© Noel Harrower 2018
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                   ELOPEMENT TO CULROSS : UNCOVERING THE FACTS                             (Concluding the story of the Harrowers in Fife)                                                     by Noel Harrower My interest in family history was kindled when I first heard that my great-great grandparents had eloped. It was my Aunt Louie who told me about it, and she showed me the oil painting of Catherine Currie, the lady in question. She was an imposing lady, with deep-set blue eyes and a firm mouth. Louie had been told about this in 1902 by her great- aunt Janet, who was then running the village stores in Culross. I was a schoolboy in the 1940’s, my aunt was a great storyteller and the tale sounded magical to me. Catherine had been an heiress, connected in some remote way with the Duke of Argyll. Her mother came from the Campbell clan and the family lived somewhere near Dunoon. Robert Harrower, my grandfather, had been a stonemason in Culross, so how they had met was a mystery, but the legend ran that he rescued her from drowning, and her parents, duly grateful, had welcomed him into their family home. When a love affair developed, their attitude changed. Catherine was told that if she married him she’d “be cut off without a shilling.” They eloped and were secretly married in a lonely country church, and Robert brought her home to Culross. He was later commissioned to build a new sea wall there and he also built the house where the great aunts lived. Catherine had opened the first village shop in 1830, and later added a post office to it, running the business with help from her daughters. There had been eight children, and the family grave was in the Abbey churchyard, where Robert and Catherine were buried. My great-grandfather, the second son, was employed in the Erskine Beveridge Linen Mills in Dunfermline, but had moved to Manchester in the 1850s, and my branch of the family had lived there since then, losing touch with their Scottish cousins. In 1956 we had a family holiday in Scotland. My father had not been there since his boyhood and was delighted to find that Culross was unspoiled and the Scottish National Trust had started to restore the “little houses”. We found the family grave and the names and dates were all confirmed. The births were listed in the Edinburgh Record Office, but I could find no trace of the marriage of Robert and Catherine. We looked up a few of the remaining Scottish relatives and asked if they knew more about Catherine. “Och, she was a very stalwart lady from what I heard,“ said old cousin Katy Forbes “ and I recall when I was a wee girl I went on a sail from Dunoon up the Kyles of Bute with Aunt Janet and Aunt Barbara and they were aye peering over the side of the boat to see if they could catch the sight of the tower of an old kirk where someone had been married many years before. I thought it a daft thing to be doing on such a bonny day, but when I thought of it in later years, I guessed it was the church where their parents had married.”  Some years later I learned about the very full entries that were made when the Civil Registration of Deaths was started in Scotland. Very conveniently, Catherine died in 1873. The next time I visited Edinburgh, I made a point of checking the entry and was delighted to find it a very full one. She had been born at Corrachaive, Argyll, on 19th Feb. 1795 and her parents were John Currie and Jean Manson. So an Argyll area link was established. I thumbed through various local church records, and found some of those I wanted. Catherine had been baptized at Dunoon Kirk on March 6th 1795. Her parents had been married there in 1784 and the bride came from the neighbouring parish of St. Catherine, in Loch Fyne. I checked the registers for St. Catherine’s and found that Jean Manson was born in 1764, to John Manson and Jean Campbell of Cregan’s Ferry. Now we had found the Campbell link, and when I visited Cregan’s  I found that the ferry used to cross Loch Fyne providing the main access to the Duke of Argyll’s castle at Inverary. It seemed as if the Currie association was geographical and spanned two generations.   But where was Corrachaive? It was not mentioned in any listings of local farm-touns or estates. Most probably it no longer existed, I thought. For several years this remained a mystery. Then I heard mention of the earliest detailed hand-drawn maps covering the whole of Scotland. They had been made by the military following the 1745 rebellion when General Wade was flushing out Jacobites and the maps were now housed in the British Museum. When I was next in London, I made my way to the Map Room and was shown large coloured sheets of paper relating to Argyll in those times, and it was here I found Corrachraive. It appeared to be a farm in Glen Lean about halfway between the Holy Loch and Loch Striven. Whatever was Robert Harrower doing in those remote areas? The answer to that was given in Census returns. The eldest children of the family had not been born in Culross. Jane was born in Renfrew, and the next