Marks of Honour


This page is entitled HONOURS, taking the word in its broadest sense, to mean all forms of recognition for Miller and his work, including his contributions to the life of the people. The contents will therefore comprise contemporary articles, speeches, talks, awards, and achievements which carry his legacy forward. 

Dedication of Cromarty Emigration Stone

by Dr Margaret A Mackay, Director, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh

10 October 2002

AS a Canadian descendant of one of the families who left on the Cleopatra in 1831, described by Hugh Miller so movingly and carved by Richard Kindersley so beautifully, I - and my cousins who are also here today - feel a mixture of strong emotions: gratitude, pride, humility, love, admiration and celebration on this day.

Ours is a family which abides by the Gaelic admonition: "Cuimhnich air na daoiní on tainig thu" ("Remember the people from whom you have come"). The generations who were close to my great-great-grandparents, John Mackay from Torroble near Lairg and his wife Christena Munro from Balblair near Bonar Bridge, and eight of their nine children (the ninth, with her husband and children, left the following year), heard the emigration story from those who had experienced it. In time, an annual picnic in the townships of Zorra and Nissouri in Oxford County, Western Ontario, brought their expanding family numbers together for an occasion of sports, fun, remembrance and commemoration and when the family had been in Canada for over one hundred years those accounts were published along with family trees in a slender volume which has become a reference point lor us all when we gather for more infrequent reunions. Almost forty years ago I first came here with my parents and sister to see the harbour at Cromarty wli.ich was part of our history.

It is intriguing to think that Hugh Miller might have seen those Mackays in 1831, might even have spoken with them, for he had family links with Sutherland and they may have stood out a bit from the others. Family tradition has it that they took an axle and two cart wheels with them on the Cleopatra, in order to have the makings of a means of transport when they reached the other side. Perhaps they had been advised by letter from those from their community who were already in Upper Canada. They purchased an ox and were known as the "Ox" Mackays in order to distinguish them from the other Mackays in the Sutherland settlement of which they were a part.

They also took a Gaelic Bible with them, inscribed by the minister of Kincardine parish, the Rev. Hugh Alien, for they were engaged in agriculture at Culrain before their departure. He hoped that "this blessed book may be their guide arid solace in the land of their adoption". No doubt it was in use the day an itinerant missionary came upon the settlers in 1832. "The Psalms which were sung reverberated in the forest," wrote the Rev. John Camithers in his journal.

They took extra provisions for the journey. And it was a good thing that they did, for the Cleopatra under Captain Morris, a brig of 267 tons carrying at least 246 settlers, was both beset by storms and becalmed during the voyage and instead of taking the four to six weeks which was the norm at the time for a summer crossing of the Atlantic, took more than twice the maximum. 'Thirteen weeks and three days" was how the family story had it. I must confess I was a bit sceptical as a young person - perhaps it only seemed that long - until I consulted Lloyd's Regisler and learned that the oral record (for which I have a high regard professionally) was absolutely accurate.

Late in the spring of 1831 the Inverness Courier and Northern Advertiser published notices about two other ships, the Corsair and the Clio, with positive accounts about their qualities. But weeks went past and they did not appear here at Cromarty and in their place came the Salamis and the Cleopatra, the latter making a slow journey even up the east coast - in hindsight an ornen of what was to come.

In the parlance of our own time, those Mackays were economic migrants, making the decision to emigrate in search of a better life for themselves and their children. They took material goods with them, yes, but also more intangible possessions - their Gaelic language, their pleasure in songs, tales and instrumental music, their religious convictions (John met Christena at a Communion Season) and their strong sense of community - of the family, the township, the congregation, of independence and interdependence. And like so many others, from so many lands, they contributed to the creation of a new society in a place new to them - "the New World" as it was called - though old to its first native inhabitants. Here in what is now my home, Scotland, we have a chance to make a new society too, one that reflects our present world, in which more people are on the move than ever before in the world's history. I like to think that this is a vision which Hugh Miller would have applauded.

