a traditional Highland funeral

On Christmas Day 1924, Christina Cochran, nee Blacklock, died in Fort William at the age of 82. She had survived her husband, master mariner Alexander Cochran, her daughter Helen and her son James Duncan. Her granddaughter died a few years after the grandmother. Her grandson, Henry Dyall, did not attend the funeral, but he had often heard the accounts of family and neighbours. His grandmother’s funeral had been an event.

Christina Cochran Blacklock's gravestone 
@nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

Christina Cochran Blacklock’s funeral was the last traditional Highland funeral in the Kingairloch district.

Loch Linnhe @nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

The funeral party left Fort William with the coffin before the first light of day. As a means of transport, a char-à-banc was used, a large vehicle, much like an open tour bus, either drawn by horses or equipped with an engine, a popular means of transport in the early 20th century.

But far more mourners made the journey towards Dail na Cille burial ground on the other side of the Loch, than the char-à-banc or even the Corran ferry could take. Travelling wasn’t easy, the road was not more than a gravel path, it was cold, wet and daylight only lasted a few hours.

The funeral service was held at the church in Camusnacroise. Then, a piper led the way, the funeral procession carrying the coffin, followed. Tradition has it, that no women were allowed in the procession. The men had to carry the weight of the coffin up to a steep climb behind the church, they took turns carrying the coffin, everybody wanted to be part of it.

Dail na Cille burial ground @nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

The women prepared the meal, the men carried the coffin.

After a small service at Dail na Cille, the funeral party left for the schoolhouse in Camusnacroise, where the women had prepared refreshments in the meantime.

After the meal, they made their way back to Fort William, again in the dark of night.

Rev Henry Dyall’s account is not clear, if the grave was already dug by the time the coffin arrived or if they had done it the traditional way, where the grave is never dug out in advance.

Lowlanders with Highland values

Blacklock gravestone @nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

Christina Cochran, nee Blacklock, was laid to rest in Dail na Cille burial ground. Many Blacklocks are buried here. This was their home, even though they were originally Lowlanders. The Blacklocks were well to do farmers, a respected family, conscious of traditions. They had lived and worked in Kingairloch since the 18th century.

Very likely, Christina Blacklock would have been proud of the way her funeral had been conducted, the last one held in the true old Highland fashion.

Dail na Cille burial ground @nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

source and further reading: Iain Thornber: Dail na Cille, The Field of the Church. Parchment, Oxford, December 2000

Liked the read? Theres more here …

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available on Amazon!

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. 

Her 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 the author’s 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.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon. 

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