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The History of Borenich Burial Ground

There is scant information concerning the origins of the Borenich Burial Ground, or to the names of the people buried in it.

The Dundee Courier carried the following article in December 1974:

Journeying westwards in Strathtummel many wonder when they see a quaint burial ground in the middle of a field beyond Borenich farm. Only Stewarts and Frasers are buried there. There is a Stewart headstone and a Fraser headstone, also a few flat stones. Of great interest is a small iron cross with the name 'Kirsty' on it. She was a Stewart and was a maid with Sir Robert Maule, Dalreoch Lodge.

In November 1982 Duncan Douglas, whose family originally came from Borenich, wrote the following in a letter:

In my youth, I recall asking father about this burial ground, in the middle of a field, just west of Borenich farmhouse. This was prompted by a remark by a Mr. Menzies, Bruachbane, to the west, that this was a private ground, which had belonged to our Douglas family. Father said the burial ground had come down to grandfather. He was persuaded to hand it over to a lawyer in Edinburgh, a relative, to save him the costs of maintainance of it, and the surrounding stone wall.

Strangely enough, what little I know (of grandfather) came from Mr. McIntosh who had the Dunalastair Hotel at Kinloch Rannoch. He was the local County Councillor, and I worked in the Council Roads Department. The Surveyor and I, on our travels, called on him. After lunch he said to me that he knew my grandfather in earlier days. He went on to say that he had had a very thriving boot making business.

In those days he said, all boots were made by hand. With such a large surrounding area, much populated then, there was much to do. Apparently he had a staff of some thirty workers. He said this included those who went around delivering and fitting etc. Repairs too were carried out. He said that they tried to persuade him to take out insurance, as he had a large stock of leather, but, as he said, he stubbornly refused. The almost inevitable happened and the place burnt to the ground, and all was lost.

The site was at the junction of the Bohespic road with the main road from Tummelbridge to Kinloch Rannoch, a little west of Dalno farm. The remains of the buildings, and surrounding dykes were there for many years, but gradually disappeared.

The same story of the burial ground was independently passed down through the Stewart family by Rita Merrie, and matches this account.

My father, Alexander Stewart, who was a lawyer in Edinburgh, was greatly distressed to find that the Borenich burial ground, where his parents were buried, was badly in need of repair. However, the Douglas family who claimed ownership were suffering a financial hardship and were unable to carry out the maintainance. As a consequence, my father persuaded them to pass the burial ground into his care, and the Stewart descendants have maintained the burial ground ever since.

Alexander Stewart was the youngest son of John "Bonnety" Stewart of Balcastle, whose memorial stone is beside the gate. John Stewart and his family lived at Balcastle until about 1852, after which they moved to Bankfoot, near Perth. John became the landlord of the Diamond Inn at Bankfoot and was locally known as "Bonnety" on account of his headgear. When John Stewart died in 1884 he requested in his will, "that his mortal remains should be interred in the churchyard of Barrauch (Borenich)". It is quite likely that many of his ancestors, who lived around Balcastle for generations before, are also buried in the same place.

The last person to be buried in the burial ground was Alexander Stewart's elder brother, John, who was a cabinet maker in Edinburgh. As an example of Highland hospitality it is recounted that:

Bonnety's son John, on deciding to take a holiday and visit his relatives, would set out with no luggage except a clean white handkerchief, a toothbrush in his pocket, and his gnarled walking stick, made from the stem of a vine, in his hand.

Even John's funeral was a Highland event never to be forgotten.

John's coffin was brought from Edinburgh to Pitlochry by train and transferred to the undertaker's horse-drawn hearse. To help the mourners on their long and winding journey to Borenich, refreshments were provided at the local hotel. Unfortunately the undertaker took too eagerly to the hospitality and had to be left behind in Pitlochry. The mourners eventually arrived at the burial ground, only to find that they could not open the hearse to remove the coffin, as the keys were still in the pocket of the undertaker - back in Pitlochry!

In addition to the Stewart stone and the Fraser stone, there are three flat slabs without inscription - this is not surprising as it should be remembered that right up until the 1950s there were native Gaelic speakers in Strathtummel. Indeed, within living memory, some like Donald McDonald of Chamberbane spoke no other language.

The first flat stone is just inside the gate, on the left, next to the wall. Its small size may indicate the burial of a child. The second flat stone is towards the opposite corner of the enclosure and is the largest of the three slabs. It also appears to be the most recent. There is a possibility that it marks the grave of Robert Stewart, John "Bonnety" Stewart's father. The third flat stone was discovered in the north-east corner in 1986, covered by four to five inches of soil. When this stone was returned to the surface it was noticed that there was an "arrow" mark cut into its upper surface. The significance of this "arrow" mark is unknown, but may indicate that the stone had a different function, prior to being used as a gravestone.

The original walls were probably constructed as a drystone dyke, and the 1851 census shows that John Stewart, himself, was a dyke contractor. It is thought that the walls were first mortared when Alexander Stewart carried out the repairs. The workmen did an excellent job, as the walls survived the harsh Scottish winters until 2006, before the process of re-pointing the mortar became neccessary. A close inspection of the entrance shows that the present gate is not the original. There are two short metal stubs on either side of the present gate, as well as a bolt-hole drilled into the entrance step, which must have been used to secure the original gate.

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