Isabella and Malcolm, and their children


Isabella’s handmade wedding ring, on the hand of one of her descendants, and luckenbooth brooch (1772-1783, Inverness) which is initialled with her initials. Kept by the family, not on display.

Isobel /Isabella MacTavish was born at Ruthven on 3rd January 1760 and was baptised there on the following day, 4th January 1760 (OPR Birth 096/A 10 21 Dores).  Her parents were John MacTavish and Anne MacKenzie, who were both servants to the Fraser of Balloan.  They contracted to get married on 25th May 1753 and were married on 4th June 1753 at Ruthven (OPR Marriages 096/A 10 98 Dores). There are a few possible people in Inverness birth registers which could be them, but no way of knowing for sure.  John and Anne had two more daughters – Anne in 1762 and Elspeth in 1763.

There is variation in the spelling of all of their names due to the fact they all most likely spoke Scottish Gaelic as their first language, so their names by which they were called would have been:

Scottish Gaelic              English variants

Isbeil                               Isobel, Isabel, Isabella

Seathan                          John

Anna                              Ann, Anne

Ealasaid                        Elspeth / Elspet / Elizabeth

Lots more Gaelic names here


Malcolm Fraser (Calum Friseal) was born on 23rd November 1757 and baptised on 27th November 1757 to Elspeth MacDonald and (the deceased) Donald Fraser (OPR Births 096/A 10 18 Dores). It was believed that Donald died while fighting for the Fraser Highlanders in Germany, but this is not possible as the Fraser Highlanders were nowhere near Germany between February and November 1757, in fact no British soldiers were (the Fraser Highlanders were en route to America via Glasgow and Ireland during this time).  I have not been able to find any records of any Donald  Fraser passing away during this period of time, but deaths weren’t always recorded as will be seen later.


Map accessed from PastMap, in 2018.  Malcolm’s birthplace circled in yellow, Isabella’s in red. One of their marital homes is circled in blue.


Malcolm and Isabella married at Ruthven on 12th January 1785 (OPR Marriages 096/A 10 112 Dores).  They had quite a few children, but some died young

Forename Date of birth Place of birth

OPR reference

Elspite 03/12/1785 Ruthven 096/A 10 52 Dores
Anne 18/12/1787 Ruthven 096 /A 10 54 Dores
Margaret 22/02/1789 Dunchea 096/A 10 55 Dores
John 18/03/1791 Dunchea 096/A 10 58 Dores
Donald 07/12/1792 Dunchea 096/A10 60 Dores
Tavish 20/09/1795 Drummond 096/A 10 62 Dores
Katherine ??/03/1799 Erchit 096/A 10 67 Dores
Isobell * ??/06/1799 Erchit(e) 096/A 10 65 Dores
Thomas** 04/07/1802 Erchit NO BIRTH FOUND IN OPR
Ann 17/08/1805 Erchit 096/A 10 75 Dores
(un-named) *** 08/02/1806 Dunchea


096/A 10 75 Dores

*: This birth is listed as 1799 on a page full of births in 1797; it makes absolutely no sense that she could have been more in 1799 as that was. Listed as 1797 on Ancestry family trees.

**: Thomas is not listed on the Scotland’s People website but is on most of the Ancestry family trees.

***: Mother is not recorded, just Malcom (sic) as the father. This was along with several other un-named births.  It is unknown at present whether this refers to a stillborn child, hence the lack of name, or was written by a (lazy/forgetful) minister.

Some of these children are buried in Dores churchyard together;


John was apparently know for his skills as a bard (as well as farming at Cuderash with his brothers).


The dress has been passed down through Tavish and Jane’s descendants (it is not known why them and not other children).  His wife, Jane Fraser, wore the dress for their wedding in 1826. It is not known if it was worn by any of Isabella and Malcolm’s female children or the wives of their male children for their weddings.

The family moved to Cuderash, near Kiltarlity in 1828 (during the Clearances).  Cuderash, on the west side of Loch Ness, is not easy to farm.  The land is incredibly different from the fertile east side of the Loch and is rocky and inhospitable.  The Highland Historic Environment Record  has some excellent images of the ruined houses in which Isabella and some of her children lived and farmed.  Here is the record for Easter Cudrish

and here is the record for Wester Cudrish.

The 1841 census (Census 101/4/7, page 7 of 13) lists Isabella as an eighty year old as the first resident at Cuderash, living as a pauper. It looks like the word ‘pauper’ was added at a later date.  She appears to have been living in a house with her eldest child, Elspite/Elizabeth (who was recorded as being 50 but was actually 55 at the time!) and a six year old Isabella, next door to the Shaw family (the man being described as a labourer), and then her sons Thomas, Tavish and John and their families.  As Malcolm did not appear on the census with them, and there is no record of his death, it is presumed that he died between 1828 and 1841 (annoyingly the Kiltarlity kirk session minutes are missing for this period of time so they couldn’t be checked either).  Isabella was not on the 1851 census.  Neither Malcolm nor Isabella are buried in any of the local churchyards, so part of me does wonder if they are buried somewhere at Cuderash.

item5Cudrish Wester House, looking west, by Eddie Freeman (2008), Highland Council.  Accessed from on 26th February 2019


Cudrish Easter House front, September 2008 by Eddie Freeman, Highland Council (accessed from on 26th February 2019) 


Easter Cudrash 3 by Iain MacLean (descendant of Isabella, Malcolm, Tavish & Jane) accessed from on 26th February 2019)


 I visited Cuderash with my family on 2nd August 2020 and took photos of both Wester and Easter Cuderash to document and reflect upon how many houses there are across the entire region in this state which could be brought back to life…

I was so sad to see the remains of a Victorian style double metal bed frame within what was once Wester Cuderash and a well-established tree growing from the wall