"A Dangerous Lunatic"

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"A Dangerous Lunatic"


Murdo McKENZIE, alias CAMPBELL, alias MACIVER, residing at ISLE RISTOL, in the Parish of Lochbroom and County of Cromarty, but locally situate in the County of Ross, has been committed to the Prison of Dingwall as a Dangerous Lunatic, and the Sherriff-Substitute has fixed Friday, the thirtieth day of May current, at twelve o'clock noon, for inquiring into the condition and state of mind of the said Murdo McKenzie, alias Campbell, alias Maciver, within the Ordinary Court place at Dingwall. Of all which Notice is hereby given, in terms of the Statute.


Procurator Fiscal.

Dingwall, 24th May, 1856.

The above notice was published in the Tuesday, 24 May 1856 edition of the Inverness Advertiser.

Murdo was I think the child whose christening was noted in the Lochbroom Parish Register as 30 July, 1816 "Dond McKenzie Ullapool, Murdo, a bastard". Donald in 1816 would have been about 15 years of age based on later census records, so the illegitimate birth of a son would have been quite a youthful indiscretion! Though the father in the Registration is listed as resident at Ullapool, the other three christenings that day were to fathers resident at Coigach, reinforcing the probability Donald MacKenzie of Achnahaird was father of this Murdo.

Donald MacKenzie was born about 1801 in Lochbroom to Roderick MacKenzie, Tacksman of Achnahaird in Coigach, and Catherine Scobie, daughter of a family related to many Tacksman's families in neighbouring Assynt Parish. I have been constructing a file based on the MacKenzie of Achnahaird family that goes into greater detail on their genealogy and history, see; corrie.htm Given Murdo's descent from such local worthies including a possible distant cousin relationship to the Earls of Cromartie it is easy to imagine his "lunacy" as having root in rejection as an illegitamate son, though of course his mental or emotional disturbance may well have had roots not related to his ancestry.

Murdo's mother was a MacIver. MacIver was a sept of Clan Campbell and many Wester Ross MacIvers (especially Gairloch, Lochbroom, and Isle of Lewis) changed their surname or were recorded as "alias Campbell" in the early 19th century. Murdo was with his MacIver uncle and other relatives (including his mother?) in the 1841 census at Ristol 41-1, in the 1851 census the family is at Ristol 51-2, Murdo's uncle, the Head of Household changing name from "Evander Campbell" to "Edward MacIver".

An 1825 letter from Roderick MacKenzie of Achnahaird refers in passing to "Mr Maciver the sheep master", I think that refers to Murdo's uncle Edward MacIver, whose occupation in the 1851 census is given as "Pauper (Was Shepherd)".

The notice above refers to Murdo as charged in 1856 as a "Dangerous Lunatic", I think it likely he is the Murdoch McIver in the 1861 census at Polbain 61-1. The enumerator made a note after his name "Idiotic", and circled it three times!

Murdo's father Donald married and was Widowed young, he was in the 1841 census with other family members at the family farm, Achnahaird 41-11. In the 1851 and later censuses he was with various siblings at Ullapool, listed as a "Retired Farmer", see Ullapool 51-51.

I cannot see Murdo in the 1871 census, and think he was likely the "lunatic" in the following article published 4 November 1862 in the Inverness Advertiser. A sad life ended by suicide, his troubles not ending with death, his body being disinterred and moved by people objecting to his burial in "consecrated" ground. Their objection probably was based on his suicide, though possibly also with prejudice against having a "lunatic" buried alongside their own relatives;


In the month of June last a case of this kind took place in the parish of Lochbroom, when the body of a lunatic, who had committed suicide, was disinterred, and afterwards buried in what was believed to be "unconsecrated" ground. The perpetuators of this outrage, seven in number, have till now eluded the vigilance of the police. However, on Thursday last four of them were captured and brought to Dingwall, where they have been examined before Sheriff Hill. It is thought that the other three who are "wanted" will be speedily found.

This file, and others dealing with history and genealogy of Coigach, links from my homepage at:


Any suggestions for additions or edits please feel free to email me,

Donald MacDonald-Ross, at:

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