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© Clan Munro (Association) Australia v04012021kjb

The Ancestor Bonesetter of Knockancuirn

Robert was a bonesetter, the first to be mentioned as such in the family. He died of typhus fever on 10th November, 1836. His oldest son, John, to whom we are indebted for the valuable paper already referred to, was born on 4th January, 1805, and succeeded to the tenancy of Knockancuirn on the death of his father. Mackenzie writes of him, "He was a famous bonesetter, and his services in that direction were much sought after."





John writes in 1845: "Nine years since my father's death, and my possession of the farm of Knockancuirn. To which was added the lands of Upper Katewell occupied by Wm. Sim since 1815 at Whitsunday, 1844. My lease of Knockancuirn was renewed for ten years at a rent of £160 plus £2 for road money. The stock on the farm: 7 work horses, 8 cows and calves. 1 Shorthorn bull, 30 yield cattle, 20 ewes and lambs, pigs and poultry in proportion. John died unmarried, on 11th February, 1877".


Donald, our Danny Knockan, the subject of this memoir, was the seventh son of Robert. He had been born on 15th November, 1824, and succeeded his brother in the tenancy, he being then fifty-three-year-old. How he had been occupied previously I do not know, but undoubtedly it would have been in agriculture. It is highly likely that he would have been living with his brother and working on the farm; and learning the bone setting through practice with John. Mackenzie, who was acquainted with him, thus describes him; "Like his father and eldest brother, he also is a famous bonesetter: is an intelligent and skilled agriculturist, takes a great interest in local affairs, is Quartermaster Sergeant of G Company of the 1st Administrative Battalion of the Ross-shire Rifle Volunteers, and is unmarried." Mackenzie wrote this during the 1890's; his "History of the Munros" was published a few months after his death in January, 1898.


Knockan was one of those hardy volunteers who endured the never-to be-forgotten ordeal of the Wet Review. He was a member of the Wester Ross Farmers' Club of which for some time he was vice-chairman.


Of his appearance, my recollection is of a pleasant face set in a bushy frame of white whiskers and beard. A cheerful man; the smile, and the twinkle in his eye, suggest to me now (it was not a thought to occur to a boy) that his patients would find in him that effective "bed-side manner" that we like to associate with our doctors. A portrait of him, made when he was about seventy, shows his hair as brown slightly flecked with grey. He was of average height and substantial build. He was on the closest friendly terms with my grand uncle and grand aunt, and my father who was brought up by them and lived with them at 11 Balconie Street in Evanton until his marriage. Those Munros were his first cousins. There used to be a hitching ring set in the wall by the door of the carpenter's workshop; and some old Evantonian said to me, quite thirty years ago, that the ring had worn thin through being used so much by Danny Knockan, who always tied his horse there when he came into the village. He travelled much on horseback earlier, but by the time I knew him it was always the horse and gig.


One aspect of his nature showed in that he used to let "wandering folk" have a night's shelter in his barn, and supper and breakfast as well. This did not cover tinkers, who, of course, had their own tents. But there were regulars on the road in those days. There was the old man we called Ali Noochkan, a native of Boath, whom we sometimes saw passing by, a bag slung over his shoulder, and a grunt coming from him every few yards.


Then, before my time there was "Henny the Muic," who took to the countryside with her sow and "coolans" (piglets). Somebody once spoke to Danny of the risk he ran of those people smoking and setting his barn on fire: he rejoined that they'd never burn his barn because they knew that, should that happen, there wouldn't be a barn in the Highlands open to them. But I incline to think that from such as were smokers he would confiscate tobacco and matches in the evening, and return them when they were departing in the morning. Such was the treatment meted out to Ali Noochkan when he enjoyed the hospitality of a certain Edderton crofter. That would have been the general accepted thing.


© Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society

In these times horse riding was common. There were many falls and many broken bones.