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TITLE
'My Little Town of Cromarty' (1)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_DAVID_ALSTON_01
PLACENAME
Cromarty
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Cromarty
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
David Alston
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1277
KEYWORDS
audio
local history
estates
towns
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'My Little Town of Cromarty, the History of a Northern Scottish Town' by David Alston, published in 2006. It is read here by the author.

'Provost' Bain

When George Ross acquired the estate of Cromarty in 1767, Alexander Bain, whose forebears had been tenants in Newton for generations, reached the age of fifty. He would become one of Ross's most trusted tenants. Bain saw himself, and men and women like him, as living symbols of the stability of rural life ... Bain's parents were both from the farmtoun of Newton and had survived childhoods in the 'ill years' of the 1690s to marry in 1714. Alexander was their first child, born in January 1717.

He succeeded his father as tenant some thirty years later, by which time he was better known as 'Provost' Bain - not a civic title but a byname acquired after he travelled to Inverness with two other Cromarty men on 16 April, 1746, the day of the battle of Culloden, and the three bluffed their way into accommodation in the overcrowded town by posing as provost, bailie and doctor. Their fellow townsfolk had watched the smoke of battle from the top of Cromarty Hill.

Bain's life, like most of his neighbours, centred on the farmtoun and the wider world of the parish. Like his own parents, he married within the farmtoun, possibly on his succession to the tenancy. However, personal tragedy came during a traditional celebration at the heart of the farming year. When the last sheaf of grain was sheared it was made into a 'straw dog' and hoisted up onto onto one of the farm buildings, before the 'harvest home'. There was eating and drinking, and dancing inside the large corn-drying kiln, where the 'Provost' was joined by his heaviliy pregnant wife. As they danced a group of lads from the neighbouring farms, hidden above on the drying floor, dropped the straw dog down among the dancers. The shock brought on premature labour, the child was stillborn and Bain's wife died a few days later. The ringleader among the boys, Thomas Keran, ran away to sea and did not return for several years.

However, by 1767 'Provost' Bain had married again and was the father of three sons and a daughter. His wife was none other than Thomas Keran's sister, Grace or Grizel.

When he died in 1797, at the age of eighty, having outlived George Ross, he used the inscription on his gravestone to make a last ironic comment, proclaiming that had 'in the curse of fifty years paid rent to five lairds of the estate of Cromarty'. Yet, despite his sense of the permanence of farmers, it was tenants like Bain who would, during the nineteenth century, be replaced by a new breed of commercial farmers.'

David Alston was born and brought up in the Highlands and has lived in Cromarty for the past twenty years. He gained a PhD in Scottish History from the University of Dundee in 1999.

David has been closely involved with the Cromarty Courthouse for many years, first in its restoration and then as a museum of Cromarty life. He was first elected to The Highland Council in 1999 and is currently Chairman of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee. As well as his substantial history of Cromarty published in 2006 he is the author of numerous local history pamphlets.

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'My Little Town of Cromarty' (1)

ROSS: Cromarty

2000s

audio; local history; estates; towns; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: David Alston

This audio extract is from 'My Little Town of Cromarty, the History of a Northern Scottish Town' by David Alston, published in 2006. It is read here by the author.<br /> <br /> 'Provost' Bain<br /> <br /> When George Ross acquired the estate of Cromarty in 1767, Alexander Bain, whose forebears had been tenants in Newton for generations, reached the age of fifty. He would become one of Ross's most trusted tenants. Bain saw himself, and men and women like him, as living symbols of the stability of rural life ... Bain's parents were both from the farmtoun of Newton and had survived childhoods in the 'ill years' of the 1690s to marry in 1714. Alexander was their first child, born in January 1717.<br /> <br /> He succeeded his father as tenant some thirty years later, by which time he was better known as 'Provost' Bain - not a civic title but a byname acquired after he travelled to Inverness with two other Cromarty men on 16 April, 1746, the day of the battle of Culloden, and the three bluffed their way into accommodation in the overcrowded town by posing as provost, bailie and doctor. Their fellow townsfolk had watched the smoke of battle from the top of Cromarty Hill.<br /> <br /> Bain's life, like most of his neighbours, centred on the farmtoun and the wider world of the parish. Like his own parents, he married within the farmtoun, possibly on his succession to the tenancy. However, personal tragedy came during a traditional celebration at the heart of the farming year. When the last sheaf of grain was sheared it was made into a 'straw dog' and hoisted up onto onto one of the farm buildings, before the 'harvest home'. There was eating and drinking, and dancing inside the large corn-drying kiln, where the 'Provost' was joined by his heaviliy pregnant wife. As they danced a group of lads from the neighbouring farms, hidden above on the drying floor, dropped the straw dog down among the dancers. The shock brought on premature labour, the child was stillborn and Bain's wife died a few days later. The ringleader among the boys, Thomas Keran, ran away to sea and did not return for several years.<br /> <br /> However, by 1767 'Provost' Bain had married again and was the father of three sons and a daughter. His wife was none other than Thomas Keran's sister, Grace or Grizel.<br /> <br /> When he died in 1797, at the age of eighty, having outlived George Ross, he used the inscription on his gravestone to make a last ironic comment, proclaiming that had 'in the curse of fifty years paid rent to five lairds of the estate of Cromarty'. Yet, despite his sense of the permanence of farmers, it was tenants like Bain who would, during the nineteenth century, be replaced by a new breed of commercial farmers.'<br /> <br /> David Alston was born and brought up in the Highlands and has lived in Cromarty for the past twenty years. He gained a PhD in Scottish History from the University of Dundee in 1999.<br /> <br /> David has been closely involved with the Cromarty Courthouse for many years, first in its restoration and then as a museum of Cromarty life. He was first elected to The Highland Council in 1999 and is currently Chairman of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee. As well as his substantial history of Cromarty published in 2006 he is the author of numerous local history pamphlets.