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Barbara Isabella MacNiven (1873-1954)

Mother of Ellen Ann Fraser MacNiven Michie - Generation 3.

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Barbara was the fourth of seven children born to her parents in Inverness, a town in the Scottish Highlands located 444 miles (715 kilometers) north west of London. At the time of Barbara’s birth, her father was a Colour Sergeant serving with the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot (or Ross-shire Buffs). Following postings in Edinburgh, Aldershot, Shorncliffe, Dublin, Gibraltar, Montreal, Halifax and Belfast, her father settled into garrison life with his family at Fort George, Adersier, Inverness, soon after Barbara was born there.


Barbara’s mother became used to garrison life after marrying Barbara’s father while he was serving in Dubliin, Ireland; and giving birth to Barbara’s siblings Margaret MacNiven in Gibraltar, Spain; James Thomas MacNiven in Montreal, Canada; John MacNiven in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Austin MacNiven in Fort George, Inverness; Maria Eadie MacNiven in Fort George, Inverness; Jane MacNiven in Fort George, Inverness.


Ellen Ann Fraser, Barbara’s mother, was a hardy, resilient lady and the favourite ‘granny’ of her great-grandson Henry Austin Lane. He spoke of her often as quite a stern lady who always took pride in her appearance, was a great cook, and always had a small treat in the pocket of her dress for him. Henry was devastated by her death when he was 16 years old.


Fort George, where Barbara’s family lived for 8 years is the impressive military fortress built at Ardersier, 11 miles (18 kilometers) north east of Inverness, Scotland, in 1769. It was built to pacify the Scottish Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. It has never been attacked, and has remained in continuous use as a garrison.


The family’s residence at Fort George, came to an abrupt end on 7 September 1881, when her father was tried and convicted of the embezzlement of government property and making a false copy of a Board of Arms survey. His disgrace was complete when he was demoted from Sergeant Major to Private. At the end of an exemplary career, it is not known why Barbara’s father did what he did, and he was fortunate to have retained his army pension.


After her father was discharged from the military, her family settled at the Farm House, Diriebught Road, Inverness. 14 years later, Barbara married Charles Mitchell Michie in this home under the direction of Minister Gavin Laing after Banns and according to laws of the Church of Scotland. This ceremony would have been more intimate and less expensive than a church wedding.


During her youth, Barbara had been more fortunate than Charles, in that she did not suffer the loss of her parents or any of her siblings. Sadly, following her marriage to Charles, her good fortune was not perpetuated, as she mourned the loss of many family members:


  • 1904: Her daughter Jane Metcalf Michie died at home from pneumonia. She was 1 year and 5 months old.

  • 1909: Her son Thomas John Michie died at home from pneumonia. He was 10 days old.

  • 1910: Her daughter Jessie MacKeddie Michie died alone from tuberculosis in the Isolation Hospital in Perth. She was 12 years old.

  • 1930: Her husband Charles died from a fatal heart attack while working at the railway goods yard in Perth. He was 61 years old.


She bore two further tragic losses, without the support of her much beloved husband:


  • 1943: Her son Charles Michie was on the footplate of an early morning goods train travelling from Aviemore to Perth, when during the act of picking up the signal tablet near Blair Atholl, his head came into contact with the wall of a tunnel. Without regaining consciousness her son died later the same day at Perth Infirmary. He was 43 years old. Sadly, he left a widow and three children aged between 8 and 19 years behind.

  • 1947: Her daughter Ellen Ann Fraser MacNiven Michie died at home from breast cancer. She was 51 years old. Sadly, she left her husband and four children aged between 11 and 27 years behind.

Although Barbara lived to the goodly age of 81 years, she moved south to London after Ellen’s death to be near her only surviving child, Margaret Smith Michie. This move also allowed her to stay in touch with Ellen’s children who had been moved to Reigate, Surrey, by their father.

Against the laws of nature, Barbara outlived all but one member of her family. Having said this, Ellen’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and 2 x great-grandchildren are close-knit, and many fun-filled ‘clan gatherings’ have taken place over the years.

Barbara was remembered by her grandson Henry Austin Lane, as a mild-mannered, kindly lady who he cycled 80 miles (130 kilometers) to visit in Perth, a couple of months before he was mobilised to France at the onset of World War II (1939-1945).

Note: If you would like to know more, or have information that improves this history, we would love to hear from you.

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