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Ruighe Ealasaid

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Ruighe EalasaidRuighe Ealasaid - 9th September 2008

Ruighe Ealasaid is the (dilapidated) cottage in lower Gleann Gheallaidh, a short distance upstream from the confluence of Bynack Burn with Uisge Gheallaidh.

As a place name Ruighe Ealasaid – means Elizabeth’s shiel, a reference to the use of the area in the traditional summer grazing practice.  We can speculate that some Elizabeth of the past was a farmer in her own right, and held the right to the summer grazing in this part of Mar Forest.

The origins of the cottage are earlier than it looks - it is a remodelled cruck-framed building of at least the early 19th century.  The stubs of four original cruck timbers are still in the walls, and dendrochronology Mills (2008) puts the felling dates for two of them before the death of James, 2nd Earl Fife in 1809.

I suspect the early 19th century cruck-framed cottage was built by Charles McHardy - the last tennant of Dail a’ Mhorair (Delvorar).  Charles McHardy had grazing rights in Gleann Gheallaidh, and I suspect he built the original cottage to house a shepherd.

Sometime after the Gleann Dhé removals of 1832, Ruighe Ealasaid was remodelled to house a keeper.

In 1841 the census of that year, recording a minimum of information, merely shows the 'male servant', Robert Stewart (and family) in 'Glengeldie'.  The 'male servant' probably indicating his status as an estate employee, rather than a job title - Robert Stewart was almost certainly a keeper.

In 1851 the census of that year, recording more information than the census of 1841, shows 'Gamekeeper', Robert Stewart (and family) in 'Ruidh Ealasait'.

In 1860 Queen Victoria stopped here on her 'first great expedition' to Strath Spey through Glen Dee, Gleann Gheallaidh, and Glen Feshie.  In Victoria (1877) she refers to the shieling in passing – writing :

… started at eight or a little past, with Lady Churchill and General Grey, in the sociable (Grant and Brown on the box as usual), for Castleton, where we changed horses.  We went on five miles beyond the Linn of Dee, to the Shepherd’s Shiel of Geldie … where we found our ponies and a guide, Charlie Stewart.  We mounted at once, and rode up along the Geldie, which we had to ford frequently to avoid the bogs

– Victoria (1877) (p140)  

Interestingly the 1841 census shows that Robert Stewart had an 11-year-old son named Charles, who, by 1860 would have been a 30-year-old man.

Geographically speaking Ruighe Ealasaid is in lower Gleann Gheallaidh, and has sometimes been referred to as Lower Geldie Lodge among other names.  In Scroggie (1989) – the author almost certainly describes Ruigh Ealasaid on his first visit to the area in 1959 – writing :

We found very comfortable quarters in comparison with the somewhat dishevelled accommodation we had thought of as good enough at Bynack, glass in the windows, doors still impeccably attached to their jambs, a floor as yet unmolested by the depredations of pyromaniac marauders, a good table, benches, chairs, a hanging grate with sooty lum and dangling chain and hook, and a curiosity we had never seen before, either of us, in a hill bothy or derelict lodge, a box bed

– Scroggie (1989) (p59)

It sounds like Ruighe Ealasaid had survived pretty much unscathed for more than a century.