three children in Airth. So their father must have found employment in other parts. The Airth Parish registers revealed the family living on the Dunmore Estate nearby, and then I discovered that the Earl of Dunmore had owned lands at Ardentinny in Argyll, and sent estate workers there when he helped to develop the fledgling seaside resort of Dunoon. All this happened around 1816 and Jane was born in 1817 and baptized some months later at Airth. It all fitted. In the summer of 1970 I visited Argyll with my parents. We stayed in Dunoon and noted the Dunmore Hotel on the sea-front. The next day we skirted the Holy Loch and drove up Glen Lean. Just beyond Clachaig, we saw a white farmhouse on the hillside. As luck would have it a post-van approached us on the lonely road. I hailed the driver. “Would that farm up there be Corrachraive?” I asked. “Aye,” the driver answered, “that’s the place.” My father and I got out of the car at the farm-gate and walked up the muddy field drive. The sun was shining and as we drew nearer, we saw a man was whitewashing the house. He turned to greet us and we told him of our interest. He did not look at all surprised. “Aye, that would be right,” he said. “My grandfather bought this farm off the Curries way back. Of course there were a lot more farms in the glen in those days, but the small ones were absorbed by others.“ Later, exploring the opposite bank of the Holy Loch I discovered the church at Kilmun. Here was the burial place of successive Dukes of Argyll, and this within three miles of Corrachraive and one mile from Ardentinny. So we were beginning to solve the mystery. Robert had been sent to work here during the Napoleonic wars, at the time when rich people could no longer tour the Mediterranean and some wealthy landowners saw an opportunity to buy and develop stretches of the British coastline as holiday retreats. Catherine was the eldest daughter of a farmer on land belonging to the Duke of Argyll. Her mother may well have been proud of her Campbell descent and have had ideas as to whom her daughter might marry - a neighbouring farmer perhaps. The Curries probably aspired to increase the size of the holding, and one day to own it themselves. If Catherine married a mere stonemason, who was a lowlander from Fife, that hope might be lost.  Eventually, I found the registration of their marriage. Over the years more and more records have been added to the Mormon-based International Genealogical Index (IGI) And it was a long time before an obscure little kirk called Inverchaolain had its entries included. When I eventually traced it on the map, I discovered that it was about ten miles from Catherine’s home, but there was no direct road, and the journey across moors and glens would have been a difficult one in 1817. Here, however, the marriage was recorded. In 1998 I visited Dunoon again, this time with my wife. We drove up a deserted lane beside Loch Striven to find the old church still standing, intact and unlocked.  It was beautifully kept, a peaceful place to explore, and I learned from the inscriptions that this was the home church of the Lamont family from whom the Duke of Argyll had seized land. The rivalry between them and the Campbells must have been fierce at the time of the marriage. The young couple had crossed the Rubicon.  They would not be followed. And surely it must have been this church that the aunts were seeking on their sail up the Kyles of Bute. Ninety years later, I had found it. So the mystery was solved. There was no evidence of any blood link to the Duke of Argyll, but Catherine’s father had the link of being one of his tenants and possibly worshipping in the church that housed the Duke’s mausoleum, and her mother’s grandmother had been a Campbell and lived in sight of Inverary. I never discovered if Robert, the Fife stonemason, had rescued Catherine from drowning, but they may well have swum together in a secluded part of the Holy Loch. We do know that they were married for forty-four years and had six daughters and two sons, and are buried together with four of their daughters in Culross Abbey churchyard. The eldest daughter, Jane, became companion to reclusive Mrs. Erskine Sharp at Dunimarle Castle. The second daughter, Catherine married William Service, moved to Edinburgh and had a brood of children. Four younger sisters worked in the village stores and the post office and sewed curtains and tableware in an upper room at home. The eldest son, John, followed his father into the building trade and later emigrated to America. The younger son, Robert, worked for Erskine Beveridge before the Linen Mills were built and then moved to Manchester as a textile merchant and founded another family. Meanwhile, the house built by my great-great grandfather on the site of “a ruined tenement” and called The Hollies still stands in Culross Main St. Next to it is Thistle Cottage, where Catherine Currie opened the first post office in Culross, around 1840.                         --------------------------------------------------------------------
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