And so now, it is a tremendous honour and privilege to salute all who sailed from Cromarty on the ships whose names are carved here, from the Ami to the Zephyr, and those who saw them go into an unknown future. May their histories inspire us in our time as we dedicate this Emigration Stone today.

The following is the text of the inscription on the stone, believed to have been written by Miller and published in the Inverness Courier on 22nd June 1831:

"The Cleopatra as she swept past the town of Cromarty was greeted with three cheers by crowds of the inhabitants and the emigrants returned the salute, but mingled with the dash of the waves and the murmurs of the breeze, their faint huzzas seemed rather sounds of wailing and lamentation than of a congratulatory farewell."

The names of the emigrant ships listed on the Stone, clockwise are: Ami; Ann; Asia; Blagdon; Boyne; Brilliant; Canada: Cleopatra; Clio; Corsair; Dalmarnock; Diligence; Economist; George; Good Intent; Headleys; Industry; Isabella Simpson; John; Jane Kay; Kate; Lady Grey; Lady MacNaughton; Lamb; Lord Brougham; Planet; Poland; Ropbert & Margaret; Rover; Salamis; Theodora; Triton; Tweed; Vestal; Viewforth; XYZ; Zealous; Zephyr.

The list comprises most, but not all the emigrant ships which sailed from Cromarty, mainly for Canada in the 1830s and 1840s.

For more information, consult "Cromarty's Emigrants and Emigrant Ships" by Dr Janet Fyfe, Cromarty Courthouse Publications, 1998 (ISBN 1 898416 35 6).

For two of Miller's articles on Emigration, including the one from which the Stone inscription is an extract, see "A Noble Smuggler & Other Stories" edited and published by Martin Gostwick, 1997 (ISBN 0 9530202 0 7).


By Lord Mackay of Clashfern (former Lord Chancellor)

We are here today in the first parish church built in Scotland alter the reformation in 1560. We are attending a church service. The purpose of such a service is to worship God. But this service is special in that we have also come together to remember Hugh Miller of Cromarty who was born here two hundred years ago on 10th October 1802.

I first learned of Hugh Miller when .with my lather I went in as a young boy to the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh where many of the leading churchmen of Hugh Millerís day are buried. There I saw his stone, simply engraved with his name and the date of his death. A simple, dignified, effective memorial to a man who had all these characteristics though his life was sadly cut short by circumstances which have never been fully understood but which I attribute to mental illness.

We rememberer him first as one who was born here in Cromarty, which all of us know so well, and where he has a permanent memorial on the hill above us - an impressive statue standing on a pillar of red sandstone rising some fifty feet into the air. The cottage in which he lived is part of the National Trust for Scotlandís historic properties and the fact that it is so owned is itself a memorial to the historic importance of this son of Cromarty. As we stand on the sea front at Cromarty and look out between the Sutors to the Moray Firth we can envisage the young boy with his mother looking out for his fatherís ship to come home. But that was not to be. Losing his father when his ship went down in the North Sea when he was only five, with his two younger sisters just emerging from infancy, Hugh was left in the care of his mother. Her fixed yearly income was about £12, but she worked hard to provide for her children. In this she had the great help of her two brothers, known by Hugh as Uncle James and Uncle Sandy, James a saddler, Sandy a carpenter. He was fortunate in his mother and his uncles.

Growing up under their tender care he learned lo love Cromarty and its surroundings which he explored with a high level of observation. He made the discovery that the art of reading "is the art of finding stories in books". He learned to love books. He had a most retentive memory and we must look with appreciation on how this fatherless boy made himself the master of so much of the literature that wasz available in his day so that he could quote freely and relevantly from a vast range of classical and more modern authors. His formal education ended with a pitched battle with the schoolmaster. But, by that time, Hugh had learned much about nature from the adventures that a young boy could have on the beaches and in the caves and amongst the rocks that surround us. He had already begun literary work but after a time he became apprentice to David Wright who was a stonemason and brother in law of his mother. The hard work of an apprentice stonemason told heavily on his body and on his mind. He was in much pain, often very sick. He was sorely tempted to turn to drink, but we have to be thankful that he successfully resisted that temptation.

