Kiltearn Folk



Two views of the building restored by the Evanton community.  [photo RCHS 2016]

Kiltearn natives


This is a photograph of the late Mrs Isabella Maclean, of "Castle Needle", Balconie Street, Evanton (date unknown, but possibly late 1920s), beside the first milk separator to be introduced to Ross-shire, and located at Balconie Farm.  The building (a dairy) behind Mrs Maclean has been restored in recent years 

In the summer months Mrs Maclean moved the few yards from her house to live in the gatehouse beside the entrance to the drive leading to Balconie Castle in order to open and close the gates, as required, when the Bankes family (owners of the Castle) came for "the season". On modern Balconie Street the low stone wall around a flowerbed at the start of the remnants of the former drive (opposite the Co-op Store) determines the size and location of the gatehouse.

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John Henry Dods, Dalgheal, Evanton, his wife Annie Farrer, and their children Dorothy Elizabeth, Marcus Palliser and John Frederick, all of whom perished when HMS Natal exploded in the Cromarty Firth on 30 December 1915.

The Dods family were guests at a party on board the Natal hosted by the commanding officer, Captain Eric Black and his wife and children.  Other guests included three nurses from the hospital ship Drina, which was moored nearby.

Entertainment was provided by the Royal Marines band and a film was shown in the wardroom.  A huge explosion rocked the ship shortly after 3 pm, causing the heavily armed warship to turn over and sink within five minutes, resulting in 421 deaths.  Some 100 members of the crew escaped the explosion due to being ashore at a football match in Cromarty.  The cause has never been established, although "faulty cordite" has often been mentioned.  A Court of Inquiry ruled out sabotage or enemy action.

In subsequent years most of the wreck was salvaged and the final remnants were demolished in the 1970s in order to remove any navigation hazard.

On 30 September 2015 - 110 years since the vessel was launched in Barrow in Furness - a service is to be held in Invergordon parish church, followed by a wreath-laying at the wreck site.  In Cromarty there will be a parade of Royal Marines and a memorial plaque will be unveiled at the harbour.


HMS Natal

William Grant      Click to view


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