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Donald Munro : Bonesetter of Knockancuirn

EDITOR : This story is from a book “Ferrindonald Papers” by Frank Maclennan and published by the Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society. Sadly Frank Maclennan has passed on but the Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society has given me permission to use extracts from the book in our newsletter. I must thank Mhairi Mackenzie for the part she played in getting this permission and for sending me the book. Mhairi is, of course the Secretary of the Clan Munro (Association) in Scotland and she has been most helpful on more than one occasion. Frank Maclennan is the storyteller in the following extract and we learn not just of the bone setting skills but also of the social structure of the area at that time.

When I was a small boy in Evanton, there were many - a dozen, maybe a score - of Donald Munros in the parish and its adjacent districts. To mention the name would bring the immediate query, "Which Donald Munro do you mean?"  

Within a couple of hundred yards of my own home there were two men of that name, between whom it was always necessary to differentiate, one being Donald Chrink, the other Donald Heamish; and Donald Nore had departed this life from within the same narrow limit before I was of an age to notice such matters.

Donald Munro of Knockancuirn had his by-name like the rest. He was Danny Knockan - we used to pronounce it Kronkan - it derived from the farm where he had been born, and of which latterly he was tenant. And it is still as Danny Knockan that we speak of him when I foregather with any of the older - and often not so old - natives of the parishes of Kiltearn and Alness. His family had its roots firmly in old Ferindonald, the country of the Munros.

Robert Munro, 14th Baron of Foulis, who was later to be killed at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, had given to his second son, Hector, the properties of Fyrish, Contullich, and Kildermorie. A grandson of this Hector, one Hugh, who died about 1668, settled on his sixth son, also named Hugh, "the lands of Tullochue in Kildermorie." I cannot locate Tullochue. This is Mackenzie's spelling in his "History of the Munros." John Munro - of whom later - writing in 1845 gives us Tolachu, a combination of Gaelic words which give an entirely different meaning.

George, second son of Hugh, received no patrimony. Doubtless Tullochue was too small to split up. We find him tacksman to Fyrish. A tacksman was one who took a lease, and let off portions of the area - we may say crofts - to others, retaining for his own use sufficient to work profitably. George died about 1756. His oldest son, John, generally known as Ian Mor, that is Big John, succeeded him in Fyrish.

Sometime after, Ian Mor gave up the tack of Fyrish, and took the tenancy of Knockancuirn, with the adjacent farms of Torbuie, Achleach, and Teachait. Mackenzie says that he took the latter three, "and subsequently of Knockancuirn, all on the Foulis Estate." John Munro, however, speaks of him as "once tenant of Torabeudh, Achleidh, afterwards of Teachatt." I think that John is the more likely to be correct, and that Knockancuirn, the natural centre-piece of the farms mentioned, would have been taken in the initial tenancy. At any rate, Knockancuirn was the farm retained, Achleidh and Teachait had other tenants, and Torbuie, which I cannot identify, was perhaps merged into Knockancuirn. Mackenzie says that Ian Mor died in 1790; John Munro says in 1797. He was succeeded in the tenancy by his oldest son, Robert, who was born on 12th July, 1774. MORE>>

" ... Robert was a bonesetter, the first to be mentioned as such in the family ..."