The McCowan Family
An historical and photographic perspective

Old Kilchoan Cemetery

"I'm just back from my much needed break in the peace and tranquility of Ardnamurchan. As requested, I managed to find John McCowan and Catherine McCormick's grave and memorial stone in the old Kilchoan Cemetery. It's a lovely location, on a hillside, facing south looking over Kilchoan Bay to the Sound of Mull and the Isle of Mull beyond. The stone is very weathered and covered with lichen, so difficult to make out the inscription, however there's enough visible to be sure it was the right one. Pictures attached, including one of the old ruined church, parts of which are 13th century. There is a little book called "Ardnamurchan - Annals of the Parish" and John McCowan gets a mention in it. He must have been very well thought of, as the people of Kilchoan put up the memorial stone." - Lindsay Russell, Oct 2, 2011


Photo courtesy of Lindsay Russell


Photo courtesy of Lindsay Russell

From Jon Haylett, Kilchoan - Diary of a Scottish Village...

Although over a hundred years old, the obelisk is in remarkably good condition. Without too much trouble we were able to decipher the inscriptions - there are three in all. This is the main, south face, and it reads:

Sacred to the memory of John McCowan
Parish Schoolmaster of Ardnamurchan from 1843 - 1874
Died 4 January 1889 aged 80 years
Erected by the people of Ardnamurchan
During his 45 years residence in the parish of Ardnamurchan, he was loved and respected
Buried here also is his wife Catherine McCormick who died on the 25 May 1871 aged 51 years

The east side reads:

Hugh McCowan, their son.
Died 2
8 November 1880 aged 30 years and is interred in Glasgow necropolis
Alexander McCowan, their son
Died at Johannesburg 24 April 1895 aged 39 years

The west side reads:

Catherine McCowan, their daughter
Died 22 March 1902 aged 42 years
Interred in military cemetery Springfontein

So two of the McCowan's children died in South Africa. The reference to Springfontein in South Africa, and the date of Catherine's death, just before the Second Boer War ended in May 1902, interested ACA member Dale Meagan, so she looked it up. She sends this:

A British Military Intelligence report in 1897 described Springfontein as a place of “about 15 houses scattered and of no tactical importance, a small church and a hotel or store. There were two good springs near the church and a dam 600 yds north of the town.”

The town lay on the railway from Bloemfontein to Cape Town as well as a line to East London. At the start of the war in October 1899 Boer commandos moved through the town, splitting here to go either to Orange River bridge at Norvals Pont or the bridge to Bethulie, the idea being to halt the advance of British troops making their way inland along the railway lines.

Following the occupation of Bloemfontein in March 1900, the British decided to occupy Springfontein, to serve as a base for British troops. As a result of the round-up of Boer commandos, the authorities decided, in February 1901, to establish a concentration camp. In addition, a large military hospital under tents was established near “Gibraltar Hill” as well as a remount depot and a veterinary hospital. There is no trace today as to the location of these sites.

Unusually, Springfontein contains graves from both sides of the conflict. There are some 700 graves of which 305 are of those of Imperial forces.

Source - New Zealand War Graves Commission

We speculate that Catherine may have been a nurse working in the military hospital, which would explain why she was buried in a military cemetery.

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