The Chisholms came from France originally, as did many nobles in the past; the Normans first settled in the Borders and only later moved to the Beauly area. By marriage of Alexander de Chisholme to Margaret, Lady of Erchless, Erchless castle (now a private property) became the ancestral home of the clan, its chieftains were buried close to the castle on an ancient motte, a small, steep hill called Cnoc an Tighe Mhoir, the hill of the big house.
hidden access to the Chisholm burial ground
The burial ground is not easy to find, there are no signs to lead the way, only a rusty gate next to the road marks the spot, the fence is long gone. The path up the steep hill is dark and eerie, thick foliage allows little light to come through.
Then you finally reach the burial place of the clan, its chiefs were addressed as “the Chisholm” and only Chisholms are buried here. Their massive stone crosses don’t fail to impress.
The site is private and not very old, dating back to the 19th century, but it is certainly very atmospheric and special. Some visitors have left stones (in the Jewish tradition) and even coins (as they would for luck in fountains in Italy) on the graves.
From Strathglass to Nova Scotia
Strathglass was the clan’s home and many places in the neighbourhood of the burial site tell tales of the past. A large number of Chisholms had to leave their ancestral lands and now call Nova Scotia, Australia and New Zealand their home, many still feel the bond to Strathglass and the land where their ancestors came from. The current chief lives in England.
Chisholm clan crest
The clan crest depicts a boar’s head since members of the clan had saved the King’s life when attacked by a wild boar in the 14th century. Though Chisholm is not the only clan that keeps a boar’s head in its crest.
The Chisholm that shook the king’s hand
Its association with the Jacobite cause is strong. Being originally Catholic, the Chisholms changed faith but retained a sympathy for the old belief. They supported the Jacobite cause in 1715 and in 1745. Some died at Culloden like so many others, fighting for Charles Edward Stuart, some survived and supported their King in his flight to the West Coast and France. When Charles left, Hugh Chisholm shook the King’s hand and after that no other man’s hand until he died, always true to the Jacobite cause.
sources and further reading:
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The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.
My main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share my passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.