On 11th November 1822 his apprenticeship came to an end. By this time, he was an accomplished workman; and I believe that the sense of satisfaction in attaining that standard, notwithstanding tlie privations to which I have referred, was an important, formative element in his character which today we should cherish. It is worthy of remark that his first work as a journeyman mason was to build a little cottage for his Aunt Jenny, his mother's sister, who had long wished to have a home of her own and this Hugh provided for her. He completed this work in the spring of 1823 and in the summer of that year Hugh obtained work which brought him to Gairloch in Wester Ross. This gave him a superb opportunity to appreciate the scenery of our West Coast and I believe fired-up still further the love of nature which had first gripped him here. When he came of age he set sail for Edinburgh, where the sights and monuments of that great city made a considerable impression on him. He found work building an addition to Niddrie House.

However, his work as a stonemason involved spending prolonged periods in quarries, hammering stones out of the solid rock. The dust to which he was thus exposed led to his contracting "the stonecutter's disease" forcing him to return in 1824 to Cromarty where he eventually recovered.

The minister who preached in this church at that time was Rev Alexander Stewart. He was a most gracious man, very learned, very humble and very spiritual. We have to thank God in this church for such preachers of the Gospel and for the fact that Hugh Miller was blessed with such a minister.

It was Mr Stewart who performed the ceremony when Hugh married Lydia Fraser on 7th January 1837. An account of her life and of their marriage has recently been published, written by Elizabeth Sutherland. For an insight into their lives and times I would recommend it heartily.

It was in the surroundings of Cromarty that Hugh Miller taught himself the science of geology, gathering much of his information from the fossil beds at Eathie. It is a tribute to his outstanding ability that Hugh was able, by private study and close observation, despite the limits on his formal education, to make such an impact on the science of geology. He was recognised by the most distinguished geologists of his day as having made a great contribution, so much so that a number of the fossils were named after him. I believe this to be something remarkable and worthy of acknowledgement in this service, not only in praise of Hugh but supremely in praise of the One who gave him these talents.

But Hugh developed his other talents and became a writer of great power, able easily to make relevant allusions to and quotations from the classics and much of the best of English literature. These characteristics, together with others, made his writing effective in obtaining attention from the generality of the Scottish people. Whether he wrote about geology or theology, the people of Scotland understood and identified with what Miller wrote. Perhaps these are the special qualities in his writing which, ultimately, brought him to become editor of "The Witness". Although religion was an important theme for that Edinburgh-based paper, it was by no means devoted only to religion. In its pages Miller made many incisive comments on the other great issues of the day which brought "The Witness" to the attention of a large readership.

As you approach Cromarty the sign says "Birthplace of Hugh Miller - Geologist and Writer" - a succinct summary of his achievements.

There is one aspect though, of his writing which we rmust mention particularly. In his earlier days parish ministers in Scotland were in effect appointed by the heritors, that is to say generally the principal landowners in the parish. The congregation did not have the right to reject the nominee of the heritors. Hugh Miller and many others saw this as an infringement of the right of Jesus Christ as the head of the church to rule in it. In Miller's view the congregation, the people, those who were the professing Christians in the parish, were the representatives of Jesus Christ in the church and it was an infringement of Christ's rights as King and head of his church that the wishes of the people in the church should be thwarted or overborne by persons who did not necessarily have any place in that church but had their power of appointment on the purely secular ground of property rights. The debate on this issue had raged through the courts in Scotland and had gone on appeal to the House of Lords. The law of the land laid down by Parliament in 1712 had stipulated for the patronage system which gave the heritors their power, affirming the right of the heritors to overrule the local congregation. This was a debate in which Hugh Miller engaged with great vigour and ultimately, in May 1843, so powerful was the opposition to this system in Scotland that a very large number of the ministers, elders and people of the Church of Scotland came out of that church to form a new church, the Free Church of Scotland. Hugh Miller's part in bringing the controversy to a head in the pages of "The Witness" was crucial. The zeal of Hugh Miller for his Lord and Master was certainly vigorous and something which in this church we should celebrate today. It had the effect of course that Mr Stewart and the vast majority of his people moved out of this church and eventually built the West Church.

