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James Cameron & Elspet Grant.

Elspet Cameron ( Grant) was born at Easter F0reigin, this consists of a couple of cottages and barns situated in the absolute back of beyond. To get there a traveller (or more to the point ) child walking home from school, would take the old A9 road out of Carrbridge ( now designated A938) heading NorthEast towards Slochd Summit. Passing through Bogroy, a bit over two miles out of Carrbridge, shortly before the road passes under the railway, an unmade track branches off to the right. Following this track for about a mile, it forks with one branch heading uphill almost Due North, another half a mile and you arrive at Easter Foreigin. The other branch of the track turns continues another half mile then turns North, to West Foreigin.

 

Best described as a truly God-forsaken place, it is bleak. Even to those of us who like bleak places to live, this is truely BLEAK with a capital BL.

It s hard nt to feel sympathy for young Elspet, as a small child she would have to trudge all this way to and from school in all weather. How did children survive living in such places ? Whilst no doubt they were much tougher than todays kids, having been brought up to think this normal, in all truth many of them did not survive it. Childhood mortality in families living in isolated crofting communities, was worse, even then than the worst of Glasgow's slums. This was slum life with a pretty view.

On their marriage certificate, Elspet gave Easter Foreigin as her residence, as does the birth certificate for James their first child, so it would seem that they were living with Elspet's parents at first. Whether or not they had a cottage of their own , it is not possible to say, however judging by the size of Easter Foreigin there can't have been many unused buildings.

Elspet Grant, Birth Record.

Click to enlarge.

By the time that Alexander, their second child was born  they were living at Deshar. One might wonder why they chose to spend their first few months of marital bliss in a remote, God-forsaken place like Easter Foreigin, and why would any new, first time Mum choose to deliver her baby, and learn how to look after it, so far from any assistance if needed. Or even any sort of tradesman, or shop.

 

The answer to this probably lies in their marriage date. They were married in January 1857, then James was born just nine weeks later . Now pregnant women can get their dates wrong, some of the more naive may not even realise at first that they are pregnant and babies may be premature. Sadly though, despite all of that, two months still makes for a very brief pregnancy.

 

This was 1858 and social attitudes were not as they are now. It may have come to your attention that this is turning into a bit of a recurring theme. Illegitimate babies, shotgun weddings, children born after unbelievably short pregnancies. What was going on ? this does not sound much like the strictly moralistic Victorians that we are accustomed to. As with other historical topics our sanitised view of the past bears little resemblance to real life at the time.

Having a baby two months after getting married would have been better than their not being married at all, but not by much. Whilst the child would have been legitimate, Elspet would still have suffered from the shame and social

approbation to enough of an extent as to make her life extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps this may have played a part in their decision to go and live in an isolated cottage. Frustratingly isolated from just about everything they needed, but mercifully isolated from the gossip, the hostile stares, the nudges and all of that goes with being a social outcast. Fortunately though even in small villages, things move on, and people have short memories. Before long the next bit of scandalous gossip about some other unfortunate, would no doubt have pushed Elspet off the top of the list of those to be tut- tutted about.

 

 

 

At the moment it is not possible to say how long the family spent exiled to the back of beyond. One can only hope not too long. Certainly by 1858 they were living at Deshar. Living in Foreigin must have been a lonely existance, and must have sorely tested their marriage bond. It would appear that they survived their 'Ordeal by Mother in Law, and 'Ordeal by Isolation' as further children came thick and fast.

Annie Cameron

Birth Certificate.

James Cameron & Elspet Grant Marriage Certificate.

This particular period in the lives of James, Elspet and their ever growing family is hard to document as the relevant pages of the old record books have suffered some sort of damage over the years and many are un-readable.

 

However some facts can still be found. In 1863 they were living at Inverlaidnan,a hamlet of two or three farms between 2-3 miles West of Carrbridge. Reached by a track along the path of General Wade's Military Rd over the Sluggan Bridge. A distinctly out of the way place but certainly an improvement on Forregin. On Annie's Birth Certificate from 1863 their residence was at Inverlaidnan

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