan respect and support when he, in turn, became the chief. In these times, according to Donald MacKinnon's The Clan Ross, Malcolm's actions would eventually lead to disinheritance, the chieftainship falling to a half-brother. In view of Malcolm's concentrated efforts in the Dornoch countryside around Tain to force men into following him as their rebel colonel, it is my belief that many in his "army" lacked whole-hearted support.

The McFarquhars of Redcastle brought a strong contingent from the Black Isle to join the forces of Lord Cromarty. Prior to the Battle of Culloden on April 16th, 1746, several forays were undertaken and on the day before the battle, about 200 of the force were ambushed between Skelbo and Dunrobin Castles in Sutherland. Only one-tenth at the most escaped capture.

Thus, it came to be that "John Ross, Mason, living in Chapletown of Redcastle in the Parish of Killearnan, County of Ross, went with the Rebels to Sutherland". In those terms, he was named in A List of Persons concerned in The Rebellion "transmitted to the Commissioners of excise by the several Supervisors in Scotland in obedience to a General Letter of the 7th of May 1746". The name of the eldest son of Alexander Ross of Pitcalnie was included in the Supplementary List with Evidences to Prove the Same as follows: "Malcolm Ross, Son to Pitcalny, of Ardboll in the Parish of Tarbet, County of Ross" witnesses included Andrew Ross (Excise Officer), Abner Gallie (Tenant in Tarbet Parish) and the Laird of Cadboll..

John Ross evidently felt no need to remain in hiding for long. The register for baptisms in the Parish of Killearnan contains the following record: "September 18, 1749 - Margaret - daughter to Colin McFarquhar in Burntown, servant, & to Mary Ross his spouse in the presence of Colin McKenzie, tacksman in Chapletown, & John Ross, mason there." The second child, Alexander, to Colin and Mary, was baptized on December 17, 1751, in the presence of the congregation. On June 11, 1754, a daughter Florence, to Colin McFarquhar servant to Redcastle and to his spouse Mary Ross was baptized in the presence of John Ross in Chapletown & Donald McDonald servant to Redcastle.

Reverend Donald Fraser, minister of Killearnan Church from April 11, 1744, to June 2, 1757, might have refused to baptize the children of Colin and Mary if there was any hint that the name of Colin McFarquhar had been on any supervisor's list of Culloden rebels. Fortunately, descendants of John Ross left plenty of clues as witnesses to baptisms (and their proximity to Chapletown), that one may be certain that some of their names, in addition to Chirstin, were: David, Elspet, John and Donald. David Ross married Isabel Dingwall and settled at Parkton, about one mile north of Chapletown. Of particular interest is a baptismal record at Calrichie in the Parish of Kilmuir Easter; only one son John to John Ross and Margaret McCulloch was baptized on May 17, 1778, and this was witnessed by David Ross and Elspet Ross. Donald Ross married Lilias Munro, and only one child, John, was recorded in the register for Killearnan Parish, that being for a baptism at Parkton on January 28, 1782, witnessed by the family.

The family of John Ross and Margaret Ross thrived. The "rebel" received the silver quaich, and passed it on to his eldest son David. A study of eldest sons reveals that another tradition was inherited (at least for those born in Scotland). The first son and daughter of an eldest son bore the names of the wife's parents; the second son and daughter bore the names of the eldest son's parents. The same rule apparently did not hold true for sons born after the first, who most frequently named their first son and daughter after their own parents.

Descendants of the '45 Rebels may wear a White Cockade when in Scottish attire. This is only one of many "colours", all of which signify participation in a rebellion or revolution. A cockade is a rosette or knot or some similar badge or device worn on the hat. The Orange Cockade was worn by supporters of William III in 1688 (Wm. Of Orange). The Red Cockade was worn during the French Revolution (1789 - 1794). The White Cockade was worn by supporters of the House of Stuart, as Rebels of '45.

- Earl of Roseberry, manuscript owner. "A List of Persons Concerned in the Rebellion - Transmitted to the Commissioners of Excise by the Several Supervisors in Scotland in Obedience to a General Letter of the 7th May 1746 - And a Supplementary List with Evidences to Prove the Same". Edinburgh: Universary Press, 1890. Pp. 80-81, 332-333.
- Killearnan Church Register. Records of Births and Baptisms from 1744 on. General Register House, Edinburgh.
- Kilmuir Easter Parish Register. "Extract of an Entry", etc. Births and Baptisms, 1778 and 1783. General Register House, Edinburgh.
- MacKinnon, Donald. The Clan Ross. Edinburgh: Johnston & Bacon, 1972. Pp. 32.
- Ross, J. Douglas. Published Manuscript: Our Ross Family Story, 1978. Pp. 246+
- Prebble, John. Lion in the North. London: Martin Secker & Warburgh Ltd., 1971. Pp. 344.
- Prebble, John. Culloden. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1974. Pp. 360.
- Ross, John Alexander. Manuscript "History of the Silver Cup". Minto Twp. May 28, 1962
- The New Statistical Account of Scotland Vol. XIV, 1845. "Parish of Killearnan" pp 63-72.

Click here for the story of The Silver Quaich.


© J. Douglas Ross