Niether Hugh Miller nor Rev Alexander Stewart nor any of the other leaders of the Free Church at the Disruption believed that anyone was perfect while still in this world. Hugh himself would not by any means wish to claim anything like perfection, but I think we can claim for him a devotion to his Master which should inspire us all.

Here, then we have a native of Cromarty, nurtured by the surrounding with which we are familiar, the firths, the sutors, the beaches, the caves, the fossil beds, bereft early of a loving father, brought up by affectionate relatives, educated formally only to a very minimal extent yet blossoming as an able stonemason, as a geologist, as a writer, as a church leader, as a father. A truly remarkable person.

We thank God today for his memory and we seek to be inspired by his example of what can be done to make the best use of the opportunities offered us.




I am honoured to provide this tribute to the life and work of a great Tasmanian, Robert Mackenzie Johnston, ISO, FSS, and to the inspiration provided to him by the works of Hugh Miller.

Robert Mackenzie Johnston was born at Connage, near Ardersier, in 1843. In his early years an interest in natural history was enhanced by his acquisition of works by Hugh Miller, born at nearby Cromarty about 40 years earlier. His interest in natural history wzas further pursued during evening classes in botany, chemistry and geology at the Andersonian University in Glasgow in about 1862. His boyhood reading also included biographies of boys of humble origin rising to eminence by sheer energy and resourcefulness. Certainly, Johnston, of humble origin, developed interests in and became eminent in many fields.

After reaching Tasmania in 1870, Johnston was employed as an accountant in a railway company and then in the State Government Service in which he became Government Statistician and Registrar-General in 1882.

Soon after arrival, he began studies of the plants, rocks and fossils, shells and fish of the island. Over a period of almost 50 years he published in the Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania over 100 papers in those fields as well as on social and economic questions relevant to Tasmania. On the scientific side, he made major contributions to the knowledge of fossils and fish. He is, however, best known for his Systematic Account of the Geology of Tasmania published in 1888 and not superseded as a general account for over 50 years. He was recognised as an important scholar well beyond Tasmania. He was, for example, made an Honoroary Member of the Royal Statistical Society of London in about 1898. For his sevices to the State of Tasmania, particularly his work on per capita funding principles for the States in the new Australian Constriution and on proportional representation in the State electoral system, he was made an Officer of the Imerpial Service Order in 1903.

Jonston enjoyed bushwalking, an activity which took him at times into the wilder parts of the island. During these walks he imbued his companions, including young people, with an appreciation of natural history. He played royal tennis, was interested in technical and university education, sang in church choirs and exmained for the Royal College of Music, London. He was a man of deep human sympathies.

For half a century, R M Johnston was prominent as a member, Councillor and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Tasmania. In 1920, the Society recognised the contribution he had made to it and to many fields of knowledge in Tasmania by the establishment of the first medal it created, the R M Johnston Medal. The criterion for the award of the medal - to be awarded to a scholar in any field for a substantial body of ongoing work of international importance - reflects his achievements. The first recipient was the world-famous geologist Sir T W Edgeworth David.

It seems highly likely that Hugh Millerís life and works in Scotland inspired the life and works of his close compatriot, Robert Makcenzie Johnston, in distant Tasmania. Johnston concluded his Systematic Account of the Geology of Tasmania with a quotation from Hugh Millerís The Testimony of the Rocks.

Sir Guy Green

Governor of Tasmania

President of the Royal Society of Tasmania

See Donations for more on Johnston

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